We’re back with Part 2 of our Upside Down Kingdom of God January series at VFC where we’re we’re studying principles like the first will be the last, the greatest will be the servant of all, if you want to reap you must sew, if you want to be exalted you must be humbled, and many more of the upside down teachings of Jesus. We’re discovering the differences between the world’s point of view and God’s viewpoint as we seek to pursue him fervently throughout 2023.
In New Year, Free You we’re blessed with a message by Pastor Richard Pilger that’s all about forgiveness. We learn that forgiveness is free and forgiveness is also freedom. We’re exploring teachings from Matthew 18:21-35 and discovering the differences between the values taught by Jesus in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant and the ways of the world. Pastor Richard shares 2 key takeaways with us and reminds us that forgiveness is foundational to a thriving relationship with God. Let’s dive in!
Matthew 18:21-35 (NLT) 21Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” 22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! 23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. 24In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. 25He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.
26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ 27Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. 28 “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
29 “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. 30But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
31 “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. 32Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
As we see in this parable, the servant is immediately set free and forgiven from his debt; there was no begging or pleading or negotiating, just immediate mercy. The king’s heart was moved with compassion in the same way that our heavenly king has compassion for us–sinners unable to ever repay our debt.
When Jesus tells Peter to forgive 70 times 7 times, or 490 times, what he’s basically saying is that we should give forgiveness to others so often that it would be easy for us to lose count. He uses the parable of the unforgiving servant to compare and contrast the forgiveness that we’ve received from our Heavenly Father to the forgiveness that we should extend to those who have sinned against us.
Forgiveness is an underlying theme throughout the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus–we see it in the story of the prodigal son, the woman at the well caught in adultery, and in Jesus’ last moments on the cross. Forgiveness is foundational in our relationship with God!
Share time when it has been difficult for you to forgive someone.
Outside of Jesus’ death on the cross, have you been forgiven by someone else when it wasn’t deserved?
How does the gift of forgiveness heal?
Forgiveness is free.
For all people throughout the world, forgiveness comes without cost. Understanding the answers to these next 3 questions is pivotal in experiencing New Year, Free You.
Romans 3:23 (NKJV) For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…
We need forgiveness because sin separates us from God. Adam and Eve had fellowship with God; it was the reason they were created. They’re placed in the garden of Eden, but they sin by eating from the forbidden tree, causing their relationship with God to be broken. They became convinced that their way was better than God’s way.
As a result, they became self conscious and hid from God. They then tried to justify and defend their actions, causing all of mankind to be separated from God. Because of sin, a solution was needed to reunite God and man.
John 3:16-17 (NKJV) 16For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
The Bible tells us that there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood. So Jesus came to earth, shed his sinless blood, fixed the sin problem, and reunited us with God. Jesus didn’t come to judge or shame us; He came to save us.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (BSB) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this
not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.
No one can make or earn their own forgiveness. No amount of effort or money or good works can pay for forgiveness; it’s a gift given freely by God. This forgiveness is available to each and every one of us! All we have to do is believe it and receive it.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
The shed blood of Jesus restores our relationship with God and we are made righteous. The word “righteous” simply means “right standing with God.” We are able to receive forgiveness and be in right standing with God as if we never sinned each and every day of our lives.
Lamentations 3:22-24 (NIV) 22Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail. 23They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
The Hebrew word for love here, hesed, literally means “a loyal love.” This is a committed love, a settled or finished love. Thai love isn’t in response to someone else’s goodness. It has nothing to do with our actions; it’s God’s choice. It’s settled, it’s fixed, it’s final, it’s a love that will never change. Hesed is a love freely given and forever given by a God who has chosen sinful men and women as those He’ll love. Because of His great love we have been forgiven and made the righteousness of God and Christ Jesus. Amen!
It’s important to get a firm understanding of these 3 points because it is the foundation of the forgiveness that we have received that enables us to extend forgiveness of others. We could never forgive someone else if we had not first been recipients of God’s forgiveness!
Why do you think forgiveness is challenging for us to give to others?
Is it difficult for you to receive God’s free gift of forgiveness?
Have you ever tried to earn forgiveness? Did “earning” it make a difference?
Forgiveness is freedom.
This is an upside down kingdom principle! We have to be careful not to fall into the worldly trap that by holding onto a grudge or harboring unforgiveness, it will punish the other person. It’s easy to think that if we withhold forgiveness, we are protecting ourselves from getting hurt again. But here’s the truth: unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
In New Year, Free You, Pastor shares a moving story from his younger years that highlights the pain harboring unforgiveness can cause for us. Refusing to forgive others chains us to the negative emotions and feelings that we so desperately want to be free from. Remember what Jesus says in John 10:10 (NLT) The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
There is an enemy who walks about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Until we’re able to forgive, we’re bound to our situations and internal struggles. When we lean into the message of Jesus and forgive those who have hurt or wronged us, the healing process begins! We serve a God of restoration–what the enemy means for evil, God uses for good. Forgiveness is freedom!
Now, does this mean forgiveness is easy? Not necessarily. The disciples knew this to be true as we see them ask Jesus, in Luke 17, to increase their faith so that they can forgive the way He expects them to. Simply put, we can’t forgive without faith. Forgiveness isn’t a feeling; it’s a choice. Forgiving by faith means doing it because the Word of God says to, not because we necessarily feel like forgiving.
It’s also important to recognize that forgiveness and reconciliation are two very different things. It is possible to forgive without reconciliation; it is impossible to reconcile without forgiveness. Coming to the point of willingness to forgive is a process, but once we make the decision to forgive, that forgiveness becomes an instantaneous transaction–not a process. Forgiveness is applying the blood of Jesus as payment in full for every wound we’ve ever experienced or ever will suffer in the future. Forgiveness is a choice that has nothing to do with how we feel; forgiveness is making a decision to be obedient to God’s Word. Amen!
Matthew 5:43-48 (NKJV) “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
It’s upside down to let things go that hurt us or inflicted pain and loss upon us. Refusing forgiveness means looking backwards–it’s living in the past and blocking freedom in the future. We have to have enough faith to believe that what is in front of us is greater than what’s behind us! We must ask ourselves this question: “Do we want to embrace our destiny or are we content living in our history?” If we want to experience true freedom in our lives, extending forgiveness enables us to forget our past and release our future. Forgiving the past opens the door to a bright, new future!
Think about a time when it has been difficult to extend forgiveness to someone. How did God transform your heart?
How does it feel holding a grudge against someone? How does it feel to forgive someone?
What is the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation? Which is God asking us to do?
We are forgiven so that we can forgive. Just as we received undeserved forgiveness, we’re called to forgive those who don’t deserve it. That’s why this kingdom of God principle is so upside down! Our world is full of unforgiveness and people seeking payback and the results are everywhere–brokenness, heartache, and pain. As believers, we don’t just have the ability to forgive…we’re expected to forgive.
Forgiveness is a distinguishing characteristic of a Christian! In the same way that Jesus took our sin upon himself, He did for those who need our forgiveness, too. Forgiveness is possible and freedom can be experienced. Praise the Lord!
To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. – C.S. Lewis
Father, we thank you for time together to gather around your word. We commit our time to you and we thank you that your word says that when two or three are gathered that you are there in our midst. Thank you that the Holy Spirit, who is the great teacher, is here and He’s present. Thank you for customizing a message for each of us during our time together. We commit to leaving this place having not just been hearers of your word but doers of your word, putting your teaching into practice. We love you, Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen!