Practicing the Principle of Forgiveness

Sermon Summary

This message deals with the topic of forgiveness and its application to real life. The three main principles discussed are: Forgiveness follows repentance. Forgiven people forgive. Forgiveness requires love. Forgiveness is fully realized when a person has Godly sorrow for what they’ve done and are willing to turn from their sin and turn towards Christ. A person who has received forgiveness understands how important it is to give forgiveness. God forgave us because He loved us. If it had not been for that love, the possibility of forgiveness would have been lost. In order for us to forgive one another, we most love one another. We can’t force another person to accept our forgiveness and they might not be willing to repent of the wrong things they are doing. As a result, we may have to protect ourselves from their wicked behavior, but we should never stop loving them or praying for them to come to a place of Godly repentance and be forgiven!

Small Group Discussion Guide

1. Why is it sometimes hard to give forgiveness even when a person is truly sorry for what they’ve done?

2. Forgiveness follows repentance. True repentance is accompanied by Godly sorrow. Explain your understanding of true repentance and Godly sorrow.

2 Cor 7:10  Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

2 Cor 7:11a  See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done...

3. A person may be truly sorry for wrong things they’ve done and have Godly sorrow, yet trip and fall back into a sin. If we know they are trying to change, what should be our response?

Gal 6:1  Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.

Gal 6:2  Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

4. There are times when a person is not sorry or repentant of their sins or of the hurt their actions are causing others. We can offer forgiveness, but we can’t force them to change. We may even have to take steps to protect ourselves and others from their evil actions. However, there are still things we should do on their behalf. Explain.

Mat 5:43  "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'

Mat 5:44  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,


Billy Rivers Video

Practicing the Principle of Forgiveness

What an amazing example of God's amazing grace! You might wonder what that video has to do with forgiveness. Everything! The picture you see on your worship guide and on the screen is a picture of Billy Rivers standing with our Mayor, Freddy Drennan. When Mayor Drennan was in law enforcement, he arrested Billy so many times Billy asked Freddy how much he owed him for the handcuffs he wore out arresting him. Freddy tried to talk to Billy back in the day and get him to turn around. Billy wouldn't listen. I can only imagine the frustration Freddy had with Billy and the anger Billy had towards the cop who kept putting him in jail. However, I watched as these two reunited after all those years and embrace as brothers in Christ! Forgiveness captured in a photograph. Once enemies, now brothers! Billy was the keynote speaker at the Mayor's prayer breakfast just a few weeks ago. It was a powerful time. Some might wonder how on earth God could forgive someone who was a thief, a drug addict, a liar, a mocker of God, and a convicted felon. Before we get into all that, let's pray and ask God to speak truth into our lives today in a way that will change us to the core! PRAY!!

When it comes to forgiveness, there's so many things that come into play. There's the need for God to forgive those who have wronged Him. That would be all of us. Then there's the need for us to accept God's forgiveness. There's the need to forgive ourselves. There's the need to forgive those who have wronged us. This morning's text will give us insight into the principles of forgiveness. Let's turn our Bibles to the Book of Colossians Chapter Three. How appropriate for God to lead me to this text on a day when we've witnessed so many people walking through the waters of Baptism to show the world they've been forgiven and through God's grace and by His power, they are beginning their new life in Christ! Colossians 3:1-17

If you're going to practice the principle of forgiveness, you must understand some of the principles of forgiveness. First of all their must be true repentance.

Forgiveness Principle #1

Forgiveness Follows Repentance!

Repent means to turn away from something and to turn to something else. This doesn't mean you become perfect the moment you turn your heart over to Jesus, but it does mean you make a decision to be sorrowful of the wrong in your life and that you desire to become more, to be more, and you begin an amazing journey in a different direction!

The New Direction of Life!

Colossians 3:1-4

1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

(Jay preached a powerful message on that last week! Now listen to what Paul says next...)

3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

When a person repents they make a turn towards God and His face, His ways, His truth, His justice, His purpose, His Glory!! Words, can't describe the wonder of this new direction!! It's exciting, it's good, it's rewarding, it leaves no regrets! The writer of Romans put it this way...

