Building Your Life On Values That Last | Value #6: Forgiveness

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It’s a fact of life that you’re going to get hurt. Many times intentionally by things people say about you or do to you. When we talk about forgiveness some of you instantly call to mind past hurts and heartaches that are still fresh because you have been hurt very deeply. You still wince at those memories.


Why You Should Forgive

In Matthew 18, Jesus told a story called the parable of the unforgiving servant. In that story, Jesus gives three illustrations, three reasons why we ought to forgive.

He says you need to learn to forgive other people when they hurt you:

1. BECAUSE GOD HAS FORGIVEN YOU

I have been forgiven so I need to learn how to forgive others.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

When you remember how much God has forgiven you, it causes you to want to be more forgiving to other people. On the other hand, if you don’t feel forgiven, you’re going to have a tough time forgiving others.

If you don’t feel forgiven, you don’t want others to feel forgiven. If you don’t feel grace, you’re not going to be very gracious to others. If you don’t feel set free from the things you’ve done wrong, you don’t want others feeling good about the wrongs they have done to you.

Have you ever asked God to forgive you of your sins? Have you ever received Christ’s forgiveness? If you have a hard time forgiving others, maybe it’s because you have never received Christ’s forgiveness. Maybe you need to do that today, right now.

If you receive Christ’s forgiveness and every moment of you’re day you’re living in God’s love and grace and remember your slate is wiped clean because of Jesus Christ, you will be more forgiving.

You will never have to forgive anybody else more than God has already forgiven you. He will always forgive you more than you forgive anybody else.

2. BECAUSE RESENTMENT DOESN’T WORK

Resentment is self-destructive and counterproductive. It always hurts you more than anybody else.

If anybody had the right to be resentful, it was a guy in the Bible named Job.  Job was a famous, wealthy, godly man who had everything he ever wanted. But one day he lost it all. Enemy nations came in and killed all his livestock. All of his children were killed. He lost everything he had. He got a terrible disease. He was living in poverty with incurable pain.

Things had gotten so bad that Job’s wife told him he should just “Curse God and die.”
Then Job’s friends came along and said, “Job, it’s your fault.”

If anybody had the right to be resentful it was Job. But three times in the book of Job we’re told that resentment doesn’t work.

To worry yourself to death with resentment would be a foolish, senseless thing to do. Job 5:2

Would you agree that sometimes hate or resentment or bitterness make us do really foolish things ? We do dumb things to try to get even with people. We do stuff that makes us look stupid.

It’s foolish to hold a grudge. Ecclesiastes 7:9

It’s not only unreasonable, but you are only hurting yourself with your anger! Resentment always hurts you more than it hurts the other person. Resentment makes you miserable. No matter how resentful you are, no matter how bitter you are toward that person who hurt you, all the resentment in the world is not going to change the past.

Resentment doesn’t change anything. It’s just stewing without doing. All the resentment in the world will never solve the problem. In fact, all the resentment in the world never hurts that person, it just hurts you.

Maybe they hurt you years ago and now every time you think about it, it still causes pain in your life. They’ve forgotten the issue, but your resentment keeps the hurt alive in you.

When you hold onto a hurt it’s like holding fire in your chest. It’s like swallowing a self-inflicting poison. It’s like having a cancer that eats you alive. Resentment does not hurt the other person. It hurts you.

3. BECAUSE I WILL NEED FORGIVENESS IN THE FUTURE.

Forgiveness is a two way street. You can’t expect everybody to forgive you if you are unwilling to forgive other people.

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14

We cannot receive what we’re unwilling to give. If you are forgiving you will be forgiven.
But if you are unforgiving, don’t expect forgiveness from anybody else. But God says for your own sake you need to let it go. You’re not helping the situation by holding on to the hurt. When you hold on to a hurt you’re allowing somebody in the past to continue to hurt you.

If you can’t forgive a certain person, perhaps you don’t understand what forgiveness is. If you understood it, you would be more able to do it.

What you think forgiveness is and what forgiveness really is may be two different things.
There are a lot of faulty concepts, myths, and misconceptions about forgiveness out there.

