Colossians 1:13-14 “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Colossians 2:13-14-“And you who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
Colossians 3:12-15 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive AS THE LORD FORGAVE YOU. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Coming from a home with an abusive father, 10-year-old Bart Millard was dropped off at a Christian camp by his mother, where he met a girl named Shannon. Upon his return from camp, Bart finds his mother has left and movers were removing her belongings. This led to a physical confrontation with his father Arthur, who took custody of him.
Years later, Millard was in Lakeside high school and dating Shannon. Hoping to earn his
father’s love and approval, he began playing football. However, he was injured, breaking both ankles and ending his career. In order to make up the credits he would miss from football, he signed up for music class, the only available class left. Initially, Millard was assigned to be a sound technician, but after the director caught him singing in the empty auditorium of
Lakeside high school, she cast him as the lead role in the school production of Oklahoma. He didn’t tell his father of his role in the play as he didn’t think that would be something his dad would support. His dad subsequently collapsed with severe abdominal pain, but refused to tell Bart or Bart’s girlfriend, Shannon about his cancer diagnosis. The following morning, Millard voiced his frustrations with his father and was assaulted by his father, who smashed a plate over his head. Shannon pressed Bart to open up, but he responded by breaking up with her and leaving to seek his fortune in the city after graduation.
Millard then connected with the band who would become the Christian band, Mercy Me, and eventually attracted the attention of a Christian music producer who coached Bart and got the group a showcase in Nashville, leading to meetings with Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith. Bart had been unable to reconcile with his former girlfriend, Shannon, who rejected his invitation to tour with the band to their upcoming Nashville showcase. While the band felt their performance was the best of their career, industry representatives rejected the band. In despair, Bart quit the band. After talking with his producer, who encouraged him to resolve his issues with his father, Millard rejoined the band but asked that they wait for him to confront his father and settle the conflict before they play again.
Bart went home and was greeted enthusiastically by his father who claimed to have become a Christian, but Bart was initially skeptical and rejected his father’s offer to start over.
Show the second clip-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_hINgP0lBs&app=desktop
Forgiving isn’t easy, is it? It wasn’t easy for Bart. If it was easy, everyone would do it because living hurt and angry isn’t any fun. Something someone else does to us has a way of spilling over into relationships that otherwise are good and healthy. We can take out our old hurt on new people in our lives. Relationships are the toughest thing we have to negotiate in this life. Reconciliation isn’t always possible. Returning to the way things were before, doesn’t always play out. We aren’t always received when we try to make things right. Even so, we can still choose to forgive regardless of the outcome or regardless of how we are received. It didn’t go too well initially between Bart and his dad.
In anger, Arthur, Bart’s dad, took a baseball bat and beat up on his old Jeep, which he had hoped to repair with his son. As Bart prepared to leave, he found out his father had terminal cancer. This new information became the turning point between the two, and Bart and his father reconciled and formed a deep bond before Arthur died.
After his father’s funeral, Millard rejoined the band and wrote “I Can Only Imagine,” a song about heaven, which went to number one on both the Christian and secular charts. It is a song still beloved today and sung often at funerals. Think of the influence he has had on the world through his music that was the result of his ability to forgive his father. That is how he says the song came to be written through that season of forgiving his dad.
Bart went on to write songs like “Word of God Speak,” “Even If,” “Bring the Rain,” “God With Us,” “The Hurt and the Healer.” What if Bart had never forgiven his dad? Would he have been anointed by God to write those amazing songs? Was the forgiveness what ushered in the power, creativity and anointing to write? Would the world have had thoughts of heaven on their mind like they had when “I Can Only Imagine” was written if Bart hadn’t forgiven his dad? What would the rest of us have missed? What could other people be missing because of un-forgiveness in our lives?
Did Bart’s forgiveness of his dad change the hurt that he had suffered? No. It didn’t. That hurt was still part of his story. The abuse was still a part of his story. But what happened was Bart was no longer defined by or confined by that story. He was freed to share that story as an example of the power of God. He was free to love his dad in the end and to see how amazing God is that He can take the hardest heart and change it into someone who wants to live and love well.
Listen, when we live with un-forgiveness in our hearts, we are giving Satan power over our story, but when we forgive, we surrender our story to our loving Heavenly Father and can then share the story and point to the power of God that made forgiveness possible for all of us to give and to receive.
Here’s what I know: If we wait until we feel like forgiving, we probably will never forgive. If we wait until someone acknowledges what they did to us, we may never forgive.
Here’s also what I know: The basis of forgiveness isn’t my feelings or someone else’s willingness to grovel, the basis of forgiveness is what Jesus has done for me on the cross.
Jesus’ death on the cross secured forgiveness for all of us, right? Does anyone disagree with that?
If God can forgive me in all of my sin and shame, and Christ’s death pays the price for all sins, past, present, and future, who I am to say that what Jesus did for me couldn’t or shouldn’t enable me to extend the forgiveness I have received to someone else who needs it?
What Christ has done for us ought to be so powerful, so compelling, so life-changing, so transforming, so incredible that it enables us to take on His character, His nature, which is a forgiving nature and enable us to extend forgiveness to others. “Well, they don’t deserve it, Pastor Melissa.” Well, neither did you. Neither did I. “Well, they could never make it up to me.” Well, neither could you. Neither could I. There was nothing we could do to make us presentable to God, but He, in love, forgave us.
Forgiveness isn’t earned. It’s a gift.
