Jentezen Franklin - The Mathematics Of Forgiveness
I want to go to a powerful, perhaps the most powerful parable Jesus ever taught. In Matthew 18:21, "Then Peter came to Him and said, Lord, how often shall someone sin against me, and I have to forgive him? Up to seven times? And He said to him, I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven", which is an amazing statement.
I want you to notice that Simon Peter was trying to define forgiveness with a mathematical, as a mathematical equation. What is a number? Probably, I have a sneaky suspicion, 'cause when you read about Simon Peter, he was a character. And probably, he had one person in mind and he had already forgiven 'em six times. I think that's why he said, "Seven", because I think he was ready to write somebody off and be done with 'em, and you know, trying to put a mathematical formula on forgiveness.
I want to talk to you about the mathematics of forgiveness for a few moments today. One area that we are all, I've seen astoundingly, astonishingly, amazing at, when it comes to mathematics, is we've learned how to keep count when people hurt us. You may not be good at math, but when people hurt you, you can keep up with that stuff in an amazing way, like, "14 years ago at three o'clock in the afternoon... time, place, date... I remember it, and then you did it again and again and again four years later".
And we can remember and do that math real, real easy. The people who hurt you the most in life are the people you love the most, you've trusted the most, and you've helped the most. And one of the issues and the questions that all of us struggle with when it comes to forgiveness, and it's what Peter was trying to get to, is what are the boundaries of forgiveness. Are there boundaries to forgiving somebody? Is it some place where you just finally get to say, "Get out of my life; deleted; you're gone; goodbye"? Is that biblical to do that? And Jesus absolutely blew their minds when He said, "No, not seven times, but seven times seventy", which, I'm not good at math but that's 490 times, the same thing in one day from the same person.
Jesus is not suggesting a number. He's giving us a new math formula. He was saying, "You can never stop forgiving others, regardless of how deeply and how often they've hurt us". Peter thought that he was proposing a generous standard... seven times. But instead, Jesus ups it exponentially and says, "No, not seven times; seven times seventy".
Here's the point. Point number one on forgiveness, and don't forget it, forgiveness is not about keeping score; it's about losing count. That's the only way you can look at this. What was Jesus really saying? He was saying, "You cannot start keeping score if you're going to be a forgiving person". It's not about keeping score. It's about losing count.
Microsoft Excel spreadsheet changed the accounting world, and they do it in columns. You have a topic or a client or a person, and then you have the date on one side and you have the name and then you have the column and you have the amount that they owe you. And I think sometimes what we do is we have an Excel spreadsheet on people in our minds that's ongoing, so much so that I brought one in with me today. And these are just examples. So back in 2003, mom and dad didn't go to my ball game, so they got themselves a column. Then we've got a column for our friends. You know, it goes way back, maybe to high school days or something. Stole your girlfriend.
You ought to thank them that they stole your girlfriend. Have you seen her? Look on Facebook, she looks crazy. You are blessed to get the girl you're with. But, you know, they didn't invite me to the Super Bowl. Come on now. I noticed on Facebook y'all had a party, but we didn't get invited, so you just got yourself a column, and I'm going to keep score. I'm keeping score on our relationship. And oh, coworkers. And you lied about me, took credit for my project, didn't give me the credit. And since Cherise is here, I'm going to throw her under the bus, treated me ugly.
Notice that's gone on there for years. Treated me ugly. Turned me down. That means she had a headache, and that would be numerous in there. Another one and another one and another one and another one. You're in a column. You're in a column. But there's other columns, and that's the bottom line is every time somebody does something wrong, I put 'em in a column. And I start adding and adding and adding and adding and adding, and you come to church and you're offended and you're angry and you're mad and you try to worship and you try to get something out of it, but you can't because you've got columns on people.
The thing about Excel spreadsheets is if you keep putting the wrong formula in, you will never end up with the right equation. It keeps kicking it back, saying you've got to go back and fix something in this column because it's messing up the whole equation. And the reason people's equation of their life gets messed up is because they don't deal with those columns, and it's going to come back and the equation of your life... emotionally, spiritually, physically... is taking a toll on you. It's taking a toll on you, financially. It's taking a toll on you, relationally, because there's people that you've got columns on and you're keeping score and you know what they did and you won't let it go. And it's not just affecting them; it's eating you alive.
Forgiveness is not keeping score; it's losing count. That's what Jesus was teaching. And you've got to do the right math because there's different formulas of math. You've got to use the right tool. Now, watch. Now, Jesus gives us the right math in Matthew 6 on forgiveness. Folks, please, lean in now and listen. Jesus' words, Matthew 6, "If you forgive those who sinned against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But", listen, "if you refuse others, your Father will not forgive your sins".
This is a different kind of math, and here is the math pattern and formula. Do the math, the right kind of math, means think about every time the Father has forgiven you on a daily basis, and then take that formula and apply it to that person. Think of every time He has forgiven you and it wasn't that you didn't do it; you did it and He forgave you... take that formula and use it with somebody else.
