Cameos of God's Perfect Forgiveness

Bible Book: Matthew  18 : 21-22
Subject: Forgiveness; Cleansing, Mercy of God; Repentance

Matthew 18:21-22 - Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

No doubt Peter thought his Master would be pleased with his willingness to forgive someone seven times when the local rabbis were saying it was only necessary to forgive three times. Peter was extending his mercy all the way to SEVEN! Just imagine how shocked he must have felt with Jesus insisted that seven wasn’t enough, that he should be prepared to forgive his brother up to seventy times seven. He must have wondered, how is that possible? This wasn’t just a test of his mercy or his counting ability; it was a test of his faith….

In Luke 17, Jesus told his disciples that if their brother sinned against them seven times a day and seven times asks for forgiveness, they were to do it. How did they respond to His command? They cried out, “Increase our faith. Nothing tests our spiritual depth as much as forgiving those who repeatedly hurt us. NOTHING….

Like Peter and those apostles, many of us struggle with the problem of forgiving others, especially the people who seem to repeatedly fail us, repeatedly disappoint us, or repeatedly bring harm to us. At the same time, we are often amazed that others have such a hard time forgiving us.

Those of us who have been forgiven a lifetime of sin often have trouble forgiving others even one time…much less seven…or seventy times seven.

Yet, God clearly intends that those of us who have received His grace and mercy must then display it in the way we treat one another.

Colossians 3:12-13 - Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.

Let me ask you this morning… How many times have you failed the Lord, grieved His Spirit, or brought harm to His kingdom? How much forgiveness have you needed from Him and how much has He given you?

Apparently, Jesus wants to enlist us into the School of Mercy. Every complaint we have against one another can and should become a lesson in compassion and forgiveness. It can become a tool to make us more like Him. EVEN AS CHRIST FORGAVE YOU, SO YOU ALSO MUST DO FOR OTHERS.

We learn nothing of forgiveness until others have hurt us deeply and perhaps repeatedly. We may learn very little about forgiveness unless we are willing to learn from the only One who does it perfectly. Could you have hung on a cross with nails in your hands pleading for the forgiveness of those who were tormenting you? Jesus did.

Let’s turn to God’s Word for four vivid portraits of God’s forgiveness this morning. Maybe we can learn to follow in His steps.

I. God’s forgiveness has the power to separate us from our sin.

Psalm 103:12 - As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

A. When God forgives us, He doesn’t leave us to clean up our own mess.

1 John 1:9 - If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [He cleanses our hearts & conscience according to Heb 10:22]

B. If I forgive you, I should work to remove all the damage the offense has done in both of our lives.

Illustration: Someone has said “God loves us just the way we are, but He also loves us too much to leave us that way.”

C. Sometimes, we offer conditional forgiveness.

We say, “You straighten everything out first, then I’ll forgive you.”

D. Thank God, He doesn’t operate that way!

A man in England was leaning against a large bush, his deep depression causing thoughts of suicide. At that moment, he overheard two girls discussing a sermon they had heard. One girl said, “The preacher said something that really lifted my spirits.” The other asked, “What was that?” After a moment of quiet, the first one responded, “The world will always tell us ‘You made your bed, so lie in it.’ But Jesus is the One Who says, ‘Your sins are forgiven. Take up your bed and walk.’”

II. God’s forgiveness does not allow our sin to come between Him and us.

A. Sin Causes A Barrier

Because God is so holy, sin causes a barrier to having fellowship with Him.

B. God will not Look on Iniquity

Habakkuk 1:13 says that the eyes of the Lord are too pure to even look upon iniquity.

C. God will Hear those in Iniquity

Isaiah 59:2 - But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.

D. Is There a Solution?

What picture does God give to show us His solution for this barrier? How does He deal with the sin barrier between Him and us?

Isaiah 38:17 - Indeed it was for my own peace that I had great bitterness; but You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption, for You have cast all my sins behind Your back.

E. Sin must be Removed or it Separates

In our hearts, if we fail to separate the sin and the sinner, we can be sure that sin will separate us from each other.

III. God’s forgiveness includes a decision to never remember our sins again

A. This is part of the New Covenant that is fulfilled in Christ.

Hebrews 8:10-12 - For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

An old Southern gospel song says; “What sins are you talkin’ about, I don’t’ remember them anymore. From the Book of Life, they’ve all been torn out. I don’t remember them anymore.”

B. How Can God Forget Our Sins?

God is omniscient. He knows all things: past, present, and future. He isn’t senile. He isn’t forgetful. So what does this verse mean?

