Forgive One Another

Steve Viars July 15, 2018 Ephesians 4:32
Outline

Romans 15:1-7 - Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.

3 principles to help us grow in the way we forgive

I. Understand the Action of Forgiveness

A. Based on the meaning of the word

forgive is charisomenoi –”being gracious to one another”…

B. Realizing this is essential to Christian living

Matthew 6:9-15 - Pray, then, in this way: “Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

C. Factoring in a key parallel passage

Luke 17:3-4 - Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, “I repent,” forgive him.

Observations

1) We need to be very careful when we find ourselves in this situation

2) The process begins when another person sins against you

3) You have a responsibility to speak to the person who sinned against you

Ephesians 4:26-27 - Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

4) The person who sinned has a responsibility to repent

5) Then the person who was sinned against has the responsibility to forgive, as often as necessary

“Not only is forgiveness gracious, it is also a commitment. Forgiveness is a promise to pardon another. Ken Sande summarizes four promises that Christians make when they forgive another; ‘I will not dwell on this incident’, ‘I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you’, ‘I will not talk to others about this incident’, and ‘I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.’ Sande writes: ‘By making and keeping these promises, you can tear down the walls that stand between you and your offender. You promise not to dwell on or brood over the problem or to punish by holding the person at a distance. You clear the way for your relationship to develop unhindered by memories of past wrongs. This is exactly what God does for us, and it is what he calls us to do for others.’” (Chris Brauns, Unpacking Forgiveness, pp. 56-57)

II. Embrace the Focus of Forgiveness

A. The power and centrality of relationships

Ephesians 4:32 - “Forgiving one another…”

B. The impact this can have in ministry

Ephesians 4:17-20 - So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way…

C. But what if I don’t feel like it?

Ephesians 4:22-24 - …that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

III. Look to the Model of Forgiveness

A. “Just as God in Christ has forgiven you”

Psalm 103:12 - As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Psalm 86:5 - For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.

Colossians 3:13 - …bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

B. Letting God’s enormous forgiveness of us motivate the much smaller ways we are called upon to forgive others

Matthew 18:27 - And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.

- You’ve probably seen the Service Master commercials where a plant manager comes running out of his office because a water main just broke out on the factory floor and water is spraying everywhere…

- and just about the time his glasses are flying off his face as he scrambling to figure out what to do…

- they freeze the picture…

- and then bring in all their service master professionals…who quickly and professionally clean up all the water…and fix the pipe…and replace the equipment…

- and then they unfreeze the picture and put the plant manager’s glasses back on his face and then go to their famous tag line – “like it never even happened”…

- it might sound a little cheesy – but if you’ve ever been in a fire or a flood…although it might take a bit longer than the commercial suggests…

- there’s nothing like the mess being cleaned up and the situation returning to what the conditions were like before the tragedy began…

- there’s a lot of power behind the simple phrase – like it never even happened…

- in my personal Bible reading a few days ago, I came across this marvelous description of the church of Jesus Christ…please listen carefully for how many ways our potential unity is described…

- Romans 15:1–7 - Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.

- there’s all sorts of observations we could make about those verses…but please focus in on how delightful it is to be part of a group like that…

- and how effective and efficient the church can be because time and energy isn’t being wasted on endless squabbles and arguments…

- and then ask – but who put out the fire?...who fixed the broken water main?...

- because we all know we each brought a rather long list of failures and weaknesses into the equation…

- and then as we do life together there are invariably going to be times when we disappoint one another, and fail, and sin in all sorts of ways…

- so after each one of those relational emergencies large and small – how can you get back to “like it never even happened” so you can embrace and enjoy the unity that can be described as “being of the same mind with one another according to Jesus Christ, so that with one accord we may with one voice glorify the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?”…

- the answer is – learning how to Forgive One Another…that’s what we’d like to talk about today…

- with that in mind, please open your Bible to Ephesians chapter 4…page 152 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- our church’s theme this year is Being Careful How We Build

- the five year strategic ministry plan we crafted together and approved last fall designated this year to have an unusual amount of building and that has certainly been the case…

- I’m happy to tell you that the construction is both on time and one budget at the Northend Community Center project…

- you may have seen pictures of the mural out front which I think is just stunning…our muralist Rahmaan Barnes did a fabulous job of emphasizing what our project in many ways is all about…

- with racial tension on so many levels tearing our country apart – we want the church of Jesus Christ to be a leader in racial reconciliation…

- [give a brief construction update…]

- now we are turning our attention to ministry this fall at all 5 of our campuses…including the Hartford Hub and everything happening out at Bethany Farms and our Men’s Restoration Ministry…

- our ability to accomplish our God-given mission at this crucial time in our church’s history is dependent in part on our willingness to Forgive One Another…we have to be careful to build in that all-important way…

- we’re going to be looking at several passages of Scripture on this subject this am – but let’s start right here in this seminal passage on Christian growth – Read Ephesians 4:17-32

- so we’re talking about Forgive One Another…and with the time we have remaining, let’s look especially at the simple phrase in verse 32, focusing on 3 principles to help us grow in the way we forgive.

I. Understand the Action of Forgiveness

- there are two books in our MRC at FE (or at the front desk at FW) that I would especially encourage you to read on this subject…

- From Forgiven to Forgiving by Jay Adams

- Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns

- either one of these would be excellent for a summer study by a husband/wife, or for a family to work through together, or one of our small groups…

- these are the kinds of books that you could review helpfully once a year…

- but one observation Brauns makes is that arriving at a definition of forgiveness can be challenging for Christians because there are a lot of ideas out there…

- so we want to be sure we’re all talking about the same thing this am…

A. Based on the meaning of the word

- the word forgive in our English Bibles can actually come from several different words in the original language…and that’s not to suggest that you need to know Greek or Hebrew in order to understand the Bible…but we want to study the Word of carefully and interpret it as accurately and precisely as we can…

- in Ephesians 4:32 – the word translated forgive is charisomenoi – which is a verb form of the word charis, or grace…that’s why some commentators translate this verse…”being gracious to one another”…

- the major Bible versions do not do that and I think for good reason…they translate it as “forgiving”…but that tells us something very important about what we’re studying today…

- there’s a tremendous amount of overlap in being a forgiving person and being a gracious person…or extending forgiveness and extending grace…

- it’s also instructive that this is a participle…meaning in this case that we are called to live this way over and over and over…

- the only way a church family could be described the way we are in Romans 15 is if a whole lot of people have developed this as a one-time shot or a temporary deviation from the way they normally live – but instead as a commitment to relating to others in this fashion as often as necessary, and as long as necessary…

- now let’s bring some light in from other passages…

B. Realizing this is essential to Christian living.

- for sake of time – we’ll just have these on the screen…

- but an important question to consider is – how much emphasis does the issue of forgiveness receive in the NT?...

- for example, when Jesus taught us how to pray in the Sermon on the Mount...was forgiveness a big things, or a little thing?...

- Matthew 6:9–15 - Pray, then, in this way: “Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

- isn’t it amazing how much emphasis is placed on forgiveness in this short set of instructions about prayer?...

- and that leads to an obvious question…would our lives demonstrate a similar emphasis?...

- it’s amazing how much of our prayer lives involve forgiveness…

- it’s amazing how often we ask for it…it’s amazing how often we grant it…

- would others have any reason to say – he or she is so forgiving…

- now let’s go a bit further…

C. Factoring in a key parallel passage

- Luke 17:3-4 may give us the most succinct definition of the process of forgiveness as anywhere in the Bible…do you remember it?...

- Luke 17:3–4 - Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, “I repent,” forgive him.

- Observations?

1) We need to very careful when we find ourselves in this situation.

- be on your guard…when you woke up this morning did you say – shields up, I need to be prepared to practice the grace of forgiveness…

2) The process begins when another person sins against you.

- and there’s no question that this will happen – it’s just assumed…

- so it’s not like – well, if you find your soulmate, there will never be any need for this process…

- so that guy on the cover of the romance novel with the long flowing blonde hair, and bulging muscles, riding a horse…that guy would sin too…

- he’ll leave a bunch of his hair in the sink in the morning…

- and he’ll forget to pick up his socks…

- and his horse will be doing all sorts of things out in the front yard that I’m not going to get into this morning…

- so there’s no such thing as a perfect spouse, or perfect kids, or a perfect job, or a perfect church…Jesus doesn’t even entertain that possibility in this passage…

3) You have a responsibility to speak to the person who sinned against you.

- If your brother sins, rebuke him.

