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Evangelist, Baptist, Husband, Father, Mid-30's.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Absorbing Offense - Christian Forgiveness

The kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. One servant owed more than $6 BILLION, and he could not pay. Begging for patience he promised to pay all; out of pity for this servant, his king not only let the man go, but forgave him the debt. The servant went out and immediately found a fellow servant who owed him $12 THOUSAND. He seized him, and began to choke him, and demanded the man pay what was owed. When the debtor begged for patience, his pleas were ignored and he was thrown into prison until he paid the whole debt. (confer Matthew 18:23-35)

The above story is not the entire parable, but it contains important points I wish to make to you, dear saint, to stir you up towards good works and compassion towards the brethren (I will address the rest of the parable later in this article). The topic at hand is what happens to our sins against God, and what happens to others’ sins against us. Does this debt just vanish? Or does someone else pay it? Look at the above parable, the debt against the first servant is absorbed by the king (Matthew 18:27), the debt against the second servant is required to be paid by that servant (Matthew 18:30). Someone has to pay the debt, it cannot just go away; when a sin is just ignored, the Bible says, “He who justifies the wicked…is an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 17:15).” Sin must be paid for, and it will be paid for (Romans 2:4-5).

Did you notice the disparity between what a sin against God costs and what a sin against us costs? The debt owed to the king was several billion dollars, the debt owed to the servant was 0.000012 billion dollars. Clearly the king in this parable represents the Father (Matthew 18:35), and because God is infinitely more worthy than us, who are worthless (Romans 3:12), we must recognize that a sin against God is much more weighty and pressing than a transgression against ourselves. The Apostle Paul makes this point by writing to Corinth, “he caused [pain]…in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you (2 Corinthians 2:5).” Whichever sin is committed against us, no matter how big we think it is, it is nothing in comparison to our sin against God. This is why three Gospels tell us in three different ways to pray, “forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us (Luke 11:4, Mark 11:25, Matthew 6:12).

So what happens to our sins? In another parable Jesus tells that there were two debtors, one owed $60 thousand, and the other owed $6 thousand. When they could not pay, the moneylender cancelled the debt of both. (confer Luke 7:41-42) Their debts were just canceled? No, not just canceled, cancelled on account of the moneylender who absorbed that $66 thousand. Now, let me make a brief caveat, sin cannot be calculated as money can, each one of your sins has been worth you going to Hell for, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), a single lie makes you a liar, and all liars will have their place in the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8), and we’ve all sinned much more than a single lie, and we can’t pay for any of our sins (Zephaniah 1:18, Psalm 49:7-9). Our debt was infinite, it required an incalculable payment. We were storing up wrath for ourselves on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment would be revealed (Romans 2:5). God has promised to repay perfectly in vengeance the sin debt against himself (Deuteronomy 32:35). Truly the danger to our souls for our infinite debt was only matched by the heinousness of our sin. The only one worthy to pay our debt was the infinite and eternal Creator God, and we had offended him and made him our enemy; we were without payment, without hope, and without God in the world. But while we were yet sinners he came to our rescue. As our Creator was fulfilling the law to learn the obedience which was required for our substitutionary payment, he forgave the sins of a crippled man and recreated his legs to walk, saying only, “Man, your sins are forgiven you. I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home”, to which the Creator’s enemies were quick to say, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus did these things, “that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Jesus Christ is God, and is able and willing to forgive sins. (confer Luke 5:17-26)

At the appointed time, the Creator, Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, the Son of God, put on flesh, learned obedience, and went to a cross as the payment for sin. He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Romans 4:25). God has made us alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14). In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the satisfaction for our sins (1 John 4:10).

Therefore beloved, we ought to love one another as God loved us (1 John 4:11). No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us (1 John 4:12). You must put away sin, all of them; anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk; rather forgive one another, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive (Colossians 3:8,13).

How many times and to what extent must we forgive? Jesus said, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him (Luke 17:3-4).” Absorb the debt of others' sins against you just as Christ absorbed your debt; you are never so Christlike as when you forgive someone, “it is the glory of a man to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11).” The Apostle Paul exhorts you, “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, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:31-32).” And beloved, have you noticed that most of these passages do not place the requirement of repentance for forgiveness? Sometimes it is necessary to absorb even the offense of lack of repentance when you are certain the person is a brother. (confer Philippians 4:2)

But what if you won’t forgive? Solomon exhorts and then insults you, “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools (Ecclesiastes 7:9).” The Apostle James implores you, “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20).” Paul tests you for the genuineness of your conversion, “Turn to forgive and comfort him…I beg you to reaffirm your love for him, for this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything (2 Corinthians 2:7-9, compare Hebrews 5:9).”

Will you be Christlike in absorbing offense against yourself, paying it in your own soul, and forgiving sin? Christ whom you profess has done so completely, “I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me (Jeremiah 33:8).” He has in a single sacrifice perfected all those who were once his enemies, but are now being sanctified. Will you not forgive those who have a small debt against you when you have been forgiven such a larger debt? Can you not overlook their offense and forgive them as Christ has forgiven you?

Is your answer still no? Look back to the parable we began with, the servant who will not forgive his fellow servant after being forgiven so much by his king is found out. Are you this servant who holds others accountable to pay when your debt is supposedly canceled? Christ then says he never knew you, and this is your fate, “You wicked servant! Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ In anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart (Matthew 18:32-35).” The wages of sin is death, each sin is infinite. It will require an infinite and eternal retribution to pay for only one sin against the King, and dear reader, we both know that our debt is closer to the $6 BILLION mark than the lesser debt.

But dear reader, if you will repent of your sin, trust in the Resurrected Christ, you then have assurance in the sufficiency of his payment, the complete appeasement of your debt. This repentance will play out in forgiveness, in reconciliation, in love of the brothers. Fret yourself not with keeping tabs on those who are not Christians, for Psalm 37 tells their fate,

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
__Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off,
__but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.
In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
__though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
- Psalm 37:8-10

But for you, forgive as you have been forgiven, and
Wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. - 1 Thessalonians 1:10

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