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Sermon Outlines:
Forgiveness Is Conditional

Part I: Forgiveness is Conditional

Introduction

Some of what is taught in evangelical churches today is taught on the basis assumption. I have a special impatience with those who assume, but the problem is that I am sometimes one of them!

Questions we will attempt to answer in this series include: Do I have to forgive someone who has not repented? How can I cope when I have ill feelings toward another? Is it okay to want God to even the score? Does forgiving imply forgetting? When I wrong someone, what, besides asking for forgiveness, can I do? Is it ever right to overlook the wrong things people do? Is it right to not get mad but to get even instead? If we forgive a person who committed a crime, should they be prosecuted? What does a genuine apology sound like? What about wrongs done in ignorance ("Father, forgive them for they know not what they do)?

Main Thought: Forgiveness is conditional, but what do we do when people don't meet the conditions?

  1. Forgiveness, In It's Fullest Sense, Requires Repentance on the Part of the Offender
    1. What forgiveness really is: Re-establishment of the relationship like it was before the offense occurred...release of the wrong done...forgetting

      Many people call "letting something go" forgiving...real forgiveness addresses issues.

    2. Proposition One: We forgive as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32).

      So take a moment and actually THINK about how God forgives, WHO He forgives, and WHEN He forgives.

      If God automatically forgave everyone unconditionally, everyone would be saved. No one would be lost. God's forgiveness is therefore NOT unconditional, but conditional...that is the pattern for us.

      God is not ashamed to say He has not forgiven the non-repentant, neither should we!

    3. Proposition Two: God Does NOT Forgive Us if We Do Not Meet the Condition of Repentance (Confession)—1 John 1:8-9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
    4. Proposition Three: God Does Not Hold Us to A Higher Standard of Forgiveness Than He Does Himself
    5. Though sometimes repentance is assumed, some Scriptures clearly declare that we are to forgive an individual when he/she repents
      1. Luke 17:3 So watch yourselves. "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him."
      2. Principles of Interpretation:
        1. The brief is interpreted in light of the lengthy; truth vs. whole truth (prayer)
        2. The context provides us with a foundation upon which latter texts add, but do not subtract; so, in other words, verses like 1 Corinthians 13:5 are interpreted in light of 1 Corinthians 5:9, not the other way around.

          Interpret the short statements in light of the longer, more detailed ones

      3. restitution should be made when possible (Luke 19:8; Rov.14:9 NIV)
  2. Credibility Is A Related But Separate Issue; Forgiveness Does Not Mean Instant TRUST.
    1. Forgiveness does not immediately mean the re-establishment of credibility.
    2. 2 Corinthians 7:18
    3. Luke 3:7-9 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  Produce fruit in keeping with repentance."
    4. An unfaithful spouse (Matthew 19)
    5. John Mark (Acts 15:36-41 and 2 Timothy 4:11).
    6. Can you forgive without trusting? You can Initiate the forgiving process.

Part II: Credibility and Ignorance

Questions we will attempt to answer in this series include: How can I cope when I have ill feelings toward another? Is it okay to want God to even the score? Does forgiving imply forgetting? When I wrong someone, what, besides asking for forgiveness, can I do? Is it ever right to overlook the wrong things people do? Is it right to not get mad but to get even instead? If we forgive a person who committed a crime, should they be prosecuted? What does a genuine apology sound like? What about wrongs done in ignorance ("Father, forgive them for they know not what they do)?

Last week we answered: Do I have to forgive someone who has not repented?  Our answer was "no," and even implied you really cannot HONESTLY do so in instances of great offense without repentance.

Proposition One: We forgive as GOD has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32)

Proposition Two: God Does NOT Forgive Us if We Do Not Meet the Condition of Repentance (Confession)—1 John 1:8-9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

Proposition Three: God Does Not Hold Us to A Higher Standard of Forgiveness Than He Does Himself—see Luke 17:3

Today, we shall address two issues on the fringe of the subject of forgiveness, two issues we need to understand clearly.

