November 16, 2003

The Climate of Healthy Relationships
Part 3: Forgiveness

Introduction: Forgiveness is the glue that holds two imperfect people together! How can you make forgiveness the climate of your relationships? 1. ______________________________________________________ forgiveness. Forgiveness is _________________________________________________. Forgiveness isn’t ____________________ . You forgive with your _____________________ not your _______________________. Forgiveness isn’t ____________________ . You forgive with your _____________________ not your _______________________. 2. ____________________________ forgiveness __________________________. Ephesians 4:32, Mark 2:1-12, Luke 24:47, Acts 13:38, Ephesians 1:7, 1 John 1:9

3. ____________________________ forgiveness __________________________. A. _______________________________________________ ahead of time. Romans 6:10, Hebrews 7:27, 10:10, 1 Peter 3:18 B. Keep ______________________________________________________. Ephesians 4:26, Matthew 5:23-24 C. ____________________ forgiveness; __________________ when asked. For Life Group Discussion: What is the most difficult part of forgiveness for you? Who do you need to forgive now? What is your next step?

November 16, 2003

The Climate of Healthy Relationships
Part 3: Forgiveness

Opening: ILL: How many of you remember the 1970 hit movie, "Love Story", starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal? When Jenny lay dying, Oliver was weeping and saying, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry", and Jenny said that famous line, "Love means never having to say you're sorry." Do you buy that? I don't think Ryan O'Neal did! Two years later in his 1972 comedy, "What's Up, Doc?" with Barbra Streisand, she bats her eyes at him when he apologizes and says, "Love means never having to say you're sorry." O'Neal looks at her disbelievingly, and then says, "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard!" The comedy is closer to the truth than the romance! It really is the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard. Any two people who love each other have to say “I’m sorry” a lot—every day—multiple times a day. Why? Because they’re imperfect! Relationships always involve imperfect people and require lots of forgiveness if they are to work and last. The truth is that love means having to say you're sorry often; love means forgiving the other person frequently. Today, we’re going to talk about how to build a climate of forgiveness in your relationships. Offering and announcements: Huge way-to-go! You gave $12,910 to provide turkey dinners for Thanksgiving—that’s enough for 860 families! Thank you! We have been looking for ways to help our community, especially the poor. Randy Sylvia has been championing this cause since the first of November; here are some options. (Handouts) I told you last weekend that we are $180,000 behind budget for the 2003 calendar year, and we’d like to make that up these last six weeks. I know that budgets don’t motivate most people. “Help us make budget” doesn’t make most of us jump up and grab our checkbooks! So let me personalize it. Our budget has four large categories. First, personnel. Your offerings pay the salaries and benefits for our paid staff of 45 full and part time people. They include maintenance and facilities staff, technical personnel, clerical and office staff, and pastors and ministry directors. These are the people who make all that our church does possible; and your offerings allow them to do that. Second, ministry. Your offerings pay the expenses involved in providing the wide range of services that we offer. For example, it costs money to provide a

Page 2 quality children’s program each week, or a junior high or senior high group, or Life Groups, or starting a new church. Your offering makes all the ministries of our church possible. Third, giving. We give almost 20% of all our offerings away to help the poor and needy, to help start new churches, to help other ministries that are doing God’s work in our city and beyond, and to Christian missionaries around the world. Your offerings are helping thousands of people here and around the world. Fourth, operations. These include things like the mortgage, utilities, insurance, maintenance, repairs, and equipment. I’ve had people tell me, “I don’t want my offering to go for the mortgage or utilities; I want it to go straight to ministry.” I tell them that if everyone had that attitude, we’d be meeting outside in the cold. Every church, just like every family, has these expenses; your offerings pay for them and make this possible. That’s where your money goes—that’s what the budget is about. It’s about doing God’s work—it’s about people—all of it, even the operations expenses. I don’t look at our mortgage or utilities as investing in a building. It’s investing in the people who use the building. Your offering is an investment in God’s work, which is about people. Any questions? Worship, Prayer, Sketch: No Accident. Introduction: That sketch has really happened. There are lots of stories of people who decided to forgive instead of be bitter, to help someone instead of punish them. And it illustrates a very important truth: who benefits most when you forgive someone? You do! Forgiveness sets you free. It liberates you, the forgiver, from bitterness and from the responsibility of being judge, jury and executioner. Often people refuse to forgive because they want to punish the offender; but the person you’re punishing most is yourself. You make yourself miserable! Kim did herself a favor and forgave Ann. It’s not just the forgiver who benefits; forgiveness also liberates the forgiven. Ann experienced the relief of being forgiven. Forgiveness sets the forgiven free from the need to defend herself; from the guilt of the past; and gives her opportunity to change. When you are forgiven, you don't have to defend yourself any longer; you don't have to live in the shadow of past failures; you can move on, you are free to change. Forgiveness needs to be the climate of your relationships; not just an occasional thing that you do, but an essential part of the environment, just like the air you breathe. Without forgiveness, relationships suffocate. How many of you have any friction in your relationships?

