Loving by Practicing Forgiveness

Steve Viars July 3, 2016 Luke 17:1-10

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3 principles to help us be forgiving towards those under our roofs and everywhere else as well

I. Problems between People are Inevitable

A. Stumbling blocks will come – v. 1

skandalon – offenses, snares

James 3:2 - For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.

James 3:6 - And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.

B. Failing to handle problems between people properly is a serious issue

1. Woe to him through which they come – v. 2

2. It would be better if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown in the sea – v. 2

3. Be on your guard – v. 3

II. Problems between People Can be Solved

A. Step One – If you believe a person has sinned against you, go and speak to him privately

1. But doesn’t the person who sinned have a responsibility?

Matthew 5:23-24 - Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

2. What does it mean to “rebuke”?

epitamaw - “to show him his fault”

3. Why?

a. Because your understanding of the situation may be incorrect

b. Because the other person may not realize he sinned against you

c. Because you may have sinned during the interchange as well and you will also have to address that part of the problem

4. One other caveat

1 Peter 4:8 - Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.

B. Step Two - If he repents, forgive him

1. A word to those on the other side of the equation

Proverbs 12:15 - The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.

Proverbs 17:10 - A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.

2. What is forgiveness?

A three-fold promise:

a. I will not bring it up behind your back.

b. I will not bring it up to your face.

c. I will not dwell on it.

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

Psalm 86:4-5 - Make glad the soul of Your servant, for to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.

Ephesians 4:31-32 - 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, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Matthew 6:11-12 - Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

3. Does this mean that forgiveness is conditional?

Exodus 34:6-7 - Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”

4. Is it OK if I forgive the person but then refuse to have anything to do with them again?

5. Is it OK to make the person wait a while before I forgive them?

Mark 11:25 - Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.

6. What should a person do in the meantime if a person they’ve rebuked will not repent?

a. Cultivate a “forgiving spirit”

Luke 23:34 - But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.

b. Get others involved if necessary and appropriate

cf. Matthew 18:15-18

7. What if I have taken all these steps but the other person is no longer interested in the relationship?

Romans 12:18 - If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

C. Be prepared to do this as many times as necessary

Luke 17:4 - And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

III. Problems between People Must be Solved

A. The apostles’ question about faith

B. The Lord’s answer about obedience

Romans 10:9-10 - …that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

1 John 2:3 - By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.

Proverbs 10:8 - The wise of heart will receive commands, but a babbling fool will be ruined.

Manuscript

When I was growing up, I had 2 close friends who lived on either side of us who were 1 year older than me. The father of one of my friends was part owner of an auto parts and repair shop, at a prominent corner there in Gary, IN. When my 2 friends reached a certain age, they were allowed to go down in the summer time and work unofficially at the shop. Obviously, I wanted to go with them. One day, his father said that I could. He said something like, "Well, just let Fuzz come along." That was my neighborhood nickname. Feel free to use it as well.

Anyway, "Let Fuzz come along." My parents let me go. I showed up that morning. I found out that my very first work assignment, according to my 2 friends, would be to go clean out the employee restroom used by the mechanics. Now, when I walked in there, I determined that ... Let's just say nobody apparently had been given that work assignment for a long, long time if ever. I'll spare you the details, but I learned later my friends actually did that as a joke, assuming I would walk in there, take one look at the mess, refuse to do what I was told, which tells you a little bit about the kind of friends I tend to attract. That's a different story all together.

My response was to view it as a challenge. The nice thing about how bad it looked was you couldn't possibly make it any worse. With a little bit of elbow grease and what few cleaning supplies they had on site, you could actually make it look a whole lot better. I just got the work. A couple of hours later, I couldn't believe the difference. Later that day, my friend's dad actually walked in there and was shocked at how good it looked. I was the hero for the day, because I had the courage and the fortitude to just stay in there and clean up the mess.

Well, I want to suggest to you this morning that that same level of skill and determination is necessary to keep relationships going, and to love the world under your roof. Here is why, like it or not, relationships are messy, right? Whether we're talking about a marriage, whether we're talking about a family, whether we're talking about friends, co-workers, neighbors, they're just messy. They're just messy. That's true for a variety of reason. People can respond differently to that. You respond differently than someone sitting around you to the fact that relationships are just, just messy. For some, this might be you, their approach is to discard and move on, not going to deal with the mess. You look back over a period of their life, and you see a whole series of unresolved problems with people that they are no longer speaking to. What's really amazing is sometimes, that can be a blood relative, or friendships that at one point, were very close.

"Wait. We don't talk to that side of the family." Their story is almost like this junkyard of trashed friendships. You might say, well, "They got some nuance going on." Well, if history tells us anything, it will probably repeat itself, those new people will eventually be on the heap of discarded relationships, because they never learned how to clean up the mess. Just discard and move on. That could be you. Or, there's the person who learns to well, just live with the mess. Live with the mess.

One of the things that amaze me about that auto parts restroom was the question of how adults could tolerate that? It have to been years since even the sink had been cleaned, much less anything else in that room. Yet, that's the way some people live with others in their life, they just ignore the mess, or they insist that somebody else go first. There's all kind of topics now that are off limits. "We can't talk about that. We can't talk about that. We used to do this. We don't do that anymore. We used to be able to laugh and enjoy one another. Now, it's more stares and silence." The mess exists. It's getting more crusted over, but nobody seems to know what to do about it. No one's willing to try. Apparently, they believe just living with the mess is a whole lot better than the risk and pain on effort of trying to fix it. You might be one of those sort of persons, just live with it.

Then, there's the kind of person who understands messes are for cleaning, and problems are for solving. They're committed to doing that regardless of how difficult, and regardless of how distasteful. They're not going to, on the one hand, discard people who at one time, were important in their life, nor are they just going to leave the mess alone. They see a relationship mess as something that needs to be cleaned up and deserves to be cleaned up.

Well, my question for you this morning would be in which category do you find yourself? Do you discard relationship messes? do you ignore relationship messes? Do you clean them up? In which category do you find yourself? A related question, in which category do you think God wants you to be in?

With that, might open your Bible this morning, if you would, to Luke chapter 17. Luke chapter 17. That's on page 61 of the back section of the Bible into the chair in front of you. Luke chapter 17, or page 61 of the back section, the New Testament of the Bible under the chair in front of you. This summer, we're doing a series entitled "Loving Those Under Your Roof." This morning, our focus is going to be loving by practicing forgiveness. Practicing forgiveness.

This is one of those passages in the scripture, it is crystal clear. Not going to be hard to understand this one at all. Aren't you glad that the majority of the Bible is just like that, not hard to understand at all? It's hard to, what? It's hard to obey. Aren't you thankful for the Bible? You're thankful for all of it? Can I hear that from Faith West? Are you thankful for the Bible over there in West Lafayette? Absolutely.

Here we go. Luke chapter 17 beginning in verse 1, Jesus said to his disciples, "It is inevitable," uh-oh. "It's inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him to whom they come. It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea." You go that? Then, he would cause one of these little ones to stumble. You say, "What is he talking about?" Well, keep reading, at least in this context, "Be on your guard. If your brother sins," you might say, "I know what that's about." "Rebuke him." "I don't know what that's about." "If he repents, forgive him." You say, "This is going to be hard." We haven't got to the hard stuff yet. Here you go, "If he sins against you," what? 7 times a month? What's there say in your Bible? Oh my. "A day and returns to you 7 times saying, 'I repent,'" do what? Forgive him.

The apostles' fascinating response say, "Lord increase our faith." Do you think that was the problem? They didn't have enough faith? Keep reading. You're [inaudible 00:07:52] in your faith. If you had faith like a mustard seed, that's as small as it gets, you would say to this mulberry tree, "Be uprooted and be planted in the sea," it would obey you. It would give you ... Here's the problem, the problem is you don't understand your place in the plan of God, this will clarify it, "Which of you having a slave plowing or tending sheep will say to him, 'When he's come in from the field, come immediately and sit down to it.'" No one would say that to a slave. You might say, "I don't like the metaphor." It doesn't matter. Will he not say to him, "Prepare something for me to eat and properly close yourself and serve me while I eat and drink it afterward. After you've obeyed, you may eat and drink."

