The Grace of Forgiveness Is the Key to Life!
O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, I come before You this day with joy in my heart, for You have loved me and forgiven me my many sins. You have embraced me as Your child and declared me to be an heir of heaven. O Lord, instruct me with Your truths, so that I might live my life in accordance with Your Word. Move me to love as I have been loved and to forgive as indeed I have been forgiven. I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.
Solomon here speaks of the future prospects of those who embrace God's wisdom and those who do not. He warns the wicked not to oppress the righteous. He warns the righteous not to rejoice in the fall of an enemy. Rather, commit all to God who will do what is right and good!
Paul begins his epistle with a prayer of thanksgiving and encouragement for his fellow believers in Philippi. He rejoices in them, longs for them, and prays that their lives will be filled with fruits of righteousness flowing from a faith grounded in Jesus Christ!
Text: Matthew 18:23-35
Jesus said to Peter: “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. 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. 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. 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. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
In Christ Jesus, through whom grace and truth have been given to us, dear fellow redeemed:
Are you living under the law or in grace? That may sound like a strange question, but it is a very important one. For if you understand the question and strive to live in grace rather than under the law, the effects will be life-changing! Let me give you an example. The Fourth Commandment says: “Honor your father and your mother!” (Ex. 20:12) Children—when your mother asks you to help do the supper dishes, how to do you respond? Do you whine and complain? Do you do them because you have to do them? Or, do you do them with a spirit of thankfulness, because you want to do them? If your first thoughts are of resentment or mere obligation—“Do I have to…or I must do this”—then you are living under the law. If, on the other hand, your first thoughts reflect grateful appreciation for the blessings you have received and you view the task before you as an opportunity to say thank-you both to God and to others, then you are living in grace! The same thinking holds true for each of us adults!
You have heard it said: “Attitude is everything!” When the apostle Paul urges us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2) and when he says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5), he is speaking to us about our attitudes, and that change of attitude God desires in His children. We are not to remain under the law in a world of complaints and compulsion, but rather are to be living our lives in grace—thinking of, rejoicing in, and responding to that love of God which we so freely receive and which we really do not deserve. Living in grace is so very important when it comes to the quality of our lives and the success of our spiritual witness in life. That being said, I want to focus on one important area today and share with you this thought—THE GRACE OF FORGIVENESS IS THE KEY TO LIFE! In our text we will see God’s grace in forgiving our sins, and consider how important is: our grace in forgiving the sins of others! May God bless this study!
The parable of Jesus found in our text was preceded by Jesus’ instructions regarding how to deal with a sinning brother. Peter, in response, then asked the question: “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” (Mt. 18:21) Peter no doubt thought that he was being generous, for the leading rabbis of that day, apart from Jesus, said that you only had to forgive any one three times, before refusing to do so. Peter, however, despite assuming he was being fair and generous was demonstrating that he was living under the law. He was asking Jesus for a legal opinion, after which he could begin counting up offenses before ultimately lowering the boom on his sinning brother. Jesus’ response was truly remarkable. He said: “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven!” (Mt. 18:22) Now, Jesus was not upping the legal ante and suggesting that we all go around with a little notebook marking down our brother’s faults and heading for 491. No, He was pointing out that there is no limit to the number of times we are to forgive a brother who sins against us. His reason is that we, who are forgiven by God, are to live in grace! We are always to forgive. To illustrate that point He began to tell His parable.
He said: “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. 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.”
The parable is straight forward. A king settled the accounts of his servants. One owed him clearly more than he could ever hope to repay. When the king, who according to the law of that land had every right to sell the servant and his family into slavery, decided to do so, the servant in a great panic made wild promises he could not keep. The king, seeing the man’s desperation, had pity upon him and freely forgave him everything.
