Opening Heaven Through Forgiveness

Bible Book: Matthew  6 : 12-15
Subject: Forgiveness Of Others; Grudge
Series: Opening The Windows of Heaven

Opening Heaven Through Forgiveness

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor,

Matthew 6:12-15


We are in our series of sermons on Opening The Windows Of Heaven. Every Christian would like to be under the spout where the glory comes out - that is, to be blessed from above. There are requirements to walking in the power and glory of God. Today we look at the importance of forgiving and how that relates to gaining the blessings of heaven upon our daily lives and personal ministries for the Lord.

Let's begin by admitting that living with guilt is debilitating and defeating. I love the story of a young boy named William Posters who stole an apple one day and began to walk home eating it. Just then he noticed a sign on a tree that said, "Bill Posters Will Be Prosecuted." The sign spoke of people who put up unauthorized posters being prosecuted, but in his guilt William thought he had already been caught for stealing the apple. He went straight home and told his parents, who found it to be both serious and humorous. The boy was forgiven and learned a great lesson regarding guilt and the need to rid oneself of it as soon as possible.

There is something wonderful about forgiveness and every Christian can feel the joy of knowing that every sin has been removed from our record through the grace and mercy of Christ. But what about forgiving others? Now that is a different matter altogether, isn't it. In order to be blessed with God's greatest blessings we must learn to be a blessing to others, and that includes forgiving others.

Let’s consider this subject tonight by turning to Matthew 6:12-15:

"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors, and do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Jesus spoke about this subject on more than one occasion, and it is mentioned in other Bible verses repeatedly, which means that it is a serious subject for the people of God. The Lord expects us to forgive others, for after all every believer has received ultimate forgiveness from God. In the passage before us we note that Jesus stated these words in what we know or refer to as The Lord's Prayer. It was a prayer that Jesus used to teach His disciples how to pray and must be taken seriously by every Christian.

Carrying a grudge is the act of not forgiving others the wrongs they have done against us or things done against those we love and care about. When we feel hurt by someone, it creates what Jesus calls a kind of “debt." We feel that the person who has offended us owes us something and we intend to get paid – that is, we are determined to get revenge from the offender. The problem with this attitude is that it does not fit in the pattern that God has set for us through His Son. After all, He forgave us a debt that we could never pay – the debt of our sins - all of our sins. He expects us to live godly lives and that requires that we act toward people the way God has acted toward us. I know that is a far too simple way to state the issue, but it does give us a sense of God’s will for us in matters pertaining to the forgiveness of others.

Let’s look at three important issues regarding forgiveness.

I. An Irrational Expectation

To say that we must forgive others seems on the surface to be absolutely irrational. I mean, think about all the things people have done or may do to us. Are we to actually forgive those things? Maybe the Lord was just pointing out the perfect way and not the practical way for Christians. Actually, the Lord meant exactly what He said - we are to forgive our enemies. Yes, I know that seems irrational, just as irrational as the thought that the Lord of glory would forgive us the sins that placed Him on the cross.

It was 1997 and some students at a high school in Paducah, Kentucky had just finished praying. A young student with a gun came down the hall and started shooting at the Christian young people who had been praying. One fifteen year old girl was shot, taken to the hospital and later pronounced to be a paraplegic from the gunshot wounds. Her life, in essence, had been devastated in those few moments. What did the fifteen year old Christian young woman do? She sent word to the gunman, who was in custody by that time, saying, "I forgive you." That story did not get much circulation at the time, but it is true - it happened in just that way. Melissa Jenkins was that young teenage girl, and she forgave the person who shot her and caused her to be paralyzed for the rest of her life.

To be sure, what Melissa did in forgiving the one who shot her and changed her life forever is not rational. In order for a person to do what Melissa did, one must have something far beyond natural responses and human reactions. Melissa had something that the world did not give her, she had a relationship with the Great Forgiver - Jesus Christ. It caused her to be different - to be special - to have the ability to act like her Savior.

In June of 2015, Dylann Roof went to a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He pulled out a gun and shot nine people in the predominately black church. What happened afterward was amazing. The families of those killed spoke of forgiveness and grace rather than rioting or burning down buildings. They did not call for the lynching of Roof but rather spoke to the media with calming words. Of course, they want the court to carry out its duty in regard to the killer, but they held no personal animus toward Dylann Roof. That attitude, to many people in the world today, was irrational. How could those who suffered so much forgive so freely? Well, they didn't do it freely. Such forgiveness comes at a great price - the price paid for our sins paid by Jesus on the cross and the price of our lives committed to obeying Him in all things. It is not rational, it is spiritual - it is divine in nature.

Does God really require that of us – does He ask us to forgive what seems to be the unforgiveable? Does He require us to forgive people who do terrible things to us? Let’s get a handle on the answer.

There are two factors at work here. First, we are not told to forgive those who do not ask us to forgive them. However, we are told not to hold a grudge or to try to get revenge, even toward those who do not ask for our forgiveness. We read in 1 Thessalonians 5:15 that we are not to treat people the way they treat us. This is a huge issue and requires us to submit to the power and work of Jesus in our lives.

Everyone here has been hurt by someone in your life. It may have been a small matter in the eyes of others, but it was a big matter to you. It may have been in your childhood or school years, or it may have happened in the last couple years, but it hurt you badly and you haven't totally gotten over it. It comes back to your mind again and again. In order to do what Jesus asked of us, we must have a determination not to desire revenge on the person or persons who hurt us. If the act was criminal, it is only proper that we wish for justice in the courts, but beyond that we will never find God's ultimate happiness or peace until we learn to let it go.

The issue of someone asking for forgiveness is often brought up when the matter of forgiveness is discussed. Let me give you a great biblical illustration regarding this subject. When Stephen died, being stoned by the Jewish leaders, he cried out to God that He did not wish for God to hold them responsible for the act they were committing. He did not say to them, “I forgive you,” for they had not asked for forgiveness. What he did was to show that he held no personal grudge against them and asked God to work forgiveness into their lives. He did this knowing that he was dying at their hands. Now that is pretty clear regarding how we are to act, to think and to pray.

Also, in Romans 12:17-19 we read that we are not to seek revenge. The text reminds us that we are to leave room for God to do what he deems appropriate and best in these situations.

In essence, there are three mistakes we can make when people do things to us or say evil things about us.

A. We  can make the mistake of Seeking Revenge

It was Mahatma Gandhi who said, “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” Indeed, where will the revenge end once it starts? Revenge is never God’s will. Sure, in the Old Testament the Law spoke of a requirement for a penalty to be paid for a crime committed against another. Remember, however, that was long before police and courts were legally established. The way of handling those issues in the Old Testament era was a kind of people’s court and it was necessary because no other reasonable court system was in place. Certainly Jesus did not expect people to create their own personal law when He was on earth, and the New Testament is replete with teaching regarding the way we are to treat those who mistreat us. If we create a type of Hatfield and McCoy revenge system, where will it ever end?

Someone once said, “Funny thing, revenge, it can make a killer out of a nun!” Yes, and it can ruin the entire life and testimony of a Christian. We must never allow revenge to become part of our lives!

B. We can make the mistake of Haboring Resentment

Resentment is a bit different from revenge, but it is a terrible mistake nonetheless. To hold a resentment toward another is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies from it. Resentment only creates an internal sore in your own soul and then it causes that sore to fester and hurt you year after year. The one with the resentment suffers and the person against whom the resentment is held goes on in life without harm. How does that make any common sense at all? It doesn't and God has given us instructions on ridding ourselves of resentment for that and other reasons.

Are you harboring resentment toward someone today? If you are, I feel sorry for you. Your life is miserable and you are hurting yourself, those around you and the kingdom of God. Even if you are doing nothing to “get even” with the perpetrator of the wrong, you are doing a lot of damage to yourself. Your attitude is affecting you and your usefulness to God is limited.

Worse than all this, you just might be closing the windows of heaven to your futher blessings. God's best comes in obeying God even in the least of His teachings and directions.

Now, you might  say, "You don't know what I suffered - I can't help it." Sure you can. With God all things are possible and you must find His power and grace sufficient for your situation. Remember, resentment hurts no one but the person holding onto the resentment.

C. We can make the mistake of Remembering Forever

It may seem irrational, but God does not want you to seek revenge, keep resentment in your heart or to remember where you buried the hatchet. If you are really going to obey God, you bury the hatchet – handle and all. You and I are to get rid of that thing so that when we do remember we can push it aside with hardly a thought.

Memory is a strange thing, isn't it? Sometimes you can remember what you need to forget and you forget what you need to remember. To do both of these things properly we need God's help.

Yes, it is very hard to get rid of memories regarding a deep personal hurt, but God wants us to 'let go' so we can 'go on'. We can never advance to God’s best place for us when we are holding on to something from yesterday. A resentment chains us to the past. Paul wrote, "Forgetting those things which are behind ... I press on..." And that is what we must do.

In a moment, I’ll tell you how you can overcome even the rememberance of what someone has done to you, but let's look now at ...

II. A Supernatural Expectation

What we have here in the words of Jesus is a supernatural expectation regarding forgiving others. God is telling us to forgive others as He forgives us. Just how does God forgive? Look at some Scriptures.

Read Jeremiah 31:34:

"No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Now look at Isaiah 43:25:

"I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake;

And I will not remember your sins."

Finally, read Hebrews 8:12: 

"For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

And Hebrews 10:17:

“Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.

Wow! God's forgiveness is amazing, isn’t it. And, He asks us to forgive in the same way. This requires a supernatural work in us. Only God can forgive like that, and only those who know Him and walk close to Him can forgive like that.

To forgive the way God forgives requires us to get closer to Him than we may be used to. We must have His heart and mind in us in order to respond the way He responds.

Look at Philippians 2:5:

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus ..."

We must have the mind of Christ in us - influencing how we react. In other words, resignation is necessary in order to rise above the problem.

Lily Tomlin once said, “To forgive is to give up all hope of a better past.” I love that statement. We can’t change the past, but we can give up the idea that somehow we can change it or alter it. In other words, we can let it go. We can move on with God toward all He has planned for us, but we can't go on toward His beautiful tomorrow if we are holding on to something ugly in our yesterday.

In a way, when we forgive, we are untying a cord which is seeking to pull us down. A wrong done to us is like a great cord tied around our hearts. We try to move forward but it keeps pulling us back to something behind us. We can’t move on because we can’t cut the cord of resentment. God calls on us to look to Him and He can cut that cord and release us from the hurt and pain someone has inflicted upon us. Yes, it requires looking up in order to let go of the past and move on into God's future

Now, let's look at ....

III. An Essential Expectation

The point here is that God will not open the spout where the glory comes out unless we are willing to let go of the anger that creates such danger and damage in our lives.  We are to forgive as He forgives. Forgiving others is essential for us to have the full and complete blessings of God on our lives. Let's look at this through a parable that Jesus told.

Jesus tells the story in Matthew 18 of a man who owed money to another. The loaner of the money called for payment but the man could not pay it. The debtor begged for forgiveness and the loaner of the money forgave his debt. Then the forgiven man left and confronted a man who owed him a debt, albeit much less than the forgiven man had owed. When the poor man could not pay, the forgiven man had the poor man arrested and taken to prison. When the original loaner heard what had happened, he had the first debtor arrested and tortured until he paid all he owed. The point is that God will judge us with the same measure that we judge others.

Dear Christian friends, we have been forgiven so much. We have had our record of wrongs against God completely cleared, and to make that possible God gave His own Son on the cross to pay the price we owed. Think about that - now how can we go on holding grudges against others when we have been forgiven so much? It is possible that some of the misery Christians live with after they are saved is the direct result of God's judgment upon them for not forgiving others the way God has forgiven us.

It is written that the Duke of Wellington in England had a man in his army who deserted. He was forgiven, but the man deserted again. The Iron Duke was going to have him put to death. He stated, "I have done all I could and now I see no alternative but to sentence this man to death." A friend in the court room spoke up and said, "You haven't tried forgiveness." The Duke forgave the man at that moment. The soldier is said to have gone on to be an outstanding soldier and an honorable man. Forgiven! What a precious word.

Let me close ...


I told you that I would share a way for you to actually go about forgiving someone who has hurt you badly. I know it is easy to tell someone what to do, but it helps if you can offer help in how to do the thing necessary. So how can we, in a practical sense, forgive and let go of the past. Think of it like this. Something harmful and hurtful done to us creates a debt that we feel must be paid. Actually, since this act is in the past, it can never be changed. In other words, the offender can never make it right – NEVER! No one can completely undo and act once committed. However, the offended one can make it right. I want you imagine a file drawer in which you keep the debts (the hurts caused by others) owed to you. You always go back and look at those debts and it makes you angry, sad and depressed because they have not and cannot ever actually undo the debt. Try forgiving the debt! Imagine that you write, “Debt Paid in Full,” on the bill. The next time you remember it, imagine yourself opening the file drawer and seeing the debt. But, you have written on it, "Debt Paid in Full." When you look at the debt you say,  "Oh, I don’t need to remember this again, the debt was forgiven." I know this sounds silly, but trust me it works.

That is what Jesus did for us. Over all our sins he wrote, “Paid in Full!” He will never remember them against us. You may not be able to fully forget what someone has done, but you can work to never "remember" it against the person. Trust me, this does more than you can imagine over a period of time. Soon, you cease to even open the imaginary file drawer where the debts are kept. After all, the debt is no longer valid in your mind and heart.

We have been forgiven. We must be forgivers. The channels of blessing depend upon it. Always remember, you must not be like the person who hurt you; you are to be like Jesus.

Do you need to let something go tonight? Do it now. Take out the memory, write "Paid In Full" on it in your mind right now. When you do so, you will be more like Jesus. You will feel better, act better, serve better and BE better for doing so.

There might be someone here tonight who needs forgiveness for your sin. Only Jesus can fully forgive you. He died for you. He rose from the dead. He will accept you, if you will come to Him. Do that now!