He don't thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? You, too. You see that. You. You, who? You, you. You, me. You, too, when you do all the things which are commanded, like Luke 17: 3 and 4, say, we are unworthy slaves, we have done only that which ought to have done. Aren't you glad for the Bible? I got nothing. Aren't you glad for the Bible? Do you believe it's inspired, it's breathed up by God? Do you believe that? Do you believe that all of it is profitable? Do you believe that, too? Including this, including this. Aren't you glad, God doesn't think the way we think. He's not like us. That's not a compliment to us. If this rubs against your grain, your grain needed to be rubbed against. True that?

Let's dig in here and talk about this passage, loving by practicing Biblical forgiveness. Let's look for 3 principles to help us be forgiving toward those under our roofs and everywhere else, as well. Here's where it starts, "Understand that the problems between people, they're inevitable.

I. Problems between People are Inevitable

They're inevitable." You know, sometimes people think, "The Bible's just this pious book of platitude that presents an unrealistic view of life, or everything under our roof, it's just a little bit of heaven on earth. People don't have problems. People don't have difficulties." Seriously? I mean, nothing could be further from the truth. The word of God is a very practical book. You know why? Because, it was written by the person who made you.

You might say, "You know what, just reading those verses is like God's been reading my mail." He knew what your mail would say before it was written, which is why He gave us a book about problems and Jesus could not be any more clear when He says, "Stumbling blocks, they're going to come." They're going to come. It is inevitable. Stumble blocks – skandalon – don't you love that word? Just sounds like stumbling blocks, an offense, a snare. The idea is anything that will trip a person up or hinder their progression. By the way, it's important to know that this same concept is discussed in other places in the gospel. It would appear, we don't know for sure, but it would appear that Jesus actually spoke about this on numerous occasions. Scandal, offenses, snares, they're going to come.

While there's no question that that's going to happen from people who don't know the Lord, they'll purposely or accidentally treat Christians in a way that makes living for the Lord harder, that trips them up, that causes them to stumble. Now, Jesus is adding the sobering news that Christians can actually do that with one another. See, you cannot understand that the scandal, the snares in verses 1 and 2, apart from this process that is outlined in verses 3 and 4, this can even happen among brothers. It can happen among sisters. It can happen under your roof. See, the questions before the house are, "What happens when you sin against another person, or they sin against you? What happens when that occurs even under your own roof?" See under your roof, now.

We all know that's where some of the most frequent snares occur. That's why relationships falter and stumble, it's because we sin against one another. We fail one another. We're rude. We're inconsiderate. We're mean. We're selfish. Say, "No, I'm not." You shouldn't have said that. James 3:24, "We all." Who would that include? You weren't supposed to say you. It does include me. It includes people on both sides of this pulpit, for we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he's a perfect man. Would that be you? He's a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. A couple of verses later, "The tongue is a fire." You say, what do I got going under my roof? Fire. How many tongues live there? You say, "Man it's raging some days." The tongue is a fire, the very world of inequity. The tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body and sets on fire the course of our life and is set on fire by hell.

You say, "What do you mean, James? Is this serious?" Yeah. Aren't you glad the Lord was willing to talk about that openly? There's not this some lack of authenticity in the Bible at all. It's inevitable that stumbling blocks will come. That's the main point. Now, here's what that means to us, if you're on some kind of a surge for the problem-free marriage, or the problem-free family, or the problem-free friendship, or the problem-free church, the scripture would say to you this morning, "Call off the search." You just call off that search. That's as profitable as chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. That only happens in fairy tales. That only happens in romance novels. In other words, that blonde-headed Flavio guy is not coming on his horse.

This guy, you know what I'm talking about. He ain't coming. You know what his name is. I purposely mispronounced it. Please, don't fill my inbox of pictures of him and "His name ..." Flavio. I probably shouldn't have said that, but I did. I did. It's a great segue to this next point, "If failing to handle problems between people serious." It is serious. I want to lighten this up some. It is serious, we know that. I'm not sure what else the Lord could have said to get our attention. I mean, just follow through the flow of thought in the verse. He said, "Woe to him through whom the scandal on comes. There'll be consequences for causing someone else to be hindered in their growth." You realize, there would be some parents here today, who they're hindering the growth of their kids, because they're not solving problems Biblically. There are spouses who are hindering the growth of their husband or their wife, because they will not do what this text says. "Woe to him, through whom those come," either by sinning against them, or failing to respond properly when they sin against you.

