Forgiveness: Where It All Begins

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This is the introductory message to the series- Forgiveness: The Pathway To Freedom.

Matthew 18:21-22
Matthew 18:21–22 NLT
21 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” 22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!
Today we begin our new study called “Forgiveness: The Pathway To Freedom.”
Forgiveness is at the very heart of the Christian faith and is the foundation of our salvation. This doctrine is one of the most profound and beautiful teachings in the entire Bible. It is life-giving. Understanding the forgiveness that has been extended to us is life-transforming.
One of the most radical of the teachings of Christ is that forgiveness is to be experienced in two ways. We are to receive forgiveness and we are also to extend forgiveness to other people. Granting forgiveness to those who have wronged us is one of the most difficult and painful things to practice. Forgiveness can feel unfair. It can feel like an impossibility to accomplish.
However, when it is practiced, it brings freedom, healing, and empowerment. Through the practice of forgiveness, we get to experience the awesome power of the gospel, and we are freed to live the full and abundant life that Jesus promised (John 10:10).
John 10:10 NLT
10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
This conversation will take us through the next several weeks, but it’s not one we take lightly or want to rush through. It is only by understanding the biblical teaching on forgiveness and practicing it that we can be made free, as Jesus promised. (John 8:32)
John 8:32 NLT
32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

I- WHAT IS FORGIVENESS? (Matthew 18:21)

A- Forgiveness Defined (Matthew 18:23-27)

Matthew 18:23–27 NLT
23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. 24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. 25 He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt. 26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ 27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
1- Forgiveness is the act of setting someone free from an obligation to you that is a result of a wrong done against you. The debt is forgiven when you free your debtor of his or her obligation to pay back what is owed to you (or perceived to be owed to you).
Forgiveness involves three elements:
a debt resulting from the injury
a cancellation of the debt
Forgiveness is NOT excusing
Forgiveness is NOT trust
Forgiveness is NOT reconciliation

II- WHY SHOULD I FORGIVE? (Matthew 18:22)

Matthew 18:22 NLT
22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!

A- Forgiveness is Demanded

1. God commands it.
2. Because we have been forgiven.
3. Unforgiveness enslaves us so that we cannot live the abundant life Jesus has given to us.
4. Unforgiveness places someone else in power over us other than God.

B- Forgiveness is painful.

1- Talking about forgiveness can be a really hard topic for many Christians. Forgiveness is hard because forgiveness touches pain.
“Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive”
(p. 115 in Mere Christianity).” - C.S. Lewis
2- The only way to forgiveness is by going through pain. (For some of you, this pain is overwhelming.)
(Matthew 5:43-44)
Matthew 5:43–44 NLT
43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!
(Luke 6:27-36)
Luke 6:27–36 NLT
27 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. 30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you. 32 “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! 33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! 34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. 35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. 36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.
The church is no stranger to the pain of wrongdoing. We have a 2000-year history of persecution. (Stories of martyrs)
Tell the story of Stephen (Acts 7).
Acts 7:59-60: As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.
Forgiveness requires suffering. The best example of this is Jesus.
Like Jesus, we suffer in forgiveness because we absorb the consequence of the offense. We release our desire for revenge and instead absolve them of their debt to us.
Talking about forgiveness can often leave us "feeling like God cares more about our offender’s soul than our pain." – Brad Hambrick
I’m convinced this is at least in part because of the way that forgiveness is often discussed in the church. We often look at forgiveness as if it were like a light switch. (This is actually more true of excusing something than forgiving something.)

C- Forgiveness is a process.

1- We do not always move directly from forgiveness to peace.
a- In fact, forgiveness should often be looked at like a grief process.
2- We may at times be guilty of calling someone who is hurting to forgiveness before walking with them in their pain.
a- This can actually be even more traumatic because instead of helping them acknowledge and deal with the reality of their hurt, we treat them as if they were the offender by treating their pain as an offense (even when this is likely not our intent).
3- We can seem to offer more grace to the person who actually committed the sin than the one who has been hurt by it! This is not how we should treat each other.
a- Forgiveness doesn't ignore evil. It addresses it for what it is.
b- However, we do need to move through a process forgiveness. One of the ways I’ve found to do this is by praying and releasing the person’s debt before God.
The Apostle Paul calls us to embrace this process:
(Ephesians 4:31-32)
Ephesians 4:31–32 NLT
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
In prayer, release them from their debt to you and ask God to remove any desire for retribution.

D- Forgiveness is powerful.

Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
1- The power of the cross overcomes the power of every sin ever committed. In the same way, forgiveness frees you from the power of sin committed against you.
Unforgiveness is a type of pride.
Unforgiveness leads to bitterness.
Unforgiveness leads to self-absorption. We become focused on ourselves as we try to cure the pain.
Unforgiveness leads to spiritual paralysis.
2- Our life should not be spent as a reflection of the wounds we have received, but as a reflection of our Savior by whose wounds we are healed.
Forgiveness points to the promise of our future hope.
Because of what Jesus has done, we have been set free.
The forgiveness of God has cast our sins as far as the east is from the west.
Set free from the penalty, power, and presence of sin.
Our future hope is a kingdom in which there will be no more sorrow, pain, or death. It is a future where all guilt and shame have been done away with.
Now what?
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