Forgiveness is not minimizing the seriousness of the offense. When you minimize a wrong, you cheapen forgiveness. Forgiveness is not saying, “It was no big deal,” because it was a big deal. There’s a difference between forgiveness and acceptance.

Forgiveness is not the instant restoration of trust. Forgiveness is instant, but trust must be rebuilt over time. Forgiveness means you’re going to let go of the hurt but the person who hurt you has some things to do in order to rebuild the trust.

You may have been hurt so bad by a loved one that the thought of forgiving that person is almost unthinkable. However, here are four things you do in order to experience the freedom of forgiveness.

How to Experience the Freedom of Forgiveness

1. RECOGNIZE EVERYONE IS IMPERFECT

When you get hurt by somebody, you tend to lose your perspective about that person and dehumanize and demonize the offender. You forget that he or she is a human being too.

The fact is that everyone is a sinner and capable of hurting others. Every one of us have intentionally wronged other people in our lives.

There is not a single person in all the earth who is always good and never sins. Ecclesiastes 7:20

2. RELINQUISH MY RIGHT TO GET EVEN

Never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it. Romans 12:19

This is the heart of forgiveness, what forgiveness is all about. You know the offender deserves to be hurt back, retaliated against, and punished, but say you aren’t going to do it.

This might seem unfair, but who said life is fair? God never said life is fair. This is not heaven. This is not a place of perfection. This is a place where people make mistakes. Life is not fair.

There is not always justice in the world. In fact, there’s a lot of injustice. But, God says one day He’s going to settle the score. One day God is going to balance the books, call us to account, and make things right. Until then, the Bible says, don’t avenge yourself. Don’t try to get even. Leave it to God to repay those who deserve it.

One day God’s going to have the last word. In the meantime, you let go of your right to get the last word because it’s making you miserable. Your resentment doesn’t work. Your resentment keeps you from being forgiven. Your resentment keeps you unhealthy. It’s unreasonable. It’s unhelpful. Release your right to get even and ask God to give you His peace.

How often do you have to do that? As often as the hurt memory comes back. Every time you start to get resentful, you have to forgive again. You do it over and over. Forgiveness is not a one shot deal. It’s a repeated act of giving up your right to get even.

Jesus taught this. Peter asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” Peter thinks he’s being real generous here! “No,” Jesus replied, “seventy times seven!”

In other words, an infinite number. Don’t even try to count it. Every time you remember that hurt you must forgive them again and again until you know that you’ve released it.

3. RESPOND TO EVIL WITH GOOD

How do you know when you’ve fully released someone? When you can understand their hurt and when you can pray for them. In that process of yielding your right to get even
God changes your heart so you began to pray for good rather than evil.

Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for
those who mistreat you. Luke 6: 27-28

There is no way you can do that verse on your own power. Humanly speaking, you can’t do that 1000 times a day. You don’t have enough love, forgiveness, and joy in your life to continually forgive everyone who has hurt you.

It takes God’s power.

The only way you can do that is if you get Jesus Christ in your life and He fills you with His love and His peace and His forgiveness because human love runs out.

Love keeps no record of wrongs. When you’re filled with love you’re not keeping a record of wrongs. That means if you’re keeping a record of wrongs, you’re not filled with love at that moment. Instead, you’re filled with bitterness and resentment.

4. REFOCUS ON GOD’S PLAN FOR MY LIFE

Instead of focusing on the offense, the hurt, and the person who has offended you, refocus on God’s purpose for your life. God’s purpose is greater than any problem or any pain that you are experiencing.

Job had every reason to be offended and every reason to have resentment but he gives us the three steps for refocusing your life:

Put your heart right, reach out to God then face the world again, firm and courageous. Then all your troubles will fade from your memory, like floods that are past and remembered no more. Job 11: 13-16

Notice he says three things to do:

1. Put your heart right. Release and forgive the person who’s hurt you because you’re only making yourself miserable holding onto the hurt.

2. Reach out to God. Ask Christ into your life because you don’t have enough forgiveness on your own.

3. Face the world again. You don’t withdraw into a shell and build up walls. Instead  resume living know you are not a victim and with Jesus Christ’s power you are going to start living again.