The passage goes on to say "It would be better if a millstone were hung around your neck, and you were thrown in the sea." You understand that metaphor, don't you? Those were those big stones used for grinding grain. Some gentiles used that as a form of capital punishment. They would take one of those big stones, tie it around a person's neck, and throw them in the water, and drown them. Just think about that for a minute. Can you imagine anything worse than drowning in that fashion? Jesus says, there's something worse. It would be better to die like that, compared to the consequences of not cleaning up relationship messes properly.

In other words, it's very serious, which is why he begins verse 3 by saying, what? "Be on your guard." You be on your guard, just like a soldier who is right at his post. When I sin against somebody under my roof, I'm ready to handle in Biblically. When somebody sins against me under my roof, I'm ready. I'm on my guard, like a soldier at his post, instead of being distracted. We live in a culture now that's so easily distracted. It's amazing how many people are not at their post. I'm amazed how many people you are having a conversation. They get a text message. They're so attached to their dumb phone that they actually sit ... They start sending a text to the person who just texted them. Then, they look up and continue the conversation with you.

It's like, "Seriously? That little goofy text was more important with that person who is not even here, than this conversation we're having right now?" It's amazing how quickly people in this culture are distracted, right? I was riding my bike early one morning, having a great, great morning out here in one of these rural roads. Until I saw a car. It's coming from the opposite direction, but it's not on its lane. In fact, it's on a beeline diagonally for me. I think, "Who is this running me down? One of the deacons? What is this?" That didn't come out right. You could probably figure out what's going on. As soon as the person got close enough, she, and I'm sorry. Don't send me emails about that. I'm just telling you what happened. She was sending a text on her phone, not paying a lick of attention to the road, and not paying a lick of attention to my poor self on my bike. I'm getting ready to ditch my bike on the side of the road. She looks up, and swerves over the other way, not on her guard at all.

Sometimes, God's people are like that. When it comes to cleaning up relationship messes, they're distracted. That's what I'm saying. That they're not paying attention to the road. That they're not on their guard. They have a very cavalier attitude toward dealing with relationship messes in a way that honors God. I would just ask you this morning, with the way you respond when a person sins against you, or sin against them under your roof, demonstrate that you take this matter as seriously as the Lord does. Because, what some people do, instead of following this, they just blow up. They're distracted in their sinful anger. That's what they're doing. No Luke 17: 3 and 4. They're blowing up. They're having another hissy fit and scandal on takes place, or they're clamming up. They don't do what this text says. They're playing the cold shoulder game again, or they got the gossip wheel going on. They're not doing what this text says, they're calling Aunt Jean, they're calling their girlfriend, they're calling whoever. They're distracted. They're not on their guard of doing what God says ought to be done of this matter.

Now, how do the next 2 verses fit in? It's great news, it's filled of hope. We said that our crucified savior gives us hope. That's what we were singing about. We have freedom from our sin. Well, freedom to do what Christ instructs us to do. Problems between people can be solved.

II. Problems between People Can be Solved

You know, there is a difference between something being challenging, and something being confusing. Do you realize, there's nothing confusing about this, at all. It is crystal clear. Here's what it says, "If a relationship mess has occurred, you have a responsibility to be actively involved in seeking reconciliation."

What that means is if somebody sins against you under your roof, you are to go and talk with them. That's what it says. Now, you may say, "Wait a minute. Don't they have a responsibility, too? I mean, I'm supposed to go and speak with him privately. Doesn't that person have a responsibility?" What's the answer to that? If you're trying to think this through, if a person sins against you under your roof, the Bible says you're supposed to go and talk with them. Doesn't that person have a responsibility? What's the answer to that? Absolutely. If you want to think about it from that perspective for a moment, yes. Matthew 5:23. "Therefore, if you're presenting your offering at the altar, and you remember that your brother sinned against you, has something against you, you know that you sinned against him, leave your offering there before the altar and go first be reconciled to your brother, then come and worship."

