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Life Upside Down 11


Matthew 6:14-15


Over the last four weeks we have concentrated our study on prayer because Jesus preached to a crowd of people listening to Him on the shores of the Sea of Galilee on the subject.  Jesus talked about the activity of prayer, the motivation of prayer, the content of prayer, and then He gave us a pattern for praying.  In that pattern prayer there was one petition that we only spent a short amount of time on that I called the “restoration of prayer.”  In verse 12 it says, “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  I mentioned that Jesus talks about this again after He has finished the pattern prayer in verses 14 and 15.  This is where I want to spend some time today.  Let me read what Jesus says here again in verses 14 and 15.

Matthew 6:14-15

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,

15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Jesus is elaborating a little on what He said about forgiveness in the pattern prayer back in verse 12.  Because of this repetition in His sermon, this must be something of great importance and we should sit up and take note of why.  Why would Jesus expand the petition given to us in verse 12?  I believe it must be a very important part of my life in Christ.  If not, then why the repetition?


Before we look at this more in depth, I want to remind you of something we talked about last week.  This instruction on forgiving others is not about the forgiveness we received when we put our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  In other words, our salvation is not dependent on our forgiveness of others.  Salvation is by grace through faith alone, not with any works of righteousness that we do (Ephesians 2:8-9).  We cannot and will not be saved by doing good things, including forgiving others.  The forgiveness Jesus is talking about here is a restoration of our fellowship with God not our salvation.  Our relationship with God is broken when we chose to not forgive someone their trespasses against us.

Now I already know that this is not an easy subject, and you may even tune me out as we begin talking about this.  But I hope you will at least listen before you decide if this is something that is important for your life.  Forgiveness is not only controversial in our world, but for some people, they say it is impossible for them to forgive someone who has hurt them terribly.  I know from conversations with some of you recently that you are personally dealing with this struggle, even right now, and I pray that you will be open to whatever God has to teach you about forgiveness this morning.

I think we often approach the idea of forgiveness from a completely wrong perspective and that is why what Jesus is teaching here is . . .  like life turned upside down.  Everything in the Sermon on the Mount has been that way.  It is like it is opposite to what we think should happen.  The same is true here.  How can we forgive?  Does this somehow impact my salvation if I don’t forgive?  In the Bible Knowledge Commentary, Louis Barbieri says this, “Though God’s forgiveness of sin is not based on one’s forgiving others, a Christian’s forgiveness is based on realizing he [or she] has been forgiven.”  In other words, the reason and motivation of a Christian’s forgiveness toward others is because of the enormous forgiveness that we have experienced with God.

If you remember from our brief communion time last week, I mentioned that forgiveness is the concept of letting go, releasing, or a sending away of something that is indebted to you.  When an offense takes place, the offender is in debt to the one offended.  Forgiveness is treating the offender as if it never happened; it is a letting go of the debt.  It does not mean it is forgotten, only that we treat someone with godly love and compassion and release them from our vengeance toward them.  Now don’t get me wrong, they may have to be held accountable for certain actions and even pay a penalty, or go to court, or be put in jail, but forgiveness says I release you from my feelings of vengeance or my animosity that I have for you.

For many Christians, they view forgiveness as an option.  First, they say there must be a request from the offender for forgiveness.  If there is not request for forgiveness, then we don’t need to forgive.  Is that true?  Is forgiveness dependent on a remorseful request from the offender?  Some would point to Luke 17:3-4 to support this.

Luke 17:3-4

3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' you must forgive him."

This is not saying there must be repentance, but if there is repentance, we must forgive.  That much is clear in these verses.  But even if there is a request for forgiveness, many Christians still see forgiveness as optional.  Is forgiveness optional or conditional?  According to Jesus this is not the case.  My prayer is that we can somehow come to a proper view of forgiveness this morning.  Believe me, I know how difficult forgiveness can be.

What immediately pops out at me in Matthew 6:14-15 is that there are three parties involved in forgiveness.  Three?  We think that there are just two parties involved when someone offends another person and forgiveness is extended.  But what is interesting is that Jesus says there is a third party involved.  God the Father is involved.  Think about this for a moment!  If you are a believer and someone does something against you, it is not just about you and the offender, it is about your relationship with our Heavenly Father.  Even David recognized this about his sin in Psalm 51.  His sin was with Bathsheba and against Uriah, but he recognized that ultimately his sin was against God.

So, let’s take a look at these two verses with that in mind.  The first thing I see here is that forgiveness is a voluntary choosing on our part.  If something has been done against you, you must determine or choose to forgive.

Voluntary Determination (vv. 14a, 15a)

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, . . .

15 But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, . . . 

The subjunctive mood of the verbs here makes it very clear that forgiveness is a choice we must make.  It is a choice with certain outcomes, which I will talk about later.  In other words, God does not make us forgive, we must voluntarily choose forgiveness.  For some of those things that happen to us we may have an easier time with forgiveness.  But sometimes, we are hurt so deeply, that forgiveness seems impossible.  We often want to put conditions on our forgiveness.  We say things like:

~ they need to show remorse for what they have done to me

~ they must come in humility and ask me for forgiveness

~ they must feel the same pain that I am feeling right now

~ they must acknowledge to me the awfulness of what they have done and show me how bad they feel about it

There are other responses we may choose that have similar meaning behind them as these, but in each of these responses did you notice who is involved?  It is all about how we have been taken advantage of and how the offender needs to repay before I will extend forgiveness and even then, I am not sure I will feel like it.  But the interesting thing in these responses is that the most important party has been left out . . . God.  Somehow, we conveniently leave God out of the picture when someone commits an offense against us.  All of these responses are a type of vengeance that says we will only extend forgiveness after we receive whatever vengeance we choose to require upon them.  Do you see a problem with that?  Do any of these responses bring either person, the offender or the offended, closer to God?  Either you or the offender?  When God is excluded, it is all about us and how we feel, not about our relationship with God.