When you do those three steps, notice what it says: “Then all your troubles will fade from your memory like floods that are past and remembered no more. The memory will fade.”

Wouldn’t you like that memory, that hurt, to stop hurting you? It will, if you do what God says.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week about respect. Do you remember the memory verse? 1 Peter 1:18-19 TLB Have you had any opportunities to apply respect by being tactful, understanding, not judging, sharing your faith or responding politely?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Hear the Word

No one gets through this life without being hurt—that’s a guarantee. We live in a broken world, and none of us is perfect. That’s why the value of forgiveness is so important to build our lives upon. Without forgiveness, we’ll have a difficult time with conflict and unsettled issues in our relationships. 

Jesus told a parable in Matthew 18 about a gracious king who forgave a servant’s debt only to see that servant go out and demand repayment by those who owed him a debt. Have someone in your group read Matthew 18:21-35 out loud.

Application

  1. God has forgiven you. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you have been forgiven. So, the first question this week is, have you accepted God’s forgiveness through Christ for your sins? If not, what’s holding you back? Do you still believe lies like, “I’m an exception to forgiveness because I’m too bad,” or “You don’t know what I’ve done,” or “I need to prove I’m worthy?” In what ways have you found yourself living as though you have to earn your way into God’s good graces?
  2. Job 18:4 says, “You are only hurting yourself with your anger.” What hurts or wrongs have you had a hard time letting go of? What effect has it had on your heart and mind?
  3. It’s important to know what forgiveness is and what it is not. Forgiveness is not minimizing the offense, instant restoration of trust or resuming the relationship without any changes. Your forgiveness is not based on that person’s response or even on acknowledgement of wrongdoing. When you think of what forgiveness requires, what first comes to mind?
  4. The four attitudes of forgiveness are: 1) Recognize we’re all imperfect. 2) Relinquish your right to get even. 3) Respond to evil with Good. 4) Refocus on God’s plan for your life. Which of the four attitudes of forgiveness seems easiest for you to do? Which one is the hardest? What thoughts or emotions come up in the process?

Tell Someone Else

Who do you need to forgive? This week, tell them you forgive them. In some situations, it may not always be advisable or even possible for you to go to people who have hurt you. They may have moved, passed away or a conversation with them would make matters worse. When you can’t forgive in person, consider the empty chair technique or writing a letter you never send. These techniques can make forgiveness feel more tangible. (See page 136 of the personal study guide for more details.)

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Restoring Joy

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Robbers are on the loose. Your gifts and deliveries may make it out untouched, but what about your joy? Has your joy being stolen from you this Christmas?

This is a season of joy. The word Joy is mentioned 8 times in the Christmas story. It’s a celebration, a birthday. What comes to mind when you think of the word joy? Do you know joy is far more than just an emotion? Do you know the difference between happiness and joy?

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Happiness is not a bad thing, but joy is deeper. You can be joyful even in the middle of grief, even in the middle of a depressing situation.


 

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There are joy robbers. We protect our things, we must protect our joy as well. Now, if you want to restore joy, first thing you have to do is you have to know what steals it. So here are three things that want to steal your joy.


Three Choices That Will Restore Your Joy

The 1st Robber of Joy: Anxiety

You cannot be joyful and fearful at the same time.

The first Christmas was incredibly anxiety-producing for everyone involved. Mary was a teenager and she’s engaged to be married to Joseph. Then she has what’s called a “virgin birth.” How do you explain that to your family and friends? 

Then, just a few days before she gives birth, she has to take two or three-day trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census. Then, when she gets to Bethlehem, all the rooms are booked and she has to deliver with no midwife, no doctor. Here’s the choice Mary had to make.

  • When Mary was afraid, she chose to trust God and accept his plan.

In the first story of Christmas, the word afraid is used seven times. Every time an angel shows up, the first thing the angel has to say is, “Don’t be afraid.” Why? Because anxiety robs your joy.

“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.’ ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.’”  Luke 1:26-37

What are you anxious about this Christmas? No matter what you’re worried about, the antidote is trusting God and accepting His plan. Just take everything you’re worried about and you put it in God’s hands.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.”  Luke 1:38

Have you ever told God that you are willing and accept His plan? At some point in your life, you have to come and say, “I don’t get it all, but I’m going to trust God. He made me and loves me. I’m going to accept His plan even though I don’t understand it.” 

Until you do that, you’re not going to have lasting real joy in your life. What is the result of telling God you will trust Him completely? The result is always joy. After Mary got with Elizabeth, she sings this song of joy.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” Luke 1:46-47 NKJV

What are you magnifying today? Your worries or your king? Where does your spirit rejoice today?

The 2nd Robber of Joy: Resentment

Everyone has been wounded. Our rebellion and sin against God causes us to hurt each other and we hurt each other, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. As a result, we’re all wounded.

Regardless of how you’ve been hurt, you have control over your response. Have you ever considered how wounded Joseph was when he gets this news? They were planning their wedding and they haven’t slept together, but Joseph’s soon-to-be wife is now saying, “I’m pregnant.”

How would you feel? You’d feel just like Joseph. He felt betrayed. Many of you know this feeling. You know what it’s like to be betrayed. The second truth is a choice you’re going to have to make with the hurts in your life.

  • When Joseph was hurt, he chose to offer grace and let it go.

God could have saved Joseph all this pain by telling them both at the same time. But God didn’t do it that way intentionally. He just tells Mary. Joseph has to go through all of this agony, thinking his fiancé’s been unfaithful to him.

Mary is struggling with fear at the first Christmas and Joseph is struggling with anger. These happen today in marriage after marriage. One spouse is dealing with fear and the other is dealing with anger. Yet, Joesph offers grace.

“This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” Matthew 1:18-19

Are you still hanging on to a hurt? Resentment will never change the past. Bitterness doesn’t make you feel better. It only makes you feel worse. We think that holding on to that hurt, somehow, we’re getting even with them. We’re getting revenge. We’re not hurting them at all. We only hurt ourselves with resentment.

Maybe you don’t think they deserve forgiveness. Nobody deserves forgiveness. You forgive people because you don’t want to hold on to the pain anymore. You don’t forgive for their sake, you forgive for your sake. Now, fortunately, with Joseph, God didn’t keep him in the dark forever.

“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’” Matthew 1:18-21

Because Joseph didn’t get bitter, God blessed him in an incredible way. He gets the blessing. He is given the privilege of raising the Son of God. Now, you’ve got to decide what you want in life. Do you want to be bitter or do you want to be blessed? Do you want to choose joy or choose resentment?

If you don’t think you have the strength to forgive, that’s why you need a Savior. That’s why you need the power of the cross. Because you can’t do this on your own.

The joy of the Lord can be your strength.

The 3rd Robber of Joy: Confusion

At the first Christmas, everybody is confused except the angels. Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the innkeeper, the wise men, King Herod and all of Jerusalem was confused. The wise men’s confusion had to deal with what direction to take. 

The Bible tells us that they had come from the east, but we don’t actually know where they came from. They’re following a star, they’re astronomers and scholars. So they just take off, following the light they’re given. When they got to Jerusalem, they had to ask for directions. They said, “Where is this king of the Jews to be born?” Here’s the choice.

  • When the wise men were confused, they chose to follow God’s light one step at a time.

They didn’t have it all mapped out in front of them. It was one step at a time. If they’re coming from Persia or India, this is not a day trip. It took them months. They had invested time, money and energy to find Jesus. What are you willing to invest in time, money and energy to get to know your Creator?

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’ When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.”  Matthew 2:1-3

When they showed up, it upset King Herod, because he thought he was the king of the Jews. This tells us that there’s a downside as well as the upside of seeking after Jesus. If you genuinely seek Jesus, somebody’s not going to like it. When some people try to get close to God, it makes other people very uncomfortable. Now, here’s how the story goes.

“King Herod sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’” Matthew 2:8

Herod’s not going to go worship this new Messiah. He’s going to go assassinate him. He doesn’t want any competition. The reason we know he wasn’t intending to go worship Jesus is because when the wise men did find Jesus, then in a dream they were warned not to go back through Jerusalem and not to go back to Herod, they went back another way.

