The Rewards of Forgiveness

  • well, this morning I have good news and bad news for you
  • the bad news is that people have let you down – terribly and hurtfully
  • over the past few weeks, as we’ve talked about forgiveness, I’ve been humbled by the stories you have told me of the ways that you’ve been hurt
  • truth be told, many of us are carrying around scars, and some of us even have fresh wounds from other people who have let us down
  • that’s the bad news
  • the good news is that God has provided a way to deal with our hurt, and it’s forgiveness
  • there is nothing more basic and more central to our lives than forgiveness
  • as we’ve discussed these past two weeks, forgiveness is not optional for the Christian
  • Jesus said, “If you don’t forgive others, my Father in heaven won’t forgive you”
  • when Jesus taught the Lord’s prayer, he taught us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”
  • but as we learned last week, forgiveness is not easy
  • there is a cost to forgiving, because forgiving essentially means that you’re canceling a debt, letting the wrong you’ve suffered go
  • it means that you’re putting away the desire for revenge, and you’re releasing the entire situation to God
  • this morning we’re going to conclude by doing two things
  • we’re going to look at the rewards of forgiveness
  • and secondly, we’re going to answer some questions you’ve asked about forgiveness
  • before we launch in, let’s ask God to speak to us this morning
  • Father:
  • thank you that you are the one who invented forgiveness
  • thank you as well that you are not only the inventor of forgiveness, you yourself are an expert in forgiving
  • when we were dead in our sins, you made us alive with Christ
  • you forgave all of our sins
  • I pray that today you would deal with our hearts
  • tenderize them
  • take away the hardness of our hearts
  • help us to leave today not only understanding but also experiencing the rewards of forgiveness
  • in the name of the one who died that we could be forgiven – our savior Jesus Christ
  • Amen.
  • during World War II, a woman by the name of Corrie Ten Boom was confined at a concentration camp at Ravensbruck for her part in sheltering Jews from their Nazi oppressors
  • her father died in another concentration camp
  • and Corrie was humiliated and degraded herself, and heartbroken as she watched the life of her sister, Betsy, ebb away and eventually die
  • after the war ended, however, she went over to Germany as a Christian to preach God’s forgiveness
  • and one day, speaking in Munich, Germany, she spotted a face that she would never forget
  • she saw the face of a former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center of Ravensbruck
  • one of the worst experiences in prison was the delousing shower, where women where ogled and taunted by leering guards
  • and here was one of the guards, bringing back all the memories – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, and her sister’s pain-blanched face
  • as the church emptied, the man approached Corrie smiling, and said, “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein. To think that, as you say, he has washed my sins away!”
  • the man stuck out his hand to shake Corrie’s
  • and Corrie, who had preached so often on the need to forgive, kept her hand at her side
  • angry, vengeful thoughts arose within her
  • and at the same time, she thought, “Jesus died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, forgive me and help me to forgive him”
  • she tried to smile
  • she tried to raise her hand
  • but she couldn’t
  • she didn’t feel the slightest spark of warmth or charity
  • and so again she breathed a silent prayer: “Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness”
  • as she took his hand, the most incredible thing happened
  • from her shoulder along her arm and through her hand, a current seemed to pass from her to him
  • and into her heart sprang a love for that stranger that almost overwhelmed her
  • and at that moment Corrie Ten Boom began to experience the rewards of forgiveness
  • forgiveness is Christianity at its highest level
  • when we forgive another person, we discover that we are participating in a supernatural event in which God not only gives the command to forgive, but the power to forgive
  • and we discover after talking about why to forgive and how to forgive – we discover the incredible rewards of forgiveness
  • that’s what I want to talk about this morning
  • I’d like to give you the three rewards of forgiveness
  • REWARD NUMBER ONE: FORGIVENESS MAKES YOU MORE LIKE GOD
  • you are never more like God than when you forgive
  • when God saves us, what he does is he wipes out our past
  • the moment you believe, you’re forgiven – permanently and completely
  • but God never leaves us the way we started
  • he begins a lifelong process of making us more like Jesus Christ every day
  • (2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT) As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more.