Romans 6:4-8

4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.

6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin —

7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

So repentance is in a new direction, the polar opposite of the direction we were headed.

The Abandoned Direction of Death

Colossians 3:5-6

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.

What the video didn't tell you is that Billy was smuggling a group of illegals into the U.S. including two children. In his attempt to evade border patrol, the two children lost their lives. A tragedy anyway you look at it. Billy has been forgiven, yet he still grieves over the consequences of his past sin. Billy will be quick to tell you He knows God has forgiven him, and his past is in God's hands, but he will also be quick to tell you the scars of sin in this life are not pretty. Think about that before you have a flippant Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday attitude. "I'll just do this and ask forgiveness later!" Folks, for there to be forgiveness, there must be true sorrow. If you're not really sorry for the wrong things you've done and the consequences your sins have brought upon yourself and others, then you're just playing games with God. God doesn't play those kind of games. Listen to this passage in God's Word...

2 Corinthians 7:10-11a

10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done...

What does Paul mean when he says Godly sorrow leaves no regret? It doesn't mean a person has no regrets for the sin they committed, it means they have no regrets for leaving that way of life! They're sorry for what they did but not sorry they're turning away from those evil actions. They have no regrets about their new way of life in Christ! And what does Paul mean when he says worldly sorrow brings death? Worldly sorrow is only sorry I got caught! Worldly sorrow is like this: While you're still in the jail cell, your scheming how you can sin again but not get caught. That kind of worldly sorrow changes no one. And for that reason it leads to death. When we come to Christ, like Billy, we turn our backs on our old ways. We are truly sorry and we begin to desire to walk a new life in a new way. We realize the gruesome sacrifice Jesus made in order to be able to forgive us of our sin. It doesn't mean we never struggle again, or that we're perfect, but we have a new heart and a new goal.

Verse 11 of 2 Cor. 7 gives us a powerful insight into what Godly sorrow brings into our lives…Let's read it again…

11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done...

Godly sorrow produces an earnestness and eagerness to be cleansed, forgiven, and free from the sin that once enslaved you. It produces indignation.

Indignation: Anger aroused by something unfair or wrong!

Godly sorrow makes us angry at what sin does. We realize sin is unfair, unjust, mean, and just plain wrong! Godly sorrow produces alarm! Wow! I see now what sin was doing, and what it was about to do. It's like, whoa, I almost fell off the cliff! When I first accepted Christ,  Godly Sorrow made me realize just how close I had come to total destruction. Just how close I had come to buying the lies and becoming forever blinded to truth. Also, Godly sorrow caused me to become concerned for my friends who were still living in the mess I had found myself in. Godly sorrow causes a person to no longer focus on themselves and their selfish desires, and causes them to take up the cause of justice. They see how sin makes people do things that hurt others and there's no justice in that. Godly sorrow makes a person despise living that kind of life anymore and causes them to embrace the forgiveness found in Jesus!!!

John the Baptist and Jesus both made the following statement…

Matthew 3:1-2

1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea

2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

 Matthew 4:17

17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

 A person who refuses to repent, to turn away from sin is in essence choosing that sin over God. Now I'm not talking about someone who is struggling and truly trying to overcome and turn away from a sin that has become entrenched in their life. If you truly desire to change, if you are truly sorrowful, if you are willing to let God and others help you change, then forgiveness is there for you and in time you will overcome. But if you really aren't sorry, and you have no desire to change and turn away from your sin, then, once again, you're just playing games and God will not honor that. Remember, God looks upon the heart not the outward appearance. If you're trying, and desiring to walk a new path, God knows your heart and even when you make a mistake, His grace is there, His love is there, His forgiveness is there. However, if you're just living in that sin and don't really care to change, no amount of confession, or empty, shallow words will conjure up forgiveness.

 God knows your heart. Another principle of forgiveness is this...


Forgiveness Principle #2

Forgiven People Forgive!