  1. The Issue of Credibility
    1. You don't need to immediately trust someone you have forgiven...
    2. Restitution should be made when possible (Luke 19:8; Rov.14:9)
    3. 2 Corinthians 7:18
    4. Luke 3:7-8
      7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance."
    5. Can you forgive without trusting? You can Initiate the forgiving process.
  2. Sins Committed In Ignorance
    1. In the death of Jesus:

      NIV Luke 23:34

      Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

      NIV Acts 4:10

      It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.
      1 Corinthians 2:8
      None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
      The PEOPLE were held accountable for crucifying an innocent man, but NOT for crucifying the Son of God, for they were ignorant of that. They were forgiven for "that which they knew not what they were doing."
    2. In our lives: 1 John 1:7-9
    3. Psalm 19:13
    4. Old Testament: Unintentional Sin

      Leviticus 4:13-15

      13 If the whole Israelite community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD's commands, even though the community is unaware of the matter, they are guilty. 14 When they become aware of the sin they committed, the assembly must bring a young bull as a sin offering and present it before the Tent of Meeting. 15 The elders of the community are to lay their hands on the bull's head before the LORD, and the bull shall be slaughtered before the LORD.

Part III: When The Offender Won't Repent

Thus far in our series, we have tried to answer the following questions:

  1. Do I have to forgive someone who has not repented? The answer I gave was, "no." God does not forgive those who will not repent, and He is our standard; for further details, get the February 28, 1999 tape of that message.

    Like God, we must stand ready to forgive when repentance occurs.

  2. Do I have to trust someone who has lost credibility when they repent? The answer I gave was, "no, certainly not immediately."  But you need to consider giving the offender a chance to re-establish credibility over time.
  3. Are sins of ignorance more excusable than intentional sins? The answer I gave was "yes." Although we are responsible for all our behaviors, God forbears when we sin in ignorance. But once we become aware of how we sinned in ignorance, we do need to ask forgiveness.

Today's question has been on the minds of many folks thus far. Okay, Vasicek, if we don't (or can't truly) forgive the non-repentant, what are we to do? Hate them? Get even? How do we handle it? Glad you asked.

Main Thought: Life in the real world involves dealing with people who will not repent or apologize for the wrongs they have done to us. The Christian way to handle such situations involves employing several truths.

  1. It is Not Wrong to Have Enemies, But We Must LOVE Our Enemies

    NIV Matthew 5:44

    44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...

    —Don't confuse an enemy with a neighbor you just don't like (the difference is malice)

    1. Love myths: (3-4 Greek words)
    2. You do not love everyone the same (spouse, child, neighbor, brother, enemy); some forms of love are conditional (1 Corinthians 4:21)

      —how love and emotional distance relate....

    3. To Love our enemy is the love of duty, not emotion: 

      NIV Exodus 23:4-5

      4 If you come across your enemy's ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. 5 If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it.
    4. It is basically the golden rule....
    5. What about those who are cannot be called enemies, but there is nonetheless a barrier because of unresolved offense?
      1. minor offense, forbearance—let go
      2. greater offense: recognition of distance, cordial but cold
      3. distance can either be a consequence or a manipulation tool—as, for example, the silent treatment—
  2. We Cannot Take Our Own Revenge, But It Is Okay to Want to Get Even; We Must Get Over the Matter in Time by Letting Go in Light of God's Justice
    1. There is a wrong desire to get revenge (somebody crossed me and did something I didn't like) and a proper desire (somebody did what was clearly wrong, and I or others are suffering consequences of it)
      1. E.g., when you hear of an injustice done on the news....a criminal goes free, etc.., or the Japanese were blaming us for dropping the bomb...
      2. Justice is part of God's character, and it is part of being in God's image...OT penalties were not always reform oriented (sometimes) but sometimes were Justice oriented...

        NIV Acts 23:2-3

        2 At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!"
      3. The desire for justice and vengeance is pure enough to be in heaven:

        NIV Revelation 6:9-10

        9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?"

    2. The desire for revenge must be turned over to God

      NIV Romans 12:19-20

      19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.  20 On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."

      1. This is where faith comes in—that every act will be brought into judgment! A source of comfort...
      2. This takes time, it may take wrestling with God (like Jacob), and you may get a joint out of place...
      3. This should results in gradually letting things go....otherwise, you will build a long-term grudge of hatred....
      4. Dobson's ministry to pastors through HB London—2 years to recover from painful church traumas....
      5. sometimes things take time: Jacob and Esau—Genesis 32:4-6, 33:1-5
      6. Don't go too hard on yourself if you have a hard time getting over a hurt—let yourself have some room...
  3. When Government Is Working Properly, It Often (within limits) Takes Revenge in God's Stead
    1. When offenses are legal, it is right to prosecute...
    2. God's revenge often will have to wait to judgment day, but government is supposed to provide an interim source of judgment for the more major offenses...

