Dr. Ed Young - Forgiveness
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Forgiveness! That's a big word, isn't it? Forgiveness. Forgiveness has about it a mystery, and I think we all wonder at times, "Has God really forgiven me? I mean, all of these times, I've gone back over and over... has He really? Does He keep on forgiving me? Am I forgiven"? And then we wonder, "Have, have I really forgiven other people? Have I forgiven them? Have I let them off the hook"? And then, "Have people forgiven me"? So forgiveness is a big, mysterious word. So we say, "Forgive us our debts, or forgive us our trespasses," and some translations said, "Forgive us of our wrongs..." I like it, "Forgive us of our sins..."
I got that one! And you can do a linguistic study of the word for sin, or trespasses, or debts in the Bible. There's a lot of words. It means to miss the mark; it means to come up short. It means to step over the line. It means to get out of the path. It means to do your own thing. It means to rebel. There's a lot of word and nuances of the word "sin" and "debts" and "trespasses" and "wrongs" all the way through the Scripture. But we worry about the Lord's Prayer. We say, you know, in some churches, they say "debts". Other churches, they say "trespasses". What's that all about? I like one simple explanation I read. He said it's the difference between Scotchman and the Englishman. He said that you go to a Scottish Presbyterian church-they say, "Forgive us our debts".
Scotchman are into money and debt and being skin-flints, and cheap, and so they're worried about being in debt; so they use the word "debt". Go to English church, church of England, Episcopal church; they'll say "Forgive us our trespasses..." The English are interested in property, in lines, and man when you trespass, you go over that line... So the difference in being an Englishman and a Scotchman, debts and trespasses; I like to use the word "sin". "Forgive us our sin..." Now somebody might say, "Why do we have to pray that if we're a Christian? This is a believer's prayer".
So I want us to see two simple, basic things that every Jesus follower needs to have nailed down in their life. A lot of things you can forget and wonder about. You'll need this. You need to know how to get right with God, and you need to know how to stay right with God. Isn't that it? Can get more basic than that. How do you get right with God? You need three words! Every person, if you don't have these words, write it down in your Bible. Use lipstick, a pen, pencil, mascara, write it down! We need these three words the rest of our lives if we're Jesus followers. First of all, we need it to get right with God. We need to stay right with God. What are those words? Conviction! We become a Christian when the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin. I have stepped over the line; I have fumbled; I have failed; I have struck out; I have lied; I have deceived.
Conviction of sin is where it all starts, and the Holy Spirit does that. I can dangle everybody here over the fires of Hell for 30 minutes, say, "Whoo, boy, I'm glad to get out of there"! But it is the Holy Spirit that brings conviction in my life and your life. That's the first step of being a Christian. Conviction-gotta have that word. Then there is confession. We are convicted of sin; we confess sin. Don't say, "Forgive me of my many sins..." Spell it out. Be specific. Be specific... Confession of sin. And then what do we do? We repent. We turn away from all known sin. We move in the opposite direction.
Now this is how we become a Christian, those three words. You have to have 'em to get right with God. Conviction, the Holy Spirit does it. Confession, and then we repent and we receive Christ-bang! We're in the family of God. This in one sense is a judicial process. God is a holy God. He cannot tolerate debts, trespasses, wrongs and sins. They have to be dealt with. You see, God doesn't leave any loose ends out there, so it has to be dealt with. We know that Jesus Christ came on the Cross. He took all that I owe. He took every time I had stepped over the line. He took all of my sins and all of yours, and He died for us. He paid the price. He is the substitute for you in a court of law before Almighty God. He died on your behalf. He took the judgment that you and I deserve upon Himself. This is what happens, this is how we get right with God... those three words.
