Here is the message for Sunday morning, April 27th, 2008.
THE KEY TO ABUNDANT LIVING
Matthew 10:10b ESV – I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Now before I start this sermon this morning, let me state that this is a subject the Lord has been dealing with me along time about. This is not preached for just you, but it is also preached toward me as well. To be honest, I feel totally inadequate to preach this sermon this morning. I don’t feel I can really convey what is on my heart totally. So it is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will somehow reveal to you my true heart as I deliver it and He will minister to you through it as well.
What is the key to abundant living? Well, that is the question that books after books, not only in Christian bookstores, but in places like Walmart, Target, Barnes & Noble, etc… are trying to answer. You have titles like, “The purpose driven life, Your best life now, The abundant life Bible, etc… that are becoming best sellers. Not only for Christians, but Non-Christians as well. I don’t have a problem with that if they are truly getting the Gospel and the truth of God’s Word in those books. But that is the question: are they? Or are people looking for keys and short cuts to living a prosperous life here and now, having all their dreams fulfilled? Sadly, I think the latter question is true.
First off, I don’t think that the abundant living that Jesus is talking about can be explained in monetary, or even worldly explanation or status. I personally believe that Jesus is talking about life in Him is eternal and therefore unique than anything this world can give. And since life in Him is eternal, it is ever-growing in abundance to His redeemed (study note in the Reformation Study Bible).
I do think that there is a key to having this ever-growing abundant life. It is not in quoting Scriptures, or spending hours upon hours in prayer, or confessing positive things or thinking positive thoughts. I feel it can be defined in one word – forgiveness. Forgiveness is the key to abundant living.
Let’s look at the passage in Matthew 18:21-35 and see what God would say to us through the passage.
Matthew 18:21-35 ESV – 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?” (22) Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. (23) “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. (24) When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. (25) 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. (26) So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ (27) And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. (28) But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ (29) So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ (30) He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. (31) 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. (32) Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. (33) And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ (34) And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. (35) So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Peter asked in this passage how often should they forgive, notice not toward an unbeliever, or a Gentile in Peter’s case, but a believer. This should let us know a couple of things: (1) this passage is dealing with forgiveness as far as believers; (2) believers will fail each other and offend one another – that is a stated fact within the passage. Peter is being generous in stating that fellow believers should forgive one another up to 7 times. The reason I state this is because Rabbinical teaching of Peter’s day stated you could forgive up to three times an offence in one day, and if they go to four, you do not have to forgive at that point.
Jesus goes further. He states not 3 times, nor 7 times, but seventy times seven! This is a hyperbolic statement meaning an unlimited amount of times.
Let me tell you something – that is huge! And quite honestly, apart from Christ Jesus living inside of us – it is just not possible. But that is the good news. That is why we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us – so that when we cry out to Him, depend on His strength, and step out in obedience, He makes the impossible – possible!
I want to share two stories that show this to be true.
There is a fellow Pastor that I know that told few of us Pastors this story as we were gathered together, fellowshipping. He started pastoring the current church he is leading. There was a member of the congregation that was just causing him all kinds of problems. He was getting sick to his stomach every time this person was at church. He started praying for the Lord to change this person’s heart, and bring them to repentance. I mean after all, they were in the wrong, not him. And this person refused to even confess their wrong, they justified it. Well, the Pastor said that the Lord woke him up in the middle of the night, and told him that he was in the wrong! The Pastor said that this was impossible. The Lord spoke to Him and said, “do you love them as much and are forgiving them as much as I have you?” And there he felt the conviction of the Lord. So he began praying…..and he continued to pray and seek the face of the Lord until he could truly forgive this person from his heart, whether the person wanted it, or even felt they were wrong or not. I’d like to tell you that everything was alright with them, but it wasn’t. This person still caused him problems for 14 years. But the Pastor kept praying for them forgiving them in his heart and loving them, until 14 years later, they repented, and became one of his strongest supporters.
The other story is one that kind of hits close to home. When I was about 10, I was forced to take piano lessons by my Mom. They only lasted a few months until my Mom gave up trying to force me to practice. Years later the piano instructor of ours – her daughter was murdered by two men. It devastated the small town of Waurika Oklahoma. One of the boys who committed the murder became a follower of Jesus while in prison. He confessed his wrong, and I believe it was the TV show, “20/20”, that came and told his story. My former piano instructor and her husband went to the prison that boy was in. I remember watching the program. They asked him how he was doing and if he had anything to say to them. He said, “Guilt is tearing me up for what I’ve done. I’m a believer in Jesus, and I feel I must confess to you that I did kill your daughter and I’m asking for forgiveness.” I remember the husband saying with tears in his eyes, “I want to kill you, but my Lord Jesus Christ tells me not only to forgive you, but to love you! So you have my forgiveness and love!” My former Piano teacher thanked him for being honest, and said the same thing. They have kept in contact with the young man and they feel like though they have lost a daughter, God gave them a spiritual son to care and love on in his prison cell – the one who took her life!
