Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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[Darris McNeely] Carrying debt feels like a heavy weight. The need for forgiveness can also feel like carrying a similar burden. Let's explore what the Bible says about guilt and forgiveness.
Several years ago when I was pastoring, I had a member of my congregation who was with her husband as he was going in for open-heart surgery at a hospital. Interesting story took place at that time. As he was going down the hall on the gurney just about to go through the doors into the operating room, she was with him, walking there with him and he stopped and he said, "Honey, I need to tell you something. I have been unfaithful to you in the past. I've committed adultery in our marriage. I didn't tell you this, but I want you to know this." Brand new news for her. And just as he finished saying that to her, the nurses whisked him through the double doors into the operating room, leaving her standing there with her mouth opened and her heart ripped.
Now, guess what? He survived that operation. He came out. He thought he wouldn't and he wanted to get something off his chest before. He confessed. Obviously for years this man had carried a secret that he had never told his wife. And there at that moment of fear and uncertainty as to his future, he, as he was about to go under the knife, wanted to be forgiven and unburden himself of something he'd been carrying for a long time. Did she forgive him? Because now he was in her debt. Could she forgive him? What would you do?
That's what I want to discuss today. That's what I'd like to talk about. Forgiveness. Forgiveness is a big topic. A disciple of Jesus Christ must understand this important topic about forgiveness because we must be able to forgive and we also must be able to understand that we can be forgiven. Because you see, forgiveness runs in two directions. We seek forgiveness at times when we've done something wrong as this man did, and he had to be unburdened of that. We also must be able to extend forgiveness when someone has done something to us, and they change, they apologize, they come seeking forgiveness.
There's a basic Biblical passage on this topic of forgiveness that we all know, we've heard it many times. It's in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus was giving some very basic instruction. And at one point, He said, "Give us this day our daily bread" as He was teaching His disciples how to pray. "Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts," as He said, "as we forgive our debtors." Forgive us our debts as we forgive. Again, it works both ways. There's several aspects of forgiveness that we ought to understand and think about here for a few minutes.
First of all, forgiveness of a debt is something that runs throughout the Bible. It's central to the Gospel whether it's a spiritual debt, which is the largest debt that we might be dealing with, sometimes it's a physical debt of money or goods that might be owed, but it's central to the Gospel. Forgiveness is something that is essential to a really sane, balanced life. If you cannot allow yourself to be forgiven, you're going to be burdened with guilt. And guilt is one of those useless emotions we really don't want to be carrying around. So we have to understand that we can be forgiven. We also need to be able to forgive someone who has offended us. If we don't we can be consumed with bitterness. If you can't know that God will forgive you, then also that creates another problem of emptiness. Because if we cannot understand that part of God's relationship with us, we're going to be quite hollow.
Again, forgiveness is something very critical for a disciple of Jesus Christ to understand. When Christ said, "Give us this day our daily bread," He was talking about one of the most urgent physical needs that we have. Now it is more than just a physical hunger for bread that we might need every day. Everyone, every one of us has something deep inside, a deeper spiritual hunger. And part of that hunger has to do with the subject of forgiveness and knowing that we can be forgiven and being able to extend that. When Christ said, "Forgive us our debts," to emphasize that He was talking about this most urgent of spiritual needs that we have. Because every one of us has hanging over us whether we realize it or not, a great spiritual debt, a spiritual debt that only God can forgive. We're going to talk about that a little bit more in a few minutes here. And all of us owe to God a very sincere heart that desires not only forgiveness but also a sincere desire to change. The Bible calls that repentance. It's one of those Biblical terms, but it's change. And frankly, every one of us needs the help to change.
When we understand that God's forgiveness can clear us of our guilt and help us establish a right relationship with Him, between God and between us, then we are on the right track. Forgiveness really originates in God's love for suffering humanity. It's one of the greatest traits and revelations that we can have about God. What it means then is that every one of us is flawed and every single human being is in need of God's forgiving grace. Coming to that realization is important but it also comes with some very good news. There's another well-known Scripture that bears on this topic. It's in John 3, where it says that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever would believe on Him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16, you see that sometimes plastered on billboards. People want to go to that because it really speaks to a very important need. In verse 17, it adds to it what people don't always focus on. It says, "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but that He might, through that sacrifice, save the world." Christ's sacrifice takes away the sins of the world. Properly understanding that is that Christ's death cancels that debt that we have to God.