1. It means that God has committed Himself to not remind Himself, to not remind you, and not to remind anybody else about the sins He has forgiven.

I use Post It Notes to remind myself of things I need to do. When it comes to our sins, God throws away the Post It Notes. He makes a choice to stop bringing our sins back to mind.

2. If the Lord wanted to, He could easily remember every guilt-ridden or shameful moment in your life. But that wouldn’t be love.

How often have you heard someone say, “Oh, I’ll forgive him, but I won’t forget it.”

That sounds like a decision to remind ourselves of how badly we’ve been treated by another. Doesn’t it?

C. It is a Divine Decision

God has made the decision to stop bringing our sins back to memory – either His memory or ours!

D. We are to Emulate our God

Do you focus your attention on the past sins of one of your family members or one of our church members? If you decide to stop reminding yourself, you might eventually forget it. If you keep reminding yourself, then you haven’t really chosen to forgive.

Corrie ten Boom told of not being able to forget a wrong that had been done to her. She had forgiven the person, but she kept rehashing the incident and so couldn't sleep. Finally Corrie cried out to God for help in putting the problem to rest. "His help came in the form of a kindly Lutheran pastor," Corrie wrote, "to whom I confessed my failure after two sleepless weeks." "Up in the church tower," he said, nodding out the window, "is a bell which is rung by pulling on a rope. But you know what? After the sexton lets go of the rope, the bell keeps on swinging. First ding, then dong. Slower and slower until there's a final dong and it stops. I believe the same thing is true of forgiveness. When we forgive, we take our hand off the rope. But if we've been tugging at our grievances for a long time, we mustn't be surprised if the old angry thoughts keep coming for a while. They're just the ding-dongs of the old bell slowing down." "And so it proved to be. There were a few more midnight reverberations, a couple of dings when the subject came up in my conversations, but the force -- which was my willingness in the matter -- had gone out of them. They came less and less often and at the last stopped altogether: we can trust God not only above our emotions, but also above our thoughts."

IV. God’s forgiveness removes any fear that our sins will ever surface again.

Micah 7:19 - He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea.

A. The Fear of Past Sin

Some people live with a fear that something ugly from their past…. will float to the surface to destroy their relationships, even their relationship with God.

B. This Fears Harms Relationships

One of the great problems we have in relationships with one another is the fact that past offenses often seem like shadows just below the surface, ready to be brought to the surface at a moment’s notice.

This causes a climate of fear in a marriage, in a relationship between parents and children, or in friendships.

C. God Remembers Them No More!

One of the big differences between burial at sea and burial in a cemetery is that with one…you can’t find the body later.

Garth Brooks has a song that says, "We buried the hatchet, but left the handle sticking out." Isn’t that the way it is for some of us when we try to let someone off the hook? The hatchet might seem to be buried, but people know that we can easily reach out and grab that handle if they want bring it all back up again. One of the seven great cries of Jesus on the cross was “It is finished.” That sounds pretty final, doesn’t it?


A story tells how two friends were walking together through the desert. During some point of the journey they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other one in the face. The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand: TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SLAPPED ME IN THE FACE.

They kept on walking until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but the friend saved him.

After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone: TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SAVED MY LIFE.

The friend who had slapped and saved his best friend asked him, "After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now, you write on a stone, why?"

The other friend replied "When someone hurts us we should write it down in sand where winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But, when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it." LEARN TO WRITE YOUR HURTS IN THE SAND AND TO CARVE YOUR BENEFITS IN STONE.

Peter asked, “How often should I forgive my brother?” You heard the answer from Jesus and you’ve seen word pictures of how He forgives, but what is your answer this morning?

But there is another issue for us as we close. You may not be able to forgive others because you yourself are living in the misery of guilt and shame. You may have never really experienced God’s love and forgiveness in a personal way. Let me ask you to not put it off any longer. When our song of invitation begins, will you do what you know you need to do? Will you immediately step out from where you are, coming to this altar, confessing your need for Christ to forgive you your sins and give you a new life beginning today?

Someone else may have recognized a seething bitterness in your own heart. Someone may have hurt you, or they may have hurt one of your loved ones. You may have been thinking they don’t deserve to be forgiven… maybe forgetting that you didn’t deserve it when Jesus forgave you. Are you going to allow that unforgiveness to continue as a barrier to joyful fellowship with your Father and Lord? Please don’t do that! Don’t wait another moment; take that first step, calling on the Lord to help you release this person from their debt? Take that step for Jesus, right now!