Church, that is forgiveness! That is love! It is something that only Christ Jesus can do through us.
Let’s now see some reasons why we should forgive this morning.
1. We should forgive because we have been forgiven much.
Matthew 18:23-27 ESV – “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. (24) When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. (25) 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. (26) So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ (27) And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.
A. Here in this parable we see this servant who was forgiven, forgiven much.
His debt that was forgiven was about 10,000 talents. That is around about 60 million in our dollars today, give or take a few million. It is an impossible debt to pay. The master had compassion (pity) on the servant, and instead dealing with him according to justice and the law, he dealt with him according to mercy.
B. You and I owe God a debt that we cannot pay.
You see, we have wronged him greatly. In fact we have wronged him greater than we could have wronged others, or have even been wronged ourselves.
Romans 3:9b-18 ESV – For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Romans 3:23 ESV – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
C. But we should be thankful people because God hasn’t dealt with us according to justice, but according to mercy.
He did this by providing the same mercy sacrifice for everyone who has wronged Him – the Lord Jesus Christ. And those who put their trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross receive forgiveness, grace, mercy, and His righteousness imputed to us. Those things we receive I’d call abundant living.
Matthew 18:26-27 ESV – So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ (27) And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.
Romans 3:21-26 ESV – 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
D. This leads us to our second point.
2. God gave us grace, not justice.
A. Understand, you and I did nothing to deserve His grace and justice.
I’m going to say something that will shock you this morning. Our confession of our sins doesn’t mean we deserve grace instead of justice. Even after confessing our sins to Him, the fact of the matter is we still deserve to be punished. We deserve the total wrath of God to be poured out upon us.
B. But we see Jesus receive this wrath in our place.
He became our substitution, our propitiation. And we receive forgiveness, mercy, and grace for two reasons: (a) Because God’s wrath was satisfied by being poured out on Jesus; (b) Because of God’s unconditional love for His children.
1 John 4:9-11 ESV – 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
3. We are to forgive other believers because our Lord commanded us to do so.
Matthew 18:21-22 ESV – 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?” (22) Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.
A. It doesn’t matter if they seek forgiveness, know that they are wrong, or even if they stop wronging you or not, we are to not only forgive them, but we are to love other believers.
1 John 4:7-8 ESV – 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
B. Now this doesn’t mean that we are just supposed to be some whipping post to some believer who has an axe to grind.
C. I think that it means that we are to react when they do wrong us, or offend us.
But our reaction is not to be in anger, or even spite, or bitterness. Our reaction should be the same as Jesus. We are to lay down our lives and walk humbly before them. We are to love them. We are to forgive them. We are to be merciful to them and gracious to them.
D. You see, forgiveness from God should result in forgiving other believers.
4. Our forgiveness must come from the heart.
Matthew 18:35 ESV – So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
A. Now I don’t have time to deal with the discipline aspect of this verse.
B. I want to focus on the forgiving from your heart.
C. Our forgiveness of other believers can’t be superficial. It can’t be lip service.
It must come from the heart. The only way that it can come from the heart is that it must come from a heart that has submitted to the Lordship of Jesus – no matter what the hurts of the flesh is telling you. Once you can honestly say that you have submitted to Jesus Christ, you will be able to forgive from the heart.
5. Scripture verses to help us live out forgiveness.
1 Peter 1:22 ESV – Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.
Proverbs 29:11 ESV – A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.
Proverbs 24:17 ESV – Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles.
Ecclesiastes 7:21b ESV – Do not take to heart all the things that people say.
James 2:13 ESV – For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV – 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
• Cry out to God for more grace to forgive. Submit to Him.
• Step out in faith and decide you will forgive no matter what.
• Hide passages of Scripture in your heart concerning forgiveness. Memorize them. Let them become a part of you.
• Find a trusted believer to agree with you in prayer (Matthew 18:19).
God has called believers to live in harmony with one another. We are not to hold an offense against one another, but we are to love one another, be merciful and gracious to one another and forgive one another.
Are any of you struggling with forgiveness this morning? If you are, please come forward, we want to agree with you in prayer that God will give you a forgiving heart for those who may have wronged you.