How does the parable apply to us? The king is God. In view of our many sins, we all are the servant who owes God more than we could ever repay. Our just judgment would be to spend all of eternity in hell. As with the servant in the parable, we at times make wild promises to God—“I’ll never do that again…I’ll make up for that sin by being good…from now on I’ll devote myself entirely to you, God, if only you will forgive me!” But, God had compassion of us and sent Jesus to save us. He declares us righteous—holy and forgiven for Jesus’ sake. He does so because of His great grace—a love that we do not deserve, but which God has freely given. A love that fills up our lives with good things, chief among them new spiritual life through faith and the gift of eternal life in heaven! This is the grace which the writer to the Hebrews says establishes our hearts (cf. Heb. 13:9) and in which the apostle Paul says we are now to stand (cf. Rom. 5:2). This is the grace, which is to reign in our hearts and be expressed by everything we say and do in life (cf. Rom. 5:21; Col. 4:6). This is the grace which instills within us strength, confidence, and peace, and which leads to a life filled with thanksgiving (cf. 2 Tim. 2:1; 2 Cor. 4:15). God’s grace is truly amazing, as we sang in John Newton’s famous hymn just prior to our sermon. Yes, God’s grace in forgiving our sins is the key to life—both the type of life we are to live here on this earth to God’s glory and also the life God will bestow upon us when we enter His glory in heaven!
But now let us consider how important is: our grace in forgiving the sins of others! Jesus continued His parable in this way: “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.”
Once again the parable is quite easy to understand. The servant, who had only recently been forgiven his large debt, now finds a fellow servant who owes him in comparison a much smaller debt. Instead of being good and gracious, however, the servant grabs his fellow servant by the neck and demands payment. When the fellow servant cannot pay and in spite of his pleading, the servant shows no mercy and throws him into prison until he would pay.
How does this part of the parable apply to us? Oh, that it never did! Yet, how often does it not, as we, who have been forgiven so much, become callous and hard-hearted in our dealings with each other. Oh, we feel we have the right, do we not, so often to grasp others by the neck and refuse forgiveness. After all, the sins they have committed against us are real, often repeated, and at times intentional. They deserve punishment…but “vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). You and I, my dear friends, have no right not to forgive. We lost that right when God forgave us in Christ! We have no right to seek vengeance, for that is the prerogative of God alone and those to whom God has entrusted that responsibility within society. We are the objects of God’s grace and forgiveness. We are consequently graciously to forgive others as we have been forgiven.
What will happen to us, if we refuse? Listen to the rest of the parable: “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. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Again, the parable is clear—the unforgiving servant forfeited the grace and goodness of God. He placed himself under God’s judgment and lost any hope of life and salvation. Such will be the case, Jesus says, for everyone who does not from his heart forgive his brother his trespasses. When you ignore grace and demand justice, you will receive justice and lose grace!
But what can I do with the hurt? How can I forgive the terrible things that people have done and continue to do? How do you and I rid our minds of the memories? When will the nightmares stop? When will rest come? The answers to those questions will vary for each of us, but the answers to those questions will begin to be found in the same place for everyone, and that place is the grace of God. Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28). Healing begins with Jesus—His grace, His mercy, His love, His forgiveness, His strength, His gift of hope, His answers to our prayers. Let us give the heavy weight of our sorrow and suffering to Him. He is strong. He is able. He will help us as we lay at His feet our anger and resentment, our pain and our hurt.
My dear friends, let us live in grace—looking up always into the loving face of our heavenly Father, who urges us to address Him as “Abba” (Rom. 8:15)—our strong and loving Daddy. As we see the wondrous forgiveness of God over against us—the servant who owed more than he could ever pay, and as we contemplate the blessings of heaven that await us because of God’s grace and forgiveness—let us pray that our hearts and minds might indeed be transformed and renewed and like unto the mind and heart of our Savior Jesus. “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so!” Jesus, help me forgive as I have been forgiven, for THE GRACE OF FORGIVENESS IS THE KEY TO LIFE! Amen!
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting