The Walk of Forgiveness
Sermon Summary:
In this message we explore the teachings and the walk of Christ in regards to forgiveness. The bulk of the message comes from Jesus’ sermon on the level place found in Luke’s Gospel. It is similar to Jesus’ sermon on the mount, found in Matthew’s Gospel, yet different. Jesus’ sermon dealt extensively with the topic of how a person should deal with someone who has wronged them. This message examines how Jesus’ words apply to the concept of forgiveness and seeks to define forgiveness by looking at what forgiveness does. The sermon ends with the supreme example of forgiveness found in Jesus’ words spoken from the Cross!

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. Does forgiveness come easy for you? Why or why not?

2. Do you think the reason forgiveness is so difficult may stem from our misunderstanding of what forgiveness is not? Remember what forgiveness is not...
It is not saying, "what you did to me is okay."
It is not saying, "it didn't hurt me."
It is not saying, "you can keep on hurting me."
In fact Jesus said we sometimes have to confront a person with the truth...
Mat 18:15  "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.
Mat 18:16  But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'
Mat 18:17  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
(In other words, you may not be able to continue to have fellowship with that person, but  you should always pray for the person to someday repent and for restoration to take place. Remember that Jesus reached out to the pagans and tax collectors.)

3. As we discover the Biblical definition of forgiveness we should begin to practice it. Discuss one or more of the following precepts taken from Sunday’s message. Use Sunday’s main text as a reference.
It is loving the unloveable and doing good in the face of evil.
It is blessing those who curse you and praying for those who hurt you.
It is always doing everything with an eye towards reconciliation... (Going to the front porch, looking down the road, praying and seeking reconciliation)
It is doing all you can to avoid escalation of conflict.
It is applying the "Golden Rule."
Forgiving is Giving!
Luke 6:27  "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
Luke 6:28  bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Luke 6:29  If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.
Luke 6:30  Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.
Luke 6:31  Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Luke 6:32  "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them.
Luke 6:33  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that.
Luke 6:34  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full.
Luke 6:35  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
Luke 6:36  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

4. How has Jesus' example of forgiving those who wronged Him inspired you and enabled you to forgive?

Luke 23:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. (NIV)


Sermon

Over the past seven weeks we've talked about the Walk of Jesus when He lived on the earth.

We've talked about His…
 
Walk of Obedience
Walk through Temptation
Walk of Purpose
Walk through Rejection
Walk of Pressure
Walk of Compassion
Walk of Wisdom


Today we will explore His
Walk of Forgiveness!
This message will be one of the most important I will preach this year and may be one of the most important for you to hear!

The world has a hard time even defining forgiveness!!

Forgiveness - The process of forgiving or being forgiven.

Ok so I looked up forgive and they got a little closer...

Forgive - stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake

I believe true forgiveness is much more than just about the way you feel. It is also about the way you decide to treat the offender after the offense.  I've had people tell me, "Hey I'm not angry, and I don't hate them, but I'm just not ever going to have anything to do with them again!"

I understand: "Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me!"
But to slam the door shut on reconciliation for good is an even greater shame! It's certainly not the Jesus Walk! It's not the Jesus Way!

Your view of forgiveness will have a direct impact on your relationship with God and with every other relationship you have in this life! It's vital we get this right!!

I have prayed many times this week for God's wisdom and direction on this message. However, there's no such thing as praying too much, so let's pray!!

PRAY!!

Context of today's teaching!

You've heard of the sermon on the mount. Today we're going to look at a portion of Jesus' sermon on the level place. Take your Bibles and turn to Luke Chapter 6:17... I know the worship guide says, verse 27, that's not a mistake, I decided we need the entire context for today's text.

 Jesus had just spent all night praying in the mountains and then choses his twelve disciples. This is where we pick up our story...

17He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon,
Luke 6:17 (NIV)

18who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured,
Luke 6:18 (NIV)

19and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.
Luke 6:19 (NIV)

20Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Luke 6:20 (NIV)

 Jesus is not just talking about physical poverty, but about spiritual poverty. Those who understand their spiritual poverty will be those who seek the spiritual riches of the Kingdom of God and we are promised if we seek we'll find! Let's continue...

21Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Luke 6:21 (NIV)

22Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil,because of the Son of Man.
Luke 6:22 (NIV)

 Jesus knew His followers where going to face the wrath of the religious leaders long after He had returned to Heaven. He wanted to encourage them and strengthen them. Let's continue...

23“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.
Luke 6:23 (NIV)

 So when you suffer injustice for the cause of Christ, don't fret about it, you will be rewarded in Glory!!
Jesus then warns of the woes that are coming on the people who were causing the suffering...

24“But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
Luke 6:24 (NIV)

Once again, in the context, I believe He was talking, not so much about those who had material wealth, but those who thought they were spiritually wealthy and better than everyone else. Those who sought the praise of man. They had already received their reward.

25Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
Luke 6:25 (NIV)

The people were probably really behind Jesus' words at this point. They may have been amen - ing or high five -ing or fist-pumping. "That's right Jesus, woe unto them. Woe unto those who are oppressing us. But they're in for a surprise...

We now come to one of the most important principles Jesus ever taught with His words and with His life, and it has to do with forgiveness! He told the truth concerning the future of those who were spiritually deceived, who used their positions of power to abuse others, those who were arrogant, and unrepentant.

But listen to what He says next. It is unexpected and amazing at the same time. Jesus is going to give us the components of real forgiveness...

27“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
Luke 6:27 (NIV)

In other words…

Forgiving is about loving and doing good!

I'm thinking the people are thinking…"But wait a minute Jesus, you just said it Yourself, these are the people that hate us, exclude us, insult us, reject, and make us out to be evil people!"

Jesus continues...



28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Luke 6:28 (NIV)

In other words…

Forgiving is about blessing and praying!

What would happen in this old world if every time someone was wronged or hurt, they responded with a blessing and a prayer?
Don't you think, at least some of the time, change would happen?

And maybe the change would start with the person praying. Sometimes the person who has been hurt needs the prayer as much as the offender. Modern studies continue to confirm what God's Word has always said.

Some years ago there was a major study done at California's Standford University called "The Forgiveness Project."
Fascinating discoveries! Here's the way they put it…

"Implications are considerable, including the possibility that skills-based forgiveness training may prove effective in reducing anger as a coping style, reducing perceived stress and physical health symptoms, and thereby may help reduce allostatic load (e.g., immune and cardiovascular functioning) in daily living."

God's Word says...

19My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
James 1:19 (NIV)

20for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
James 1:20 (NIV)

Amazing! Back to Jesus' instructions for us to pray for our enemies and bless those who curse us...

Why would Jesus require such things from His followers?
If we refuse to love our enemies, or bless those who curse us, and decide not to pray for those who wrong us, are we not deceived by the same wicked pride as those who have wronged us?

We must understand, even though Jesus pronounced the woe's on the religious elite of His day, He still held out hope they would repent.

But some may have thought...

"God, I don't want to like them! I don't want to try to love them anymore. I'm tired of trying!" You may have said the same thing towards a personal enemy.

Let me leave our text for just a moment. It's important I address this issue. Please don't dig your heals in here. Listen...

21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Matthew 18:21 (NIV)

22Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Matthew 18:22 (NIV)

I don't know if Peter liked Jesus' answer, but I'll tell you this, Peter would later need Jesus to forgive him for denying Jesus not once, not twice, but three times. And listen to Jesus' words in Luke's gospel...

3So watch yourselves. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.
Luke 17:3 (NIV)

4If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
Luke 17:4 (NIV)

Now I know this is a hard teaching, but I think Jesus is trying to teach us that reconciliation in every relationship should be top priority.

 We don't have to agree with our enemies, but we have to love them and to truly love them is to make reconciliation a goal!

By the way, this teaching does not preclude tough love. Not at all. Let me give you a fictitious example that may not be so far from reality.


Let's say someone has an older teenager or young adult, who continues to break the rules of the house and it's hurting the whole family.

If they say "I'm sorry," but never change their behavior, you may have to have them leave your home. Offer them forgiveness, and let them know you're praying for them to change, but...

at the same time let them know until there is sufficient change, wisdom dictates you no longer enable them to have a home base for their harmful activities.

The same principles apply to a spouse who is being abusive.
God doesn't expect you to live in abuse. As I said last week, we sometimes have to draw a line in order to help people understand change must happen!


Here's the problem, though. Tough love should never be used as an excuse to discard people, to give up on a person, a relationship, or to stop praying for forgiveness and reconciliation.

Let me put it this way…
Time doesn't permit me to share the whole story with you, but you remember the prodigal son. The younger son had the gaul to ask his dad to divide up the inheritance ahead of time.

The father knew he couldn't force the younger one do what was right, so he decided to fulfill his request and let him learn the hard way. The younger son took his share of the inheritance and left home.

 He wasted every penny and ended up in a really bad way. He decided to come back home. What happens? Check this out...

20So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
Luke 15:20 (NIV)

21“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. ’
Luke 15:21 (NIV)

22“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Luke 15:22 (NIV)

23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.
Luke 15:23 (NIV)

24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Luke 15:24 (NIV)

What's the point? It's all about the front porch!! Really? Yes really!! "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him."

While the boy was a long way off, speaks volumes. The old man probably stepped out on the front porch several times a day, every day the son was gone! He was hoping beyond all hope to see that boy coming home.

He never quite praying for him! He never lost the desire for reconciliation! He never stopped believing God could work a miracle.

Here's the deal…Some us need to spend some time on the front porch!! No matter what has happened, we must never stop looking down the road, peering into the distance and hoping against all hope for reconciliation.
Especially when it comes to family.

In other words…

Never give up hope for reconciliation!

But Jesus in His teaching and in His life took it even further.
Let's get back to our text, the sermon on the level place!!

29If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.
Luke 6:29 (NIV)

In other words…

Forgiveness is about doing all you can to avoid escalation of conflict.

The turn the other cheek is about giving peace a chance. Give diplomacy an opportunity to work. This is not only true of countries and governments, but of husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees, and all other human relationships.

How many lives, literally would be spared if people followed this rule? How many crimes of passion or rage could be avoided it people would forgive the first offense instead of immediately reacting with anger? Turn the other cheek. It's the Jesus way of counting to ten!

Jesus takes it a step further...

30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.
Luke 6:30 (NIV)

31Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Luke 6:31 (NIV)

In other words…

Apply the "Golden Rule" to the concept of forgiveness!  

You want to be forgiven, so give forgiveness. I know what you may be thinking…
"The Golden Rule is really pretty, but it's not very easy!"

True that!!


 But talk about the level of difficulty, Jesus is about to "level up" on us, for all you video gamers. For the rest of us, Jesus is about to take it to the next level...

32“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.
Luke 6:32 (NIV)

33And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that.
Luke 6:33 (NIV)

34And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full.
Luke 6:34 (NIV)

35But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
Luke 6:35 (NIV)

36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Luke 6:36 (NIV)

37“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Luke 6:37 (NIV)

38Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Luke 6:38 (NIV)

In other words…

Forgiveness is about giving!

 Give forgiveness and you'll receive it. If you refuse to forgive you will not be forgiven. Why is this?
Simple, people who refuse to give forgiveness have such a pride issue, they will refuse to humble themselves in order to receive forgiveness.

In fact some people have very selfish reasons for not forgiving. Let me explain.

Some people do not forgive because they find a certain satisfaction in the power they have over the offending party. The person who did the wrong can't change what they did even if they wanted to and you have the power to hold that over their head.

 Many people do this by defying the instruction of God's Word which clearly states in 1 Corinthians 13, "Love keeps no record of wrongs!"

You must remember, however, to withhold forgiveness places you in grave danger, physically and spiritually! Remember, forgiving is giving: Giving love and grace where it is needed, not where it is deserved.  

Dr. Malcom O. Tolbert put it this way in the Broadman Commentary...

"Grace is God's overflowing goodness poured out on underserving people. But the grace of God also elicits grace in the individual, so that he who is its recipient becomes the instrument for the expression of the same compassion toward others…

But to love hostile, critical people and to love them much more than they deserve to be loved--this is grace. To invest one's life and substance in people who either cannot or will not reciprocate--this is also grace...

It is the concrete expression in human relations of the presence and activity of God in His people."

Dr. Tolbert then quotes Dr. Frank Stagg...

"This kind of love is not motivated by the goodness or beauty of the other. It seeks to bring about goodness and beauty in others."

Remember, what forgiveness is not!
It is not saying, "what you did to me is okay."
It is not saying, "it didn't hurt me."
It is not saying, "you can keep on hurting me."

Remember what forgiveness is!
It is loving the unloveable and doing good in the face of evil.
It is blessing those who curse you and praying for those who hurt you.
It is always doing everything with an eye towards reconciliation...

 Going to the front porch, looking down the road, praying and seeking reconciliation.

Forgiveness is doing all you can to avoid escalation of conflict.
Forgiveness is applying the "Golden Rule."
Forgiving is Giving!

Let me ask you a question. Did Jesus practice what He preached?
Remember those Pharisees and religious leaders who were relentless with their criticism of Jesus His whole ministry? Remember, the guys who tried on more than one occasion to kill Him?

These were the guys who had Jesus arrested. Listen to what they did...

15Now it was the governor’s custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd.
Matthew 27:15 (NIV)

16At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas.
Matthew 27:16 (NIV)

17So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”
Matthew 27:17 (NIV)

18For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him.
Matthew 27:18 (NIV)

19While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”
Matthew 27:19 (NIV)

20But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
Matthew 27:20 (NIV)

21“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered.
Matthew 27:21 (NIV)

22“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!”
Matthew 27:22 (NIV)

23“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
Matthew 27:23 (NIV)

24When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
Matthew 27:24 (NIV)

25All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!”
Matthew 27:25 (NIV)

26Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
Matthew 27:26 (NIV)

 Are you thinking what I'm thinking? "You bunch of dirty, rotten, rascals. You bunch of hypocrites! Someday you'll surely pay for this!"

I wonder what Jesus was thinking?
Let's find out...

33When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.
Luke 23:33 (NIV)

34Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
Luke 23:34 (NIV)

For Jesus, it was not someday you'll pay, but today I'll pay for you! Today I'll make a way for you! Today I'll forgive you if you will only repent. If you'll only admit, you've done wrong, I'll make it right. I love you! I want to be your friend! When it comes to forgiveness, yes, Jesus practiced what He preached!!! Will you?

 Let's pray!