Jimmy Evans - How to Overcome Unforgiveness
Peter came to Jesus and said, this is verse 21, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to 7 times"? Now, do you get the feeling right then that someone was Peter's nerves? You know. I've forgiven John 3 times, Lord how many more times do I have to do this? Jesus said to him:
I do not say to you up to 7 times, but up to 70 times 7. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him 10,000 talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold with his wife and children and all that he had and a payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him saying, 'master, have patience with me and I will pay you all'. Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave the debt. But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. And he laid his hands on him and took him by the throat saying, 'pay me what you owe'. So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, 'have patience with me and I will pay you all'. And he would not. But went and threw him in the prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved and came and told their master all that had been done. And his master, after he had called him, said to him, 'you wicked servant. I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you'? And his master was angry and delivered him to the tortures until he should pay all that was due to him. So my Heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you from his heart does not forgive his brother his trespasses.
Now, this is a shocking story. And let me begin by talking about 3 shocking truths about unforgiveness from the story here. Because it is a shocking story. It's actually a hyperbole. Jesus is telling really kind of a ridiculous story here to try to make a point about how God sees this issue of unforgiveness. Here's the first shocking truth. It is shocking how seriously God takes the issue of unforgiveness or forgiveness. I mean, this is a shocking story. And at the end of the story, remember, the servant would not forgive his brother. And at the end of the story, Jesus said he'll be turned over to tortures, and so will you if each of you from your heart does not forgive your brothers and your sisters their trespasses.
Torture. Well, that's a pretty strong word. But the truth is, unforgiveness is torture. It's a torturous lifestyle physically. Stress, ulcers, nervous problems, heart problems, headaches, high blood pressure, skin problems. Many, many physical problems can be traced back to the lack of forgiveness in a person's life, bitterness, hate, things like that. Secondly is emotional, is torment emotionally. Outbursts of anger, mood swings, personality changes, depression, anxiety, cynicism, things like that. Emotionally it just wreaks havoc with us.
Depression, by the way depression is an epidemic in America. The number one clinical definition of depression is anger turned inward. When you put anger on the inside of you, it is the highest emotional consumer. Did you know we have a very limited amount of emotional energy, all of us do? And when a person goes through something good in life, you know, you win the lottery, you get a raise, you have a baby, someone wins the gold medal in the Olympics or something like that, did you know that after a good event, most people are slightly depressed afterwards? Because our emotions have to catch up. We're very limited in what we can do emotionally. And so anytime we expend any level of emotional energy, we have to catch up.
It took me years, a preacher's worst day is always Monday. I didn't know that. And when I started out preaching, I would wake up Monday and I would always be down on Monday, and I still am. I'm flat on Mondays. It's because Saturday night and Sundays, I just give and give and give emotionally. So what I've learned is it just takes me 24 hours or so for my emotions to catch back up. And that's when something good is happening. When you put hate and anger and unforgiveness inside of you, it is the highest level of emotional consumer and it's 24 hours a day. And what happens after just a day or two or three of having that on the inside of you, your emotions begin to crater and you get depressed.
And what your emotions are saying to you is we can't keep up. We can't do this. We weren't designed to hate. Human beings were not created to be repositories for anger. We weren't. We weren't designed that way. So when we take long-term anger and unforgiveness and put it on the inside of us, we're ensuring ourselves major emotional problems in our lives. It's also spiritually, it's torment. And Jesus says here, "You'll be turned over to tormentors". I believe that when we will not forgive a person, it exposes us to demonic torment. This is what Ephesians 4 says, verse 26. It says, "Be angry, do not sin. Do not the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to diablos". That's the word there, devil. It means slanderer.
There's nothing wrong with anger. Be angry. All of us get angry. It's inevitable that you're gonna get angry. And there's nothing wrong with today's anger. But don't sin. Don't hit anybody. Don't do something wrong. Don't be hateful. Don't let the sun go down on your anger. And if you do let the sun go down on your anger and you don't deal with that anger today, you're gonna give an opening to diablos. He's gonna come into your life and slander your husband, slander your wife, slander your friends, slander everybody in your life until he's divided all the relationships in your life. It is demonic torment.