What does biblical forgiveness look like?  Look at it this way.  What about after we are saved, and we commit a sin, how do we receive forgiveness from God?  Does biblical forgiveness demand some sort of deed that we must do to receive forgiveness, to pay God back for the sin we have committed?  Is biblical forgiveness about some sort of reciprocal action between us and God?  Does biblical forgiveness require repentance?

I have to admit that this is something I struggle with.  I mentioned it last week.  You see, I tend to think I am a pretty decent person.  I have not committed any heinous crimes and I try to live rightly, not that I am sinless, but many people think I am an okay person, generally speaking.  When I begin to think like this, I begin to think that God didn’t have to forgive me of much and that somehow, I was a pretty easy project for Him.  What is the problem here?  Somehow the enormity of my sin has been reduced to no big deal.

We are like the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:23-35.  Last week I suggested that you go home and read this parable.  I hope you did and if not, I encourage you to make plans to do it today.  We are like this servant with an insurmountable debt.  Our debt is sin against a holy God.  We are forgiven by our King, Jesus, through His blood and sacrifice on the cross for our sins.  However, some of us are like this unmerciful servant and though we have been forgiven of much, when someone sins against us, we hold them bound in vengeance and anger against them.  We act as if we are so righteous that we have a right to hold it against them.

Most people know 1 John 1:9 but they usually don’t quote verse 8 with it.  Listen to what it says:

1 John 1:8-9

8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

We all struggle with some aspect of sin in our lives.  We are not any better than anyone else when it comes to sin.  This includes someone who commits an offense against us.  We may think our sin is not as serious as others, but in reality, sin is sin, and refusing to forgive another person is sin.  When we do not choose forgiveness, we are like the unmerciful servant.  We are trying to hold people accountable rather than trust God for justice.  We want them to recognize their wrong against us and pay for how they have hurt us.  Remember, we are not talking about forgetting the offense because that is probably not in our power.  We are to release them from our anger and vengeance and leaving it in God’s hands.  Why?  Simply because God has forgiven us.

Colossians 3:12-13

12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

I can tell you from experience, there is nothing more freeing in our lives than when we forgive those who have hurt us.  Forgiveness frees us from the emotional bondage of hate, animosity, and retribution toward another.  If we choose to not forgive, the poison of that will eat us up.  We become slaves to our own bitterness and in reality, we are the ones most hurt by holding onto unforgiveness.  But more than that, it becomes a hindrance in my relationship with God.  We must choose to forgive.  Forgiveness is something that is given, it can never be taken.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, . . .

15 But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, . . . 

Why should we choose forgiveness?  Because of its impact in our lives, our influence with others, and especially our relationship with God.  There is a Divine Outcome in choosing forgiveness.

Divine Outcome (vv. 14b, 15b)

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,

15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Think about this for a moment.  As a person who has put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you have experienced the Divine forgiveness of God.  Because of your faith, you stand as righteous before Him.  Nothing can change that, even when you sin, nothing changes the fact that you are a child of God, a part of His family and a part of the Bride of Christ.  So, we are a part of the family of God.  Now if we have an unforgiving spirit in our heart toward another person, it is sin.  When you and I sin, we hinder the fellowship we have with our God.  Why?  Well, any time we choose to not forgive, it is due to a vengeful spirit or a spirit of pride and this is sin.  If we choose to not forgive, we are choosing to live in sin.  Though we are saved from our sin and a part of the family of God, we have broken our fellowship with God by not forgiving.  We no longer experience the freedom we have in Christ though we are saved and a part of God’s family.


We must realize that God knows how difficult it is to choose forgiveness.  He chose to forgive us even while we were still in sin against Him (Romans 5:8).  This is not an easy choice.  Forgiveness of others is strong evidence that we recognize the the tremendous love and power of God showing forgiveness toward us.  In fact, in some severe circumstances, forgiveness may seem to be near impossible without the Holy Spirit of God giving us the power to forgive.

We know God loves us – John 3:16.  We know that forgiveness from Christ is without hesitation or delay – Colossians 3:13.  And we know that God’s forgiveness is so powerful, that sin is never brought up against us again.  Psalm 103:11-12

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Our forgiveness of others is founded in our understanding of God’s forgiveness toward us.  Unforgiveness toward others is sin.  As David said of his sin with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, . . . sin is against God.  As sinners living under the umbrella of God’s forgiveness, we are wise to choose forgiveness of the wrongs other have committed against us.  Sometimes we are confused what it means when we forgive someone.

What forgiveness does not mean:

~ We are ignoring the pain of the offense.

~ We are condoning the offense.

~ We are not pretending that it never happened.

~ We are not attempting to forget the incident.

~ We are not shielding the offender from consequences related to law and justice.

~ We are not allowing others to take advantage of us.

What forgiveness does mean:
~ We let go of anger and resentment.

~ We become more empathetic and reasonable.

~ We understand the greatness of our forgiveness from God.

~ We understand that God is both just and the justifier.

~ We allow the wounds of the offense to heal over time.

Ephesians 4:32 says

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.


The Power of Forgiveness Video (3:20)

Forgiveness is not about what the offender has done.  It is about us and our relationship with the Lord.  Is there some anger and bitterness you hold against another person because of what they have done?  Are you unwilling to forgive?  It will have an impact on your relationship with the Lord.  I encourage you to choose forgiveness!