The Forgiven Forgive (Matthew 6:14, 15)
The Forgiven Forgive
Matthew 6:14, 15
(One Truth: Walk in Truth)
March 24th, 2019
I. A Daily Dose
How would you complete this sentence: “I believe it's important for everyone to get a daily dose of...” (2x)? Some people might say fiber, or caffeine, or humor. But what would you say?
If you were with us last time or listened to last week's audio, then you know some of the responses Jesus would give to that question. The prayer he taught His disciples, that prayer we know as “The Lord's Prayer”, is a reminder of what truly matters most. As we talked about, when we offer up that prayer, as a daily discipline before God, it anchors us to God's priorities instead of the human tendencies that so often rule us... and... so often ruin us.
We discover one of those priorities in Matthew 6:12. Turn there, if you haven't already, and listen to one of the prayer requests Jesus teaches us to bring God each day. We should pray:
“...forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
So think about that for a minute. In light of our initial question, Jesus is saying, “I believe it's important for everyone to get a daily dose of... forgiveness. And... to give a daily dose of forgiveness.” Is that something you think about on a daily basis? Jesus says, you should.
But of all the petitions in the Lord's Prayer (or the 'Disciple's Prayer'), why are spending extra time on this one? Well, because Jesus spent extra time on this idea.
II. The Passage: "If You Forgive" (6:14, 15)
Look with me at verses 14 and 15 of this same chapter. Of all the requests in this prayer, this is the request (this two-part request), that Jesus takes extra time to emphasize; to clarify. Listen to how He does that in verses 14 and 15...
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,  but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
So notice the relationship between those two verses. The second part, in verse 15, simply makes the same point as the first, just in expressed negatively: “If you forgive others, God will forgive you. If you don't forgive others, God will not forgive you.”
We heard something similar to this earlier in this 'mountain message' that Jesus announced in Matthew chapters 5-7. Listen to again to one of the kingdom consolations that Jesus gave to the crowd and to his disciples in Matthew 5:7. He declared... “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
Now, in one sense, there's nothing complicated about these ideas. In clarifying verse 12, Jesus could not be any clearer in verses 14, 15. Forgiveness is God's priority, to you AND through you. As I pointed out, Jesus even repeats himself in verse 15, just so there's no confusion about the point he's making.
But... in another sense, this statement does complicate things. Some of you, many of you, understand exactly what I mean. We understand, from God's word, that as sinners before a holy God, we desperately need his forgiveness. As me-centered rebels who have resisted Him who is both King and Judge, unless our sins are forgiven, our present condition of spiritual death will lead, after physical death, into a future, into an eternity of punishment for our sins.
But we also understand, from God's word, that the gospel, the Good News of Jesus, is a message about restoration to, about reconciliation with this same God. And that reconciliation is only possible because of what Jesus Christ accomplished for us on the cross. Therefore we affirm, we celebrate, we cherish the fact that we can be right with God by the grace of God alone, through faith in Christ alone. Repentance and faith are the only things we must bring to the table in order to be right with God.
So, if that's true (and it is), then it sounds like Jesus is saying here in Matthew 6:14, 15 that if we are to be right with God, we must also make sure we're right with other people, inasmuch it depends on us. Yes, come with repentance and faith. But also come without unforgiveness in your heart. But is that what Jesus is saying? Is Christ teaching us that if you have something against someone else, then God's going to have something against you? Well... yes and no.
Let me suggest that there are three biblical concepts, three biblical realities that can help us understand this apparent tension. Let's look at those three ideas and see if we can make sense of how forgiveness to us is related to forgiveness through us. The first idea is...
1. Giving and Receiving Mercy
Listen to a powerful and well-known parable about forgiveness that Jesus would later share with his disciples. We find it in this same book, in Matthew 18. Let me start in verse 21, since it sets up the scene.
 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.  “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. [that's about $6 billion in today's wages]  And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.  So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’  And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.  But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii [today, that would be about $11,500], and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ >>>
 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’  He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.  When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.  Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’  And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
So clearly, Jesus wants Peter to understand how God's generous forgiveness to him personally, should personally inspire Peter to be just as generous when it comes to forgiving others. In fact, the listener is shocked when the first servant, the forgiven servant is so severe and unyielding with his fellow servant. That reaction simply stresses the the serious disconnect between what the first servant was given, but what he refuses to give to another.
The Apostle Paul would later address the possibility of that same disconnect in the Ephesian church. It's precisely why he wrote what he wrote in Ephesians 4:32... Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Were you shocked by the behavior of that first servant in Christ's parable? Yep. So you naturally understand this dynamic. And so part of what's behind Jesus emphasis in Matthew 6:14 and 15 is this very idea of giving and receiving mercy, or we might say, receiving then giving mercy. But there's another concept we need to consider. It's the idea of...
2. Cherishing and Maintaining Fellowship
Like we see in 6:14, 15, earlier in this same 'mountain message', Jesus also connected a right relationship with God with a right relationship with others. Do you remember that? We find that passage in Matthew 5:23–24. Look there if you would. Jesus tells his listeners...