Page 3 ILL: Modern car engines are manufactured to incredibly precise specifications. The parts are machined and polished and fitted together down to the thousandths of an inch. But no matter how perfect the fit, no matter how polished the parts, there is still a tremendous amount of friction in an engine. No one has invented an engine that can run without lubrication. So engines need oil; oil eases that friction and allows the engine to run a long time without blowing up. Relationships are like that. Even with the two most perfect people, two people who seem to fit together perfectly, two people who are polished and mature, there is a great deal of friction. Forgiveness is the oil that keeps a friendship or marriage or family running a long time. When you lose your oil and the oil warning light comes on, what do you do? You park the car right there, and get oil, because you know that to drive very far without oil will destroy your engine. Just like your engine needs oil to run, your relationships needs forgiveness to keep going. Has your warning light come on lately? Are there unresolved tensions, lingering hurts and bitterness? It's time to pull over and get some forgiveness flowing! Forgiveness is the climate of healthy relationships, just like oil is a basic operating necessity for a car. Forgiveness is the glue that holds relationships together; it is essential to healthy relationships. How can we make it the climate of our relationships? 1. Understand forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go and sending away. Forgiveness means letting go and sending away. The New Testament was written in Greek, and the word used for forgiveness, aphiemi, meant "to let go, send away, cancel, remit, leave, abandon; to forgive.” It was used of the voluntary release of a person or thing over which one has legal or actual control. It was often used of the release of captives and slaves, and of releasing someone from a legal bond or debt. To forgive means that I let go of the hurt and the resentment and the judgment and the desire for revenge. I send it all away. I voluntarily release you from my personal judgment, abandon my claims to retribution, and let you go free. ILL: Have you ever been to a wedding where cans were tied to the back of the couple's car, so that it made a racket when they drove off. Before the couple got very far out of town, he would jump out and untie that garbage or cut the strings; the racket could drive you crazy! Can you imagine leaving that tied on for the whole honeymoon? Or worse, what would think if you saw that couple drive by three years later, still towing all that garbage? Some people do that! Not with tin cans on their cars, but with unforgiveness in their relationships. Their spouse or friend or child fails, and

Page 4 every chance they get, they remind that person about his failure; they tie it on and let it bang around; sometimes, they even pick it up and shake it themselves just to remind them. In some relationships, people can't even hear each other any more over the clatter of unforgiveness. You need to do what those honeymooners did; stop the car, get out and cut that junk off and drive away from it. That is what forgiveness is: letting go and sending away the hurts and failures of the past. ILL: After the Civil War, Robert E. Lee, the famous general of the defeated Confederacy, was visiting a Kentucky lady, who took him to the remains of a grand old tree in front of her house. There she bitterly cried that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Union artillery fire. She looked to Lee for a word condemning the North or at least some sympathy for her loss. After a brief silence, Lee said, "Cut it down, my dear, and forget about it." That's what forgiveness is all about: cutting down, letting go, sending away, setting free. Forgiveness isn’t forgetting. Have you have heard "to forgive is to forget"? How many of you have tried to forgive someone for some great hurt, but discovered that, try as you may, you couldn't forget? You forgive with your will, not your memory. When you forgive someone, you don't necessarily forget what they did, but you do choose to let go of the judgment and the hurt, and begin to focus on something else. When you forgive, you may not forget immediately, but you make it possible to forget in the future. You forget what is unimportant to you, and forgiveness makes the offense unimportant; you decide that this thing isn't worth hanging on to so you let it go. Forgiveness isn't the same as forgetting, but it makes forgetting possible. ILL: A man had a dog he loved very much. It was a valuable and well-trained hunting dog, trained to sit at his master's feet when he had a rifle. One day, it wandered onto a neighbor's property, and the neighbor, in a rage, got out his rifle. The dog sat at his feet, and he shot the dog dead, then called the owner and told him to come get his dog. The owner was furious, and began legal proceedings; but he was also a Christian, and knew that he needed to forgive the man. After lots of prayer, he decided to forgive him. He not only dropped the charges against him, but he paid for counseling to help the man with his anger. But several weeks later, he went in to see his pastor. "I've tried to forgive him, I've told him that I forgive him. When we talked, he cried and begged for forgiveness. I am paying for counseling for him for his anger problem. But I can't get the picture out of my head of my dog sitting there at

Page 5 his feet, looking up at him as he shot him. And every time I remember, it makes me angry all over again. What is wrong with me? Haven't I forgiven him?" How many of you can identify with this man's question? You've tried to forgive, but you couldn't forget, and you didn't feel any better. His pastor gave him wise advice. He told him that you forgive with the will, not the memory, and that if he had honestly and prayerfully chosen to forgive, and lived that out in his behavior, then he had truly forgiven him, but the memories may be around for awhile. Given time, the memories and the pain would subside if he had forgiven. If he hadn't forgiven, the memories and the pain may never leave. When you choose to forgive, you choose to forget, but it takes time for the memory to catch up with the will. Forgiveness isn’t feeling better. When you choose to forgive, your feelings may change, or they may not. Like the man whose dog was shot, you may be angry for awhile. You forgive with your will, not your emotions. Just like it takes awhile for our memory to catch up, it takes our emotions awhile too. ILL: Corrie Ten Boom tells the story of not being able to forget a wrong done to her. She had forgiven the person, but she kept rehashing the incident and couldn't sleep. God's help came in the form of a kindly Lutheran pastor to whom she confessed her struggle after 2 sleepless weeks. He said, "Up in that church tower is a bell which is rung by pulling on a rope. 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 ding 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 awhile. They're just the ding-dongs of the old bell slowing down." Corrie writes, "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 last stopped altogether." Choose to forgive, to let go and send away; the memories and the emotions will eventually follow. If you want to make forgiveness the climate of your relationships, you start by understanding what forgiveness really is: forgiveness is a choice to let go and send away. It starts in the will and eventually works its way into your memory and emotions. You choose to let go of the rope, stop tugging on your grievances. Let it go and send it away. Cut it down and move on!

Page 6 2. Receive forgiveness from God. You can only give what you have. It’s much easier to give forgiveness when you’ve received it. If you’ve never been forgiven, if you still carry the burden of your own failures, it’s hard to set others free. But when you have been forgiven, when you have experienced the freedom of being forgiven your own sins, it’s easier to forgive others. So here’s the good news: God forgives you! God has made forgiveness the climate of His relationship with you. God decided to forgive you before you were even born or ever sinned! Jesus came to settle the forgiveness issue once for all. You can see it in the life of Jesus. For example, in Mark 2:1-12, some men brought a paralytic to Jesus to be healed. "When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." The religious leaders were offended: "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Jesus said to them, "Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . ." He said to the paralytic, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." He did! Jesus has authority to forgive sins, and he does! “Your sins are forgiven!” Have you heard him say that to you? Not only was forgiveness a cornerstone of Jesus' work, but it was the message that the early church leaders preached everywhere they went. For example, Luke 24:47 Jesus told the first missionaries "repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in (my) name to all nations..." And in Acts 13:38, Paul preached, "Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you." The letters of the New Testament refer over and over again to the fact of our full forgiveness, such as Ephesians 1:7 "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace." And 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." You are forgiven! This is the message of Jesus. You are forgiven! Do you feel forgiven? Not always; but in those times, it is better to trust the unchanging Word of God than your changing emotions. Tell your neighbor, "You are forgiven." You are forgiven and you are forgiven completely. Micah 7:19 “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” God has buried your sins in the deepest sea—and then he posted a sign that says, “No fishing.” Psalm 103:12 “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” North and south meet, but east and west never do. You

Page 7 can travel north until you reach the north pole, and then you’ll start going south. But you can travel east forever and never start going west. As far as the east is from the west, that’s how far God has removed your sins from you—forever! Acts 3:19 “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” The word “wiped out” means “erased.” God takes a giant eraser to your sins and erases them, wipes them out. ILL: When you came in you were given a pencil with an eraser on it. Would you write down a couple of your sins—not all of them—we don’t have that much time. Just a couple. Now imagine Jesus standing here saying, “Your sins are forgiven”—and erase those sins. You are forgiven! And God’s full and complete forgiveness of you is the basis of your forgiveness of others. Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. The reason that you can forgive is that God has forgiven you. Just like God has erased your sins, you can erase others’ sins against you. ILL: In fact, try this. Who do you most need to forgive? Write down a couple of their sins against you. Now erase them, and as you do, say, “I forgive you.” You are forgiven! Just as God has forgiven you, forgive others. Can you see how hard it would be to erase someone else’s sins if yours were still written on the page? Forgive as you’ve been forgiven. Understand forgiveness; receive forgiveness; then offer forgiveness to others. 3. Offer forgiveness to others. A. Decide ahead of time. Don't make it a matter of debate and decision each time someone fails: "Should I forgive this time?" Make it a predisposition. You've already decided to forgive every time, so you don't have to wrestle with that decision each time. This is how God has forgiven us! When Christ died on the Cross, He forgave all of our sin, past, present and future, once for all. Once for all. The Bible uses this phrase several times to teach that Jesus died once to pay for all sins. Once for all—every sin was paid for, none was left out. Romans 6:10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. Hebrews 7:27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. Hebrews 10:10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the