The second thing about forgiveness is this: sometimes the best in us can only be brought out by the worst done to us. We don't like it but the truth is that the best of you will never be released, sometimes, until the worst has been done to you. And usually, it'll be done by people who you have loved, trusted, and helped the most. And God never intends for that to destroy you, if He allows it. And it's not God doing it; it's people. But if you will allow it, the best will come out of you out of the worst people do to you.
There's something about unforgiveness that people say, "Well, one something happens and a bad thing happens and you get, and you feel unforgiveness, just leave it alone". You ever heard people say that? That, you know, time heals all things? That's not true. Unforgiveness doesn't get better if you leave it alone.
Now, listen to me. Unforgiveness is not going to get better if you just back off and leave it alone. It does not get better. It festers. And you either fester unforgiveness or you foster healing, but you have to do one or the other. And if it's unforgiveness and you're festering it, it's going to get worse and bitter and ugly and angry. So Paul, in Ephesians 4, gives the beautiful, beautiful formula of how to release forgiveness.
Watch this. Ephesians 4, he says, "Put away all bitterness, wrath, anger". The first thing you've got to do is drain all the damaging emotions of unforgiveness. And listen. If you're sitting there saying, "Well, I feel like I've forgiven that person", if when you see that person, their face comes up or you're thinking about them and this is the reaction that comes out of you, "bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, let it be put away from you with all malice", let it be put away from you with all malice.
I want to read it from another translation. It said, "bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, all types of mean behavior". Wow. Then notice the next part of that verse, "be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another". Here it is. There's the math formula, "even as God in Christ", or "for Christ's sake has forgiven you". In other words, do the right math. Forgiveness is not about keeping score; it's about losing count. And the only way to effectively release forgiveness is it's not usually some quick, instant thing.
The only way you can release it, because it's deep inside of you, is you have to start praying and asking God to give you and release through you forgiveness to that person who has done something that is wrong and it was as wrong as it could be. And the only way to release it, and we want it quick. We want it quick. It's kind of like ketchup. How many of you love ketchup? And you know, the modern generation, your generation has the quick squeeze plastic bottle. All you've got to do is just take, just flip the top up and squirt and there it is. I love ketchup. I love it on everything. Don't you?
And I asked our team, I said, "I want you to go get me the old fashioned glass bottle of ketchup, and I want to have a plastic bottle representing quick fix. But I want one of those glass bottles". And somebody on staff brings this for my illustration. And how many of you know they've got column now? And they already got count, already counting against, some things against 'em already. But this is a glass bottle. This is how it originally came. And this is interesting. If you go to Heinz.com, they will describe to you, for example, this is another example... Heinz 57... I didn't know this; they said only 11% of their consumers know what I'm about to share with you.
So this was worth coming to church. If you're one of those people who when you get the bottle of ketchup, Number one, it's so hard to get the top off. And the reason, according to the website, is because the contents on the inside are under tremendous pressure. And so, the first step to getting it out and letting it flow is to open it up. And good luck with that because it's like a workout to get it open. You have to use the name of Jesus and plead the blood and... especially when you're hungry.
And if you're like me, I start beating on the table. I take my mouth and turn it or I take, I start jabbing it with a knife when I do get it open. And if I'd have only read the website, because the website said that, for example, on the Heinz 57, that they placed the sticker strategically, with the number exactly where it is - lot of research went into this. That if you want it to come out, you don't have to. All you've got to do is just start knocking on the 57. And when you do, it doesn't come real quick. It's not squeezable. Just plop. Might take a minute.
This is how forgiveness is. We've got to get you opened up. And Jesus said, "Ask and you shall receive", and keep on asking, "seek and you shall find", and keep on seeking, "knock and it shall be opened", but if it doesn't happen, keep on knocking. Know the right spot. That's prayer, God. I'm trying to forgive this person and not kill 'em. And Father, in the name of Jesus, I'm knocking. And it may take a minute. It may take a minute, it may take a minute. You've got to wait. It's slow. It's not squirting out real fast. It's slow. Come on. But you keep praying about it. "Well, how many times do I have to pray for 'em"?
Keep on knocking. Keep on knocking. Keep on knocking, until the contents on the inside of forgiveness begins to be released. Little by little by little by little, God begins to heal and restore our relationships. If you have your Bible, open it to Matthew 18, and listen to this. So Jesus just confronted Peter and said 490 times, and I'm closing with this. But lean in; this is the most important part of the message. If you haven't heard nothing else, hear this. "Therefore", verse 23, "the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants". He had a spreadsheet, this king did. "And when he had begun to settle the account, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talent of gold. But", I love the next verse, "But he was not able to pay".
That is a direct reference to our sin-debt and the King is Jesus. And the master commanded that he be sold with his wife and his children to make the payment. And the scripture said the servant therefore fell down before him, saying, "Master, have patience with me". He's repenting. "I'll pay you back. Please, lord. Please, lord". And the master of the servant was, this is Jesus, "moved with compassion". Everybody say, "The cross released him and forgave him his debt". Everybody say, "Oh". Say it again. "Oh". He released him and that ought to be your reaction. "Oh, my gosh! Ten million pieces of gold, and he released him? Oh".
