Forgiveness can sometimes feel like it's beyond our ability to but today on Truth for Life weekend we'll learn how it's possible and why forgiveness is essential to the life and health of our souls.
Here's Alistair Begg concluding a message titled Measure For Measure. He's teaching from the book of Luke chapter 6 verses 36 through 38. First of all, to be found. And the answer, of course, is that forgiveness is found in God. It is found in the character of God the Father. Let me quote to you from the psalmist in Psalm 130.
He says, When Daniel speaks of God in chapter 9 and verse 9, he describes God in this way, The LORD our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him. So when men and women tonight ask the question, you know, with Lady Macbeth, How can I get these dreadful spots out of my hands? How can I be cleansed from a guilty conscience? Where can I turn to eradicate the deeds of my past and to have a sense of freedom and a sense of forgiveness?
The answer is, we may turn to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to this one alone. Well, says somebody, what if I don't need to be forgiven? Surely forgiveness is only necessary for those who have offended.
And you're saying to yourself, the way I approach life is I try to do to others as I would have them do to me? I try not to have a spirit of judgment in me, and I know that I'm not perfect, but I don't really see any need of this story of a dying Christ and of the shedding of his blood. Well, of course, none of us will go to a God for forgiveness unless we understand that we need to be forgiven. And the Bible says that without exception, apart from Christ, the sinless Son of God, there is no one who has ever been sinless. Paul says, For all have sinned, and they come short of the glory of God.
Therefore, all are guilty, and all are in need of forgiveness. The Bible describes our sin in a variety of ways. It says that we have broken God's laws. It says that we have deviated from God's path. That we have fallen short of God's standard. That we are guilty of rebelling against him.
We are guilty of filthiness. That we are actually debtors. Now, of course, that is not necessarily a very popular notion this evening, the idea that you and I tonight are debtors. Some of us take pride in the fact that we're really indebted to nobody at all, and we work very hard all of our lives to ensure that we minimize as much debt as is possible. But what the Bible says when we turn to it is that each of us is in God's debt.
And that's why Jesus tells the story in Matthew 18, to make the point so clearly. Like the servants in that story, each of us has a debt to settle. And the indebtedness gets worse with a passage of time. In fact, our indebtedness is so vast that it is impossible for us ever to clear it. We are like the first man in the story who owed so much, he owed millions and millions in comparative terms today. When he said, you know, if you just give me a chance, I'll pay it all back, it was a very nice sentiment, but it was totally impossible.
And so, for him to try and rectify his circumstances was not even likely. And therefore, the Master forgives him his debt. Now, the message of the Bible is simply this, that you and I are in debt. The debt must be settled.
I cannot settle the debt, so unless someone else can step up and settle it for me, then I am in dreadful state. And the good news of the Bible is that God made him—that is, Jesus, who had no sin, who had no debt—to be sinned for us, to be indebted for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. In other words, that he might take all of our indebtedness, and we might be granted all of his credits. Now, this is good news for those who realize themselves to be debtors. God holds an account with your name and with mine. The debt is so vast that we cannot clear it. Christ, however, has borne the penalty and has eradicated the debt for all who believe in him and all who cast themselves upon his mercy, making it possible for us to have the debt canceled. Can I ask you tonight, have you ever factored that in?
Have you ever thought that out? Have you ever considered the possibility that the reason you feel as unfulfilled as you may feel, the reason you feel as wretched as you sometimes do, is not actually because of all the superficial and circumstantial things that you've been wrestling with in your life, but it is at a far deeper level than that, and you've been unable to really explain it? Financial indebtedness is a dreadful weight on anyone's mind.
One of the greatest keys to disruption in a marriage is in the financial realm, where it reaches a point, an epidemic point, where the family are now no longer able to cope with these things, and the matters are so overwhelming that it sets them at odds with one another and at odds with everyone else. It is a dreadful feeling in the same way. By our very nature, we are indebted. That's why Jesus said that we should pray in the Lord's Prayer, forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Now, the main lesson in the parable that Jesus told and that we just read was simply this. The forgiven sinner, prompted by a grateful heart, must always then forgive whoever has trespassed against him and must then do everything in his power to bring about reconciliation. Because if we do not exercise that element of forgiveness, we call in question whether we ourselves have been forgiven.
Now, this essentially brings us full circle to where we were this morning, which is where I want to get—to this matter of the hypocrisy of an unforgiving spirit. The absolute hypocrisy of an unforgiving spirit. When I refuse to forgive somebody else, it says this, that I have minimized the enormity of my offense, and I choose to maximize the enormity of their offense. That I have not understood my need of forgiveness from God, for if I had, recognizing all that I am, then I would be quick to forgive others who need forgiveness from me. And when I fail to forgive someone from my heart, then I exaggerate their offenses against me while at the same time making little of my own. Now, C. S. Lewis has a wonderful little comment on this in one of his Little Red Works. Some of you who are C. S. Lewis fans will have read it, Fern Seed and the Elephants. But it's on forgiveness.
