Thanksgiving for Forgiveness
Give us our food day by day. And forgive us our sins-- just as we forgive those who have sinned against us. And don't let us yield to temptation." (NLT)This message was preached October 20, 2002 at FBC Toulon, by Albert Harmon. See it at toulonbaptist.com
After finishing a lesson on Christian behavior the pastor asked. "Now, Billy tell me what we must do before we can expect to be forgiven for our sins."
Without hesitation, Billy replied, "First we gotta sin."
-- Clara Null, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Christian Reader, "Kids of the Kingdom."
Forgiveness is one of the greatest blessings this world knows of. It can heal a broken home. It can mend relationships. There is no rift it cannot cross.
Now to see the other side, all you need to do is look at the middle east where hate and revenge has replaced forgiveness. Where generation after generation are trying to get even for past offences. Or go to Bosnia where they are trying to settle what began over 500 years ago.
Now let me ask you a question. Did you ever have a situation where you did not measure up? Ever had a time when you failed to do what was required of you?
- God has set the example in forgiveness.
- Now it is true that God's forgiveness of us cost the life of His Son.
- His Son paid for our mistakes, our sins.
- It is not that we could provide for it ourselves or ever could we deserve it.
- A little boy came to the Washington Monument and noticed a guard standing by it. The little boy looked up at the guard and said, "I want to buy it." The guard stooped down and says, "How much do you have?" The boy reached into his pocket and pulled out a quarter. The guard said, "That's not enough." The boy replied, "I thought you would say that." So he pulled out nine cents more. The guard looked down at the boy and said, "You need to understand three things. First, thirty-four cents is not enough. In fact, $34 million is not enough to buy the Washington Monument. Second, the Washington Monument is not for sale. And third, if you are an American citizen, the Washington Monument already belongs to you."
We need to understand three things about forgiveness. First, we can not earn it. Second, it is not for sale. And third, if we accept Christ, we already have it. --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 218-219.
- Jesus pleased God in every way at all times and yet was punished for our failures.
- But then usually forgiveness costs us.
- I think that is why Matthew uses the word debts.
- You see if you forgive a debt it means you paid the price.
- It means you absorb the hurt.
- It means that you are not going to try to get even or even bring the subject up again.
- His forgiveness is complete and final.
- Because Jesus paid the debt it is no longer held against us.
- Bruce Larson tells the true story of a Catholic priest living in the Philippines, a much-loved man of God who once carried a secret burden of long-past sin buried deep in his heart. He had committed that sin once, many years before, during his time in seminary. No one else knew of this sin. He had repented of it and he had suffered years of remorse for it, but he still had no peace, no inner joy, no sense of God's forgiveness.
There was a woman in this priest's parish who deeply loved God, and who claimed to have visions in which she spoke with Christ, and He with her. The priest, however, was skeptical of her claims, so to test her visions he said to her, "You say you actually speak directly with Christ in your visions. Let me ask you a favor. The next time you have one of these visions, I want you to ask Him what sin your priest committed while he was in seminary."
The woman agreed and went home. When she returned to the church a few days later, the priest said, "Well, did Christ visit you in your dreams?"
She replied, "Yes, He did."
"And did you ask Him what sin I committed in seminary?"
"Yes, I asked Him."
"Well, what did He say?"
"He said, 'I don't remember.'"
This is what God wants you to know about the forgiveness He freely offers you. When your sins are forgiven, they are forgotten. The past--with its sins, hurts brokenness, and self-recrimination--is gone, dead, crucified, remembered no more. What God forgives, He forgets. --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 216.
- God then can have fellowship with us even though we are complete failure when it comes to pleasing Him.
- God expects us to forgive as we have been forgiven.
- Now that seems like a very high order.
- Clara Barton was never known to hold resentment against anyone. One time a friend recalled to her a cruel thing that had happened to her some years previously, but Clara seemed not to remember the incident. "Don't you remember the wrong that was done you?" the friend asked Clara. She answered calmly, "No, I distinctly remember forgetting that." --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 216.
- Years after her concentration camp experiences in Nazi Germany, Corrie ten Boom met face to face one of the most cruel and heartless German guards that she had ever contacted. He had humiliated and degraded her and her sister. He had jeered and visually raped them as they stood in the delousing shower. Now he stood before her with hand outstretched and said, "Will you forgive me?" She writes: "I stood there with coldness clutching at my heart, but I know that the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. I prayed, Jesus, help me! Woodenly, mechanically I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me and I experienced an incredible thing. The current started in my shoulder, raced down into my arms and sprang into our clutched hands. Then this warm reconciliation seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. 'I forgive you, brother,' I cried with my whole heart. For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard, the former prisoner. I have never known the love of God so intensely as I did in that moment!" To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you. --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 218.
- But God expects us to forgive completely and finally
- Two little brothers, Harry and James, had finished supper and were playing until bedtime. Somehow, Harry hit James with a stick, and tears and bitter words followed. Charges and accusations were still being exchanged as mother prepared them for bed. The mother instructed, "Now James, before you go to bed you're going to have to forgive your brother." James was thoughtful for a few moments, and then he replied, "Well OK, I'll forgive him tonight, but if I don't die in the night, he'd better look out in the morning." --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 223.
- Not like a woman I heard about. A woman testified to the transformation in her life that had resulted through her experience in conversion. She declared, "I'm so glad I got religion. I have an uncle I used to hate so much I vowed I'd never go to his funeral. But now, why, I'd be happy to go to it any time." --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 223.
- But forgiveness is not something that we demand of others, it is something that we do.
- Four boys were young and bursting with energy, especially in church. But the sermon her minister preached on "turning the other cheek" got their undivided attention. The minister stressed that no matter what others do to us, we should never try to "get even." That afternoon the youngest boy came into the house crying. Between sobs he told his mother he had kicked one of his brothers, who had kicked him in return. "I'm sorry you're hurt," his mother said. "But you shouldn't go around kicking people." To which the tearful child replied, "But the preacher said he isn't supposed to kick me back." -- Jane Vajnar, Tampa, Kansas. "Lite Fare," Christian Reader.
- We need to be truly thankful for the forgiveness we have in Jesus Christ and we must be willing to extend that same grace to others.
- Many visitors to Ireland bring home some of the famous Waterford crystal. It's very expensive. Every piece is perfect. Often a person may buy fine china or crystal at bargain prices if that person is willing to accept an imperfect piece, "a second." But there are no "seconds" in Waterford crystal. If a piece has the slightest imperfection, it is crushed, melted, and made over entirely. The church, however, is completely made up of "seconds." The church is filled with imperfect people who have all been forgiven by the grace of God. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
- You and I are not perfect, therefore can we expect others to be perfect?