That's not the focus in Luke 17. Just to be sure that we're clear, here's what ought to happen ideally. If a person sins against another individual under their roof, the person who committed the sin, Matthew 5, ought to be going to make it right. The person who was sinned against, Luke 17, ought to be going in order to make it right. They actually ought to meet in the middle. Now, you might say, "But, the person who sins against me under my roof does not follow Matthew 5. Therefore, their unwillingness to do what they're supposed to do absolves me from doing what I have to do."

I got a bunch of ... that's exactly right. Somebody else is irresponsibility, never absolves you from the responsibility to do what God wants you to do. If somebody else sins against you, according to the text, then be on your guard, if your brother sins. Rebuke him. You're saying, "What does rebuke mean?" Let's talk about that for a minute. The word is translated differently in various places. It literally means to show him his fault. I think with adding other passage to the scripture to this, we would say, to do it tentatively. If your brother sins, go and rebuke him tentatively, because there may be things about that situation that you don't fully understand.

Here's what that means, you're going to rebuke, but in a questioning fashion, not making accusations. It's amazing how often this stuff is missed. People generally wait too long. Somebody sinned against them, they wait way too long. They assume they know the facts. If they do go, they start by making accusations. They end up making things worse. We've got a little fire going, little fire going. They come with a can of gas. In other words written, instead of rebuking tentatively, they're either waiting too long, letting the fire get worse, or pouring gas on. How about asking questions like this, "Did I understand you correctly when you said such and such? Or, could you help me understand your thinking more completely on that matter?"

Yes, rebuke, but rebuke tentatively. Why? Well, because your understanding of the situation may be incorrect. Would humility cause us to take that position? You know what, maybe I don't fully understand what just happened. Could I get a "Mm-hmm (affirmative), humility would cause me to at least say 'Maybe I didn't fully get what happened,'" or maybe the other person doesn't even realize that they sinned against you. That's possible. Or, maybe you sinned during the interchange, as well. You're going to have to address that part of the problem, too.

By the way, those 3 principles right there, that's exactly why many of God's people don't follow what this verse and scripture says. They don't when they're sinned against. Go and rebuke tentatively, because they're already made up their mind about what happened. They would rather nurse their grudge. They'd rather feed their bitterness with false or incomplete information than risk having to see this from somebody else's point of view. That's why they don't go. Or this, does this sound familiar, they've already made up their mind that the other person isn't going to respond properly, so they use that as an excuse to disobey God's clear commands to them. "Well, that person won't repent anyway. Why should I go and talk with them?"

Do you realize that's incredibly unloving? Because, according to I Corinthians 13, "Love gives the benefit of the doubt. Love hopes the best." You might say, "The last thousand times I talked to that person, that person didn't respond properly." Is that an absolute guarantee that you now know how they're going to respond the next time? Are you a prophet? No. Neither am I.

On one hand, it's very simple, in the sense that it is crystal clear. For many of God's people, they cannot remember the last time they actually did this. If somebody sinned against you, go and rebuke them. Friend, if you're one of those persons who, instead of going and talking to the person privately, what you do is start to gossip thing. You jump on your phone, and you start calling other family members, or you start calling other ... You're not talking to the person privately, you're talking to everybody else. If you do that in your family, it will destroy your family. If you do that in your office ... Some offices are gossip factories. They're going to have an incredibly negative impact on your office. If you do that in the church house, what an incredible damage that can create.

In fact, I would just add to that part of the discussion, Proverbs 6, where there's a series of things that God hates, including the person who sows discord among the brethren. What some people do, instead of talking to the person privately about the problem, they're talking to everybody else in the room, except the person they ought to be talking to. Let's just throw one other caveat on here. We also have I Peter 4:8 "Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins." That is a quote, by the way, of Proverbs 10:12.