And I was reading it just this afternoon as I followed up my studies of this morning, and I want to read just this section for you. Forgiving does not mean excusing. Many people seem to think it does. They think that if you ask them to forgive someone who has cheated or bullied them, you are trying to make out that there was really no cheating or no bullying. In other words, that you say, Well, it never really happened. But if that were so, there would be nothing to forgive. They keep on replying, But I tell you, the man broke a most solemn promise.
Exactly. That is precisely what you have to forgive. This doesn't mean you must necessarily believe his next promise. It does mean that you must make every effort to kill every trace of resentment in your own heart, every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him back. The difference between this situation and the one in which you are asking God's forgiveness is this. In our own case, we accept excuses too easily.
In other people's, we do not accept them easily enough. As regards my own sins, it is a safe bet, though not a certainty, that the excuses are not really so good as I think. As regard other men's sins against me, it is a safe bet, though not a certainty, that the excuses are better than I think. One must therefore begin by attending carefully to everything which may show that the other man was not so much to blame as we thought. But even if he is absolutely fully to blame, we still have to forgive him. And even if ninety-nine percent of his apparent guilt can be explained away by really good excuses, the problem of forgiveness begins with the one percent of guilt that is left over. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable. Because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury, but to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life, to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son, and so on—how can we do it?
You see, that's what people say. You know, I'm prepared to forgive him this once, or I'm prepared to forgive him this half a dozen times, or I'm prepared to forgive him, you know, seventy times or whatever it is, but there's a limit to how many times I'll go on forgiving him. No, there isn't.
How can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night, Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us. We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God's mercy for ourselves.
There is no hint of exceptions, and God means what he says. In other words, it is not possible for us to slide off by saying, Well, I'll forgive you, but I want you to know that I will never forget to be guilty of the hypocrisy if the unforgiving servant is harmful in the extreme. And as we said this morning, there is nothing that will eat out a heart, prejudice our thinking, quicker than an unforgiving spirit.
And the reverse is also true. There is nothing that will grant liberation and freedom and joy and peace of heart and mind faster and quicker than the genuine experience of forgiveness. Failure in the discovery of forgiveness leaves me in the bondage of my indebtedness and prevents the possibility of my being able to forgive my brother or my sister from the heart. And, says Jesus, such an unforgiving spirit is not simply harmful, it is in the end hopeless. Because the unforgiving person—this is Jesus speaking—is destined to everlasting punishment. To everlasting punishment. Because of a refusal to forgive. Spend eternity in hell for refusing to forgive. Because by my refusal to forgive, I am saying that I have never truly discovered the forgiveness which God has made possible in the person of his Son. And that, loved ones, is what makes this so staggering in its implications. Because some of us have developed an approach to life that allows us, having established the top ten list of sins that we most dislike in other people, and we keep that list with us, and we refer to it with regularity, and we pride ourselves on the fact that we have not erred and strayed from our ways in relationship to the top ten on the list. Jesus says, You know, I'm not really concerned about your list at the moment.
I'm concerned about whether you're prepared to forgive your brother or your sister from your heart. You see, we cannot drive the world until we ourselves are driven. Our flag that flies over the castle of our hearts can never be unfurled unless God would breathe from heaven. And the Christian says, Love is the flag flown high from the castle of my heart, for the King is in residence here. Joy is the flag flown high from the castle of my heart, for the King is in residence here. Peace is the flag flown high from the castle of my heart, for the King is in residence here. And the people said, Oh, really?
Really? Well, why will you not forgive your brother from your heart? Who in the world do you think you are? God? You really think you're the judge? You really think you have the freedom to condemn, to assume you know others' motives, to assume you know the motivation of their hearts, to assume that you can see inside of them?
Who do you think you are? I say to you again, unless we learn to be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you, then we should never put our heads on the pillow at night with any sense of assurance at all that if we die in our sleep, we will awaken in the presence of Christ. You see, and what do we tell people? If you raised your hand when someone asked you to raise a hand, if you signed a card when somebody told you to sign a card, if you said this and you said that at a given moment in time, then you can fall asleep any night in the total assurance that you're going to heaven.
Let me ask you a question. Do you ever find that in the New Testament? Is there ever a place where Jesus says that?
No. What does Jesus say? Jesus says, guys, let me tell you a story. You want to know how many times you forgive your brother? An unlimited number of times.
And let me just illustrate it for you. Here's a guy who has got a vast debt. He can't repay it. He cries out for mercy. He has shown mercy.