Colossians 3:12-13

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Jesus gave a model prayer to the disciples. The last part of this prayer talks about forgiveness and then Jesus adds a sobering statement...

Matthew 6:12-15

12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ’

Now listen to what Jesus says next...

14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Wait, what? Are you kidding? That can't really be true can it? Let me explain and I don't mean explain it away. Jesus said it! Here's why Jesus said this. If a person is unwilling to forgive others, the same pride that makes them unwilling to forgive will make them unwilling to receive forgiveness. You see, a prideful person will not humble themselves to admit their sin. Pride will keep them from having that Godly sorrow which produces real repentance. As a result, they hold on to their sin, rather than turn away from it. This constitutes a choice. You're choosing the pleasure of sin over the freedom of forgiveness and new life!! And when you choose to reject the forgiveness Jesus offered you, and hold on to your wickedness, you will not have the capacity to forgive others. Your pride will cause you to seek vengeance as apposed to forgiveness.

But when you humbly receive from Christ what you do not deserve and could never earn, you see others in a different light!

 Ephesians 2:11-13

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men) —

12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.


Forgiveness Principle #3

Forgiveness Requires Love

Colossians 3:14-17

14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Forgiveness is not saying what someone did when they wronged you is okay. It's not okay. It's not okay what the soldiers and religious leaders did to Jesus on the Cross, but Jesus offered them forgiveness because He loved them! We know some of them received that forgiveness while others refused to accept the gift of grace Jesus offered them. Jesus held no grudge. He offered forgiveness. We need to do the same thing with those who've hurt us. Again, it's not dismissing what they've done as okay, but it is realizing that unless they repent of their sin and turn away from it, that sin will destroy their lives here and will separate them from God for an eternity. That alone should make you cry for them. They are lost and blind and enslaved. This should cause you to pray for them, just as Jesus prayed for those who murdered Him. And let me tell you my eye opener. The night I heard the story of the Cross for the first time, I mean really heard the story-I was raised in church but never really listened. But the night I listened, I remember thinking how bad I wish I could have taken the whip out of the hands of Jesus' tormentors. How bad I wished I could have been there to stop them from driving the nails into His hands. But then I realized it was me with the whip. Me with the hammer! It was my sin that nailed Jesus to the Cross! When Jesus prayed "Father forgive them," He was talking about me!  And here's the deal, Jesus offered me forgiveness, but I faced a choice. Repent of my wickedness and live or turn from Christ and continue down my path of destruction. The choice was plain. The choice was mine to make. Jesus had already chosen to love me. Now I had to choose whether or not I would choose Him. Thank God, I chose Him and my life forever changed!! If I had chosen to reject Christ, He would have still loved me, but forgiveness follows repentance. God will not force us to accept His love or forgiveness!

This has a practical application to our relationships with others. Offering forgiveness to someone is not giving them a free pass! If they are not repentant and continue to sin against you you may have to take steps to protect yourself. But you must never stop loving them with the love of Christ and praying they repent and turn their lives around before it's eternally to late! However, if a person is sincerely sorry and are trying with God's grace to change, then we have an obligation to not only love them, but also to forgive them and to help them in their quest to live a new life in Christ. I've seen far too many times a person holds the past over someones head and refuse to forgive even when there is clear evidence of genuine, heart felt, Godly sorrow and repentance. This should never be the way of God's people or His family. The deciding factor here is Godly sorrow and repentance! A persons actions, attitudes and true colors will become evident. Jesus summed the concept of forgiveness up in Luke 17:4-4...


3 So watch yourselves. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.

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

Just remember, repentance means the person has Godly sorrow and is really trying to change. Ask God to show you if they are sincere. If they are, then forgive as you’ve been forgiven and help them in their struggle to become all God designed them to be! If they’re not sincere, continue to love them and pray for them even if you have to take steps to protect yourself from their hurtful actions. Never quite praying for their soul’s salvation. The way Freddie Drennon never gave up on Billy Rivers. Let’s pray.