Now, you have to be very careful there. If you're a clamor up or type person, don't run to that one. Well, I'm not going to do what Luke 17 says, I'm just going to let love cover it. Also, there's some questions exegetically about even what that means. We know this, surely Luke 17 cannot be telling us that we have to bring up every last issue. If we were to bring up every last issue that comes up under our roofs, that's about all we do, right? We'd be confronting machines for sure. It would be good to ask yourself, "Is this a habit on the part of that other person? Is this something that is spiritually detrimental to them? Is it spiritually detrimental to me? Is it spiritually detrimental to others?" The step is the step. If your brother sins, rebuke him.

Can I ask you a question? That would be okay, wouldn't it? Are there people in your life who have sinned against you and you've not followed this step? I realize you might say, "Wow. This is going to be a ... There's going to be some fireworks this weekend." My cell phone will be on. Honestly, we have plenty of people around here who are trained and ready to sit down with you and you and whomever, if you cannot work it out on your own, because if the word of God is going to be our guide, and the Savior is going to be the one who empowers us to do this, let's roll up our sleeves and clean up that restroom. Let's roll up our sleeves and make this right. If your brother sins, rebuke him.

Now, what's the next step in the process? Does it get any easier? No, because if he repents, the text says, "Forgive him." Now, let me push the pause button on that for just a moment, because I needed to bring this other perspective in at some point. What if you happened to be the person who is in need of rebuke? What if you're the person who sinned? Well, I need to tell you this, a lot about your heart is about to be revealed by the way you respond. Is that true? If you're the person who sinned, and someone is going to love you enough and come to talk to you about it, the way you respond is going to reveal a lot about your character, a lot about your heart.

Proverbs 12:15, "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes." Anybody here who would say, "I want to be a fool. My life's goal is to be a bigger fool each and every day"? If the answer to that is no, then we would be wise to listen to those who come to talk to us, right? Not easy. Proverbs 17:10 "Rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding that 100 blows into a fool." I would just ask you, are you a person in your home who is easy to rebuke? You might even want to say to your spouse, or to your family, to your parents, "What could I do to be more easily rebukable?" Because, you understand, if your goal is really to become more like Jesus Christ, and that is your goal, right? If your goal is to become more like Jesus Christ, then when a person comes and rebukes you, they're actually being your friend, because they're helping you see a way where you need to go.

That's good news, isn't it? It's good news if our goal is right. Faithful are the wounds of a friend. Now, back to the main point, if your brother sins, rebuke him. If he repents, forgive him. What does that mean? Because, now, we're back to me. Somebody sinned against you. You rebuke that person. That person repented. Now, you're called upon to forgive. What is that? Well, it's a 3-fold promise. I'm saying, when I say "I forgive you" I won't bring it up behind your back. I have just promised I will never bring that up to anybody else again. That's powerful right there. That is powerful. I won't bring it up to your face, even when we're having another disagreement about something else, and I'm looking for a Trump card, and I'm not even sure I can use that metaphor anymore, but I'm looking for one to get you back. I'm sorry. I won't bring that up to your face.

See, why is it that in some homes, it's just this constant churn of dirty restroom getting worse? That's one of the reasons right there. Here we go around the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, the ... This whole litany of all the ways you always failed since we were dating 73 years ago, I won't bring it up to your face. I won't dwell on it. I'm going to discipline my mind not to continue to sit around and stew about what you did. Now, please keep in mind that our forgiveness of one another is to be modeled on, what? On God's forgiveness of us. We read verses like Psalm 103:12. Aren't you glad for this, "As far as the east is from the west, so far as he removed our transgressions from us, when we ask God's forgiveness, He takes that sin and cast it as far as ..." That's how powerful the blood of Christ is.

Now, that, by the way, brings a very important point to this conversation, because sometimes people say, "What if I can't forget it?" That's completely irrelevant. It has nothing to do with whether you'll ever forget it. Forgetting is passive. What you're called upon to do in the power of Christ is something much more powerful, to choose not to remember it. You say, "You're just playing word games." No. That's very important.

