Setting People Free

April 24, 2020

Matthew 18:32–35

32 Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master turned 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 from your heart.”

Becoming an unforgiving person is a very serious issue. Look at the way this parable ends and by the way, interpreting parables isn’t the easiest thing in the world. But at the very end, we see Jesus tells us about the king. The king comes and says, “Since you are not grateful for what I’ve done, since you have not forgiven your fellow servant, into prison with you.” Notice what it says. “… to be tortured …”

What is that all about?  I mean, as we’re going to see, the king is a good guy, and he is a good model for us. Why in the world does Jesus Christ create a parable in which, at the very end, he is torturing the man? Well, you have to understand you can’t look at every single character in here as a real person. They’re teaching illustrations, but I think this is what Jesus is saying to us. “If you do not forgive, if you do not learn how to do it, if you do not learn how to keep anger when you’re mistreated from passing into you, acting and affecting you below the surface (in a sense, under your own radar), passing on into you, if you don’t learn how to stop that, it’s going to be torment. There’s going to be misery. You’ll be like in prison. You won’t be living a free life. You won’t be possessing your souls in patience.”

Years ago I met a father who’s kids attended one of our vacation Bible schools. After it was over his kids were excited to come to church but the father refused. Someone had offered to pick them up but he still refused. When I asked him why, he said that he was forced to go to church by his father and as a kid he hated it. So he was not going to do to his own kids what is father did to him. Even though his father was no longer alive this man was still being controlled by his unforgiveness towards his father. By not allowing his kids to go to church, which they loved by the way, he was still punishing his father. He was being controlled by something he had never forgiven and he was in prison.

This kind of thing happens all too often. The people we don’t forgive eventually control us… even after they are gone. And feeling anger, 20 years after being mistreated is to be tortured. Freedom comes from forgiving and letting the person go. If you try to make them pay… you have just been thrown into prison to be tortured. Jesus said this is how the Father will allow you to be treated if you don’t forgive. And notice who tortures the unforgiving servant? The king doesn’t do the torturing, the jailers are the ones who torture the servant. The ones we don’t forgive become our jailers.

I sat down one day and made a list of my jailers. The people who had treated me wrong, the ones who owed me something, the people who hurt me, broke my heart, did me wrong… I couldn’t remember all of them but there were some who still stood out on the list. I examined my pain and relished in it one last time and then I forgave them. I didn’t tell them I forgave them, I just forgave them and wrote off the debt and set them free.

Jesus said this is the only way to be free from the jailers who will torture you, enslave you, make you bitter and spiteful. Have compassion on them, forgive them and set them and you free.

He Canceled the Debt

April 23, 2020

 Matthew 18:26–27

26 The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

 The unforgiving servant should have learned something from the king. It says the servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt, and let him go. Let’s look at those three things (not quite in that order).

 The first thing is he canceled the debt. The first step, the first aspect of a forgiving spirit, is you do not take revenge and you do not make the other person pay the emotional debt of pain, but you pay it down yourself. See, the king canceled the debt.

 This is not teaching that if somebody has wronged you legally, you should not take legal action. This does not mean you let everything go. That’s not what we’re talking about. Here’s what I think we’re talking about. The idea is, when someone wrongs you, it creates an emotional debt of pain. It’s a debt, a debt you feel. It’s a sense of obligation that this person owes you and you feel it.

 No matter what your theology or what your philosophy, no matter what your worldview, you can’t help it. Someone has wronged you, and there’s a debt. It’s a debt essentially of emotional pain, and it has to be paid down. It doesn’t just go away. You say, “What do you mean by paid down?” Well, what most people do is they make the other person pay.

 There are all sorts of ways of making the other person pay. You can insult them. You can be cold to them. You can be harsh to them. You can withdraw your friendship from them. You can try to hurt them professionally. There are all sorts of direct ways. There are more indirect ways, like gossiping about them. You slander them. You ruin their reputation with other people.

Here’s the deal. You want to hurt them. Why? Because (and let’s be completely honest) when I inflict pain on somebody who hurts me, it makes me feel better. I’m paying down the debt.

 The more I see them squirm, the more I see them twist, the more I see them hurt, the more I see … I have to get my pain debt down by seeing them pay. It works. I mean, it works in the sense of slowly you feel less and less that person owes you. Slowly you feel less and less of that pain debt. You do feel better when you see them hurting and screaming and crying and upset and losing their job and so on.

You feel better after a while, but it passes into you. The heat has come on, and it has passed into you. It has swept you along. It has melted you into its likeness. If you make the other person pay the debt, you are changing. It is controlling you. In fact you end up being controlled by the other person and the debt never goes away. At some point there is no amount of pain or hurt or loss that the other person can endure that will actually make the debt disappear. Even the death of that person will not pay the debt… you will carry it with you forever. But there is a better way.

The king was wise, the king was forgiving, and the king cancelled the debt.



Making Things Right

April 22, 2020

 Psalms 32:1-5

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah.  

Only God can forgive sin. We can forgive transgressions against us but we cannot forgive sin. Forgiving sin is God’s department. That’s why when Jesus is about to heal a young man on the Sabbath the religious leaders are watching to see if this is a “trespass” of the Law of Moses. Because if it is, then they will have a legal right to convict him and make him pay. But Jesus goes a different route. As everyone is waiting for Jesus to heal the boy, Jesus says.

“Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.”  Matthew 9:2-3

“For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–he then said to the paralytic–“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home.

Matthew 9:5-7

Do you see what happened? They said “He is blaspheming” because only God could forgive sin. The reason why only God can forgive sin is because all sin is against God.

If Joe stomps on Harry’s foot and walks away, John, who saw the whole thing, can’t go to Joe and say I forgive you… it wasn’t John’s foot that got stomped. But every foot that gets stomped is a sin against God. God can forgive the sin which allows Harry to forgive the trespass, especially since God has also forgiven Harry for his sins. See how that works? All sin is against God.

Then why does Joe need to confess his sin to Harry? Can’t Joe just confess to God and ask for forgiveness? No, there is this thing called restitution. Restitution means Joe has to make things right to Harry. Remember last week we said when we sin against someone else it creates a debt between you. That debt must be paid.

Leviticus 6:1-7

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “If anyone sins and commits a breach of faith against the Lord by deceiving his neighbor in a matter of deposit or security, or through robbery, or if he has oppressed his neighbor or has found something lost and lied about it, swearing falsely—in any of all the things that people do and sin thereby— if he has sinned and has realized his guilt and will restore what he took by robbery or what he got by oppression or the deposit that was committed to him or the lost thing that he found or anything about which he has sworn falsely, he shall restore it in full and shall add a fifth to it, and give it to him to whom it belongs on the day he realizes his guilt.

 The law required 20% to be added to whatever was taken, harmed or violated. A confession of guilt was made, a guilt offering was brought to the priest and a payment was made to the offended party… because sin creates a debt and requires restitution.

There are some things you cannot make restitution for, you know the difference. If you have sinned against someone by being rude… confess it and maybe you can be 20% nicer than required? 20% more truthful to those you have lied to… I don’t know how you make restitution in areas like these but you get the picture? It’s not enough to just confess, there needs to be an attempt to make things right, maybe even better than right it that is possible.

All sin is against God and God requires we go make it right to the people we have sinned against.







Daily Devotions 2020