Friday 11 September 2020

 yatthew 18:21-35
 The gospel reading we are looking at this morning is all about forgiveness.
One thing I admire about our American Christian brothers/sisters is they normally have their bibles with them to follow the readings, and the words of the preacher will be better understood.
This sermon will be read in the States, so turn with me to Matthew 18, verses 21/35 .
The Apostle Peter asks  Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who offends him, and suggests 7; that is taking the two perfect numbers 10 and 7 and multiplying together
The Rabbis had laid down only 3 and no more, as God would forgive only 3 times, and man should not exceed God. So Peter probably thought he was being generous, and was shocked to be told by Jesus 490 times,. What in effect saying was Keep forgiving.
Jesus then told the parable. Known as the unforgiving servant, a story about a man who  0wed his Master a vast amount of money, a sum amounting to twenty years of labour. When the man couldn’t pay the Master ordered the man be sold and his wife and children, which was a practice in those times. However, the Master had a change of heart, took pity and released the man when he begged for mercy.
We then read a similar situation arose when the man released from his debt faced one of his servants who owed him, but could not settle, the servant was sent to be tortured.
 Bitterness and a desire for revenge can do so much damage to oneself; we get angry and raise the blood pressures of our body, even have a stroke or heart attack.
There is also the advice, don’t get mad get even’ I once saw a little plaque in a Welsh village shop, ‘if  someone is mad at you, smile back, it will make them even madder’.
But Christians can get upset as much as anyone, we are indeed human. We come to Church and say the Lord’s Prayer, then go out and forget what we prayed.
I have seen people go to excess in forgiving. I had a colleague who lost his son through a drunken driver, and he made a great show of saying he had forgiven him. There are few who would take such a view
When Jesus told us to be ready to forgive, he never meant us to be bullied or walked on. He never meant we should overlook a criminal.
In this story Jesus is giving us a message. We are like the man who owed such debt, that in today’s terms would run into millions
The message is for all Christians, who are expected to behave in a different way from those without belied. But Christians can be troublesome and create a war zone within the Church.
I experienced this in my Curacy at a Church which thrived on ceremony, and led to arguments for trivial omissions of procedure.  I determined I would not allow this to go on in my own Church, and in the first week called a meeting to express my intention to exclude people who refused to make peace.
I have no time for bullies, who are only a bully because others allow them to be. There will be no place for such people in heaven
Within a fortnight, two women started arguing over after service tea, but soon came to see sense, when both were told to absent themselves from Church until they had made peace. I had no further trouble during my ensuing years there.
If you are finding it difficult to forgive because someone has wronged you, turn to God and seek his guidance.
A central point is that if we do not forgive when such is justified, God will not forgive us, and if a person is unmerciful, they will not be granted salvation
If we reflect on the years of our life, there will be many things we regret; thoughts , words and actions hurt, we have caused hurt to those we claim to love, all adding up to staggering debt.
Love doesn’t keep score, because love has a bad memory
Think of the punishment you deserved that did not happen to you because of God’s grace. God will forgive all who sincerely and truly believe, and accept the cruel death Jesus suffered on the Cross for sin, includes them. God in his amazing grace and rich in mercy, stated “I forgive all your sins. My Son has paid the debt. You owe me nothing.”
I have previously quoted as an example, the case of a mother who had children, but no food to give them. Determined not to let them be hungry she went to a supermarket and walked out with goods she had not paid for. She was arrested, taken to Court and fined a sum of money when she wept as she couldn’t pay  the alternative was prison.
The Magistrate realised her difficulty, made out a cheque in payment for her himself.  A man acting in a godly way. Just as Jesus does for us.
 Condemned to death by evil men, who hated  Jesus because he exposed their evil, they plotted to murder him, creating false witnesses who told lies in order convict him. This was followed by Jesus being beaten by a leather belt, studded with pieces of steel, 39 times, then made to stagger to carry his own Cross, with a crown of thorns on his head.
A howling mob cheered as nails were hammered through his arms and legs to that Cross.  Jesus the Son of God, the One who knew no sin, the only truly innocent man who ever lived. As he died he cried “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing”  The Cross of Christ was substitution, Jesus standing there for us.
But we have a part to play in responding to God’s call for repentance, which means more than ‘sorry about that’, but to turn around and start a new way of living, which is acceptable in God’ s sight. It is putting Jesus in the prime position in our lives
What God expects from us to be reconciled to him, which relationship is broken when we sin.
Some people say I am good person, I do all I can to help everybody, I am honest, I believe in God, I even go to Church from time to time. Jesus will say, ‘I never knew you’
If anyone thinks all Church people are good and lovely people, they are living in a make believe world.  I have seen Ministers driven from their Churches by embittered people, who were upset at not being given the attention they thought they deserve.
The bible’s message is for all people, good and bad, for it says we have all come short of the glory of God, which means we have offended against him
Salvation, which is the passport to heaven, is found in no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. It is more popular and cool to say all religions lead to God, which we mean the God of Israel, other faiths do not.  Islam states God has no Son, and worship Allah, and would not recognise the God of Israel
 In Our faith we worship a Jewish Saviour, from a Holy Book written by Jewish men.  This would be totally rejected by another faith.  There is strong historical independent evidence, to support us

Jesus Christ dying on the Cross held out two arms, one reaching out to us, and the other reaching out to God, to bring us close together. His message being, be reconciled to God. Even after we have become Christians, we will continue to offend God, and stand in constant need of forgiveness.
The Apostle Paul wrote,  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as God has forgiven you.  Some of us have been deeply hurt by the things others have done to us. People have maligned us, ridiculed us, lied to us, and they have done it deliberately,.  As I strictly believe in the full authority of the Bible, and try to be faithful to God’s Word, I regularly get verbal abuse, written of course to avoid telling me face to face.
May God cause us to hear the only truth.

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