It doesn’t mean you overlook the offense. It means you choose to look at the need rather than the offense. People need to be forgiven. Forgiveness meets a need people have. Look at the need. Look at the opportunity to be like Jesus. Their offense has already been paid for by Christ on the cross. Do we truly get that? If someone else takes ownership of what they have done and tries to learn from it and recover from it and change from it, that is to their benefit for sure, but them having to make something up to you in order for you to forgive them isn’t the way God forgave us. We are to forgive others the way God in Christ forgave us.
When God forgave us, He gave us power to change.
Think about what God’s forgiveness does for us. It changes us from people who are lost to people who are found; from people who are bound to people who are free; from people who are victims of everything that happens to them to people who are victorious and more than conquerors; from people who walk in darkness to people who walk in the light; from people with no identity to people who are called the Beloved of God; from people who live for the moment to people who live for eternity; from people who have everything to fear to people who have nothing to fear, including death.
Can you process that? Can you understand that you are given a new identity when you receive the forgiveness of God? You are no longer defined by your sin. You are no longer defined by what you have done, but you are defined by what Christ has done for you. You are defined by WHO He is. He is perfect, and when you are forgiven, the perfection of Christ is translated or appropriated to you! You become His child. His Spirit becomes your spirit. You have a new outlook. You have new vision. You have a new purpose.
Your past is changed when you are forgiven because your sin can no longer be held against you. Satan cannot hold it against you, and God won’t hold it against you. Your present is changed when you are forgiven because you are at peace with God. You can live without baggage. The future is changed because your life gets set on a righteous God-given trajectory instead of the path sin takes us down.
Forgiveness is so powerful because it is fueled by the blood of Jesus Christ which holds all power! My question for you this morning is “Have you been changed by the life-giving, life-changing power of God?” God’s forgiveness changes you and empowers you to continue to change. And God’s power that empowered you to change can flow through you to help others become who God intended them to become.
You see, When we forgive others, we change and we give them power to change.
Sometimes, people don’t even know that what they said or did hurt us. They can start to see themselves with more insight and can see where they need to change when we offer forgiveness. I know when God forgave me of my sin, it gave me a desire to want to live differently. I believe forgiveness, when it is truly received, has a special property attached to it that makes us want to live better.
When we share our feelings, in love, with people and tell them that we forgive them, they gain insight into what the forgiveness of God is like. When we behave the way God behaves, by forgiving others who don’t deserve it, they get a picture of how this forgiveness thing works!
In situations where we don’t actually talk with the person who hurt us, but we choose to forgive them, we free them in our minds from being defined by the thing they did to us. When we mentally associate people with the hurt they caused, it puts them in a place in our mind where we think they can only be defined by that hurt which they caused. If they lied to us, we think of them forever as liars. If they steal from us, we think of them forever as thieves. If they talk about us badly behind our backs, we think of them forever as gossips. If they cheated on us, they can only ever be cheaters. When we choose to forgive people, we leave room in our minds for the possibility that they can change. People do still change. God can change people.
There is a lot I could say about forgiveness this morning, but the last thing I will say is that:
Heaven comes to earth when we experience forgiveness and when we give it to other people.
When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, forgiveness was a centerpiece of His prayer.
Matthew 6:9-13 9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
God’s Kingdom comes to earth when we rely on God to sustain us each day. God’s Kingdom comes to earth as we flee temptation and are delivered from the works of the devil. God’s Kingdom comes to earth, when we are forgiven and when we in turn, forgive those who hurt us. How could we think we could ask God to forgive us if we aren’t willing to then in turn forgive others?
Determine to be a forgiver so that heaven can come to earth. Determine to be a forgiver so that the past doesn’t define you or anyone else. Determine to be a forgiver so that you can live free. Determine to be a forgiver so that your future looks like the one God had planned and not one the devil got to influence.
We need to change our focus. We get fixed on the hurt. We get fixed on the argument. We attach motives to the things people say and do which often isn’t fair or right. We like to rehearse what happened, almost as if to convince ourselves that we are justified in our anger and bitterness. Not only do we spend unnecessary time remembering the hurt and rehearsing it, but we also like to regurgitate to others what happened to get support for our cause.
Two friends were walking through the desert. During some point of the journey they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other one in the face. The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand: TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SLAPPED ME IN THE FACE.
They kept on walking until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but the friend saved him. After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone: TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SAVED MY LIFE.
The friend who had slapped and saved his best friend asked him, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now, you write on a stone, why?” The other friend replied “When someone hurts us, we should write it down in sand where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But, when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it.”
Colossians 3:12-15 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive AS THE LORD FORGAVE YOU. It takes compassion to forgive. We need to see how much people need forgiveness. Lord, make me compassionate. It takes kindness to forgive. As Christians we don’t pay back evil for evil, but we treat them with kindness. Lord, make me kind. It takes humility to forgive. Lord, make me humble. It takes gentleness to forgive. Lord, make me gentle. It takes patience to forgive. Lord make me patient. We are supposed to clothe ourselves with these things so that we can forgive when it is needed. These aren’t the clothes we were born with. These are clothes we have to ask Christ to put on us. And the biggest piece is found in the next verse:
14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. In the end it is all about love. You can’t love if you can’t forgive, and you can’t forgive without love. It has to be pre-imminent in your life.
Verse 15: 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Forgiveness will produce peace in your life and should cause you to overflow with thanksgiving because Christ’s sacrifice makes giving and receiving forgiveness possible. And where would we be without that ability? Bart Millard chose forgiveness. As a result, millions and millions of people were pointed to the way to heaven. I CAN ONLY IMAGINE what God could do in the lives of every believer who would choose the way of forgiveness.