The Model of Forgiveness

Steve Viars October 4, 2008 Ephesians 4:17-32

 

- How many of you would agree with me this morning that having a model or an example to follow is a very important part of succeeding in almost any endeavor…

- having someone to watch, or someone you can pattern yourself after makes the path much easier to navigate…

- if you have been around our church, you know that one the three children God has given us is our adopted son Andrew…

- Andrew will be turning 16 this January, and many in our church have shared the joys and challenges that are part of his story…

- Andrew is blind…and he struggles with a number of other physical and mental difficulties…

- now, on the one hand, Andrew has been a tremendous blessing to our family…

- seldom does a day go by where Drew doesn’t do something to make us just crack up around our house…

- if he happens to be over at my mom/sister’s house for a visit…it is just not the same at our place…so he is a wonderful blessing in many ways…

- I am also very thankful for my dear wife who shoulders a significant percentage of his care so that I can continue to share in ministry…her value is far above rubies in Proverbs 31 parlance…

- so there are a lot of benefits and joys that come with our situation…

- but there’s also challenges…

- one of them was that Drew did not learn to walk until he was 7 years old…

- and there were some sensory issues with his feet where it was uncomfortable and then painful to put any weight on them…

- but the doctors explained another part of the challenge that I would have never thought about…

- they said that eyesight has a significant impact on walking because seeing something you want is what motivates a child to try to get up and go get it…and (this is what really surprised me) also being able to watch another child walk gives you an idea of how to do it…

- it never crossed my mind that something as simple as walking would be significantly impacted by the power of a model, or an example to follow…

- and conversely, not being able to see could have an incredibly negative impact on your ability to succeed…

- experiencing that helped me understand statements that various people have made to me in counseling over the years…

- for example, I think of a man who told me – I have never seen anyone change…

- it is hard for me to have hope that I could be anything better than I am right now because I’ve never seen it happen to anyone else…

- and this man wasn’t being stubborn or argumentative…

- he was being honest with me – I don’t have a model…I don’t have an example…I’ve never seen it happen…

- or the person who said, I’ve never seem a marriage that worked…

- my parents divorced, her parents divorced, all our friends have now divorced…

- why should we stick this out when it is just going to lead to more misery?...

- by the way, that is one of the reasons it is so important to be in a church, not because it is filled with perfect people by any stretch of the imagination…but because there are many people here who are dramatically different than they used to be…and the ability to see that kind of model and example is extremely powerful…

- but when that is not in place…progress can be stalled or perhaps even stopped…

- now let’s take that principle and apply it to the topic of forgiveness…

- how many people would say that they grew up in an environment where family members seldom if ever admitted it when they sinned…

- and seldom if ever asked forgiveness…

- and seldom if ever handled problems and actually got them solved…

- and then that person grows up and goes to college and it’s more of the same…

- and perhaps is involved in various relationships and its more of the same…

- perhaps they’re even in a church where it’s more of the same…

- and they look around and say – how could I ever be expected to follow the biblical process of forgiveness if I’ve never really seen it occur?...I’ve seldom if ever seen it work…

- that’s why this morning I think it is important for us to study the matter of The Model of Forgiveness.

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

- we’re in the middle of a series right now entitled Seeking God’s Plan for Forgiveness…

- what does the Word of God have to say about all of this?

- what we’re finding is that the process laid out in the Word of God is something you wouldn’t read anywhere else on earth…

- for example, the challenge of forgiveness we saw 2 weeks ago from Luke 17…

- where if you believe a person has sinned against you…you have the responsibility to go and talk to them…

- and if they repent, then you have the responsibility to forgive them…

- to promise that you won’t bring it up to the person’s face…

- you won’t bring it up behind their back…

- and you won’t dwell on it…

- and if they repeat the same thing seven times in the same day, you have to go through the whole process over and over and you still are required to forgive them…

- it is amazing what Jesus calls upon us to do, and empowers us to do…

- then last week we saw the basis of forgiveness…

- where Jesus is in the upper room with His disciples…

- and He’s been betrayed by Judas…

- and He’s about to be deserted by the other 11…

- yet the focus is not on their failures or His hurt or disappointment…

- the focus is on everything He is willing to do to secure their forgiveness…

- take eat, this is my body…

- this cup is the blood of my covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins…

- and we said that if Jesus could focus on forgiveness at a time like that, we can/should seek to develop a similar mental discipline when we’ve been wronged…

- now, thankfully --- we don’t have to go first…

- we have a clear model and example to follow…let’s read about that in Ephesians 4:17-32…

- the example is actually at the end of the text – but everything that precedes the example helps us understand how we go about following it in everyday life…READ Eph. 4:17-32

- now, with the time we have remaining; let’s think about 3 principles to benefit from our divine model of forgiveness.

I. Give Careful Attention to the Way God Forgives.

- we’re doing something a bit different this morning in that we’re starting with the punch line, so to speak – or the end of the argument, and then we’ll go back and insert the rest of the discussion in a way that I hope makes it most helpful us to both understand and apply this matter…

- so please think about those words at the end of verse 32 –

- v. 32 - …forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

- the point is – no one could say – I’ve never seen it happen…

- the truth of the matter is that we have the greatest, and purest, and clearest example we possibly could have…

- and if you a personal relationship with God where you actually came to a point in your life where you admitted your sin and you placed your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord…not only have you seen it…you’ve experienced…

- what God is instructing you to do for others, He has already been willing to do for you…

- it is always easier when there is a model…

- those words [v. 32 – just as] in verse 32 are immensely powerful…

- well, what do we know about the way God has forgiven you? (if in fact that has occurred)…

A. He initiates the process.

- when it comes to the establishment of your relationship with God, who took the first step?...who went first?...

- and if Scripture is going to be our guide, there is no question on that one…

- Romans 5:8 - But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

- 1 John 4:19 - We love Him because He first loved us.

- right here in the book of Ephesians, Paul began this discussion with the people of this great church by reminding them..

- Ephesians 1:3-8 - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In loveHe predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.

- if the Word of God is going to be our guide regarding the matter of the model of forgiveness that we’re to follow, then there is no question about the fact that God’s kind of forgiveness is always willing to take the first step…

- it initiates…it goes first…

- now, there’s a question that flows right out of that one, isn’t there?...

- when it comes to the matter of how you function when someone has sinned against you (or when you have sinned against someone else, for that matter), are you following the model…

- that’s why those words “just as” are so powerful…just as God in Christ also has forgiven you…

- and too many of God’s people say – well, they’re the ones who sinned, they should have to come to me…

- I’m sure that’s not God’s approach, aren’t you?

- or, I’m going to make them sweat…or they deserve a few nights of silence (or perhaps a few months…)…I’m going to cut them off…

- and even if they do come to me…I’m going to give them a piece of my mind…they’re going to have to hurt as much as I hurt…blah, blah, blah…

- If there is someone with whom you are estranged and you have not taken steps to initiate the process (to the degree you can), then you are not following your model…

B. He forgives freely.

- v. 32 – “in Christ”…

- it wasn’t a matter of God saying, I’m going to get this going but you are really going to have to pay…

- He initiated it, and he paid the bill…

- that’s why Paul would say to the believers in Rome…

- Romans 8:31-32 - What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

- this process cost us everything, but it cost us nothing…

- do you think about the forgiveness process in terms like that?...

- being reconciled to this person is so important that I am going into this conversation with the willingness to make as many concessions as possible…

- I am going to bend over backwards to try to work this out…

- so frequently the people of God behave in the exact opposite fashion…

- there are all these demands…all these expectations…

- the person is going to have to say it in exactly the way I expect…at exactly the time I demand…

- if forgiveness is going to occur…I’m either going to come out of this even or ahead…

- but none of this forgiveness that is going to cost me something…

- friend, what about the model…

- “just as God in Christ”…has forgiven you…

- and I’m not suggesting that we make a mockery out of the process…

- repentance does need to occur…and sometimes restitution is part of that as well…

- but are we giving careful attention to the model?...

C. He forgives fully.

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

- I imagine that I will be speaking to at least some folks who have the habit of bringing up the failures of others over and over and over again…

- even if that person asked forgiveness…even if that person tried to make it right…

- friend, I have to love you enough to tell you that that approach to living originates in the pit of hell…and I realize some folks might say – well, that’s a little over the top…listen to this…

- James 3:13-18 - Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

- one more great truth about this model we’re to follow –

D. He forgives eternally.

- there is another important theme in this book related to the way God forgives…

- Ephesians 1:13 - In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,

- Ephesians 4:30 - Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

- now, a question we have to bring in here at some point is – have you experienced God’s forgiveness in this way?...[develop the gospel]…

- now, so far we’ve been hanging out at the end of the passage --- what we called the theological punch line…but now let’s back up and see what else we can find in this passage to help us apply all of this…

- if you are familiar with this book, you know that Ephesians 4 is one of the most important passages in all of Scripture about how to change…

- so if you would say, I need to become a more forgiving person --- I need to do a better job of following the model…there is tremendous help here that is intensely practical…

- let’s dig in…

- look back at verses 22-24…

- read and develop the primary difference between the unsaved life and the saved life…

- now, let’s plug this into the forgiveness process…you could say it this way…

II. Use God’s General Principle of Change to Create a Platform for Forgiveness of Others.

- think about this fundamental difference we just talked about…the point is…

A. Do not make forgiveness decisions on the basis of your feelings/desires at any given moment.

- in other words, people who live by their feelings are invariably going to struggle following the model…

- because God’s way is so counter-intuitive…

- when somebody hurts you…you either want to hurt them back, or at least withdraw from them so there’s no possibility of being hurt again…

- and you might say, PV, you don’t understand how strongly I feel about this matter…

- the depth of my hurt and disappointment…

- or how much I just need to get even with them…

- actually, as long as I’ve been a pastor, I think I do understand how strongly people feel about certain things at certain times…

- but please remember this…

1. It is possible to be deceived by your feelings.

- do you see that important word in verse 22?...

- the lusts of deceit…

- when someone hurts you or disappoints you, there are all sorts of feelings and desires that start coming to the surface…

- I have to get even…I have to give them a piece of my mind…

- I have to cut this person off…I have to make them pay…

- and you may feel completely justified in your position…and according to this text, you may be deceiving your own self…

- this is going to be hard to take – but it needs to be said…sometimes the most untruthful person you have to deal with in a given day is the person you see in the mirror in the morning…

- please don’t confuse “I feel this deeply” with, “therefore it must be true”…

- and someone might say – but PV, don’t I have to be true to myself?....

- if I have these feelings raging inside of me, don’t I have to act on them to be true to myself?...

- friend, please understand this…the last thing you ought to many times is be true to yourself…

2. Sometimes the last think you should do is follow your feelings.

- sometimes you need to crucify yourself…you need to put yourself to death…

- and God will help you do that…that is why it is so important to understand the significance of being made in the image of God…[you’re not just a dog…]

- the overall point is – feeling oriented people are seldom effective at following God’s example of forgiveness…

 

B. Use situations that require forgiveness as an opportunity to build you life on holiness and truth.

- Ephesians 4:24 - and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

- many times it is at this very point that you need massive doses of the truth…

- that is why it is so important to be growing in your knowledge of the Word of God…

- that is why it is so important to be building friendships with people who love you enough that they will tell you the truth…

- [in fact – a good question to ask this morning would be whether you are surrounding yourself with friends who are making it easier for you to follow God’s model of forgiveness, or harder?...

- if your friends are a bunch of bitter gossips, where they let you sit around and nurse your lack of forgiveness as long as you give them time to sit around and nurse theirs…it might be time to get some new friends…

- some people who will speak truth to you even when it’s hard to hear…

- this is also why, if you’re struggling, it might be wise to seek out some biblical counsel in one way, shape, or form…[develop]…

- now, you might say – OK, I’ve got that – less by my feelings and more by the truth of the Word of God…I see how that can help me become more forgiving – is there anything else here that can help me?...

- there really is…

C. Learn the power of replacement in the process of change.

- we’ve already talked about the primary difference between the unsaved life and the saved life…

- now what about this 3 step process of change…

- now, let’s take that back to where we started…

- look at verse 31-32 again, and look for what needs to be put off and what needs to be put on…

III. Apply God’s Principle of Change to the Specific Forgiveness Situations You are Facing Right Now.

A.  What has to be put off.

1.  bitterness

- pikria – a smoldering resentment

- “The spirit of irritability that keeps a person in perpetual animosity, making him sour and venomous” – John MacArthur

2.  wrath

- thumos – wild rage

- flaring outbursts

3.  anger

- orge – internal smoldering, settled indignation or hostility

4.  clamor

- krauge – shout or outcry of strife, public quarreling or brawling

5.  slander

- blasphemia – ongoing defamation of another person that rises from a bitter heart

6.  malice

- kakia – evil, the desire to harm others or see them suffer

- the other side of this...

B.  What should be put on.

1.  kind

- benevolent, helpful

2.  tenderhearted

- compassionate, sympathetic

3.  forgiving

- giving up your right to revenge

- the beauty of all of this is, not only did God give us a model to follow, He also provided very specific principles to help us make progress in this area.

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