- now, there’s some balance to all of this…the original word suggests that this be done tentatively…you may not have all the facts…

- and we’re not talking about every little petty grievance under the sun or that’s about all we’d be doing…

- but problems are for solving…and remember we saw in our key passage in Ephesians…Ephesians 4:26–27 - Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

- and you might say – that’s not fair – the other person is the one who sinned…why do I have responsibility in the matter…shouldn’t that individual be coming to me?...absolutely…and in some cases that may happen…and there’s no doubt that it should…

- but when it doesn’t, you can’t brood, and you can’t hold a grudge, and you can’t work the phone lines behind the person’s back in sinful, destructive gossip…

- if your brother sins – rebuke him…with the goal of seeing the matter solved and the relationship restored…

4) The person who sinned has a responsibility to repent.

- this passage could not be clearer on that point…

- which means formally, that biblical forgiveness is conditional…

- now, what do you do in the meantime?...we might use the term – “have a forgiving spirit”…like our Lord on the cross – who prayed Father, forgive them for they know not what they do…

- well, that wasn’t blanket forgiveness as if every person under the sound of His voice was now on their way to heaven…

- it was prayer that they would repent and a promise to quickly and completely forgive…

- if the person who sinned will not repent, others may have to be brought into the equation in order to help the person repent…

- so yes, the situation has to be cleaned up thoroughly and correctly…

5) Then the person who was sinned against has the responsibility to forgive, as often as necessary.

- in Chris Braun’s book, he quotes another very reliable author in this area – Ken Sande of Peacemaker Ministries – Not only is forgiveness gracious, it is also a commitment. Forgiveness is a promise to pardon another. Ken Sande summarizes four promises that Christians make when they forgive another:

“I will not dwell on this incident.”

“I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.”

“I will not talk to others about this incident.”

“I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.”

- Sande writes: By making and keeping these promises, you can tear down the walls that stand between you and your offender. You promise not to dwell on or brood over the problem or to punish by holding the person at a distance. You clear the way for your relationship to develop unhindered by memories of past wrongs. This is exactly what God does for us, and it is what he calls us to do for others (Chris Brauns, Unpacking Forgiveness, pp. 56-57).

- so that takes us back to our key questions…are you a forgiving person?...is that the impact you have in your home, at your job, in your neighborhood, with your extended family, at our church?...is there evidence that you understand the action of forgiveness?...

- now let’s go back to or key passage and push it further…

II. Embrace the Focus of Forgiveness.

- this command helps us understand…

A. The power and centrality of relationships

- Eph. 4:32 – “Forgiving one another…”

- one of the ways you show that you value the other people in your life is your desire to follow this process…

- I care more about being reconciled to this person than I do nursing my hurts or holding my grudge…

- when I first joined the staff here over 30 years ago I can remember numerous times where some problem crept up with someone in our church family…

- and Pastor Goode would write out what he believed needed to be said in accordance with these principles…

- and he wrote it out not because he was seeking to “build his defense” but instead he wanted to put the other person in the best possible position to repent…

- and I marveled at the amount of time and attention he would give to such situations…but that’s what a faithful shepherd does according to Scripture – if necessary, leaving the 99 and going after the one who has strayed out of love for the sheep…

- if we’re being careful how we build – then caring about one another is a high priority and value…

- now please think about this more broadly…

B. The impact this can have in ministry

- the more our church family functions like a forgiving community – the stronger and more effective our impact is in the community and world in which we’ve been placed

- that’s an essential aspect of Paul’s argument in Ephesians 4…Ephesians 4:17–20 - So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way,

- so, for example – the power of forgiveness in the Christian home…

- we have the privilege of hosting several young people from the children’s ministry in the Dominican Republic…

- one of the reasons Mrs. Arocha, the director of the orphanage wanted this to happen is because she believes there is great value in her children seeing what it is like to live in a Christian home…

- and you might say – well, is that because we’re suggesting our homes are perfect?...

- please think about that question in light of what we’re studying this am?...what would be the answer to that question…

- absolutely not…or the process we’re studying this morning would be unnecessary…

- what differentiates a Christian home from a non-Christian home is not that one is sinless and the other isn’t…

­- it’s that in Christ, we have a biblical process to follow to keep our accounts short with one another for the reason of pleasing God…

- we clean our plates everyday so we’re prepared for whatever little mess gets made tomorrow…that’s motivated in part by highly valuing the people in our lives…the one another’s are a high priority…

- then please extrapolate that out to our ministry as a church family…think about these five ministry platforms the Lord has given us…and what being careful as we build by in this case, quickly forgiving one another…can do in the community…

- there is a powerful apologetic value to that…

- why?...do you realize that many of our culture’s largest problems are due to a lack of forgiveness…a lack of knowing how to solve problems?...