Herod sent his army to Bethlehem and had every baby under two killed. He’s that paranoid. Now, Mary and Joseph had already been warned by God, and so they had already left and gone to Egypt. Jesus, in his early years, was in Egypt because of the attack on him. These wise men, they don’t give up in their search until they actually find Jesus. Don’t give up on your search either.

“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.”  Matthew 2:9-10

God didn’t give them a map. All he gave them was a guiding light and they eventually end up getting to where God wanted them to get. He gives you a compass and a guiding light too.

A compass just says, “Go that direction.” It doesn’t tell you all the things that are on the trail. What is the compass for your life? For Christians, it’s the Bible. The Bible gives you the direction to walk.

What’s the guiding light? God’s Spirit in your life. He’ll give you the nudges and guidance along the way.

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”  Matthew 2:11

The three gifts given to Jesus actually have symbolism relating to Jesus’ life and his death and his resurrection. The incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection. Without those three things, there’s no Christmas to celebrate.

The incarnation: That he lived a perfect life that you and I or no one else could ever life. 

The crucifixion: That he went to the cross as a perfect sacrifice, carried our sin. 

The resurrection: That he proved he was who he said he was, he conquered death and the grave, he’s victorious and holds the keys to our future now.

If Jesus doesn’t nail those three things, the whole world isn’t celebrating Christmas. The wise men finally meet Jesus. Have you ever met Jesus? It’s not just in knowing about him or believing Jesus is the Son of God, it’s meeting Him personally.

How do you know if you’ve ever met Jesus personally? The two things that the wise men did when they finally personally encountered Jesus, are the same two things that happen when you personally encounter him.

First, it says they bowed down. The more you know Jesus the more humble you become. Have you ever fell to your knees before God and said, “God, I am so grateful for your love.” You may have gone to church your entire life. It’s the difference between knowing about God and knowing God personally.

These are magi, deep thinkers and analyzers. Bowing down isn’t just for the more emotional people. Worship isn’t just for the more expressive people. Joy isn’t just for the heart types on the personality scale. These guys are truly and humbly joyful and grateful. Why? Because he’s the king. Why do we worship him? Because He’s the king. Some of you know who Jesus is, but you haven’t ever had humble worship.

The second thing these guys did, it says, “They opened their treasure boxes and gave him gifts.” When you really know Jesus, you want to give him the best you’ve got. What do you give the guy who has everything. The only thing he doesn’t have. You.

Have you lost your joy this Christmas? Have you lost your joy from anxiety, resentment or confusion?

2,018 years ago, an angel came and announced this, “I bring you good news of great joy, which shall be for all people.” All people. There’s no sin that could exclude you from salvation, if you’ll choose Jesus today. 

This Christmas, you need to pray what David prayed after he had really messed up his life and committed some horrible sins. Look at what he said,

“Lord, restore to me the joy of your salvation.” Psalm 51:12


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Do you have any more thoughts, questions or conclusions about the message on God’s Greatest Gift? Did you invite anyone to the Christmas services? Did they come?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear The Word

Read Luke 1 & Matthew 1-2

You know, robbers are on the loose. Your gifts and deliveries may make it out untouched, but what about your joy? Has your joy being stolen from you this Christmas? This is a season of joy. The word Joy is mentioned 8 times in the Christmas story.

The first robber of joy is anxiety. So, when Mary was afraid, she chose to trust God and accept his plan.

The second robber of joy is resentment. So, when Joseph was hurt, he chose to offer grace and let it go.

The third robber of joy is confusion. So, when the wise men were confused, they chose to follow God’s light one step at a time.

Application

  1. What stood out to you in the message?
  2. How has this Christmas season been for you? What has you nervous, grumpy or worried this season? How can you trust God and accept his plan?
  3. Is there a wound in your life that you’re still carrying resentment over? How can you offer grace and let it go?
  4. What has you confused this season? Are you confused about your life and direction? How can you follow God one step at a time?

Tell Someone Else

Who can you encourage with hope as a result of this message?

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