Page 8 sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 1 Peter 3:18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. When I ask God for forgiveness, I don't have to wonder what He'll say this time, because He has already said it, once for all: You are forgiven! God is predisposed to forgive me. The decision has already been made. Before my life began, before I made a single mistake, before I committed a single sin, Christ said, "I forgive you." To make forgiveness the climate of our relationships, we need to make the same decision ahead of time. I know that you’ll fail, so I’ve already decided to forgive you. ILL: Before our marriage began, in our vows, Laina and I said to each other, "I know that you will fail. I want you to know now, that I have already decided to forgive you. You never need to wonder if you are forgiven. Just as He has forgiven me, so I now forgive you." This predisposition, this deciding ahead of time, is based on some realistic expectations. I meet people all the time who are disappointed in Christians because they unrealistically expect them never to fail. I figured out a long time ago that Christians fail. How many of you have said, thought or done something wrong, something that might not be God's best, in the last week? See! So I have realistic expectations of people; people, including Christians, including even the best of Christians like my wife, fail; so I decide ahead of time to forgive them. That is what Christ has done for me: forgiveness is the climate of our relationship. That is what we must do for each other. This is huge. If we do this, other people aren’t left wondering, “Will you forgive me?” It’s already been decided. It’s part of the climate of our relationship. That leads to a second thing. B. Keep short accounts. Ephesians 4:26 says, "Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry." Resolve today's conflicts today; don't carry a balance sheet over to tomorrow. Jesus said in Matthew 5:23-24, "If you are offering your gift at the altar (you're worshipping, in church) and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary." Settle matters quickly—keep short accounts. Many of you have heard me say that I can't remember ever going to sleep with unresolved conflicts between Laina and me. We determined from the beginning of our marriage to keep short accounts, to settle matters quickly, in a climate of forgiveness. Don’t let things build up or fester; take care of it now. Just doing this one thing would be a huge step forward for some of you! Keep short accounts.

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C. Ask for forgiveness. Give it when asked. Never assume that you are forgiven. Never assume that the other person knows that you have forgiven them. Always verbalize it clearly. Ask clearly and specifically. Don't say, "If I did something...I can't imagine what...to offend you...I can't imagine why...would you forgive me?" Say "I'm sorry", but be specific about what you did, the fact that you were wrong, and asking for forgiveness. "I'm sorry that I got angry with you. It was wrong of me to say that you have the brains of a slug. I was wrong; would you forgive me?" Foggy apologies don’t get it done. ILL: A correction printed in a Canadian newspaper: "The Ottawa Citizen and Southam News wish to apologize for our apology to Mark Steyn. In correcting the incorrect statements about Mr. Steyn, published Oct. 15, we incorrectly published the incorrect correction. We accept and regret that our original regrets were unacceptable, and we apologize to Mr. Steyn for any distress caused by our previous apology." Clear as mud! Obviously they were having a little fun at Mr. Steyn’s expense. If you want forgiveness to be the climate of your relationships, you must learn to ask for forgiveness clearly and specifically. When someone asks that clearly, you have to give a clear answer. The right answer is "Yes, I forgive you." If you aren't ready to forgive, be honest. Say, "I'm still pretty angry or hurt, and I need awhile to work through my feelings. Let's talk in a little while." Sometimes you need to give people space to process their emotions; that's ok. But sin needs to be confessed, forgiveness needs to be asked for, and then, when it is asked for, it needs to be clearly given. “Yes, I forgive you.” ILL: Peter Gillquist in his book Love is Now gives a beautiful portrait of forgiveness. His wife Marilyn had put their 4 year old daughter Wendy down for a nap in their bedroom. Before long, she heard Wendy jumping on the bed, so she went in and told her to lie down. A few minutes later, the jumping resumed, and this time Marilyn gave her a clear warning: "If you jump again, you will get a spanking. Besides, mommy's favorite lamp is on the table next to the bed, and I'd feel terrible if anything happened to it. Now be quiet and go to sleep." Back in the kitchen for the third time, Marilyn thought she heard the sound of a bouncing child. Just before she reached the bedroom, there was a distinct crash. After the spanking, Marilyn took Wendy in her arms, hugged her and said, "I spanked you because you bounced on the bed after I told you not to." Then she swept up the remains of the lamp and discarded it in the trash can, while Wendy watched with dismay. Marilyn hugged Wendy again and said, "As far as the lamp is concerned, mommy loves you and forgives you, and I'll never mention it to you again.

Page 10 The next day Marilyn was walking through the apartment and inadvertently stepped on one of Wendy's toys and smashed it. She felt terrible. Wendy ran over and piced it up and said, "Mommy, I forgive you for that, and I'll never ever mention it to you again." We need that kind of forgiveness in all our relationships.