Now join me tonight in Matthew chapter 18. As you are finding Matthew 18, I want to ask you a question: How long has it been since somebody hurt your feelings? Ripped you off? Stolen from you? Slandered you? Gossiped about you? or just plain offended you?

Well, if you live long enough, sooner or later, you’re going to be hurt by somebody you counted on to be your friend!

Here is how Jesus said it in Matthew 18.7, ”Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!”

Plain and simple: you are going to be offended and you are going to offend others! Sometimes you will be offended and at other times you will be the offender! Jesus said, ”.. For offenses must come.” It is a part of being in the human race! Friends betray us, a parent abuses us, a spouse is unfaithful, an employee robs us blind, a deacon disappoints us, a staff member snubs us, a pastor lets us down.

”For offenses must come.” They are going to come and sometimes often! You may not be able to stop them but you can forgive them!

You say, ”Forgive them? After what they did to me? If you knew what they did, what they said, how they treated me, you would know why I cannot forgive them and why I want to get even!”

You ought to pick up a copy of a book I read about. It is called: Spite, Malice and Revenge, the Complete Guide to Getting Even.” I believe you can pick it up at the Lifeway Book Store.

Somebody wrongs you, some cutting remark, perhaps you were sexually abused, physically abused, and you’ve written it down in a ledger and you say, ”I won’t forget what they did to me and when the opportunity comes, I’ll get even.”

May I tell you tonight that when you are out to get even with somebody who has hurt you, offended you, abused you, that is exactly what you do! You get even with them! You get on their level!

Now that I have your attention, let me tell you this: There is Freedom in Forgiving! Freedom! And on the other hand, there is bondage in not forgiving! Refusing to forgive will quench the Spirit of God, dull your prayer life, and rob the church of what God wants for it.

Freedom or Bondage: it’s up to you!

Well, that is what Jesus is talking about in this 18th chapter of Matthew! We begin reading in verse 21 as we learn tonight about…

The Freedom in Forgiving Matthew 18.21-35

Now I can sum up this parable in one sentence: if you are going to follow Jesus, then you must be willing to forgive like Jesus.

Now in learning more about the Freedom in Forgiving, think with me tonight about…

(1) THE DEFINITION OF FORGIVING.

Let me tell you what forgiving is not: Forgiving does not mean that you instantly stop hurting emotionally. Deep wounds take a very long time to heal.

Forgiving does not mean forgetting! Now when you do forgive, you no longer use your memory against them, but real forgiveness, real freedom-giving forgiveness does not mean that you will forget.

So, what does it mean to forgive? Well, the word that Peter and Jesus use here means ”to dismiss, to give up something, to send away, to release something.”

This word was used to describe Peter and Andrew leaving their nets after Jesus called them to be His disciples in Matthew 4.20, ” Then they immediately left their nets and followed Him.”

This word was also used to describe the death of Jesus in Matthew 27.50, ”And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up His Spirit.”

So, to forgive means to release an offense just as Jesus released His Spirit. To forgive means to forsake or leave behind an offense just as Peter and Andrew left their nets to follow Jesus!

They didn’t forget their nets or their boat, they just chose to leave them behind! So learn this about forgiving: forgiveness is a choice!

And if you have not chose to release that offense, if you haven’t chose to dismiss it, you have not forgiven them and you are still in bondage to them!

Too often we’re like that man who was about to die and expressed his forgiveness to somebody who had offended him. But then he added, ”now be sure, if I get well and don’t die, the old grudge holds good.”

The forgiveness that Jesus is talking about means to dismiss it, to leave it behind, to send it away, to release it. You say, ”How do I know if there is somebody I haven’t forgiven?”

Well, if there is somebody who has offended you, hurt you, abused you, somebody who wronged you in childhood or in college and you have never let them off the hook!

To this day, when you think of that person, you only think of the offense and you resent them, then you’ve never forgiven them and therefore rather than freedom, you are in bondage, to them!

Now, if you’re going to experience The Freedom in Forgiving, it begins by coming to grips with…

(1) The Definition of Forgiving.

(2) The Duty to Forgive.

That is what Jesus was saying to Peter! That to follow Him is to forgive like Him!

Verse 21, ”Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Now don’t be too hard on Peter. He was really trying to be spiritual. You see, the Old Testament Law taught that if somebody hurt you, offended you, abused you, that you were obligated to forgive them 3 times. So, forgiveness was limited to three times. Three strikes and your out!

So…for Peter to ask, ”up to seven times” was very impressive. I mean, Peter doubled what the Law required and added one to it!

I’m sure Peter anticipated Jesus to pat him on the back for being so spiritual. But look what Jesus said to him in verse 22, ”I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” That is 490 times!

Jesus was saying that when somebody offends you, hurts your feelings, talks bad about you behind your back and you find out about it, you are obligated to forgive them 490 times! It is your duty as a child of God!

Now you say, ”Wait just a minute! Why is it my duty to forgive somebody 490 times who have hurt me and offended me and abused me?” I’ll tell you why: because Jesus has forgiven you. Do you see it?

You and I are to forgive others because Jesus has forgiven us! Because you are now a forgiven person, you are now to be a forgiving person! It is your duty!

Now beginning in verse 23, Jesus tells a parable to illustrate His point. There was a man who owed the King 10,000 talents, more money than he could repay in a life time. The King was moved with compassion and wiped out the entire debt.