And so, here's what I believe, when we walk in unforgiveness, we're walking out from under the protection of God. Hate is the devil's territory. And when you're walking in hate, you're on his turf and you can't cast the devil out of his own property. That's his property. Love is God's property. Forgiveness is God's property. When you're walking in forgiveness, you're walking under the covering of God. When you're walking in hate, you're walking out from under the covering of God. And that's why it's torture. It's because you're exposed to all of that demonic element that you're not when you're walking in love, relationally and socially. Division, racism, wars, violence, divorce, lawsuits. You can go on and on and on of the ill that happens when we allow unforgiveness into our lives. It is torture, and that's what Jesus says.
Here are 3 sayings that I like related to the issue of forgiveness.
1 - "The poison of unforgiveness damages the vessel it is stored in worse than anything you can spit it on". It's harming you more than anybody else. The person that you're mad at, the people that you're mad at, it's not hurting them nearly as much as it's hurting you.
2 - "Forgiveness does not make them right, it just makes us free". Because I forgive, I'm not saying that it's all right what they did. I'm not saying that it can be excused what they did. I'm just saying I want to be free. I don't want to walk with this in my heart.
3 - "Forgiveness is one of the most self-loving things you'll ever do". If you love yourself, forgive. It's about you. It's mostly about you and this issue of forgiveness.
So the first shocking truth is it's shocking how seriously God takes this issue. And he will not forgive our sins. Jesus says it plainly. He will not forgive our sins if we don't forgive. If there's a person I want to say this to this morning, if you're a Christian and God loves you, if there's a person in your life you haven't forgiven in a year, all your sins for the last year have not been forgiven. It doesn't matter if you've confessed to them or not. And that's the shocking truth of this. God will only give us as much grace as we'll give away. And if we will not forgive, he won't forgive us. That's the meaning of the story.
Second shocking truth. It's shocking how petty unforgiveness seems from God's perspective. Now, this is a ridiculous story. And the story is ridiculous because of the sums of money involved. The first man owed his master 10,000 talents. One talent by modest estimates is worth $300,000. A talent was a massive amount of money. One talent was worth $300,000. This man owed his master 10,000 talents. And the estimates of how much he owed him go anywhere from 10 million to a billion. I read the commentaries when I was researching for this message, and the commentators all say it's incalculable. What Jesus means by this is it's a bizarre amount of money that nobody could pay back.
And so this man was forgiven a billion dollars by his master. Imagine for just a minute. He was gonna be sold, his wife was gonna be sold, and his children were gonna be sold. And that's a very disturbing thing to think about. Permanently. And he begs for his master's mercy, and his master forgives him. Imagine you've just been forgiven a billion dollars. You've totally forgiven a billion dollars. Then he goes and finds one of his fellow servants who owes him a hundred denarii. Anybody know how much that's worth? Do you have a hundred denarii in your pocket? $10,000. 10,000. It was 3 months wage for a soldier at that time.
He just, you would think that when a person's been forgiven a billion dollars, they would be in a forgiving mood. But rather than being in a forgiving mood, he goes and finds his fellow servant, grabs him by the throat and starts choking him, said, "Pay me back what you owe me". And the guy says, "I don't have it. Please forgive me". And he didn't. He threw him in prison. This is what it looks like. Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is light. Master, how many times do we forgive our brother, 7 times? And Jesus says, "No, 70 times 7".
Well, let me tell you something, Peter. The kingdom of heaven is light. And here's what Jesus is doing. He's drawing a drape into the invisible realm. We live in this hateful, hurtful world of people and wars and problems and all the racism, the sexism, the bigotry, just the out and out hatred that's in the world today. We've grown up in this world and this is what we know. Jesus says, "The kingdom of heaven is not like this. The kingdom of heaven is not like this". And he draws the drape open. He says, "Let me show you what the kingdom of heaven is like". You have a very forgiving king. And he's willing to forgive all of us a billion dollars, more than we could ever repay. But we have to be willing to forgive other people. And in comparison to what we've done to Jesus, they've done very little to us.
Peter comes to Jesus and says, "Lord, how many times do I forgive my brother, 7"? Here's what Jesus didn't say, "No, Peter, 8. You're off by one, bud. You're doing really good. You're a big-hearted person. And 8, it's a more biblical number. No, Peter, 12. No, 40. 40 is the number. It's a biblical number. It's a lot, Peter, but you can get there". He says, "No, Peter, 70 times 7". The point is you always forgive.
Psalm 103. "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding with mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will he keep his anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth so great is his mercy toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far he has removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him, for he knows our frame. He remembers that we're but dust". How many of you are glad that we have a forgiving God? He's massively forgiving. Let me say. That's why I love him. It's why I love him.
Now let me talk about how to forgive from the heart.
Number one, 'cause this is a heart issue now. Everything I've said so far is just a technical issue of here's what the Bible says and here's what forgiveness means. Let's get it down to a heart issue. Ok. We must remember that our sins cost Jesus his life. Our sins. The most righteous man in the history of the world died the worst death in the history of the world, and you put him there. The Jews didn't put him there. The Romans didn't put him there. You put him there. I put him there. Sometimes the bad thing about unforgiveness is so much of the time we feel so good about it. We feel justified. And we look at what that person has done and we think, "I would never do that. I would never do that". Ok. You're right. I might not do that, heh, but it doesn't mean I haven't done a lot of other dumb stuff. I put Jesus on that cross.
The hammer, the nails, the spear, the whip, the crown of thorns, the sign mocking the fact that he was king of the Jews. Jimmy Evans put all of them there, and that is a honest to God truth. And when I think in those terms, I get a little bit more humble about what other people have done. You put Jesus there. Don't you think you didn't. Let me put it in another way. For what you did to him, you owe a billion dollars to him. Just make it a trillion while you're at it. It's an amount that you couldn't pay the interest on ever, ever, ever, ever. But he forgave me. And that's the truth. Our hearts have got to get soft and get humble before we start extending forgiveness to other people. And we have to begin by just simply saying, "I might not have done that, but I did enough to put him on the cross". It's true. We put him there.
Number two key to forgiving from the heart. We have to remember that God loves our offender as much as he loves us. This is really the offense part, kind of. You know, someone has done something horrible to us and we feel justified because we feel better than them. And, you know, when someone does something, and there are levels. This morning, as I'm talking about this message, I know there are maybe people coming to your mind, ok, of people that maybe you need to forgive. They're the people that are frustrating. That's kind of the lowest level, just the frustrating people. They're kind of easy to forgive. They're just frustrating. Then there are the difficult people. They're not necessarily easy to forgive. They're difficult, but, ok, I forgive them. They're just weird uncle Harry, you know. He's just difficult.
And then there are the painful people. The hurtful people. And a lot of them mean to be hurtful. And they're a particular challenge. But then there are the devastating people. And these are the hardest ones. The devastators. And I promise you that everyone of you have had a devastator in your life. They did something, they said something, they didn't do something, and it devastated you. And you're sitting here thinking about the issue of forgiveness, and I'm sitting here saying God loves them as much as he loves you. That's really where it gets offensive sometimes because it's like, "No, he doesn't". But he does. "No, he doesn't". Yeah, he does. And so, we justify it. We justify it. We hate this group, we hate this group, we hate this person, we hate this person. And we put labels on them. And labels just mean now I have, because you're a jerk and you're an idiot and you're this and you're that.
Now I justify hating you because you're not as important as me and you're not as special as me. Because I'm a born again Christian and we are the cherry on top of the sundae. And God loves us more than everybody else. True? False. False. For God so loved the world. Not America and not Christians. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. That whoever, whoever, whoever, whoever, whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. Whoever.
Most of your New Testament was written by a man who killed Christians for a living. The apostle Paul killed Christians. The book of acts reports him as a murderer, washing the coats of those who were stoning Steven, the deacon. And while they feared him and hated him, God loved him and was trying to save him. And our heart just has to soften up and understand regardless of what they've done to us, they're still human beings in God's sight. And until they draw their last breath, he'll chase them to the gates of hell to try to get them to heaven.
Number three step in forgiving from your heart. We must make a permanent release of their debt and release their judgment to God. And there's a better way to say it, and it's this. We have to disqualify ourselves as a judge. We don't make good judges of people. And the reason we don't is we see the behavior of people, but rarely do we know what they do, why they do what they do. I don't have enough information. And so he will judge. Vengeance is mine. I will repay says the Lord. I'm putting judgment into his hands. And if there is judgment necessary, he'll do it, not me, because he's qualified, and I'm not qualified.
Number 4 step of forgiving from your heart. This is the big one. We must bless them and pray for them. Jesus says in Luke 6:28, "Bless those who curse you, pray for those who spitefully use you". That's not just good little spiritual advice. That heals your heart. And one of the main things that I hear from people, because, again, I want to go back to the word "Devastate". The frustrators, the difficult people, the hurtful people, well, they're an issue, but the devastators are the issue.
And so many times I hear people say, "Jimmy, I want to forgive. And I keep saying every day I forgive them, but the hate's still there and I feel bad about it. What do I do"? I understand that. I'm not a hateful person, I don't believe, but there have been two or three people in my life that I've hated. You have to work hard to get me to hate you, and they did. And I hated them. And it was oppressive, just like I said. It was torment to be in that condition of hating somebody.
But the healing of my emotions came as a prayed for them. God told me to pray for them. And it was offensive, and I didn't want to pray for them. Because it's like, "Lord, I don't want you to bless them, and I can pray anything good that I want to pray, but I don't mean it. I want you to kill them". Their obituary is my happy thought. Hmm? But Jesus says, "Pray for them and bless them". Listen, if you can't pray for them, you haven't forgiven them. And if you can't pray them, God knows you haven't gotten to your heart yet. Jesus says, I'm not asking you to go through some ritualistic type of performance-oriented forgiveness where you just say, oh, I forgive so and so and just walk off and still have all your ill will.
He's saying from your heart. It's gonna get down here or it's not gonna work with me. 'Cause he's a heart God. You pray for them. They may be dead. Mother, father, stepmother, stepfather, business partner, ex-spouse, whatever it might have been. And they devastated you, devastated you. They may be dead. It doesn't matter. You bless them until you get healed. Because when you start giving grace away, God will start giving grace into your heart. And as you pray for them, you will be healed. This is when it gets down to the heart level. And this is how I changed. This is the people that I hated. This is when the hate stopped and truly, love began.
You know, unforgiveness can destroy your life. And I know that there are many of you watching right now that you've been through some really overwhelming circumstances. And I was telling you my story there. And all of us have stories. But some stories are horrific. As a pastor for over 35 years, I've heard horrific stories from people of abuse, of murder, of unbelievable things that have been done to them and their families, and the answer is always the same. You have to forgive.
There's not one person that God will give us the ability to hate and the right to hate, except the devil. We can hate the devil as much as we hate the devil. We can't hate people. And the saying that forgiveness does not make them right, it just makes them free. And forgiveness cuts the umbilical cord that keeps feeding my spirit. So you can be angry at someone who's dead. It's still feeding your spirit, and the people closest around you are getting the worst of it. Your husband, your wife, your children, your friends. The people closest around you are going to get the fallout, 'cause it changes your personality. It makes you sick. Physically it changes you. Mentally it changes you. You become cynical, you become hard-hearted.
All of these things happen because you got hurt, something happened, you didn't forgive, and that becomes then a stronghold of the enemy. This program is about overcoming unforgiveness. And the most important thing that I said in this teaching is you have to bless that person. And it seems so repulsive to think that you have to bless them, but God loves that person. In spite of what they did, God loves them. And as we bless that person, blessing moves it from our head to our heart. And blessing proves to God that we are forgiving from our hearts the way that Jesus commanded. But the most important thing is this. It's gonna set you free, free to live your life.
All your hate doesn't hurt that other person. It just hurts you. And it keeps you from living the life that God intended for you to live. I've hated. I've been in that bondage. I'm free. I overcame it. Doing what the Bible had to say, it will set you free also. And my encouragement to you today is not just to forgive today, but to forgive every day. 'cause things happen to us all the time, and we just have to learn to be gracious, forgiving people in order to live and overcome life. That's my prayer for you is that you will live your life to the fullest and that you will overcome everything that's coming at you in Jesus' name. I'll see you next time right here on "The overcoming life".