- Sermon Notes
The Greatest Forgive
Our study today begins in verse 15, but it's actually a continuation of the discussion that began all the way back in verse one where the disciples came to Jesus, asking, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
I'm convinced they were expecting Jesus to point out one of them as the greatest since we know that was the point of their argument. From the other Gospels we know that they had heated debates about which of them was the greatest.
But Jesus surprised them all by calling a child to Himself and putting his arms around the child said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not even enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
Jesus was specifically pointing out the value that God sees in a child, but also that the humility of a child is the same heart that God desires for everyone who follows after Him. But we should define humility; many people think humility is thinking less of yourself, but that's not it at all. Humility is thinking of yourself less and considering others as more important than yourselves. That's the point, the value of others.
A child was considered of little value in that culture, but Jesus said, "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him that he be drowned in the depths of the sea." And when we look at the verses we are studying today, we see that Jesus continues to emphasize the value that we must place on others and the value of the relationships that God gives us with others.
Jesus does not correct them for desiring greatness, but He wants them to let go of the world's idea of desiring to be greater than others; to prove yourself to be more right than others, to have position and be able to command and direct others, to be high and lifted up in the eyes of men.
Rather, He wants them to become great in the eyes of God, to walk on higher places, to have God's thoughts, God's heart, and God's ways. But in order to do that, we need to see other's as God sees them; to seek and save that which was lost (verse 11), to build up and edify those around you, to restore relationships, and to forgive others as God has forgiven you.
These words of Jesus are very powerful because they are so personal. If we would receive these words of Jesus today and truly apply them to our hearts, we will truly have increased in greatness in the eyes of God. And we will receive a great blessing; for anyone who understands restoration and forgiveness and lives it, will receive a tremendous blessing.
I. Restore Your Brother
- Verse 11 really sets the scene for these verses, "For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost."
- He then talks about the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep on the mountains to go and search for the one that was straying and then when that lost sheep is found, he rejoices over it more than over the 99 which had not gone astray.
- The whole point is to restore the lost sheep. God wants us to value those who have gone astray, or trespassed on someone else or even offended others.
- This is an amazing teaching that touches each one of us personally.
A. Win the person, not the argument
- In verse 15 Jesus explained how to win your brother and the point is to restore relationship.
- "If your brother sins" and the idea here is "against you," go and speak to him in private. In other words, if someone has offended you, then you have the responsibility to address the issue.
- But address the issue with the goal of winning your brother/sister in reconciliation; not to prove that you are more right than they are.
- If you give the opportunity for that other person to make it right, you've opened the door for reconciliation and relationship and honored God.
- Here is where you want to make it clear that you value that relationship and your heart is for reconciliation and restoration.
- Isn't that the very point of becoming the "greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
2 Timothy 2:24-25 – The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.
- Going to that person privately means you don't go to others.
Proverbs 11:13, He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.
B. Speak the truth in love
- Jesus then said that if the other person has not been reconciled; take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.
- In other words, if the other person disagrees that he/she has fault in the matter, then find one or two who are mature - and not talebearers - to help resolve the case.
- Here again, the purpose is to restore because of the value that God places on your brother.
- But it also allows an opportunity for the truth to be established on both sides of the disagreement.
Proverbs 18:17, The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.
- Establishing the truth is important because maybe you're seeing it the wrong way, maybe you're seeing it the right way, but others who are godly and mature can help establish the truth in love.
Ephesians 4:15, but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.
Illus - many times I have been asked to help resolve a conflict, and I can tell you the goal every time has to be restoration and reconciliation or I will not get involved.
C. Finally, take it to the church
- Jesus continued and said that if he will not listen to those who were godly and mature, then it should be brought to the church.
- When he says "tell it to the church" Jesus is not talking about throwing someone under the bus so as to condemn them in the court of public opinion.
- The problem with the court of public opinion is that unless they have all the information, they cannot make very good judges and instead of resolving the matter, you've only made it worse.
- The idea here is that there is an authority given to the elders and pastors so they can use that authority to resolve and reconcile believers according to the Word of God.
- But if even that should fail, then Jesus said, let him be to you as a heathen and a tax gatherer.
- The idea here is that such a person is hard of heart and not submitted to the Word of God and therefore needs to be removed from the covering and blessing of the church.
- In fact, in the next verses, Jesus is saying that heaven stands behind such a decision. (verses 18-20).
- But again, the purpose is restoration and reconciliation.
Illus – Many years ago I stood in the living room of someone’s house holding the hope of reconciliation.
1 Corinthians 5:5, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
2 Corinthians 2:6-8, sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.
II. Forgive and Stop Counting Offenses
- Peter then came and said to Jesus, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?"
- It seems to me that Peter is trying to seize Jesus's definition of greatness and to show how great he is by how much he forgives.
- The rabbis of the day were teaching a forgiveness policy of three strikes and you're out.
- Notice also that Peter didn't say, "How many times should my brother forgive me?" No, were always the one that's the most right; right?
A. Become a forgiving person by nature
- Jesus responded to Peter that he should forgive, not seven times, but up to 70x7.
Illus – I thought of a great app for smart phones, it's a way of systematically keeping track of everyone's offenses against you so that when you've reached 490, you can start holding onto unforgiveness.
- NO, the point is that you don't keep track, that it becomes your nature.
Illus - if you could summarize each of the disciples with one word what it would be? John – beloved, Thomas – doubter, Peter – foot-shaped mouth.
How would you be known? As one who forgives?
Illus - I remember reading the story of a young pastor who began serving in a small town and soon met a bitter old maid; he asked others about her story…
She no longer had to choose bitterness, it chose her, in other words, she simply became bitter.
- The way to become a forgiving person is to forgive so many times that you lose count.
1 Corinthians 13:5, 7, Love… does not take into account a wrong suffered… love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
- Here’s the truth, we are all imperfect and we all keep doing imperfect things. If we don't have a spirit of forgiveness we are not going to have very many relationships.
Illus – Marriage requires forgiveness. Christ loves the imperfect and we better learn to do that too.
1 Peter 4:8, Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
- Therefore the lack of love exposes a multitude of sins; finding fault and focusing on every problem.
- Forgiveness is not a number; it's a condition of the heart.
B. Let go of the grudges of the past
- One of the reasons people don't want to let go of their grudges, offenses, and hurts of the past is that they can't stand the thought of that person getting away with it; they want justice.
- Here's where faith must come in. First of all, that God makes justice; secondly, Jesus said that you should cast your cares upon Him and let Him carry your burdens.
1 Peter 5:6-7, Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you.
Leviticus 19:18, Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
- One of the ways you can let go is by remembering how much you have been forgiven.
- (Verses 23-35) the parable that Jesus gives is about a servant who was forgiven much, and insurmountable amount, yet refused to forgive just a little and the other servants immediately realized, "That's not right."
Ephesians 4:2, Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Hebrews 12:15, See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by many be defiled.
2 Peter 1:9, don't be blind and forget your own forgiveness.
Luke 7:47 He who is forgiven much loves much.
Matthew 18:15-35 NASB