Verse 27, ”Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.”

Forgiven of a debt he could not pay! Now you would think a man like that would be quick to forgive any debts against him, big or small! But look how he responds in verse 28, ”But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!”’

This same person who had experienced forgiveness for a debt he could not pay refused to show forgiveness toward this man who owed him about $12.00. He took him by the throat and said, ”You pay be what you owe me or else.” He must had been a Baptist!

You say, ”How could anybody be so ungrateful?” I don’t know! You tell me!

We are so much like that, aren’t we? I mean, All Mighty God has forgiven us of a debt we could never pay and then we turn around and refuse to forgive all those little offenses that come our way!

We forget the same thing that this man forgot: that is, the forgiveness and mercy God has shown to us!

He owed thousands and in the blink of an eye his debt was forgiven, released, erased, dropped and he turns right around and for $12.00, he refuses to forgive!

Colossians 3.12-14, ”Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another, even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”

Don’t be like that woman who came up to her pastor and said regarding another member of the church, ”Pastor, he has hurt me so deeply, I just cannot forgive him.”

The Pastor said, ”Mam, I know you’re hurt. But the Lord tells us to forgive one another.” She said, ”Well, the Lord hasn’t told me to forgiven him.”

Because you are a forgiven person, you are obligated to the King to be a forgiving person! Who do you think you are not to forgive? You put yourself on a higher plane that Jesus Christ Himself when you refuse to forgive! If Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, has forgiven you, how much the more are you to forgive those who have wounded you?

Forgiveness is the duty of every born-again child of God!

Ephesians 4.29-32, ”Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.”

Peter said, ”Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother?” Jesus could have said, ”Peter, as many times as I have forgiven you.

I read a sign posted in the break room of a corporation that said, ”To make a mistake is human, to forgive is not company policy.” Sounds like the mission statement of some churches I know.

Forgiving may not be company policy, but it is Christ’s policy and His policy is meant to be our policy!

Now you say, ”Pastor, I understand what the Bible says. I realize that it is my duty to forgive. But I cannot do it. It hurt too much. It cut too deep.” Just say it straight. Don’t say, ”I cannot do it.” But say, ”I will not do it.”

Well, for you who refuse to forgive, I want you to understand the consequences for disobeying the Word of God by refusing to forgive.

(1) The Definition of Forgiving. (2) The Duty to Forgive.

(3) The Danger in not Forgiving.

Matthew 18.32-34, ”Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant. I forgave you all that debt because you begged Me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you? And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.”

If you refuse to forgive, if you refuse to release that offense, you are the one who suffers! Be good to yourself. Let it go! Do yourself a favor and release it.

Then He adds in verse 35, ”So My Heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

Now what is He saying? He’s saying that those who refuse to forgive will become victims of torture.

You say, ”What kind of torture was He talking about?” He’s talking about that inner torment that comes from holding a grudge and harboring hatefulness. The kind of torture that steals your joy and peace!

You put it down: refusing to forgive will make you a bitter person, an angry person, an unloving person, and a joyless person.

When you choose not to forgive, you are the one who suffers. You may not be able to forget it, but under God you can forgive it!

Our problem is we like to collect debts! We spend our time collecting IOU’S. We keep records of every time somebody offends us. I mean, somebody hurts us, offends us, abuses us, and we write their name down and from that point on, whenever they offend us again, we put a check by their name. And every time we think of them, we think: I O U!!!

How many I OU’s do you have tonight? You ought to get out a piece of paper and on the top write I O U’s and then start listing everybody you think has disappointed you, offended you, hurt you, abused you, mistreated you. Those people that you haven’t forgiven.

Now while you’re making your list, go ahead and put my name on it because some where down the road, unintentually, I’ll offend you. In fact, I may have already offended you. So start with my name.

And go ahead and put Kent Jennings name on your list. He’s probably offended you over the years. And put Chuck Sullivan on your list. In fact, just put all of the church staff on your list.

Then put your Parents, your Spouse, your Children, SS Teacher, Deacons, put them all down because sooner or later, you’ll be hurt and offended.

Now after you get them all written down, write Ephesians 4.32 across it: ”And be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.”

And then, tear it up.

Now look up here: forgiveness is tearing up the I O U’s. And when you are willing to do that, then God will set you free. There is absolutely nothing that will set you freer, than forgiving.

You are never more like Jesus than when you forgive one another. Somebody once said: ”We are like beasts when we kill. We are like men when we judge. We are like God when we forgive.”

Psalm 86.5, ”For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive.” Are you?

You cannot express what you have not experienced! But thank God for the Freedom in Forgiving!


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About The Author

Dr. Ernest Easley attended Baylor University and Dallas Baptist University and earned his Bachelors of Science degree in Religion. He also earned a Master of Divinity from Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from Luther Rice Seminary. Dr. Easley has been very influential in the Southern Baptist Convention, serving in various capacities, including President of the Texas Baptist Pastor's Conference, and two years as the Chairman of the Executive Committee. After 31 years of serving as a Senior Pastor, Easley has retired, and is now the very first Professor of Evangelism in school history at the Union University in Jackson, TN. Read Ernest Easley’s sermons on spiritual growth and evangelism to get a different perspective for your sermon preparation.

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