September 2017  
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Woman's Bible Study
7:00 PM to 8:15 PM
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Pastor: Harry M. Krolus

                                   FORGIVING - AN EXAMPLE TO FOLLOW
                                                  MATTHEW 18:21-35

There once was a man who really loved dogs. Although he never had one because of allergies, he devoted his life to them and even gave talks about them to other dog lovers. One day he decided to pour a new sidewalk in front of his house. His neighbor watched from his window as he smoothed out the last square foot of cement.
Just then, a large dog appeared and walked through the fresh cement, leaving paw prints behind. The man muttered something under his breath and smoothed out the damage.  He then went inside to get some twine so he could put up a fence around the sidewalk. But, when he got back outside, he discovered more dog tracks in his fresh cement. He smoothed out the cement and put up the fence.
He then went back into the house. Five minutes later he looked outside and saw some more paw prints. He was getting really mad. He got out his trowel and smoothed the cement one more time. As he got back to his porch, the dog reappeared and sat right in the middle of the sidewalk.
He went inside, grabbed his gun and shot the dog dead. The neighbor rushed over and said, “Why in the world did you do that? I thought you loved dogs.” The man thought for a minute and said, “I do, I do like dogs. But that’s in the abstract. I hate dogs in the concrete.”
For many, that’s the reality of forgiveness.  We love the idea of being forgiven. But when it comes to forgiving others, it might sound good in the abstract, but often we hate it in the concrete. Now, on to our lesson.
Vs. 21
Basically, Peter asks the question, Is there a forgiveness limit?  The question is a good one. How often should we forgive?  When he offers the number 7 he is doubling the Jewish legal requirement and adding one.  He probably is thinking he is being generous.
Vs. 22
The initial response of Jesus is direct.  Jesus uses the number 7, the number that Peter used, to make his point.  There is to be no limit on the times we are to forgive.  We are not to keep a forgiveness scorecard.
Vss. 23-25
To illustrate his point, Jesus tells the parable of the unmerciful servant.  These verses illustrate the guilt.  The man owed a great debt, millions of dollars, which he could never pay.  By law, the king could order that the man, his wife and children be sold into slavery; and that all that he had be sold in order to, at least in part, repay the debt that was owed.  The facts are the facts.  The man is guilty deserving of punishment.
We are the servant and God is the king.  Because of our sin, we owe a tremendous debt of righteousness to God, of which we have no hope of ever repaying.  The facts are the facts.  There are no loop holes.  There are no excuses.  We deserve God’s punishment.

Vss. 26-27
Here we see the man begging for mercy.  He says that he will pay back everything, but that would be impossible. The king releases the man and cancels the debt, not because of the man’s desperate promise to repay.  He forgives the man his debt because he has mercy on him.  
The very same thing is true of us. We can never even to begin to repay the debt we owe. But through Jesus God has demonstrated his mercy.  Through Jesus we are offered debt forgiveness.
Vss. 28-29
Here we have the very same thing we just read being reenacted.  This time the servant plays the role of king and his fellow servant plays the part of the one who is in debt.  The only thing that is different is the amount that is owed.  A hundred denarii is equivalent to only a few dollars.  But still the fellow servant is unable to pay.  He must rely on the mercy of the one who has just been forgiven so much.
Here we are reminded that the sins committed against us by our fellow man are are not even on the same scale compared with the sins we have committed against God.
Vss. 30-31
We see clearly that the man who was forgiven much does not respond well.  But beyond that, we also see that the man’s response does not go unnoticed.  The king becomes fully aware.
How have we responded to the forgiveness we have received from God?
Vss. 32-34
The apostle Paul writes in Galatians 6:7-8 “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”  This is exactly what we see going on here.  The servant is not spiritual at all and is not really repentant.  He wants mercy, but at the same time, he wants his money.  It’s all about him.  As this truth is revealed, the servant will now be required to pay the terrible penalty for his debt.
The servant here provides a negative example of how we are not to be.  If we are unwilling to forgive, our faith is only superficial and we reject the forgiveness God so much wants us to have.  It’s as simple as that.
Vs. 35
This is the summation.  There is a danger in not being willing to forgive.  We need to be clear that the parable is not teaching us that God changes his mind, but that he denies forgiveness to those who are unqualified.  Who then are the unqualified?  The unqualified are those that do not truly repent of their own sin and who do not truly believe the Gospel.  The unqualified are those who do not have true faith.
As it is God’s will that all people be saved, it is also his will that all people be forgiven, as forgiveness is the key to salvation. But all people are not saved and all people are not forgiven. Why? Because forgiveness is not automatic. It must be received through repentant faith.
This truth leads us to two very important conclusions. One, we are never to take our forgiveness as a given. God takes sin very seriously, even if our world does not. Contrition and repentance receives the forgiveness earned for us at Calvary’s cross. Without contrition and repentance, the forgiveness of the cross is not received and we are still in our sin, unforgiven.
The second conclusion is that as our God desires us to receive the forgiveness of the cross, we too are to be a people desiring to forgive anyone who sins against us. Ok, you might say.  But what happens if the offending party is not sorry or repentant for what they have done? After all, it is hard enough to forgive someone who is truly sorry. How can we be expected to be forgiving if they are not?
The first thing we have to say to this question is that our attitude towards the offending party is not dependent on the attitude of the offending party towards us. We are to be a people who always seek to forgive. Not only is this in obedience to our Lord’s command; it also frees us from the bondage of vengeance and retribution and allows for mercy and reconciliation. If the offender is not sorry, that’s on him. He has rejected the forgiveness offered. Either way, our attitude is to be the same.
If our heavenly Father is willing to forgive us, for the sake of Jesus; we certainly ought to be willing to forgive those who offend us, no longer holding their offense against them. It is not always easy, but as we rely on God’s strength and grace, he will enable us to do what we are unable do ourselves.