They are Unforgiving

May 10, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Confession, Covenantal Living, Grace, Meditations, Responsibility

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

This morning we continue studying Paul’s catalogue of the bitter fruits produced by those of debased mind, those whom God in His justice has handed over to their sin for their rebellion. Today, we consider Paul’s assertion that people of debased mind “are unforgiving.”

It is remarkable, is it not, that Paul puts an unwillingness to forgive in such disreputable company? Paul joins it with these other undesirables: undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful. Is being unforgiving really so bad?

Now, of course, we think so when we are on the receiving end of a lack of forgiveness. When we have wronged another, been convicted of our wrong, and then humbled ourselves, apologized, and sought forgiveness, only to be scorned or rejected, we know that being unforgiving is a bad thing. To be unforgiving, we conclude at such moments, is to be proud and disagreeable; it is to fail to see one’s own need for forgiveness from others. Yes, we say to ourselves, being unforgiving should be in that disreputable list.

But when the shoe is on the other foot, we are inclined to delete it from the list, aren’t we? When we are refusing to forgive another, we have a hard time seeing why it is so wrong. We excuse our refusal to forgive. “He wronged me; she mistreated me; she wounded me deeply; he abandoned me; if you only knew how many times he has lied to me; if you only knew how many times she has berated me; if you only knew how often he ignored me; if you only knew…” But Jesus cuts across our excuses, does He not, with the parable of the unforgiving servant?

There was once a servant who owed his king a massive sum, ten thousand talents, a sum that he could never repay. So the king ordered him to be sold with his wife and children and all that he had. But the servant begged for mercy. “Please have patience with me and I will repay all.” So the king listened to his plea, had mercy on him, and forgave him all his debt.

But that servant went out and abused one of his fellow servants who likewise was in his debt, though for not nearly as much. His fellow servant begged for mercy. “Please have patience with me and I will repay all.” But the servant was not willing; he had him thrown in prison until all was repaid. So his fellow servants reported what he had done to the king and the king was angry. “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had on you?” (Mt 18:32-33)

That impulse, that refusal to forgive when others are in our debt, is to forget or to ignore how much we all are in need of forgiveness. So what of you? Are you unforgiving? When folks seek your forgiveness, do you willingly grant it, rejoicing with them in the forgiving grace of God that covers both your sins? Or do you hold on to their sin, nursing it in your heart, letting it fester and grow into bitterness, resentment, anger, and perhaps even revenge?

Reminded of our calling to be a forgiving people, who imitate our Heavenly Father in our treatment of one another, let us confess that we are often unforgiving. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel before the Lord as we seek His mercy. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Put Away All Bitterness

February 3, 2019 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, Confession, Grace, Meditations, Sanctification, Thankfulness

Ephesians 4:31–32 (NKJV)

31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

In our sermon today, we begin a study of Matthew 18. Jesus answers the question, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” As part of His answer, Jesus insists that the greatest in His kingdom is the one who deals with his own sins relentlessly and who deals with the sins of others compassionately. The truly great disciple is the one who realizes how much he has been forgiven by God and who therefore extends to his brethren the same grace that God has extended to him. As Paul commands the Ephesians in our text, be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. God’s treatment of us is the foundation for our treatment of one another.

Consequently, Paul commands us to put away from ourselves all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, and malice. Our attitude toward one another, our treatment of one another, is to be governed by the grace that God has extended to us. We are to deal with the sin of others compassionately. But we cannot do that if we are harboring bitterness and its evil sisters in our hearts. So what is bitterness and why is it imperative for us to rid ourselves of it?

Bitterness is hard to identify because of an optical illusion. Let us say that I explode at my spouse and then I feel sorry. Is that bitterness? No. That is guilt. Guilt is what I experience when I sin, when I wrong someone else. So what is bitterness? Bitterness is what I experience when others offend me. So my spouse explodes at me. Am I guilty? No. But let’s say I get upset and I begin to stew on their outburst, going over and over the details in my mind. What’s happening? I’m becoming bitter. But notice the optical illusion. When I’m guilty, what is it that I’m thinking about? My own sin. I yelled at my spouse; I shouldn’t have done that. But when I’m bitter, what am I thinking about? I’m thinking about your sin: you yelled at me; you shouldn’t have done that. And the more bitter I become, the more I stew over the matter, the more I am focused upon what? You and your sin. I am not focusing upon myself; I am not focusing upon my bitterness; I can’t even see it. That is why bitterness creates an optical illusion.

But make no mistake: bitterness is a sin and bitterness is my sin. The occasion of bitterness is the action of another; but the bitterness itself is my sin. It is my sinful response to someone else’s sin – or at least to a perceived wrong that I have suffered from them. And Paul commands me, he orders me, to put away all bitterness. In Hebrews Paul identifies bitterness as a root – it is an internal motivation that begins tainting all my actions. Therefore, I must repent. I must look squarely at my bitterness, cease making excuses for it, and confess it to the Lord. I must put away all bitterness; I must cease excusing it.

You see, if I do not deal with bitterness, my bitterness will deal with me. The bitter man treats his brother’s sin relentlessly. The bitter man declares, “How dare he do that to me? I will not forgive.” Consequently, the bitter man is not in a position to forgive his brother as he has been forgiven by God. His bitterness is killing his soul. Someone once quipped that a bitter person is like a man who consumes a box of rat poison and waits for the rat to die – he consumes the poison and thinks that that will harm the rat. But it won’t. Bitterness destroys the one who is bitter; like acid it corrodes the container it’s carried it.

So what of you? Are you bitter? What wrong, real or perceived, have you suffered and do you now find yourself stewing upon? What is it that is consuming your heart? Remember the optical illusion. If you are stewing upon something, take your eyes off their sin and turn them to your own, turn them to your bitterness and repent.

Reminded that we are to put away from ourselves all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, and malice, and that we often harbor these things in our hearts instead, let us confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sins to the Lord.