“Asking the Father for Forgiveness” Part 2
Matthew 6:12, 14-15
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Matthew 6.12.14-15 Part 2
Matthew 6. We’ll be preaching again today on forgiveness. Last week, we talked about receiving forgiveness from God. Today is forgiving others, and we’ll also have a third message on these verses, to deal with the really difficult topic: Does God not forgive some people who ask for it? That’s a difficult question on many levels. I figured after a week of Summer Bible Camp and perhaps for the sake of any visitors who choose to visit us from our Bible camp, it would be better to address a less controversial topic.
I’d like to give an old family story that I recounted once on a Wednesday night, in order to introduce the topic.
My great-grandfather on my mom’s side was Isaac Lincoln Willey, called Link, born 1856. He was married in 1889 and had a son Walter as well as my grandfather, John, from a second marriage after his first wife died.
This story recounts incidents between my great-grandfather Link and his son Walter as recounted by my great aunt Genevieve. It occurred in McDonough County, Illinois, where my parents now live.
Link was a popular tent meeting preacher. It was quite a rough-and-tumble area back then, making it quite difficult to raise children for the Lord. During one of the meetings, Walt was trying to kill another man with his knife! Link is trying to preach while his son is trying to kill a man!
Somebody rushes in, runs to the pulpit and whispers into Link Willey’s ear. He leaves the pulpit and makes his way down the isle outside. Link grabs his son and tells them to get out of town and to never come back and that he didn’t want to see him ever again! To top it off, he no longer considered Walt to be his son. Walt leaves, Link goes back into the meeting, grabs his Bible and leaves the tent meeting, never to preach again.
And he indeed never saw his son again. It appears that my great uncle Link went out into eternity, never having forgiven his son.
If he did not forgive, was he himself ever forgiven? If he did not forgive, was he himself ever forgiven? Let’s read Matthew 6:12, 14-15
Matthew 6:12, 14-15 12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. …[You being forgiven is based on how you have forgiven others. The explanation is given now in verse 14. Why is it that we are to ask for forgiveness based on how we forgive others? Verse 14…] 14 “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
If Link did not forgive others, was he himself ever forgiven?
The controversy in the passage as you can see is this: the Father will not forgive you under certain conditions. What is that condition? It is this: If you do not forgive others of their transgressions against you. If you do not forgive others for their transgressions, your Father will not forgive you of your transgressions.
The language there is quite simple, but Bible interpreters have debated the meaning for good reason. And we will get into that serious consequence next week. I actually practically finished typing up that sermon last night, and opted for postponing it until next week due to the fact that, as it is written now, it demands a little more in depth investigation, which I thought would be better for next week. So make sure next week, you come with your Bible sleuth hats on!
And we’ll see if by then I can make it as clear as possible for us. It’s just that these kinds of passages demand a little more argumentation to help everyone arrive at a proper understanding of the passage. Forgiveness of sins is no light matter, that’s why we’ll give quite a bit of attention to this controversy: If you do not forgive others of their transgressions against you, you will not be forgiven. We’ll take that very serious and mine out exactly what that means.
But what we do know is the necessity of forgiving others. We know that’s required, so I intend this morning to teach you how to do that, how to forgive others.
You are required to forgive. That assumes, first, that someone has sinned against you. So, just picture yourself in that position this morning. Has there been anyone ever, perhaps even recently, …and they have sinned against you in some way? You’re tempted to be bitter, complain, be angry, grumble, and maybe you are doing that right now. Ok, this passage is talking to you, you must forgive them. So first…
What is forgiveness? [Go to that underlined and italicized heading on the handout…]
Forgiveness is a conscious decision on ^the part of the offended [that’s you, someone sinned against you…GO BACK AND READ…then say ^“on your part…”] to unconditionally release the offender from the guilt of the offense committed and to pursue a renewed relationship without reference to that offense.