But watch. Watch now. "But that servant went right out of that church service and found one fellow servant who owed him a hundred denarii", a few pieces of silver, listen, Didn't even talk to him. "Laid his hands on him and took him by the throat and started choking him, saying, Pay me what". This is how the King sees you when you don't forgive people. "So the fellow servant fell down at his feet, begged him", same words, "Have patience with me. I'll pay you for it all. He would not. Went and threw him into prison that he would pay the debt. And so, there were some fellow servants who saw what was done. They were grieved and they told the king all that had been done. Then the king, after he had called him, sent again and said, You wicked servant. I forgave you all the debt because you begged me. Should you not also have compassion on your brother just as I pitied you"?
This is so powerful. Verse 34, "And his king was angry and delivered him to the torturers, or the tormentors, until he would pay all that was due him". And then, it ends with verse 35. "So my Heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you from his heart does not forgive his brother his trespasses".
Look at me. I've heard all my life there's one unforgivable sin - blaspheming the Holy Spirit. You've committed the unpardonable sin. That's not true. There are two, not one. That scripture just proves it. The first unforgivable sin is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. The second is, according to Jesus' words, it is unforgivable to be unforgivable. If you don't release forgiveness, you will not receive forgiveness.
And there's a lot of religious people who play church. There's a lot of people listening to me right now and you can play the part. And I'm talking to me. I'm talking to all of us. I am not going to go to hell for nobody. I don't care what they did. Again, forgiveness doesn't mean that you have to be in my life; but I am not going to get bitter and angry and have a swamp of emotional hatred toward people and bitterness. You've got to drain that swamp. Be kind. Be loving. Forgive. And it may take a minute, it may take a while... pray, not until the contents of forgiveness and love begin to pour out of your mouth and heart and emotions and attitude again, because if you don't, Jesus said your King will not forgive your debts.
This is serious stuff. This is life or death. This is eternal stuff. It's stuff that we cover up and act like it's not there in our families. And the truth is, only Jesus and an encounter with Jesus can change our hearts. And it starts in a service like this. When you begin to hit in the right spot, quit playing games and hit in the right spot, and say, "Lord, I need to tear up the spreadsheet, I need to quit keeping count and keeping score, and I need to lose count. I need to understand that what they've done to me is just supposed to bring out the best in me; and I need to remember that unforgiveness will bring a harvest of unforgiveness from the King back to me".
I love that scripture that said, "Live peaceably with all men", and then it has a little clause, "where it's possible", wherein it's possible, which means it's... Some people, they're never going to be at peace with you. They're never going to be. There it is. If it is possible... I'm thankful for that clause, as much as depends on you. He didn't say, "You get the option to forgive them, live peaceably with them". But if they don't want to be at peace with you... There's some people that they're not going to be at peace with you. But all you've got to do is forgive 'em and be alright.
I put it like this: I'm at peace with the fact you're not at peace with me. And there are some cases where if it is possible, it's applicable, such as a molestation or... and I don't have time to go into everything, but you know what I'm saying. But I don't have the option to forgive. "Well, I don't want 'em to get by with it. I don't want 'em to get by with it". "Vengeance is Mine, saith the Lord. I will repay. And I'll turn around. And when you release them, I'll pour out blessings like I did"?
You remember when Abraham let Lot have all the good stuff and the inheritance? He took all the good land and he got all the bad stuff. But because he was a peacemaker, because he had the right heart, Lot ended up losing everything, including his family, and Abraham became the most blessed man in the world at that time. Only God can do that. God says, "Vengeance is Mine. I'll repay. You keep the right spirit and I'll take care of everything else".
Stand to your feet. Every head bowed, every eye closed. The first thing that we're gonna do is pray for people who do not know that your relationship with Jesus Christ is right. You have a debt you cannot pay. You cannot pay it. Only the king can forgive it, and He did on the cross. That's why He said it's finished. And if you'll ask Him into your heart today, He'll forgive your debt.
With every head bowed and every eye closed. Pastor, pray for me. I know that I'm not right with God, and I want to get right with God. And I don't want to go into eternity and be cast to the tormentors. I want forgiveness that came through the cross and the blood that Jesus shed. Pray for me. If that's you, boldly raise your hand right now. If you know I'm speaking to you. You know it. There's a hand. There's a hand. Another. Another. At every campus, across their churches, every hand. Raise it high, and keep it up just a moment. Keep it high.
Heavenly Father, I come in the name of Jesus Christ, the one who said to pray, forgive us our debts as we forgive those who have debted against us. I pray right now, in the name of Jesus Christ, that forgiveness would be released to every person who says Jesus. Now everybody in this room say Jesus. I call on your name. Save me. Wash me. Pay the price that I cannot pay through your precious blood. I receive forgiveness of all my sins. Now secondly, I, in Jesus' name, release forgiveness.
Jesus was asked, and I close with this, Jesus was asked, what is the greatest commandment? And He said, love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. And love your brother, your family, your neighbors, the people you can see. And if you do it, you fulfill all the law.