  • and when you begin the pilgrimage of forgiving, you begin a trek that leads you closer and closer to resembling Jesus Christ
  • (Ephesians 4:32) Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
  • the first reward of forgiving is that you begin to look like Jesus Christ to other people
  • when you forgive, you’re extending the same forgiveness you’ve received to the individual who needs to be forgiven
  • and you begin to resemble Jesus Christ
  • you become more like God
  • you see, Satan’s whole agenda is destroyed by forgiving
  • when we refuse to forgive, we’re right where he wants us – proud, unmerciful, joyless, and disobedient
  • but when we begin to forgive, we begin to look more and more like our great forgiver, Jesus Christ
  • REWARD NUMBER TWO: FORGIVENESS BRINGS YOU CLOSER TO GOD
  • not only does forgiveness make you more like God, it also brings you closer in your relationship with God
  • I doubt that there’s a person here who doesn’t want to be close to God
  • but I’ve learned very quickly that it’s impossible to have a good relationship with God if there are problems going on in my relationships with other people
  • we like to think that we can have a breakdown in a human relationship and go on and relate to God like nothing happened
  • the Bible says you can’t do that
  • (1 John 4:20) If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.
  • our relationship with each other and our relationship with God have this linkage
  • it’s a little like a family system
  • picture a dad who’s going to go fishing with his two sons
  • but the sons have had a fight, they’re really angry with each other, but they want to go fishing with dad
  • so they’re out in the boat, but you can smell a little something in the boat
  • even though they think they can relate to their father okay, every conversation is measured
  • every action in the boat is carefully calculated
  • the father tries to engage the two boys, but he has a hard time
  • the odor of hostility in the boat is worse than the smell of the worms and the fish
  • by 9 a.m. they pack it in and head to shore
  • the family system is breaking down
  • imagine another boat, where the dad’s in the middle seat and the boys are getting along with each other
  • the atmosphere in that boat is free and happy, there is energy and humor, the conversations flow unedited, there is no egg shelling going on, actions are spontaneous, the fishing is enjoyable
  • what keeps the boat on the lake until sunset is the quality of the family system
  • the richness of the community in all of its various dynamics
  • the aroma is very sweet
  • that’s what happens when we forgive
  • a lack of forgiveness will lead to a lack of a quality of relationship with God
  • Jesus said a number of times that if we refuse to forgive, we won’t be forgiven by God
  • but the minute we forgive, it improves our relationship with God
  • so forgiveness makes you more like God; it brings you closer to God
  • REWARD NUMBER THREE: FORGIVENESS RECAPTURES THE FREEDOM OF MY SOUL
  • this is closely related to the first reward, but expands upon it
  • Dr. S. I. McMillan, in his book None of These Diseases, says this:
  • “The moment I start hating a man, I become his slave. He even controls my thoughts. I can’t escape his tyrannical grasp on my mind. When the waiter serves me steak, it might as well be stale bread and water. The man I hate will not permit me to enjoy it”
  • you see, forgiveness is like a toxin, and an unforgiving heart always leads to a tormented spirit
  • when you refuse to forgive, the pain becomes a part of you
  • there is somebody very close to me, and he has chosen in his life not to forgive somebody who hurt him many years ago
  • the hurt began as something normal almost thirty years ago, but instead of processing the hurt and choosing to forgive the other person, he instead nursed the bitterness and hatred within his soul until it became part of him
  • and over time the bitterness and hatred has become part of him
  • you can’t spend five minutes with him today without it spilling out of his heart
  • the pain has become part of him
  • it’s like getting a spoonful of ink out of a glass of water
  • unforgiveness is a toxin
  • (Ephesians 4:26) “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,
  • (Ephesians 4:27) and do not give the devil a foothold.
  • when we nurse our anger, we give Satan an opportunity to divide us
  • and the longer you nurse that anger, the more you’re allowing Satan to establish a foothold in your life
  • when you refuse to forgive is that you take your own happiness and freedom of soul, and you give it to another person
  • you give them the privilege of deciding when you’ll be free again
  • this man I know has spent half of his life giving up the freedom of his own soul to others
  • but when you begin to forgive, you recapture your happiness and freedom again
  • Lewis Smedes says:
  • “In this world in which people do hurt each other – sometimes hurt us a lot – when you begin to forgive, you set a prisoner free, and then you discover that the prisoner you set free was you”
  • do you want to be set free this morning?
  • when you forgive, you ride the crest of God’s great love
  • when you forgive, you walk hand-in-hand with God
  • when you forgive, you begin to heal the wounds
  • that’s what happens when you forgive
  • now will you?
  • I’m going to ask you to spend some time alone with the Lord Jesus
  • I’m going to ask you to bring to the Lord that which needs to be forgiven, but also those you need the power to forgive
  • it could be a spouse, an ex-spouse, a parent who abused you, a child who has shamed and hurt you
  • it could be an ex-friend
  • but the forgiveness you will offer is not something done in your own strength
  • it’s done supernaturally
  • it’s an impossible thing
  • and it can only be done as we cling to the one who’s forgiven us
  • let’s pray
  • spend a minute thinking about those you need to forgive
  • ask God’s power to help you to forgive
  • you can even use the prayer that Corrie Ten Boom used: “Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness”
  • ask for the supernatural power to forgive, and that you may experience the rewards of forgiveness
  • Amen.
