Freedom through Forgiveness

By Matt Sijabat

Church, it is wonderful to be here, wonderful to be in fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ.
Please join me in my prayer:” Our Heavenly Father, thank you for this morning for the opportunity to share my faith and to share your Word. Thank you for you love and blessings for each and every one of us. Please help me to bring this message, Father God, for your glory. In Jesus Name. Amen”

This morning I would like to share the words from the book of Matthew 18:21-35. I have called this talk “Freedom through Forgiveness.”

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23-25 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26-27 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30-31 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32-34 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Blessed be the reading of the words of God.

Brothers and sisters, there is a tremendous cancer in our lives that is eating us from the inside out. It is a cancer that penetrates deep inside each of us, stealing our joy, our energy, and our hope, and spewing its poison in our veins–the poison of anger, bitterness, and regret. What is this cancer? The cancer of unforgiveness.

Forgiveness is an issue that hits home with everyone in this place. At some point in the past several weeks, it’s likely that someone has done something to offend you and you have failed to forgive them. Some of us are carrying around resentment and bitterness against people and have been carrying them like heavy weights for years.
It must be stopped. But how? The only way to destroy this cancer is to… FORGIVE. Forgiving people can be one of the toughest things that Christ commands us to do, but it is something that we are commanded to do.

It is easy to carry a grudge against a person, but if we belong to Christ, then we will learn to be a forgiving person.
Forgiveness really exists on two main levels: forgiveness from God to us and forgiveness from us to others. Most of us rejoice in the first and stumble on the second. We are glad that the Lord forgives us from our sins and failures, but we are troubled when we know that we need to forgive someone else.

  • Unforgiveness is more subtle than most sins. It’s sneaky. It crawls into your spirit so gently, so innocently that you don’t know it’s there until it really has you.
  • It’s also more common than most sins. We all battle it from time to time. Even though we may not stumble over the “bigger” sins, the sins of the flesh, lack of forgiveness seems to affect more of us.
  • It’s also more dangerous. It may not cause overdoses and car accidents, but it will divide churches, families, marriages, and nations. Unforgiveness has been called the cancer of the soul. It is like drinking poison; and expecting someone else to die from it. Unchecked, it will eat us alive.

God’s Forgiveness
Matthew 18:21-35 describes how Jesus looks at forgiveness on the two levels: from God and for others. And Jesus also shows us what lack of forgiveness will do to us. He compares unforgiveness to a prison.

In this simple story, a man owes his master thousands, even millions of dollars. He was about to be thrown into prison. The man pleads for mercy, and the master gives it to him. The debt is erased, and the man can go free.

I don’t know how the man ended up owing millions . But it’s clear that the huge debt is like our own. Each of us accumulated a huge debt towards God. He created the world, He created us. He loved us, took care of us, fed us, and clothed us. Yet at some point, each of us wandered away. At some point, we each said: “I don’t need all this. I can do it myself. I don’t need your love. I don’t need you.” And we owe huge debt before our Maker. And the prison we deserved is hell. Each of us deserves eternal punishment.

Yet, God says to us: Be sorry for what you did, for who you are. Be willing to do anything for me out of gratitude, out of thanks to me. And the debt gets erased. Just like that. It’s called GRACE. It’s called MERCY. It’s called FORGIVNESS. He offers it to each of us. But whether we accept it or not is up to us.

But the story doesn’t end there. The man had someone owe him money, a few bucks. He immediately walks out from his master’s place and demands a payment. It was purely selfish reasons why he demanded this money back. The master heard about this and brought the first man back into his courts. He threw him into prison. And in this prison, the man would face torture.

Understand this: Unforgiveness is a self-inflicted prison. It is self-induced torture. It is a ball-and-chain of your own making. No matter what anybody did to you first, forgiveness or unforgiveness is your own choice.

The Apostle Paul said: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13) and “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph 4:32).

Some Bible scholars believe that those letters sent to Colossian and Ephesus were written by Paul while he was in prison in Rome. I believe that Paul wrote those letters from this very prison. Looking at the picture of that prison (taken during our trip in Rome), the Words become alive to me.

And some of Jesus’ own words are even more severe: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:14-15). “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25).

These tie in with the final verse of our Scripture today: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (Matt. 18:35).

Jesus and the other Bible writers seem to consider forgiveness fairly important. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven… For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:37-38).

It sure looks as if God considers our forgiveness of others as important as His forgiveness of us. Why is it so important? Several reasons:

  • We are to be like our forgiving Father.
  • It helps us understand all that we’ve been forgiven of.
  • It’s better for our souls.

I believe that all of God’s commands are not to spoil our fun but for good for us. It’s like telling your kids to eat broccoli or other veggies because it will help their body, mind, sleep, appearance, bones, heart, etc. God’s commands are like that. Following them is better for our spirits than not following them.

  • Forgiveness brings freedom. In Matthew 18:27, the master let the servant go. Being forgiven gives us freedom. It means we are not slaves to work ourselves debt-free before God. He just gives it to us. Before the master freed him from the debt, he was terrified. He was going to spend his whole life trying to repay, and he would never have been able to. But forgiveness of the debt set him free. And it sets us free too, free to love and to be thankful.
  • Forgiveness brings closure. The servant was able to just walk away from the debt. Would he forget? Likely not. In fact, on the road to forgiveness, we may have to remember all the horrible things that happened to us. But forgiveness closes the door on them. It says: “I will not let the emotional baggage keep me down. And if I do remember, I will choose to forgive again”.
  • Forgiveness brings life. Colossians 2:13 says: “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your (or our) sinful nature, God made you (or us) alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins”. We find life-joy, hope, peace, strength-when we are forgiven. And when we forgive, we give life to ourselves and to our victims of unforgiveness. Letting someone off your hook doesn’t let them off God’s, but it frees you.

Forgive Others
We’ve all asked this question at one time or another. “How many times do I have to forgive this person? I’m getting tired of it. Why does he/she keep hurting me like that?”

Peter’s problem was surely actual (v. 21). You try living with twelve other people day in and day out and not have someone’s weakness get to you! Peter may have been thinking of a time when somebody wronged him and he had extended forgiveness. But this same person did something to hurt him the next day. Again, Peter forgave him. A couple days later, his friend lied to him. This time, Peter reluctantly forgave him but now he’s ticked off. Peter wanted Jesus to help him set some forgiveness limits. Peter wanted to know when it’s OK to say, “That’s it. You’ve messed up one too many times!”

Whatever the case, before Jesus could answer, Peter responded to his own question by suggesting that seven times would be a good limit. That’s not a bad answer. The rabbis back then taught that you had to forgive someone three times and then you could retaliate. The fourth time you could do whatever you liked. In fact, they mistakenly taught that God only forgives three times. Peter doubled that and added one for good measure. I think he thought his answer would impress Jesus.

To be honest, forgiving someone seven times is commendable. Most of us get frustrated if we have to forgive someone twice. By human standards, what Peter said was admirable. But Peter wanted a number, a limit, a place where he could finally say, “That’s it! You’re not getting away with this any longer. Our friendship is now over.”

As Jesus often does, his answer to Peter was unexpected and disarming. Take a look at verse 22: “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven times”. He couldn’t believe his ears! Seventy times seven? That’s 490 times!

Seventy times seven means there is no limit to the number of times we are to forgive someone. Actually, if you were to count, by the time you reach 490, you would be in the habit of continual and unlimited forgiveness. That’s precisely the point Jesus is making; you don’t keep score when it comes to forgiveness.

Forgiveness: The Key to Healing and Deliverance
Many people have known physical healing, actual physical healing, because of forgiveness in their life. Most people today who are going into doctors’ surgeries, their complaints are caused by problems of the mind and the heart. I’m not saying they aren’t ill. They are ill, but their physical symptoms, and even disease and all sorts of physical problems and ailments, can so easily come because of brokenness that in the human spirit.

If you’re to know deliverance, and you’re to know the full blessing of the Gospel of Christ, you’re going to have forgive, to let these things go. I know it’s easier said than done, but it must be done.

Think of the people that you need to forgive or seek forgiveness from. Make a list. Your parent could be on that list. Some of us have had good parents, and some of us have had bad parents. Many of us need to thank God for the parents that we’ve had, but some of you need to forgive your parents and other members of your family, maybe grandparents, for anything that was ever said or done that had a negative impact on your life.

Maybe it’s not parents, maybe it’s a spouse, a husband or a wife or an in law. Maybe it’s your children for things that they have said or done on you. Maybe it’s a very close friend who has betrayed you, who has let you down. I don’t know, but on that list, there are people who have made negative impacts on your life.

Maybe you’re here this morning, and you’re saying: “It’s too late, this person is dead, how can I forgive them?”. Let me say this to you. You’re not forgiving these people primarily for their sake, but for yours! You need to forgive them in order to be free! You don’t want to be hooked to that memory, or chained to your past until you forgive. Once you choose to forgive someone, once you choose to let go of that and declare it, and I believe it needs to be declared verbally, Satan loses his power over you in that area. It needs to be declared verbally because Satan can’t read your mind. If you say something in your mind, he is not obliged, he can’t even hear it. Do not let the door open for the Satan to enter through your bitterness and unforgiveness.

My Stories of Forgiveness
Let me share a couple short stories regarding forgiving in my life. The first one is this:

A long time ago I was at home looking after my daughter. My wife was at work. I did not feel well. I felt pain in my chest and I felt as if there was something squeezing my chest. I immediately thought that this was probably the sign of a heart attack. My mind suddenly flashed thinking about my daughter who was 4 years old and with me at the time, my other daughter at Day Care, my son who was at school, and my wife who was at work. I thought that if I died right away there and then, my daughter Karina would be the only one with me at the time.
I thought I better spend the last hours or minutes having quality time with her. So I took her for a walk and talked with my daughter with pain in my chest. She did not know what was going on with me. I just wanted to spend the time together with the person I loved. I did not call the ambulance straight away because in half an hour my wife would be home and she would take me to the hospital.
When my wife arrived home from work, the first thing I did was ask her forgiveness if I did anything that hurt her in the past. I explained to her my situation. She took me to hospital and then we found out that everything was OK. But I would like to tell you that after I asked for forgiveness, I felt light. I felt that no matter what happened now, I was free from guilt.

The second story:

When our son was in the hospital for treatment for leukaemia, we also asked our son if we did anything that hurt him or said any words that hurt him in the past. He forgave us and he also asked for our forgiveness. We also prayed together with him to forgive everyone that had hurt him. We felt better and rejoiced together.

The point I am making is this: looking back at those two stories, I realised that I asked for forgiveness when it was in a near death situation! In that situation, I suddenly realised what really matters in this life. I just wanted to say, “I LOVE YOU!” to my children. I wanted to say, “FORGIVE ME!” to my wife.

Brothers and sisters, wouldn’t it be better if you asked forgiveness right away when you do not feel right because you never know when it will be your time? We’re all going to die someday. It’s going to happen to everyone. We should not have to wait till we’re on our deathbed or in palliative care before telling those who matter, our loved ones. Do not leave it till it’s too late. It’s never too late to get started. Tell your parents, or husband, or wife or children : I LOVE YOU!!! PLEASE FORGIVE ME!!! I FORGIVE YOU!!!
The ball is in your court.

Jesus said to forgive seventy–seven times, which means to keep on forgiving!!!

God is calling to you today. “Lay down that hurt, agony, and pain. Lay it down by forgiving those who have harmed you.” Forgive that person or persons in your heart and move on with the blessing of God’s forgiveness in your life. You can also ask someone else to pray with you; you do not have to take this burden yourself.

Ask God if there is anyone whom you have never forgiven, either for a wound in the past, a recent hurt, or misunderstanding. Or if there is a person you have forgiven in the past, but feelings of resentment, bitterness, or even revenge have flashed back into your mind.

Will you let Jesus heal you from the inside out? He wants you to choose forgiveness, He wants you to be freed from your past. Do you want to be free?

We are here to pray with you.