Sermon Illustrations: Forgiveness
A psychology student said to his father, "One thing we learn in psychology is how to deal with people's guilt. We try to convince them they shouldn't feel guilty. But no matter how much we try it doesn't work." His father was a Christian and said, "Of course it doesn't work son. They are guilty."
Micah 7:19 "He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea." A song says there's a sign on the edge of that sea which says, "No Fishing".
Ps 103:12 "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." God said He has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west. Why not as far as the north is from the south? Because you can only travel north for a limited distance. Once you hit a certain point, you will be going south again. But it doesn't matter how far east or west you travel, you will still be travelling east or west.
A minister had sinned very badly and even though he had confessed his sin, he never felt forgiven. A lady in his church was always saying, "The Lord said to me …" It wasn't that he didn't believe her, because she was usually right, but she really irked him. One day he said, "If God is speaking to you, ask Him to tell you what it was I did years ago." A few days later, she came back to him. "Well?" he demanded. "Did you ask Him?" "Yes," she replied. "And what did He say?" asked the minister. "He said He doesn't remember."
The true story of Elisabeth Elliot. Her husband, Jim Elliot was a missionary to a South American tribe of Indians. After only 27 months of marriage he was murdered by the Indians he was trying to help. Years later, she remarried and her second husband died of cancer. At one point while she was a widow she actually went back to share God's love with the same tribe of Indians that had murdered her husband. How was she able to do that? Because she found it in her heart to forgive.
Evangelist Charles Finney preached on 1 John 1:7 "....The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." A stranger asked him to walk home with him; against all advice he did. Ushering Finney into the rear of a building, he locked the door and pocketed the key. "Don't be afraid," the man said. "I just want to ask you some questions. Do you believe what you preached tonight?" "I most certainly do," replied Finney. "We're in the back of a saloon and I'm the owner. Mothers come in here lay, their babies on the counter and beg me not to sell liquor to their husbands. I turn a deaf ear to their cry. When a man leaves here we see to it that he's well under the influence. More than one man has been killed on the railway tracks after leaving here. Can God forgive a man like me?" the man asked. "I have only one authority. 'The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin,'" said the evangelist. The stranger wasn't satisfied yet and asked, "If a man doesn't spend all his money on liquor, we take him to our gambling hall and fleece him of his last dollar with marked cards. Can God forgive a man with a heart like that?" "I have only one authority. 'The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin,'" Finney replied again. The stranger still wasn't finished. He said, "Across the street is my wife and daughter. Neither has heard a kind word from me in five years. Their bodies bear the marks of my brutal attacks. Can God forgive a man with a heart like that?" Finney lowered his head and said, "You've painted one of the darkest pictures I've ever seen. But still I have only one authority. 'The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.'" That night that man became a new creature in Christ.
When someone hurts you, you've been robbed. Because that's what the enemy does (Jn 10:10), and that person is acting as an agent of the enemy. But if you don't forgive, you will continue to be robbed. Picture this: Someone comes and knocks on your door in the middle of the night. You're sound asleep so you don't hear it. But you have a guest, and they hear it and answer the door. "I want to rob your house." "Sure", says the guest. "Come on in." And the guest goes back to bed. In the morning, you wake up and find out that the thief has taken all your electrical goods. And worse, you find out that your guest is responsible. Would you be angry? Of course! You kick your guest out, and the next night, you're still so angry that you can't sleep. There's another knock at the door. This time you answer the door. "I want to rob your house." "Sure," you reply. "Come on in." Then you go back to bed. In the morning, you wake up and find out that the thief has taken all your jewellery. Who's to blame this time? You are. If someone hurts you, it's not your fault you've been robbed of your goods, your reputation, your innocence. But when you refuse to forgive, and by doing that you open the door and let the enemy just keep robbing you, then it becomes your fault.
Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other guy to die.
When I was a kid we had what we called a "magic slate". I loved my magic slate. You could start doing a drawing, make an absolute mess of it, and that was okay. Because you just pulled the sheet up on the magic slate, and it all just disappeared, and you could just start again. God gives us the opportunity to have a clean slate with Him every day of our lives.
People who say they don't want to go to church because they went once and someone hurt them, are like the person with diarrhoea who says, "I had a bad experience in a toilet once, and I'll never darken the door of a toilet again."
There's no revenge as complete as forgiveness.