      NIV Romans 13:4-6

      4 For he is God's servant to do you good.  But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing.

Part IV: Finale and Final Questions

Thus far in our series on forgiveness, I have attempted to answer these questions. Here they are, in review, with references.

  1. Do I have to forgive someone who has not repented? Ed's answer: No

    —God is our model; He does not forgive us if we do not repent—Luke 17:3, 1 John 1:9, Acts 5:3-5; complete forgiveness may, at times, be impossible without repentance anyway...

  2. How can I cope when I have ill feelings toward another? Ed's answer:  It is not wrong to have enemies (Matthew 5:44), and our love for enemies is the love of duty (the Golden Rule); we should not take our revenge, but it is right to want God to take revenge and to find comfort in the fact He will (Romans 12:19-21) and even souls in heaven want revenge (Revelation 6:9-10), so the desire for justice is not sinful. Sometimes it just takes a quantity of time to get over something, as in the example of Jacob and Esau (Genesis 32:4-6, 33:1-5); take your bitterness to God in prayer, as David did in the Psalms. It's tough, and there are no easy answers. Don't lie to yourself and say you've forgiven people when you haven't. Manipulating truth by word games and insincerity simply buries the feelings that you must work out. There is no short cut.
  3. When I wrong someone, besides asking forgiveness of them and of God, what else can I do? If possible, make restitution (Luke 19:8, Romans 14:9).
  4. Are wrongs done in ignorance different than wrongs done in knowledge?  Yes. Jesus asked the Father to forgive His crucifiers for crucifying the Son of God because "they know not what they do." They were held accountable for crucifying an innocent man (see Acts 4), but not for crucifying the Son of God because they were ignorant of His true identity.  We, too, are automatically cleansed from our sins of ignorance if we are walking with the Lord, but must confess the sins we are aware of (1 John 1:7-9).
  5. What about credibility? Do I have to trust someone once they apologize? No. Credibility can only be restored by faithfulness over time. Forgiveness gives that person a chance to begin re-establishing that credibility (Luke 3:9, Acts 15:36-41 with 2 Timothy 4:11).

This morning, I would like to answer a few final questions about forgiving and forgiveness.

  1. Can One Be in God's Will and Still Prosecute A Criminal?
    1. Justice on earth is only seen partially through government sometimes

      Romans 13:1,4

      1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.... 4 For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

    2. When offenses are illegal, it is right to prosecute

      —situations between believers should first be referred to the elders (1 Corinthians 6:1-6)

    3. Remember this principle:

      NIV Proverbs 17:15

      Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent—the LORD detests them both.
    4. Letting dangerous people go free can be a violation of Philippians 2:4  "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."
  2. What is the Relationship Between Forgiving and Forgetting?
    1. When God forgives, in a sense He forgets.

      Micah 7:19

      You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

      Psalm 103:12

      ...as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

      Hebrews 8:12

      For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.
    2. Yet God knows all, therefore forgetting means not calling it up to our conscious mind, not dwelling upon it...forgiveness carries with it a promise to not dwell on the offense...
  3. What About Leadership Qualifications and Forgiveness?
    1. First, look at the examples of the early church...
      1. Paul had been a persecutor
      2. Peter had denied Christ
      3. John Mark had deserted Paul & Barnabas...
      4. But all had established credibility
    2. Second, God requires a strict standard for church leaders...

      1 Timothy 3:2-7

      2 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap.
    3. Church leaders can come from a wild background, but their current, established character must be good..
  4. What About All Those Other Questions?
    1. Adultery

      Matthew 19:9

      I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.
      1. What if the person is repentant?
      2. What if credibility has been lost due to repeated problems?
    2. How to ask for forgiveness: "I was wrong. I sinned against you. Will you forgive me? (Do not justify!).
    3. Interpreting shorter texts in light of more detailed accounts...
      1. the rush for "absolute truth"
      2. truth vs. whole truth...
      3. Mark 11:25
        And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

Conclusion

This morning, as we conclude our series on forgiveness, let me encourage you to settle these matters in your mind and come to your convictions; they may disagree with mine, but you need to have them thought out BEFORE you need them!

And as we try to bring our faith to bear in the real world, let's be like God, standing ready to forgive and asking for forgiveness when we need it.

Pastor Ed

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Highland Park Church
516 West Sycamore Street
Kokomo, Indiana, USA
765.452.1779
church@highlandpc.com