Confidence For The Future - The Beauty of Forgiveness

Important lessons from Bible scriptures on forgiveness.

Ross Sawyers
Jun 21, 2020    59m
In his Father's Day sermon Pastor Ross Sawyers shares important lessons found in Bible scriptures on forgiveness. He explains that it important for us to forgive, not for ourselves, but for the person who has hurt us. By doing this we are following the lead of Jesus, who died on the cross so that we'd be forgiven for our sin. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Chansi Shope: I'm Chansi, I'm married to Chris, we've attended here at 121 since 2009. We are the parents of two amazing children, Crimson and Cas, Chris is an awesome dad. I laughed with him when we first started dating, I said, I never thought I would get married or have children, but seeing you just as a human makes me want to see you as a dad because you're such an awesome human and you're so selfless.

Chansi Shope: So in having children, it's been really amazing to see him teach them that in a way that I didn't learn things because I didn't really have a dad around. My mom and my dad separated when I was two, and my father already had a new girlfriend, they had already moved in together. My mom didn't have a new boyfriend yet, but it was very soon that she found someone. And so I just went back and forth between the two homes.

Chansi Shope: Things were really hard with my dad. He had always been a user, my mom was also a user, so there was this uncertainty in my life. I never really knew who I was going to be talking to, if my mom was going to be the loving, caring mom, or if my dad was gonna be the loving caring dad, or flying off the handle, or taking me over to somebody's house and dropping me off and leaving me there. And then once my father got heavy into drugs, heavier than he already was, and left my stepmom for another woman, I didn't really see him much at all anymore. And soon after that, I would say maybe two years after that, he went to prison and was in and out of prison, all of my life.

Chansi Shope: So fast forward to senior year, my father gets out of prison, and he wants to begin a relationship with me. And my little brother Taylor, who has now passed away, he had never met him. So we drive down to Austin together and go to see him, and my father tells him all the things that he would always tell everybody because he was a really good manipulator. And I think when he was saying those things, he was genuine, but they never seem to pan out. So there were a lot of promises made to him, to my little brother, a lot of promises made to me about how he wanted to change, and really wanted to be part of our lives. And then we went back home, and it was the same thing over again. He was out of prison for about a year, I saw him a couple of times and then he was right back in.

Chansi Shope: So there was a lot more pain that was rehashed. It was like, I had that hope of, okay, maybe he's going to do the right thing this time, maybe I can trust him. Time goes on, and I end up blocking all communication. I said, I can't do it, but it was hard because I didn't want to close myself off from him, I wanted a relationship with him, but I just didn't know how to navigate it. And I'm sure that was because I knew it was easier just to avoid it. Like if I could just avoid it, I'm going to be fine, I don't have to approach it. He doesn't even exist to me right now, and then it doesn't hurt because I'm not thinking about it.

Chansi Shope: And I can't remember what sermon series it was, but it was a fantastic sermon series that Ross did. And he asked us to write down on a Post-It Note someone that we needed to forgive, and then we put it on, I think it was a cross that had nails already on it, and you just kind of slid your Post-It Note on it. And so that was the beginning of me really doing some soul searching on forgiving my father. I think that I was so scared of letting him in, that I thought it would even be too big for Christ.

Chansi Shope: And through prayer and I mean, getting into some stuff that I didn't want to think about, and being vulnerable with Chris about some things that were really hard for me. How do I allow myself to be vulnerable and give grace to this man who has not played the role of father?

Ross Sawyers: That's a good question, and how do we do that when someone has hurt us and pained us, and how do we offer forgiveness? And I'd like for us to think about that, on this Father's Day. And there's two pieces to what Chansi shared, and one is we're always appreciative of people being willing to share their stories, it takes a lot of courage to do that, to be vulnerable. And I love, from the outset, when she spoke of her husband, and what a fantastic dad he is, and then the contrast to her own dad, and the experience that she had with him.

Ross Sawyers: And as difficult as it is, what I want us to think about on this Father's Day is the beauty of forgiveness. And we'll look at it in Second Corinthians chapter 2, verses 5 through 11. There'll be a number of places where we could think of forgiveness in the scripture and this is a place that God has led us on this day to just look at a model of what forgiveness and reconciliation looks like. Now on Father's Day, and we talked about this on Mother's Day. These two particular days Mother's Day and Father's Day can be either days of great joy because the father-child relationships just fantastic relationship, and so these are great days and they're easy to celebrate and they're fun and it's a great kind of time in that way. And I'd like for us to even think about, I think part of what makes a father-child relationship meaningful and to be able to do well, is a rolling flow of forgiveness and confession throughout the years because we're all broken people on both sides. And to be able to confess, and repent, and forgive, I think is what actually enables us to have the most God-honoring and freeing kinds of relationships. Now, the struggle is on days like this, that like with Chansi described with her dad it was a difficult relationship, and that makes a day like today a challenge. And there are so many that struggle in their father relationships because a father might have abandoned you, there might've been a divorce that created unusual difficulty for you, there might've been abuse in the relationship, there could be a dad that was absent because of working so much. And then while there might also just be great relationships with dads, there's also the challenges of illness and disease that create those kinds of challenges. Blended families can be a positive thing, a challenging thing.

Ross Sawyers: And then I think a really cool picture to think about dads too, is the spiritual mentors. And I wear this shirt, I got this last year for Father's Day because my dad, he loved bright colors, and you never knew what he was going to wear. And so this is a way to honor my dad, so I wear this once a year now, so I wore it last Father's Day and I'm going to wear it today. And my dad was an incredible encourager, provider, and he was present at the stuff that I did, I'm so appreciative of that part of my dad. He was not, however, a spiritual leader in our home. And I'm grateful that God gave me other men that were spiritual mentors, or spiritual dads if you will, and God's good about the way he does that. And today may be a day for you to think about a spiritual kind of father in your life. There's multiple ways for us to think about this day.

Ross Sawyers: But I do believe, as I said, one of the things that can be the most freeing for us on a day like this is to move and operate in forgiveness for people. When we harbor unforgiveness in our hearts, it really is devastating quite candidly for us to do so. And we know statistically that one of the greatest challenges in our culture is fatherlessness. And I saw stats the other day that most every debilitating thing happens with people, the stats are incredibly high, that there was a fatherlessness that was a part of that. And if we can figure out how to forgive where it has been hard, that can do a lot to free those kinds of things.

Ross Sawyers: So we want to look and say Corinthians 2 and celebrate really the beauty of forgiveness. And I would hope today that this could be just like Chansi said in a sermon, that at least triggered the process of how does she forgive her dad. And it might not be a dad today, it might be God prompts this, that there's somebody else that you've been harboring unforgiveness towards, and today can be a freeing day on that front. And then it really ought to be if that's the kind of relationship you roll in, just celebrating today a dad that there's the kind of relationship that there is that forgiveness and confession that rolls along, it can be a beautiful thing.

Ross Sawyers: In First Corinthians, Paul deals with a lot of challenges and troubles in the church. And then also we have First Corinthians 13 where we have loved described, First Corinthians 15 is a beautiful chapter on the resurrection. And then in between First Corinthians which is a letter that he wrote to the church at Corinth, he writes another letter, that many call a letter of tears. And there had been a relationship between Paul and someone in the Corinthian church that we're not told what the problem was, but it was a pretty devastating thing that happened between Paul and this person. And he was debating whether to go and be present and talk to the person or to stay away, and what he opted to do is write a letter. And it's a letter we don't have, but we know he wrote the letter from what the scriptures tell us in Second Corinthians. And it's referred to as a letter of tears because he was in such sorrow over the hurt that had happened between him and this other person.

Ross Sawyers: Now we're in Second Corinthian, so this letter we do have as part of our scripture. And what we find in chapter 1 is that Paul has such a love for the church and such a love for this person that offended and hurt him. And he says the end of chapter 1, that what he's working for is their joy. And I think that's a really cool thought when we think about the beauty of forgiveness, is when we forgive, we're actually working for the joy of another person. We're working for their gladness of heart when we relieve them, and forgive, and let them off, and we'll talk about that as this unfolds.

Ross Sawyers: So let's see how Paul talks about it in verses 5 through 11 of chapter 2 Second Corinthians. And again, the big idea of my thought today is just the beauty of forgiveness. "But if any has caused sorrow, (in verse 5) he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree—in order not to say too much—to all of you." Now the offense that's been done to Paul is more of a community offense. And that's important to know that when we sin against someone, when we hurt someone, as a norm it's more of a community effect. There are tentacles that come from every sin that affect not just the one sinned against, but against the community of people. It might be family, or might be friends, it could be a church, but think community, a work environment. When there's an offense it has an effect that's wider spread than just against that one person. Now what Paul does here in verse 5 is, he doesn't rehash what the offense is. In this part of where we are, it's already been taken care of, so he doesn't rehash it. And I think that's a good word for us, being protective later on when something's been done in not bringing it up again and rehashing the details of what it is. There's no need, as someone said, to heap more shame on the one who's repented. At this point there's already repentance. At the same time, he's not denying the pain of the offense. When someone sins against us it's hurtful, and he's not denying that. He talks about the sorrow, if any has caused sorrow, it's caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree to all of you, to the community as a whole. There is a sorrow that comes when there's offense committed.

Ross Sawyers: Verse 6, "Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority." Whatever the offense was, the church as a whole dealt with it. And there's a judicial sense here, that there was kind of a formal something done to the person who committed the offense, and the person was reprimanded for what they did. And Paul is saying, at this point that's sufficient, it's done, you've taken care of it. And the majority took care of it, community offense, and now it's been taken care of.

Ross Sawyers: Verse 7, this is what Paul says to do, "So that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow." So what should you do? No longer hold this against the person. Louis Smeeds, I read a book years ago called Forgive and Forget, and he actually talks about the myth of forgiving and forgetting. But he defines forgiveness in this way, it's when you no longer hold the memory against them. You know you've forgiven someone when you no longer hold that against them. You might remember it, there are some offenses that are so grievous that there would be no way that we would ever forget them in our life. However, we don't have to hold that offense against someone. That's a good check-in our heart to know when forgiveness has actually happened, when I no longer hold that against them. The word forgive means to release or to remove, so what we're doing is releasing someone from the offense, now we do need to know that when we choose to forgive and release someone, we're choosing to absorb the pain of the offense. When we forgive, we're choosing to absorb the pain.

Ross Sawyers: A couple of things I think are important, especially in the climate we're in today. We cannot force someone to forgive, that is disingenuous. If that doesn't come from the heart, and it sparked from within someone, it won't be genuine forgiveness that has the fruit of repentance that flows from it. We cannot force someone to forgive, and we cannot force someone to confess. Now, we can, it just depends if we want it to be meaningful or not. Somehow we're asking God to work in another person that they would see their offense, and that they would out of their own heart come and confess, and that in our own hearts that we would forgive. We cannot force or make this happen, it comes from the heart and that's when there's real change.

Ross Sawyers: C. S. Lewis said, "We all agree that forgiveness is a beautiful idea until we have to practice it." We love the idea of forgiveness for someone else. We love the idea of, this is what you should do. Most of us would sit with someone who's been offended and hurt, and talk to them about forgiveness. And yet we would prefer someone not have that same dialogue with us, because you don't understand how badly I've been hurt. If you knew how badly I was hurt, then you wouldn't be talking to me about forgiveness today.

Ross Sawyers: Well Paul says, and he’s been badly hurt, that we should forgive and comfort, and he's explaining why they should. And let me, if I can, just say a problem that I hear today that I think is more a secular idea of forgiveness, is the reason you should forgive is to free yourself up. What is Paul saying here? Forgive and comfort this person so that they don't get swallowed up in excessive sorrow, forgive for the sake of the other person, that's his primary thing. Now, will you and I receive the benefit of being freed up when we forgive? A hundred percent. But forgiveness becomes a selfish act in my mind, if the reason I'm forgiving you is so I can be free.

Ross Sawyers: I'm forgiving you for your sake. And I'm going to add to that, that's there's a greater motive even than that, the third thing is that we're freed up from a motivation side. Now, when we're hurt by our fathers, or we hurt someone else, the true ability to forgive comes from the one who's forgiven us. And this is our primary motivation for forgiving someone else, is that God himself has forgiven us for the grievousness, and the sin, and everything that we've done to rebel against him. Now, what has God done? God himself, through Jesus, has chosen to absorb the pain of the sin of all of humanity. That's what he did, that's what Jesus did on the cross, is he chose to absorb the pain of our sin. He also chose to absorb the pain of God's wrath on himself, which is what we deserve. He has done this in his coming to us, living among us, dying for us, and then rising for us. In this same letter, in Second Corinthians 5 verses 17 through 19, this is what Paul says...And think about this, when Jesus died for us, then what happens in faith when we believe it, and most of you have. And when we believe this, this is what he says, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." Once we're forgiven and released by God himself through the cross, we're free, he's absorbed the pain. He's freed us, so that we don't have to live in excessive sorrow because of our sin. We don't have to live in condemnation anymore, he took it on himself. Jesus did it for our sake, and he frees us up.

Ross Sawyers: "Now all these things in verse 18 are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ. Reconciled means to make friends again. So he reconciled us to himself through Christ, and then what did he do? "He gave us the ministry of reconciliation." So once we're reconciled and made friends again with God, now we in turn help others be friends with God as well. Namely, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them. He didn't count this against us, he didn't count our sins against us anymore it's been taken care of on the cross. And he's committed to us the word of reconciliation. On this Father's Day if you don't know Jesus, that's where freedom comes, that's where forgiveness comes, it's where reconciliation comes. In Christ now, he's given us the ministry of reconciliation, of bringing others to the place where they can be free, and that real freedom comes in the forgiveness that comes from God himself.

Ross Sawyers: Now I've found, right here in the mid-cities, wherever it is that you've come from. That right here, I can't tell you how many people have no idea that this kind of freedom even exists in Christ. People have ideas of Christians, they think Christians are hypocrites, judgemental, they're too political, they're too this, they're too that, they're all about rules, I would never want to be that. That's the idea people have. Today in our culture, more and more people see Christians as dangerous in what we believe. But I've found when I actually sit with somebody and walk through who Jesus is, it's like new news to them. So that's good news, people don't know.

Ross Sawyers: Now Friday was Juneteenth, and in 1862 Abraham Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation, and then on January 1st, 1863 it took effect, but it didn't really take effect for everyone. It wasn't until June 19th, 1865, two and a half years later, that a general rode in from the union army and came into Galveston, Texas and issued an order, order number three, saying that all slaves are free. If you were a slave in Texas, you didn't know on January 1st, 1863, that you were free, you didn't know it. Two and a half years later after the Emancipation Proclamation had been put into effect, two and a half years later, they find out they're free. Can you imagine knowing that you can be free, but then you're never told how to be free. And certainly things have been done to hamper that freedom over the years as well.

Ross Sawyers: In Christ, can you imagine how many people are running around us right now, how many people who are in your neighborhood and mine, how many people are in our own families, how many dads might not even know that freedom was achieved for them in the first century on an old rugged cross? And they've walked around their whole life, not knowing they're free, can be free. What if you and I were the generals that came riding into the people in our lives and said, hey, something was done a long time ago and I don't think you know, you can be free today, be free. That's what Jesus does on the cross, so that we're free. And when we're free, now we're free to forgive others. And only then do I believe that we can truly absorb the pain of what someone's done to us so that we can forgive them. And when I absorbed the pain, and you choose to absorb the pain and forgive, the way you can absorb that is to lean into the one who's already absorbed our pain, and we bring it to him. And he's the one that carries it and enables us to forgive, to forgive. And not only forgive, what does he say? Forgive and comfort. Forgive and comfort. For many of us, you think about and you'd say, you've gotta be kidding me, I forgive and then I'm also to comfort the person that's created the pain and the hurt. Forgive and comfort, it's what Paul says. We release them.

Ross Sawyers: Verse 8, "Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him." It's not only to forgive and comfort, but reaffirm your love. Verse 9 "For to this end also I wrote, so that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things." Paul is saying, I'm putting you to the test. And later in Corinthians, he says, "You need to test your heart to make sure you're in the faith." And part of how we know we're in the faith is the way that we forgive he's testing their obedience. Are they going to be obedient to all things in Christ? Not some things or most of the things, or a few things, but all things in Christ. And we're forgiven, and we are in turn to forgive.

Ross Sawyers: Now, God himself is absolutely loaded with forgiveness. In Psalm 86:5 it says, "For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You." God himself is ready to forgive. As I read that afresh this week, I was thinking, what if we just stood in a posture of being ready to forgive? It's not like we are waiting to be offended or hurt, it's going to happen because we're in a broken world. But what if I just stood in a posture and I'm ready to forgive. God's ready to forgive me, and he has, what if I stood in that same posture in Christ, I'm just ready to forgive. I know the hurts coming, I know the pain is coming, I know you're going to hurt me, and I'm ready to forgive you, and I hope you'll be in the same posture and ready to forgive me.

Ross Sawyers: The prophet Micah, in chapter 7 verse 18 said, "Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love." God is ready to forgive, and delights in an unchanging love. He has an unchanging love. As fathers, we might not be totally consistent, but our Father in heaven is a perfect Father, unchanging in his delight in his children. You can't do, and I can't do, anything so bad today that God won't, in his unchanging delight in me, forgive and release me. His love for you and me does not change.

Ross Sawyers: Now, what was Paul testing them in, in Matthew chapter 6, verses 14 and 15, the sermon on the Mount. “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. " What Jesus is saying is tied up in relationship with me, one of the hallmarks of being a follower of Jesus is forgiveness. In the same way that you're forgiven, forgive others. Forgive others. That's the test.

Ross Sawyers: In verse 10, "But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ." This is kind of cool, what he's saying here is, he's thinking about other things with the Corinthian church. And we know there are all kinds of problems with them, and it's almost like as somebody said, he's racking his brain trying to think about, I know there were things that y'all did, I know I've forgiven him, but he's moved on. He's forgiven him, he's released him. And then he says, "So that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes."

Ross Sawyers: When we think about forgiveness today, our deepest motive for forgiving someone flows from the love of God who has forgiven us. We forgive because we've been forgiven. Secondly, we forgive someone so that they don't have to live under the excessive sorrow of ongoing guilt and condemnation. And third, we forgive so that we can be freed up, and that Satan cannot take advantage. What Satan does when we have unforgiveness in our hearts, he's looking, and scheming, looking to steal, kill, destroy. And I believe one of his primary weapons in doing so, is when he sees that we're harboring unforgiveness towards someone else, and then he jumps in and establishes a stronghold and robs the life out of that person. He sees the hurt, and he jumps in. And what does he do? He takes what is in our flesh, and he starts to stir up bitterness, and hatred, and anger, and division. Again, easy to see in our cultural moment when Satan jumps in and there's unforgiveness, what flows in that is hatred and bitterness and division.

Ross Sawyers: That's what happens in father-child relationships when there's not the beauty of forgiveness, the enemy gets in and he works through our pride, and we're never going to confess, we're never going to. They did this, and I didn't, it's blah, blah, blah. Satan is a schemer, to rob the very life out of us. In a commentary I was reading it said this, it's quote, "Satan fans the flames of hurt, into an inferno of hostility." Satan sees the hurt, and he fans those flames into an Inferno and it literally destroys.

Ross Sawyers: We left off on Chansi's story with her talking about wrestling through how does she forgive someone that's been a manipulator, and a user, and basically absent from her life, and then broken promise after broken promise. How do you do that? What I just shared biblically anchors how we do it, and then I want you see the rest of her story and how she worked through that with her dad.

Chansi Shope: I think the biggest takeaway is that I learned that I would have never been able to forgive without the love of Christ, and the grace of Christ. And having a father that I never had through Christ, and understanding that through my Heavenly Father, through his love and grace and forgiveness for all the things that I don't even want to think about. How could I not forgive my own father for things that I'm sure he didn't want to think about, and struggled with every single day, knowing that I wouldn't allow him in my life.

Chansi Shope: I remember Father's Day 2018, Ross did a sermon, of course. And after the sermon, I really felt led to have a conversation. Summer that same year I was at my step mom's house, so Taylor that I talked about earlier, my little brother he passed away. But we are still very close to my stepmom, and we were talking the next day and she said, oh, let me show you something I was talking about yesterday. I think she was gonna look up maybe something about Granbury we lived, and maybe a shop or something that was there that my father used to be a part of. And so she looked it up, and while she was looking, she got real quiet. And I was like, what, what's going on? Why are you so quiet? And she said, your dad's dead. And I said, what are you talking about? And she's like, I just looked up his name, and here's his obituary.

Chansi Shope: And so I of course was taken aback, it was so sad for him that he never got to hear the words come out of my mouth, that I never really got to tell him that I was sorry. And it wasn't for me, it was for him. I felt like he deserved to not have to live in that pain the whole time he was alive, not knowing that I wasn't angry with him anymore, that I didn't hate him. I just want it to be known that there's a lot of regret in my story, a lot of time spent not doing the forgiveness piece of life with my father because I think I was really selfish in a lot of ways in not forgiving him earlier. It's almost like I wanted to pay him back the pain that he gave me, because I mean the 35 years he wasn't in my life were really hard. Especially 18 of those, they were super hard. And I just, I wanted a dad who I don't know, cooked on the grill, and played catch with me, and loved me unconditionally. I wanted a dad who didn't drop me off when I was five at a friend's house on Christmas Eve because he had better plans.

Chansi Shope: And so I think there was so much bitterness, that I wanted him to feel it. And I'm so ashamed of that now, I'm so ashamed that I would want to hurt somebody because they hurt me. And so in working through that process, and being able to forgive him, I feel like it changed me too in a good way that I wasn't carrying around this bitterness and anger towards someone who really was a weak man with addiction. Who I think, I think he wanted better, I think he wanted to be a good dad, I think he wanted to love me. And my mom's always said, he loves you more than you'll ever know. And that's true because I never really will know how much he loves me, or did love me because I didn't give him the opportunity to show it.

Chansi Shope: And so I'm so thankful that I was able to come to a place in my own heart of forgiving him. And my father has said that he is a Christ-follower. In my younger years, I would have called that jailhouse religion and said that that's not true, and that he was just trying to find something to do when he was in prison. But now I want to believe that that's true and that one day I'll be able to tell him face to face that I forgive him because I didn't get to do that. My forgiveness, and the freedom that I've gotten from that forgiveness, is way bigger than any regret, or frustration, or sadness that I felt throughout the process of forgiving or throughout my life of being upset about my father or being lost without my father. It was a really great process for me to go through the hurt so that I could find all the beauty.

Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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121 Community Church
2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051