- take drug and alcohol abuse…what would be the underlying cause for at least a fair amount of that?...

- an inability to communicate and solve problems…and as those issues heap up day after day after day because there’s no willingness or ability to forgive…

- it’s easier to get high or get drunk than it is to solve problems…

- but what’s the error in that logic?...the high eventually wears off…and now the mountain of unsolved problems is higher than ever before…

- we could say the exact same thing about domestic violence and child abuse and break-down of the nuclear family…

- and one of the questions we have to ask is – are we willing to allow the Lord to make us into something different?...

- to carefully build a church family committed to forgiving one another?...

- as a potentially powerful apologetic to a lost and dying world?...

- what about the experiment that is the Northend Community Center?...

- anyone involved in non-profit work in our community or any community will tell you that it  is hard to bring groups together in any kind of meaningful collaboration…

- and why is that unfortunate?...

1) Because it is incredibly inefficient…

- so everyone has to have a staff kitchen and conference rooms that sit vacant most of the time…

- and everyone has to have all sorts of paid staff and expensive buildings…

- that’s why donors look at the way non-profits function and say – this kind of territorialism would never happen in the secular world…

2) Duplication of services…

- if non-profits don’t work together – one often doesn’t know what the others are doing and that too can be extremely frustrating for donors and volunteers

3) the biggest problem is that it is terribly confusing for the person in need of services…

- and so we have chosen to take responsibility to lead a project that has great potential for collaboration and operational efficiency…

- we’re sharing the staff kitchen, and the gym, and the copier room, and the co-working studio, and on and on…

- and if you say – is that going to work perfectly?...absolutely not…let’s not romanticize what we’re attempting here…

- but if we will practice biblical forgiveness…and model biblical forgiveness, the potential win is enormous…

- now, what about the person who would say…

C. But what if I don’t feel like it?

- that’s where another passage in our key text comes in so handy…

- Ephesians 4:22–24 - that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

- [as time allows, break down the primary difference between the unsaved life and the saved life – and how central to living for Christ is learning to live by the principles and truth of Scripture regardless of how we might feel at the moment…]

- also as time allows, walk through how it might be helpful to design a put off / put on chart and walk through what would have to be put off, and what would have to be put on – in our thoughts, desires, words, and actions to grow in forgiveness]…

- so, understand the action of forgiveness, and embrace the focus of forgiveness, and…

III. Look to the Model of Forgiveness.

- each word in this short verse is power-packed…but that’s especially true of…

A. “Just as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

- none of us could say – well, no one has ever forgiven me like this…

- Psalm 103:12 - As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

- that is how powerful the blood of Jesus Christ is…

- He didn’t just forgive them – He paid for them…

- Psalm 86:5 - For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.

- Colossians 3:13 - bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

- that’s why we started this year by studying Tim Keller’s book Center Church to attempt to locate all our activities in the centrality of the gospel…because the impact that can have on the various ministry platforms that have been entrusted to us can be profound…

B. Letting God’s enormous forgiveness of us motivate the much smaller ways we are called upon to forgive others

- I realize that I’ll be speaking to some who have been sinned against in in incredibly hurtful ways…

- and you might be struggling with what we’re talking about this am…

- I suppose all of us are to some degree or another or this characteristic would come more naturally…

- but do you remember the parable Jesus told Peter after explaining the process of church discipline in Matthew 18…

- Peter’s concern wasn’t about the confronting part…

- it was the – how many times do I have to forgive if a person repents part?...and he even offered Jesus an answer Peter thought was pretty magnanimous…up to seven times, he said…

- what was Jesus’ response?...how about 70 x 7…

- and then He told a parable about a servant who owed his master 10,000 talents…

- and the servant begged for more time till he could repay the debt though that was impossible…

- Matthew 18:27 - And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.

- friend, who is that?...that’s you, and that’s me…

- and the point is – you would think a person forgiven so much would happily forgive every other human being for the rest of his days…

- but that’s not how the story ended, is it?...

- that man found a fellow servant who owed him a much smaller amount comparatively, who interestingly made the exact same request for more time to repay…

- did the first servant forgive the second servant?...

- and did the master find out?...

- and did things go well next?...

- may God help us, in the power of the gospel, grow in our commitment and our willingness and our skill at forgiving one another

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video