  • [QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS]
  • let’s conclude this morning by answering some questions I’ve received about the last three weeks
  • one: when should I confront someone who has wronged me, and when should I forgive someone without confronting them?
  • well, the simple reality is that if we confronted other people every time they wronged us, that’s all that we would ever do
  • there are times when it is wise to forgive the other person without confronting them, especially when the issue is a relatively minor one, or when the confrontation would do more damage to the relationship than simply forgiving them
  • I’ve heard of a woman who was shot by her husband for excessive forgiveness
  • the reason why is that every time you go to someone and tell them you’re forgiving them, you’re also blaming them
  • there are two questions I’d ask:
  • first, is this issue important enough?
  • second, is my relationship with the individual important enough?
  • if the gas station attendant interrupts you at the cash register, it’s probably not worth getting upset
  • but if your spouse continually interrupts you, it’s probably worth talking about at some point
  • you need sensitivity here
  • don’t go rushing in to confront
  • there will be a time when they’re ready to hear you, and you’ll be ready to speak to them
  • and if you’re sensitive to the Spirit, you’ll know when and how to confront in a positive way
  • two: a related question is this: when should I apologize to someone? what if the other person isn’t aware of how I’ve wronged them?
  • well, it’s probably not smart for a man to go to a woman and confess that she was the object of his lust
  • similarly, it’s not always wise to go to another person and confess that you’ve been harboring bitter thoughts against them if they aren’t aware of it
  • in this case, the offense involves just one person: yourself
  • no one else is aware of it
  • but maybe your offense involves other people
  • maybe you’ve slandered an individual in front of other people
  • I believe in these cases you need to make it right not only with those who received the original slander, but also with the person you’ve slandered, even if they aren’t aware of the offense
  • third question: can I wait until they’ve repented before I forgive them?
  • some Christians teach that forgiveness can only happen once the other person has repented
  • I’ll tell you the problem with that: if you wait for the other person to repent, you’re taking your happiness and freedom of soul and giving it to them
  • you’re giving them the privilege of deciding when you’ll be free again
  • have you ever been awake at night stewing about how angry you are at someone else, only to realize that the person you’re mad at is probably sleeping like a baby?
  • don’t confuse forgiveness with reconciliation – they’re two different things
  • forgiveness is within your control – you can forgive someone unilaterally and unconditionally
  • reconciliation depends on both of you
  • but you can forgive no matter how the other individual react
  • and if you never become their friend or spouse again, it won’t be because of the hate in your heart
  • fourth question: doesn’t forgiveness make me into a doormat?
  • I believe that true forgiveness does not turn us into doormats
  • one person says it this way: we’re to forgive intolerably
  • forgive the person without putting up with what they did
  • when you forgive someone, don’t put up with the behavior that caused the offense
  • be like God
  • God is not a doormat, but he’s a forgiver
  • God says , “I forgive you, now cut it out”
  • and that’s what we’re to do as well
  • it may be appropriate at times to say to someone, “I forgive you, but never do that again”
  • and to set some very realistic boundaries around that person in the future
  • fifth: how should I handle repeat offenders? what if I think their repentance is a sham?
  • well, Jesus is clear about repeat offenses
  • even if someone comes to you seven times in the same day for the same offense, forgive them!
  • after all, we are repeat offenders against God
  • forgive enthusiastically and lavishly just as you have been forgiven
  • but there is a role for discernment
  • we are to give others the benefit of the doubt when they apologize and repent
  • but if there is compelling evidence to suggest that the repentance is not sincere, forgive them anyway – but then put some boundaries around you to protect yourself from being abused
  • last question: what if I don’t feel like forgiving them? I’m scared I’ll start to like them
  • that’s honesty, and I like it
  • I would say two things
  • if you don’t feel like forgiving someone else, start with pretending
  • someone has called this “creative hypocrisy”
  • it’s amazing that when we begin to act and think as if we’ve forgiven someone else, pretty soon the feelings of forgiveness follow
  • secondly, be patient
  • forgiveness is a process
  • C.S. Lewis, about three months before he died, wrote a letter saying, “I think I have at long last forgiven that cruel schoolmaster who so darkened my youth. I thought I had done it many times before, but this time I think I really did it”
  • you might think you’ve forgiven someone, but be patient
  • you might have to forgive them a few times before the issue is finally put to rest
  • if you have more questions, I’d love to answer them
  • you can talk to me after the service, or phone during the week
  • right now we’ll sing that song we’ve been learning about forgiveness, I Know a Place
Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Liberty Grace Church in Toronto. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada