Here's the notes from the talk on forgiveness I gave Tuesday evening. I am learning a lot about loving and forgiving people these days. I learned a little more about it the same evening I gave this talk. I learned still more yesterday. I want to be a consistently gracious person because God is so unwaveringly gracious to me.
"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him."
Every Sunday at about noon I walk into an area restaurant after church to have lunch with my family. I order food from the menu. By ordering it I become indebted to the restaurant. I owe the price of the food. But each Sunday I get up from my table and walk right out the door without paying what I owe. The hostess waves at me as I go. I tell the waiter I'll see him next week. No one minds that I don't pay what I owe. Does that sound extraordinary to you? Well, if you are here as a Christian tonight, you have had this same experience spiritually. That's what this passage teaches us. The rest of the story is this: I walk out without paying because my father-in-law always buys Sunday lunch. He is very generous. He pays what I owe, and my debt is forgiven. As Christians we are taught that what we owe has been forgiven by God because His Son has paid it for us:
- We owe God punishment and death because our sin has offended him and told lies about him, the only one who is good. ("The wages of sin is death.")
- We cannot not pay it off. The debt has been passed to us through Adam, and we have added to it all our lives, sin-by-sin. ("Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.")
- If you have not repented of your sins you still owe the debt. You remain under God's wrath. You must admit to God that you are bankrupt, that you have no resources of righteousness to pay the debt and that left to yourself you will only add to it. Ask him to apply Christ's payment to your account. He will do this eagerly and with pleasure, in keeping with "the riches of his grace". "By grace you are saved through faith."
We Christians have been set free from a great debt, therefore we should extend this same forgiveness to others. ("forgiving one another just as God in Christ forgave you.")
If we delight in unforgiveness, if we are unwilling even to engage in the struggle to truly forgive, it may be that we have not been forgiven by God ourselves. God gives his children new capacities to love and forgive. We must each examine our hearts. ("Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. That's what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.")