Monday, February 14, 2011

Unforgiving Means Unforgiven

This week I am going to go through yet again another series.  This week, despite what some prosperity preachers teach today, I am hoping that we all examine ourselves.  I truly believe that just about everyone who would take the time to read a blog like this or to listen to any solid Bible teacher is saved, but there are many who call themselves Christians who are not.  My goal is not to cause a crisis in faith for anyone, but the Bible does tell us to do this and so this week I want us to all examine ourselves so that we truly know that we are saved. 
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified.  2 Corinthians 13:5-6 NKJV
Paul addressed this to those in the church of Corinth.  In other words, he addressed this to to a group of people who would have been assumed to be Christians.  Like Paul, I trust that just about everyone who reads this week will know that they are not disqualified.  I also trust that after our faith as been assured once again, that we will appreciate all the more what the Lord has done with us.  If you come to the conclusion that you may never have accepted Jesus as your Lord and savior, I pray you will take this opportunity to truly receive that free gift of salvation through Jesus. 

Before I begin today's study, I feel as though I should explain why I writing this series.  The reason is that I am convicted that there are so many in our churches who have no real idea who Jesus is and have never truly accepted Him as Lord and savior.  Some come to church as a means of earning favor with God (this is especially true the the Christmas and Easter Christians).  If that is the case, I daresay you are not saved because if you were you would understand that we can not earn favor with God through any actions, let alone just showing up to church a few times a year.  Some come to church because their parents went to church and were brought up in the faith.  I feel there is a real danger in that so many of those sort of just assume Christianity as though they somehow absorbed it.  The fact is that for us to be saved, we each need to make a clear decision on our own to receive Jesus.  So many never take that step of making that faith their own, of truly making their own decision for Jesus, and just assume they are saved because they always went to church.  Unfortunately, many of those are not.  There are others who feel they are saved because they responded to some alter call and said the Sinner's Prayer.  Am I saying that many of those who respond to an alter call are never saved?  Yes, I am saying that.  Jesus said that Himself in His parable of the seeds.  The prayer is not a means to salvation, but just an expression of something we already have in our hearts.  The prayer is not some magic spell that imparts our salvation, but too many seem to feel that way.  The prayer is an expression of something you already believe in your hearts and without that belief in your heart that prayer in meaningless.  My hope is that these posts can be a tool in your lives and even with sharing with others because Jesus even said that many will die thinking they are saved only to find out that Jesus never even knew them. 

My strategy so-to-speak for this week will be to go through the "unforgivables".  I am not referring to the Unpardonable Sin, as that sin is not accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior.  I mean those things that Jesus says if we do or do not do, we will not be forgiven by God for our sins.  I do not believe that we can lose our salvation (though it is not quite so cut and dry and perhaps requires its own post someday), so I do not think that Jesus was referring to works to maintain our salvation.  What I do believe is that those areas are signs to others and even to ourselves to know if we are saved.  In other words, it is not doing or not doing these things that results in our salvation, but it is our salvation that results in whether or not we do these things.  So with that, let us begin our self-examination.  Today I will be talking about forgiveness.
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  Matthew 6:14-15 NKJV
This is a hard passage to get around.  If you do not forgive others, God will not forgive you.  Again I am not teaching this to mean that you will lose your forgiveness if you fail to forgive, but I am saying that you are probably not even saved if you hold unforgiveness in your heart.  That sounds kind of harsh, but the Words of Jesus are plain for all to see.  I did not write this, Jesus spoke this.  If you do not forgive others, you will not be forgiven.  I do believe this is so because if you truly understand grace and salvation you have no choice but to forgive others.  If you are truly under the grace of God, then you will respond by forgiving others.  One can not exist without the other.  If you claim to be saved and you still refuse to forgive others, then you do not understand the salvation you claim to have.  You do not know or understand Jesus if you think you have a right to not forgive others when God has forgiven you.  Jesus illustrates this beautifully in a parable that we will talk about today.
Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.  Matthew 18:21-22 NKJV
The parable spoken of by Jesus is in response to this question from Peter.  Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother.  He probably thought he was shooting high with asking if he should forgive him seven times.  Jesus sets the bar much higher, saying you should forgive him seventy times seven (490) times.  That is not to say we need to keep a counter to count to 490, but that we are to continue to forgive others no matter how many times they sin against us. 
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 ten thousand 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 that payment be made.  Matthew 18:23-25 NKJV
This parable is likened to the kingdom of heaven.  For the purposes of this parable, the God is represented at the king and His servants are representative of us.  That kind began to settle accounts and a servant was brought to him who owed him a tremendous amount of money.  He was unable to pay that debt and the king ordered that all he had was to be sold to pay down that debt, including selling his wife and children into slavery.  This is much like our debt to God.  Think of everything we ever did wrong, each sin representing a debt we can never pay.  Each sin deserves death, each sin earns us an eternity apart from God in Hell.  When you think about it, the debt we owe God will never be paid by us.  We can only be damned one time and so like this man we can never pay our debt.  Coming to God without Jesus, our wife and children may not be sold into slavery, but we will be sent into eternal hell. 
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 him the debt.  Matthew 18:26-27 NKJV
This servant does all that he can do, he begs his master to have patience that he will pay him in the future. First note this servant still does not have the right heart.  He can not ever pay back what he owes his master, but he is trying to buy some time to pay it back in the future.  The king, though, has compassion on this servant and forgives him his debt.  For us, when we come to God, we know we can never pay back the wrong we have done Him. We plead with God for a chance to make it up, promise that we can do better, but God knows we never can.  In that knowledge and out of His abundant love for us, He sent Jesus to pay that debt for us.  We come before the throne and plead for His mercy, and He offers us grace.  What we do with that offer means everything for our eternity. 
But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid 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 into prison till he should pay the debt.  Matthew 18:28-30 NKJV
This is why I think this servant never understood grace.  After hearing about the free gift he received from the king, he actually went out and found someone who owed him money.  Not only that, but this person he found owed him a pittance compared to what he owed the king.  This other servant fell down and begged just like the first servant did before the king.  Unfortunately, he found no grace.  He found only judgment as he put him in debtors prison.  I am sure we all feel the same righteous indignation towards this servant.  He was just forgiven a tremendous debt and right away he goes out and thrown a man in prison who owed him a pittance. 
"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. Then 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 torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.  Matthew 18:31-34 NKJV
Just as we feel indignant about this wicked servant, so do his fellow servants. They find the king and report what he has done and the king is not happy at all.  He is called before the king and judged for his wickedness.  The king withdrew his offer of forgiveness and sent that servant to spend time with the torturers until that debt was repaid.  For us, it is like when we hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and love the forgiveness offered through Jesus.  We love the idea of forgiveness, but we never really give our hearts to the Lord.  That offer of grace only remains an offer because we never truly accept it.  We hear the grace, we like the grace, we want our sins forgiven us, but we do not want to pay the cost of allowing that grace to change our lives.  Liking the offer of grace is not the same as accepting the offer. 
So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses. Matthew 18:35 NKJV
God will withdraw His offer of forgiveness if we do not, from the heart, forgive our brothers and sisters.  That is more than just forcing yourself to say you forgive someone.  It is also more than forgiving and not forgetting.  It is more than conditionally forgiving someone meaning that you forgive that person but still hold onto the grudge in order to revisit it should that person offend you again.   Note that Jesus does not even give us the loophole of someone asking for forgiveness.  Whether or not the person repents or apologizes or asks for forgiveness, we are to forgive.  The commandment is for us for forgive, not for others to ask for it.   Just as God separates us from our sin as far the east is from the west, we must do the same for others.  If we fail to do so, we are not forgiven our sins.  There are not too many ways to twist these words of Jesus, especially since He says this more than one time.  We also have Paul telling is that our salvation is by faith through grace and not of works so how does one reconcile this seeming contradiction of salvation of works and salvation by grace?  It is not as hard as it seems.  The answer is that our forgiveness of others is the result of our salvation.  We are saved by faith through grace and as a result we have a forgiving heart towards others. 

Is this saying that if you do not forgive someone then you are not a Christian?  Not necessarily, but it shows you have a serious problem in your walk with the Lord that you need to deal with. We should, though, have a heart-felt desire to forgive.  We should have that desire to not hold something against someone.  I know it is hard, and sometimes such bad things are done to us or those we love that it is impossible.  Impossible, that is, in our own strength.  When you have a God-driven heart-felt desire to do something and you can not, the response is not to accept that failure in your life but to go to the One who will give you the strength to succeed.  None of us will ever have perfect forgiveness of others, and that is where the strength of our Lord comes in.  God would not ask us to do something that He will not empower us to do.  We are not supposed to be able to forgive in our own strength, but we are supposed to have that desire to allow God to do that work in us.

The real concern is for those who believe that their bitterness and anger is justified.  If you feel you have a right to hold unforgiveness against someone.  If you feel your are justified in your grudge.  If you lack any desire to forgive someone, then I need to warn you that you do not understand the grace of God.  I am also concerned for your soul.  If you truly understood what Christ did you for you on the cross, you would understand that you really have no right to be angry at anyone and certainly not to hold onto that anger.  No matter what anyone could have done to you, it will never measure up to what you have done to God.  Your sin sent Jesus Christ to the cross.  Your sin caused the humiliation, torture, crucifixion, and death of Jesus who knew no sin.  There is no one on earth more innocent than Jesus and each and everything you have ever done wrong spilled that innocent blood of our Lord.  Despite the blood on your hands, God loved you so much to impart the very death your sin caused to your sins so that you would not have to suffer the same.  Even if someone took the life of someone you loved, that at most means that earthly justice demands their life in return.  Everything you have ever done wrong is an offense to God and not only deserves your life as punishment, but your soul.  But that soul, darkened as it as by the sin in your life, was redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.  That same blood covered the sin of anything ever done to you in this life.   So not only do we owe more to God than anyone can ever owe to us, but by holding back forgiveness, we are saying that the blood of Jesus was insufficient for the sins of that other person.  Think on that, you are telling God that His blood is insufficient.  The idea that His blood lacks any sufficiency for the forgiveness of sins betrays your lack of understanding of just what grace is.  If you do not understand the forgiveness of God or if you think it not enough, then I fear for your soul. 

Examine yourself and come to God and ask Him to help you deal with any unforgiveness in your heart.  If you have no desire to do that, then you need to be sure you are even saved.  If the grace of God has not given you a forgiving heart or a at the very least a desire for one, then you do not have the grace of God.
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.  Ephesians 4:31-32 NKJV

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