Has God ever forgotten anything? If he is our model of what forgiveness looks like, has God, theologically, ever forgotten anything? Absolutely not. God chooses to not remember in the sense that he is not going to use what we did to him in the past as a basis for how He's going to treat us today. The same is true in the way we function with other people. When I forgive somebody else, I'm saying "I promise I'm not going to bring this up to your face. I'm not going to bring it up behind your back. I'm not going to dwell on it. It's as far as the east is from the west." Or Psalm 86, "Make glad the soul of Your servant for You, oh Lord. I lift up my soul, for you Lord, a good and," what? There's our model, "Ready to forgive." Here's another great family passage, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away."

Kill it. Get rid of that, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as ... Notice that, just as God and Christ also has forgiven you, or from the Lord's prayer "Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors." What that means is when you choose to practice Biblical forgiveness, you're choosing to be like your God. What that also means, because I recognize you might be saying about right now, "This is so hard." Let us all remember that we have a sympathetic high priest sited on a thrown of grace, inviting us to come to him for all of the grace and help we need in our time of need. He's a forgiveness expert. He stands ready to walk with you, and empower you as you seek to apply this passage even when it's hard.

III. Problems between People Must be Solved

Now, another question that comes up in this, you might say, "Wait a minute, are you saying then that forgiveness is conditional?" That's a great question, theologically. Well, what is the 5th to the last word in verse 3? In other words, what proceeds, "He repents, forgive him"? The word is "If." You see that in your Bible? If you're in the habit of writing in your Bible, you might even want to circle that word, "If he repents." God doesn't teach universalism. God forgives people when they repent, otherwise, the gospel would be meaningless, and the death of Christ would be in vain.

Again, God is our model of forgiveness. Listen to this, Exodus 34:6, "Then, the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, 'The Lord, the Lord God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness and truth who keeps love and kindness for thousands, who forgives inequity, transgression and sin.'" We love all of that. Keep reading, "Yet, He'll, by no means, leave the guilty unpunished. Visiting the inequity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren, to the 3rd and the 4th generations."

What we're talking about here, this process is conditioned on that person's repentance. I'll come back around to that in just a minute. Now, another question you might have is, "Okay. Is it okay for me to forgive that person, assuming they repented, but then refused to have nothing to do with them?" What's the answer to that? No, that would not be okay, because the concept of forgiveness and reconciliation is directly linked in the Bible. Remember, God's our model of forgiveness. Can you imagine if we had sinned against him so many times and asked his forgiveness so many times that the final time, He said, "Yes, I forgive you, but don't call me again." That would be really bad, wouldn't it? You would not want to be in that position with your God, therefore, you would not want to ever treat another person like that.

There's also this one, I've been around the horns several times in case you say, "Where'd you get all of these questions?" Is it okay to make the person wait a while before I forgive them? Did you ever play that game? "I'm mad. They asked my forgiveness. 6 months from now, I'll reconsider their request." Well, here's a verse that can help with that, "Whenever you," what? "Stand praying, forgive." Pastor Goode used to love to ask people, "Hey, how long can stand?" Whenever you stand praying, forgive. If you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive your transgressions.

I realize you might say now, "Hey. If it's conditional on the repentance, what do I do if I've rebuked someone, I've gone and spoken with them about their sin, but they won't repent? Are you saying that I don't have to be forgiving toward them?" No, here's what we would say about that, for a person who you have rebuked, but they won't repent, I guess you would say you'd want to cultivate a forgiving spirit. That's what Jesus had on the cross. Do you remember what He said in Luke 23:34 from the cross? "Father, forgive them." Now, that was not universalism. It's not like everybody within the sound of Christ's voice was automatically forgiven, and on their way to heaven. That's a forgiving spirit, praying for their repentance and promising to forgive as soon as they do so. They might say, "What if I'm at an impasse with one of my staffs, or one of my kids, or a peer, or somebody under my roof, and I've rebuked them clearly about a matter, they just won't repent?" Well, if that's a person, a member of the church, well, get others involved.

You say, "What? People in the church are getting involved in those kinds of disputes?" That's the point of I Corinthians 6. "Don't be taking people to secular court. Be taking them to the leaders of the church who can help be peacemakers, who can help iron these situations out." A second question, well, "What if I have taken these steps, but the other person isn't interested? They're the one who won't talk to me?  I've done everything that I know to do." Here's a great balancing verse. It's Romans 12:18, "If possible, so far as depends with you, be at peace with all men." That's a great verse, because it means it's not always possible. You might do everything you're supposed to do, and that individual still is not interested in having the restroom cleaned.

As far, if at possible, it's not always, so far as it depends on you, you're not responsible for them, be at peace with all men. Now, that brings up another question, doesn't it? If another person has asked you to forgive them, have you done it? Or are you still bringing it up behind their back, or are you still bringing it up to their face? Or are you still dwelling on it? There will be people, some perhaps, that I'll be speaking to today who have people in their lives they should have forgiven long ago, but instead they've nursed grudges. That's right. Instead, they've developed bitterness. The messes have never been finalized. In fact, if the truth were to be known, if you stuck your head in some of those relationships that stink more than the restroom I had to clean up at the auto parts store, you know what God would say about that, if that's true with your case, He'd say it's time to clean it up. That's what He'd say. It's time to clean it up now. It's time to clean it up right.

You might say, "Man, this is hard." We haven't got to the hard part yet, because let's say, what happens if you go through this entire thing, somebody sins against you, and you're willing to rebuke them. They repent. You're willing to forgive them. You go through the entire process. Then, they turn around and do it again. You say, what? 6 months later? No. You say, what? 6 weeks later? No. What am I talking about? That very day. Then, all of that's wrong, right? I got an "Uh-ha." Somebody just gave me "Uh-ha" right here on the church house. The answer is be prepared to do this as many times as necessary. If he sins against you 7 times a day and returns to you 7 times saying, "I repent." Forgive him. Before you say, "That's impossible, 7 times in a day." The idea here isn't start counting. I'm getting to 5. I'm going to forgive you. I'm getting to 6, 7. Then, on time 8, Bam, whack-a-mole.

That's not what we're talking about. Some of you know, don't you? Some of you know. No, it's an unlimited number of times. Now, if you're saying about right, "You know, I'm not sure I can do this. I'm not sure I want to do this. I'm not sure I'm willing to do this." That's where the rest of this text comes in, "Problems between people have to be solved." This might be a shock to someone who hears this message today. God is not particularly interested in whether we agree with Him. Did you know that? He can get along fine without our approval. The question is whether or not we can get along fine without His. The question is whether or not we've contemplated the fact that when we come to Christ as Savior and Lord, if that's what we've done, then He is our Lord, which means He is the King. He is a good King, but a King nonetheless, because the apostles come up with a fairly lame question, or response, "Well, increase our faith."

Jesus says the issue isn't your faith, the issue is your obedience. Are we going to do what God says, not just in principle, but in practice? Friend, that's fundamentally what it means to be a follower of Christ. Romans 10:9, "That if you confess with your mouth, Jesus as Lord." If you're here this morning, and you've never trusted Christ as Savior and Lord, friend, can I invite you to do that today? He offers you an entirely different approach to life. It's new life. It's good life, because He's a good King. I would invite you to do that, Christian friend.

John said, "By this, we know that we have come to know him if we," what? If we know His commandments? If we can recite His commandments? If what? "If we can keep His commandments. The wise of heart, they'll receive commands, but a babbling fool will be ruin." Hey, do you have any relationship messes that need to be cleaned up? If you're here this morning, and I realize, you might say, "Pastor, as far as I know, any problem that I have with another person under my roof, or anywhere else had been cleaned up. The restroom is clean." Praise God for that.

You know what that means? There will be a problem later on today, right? The beauty of having a clean restroom is even if you get a little smudge on the mirror, a little bit of Windex, "Bam." It's off. I've been told. It doesn't take much. If that's your case, praise God. Only through the shed blood of Christ is that possible. If it's a hot mess, if it's a hot mess, listen, the weather is going to be bad the next couple of days anyway, you know that? You might as well get busy in the power of Christ cleaning it up.

Let's stand together for prayer, shall we? Father in heaven, thank you for how clear Your word is. Thank you for how powerful our Savior is in helping us obey Your word in order to glorify Himself. That's why I pray that You would help each one of us to apply this in a way that would honor you. I pray that our roofs, that they contain families, that handle these inevitable scandals quickly. We pray this in Christ's name. Amen.

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 two 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