There's a very important Scripture, another one in Colossians 2:13 that speaks to this. It's a Scripture that a lot of people don't understand on this matter of righteousness, and sin, and even God's law. It goes like this. It says, "You who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him having forgiven all of our trespasses, canceling," He says, "the record of debt that stood against us. With His legal demands, this He set aside, nailing it to the cross." A lot of people think that that Scripture says that the law of God was nailed to the cross and done away. It's not what it's talking about. There was a debt. Every one of us has that debt, a spiritual debt hanging over our head.
And what Colossians here is telling us is that debt, that penalty of death from sin, Christ took that note and by His body nailed it to the cross through His death, and the debt was canceled. It was removed. And before God, a person can be free of that spiritual debt. That's one of the most important concepts for us to understand. And that really is the essence of the good news regarding forgiveness, a central teaching of the very Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.
Have you ever heard a term called "cancel culture?" Because what was canceled was our debt but today there's another term. It's a big cultural issue. It's called cancel culture. We're going to talk about that in a moment. But I want to first talk about this matter of forgiveness through a booklet and study aid that we are offering for our particular program today called, "Forgiveness Is Possible."
The road to forgiveness is a long and difficult one sometimes but through God, through His loving guidance, it is possible for us to remove the mountains of resentment, grudges, and bitterness that can build up in life. If you're tired of carrying such a burden on your shoulders, this is a booklet that's going to be important to you. If you've always been carrying around a burden of guilt, but you don't know how to deal with it, don't even know the first steps to take to forgiveness, this booklet, this study guide is going to help you. “Forgiveness Is Possible,” can help you make a start on that topic. Some of the chapter headings that we're dealing with here is "Forgiveness Is Possible" or "Jesus Christ's Perfect Love and Sacrifice," all elements of this. You really do need this guide to help you to develop the Godly quality of forgiveness. Get your free copy. Go online to beyondtoday.tv and you can begin reading it right there or call the number that's on your screen. "Forgiveness Is Possible."
Now earlier we saw that Christ's death canceled the spiritual debt that we all have. His death took that which was against us and it was nailed to the cross. That debt not the law, but the debt. Let me further illustrate that by talking about something that comes from that ancient world in which certainly Christ lived and the Apostle Paul was writing on that particular point because when Paul the Apostle, wrote about this debt cancellation it meant something completely different than the way we look at canceling a debt today. You see in the ancient world debt was punishable by being put in prison. If you owed a large sum of money, if you couldn't pay it you could be put in prison. In the Roman world prisons were not generally filled with hardened criminals. They were populated a lot of times with people who owed a great deal of debt. That's where we get the term "debtor’s prison." And those who could not make good on their payments would stay there until they could pay what they owed or some relative could perhaps come and pay the debt. In ancient Rome debt meant severe pain and tragedy for an individual and sometimes for that family in the extended way.
That's the context in which Jesus teaches us to pray, to forgive us our debts as we also forgive others who owe us. The word debt in the Scriptures, it means a very serious offense and it did convey a very serious punishment at that time. To be forgiven a debt in the Roman period was an act of very extravagant mercy. And that's the backdrop to understand the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But it also meant that when something was paid, forgiven, and put into the past, it could not be brought back into the present. It's removed. It's completely canceled. Now think about that because it's different today. Today we don't want to cancel someone else's debts in every case, someone else's past mistakes.
Have you ever held a grudge, refused to forgive someone, kept it in your mind? What would a society, a culture look like if it never forgave? Think about that. It'd be a pretty bad place to be. But you know, something along that order is happening today. There's a new movement that you've probably heard about in the news or through social media. It's called "cancel culture." When you look it up for a dictionary definition, it'll tell you that it's a practice of withdrawing support or canceling a public figure often or a company that has done something that's considered to be objectionable or offensive to the popular thinking of the day. And cancel culture actually strikes fear in some people. In some situations people are fired. People have to resign from jobs. They're publicly shamed. Sometimes they're kicked out of groups. They're banned from social media for saying things that are not politically correct or taking a stand that is not so. It happens almost every day.
This cancel culture has exposed what is a lack of mercy throughout society. Some people are being canceled for views that they expressed decades ago. There was a story of an executive at a major American company who was forced out of his executive job because 30 years earlier he had expressed disagreement with the idea of women serving in the military. That cost him his job, came out 30 years later. Cancel culture does not allow any room for a person to change or to grow out of certain behavior or views. It just doesn't happen. There's no forgiveness. And that's, in certain areas, the circle that we're living in today. It goes counter to what Christ teaches a disciple and how a disciple should conduct his or her life.
Again in Matthew 6:15 here it talks about a matter of being forgiven. Christ said, "If you don't forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." So again, for a disciple forgiveness is something that must be understood, learned, and practiced. Frankly in our culture today if most people would employ Biblical principles and especially in this matter of forgiveness, cancel culture would disappear. And it is something to really understand and to consider. We all should practice forgiveness. If someone makes a mistake, learn to forgive. Move on. Don't join a mob wanting to rub somebody's nose into a past mistake or idea that they had. A disciple is going to be more like God, ready to forgive.
There's a psalm, it’s in Psalm 103, it says about God as He looks at us that "He removes our sins from us as far as the East is from the West." So far has He removed our transgressions from us, that's how God looks at it. If someone sincerely apologizes to you learn to be like God and forgive them. That's what a disciple will do, a disciple of Jesus Christ. Christ cancels every mistake from our past when we repent. There's that Biblical word again, repent, which means to change. Realize you've done something wrong, not only in an action but even, at times, often the way we think. And we admit that we're wrong and we ask that forgiveness. Christ wants us to adopt that culture. That's the culture of the Kingdom of God, not the culture of this age or of this world.
Now in a moment I want to talk about bringing this closer to our own personal lives. Can we allow into our lives, truly, those who ask our forgiveness wanting us to forgive their sins, and understanding that forgiveness can be canceled? We'll also talk about the lady that I talked about at the beginning of this program, the one whose husband confessed to adultery as he was going into the surgery for open-heart surgery, not knowing if he was going to come out. We'll talk about those in a moment again.
But I want to talk to you first about the booklet that we're offering, "Forgiveness is Possible." Because forgiving other people can be something that is very, very difficult to do, especially when we have been hurt by people. It can be difficult to admit that we're wrong and seek forgiveness even when we're at fault. Both are absolute necessities. Forgiveness is at the core of faith, belief, and action. If having a forgiving spirit is something that you might find that it's hard to develop then it's time to learn about forgiveness. You don't want to wait until it's too late in your life to realize that you should have forgiven someone. You need our free study guide, "Forgiveness Is Possible" because if you apply the Biblical principles discussed in this guide you'll be doing what God does with each of us, forgiving us. If you want to get this free Bible study guide, "Forgiveness Is Possible," go online to beyondtoday.tv, order or begin reading it right there, or you can call the number on your screen. Don't forget to do that. You can even go right now and get that job done.
Let's go back now for a moment to the story that I opened with, a man going in for open-heart surgery not knowing if he's going to survive and telling his wife he'd betrayed her through adultery. Here was two people grappling for forgiveness. The man going in for the surgery having committed adultery, he needed to get this burden off of his shoulders. He'd actually been carrying around guilt for a long period of time. He needed to be forgiven. His wife, she heard this, it shocked her, could she forgive the betrayal? Look first at the man. Guilt's a huge burden on your shoulders. He needed his wife at that moment to say, "I forgive you." Now we might ask, had he changed? What had his practice been? You know he still felt the weight and the burden of that sin. That's undeniable.
How about you? Are you carrying a burden called guilt? If so you need the assurance of forgiveness that you can be forgiven upon change, real change. The assurance of forgiveness cannot always come to us sometimes from human beings. You know you might ask a person to forgive you for something that you've done to them and they may not be ready to forgive. How would you feel? What would you do? Where can we have an assurance of forgiveness? Well the truth is, when we truly repent God is ready to forgive.
There's another Scripture in Matthew 11 that's really an encouraging and a comforting Scripture that talks about this. Christ said, "All things have been delivered to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father and no one knows anyone except the Father, by the Son, and the one to whom the Son sends God will reveal to Him." And then Christ makes this statement. He says, "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me," He says, "for I am gentle, and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."
You know as a minister and counselor through the years, I've been involved with people's lives a lot. And I've heard people come who were heavy laden, burdened. They needed to talk through a problem that they were struggling with. You name it. I've heard and counseled just about everything you can imagine in the human condition. You know as people would talk to me through the years about their problems, I kind of had to shoulder that. And it impacted at times the way I would look at them as a counselor. How did I deal with that? I had to learn to compartmentalize it. But I didn't want to be carrying that around all the time. And I found that when people made real changes and put their sins behind them I would also forget about it. Like God just helped me to erase it from my mind. When I saw people make real change, that's what the Bible calls repentance, real repentance.
There's a passage in the book of 2 Corinthians where the Apostle Paul had a conflict with a congregation. They had offended him, they had done some things. And he had to talk with them about that. And he had to go to them and give them some heavy correction. But the members of the church in Corinth did make change. And later he wrote to them and he said, "You know, I'm glad I wrote to you the way that I did, not because it hurt you, but it caused you such pain," he said, "that it brought about a change in your life." Again, repentance.
It was a kind of sorrow that God wants people to have, he said, it was a real change. It was, what he called "a Godly change, a Godly repentance." And as Paul goes through that passage he tells them exactly what it was that they did. He said, "You had such an earnestness produced in you because of what I said. You had a concern to clear yourselves. You had an indignation about your behavior and a readiness to punish the wrong and to remove it. And you showed," he said, "that you have done everything necessary to make things right.” And that corrected the relationship between Paul, their minister, and this congregation. And it's the same thing with us. And this is the point, when we have such a desire to clear something out, clear our lives completely and change our counselor, that's the key to not only being forgiven but to having something forgotten.
Now remember the lady that I talked about whose husband confessed to adultery? Let's go back to her one more time. What happened? I lost track of her. You see shortly after that incident I moved from the area and turned over responsibilities to another minister. I don't know how the story ended. I've often asked, "Was she able to work through it? Did she forgive or did she hold a grudge? Did she get bitter or did they reconcile and move it on?" She may have been able to forgive because knowing her she had that ability, and I hope she did. And I hope her husband was relieved of the burden of guilt through his wife's ability to forgive and to forget. I hope she grew as a disciple and learned to forgive. I trust that she did. I trust and know that all of us can.
There's a country song that some of you probably heard, called "Diggin' Up Bones." One of the lines goes like this, "I'm digging up bones, exhuming things that are better left alone." Some bones, most bones, all bones are better left there. Don't become a spiritual grave robber. Leave the bones in the grave. God doesn't want us digging up bones. He wants us to change and to know that we can be forgiven. And when God forgives, it completely wipes the slate clear. We should be able to offer complete forgiveness to someone who is seeking our forgiveness, bury the past, and walk away in a newness of life.
The study aid that we're offering on this program really does go into more detail about this. With God's guidance, forgiveness is possible. We can remove mountains of resentment, grudges, and bitterness. And you can begin the road to a lasting, meaningful forgiveness right now by learning this important topic, especially learning that we can be forgiven from God and that we can extend that to others. You can get your free study guide, "Forgiveness Is Possible," by going online to beyondtoday.tv and begin to read and order your free copy right there. This valuable guide is going to help you, or you can call the number on your screen. A clear conscience is one of the most wonderful gifts that God gives to His children. What a wonderful miracle God works through repentance and forgiveness.
[Narrator] Call now to receive the free booklet offered on today's program "Forgiveness Is Possible." Forgiveness is a cornerstone of Christian faith, belief, and action. Jesus Christ taught that there is an intimate connection between God forgiving us and us forgiving others. Through His life, death, and resurrection, He opened the way for us to be fully forgiven by God, no matter our past. Order now, call toll free, 1-888-886-8632 or write to the address shown on your screen. The time for reconciliation and healing is now.
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