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,  leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Do you see what Jesus is emphasizing there about worship and reconciliation? When it comes to worshiping God, reconciliation with others comes before singing praise songs or dropping your gift in the offering box. The man or woman who believes they are honoring God by some outward expression of praise, but who, at the same time, refuses to reconcile with a brother or sister, is sadly mistaken about the true worship with God is pleased.
This same idea comes out just as clear when, many years after Jesus' ministry, the Apostle Peter gave these instructions to Christian husbands... I Peter 3:7...
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel [i.e., don't use your size or physical strength to intimidate your wife... “show your wives honor”... ] since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
Did you hear that? “So that your prayers may not be hindered”. What exactly is Peter saying? I believe he's making the same point that Jesus is making in Matthew 6:14, 15: how you handle relationships in your life has a direct impact on your relationship with God. In I Peter 3, the relationship in question is a husband's relationship with his wife. In Matthew 6:14, 15, Jesus is addressing any relationship in which we are harboring unforgiveness.
But notice that Peter does not say to these husbands, “Treat your wives your well or else you'll lose your salvation.” No, he simply says, “If you don't, your prayers will be 'hindered'.” What does that mean? It means God will not pretend like everything is healthy when it isn't.
Husbands, when we are not honoring our wives as we should, our loving heavenly Father will bring the correction we need. He might say, “Why are you praying for a new job, when you are not honoring me in your job as a husband. Why are you praying for inner peace, when you keep bringing strife into your marriage? No. Go and make things right with your wife!” You see, such 'prayer blockage' represents God's loving discipline.
In the same way, Jesus is reminding us about the Father's discipline when it comes to unforgiveness. God is saying, “My child, why are you coming to me in your time of need, asking me to grant you forgiveness, when you won't go to that other person in need and grant him forgiveness? You're seeking to make our relationship right in spite of your sin, but you won't make that relationship right because of that person's sin. No. First go make things right.”
So in that sense, this is not a passage about whether we belong to God by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. This is a passage about how a loving Father helps his struggling children understand the importance of both forgiveness to them and through them; about what is healthy in all our relationships. As Paul would
Paul brings all of these ideas together in Ephesians 4. Let me read a bigger selection, including verse 32, that we heard earlier. Starting in verse 30, Paul writes:
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [that's a statement about the healthiness of your relationship with God], by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. [now, regarding healthy relationships with others...]  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
But there's one more biblical concepts we need to consider, and it's this...
3. Living and Displaying Newness
We've heard from the Apostle Paul, and the Apostle Peter. I think we need to hear from the Apostle John as well. Listen to what he writes in I John 3:10...
By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
So John is telling us something here about the new birth. In chapter 4, he gets more specific:
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (4:20–21)
Do you see what John is doing there? He is addressing the same disconnect that Jesus talked about in that parable of the forgiven, but unforgiving servant. But here, the concept is clearly connect to the reality of new birth. To be born again, through faith in Christ, not only means a new relationship with God. It also means a new heart. New in what way? It's a heart being conformed to Christ's heart. It's a heart through which the Holy Spirit produces fruit. It's a heart of love for God... and for others.
What does that mean? It means that if a confessed follower of Jesus persists in a pattern of bitter, unyielding unforgiveness, he or she IS calling into question the reality of that new birth. Please hear me: a genuine believer can struggle with forgiving a person who's hurt them. That happens regularly. But what will not happen, according to God's word, is a new, blood-bought, Spirit-infused, God-loving heart persisting in the patterns of a self-enslaved, world-informed, sin-hardened heart. That is not the nature of the new life that comes by grace alone
So, in that sense, it truly could be said, with a much broader perspective in mind, “if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
III. Still Stuck
So what have we seen? Jesus taught us in the Lord's Prayer that each day we should go to God in light of our need for forgiveness. But He also taught us about the importance of forgiving others. Moreover, as we've seen morning, both Jesus and his apostles made it abundantly clear that those two things are connected.
And so, with all that in mind, let me ask you this: if God's wants one of your daily priorities to be forgiveness, then what comes to mind today? What or who is on your heart... this day? Specific sins for which you need forgiveness? And/or someone He's calling you to forgive? But maybe you've been sitting here this morning, hearing all this, and maybe, even though you believe it, you still feel stuck in a place of anger; a place of bitterness; of unforgiveness. Maybe you've even uttered the words, “I forgive you”; but you know the truth about your heart.
There are many reasons we can find ourselves stuck. But one of the most common is this: we simply don't want to be hurt again. And for that reason, we believe that somehow, not forgiving that person protects us from that person. Brothers and sisters, friends, this morning God wants you to understand that if you are trying to protect yourself in this way, you are in fact, only hurting yourself. Instead, God wants you to be able to say, along with David: In the LORD I take refuge. (Ps. 11:1) And... But you, O LORD, are a shield about me. (Ps. 3:3).
Real forgiveness does not involve ditching discernment or belittling boundaries. But it does involve a willingness, in love, to step toward the one who hurt you, trusting that because of Christ, God is your ever-present shield. This morning, will you ask Him to help you under-stand your heart? Will you ask Him for that faith to forgive? Whatever might be holding us back, and whatever obstacles we might face in the future, may the Father help us to remember the critical connections between getting and giving genuine forgiveness. Let's pray.