Tuesday, April 26, 2011

If You're Forgiven, You Will Forgive

Hello everyone.  Today we will be continuing in our series on the Sermon on the Mount.  Today should be a short message as we cover just a couple of verses that I covered before.  Here is today's text.
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
What is interesting is that this message is tucked away in Jesus telling us how to perform our Christian duties.  Specifically, this was given as a commentary to the model prayer that He just finished teaching us.  In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus did tell us that part of it should be asking forgiveness for our sins against Him as we forgive others who sinned against us.  If Jesus, out of the entire prayer, chose to highlight this one teaching, it must be important for us to know and understand.

Why is this message of forgiveness so important?  I believe that if we truly understand God's grace and forgiveness, we have no choice but to forgive anything done to us.  I do not believe Jesus is teaching a condition or work for our salvation in that God will not forgive us if we do not forgive others. What I do believe is that if we do not forgive others, we never truly accepted God's forgiveness of us.  I say that because just as if we understand God's grace and forgiveness we will forgive others, then in this case the mirror of that statement is also true.  I believe that if you do not forgive others, you do not understand God's grace and forgiveness.  In other words, you never received it to begin with. 

This again goes back to the Beatitudes.  Coming to God involves coming to the end of ourselves and seeing us in light of who God is.  Seeing ourselves in that light shows us all that we are not.  We are stripped of any pride as we realize just how unworthy we are.  We are not like the Pharisee who thanks God for how good he is but like the taxpayer who realizes just how good he is not.  That realization of us being so totally unworthy to stand before God should transcend the rest of our being as we ourselves as no better than anyone else.  Holding something against someone violates that honest view of ourselves in that it makes the claim that we are better than that person.  Think about it, how can you withhold grace from someone when God has not withheld grace from you despite your own failures?  If you truly understand who you are in light of who God is, there can be no way that you see yourself as any better than anyone else.  That makes you the Pharisee, who in that famous parable, did not go home justified. 

Furthermore, coming to God means mourning for our own unrighteousness.  This is a result of seeing the righteousness of God.  When we see our own righteousness for just how wanting it is, how can we see our righteousness as better than that of someone else?  If we see that our own righteousness was an illusion and a fraud and that we really have none, we certainly can not see ourselves as better than anyone else.  We simply can not have more than someone else of something we have none of.  And so if we truly see our lack, we can not hold the lack of another against them.  Failure to forgive someone else is telling that other person that your righteousness is better than theirs.  That statement shows that you never really came to that end where you realized you had none and needed Jesus to pay for those sins. 

And so we see here the importance of forgiving others.  It is one of those signs that you have truly accepted the grace of God.  I hope that as we meditate on this lesson right after Easter that we are able to put it into its right perspective.  Jesus suffered and died for the sins of the world.  He suffered terribly as He paid for those sins and when he was finished, it was finished.  In other words, He paid the complete price for all the sins we commit against God and each other.  Holding a sin over someone is telling Jesus that His payment was somehow incomplete.  May we never have that heart.  May we never be so proud as to ask more than the blood of Jesus to forgive sins.  May we never set higher standards than God for how a sin should be forgiven.  We do so at our own peril because doing so shows we never understood the grace offered to us. If we do not understand grace, can we really say we have accepted it? 
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. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses. Matthew 18:32-35 NKJV

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