Now, let’s unpack that statement…
Forgiveness is a conscious decision
“Forgiveness is a conscious decision on the part of the offended.”
By saying “conscious decision” I mean that the Bible does not require feelings of forgiveness. Your feelings should not keep you from forgiving. Forgiveness is a judicial act, a decision made, a granting, a giving, not a feeling. Feelings are only inside you. Your feelings about forgiving have nothing to do with the person who has done the wrong. Granted, you need wise counsel if you do not “feel like” you can or have forgiven the person. We’ll get more into that a little later…
And a conscious decision tells s that forgiveness is from the heart. You have to mean it to. You have to truly mean it that you forgive them. Matthew 18:35 says you need to forgive your brother from your heart. Mean it!
Forgiveness is unconditional
“Forgiveness is a conscious decision on [your part] to unconditionally release the offender from the guilt of the offense committed.”
Forgiveness is releasing someone from the guilt of the offense they committed against you. Forgiveness simply means to “dismiss the guilt” … To no longer hold the other person guilty for their sin. We ask the Father to no longer hold us guilty before Him; then we should also no longer hold others guilty either. Forgive them!
There are no conditions required in order to forgive. There is no language in Scripture that says, “Forgive them only if….” There are no requirements to be met, no terms to be exacted, no “I will forgive only if….” It is an unconditional forgiveness.
Go to Luke 23:34. Let’s read the exemplary statements of two men before they were unjustly executed. Notice what their attitude was toward those who “did them wrong.” Both Jesus and Stephen were executed unjustly.
Luke 23:34 But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus is not holding a grudge against them.
Turn quickly over to Acts 7:60. This is Stephen preaching to the Pharisees. He’s preaching to them a history of Israel and then to repent of their sin for crucifying Jesus and for their hard hearts. They begin to stone him to death. Acts 7:60…Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.” That’s Stephen response while being stoned to death.
Stephen and Jesus…This is unconditional forgiveness. Each of them understood that their persecutors were guilty before God. They each said, “Father, forgive…”. Both Jesus and Stephen did not hold sin against them. Both explicitly say that they didn’t hold it “against them.” Both expressed a conscious decision themselves not to hold their sins against them, even though neither of these asked for forgiveness. Asking wasn’t required!
Jesus and Stephen understood their sins and chose instead to have a compassionate heart response toward the one who sinned against them. Neither Jesus nor Stephen demanded that the other make a sincere confession of guilt… they didn’t demand a confession, at all! There are simply no conditions that the Lord requires before you can forgive someone.
The Bible, therefore, does not spell out any terms or conditions for forgiveness. Forgiveness is not conditional. Your ability to forgive is not conditioned upon anything relating to the one who is asking for forgiveness. The Bible doesn’t demand that you make other people do anything at all before you forgive them.
The Lord in His Word does not demand a lot of confession nor does He demand that you and the guilty one agree on all the details of the sins or the degree of the sins involved. Perceptions on the details of what happened are never mentioned in the Bible as conditions for forgiveness either.
The issue is will you forgive, as one has said, “freely, generously, willingly, eagerly, speedily” and sincerely? The laser beam of Scripture is targeted on your heart, not on the degree of penance of the offender. The Bible is not focused on how thick the sackcloth is on that guy’s back. In other words, the Bible is not focused on questions like, “Did the one who sin against you cry and wail loud enough? Did he say ‘sorry’ enough times?” The point is clear: neither confession nor sincerity are conditions of forgiveness (e.g., Jesus [Luke 23:34]; Stephen [Acts 7:60]).
There are no conditions that must be met in order for you to forgive. Believers are simply required to forgive, no matter what wrong has been suffered. Ephesians 4:30-32 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
You don’t wait for the fruits of repentance and you don’t wait to feel like you can forgive. You forgive unconditionally even if was not requested, but especially when they do ask for forgiveness.
Turn over now to …Luke 17. Luke 17 speaks to this issue of forgiveness. We actually read it on a Sunday morning not to long ago.
Luke 17:3-4 3 “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” The picture is someone has sinned against you.
You, the offended, are to approach and rebuke the offender (“if your brother sins, rebuke him.”). Show him his fault!
The offender repents and the offended forgives him.
Forgiveness is not conditioned upon changed behavior (If someone “sins against you seven times a day,” that is not changed behavior).
Forgiveness is granted upon verbal testimony (“if he sins….and returns to you saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”). He says it, you forgive him, even though he hasn’t changed!
Just another note here: When you grant forgiveness, do not minimize the sin with words like “Ah, just forget it about.” Tell the other person who confesses to you that you forgive them. You should say as Jesus says, “I forgive you.”
Forgiveness is not conditioned upon confession of sin, or sincerity, and here is not conditioned up changed behaviour. You do not stop forgiving someone just because they keep sinning against you in the same ways.
“But Pastor you don’t understand my situation!” Jesus was crucified and Stephen was stoned, so not matter what method of execution people use against you, you can, by God’s grace, forgive them!
If you think this is difficult, so did the disciples: The next verses, Luke 17:5 says, “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’” This leads to the next principle…
Forgiveness is not a matter of the size of the faith or of feelings, but a matter of obedience (Luke 17:6-10).
Luke 17:6–10 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed [which is really small], you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.
The Lord teaches then that forgiveness is not a matter of the size of your faith, but of exercising the small faith you do have (Luke 17:6). If you had really small faith, like mustard seed faith, you can forgive and …even more!
The problem is not the smallness of one’s faith. It’s the exercising of that small faith that’s the problem. It’s a problem of obedience. We simply do not want to do the hard thing, just like a hungry, hard-working servant would not want to prepare food for his master after a long day working in the fields.
That’s the exact illustration in vv.7-9…
7 “Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? 8 “But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? 9 “He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he?
Just like a slave doesn’t feel like serving sometimes, but must obey anyway, you forgiving someone is not a matter of feelings, but of doing what is commanded. It’s not an easy thing for a servant to prepare a meal for his master when he himself is so hungry. His feelings would be screaming at him to disobey and begin eating. It was a difficult task (vv.7-8), the completed task was not even appreciated (v.9, when he says that he doesn’t even thank the slave), and yet it is commanded (v.10) and expected.
10 “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’ ”
Forgiving others is simply commanded and expected. Just like the slave obeys against his feelings, so you can obey against your feelings and forgive her who has done you wrong.
This leads to the last principle here…
Forgiveness is not meritorious for the offended (v.10).
Even though difficult, when completed, it is not meritorious, “We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.” Nothing is earned in God’s sight when someone forgives another.
Final clause in that statement…
Forgiveness is determined to pursue a renewed relationship
Forgiveness determines to pursue “a renewed relationship without reference to that offense.”
Forgiveness marks an end and a beginning. It ends “having something against” someone and begins a relationship where nothing is in between the two parties.
1 Corinthians 13:5 in the NIV says that love “keeps no record of wrongs” or, in the NASB, love “does not take into account a wrong suffered.” Love doesn’t make decisions based on any wrong it has suffered; it doesn’t retaliate. Love doesn’t calculate or think through any harm it has suffered from someone else.
When forgiveness is granted and received, and reconciliation has been officially made, both parties must be aware that the offended may be wary of the new relationship and that there might be awkwardness in the freshly renewed relationship. Awkwardness and wariness should not be interpreted as animosity or resentment.
But there should be an attempt to pursue a renewed relationship.
I’m struggling to forgive. Please help!
Forgiveness is granted and then felt. Again, it is first a conscious decision, then proper feelings come when biblical thoughts dominate.
Realize what God has done for you in Christ. Read Ephesians 1-3 in light of Eph. 4:30-32 [turn here.]
Know the consequences of refusing to forgive. Read Matthew 6:12, 14-15; James 2:13; Matthew 18:21-35; Luke 6:36-38; Mark 11:25-26.
“God forgives our sins, buries them in the sea of forgetfulness, and puts up a sign: ‘No fishing.'” We can’t cast out things from our memory, and neither does God. It means He doesn’t act on those sins and hang them over your head anymore. Forgiveness then is a refusal to dwell on the sin that was forgiven. Forgiveness promises not to raise the issue to the offender, others, or to myself. Forgiveness does not brood over the sin that was granted forgiveness.
Briefly, I’ll give you some free material that’s not on the handout…
What To Do if You have sinned against someone else
What is confession?
Notice this is the job of the offender. It is not required if you have to forgive someone, but it is necessary for the one needing forgiveness. Those sinned against don’t require it; but the Lord requires it of those needing to be forgiven.
If you have sinned, you need to confess your sin to the other. “Confess” means to “say the same thing as” or to agree that your sin is truly sin.
I have a few principles of asking forgiveness from the prodigal son in Luke 15. This is for those who need to ask for forgiveness. The man has sinned against God by foolishly spending his inheritance on sinful behaviour. His father gave it to him early. And he reached the end of his rope.
Luke 15:17-21 17 “But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! 18 ~’I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”‘ 20 “So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
You need to quickly come to your senses about your sin. Don’t wait like the prodigal son did (v. 17, “but when he came to his senses”).
Acknowledge or ‘own up to’ your sin against God and man (v.18, “I have sinned against heaven and in your sight”). Tell the person you have sinned against God when you said or did this or that.
It would be a good idea to rehearse the confession (Luke 15:18-19). He says, “I will say to him this….”
Be willing to right all wrongs, even at your own expense (v. 19, “make me as one of your hired men”). Be willing to right any wrong you’ve done.
And then confess the sin to the one you have wronged: Luke 15:21, “I have sinned against heaven and in your sight.”
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Matthew 6.12.14-15 Part 2
If you would follow these principles from God’s word, you’ll be blessed in your relationships. Who has done you wrong? What have they done? Will you rebuke them? Does it deserve a rebuke, or should you let love simply cover that sin and move on?
You know, you do not have to bring up every little sin. If it deserves a rebuke and you simply can’t get over it or maybe it’s an ongoing problem, rebuke them. Set up a time to meet and gently rebuke.
What about if you have sinned? Have you gossiped about someone? Have you complained to someone behind the other person’s back? Go to the person you spoke to and ask for their forgiveness. It’s often not a good idea to confess your gossip to the one you gossiped against. So if you gossiped to Mary behind Jane’s back, you would want to ask Mary to forgive you that you talked bad about Jane. Often, Jane doesn’t need to know that you talked about her. Then encourage Mary to do the same if she passed on the gossip.
If you have stolen, Ephesians says you should still no more and give. If you are angry, do not let the sun go down on your anger make that right. Make it right!
GOSPEL! And we can ask for forgiveness and cleansing of sin because Jesus Christ paid it all! If you would confess your sins to the LORD like the prodigal son confessed them to his father, you would have full forgiveness because Jesus paid the penalty that you deserve for your sin and if you would be trust in Him and ask Him to cleanse you of your sin, He would do that immediately with no delay. Hear the welcoming voice of Jesus and come and receive a lifting of your sin burden, your sin debt that you owe to God.
340 I hear thy welcome voice.
Some may object, citing Luke 17:3-4 3 “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” Forgive him, if he repents. Jesus is describing a hypothetical situation. If this, then do this. What is not addressed is what to do if he does not repent. It is illogical to argue from silence. ↑
It is the responsibility of the one offended to go to the offender to seek reconciliation (Galatians 6:1; Matthew 18:15). ↑
Foot note above recited here: Some may argue repentance is a condition. “Forgive him, if he repents.” Jesus is describing a hypothetical situation. If this, then do this. What is not addressed is what to do if he does not repent. There is silence on that. It is illogical to argue from silence. ↑