And then he goes out and strangles some poor wretch that works in his office because he owes him five bucks. Do you think, he says, that this guy has understood the immensity of the forgiveness that he has enjoyed? The answer is, no, he hasn't understood it at all. Because if he had understood what it was to be forgiven a debt that he could not ever hope to repay, don't you think he would have said to his brother or sister, hey, it's okay. I forgive you.
I forgive you for the hundredth time. And when we are prepared to live with that spirit of generosity, then the promise of God is clear. If you don't judge, you won't be judged, both immediately in terms of interpersonal relationships. If you don't have a judgmental spirit, the chances are you will not be responded to in that way. And it's also true, ultimately, in terms of standing before the bar of God's judgment.
We escape judgment on that day because we are in Christ, and we know that we are in Christ, because we declare it by the compassion of our heart, which chooses not to excuse but to forgive. Do not be condemned. And what's the promise?
You won't be condemned, either. Forgive. And what's the promise?
You will be forgiven. Give. And what's the promise? It will be given to you, in good measure, pressed down and shaken together and running over. The picture actually is of grain there, and of a man or a woman who would have had a kind of blousy top hanging over their belt, and when the guy is putting out the grain and it's overflowing, it folds down into the folds of his blouse, and there it is hanging, and he's got grain all over the place. And he says, that's the way that God operates, and that's the way I would like you to operate, too. When I was at school in England, there was a man called Mr. Entwistle, and I've finished with this.
I'm not sure there's a good way to finish, but I've started now, so I have to. But I went to school with a bunch of boys and girls, too, and we used to go out at lunchtime to Mr. Entwistle's shop, which was in the bottom level, which was street level, of a large terraced house. And you essentially walked in on street level to what was the underground level of his home, where he lived above the shop. And every day he would put his produce out—apples and oranges and bits and pieces and flowers and different things—and display his wares, and he had more inside. And we used to go in and buy bottles of pop, which were in glass bottles which had tops on them that you couldn't unscrew, but you had to take off with an opener. And we would go in and get the bottles while he wasn't looking and shake them like crazy. So we would turn away from him, and we would shake the bottles like fury, and then we would take them up and, of course, wait for him to open a top, and then it would just go up his nose and over his shirt and all over the place. And eventually, he got smart on us, and he decided that he could, you know, detect it. And so it was a great game, and he would take a bottle and he would look at it and he would say, That looks shook to me.
You open it. I don't know if there is any value in this illustration at all, except to say this. Except to say this, there ought to be a sense in which people are looking at us and saying, you know, You look shook to me. I mean, you look like, with just the slightest little nudge, you would just overflow with generosity and with richness and with compassion and with forgiveness and with an absence of condemnation, as opposed to the kind of containerized, rigid, self-assured, critically glancing, pharisaical, judgmental, smart Alex. One of the reasons that people find attendance in churches quite distasteful is because they cannot be sure that although God is a God of forgiveness, that they're going to encounter the same Spirit among his children.
And since they cannot see God, and they can see us, it would be dreadful for them to be getting the wrong picture, wouldn't it? So what overflows from your life? Is it mercy and forgiveness or judgment and condemnation? You're listening to Truth for Life Weekend.
That is Alistair Begg confronting the hypocrisy of an unforgiving spirit. Here at Truth for Life, there is one thing you can always count on. On this program, you'll be invited to open your Bible.
That's because our mission is straightforward. We want to teach God's Word without adding to it or taking away from it. It's teaching you can trust to be true. And as the Bible says, it will make you wise for salvation. If you're listening to Truth for Life for the first time, or if you're uncertain about God's mercy and forgiveness and want to understand his salvation plan more clearly, we've posted a short helpful video on our website that effectively explains the gospel, Jesus' life and death and resurrection, and what all of that means for your life.
You can watch the video by searching truthforlife.org slash the story. Now I assume you're part of a local church. If you're a follower of Christ and you're not part of a local church, you're missing something that's vital to your walk with Christ. Whether you've been part of a local church for a short time or it's long been a part of your life, we want to recommend to you a book called Love Your Church written by Pastor Tony Morita. This is a book that explains why we're to be united with fellow believers in the context of a local church.
It's in the local church where we form community, where we read God's Word together, we share the Lord's Supper, and we teach God's Word to the next generation. This is the final weekend we'll be offering the book Love Your Church. You can find out more about the book and how to get your copy when you visit our website truthforlife.org. And by the way, if you don't already own a copy of Alistair Begg's book Pray Big, it's available, along with a corresponding study guide, to download as an audio book from our website.
Both the audio book and the study guide are completely free this month. Find out how to pray boldly and consistently like the Apostle Paul. Again, get your free copies at truthforlife.org slash pray big. I'm Bob Lapine, thanks for listening. So often the Bible instructs us to look upward, not inward, but next weekend we'll hear about three stories Jesus told, prompting his listeners to closely examine themselves.
We'll find out why next weekend. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-23 11:50:06 / 2023-05-23 11:58:33 / 8