Let me explain in a very simple way: There was a family walking through the plains of Georgia-grass about this high, taking a stroll, large, large valley, and they looked behind them and they saw a brush fire that started. And the wind was pushing that fire rapidly in their direction. There was no way they could escape. Fire was moving in! Nowhere to run! Flames everywhere! But the father, who was an outdoorsman, took a match and lighted a fire where the family was, and they established a burned out place. And they stepped back. The fire was coming, and this place burned out. So after the grass here was burned, he got his family in the middle of that burned out place, and when the fire was moving rapidly for them, it just went around them. There was nothing to burn! They were safe! It went over them. They were not harmed, or singed in any way because there was nothing to burn. The fire moved over them.
This is what happens on the Cross. We stand in judgment for our sin. Jesus has already paid the price. There's no double jeopardy there, and so we have to stay in that burned-out place with Christ at the Cross, and the judgment passes over us because there's nothing for you and for me to be judged about because Jesus has paid the price; He has paid it all, see? We're in that burned out place. This is how we get right with God. You've gotta have those three words... conviction, confession, repentance. Now, how do you stay right with God? Well, I don't know about you, but since I became a Christian, I've not sinned any more. You know, I've just... I've been perfect! It's just been amazing to observe! That's not quite the way it is, is it? So what do you do about sin in the life of a Christian? You need those same three words to stay right with God.
Conviction of sin, the Holy Spirit does that. Confession of sin, and repentance from sin. To get right, there's where we go. To stay right, there's where we go, and let's talk about confession. You know our problem with confession? Our problem is the little weak word, "but". Let me, let me tell you... we don't own our sin. This is how we confess, "Lord, forgive me for losing my temper. I know I'm wrong, but everybody in my family has a temper..." "Lord, forgive me for those lustful thoughts, but, You made me like this..." "Lord, forgive me for wanting the approval of people more than I want Your approval; but isn't most everybody like that"? You see, we put these little if, ands, or buts in there... Listen! Confession is taking ownership of sin! I made the choice. I stepped out of bounds. I went in that direction. I am wrong! Don't put any defense up. Confess that sin.
By the way, how long has it been since you've confessed a sin-something that you should have done and you didn't do? You know, we don't confe... "Lord, you know, I, I... Lord, forgive me because I didn't..." Oh, "Forgive me, Lord, because I did..." But evidently that's a big deal because in Matthew 25, Jesus is there, the sheep and the goats, and He says, "Hey, where were you when I was naked? You weren't there. When I needed clothes, where were you when I was in prison? Where were you when I was broken? Where were you when I was hungry? Where were you when I had all these problems"? And we say, "Lord, we didn't know! We didn't see; we didn't know". He said, "You didn't open your eyes! The little ones, the people around you... you should have known"!
What happens to us in our sins of omission, what we omit? Why do we miss things? We work with people, we live with people and suddenly, their lives lose out in a disastrous way. They go into depression. They go into all, have all kinds of problems that explode their lives, and you know what we say? "You know, I see them all the time and I didn't know..." That's the excuse we give. Why do we not pick up on this? It's because we don't really love folks. When you love something or someone, you always have understanding. A mother loves her children. She understands them because she's read all the books on child psychology? No, because she loves! If you love botany, you're going to understand botany.
Whatever we love, we understand. And therefore, because we're not sensitive-we do not love, we do not see, we do not feel, oh, we love, "Well, there in trouble! I'm going to help them..." Before they're in trouble, if we love, we understand and then we can move in ahead of time! So we pray for sins omission-what we do not do. We confess that, as well as sins of commission, and we pray, I pray, "Lord, give me quick eyes to see". Isn't that what we need? Quick eyes of love to see! Love has understanding. It's just built in. So, how do you get right with God? Three words! Conviction-Holy Spirit does that. Confession, repentance. How do you stay right with God when we fumble and step over the line as Christians? Same three words-you got to have those words built in your life, your vocabulary, your Christian experience if you're going to get right-yes, and if you're going to stay right.
Now, look at the second part of this: Forgive us our sins, and then look at this: "...as we forgive those who sin against us". By the way, this is the most important part of the Lord's Prayer. If we take the Lord's Prayer, we'd write on a screen-it is this Verse that ought to blink! Voom, boom, boom! It ought to be large print; it ought to be emphasized. It is the most important part. It is the heart of the prayer. You say, "Well, how do you know that"? It is because it is the only part of the prayer that after the prayer was completed, Jesus in Verse 13 and 14, He explains this. He underscores it again. He says, "I don't want you to miss that". He is saying, "if you are going to be forgiven by God, you'd better be in the forgiving business as God is in the forgiving business".
Years ago, the families moved away over ten years ago. There's a family in our church-father, mother, cute little girl, little guy. The girl was 13; the boy was about 7. The mother went to pick them up at school. As they were going home, they stopped in front of the house. The little girl, 13 year old girl got out and went to the mailbox. She opened the mailbox, and she found in there a note that was meant for her mother; but the 13 year old girl picked up the note. It was a note from her father's mistress saying to the mother, "He loves me". He doesn't love you. Go ahead and get the divorce, etc., etc... She was trying to speed up the process. And this 13 year old girl read that note.
Needless to say, she was devastated. Needless to say, her mother was devastated. Needless to say, that little home just exploded in many, many directions. But the 13 year old girl-it hit her perhaps harder than anybody else because she was her daddy's girl. And she would come to the church and stay hours. She would spend the night with members of our staff. She just couldn't go home while they were going through all this process. And this is what she said. You'll never forget it. She said, "How can I forgive my daddy"? Said, "How can I forgive him"? And then she would say, "Even if I knew how to forgive him, I don't want to forgive him"! Can you identify with that? Is there somebody out there who so hurt, abused, shamed-man, you say, "I just, I don't see how I can forgive this person, but even if I knew how, I really don't want to forgive this person".
Let me tell you where forgiveness starts. We have to first of all forgive unilaterally. Say, "Well what does that mean"? It means we forgive people when they don't even ask for our forgiveness. Say, "Well, they didn't ask..." Oh no! We forgive unilaterally. Sometimes we forgive when they don't ask because it's such a trivial thing, it's an irritant to us... just go ahead and forgive them. Sometimes, they're such jerks, they're not worth fooling with; they're not worth messing up your life, just go ahead and forgive them. You say, "Well, is there a Biblical background for this? Unilateral forgiveness"? Absolutely! Jesus on the Cross-those who executed Him, they weren't asking to be forgiven, but Jesus just unilaterally said, you know, "I forgive you". Stephen, being stoned, he looked up. He said, "Father, forgive them..." They weren't asking for forgiveness, but he said, "Father, forgive them. I forgive them". That's unilateral forgiveness. We need to practice that! Just go ahead and forgive.
Some people are still holding a grudge against a father who abused them. Well you father's been dead for 6 years! He's not going to come back and say, "Oh, I want you to forgive me"! Just unilaterally forgive them. And, then there is relational forgiveness. We sort of enjoy having that hatred. We enjoy saying, "Boy, I hope God will soon come in and zap 'em"! You know, I just hope, "anything bad's gonna happen, boy, the way they treated me, look what's happened to me..." And so there's a relational, and so we keep on, we're pulling on the same thing, the same revenge, the same hatred, the same ideas. We want to bring them down. We just can't forgive! It's like, this is a big bell tower here-there's a bell up there and we have a rope, and we pull that rope-it goes bongggg! Boongggg! And we keep pulling on that revenge-bonggg!
I remember what you did! Bonggg! I remember what you said. Bonggg! I remember how you abused me! Bonggg! I remember how you embarrassed me! Bonggg! And we keep on pulling on that rope, and pulling on that rope... Let me tell you something: Let go of the rope. Forgive. Let go of the rope! Are you gonna let that person control you and scar you and keep you captive to that event, or that misdeed all the rest of your life? My goodness! How absurd can that be? Let go of the rope! Now when you let go of the rope, it may bong a little bit, you know-you been been ringing that bell of revenge a long time-bongggg! Bonggg! But gradually, it'll fade out...bong... until you won't hear it any more. The pain may still be there; but you've let go of the rope. You've let go of the rope. You have forgiven. You know what this Verse is really saying?
Jesus is saying in this Verse, "You have received the grace of God; therefore, now that you have received it, the grace of God must go through you and offer grace to others". If you receive grace, you have to give grace. That's the principle. You can't receive grace and just bottle it up, say, "I'm not gonna forgive! I'm not gonna forget..." No, you have to-it has to pass through you. Has to pass through you to others. Has to pass through you to those you haven't forgive. Otherwise, they're gonna keep you captive for the rest of your life! As God has set you free in Christ, we are to set others free! It's a supernatural thing. I can't do it in my own volition. But He enables us to forgive when we're reminded how much we've been forgiven. How do we forgive? We forgive the way we have been forgiven. "I don't want to forgive"! Oh no-we want to forgive because we have been greatly forgiven.
Remember Matthew 18? Great little Chapter. Peter... I like Peter! He's such a-he's so obvious, you know? He tries to be super-pious; you just see right through him, just like we see through one another. So Pete one day said to Jesus, "Jesus..." I can imagine he had a little whine, "Jesus, how many times do we forgive someone? Seven times"? Now the rabbis said you forgive people three times, so Pete just doubled and added one. "Oh, Jesus, we're so pious! How many times do I forgive people? Seven times"? Jesus said, "Look-you forgive people seventy times seven! Four hundred and ninety times"! What? What was Jesus saying to Peter? Peter, quit counting! You're not an accountant! Somebody says, "Oh, you did this to me, and you did this to me, and boy, I did this to you..."
We're not in the accounting business. We've been forgiven; we're in the forgiving business. We've been given grace-we're in the grace business! And then following this, Jesus told a tremendous parable. A tremendous story! He said, "Once there was a king, and a man owed him twelve million dollars". Pretty good debt! I thought about that... how in the world could a servant owe twelve million dollars? Only way I could figure it-he stole it from the king because the king was the only one who would have twelve million. Anyway, so the king said, "Hey, pay me"! The guys says, "Can't do it. Give me time". King says, "Take this guy and his family. Sell all of his property. Put him in jail until he can pay me back". I never understand how someone will make money in jail to pay back a debt; but anyway, I'm not good at accounting.
So the man had, said, "Lord, have compassion on me. Forgive me. Forgive me of this debt"! The king saw his family, had compassion, and forgave him of a twelve million dollar debt! Wheww! Now the man goes out. One of his friends, another servant, owed him twenty thousand dollars. He said, "Hey! Pay me the twenty grand that you owe me"! Guy says, "I can't do it. Give me time"! He said, "Take him and put him in jail! Take his family! Man, stay there until you pay me back"! And the man says, "Have compassion"! Same thing he asked for from the king. But he wouldn't give compassion to the servant. He said, "No deal! It's been long enough. Put him in jail".
Now his friends went and told the king what this ungrateful servant had done and said, "You know what he did? This guy-you just forgive him twelve million. He wouldn't even give time for his friend to pay him back twenty-thousand dollars-he's thrown him in jail"! And the king-representing God-was indignant! He said, "Go and get that ungrateful rascal (Young's translation) and throw him in jail until he pays the debt"!
Now I want you to watch this. This is tricky. Did the man owe the king twelve million? Oh no, no, no, no! The king had already forgiven the twelve million. But he's in jail until he pays the debt. What did he owe? The debt that he owed was the forgiveness he had received; he had to give that forgiveness to others, and that he did not do. That's the debt he owed; not the twelve million. That's away. It's forgiven. It's a debt of forgiving others. Ladies and gentlemen! Whatever we do today, that name that came to your mind as we prayed-unilaterally forgive them. Set them free so you can be free, so grace can flow to you and to me. We can be forgiven; therefore, we can be in the forgiving business to others. So to sum up everything this passage is teaching us in this prayer of Jesus, I'm going to sum it up with a profound, theological statement. You ready? Let go of the rope!