Most people donít even consider the theme of todayís sermon, "Those Who Donít Forgive Others Go to Hell."
They donít want to consider it because they donít want to change their attitudes; they donít want to get rid of their pride of life, for to not forgive someone gives them a sense of power.
And they feel this way because there has never been a true conversion; they have never fully accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
They may know all about Jesus, but they have never fully submitted their lives to Him.
Psalm 114 gives us an example of the problem with the Israelites when they came out of Egypt.
They knew about God and His power, but only a very few accepted Him fully as their God.
And because of this, the very deeds of God became a judgment against them.
Psalm 114 begins with Godís grace:
1. When Israel went forth from Egypt,
The house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
2. Judah became His sanctuary,
Israel, His dominion.
Godís willingness to dwell with Israel is a sign of His grace.
But Israel, as a whole, was unwilling to serve only Him.
Thus, all that He did for them became a testimony against them.
3. The sea looked and fled;
The Jordan turned back.
4. The mountains skipped like rams,
The hills, like lambs.
5. What ails you, O sea, that you flee?
O Jordan, that you turn back?
6. O mountains, that you skip like rams?
O hills, like lambs?
The whole of Godís creation, except His humans, and more specifically His chosen people, obey Him.
The people wonít listen; they refuse to obey.
7. Tremble, O earth, before the Lord,
Before the God of Jacob,
8. Who turned the rock into a pool of water,
The flint into a fountain of water.
Do you know what I consider to be our main problem with society in general and Christians in particular?
Our familiarity with God breeds contempt.
We have lost our respect for Him.
We have lost our reverent fear of Him.
We want to send Jesus to Calvary, but we donít want to go with Him.
We want Him to take away the stains of our sins, but we donít want to give them up completely.
We donít want to accept the Lord on His terms, but we want Him to accept us on our terms.
Now letís take a look at what we are told in Matthew 18:21-35:
21. Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?"
Peter thought he was being exceptionally forgiving; he thought he was truly doing what the Lord wanted Him to do, but he was wrong.
22. Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
In other words, during our lifetime, the time should never come when we are unwilling to forgive someone, no matter how many times they sin against us.
23. "For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a certain king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.
24. "And when he had begun to settle them, there was brought to him one who owed him ten thousand talents.
The least amount of money this could be, in today's equivalent, is $10,000,000.
The emphasis here, however, is not on the specific amount of money, but on the inability of the servant to ever be able to pay it back, for the sum is too large to comprehend.
25. "But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made.
26. "The slave therefore falling down, prostrated himself before him, saying, ĎHave patience with me, and I will repay you everything.í
This ruler knew that this servant had mismanaged his money, and he also knew he would never be able to pay it back.
Even if he did sell this man and his family and all that they had, it would only recover a small fraction of what he owed.
27. "And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.
The lord of the servant believed him, and thus forgave him everything, not just a portion of the debt, but everything.
He granted him total forgiveness, just as the Lord our God will forgive us for our transgressions.
But forgiveness comes with a responsibility: that we likewise forgive, as we have been forgiven.
28. "But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ĎPay back what you owe.í
So far, this servant is reacting similarly to how his lord reacted with him in the beginning, except that he is also using physical force.
29. "So his fellow slave fell down and began to entreat him, saying, ĎHave patience with me and I will repay you.í
His fellow servant is reacting the way that he did, even with the same words.
30. "He was unwilling however, but went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.
The very fact that he is unwilling to forgive, as he was forgiven, is proof that he wasnít sorry for what he did, but only that he was caught.
And the other servants knew this, too.
31. "So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened.
32. "Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ĎYou wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you entreated me.
33. ĎShould you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?í
If we are truly born again, this unlimited love and compassion should be part of our nature.
There is so much anger and petty jealousy in the churches, that to society we must seem just as this servant seemed to his fellow servants: as hypocrites.
We are to truly repent and forgive others completely; for if we donít, we will have to face judgment for our actions.
34. "And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.
And notice that even though the ruler previously threatened to make the slaveís family also responsible for his actions, when it comes to the final judgment, only he is being punished.
He is not really being punished for the money he hasnít paid back, but for his unforgiveness of others.
The only thing that could have saved him is love and compassion; but since he has neither, the money is being used as a substitute.
And his punishment is eternal, or at least a very long time, for he has no way of paying back the money.
35. "So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."
You cannot buy your way to forgiveness.
The way to forgiveness is only through love and compassion.
The symbolism of this parable is explicit: if we donít love and forgive others as our heavenly Father loves and forgives us, we are condemning ourselves to hell.
Nearly every week we recite the Lordís Prayer together, and I would like us to recite it together now; but this time I want us to use the word "debts" instead of "transgressions," for it ties more closely to the parable we just read. Matthew 6:9-13:
9. "Pray, then, in this way:
ĎOur Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name.
10. ĎThy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11. ĎGive us this day our daily bread.
12. ĎAnd forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13. ĎAnd do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.]í
This is where we end the Lordís Prayer, but the next two verses, Matthew 6:14-15, speak very pointedly to what we have been talking about:
14. "For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
15. "But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
If we do not love and forgive others as our heavenly Father forgives us, we are condemning ourselves to hell.
We usually donít end our sermons on a hard note, but sometimes we need to.
Maybe we are not the people who need to hear this message; and then again, maybe we are.
We all have loved ones who fall into the category of not being unconditionally loving and forgiving, and maybe we donít fear their fate enough to tell them the truth.
The day of the Lord is coming soon.
Donít be too late.