331 Seventy times Seven
Countless sermons have been preached about how to get out of difficulty, how to find release from your problems, and how to gain a break-through in your finances and most of these sermons focus on the subject of Praise. They teach you to praise your way out – so that when the praises go up, the blessings will come down! Now please don’t misunderstand me, for I too preach that Jesus is worthy of praise; the adoration of the heart and the song of our lips. And almost everything we sing about in the Church nowadays is linked to praising God, even to praising Him in life’s problems. In principle I do not dispute this practice and the power of Praise, but if you are praising and worshiping God and giving and tithing and making sacrifices for others, and you are not yet receiving from heaven those things that you sing and shout about, then further investigation must be made. If your blessings are being blocked, you must ask why? Many sing about being blessed, yet they are not blessed.
In my sermon today entitled “Seventy Times Seven”
I want to talk with you about forgiveness.
In today’s Gospel, we read that on one occasion
“… Peter came to (Jesus), and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
(and) Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22
I don’t imagine for one moment that Jesus expected Peter (or any of us) to keep count of offences done to us, so that after Seventy times Seven, 490 times we could be free from the instruction to forgive and then at that point repay evil with
evil or settle the score? Rather Jesus was teaching us that if we are to walk in the peace of God in testing times, we must walk in love and forgiveness towards all who might offend us in any way.
I firmly believe that many of the spiritual problems facing the Church and the Christian today stem from unforgivingness within the body of Christ. Paul, the Apostle, writing to the Corinthian Church warns them of this kind of hypocrisy, and says that some are coming to the Lords Table to partake of Holy Things, while at the same time harbouring these sins and Paul adds:
“For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” (or die) 1 Cor 11:30
It is amazing to me, not so much that secular people find it hard to forgive, because secular peoples hearts have been hardened because they has not been regenerated, but what is shocking to me is that those who have been forgiven still find it difficult
I believe that unforgivingness is a sickness as well as a sin.
If you are ill and go to the Hospital and pass several tests and you are still symptomatic of your illness, then further tests must follow to show up what is wrong. In the same way, if you come to Church on Sunday and you are faithful giver and you love to worship and love to read your Bible – and yet your blessing and your peace and your power and your prosperity is shut up to you, … then further investigation must be made to see what is wrong. God wants to highlight those things that are causing the blockage and the barrier to your blessings. I want to teach you something today, because I want you to have the peace the joy and the flow of the Holy Spirit that you ought to have.
Turn with me, if you will to Matthew 5:8 and I’ll show you how this ought to work.
This scripture is part of the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus says, “BLESSED are the pure in heart”,… is that you? “for they shall see God.” Now before they saw God they were already blessed. The word pure there is the Greek word Katharus which has the same rendering as we give the word catheter, meaning – to drain out impurities. The function of the catheter is to deal with infectious impurities as they build up in the body, – they just drain out, the catheter keeps impurities from collecting.
Now we must understand that in the Spiritual sense also, impurities, infections and offences will come: Jesus said:
“Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” Matthew 18:7
Impurities, Insults and Injuries do come and like offences they are not welcome, but they need not stay! Through a cleansing experience, we can know relief. Blessed are those who push out what they don’t need so that they can keep what they do need; – they have a system that irrigates the impurities from the heart, (nothing to do with the flesh).
Have you ever wondered why God Blessed Joseph over his brothers when they were just as much his Fathers sons as he was? There was no difference in the relationship between them and the Father, they were just as connected; and even Benjamin shared the same Mother? Yet Joseph had an extra release of blessing in his life? If you think about it you will see that what set Joseph apart from them – was how Joseph kept his heart. Had Joseph not been pure in his heart, had he not had a catheter in his heart to release the impurities of the offences that were executed against him, (so that when his brothers came back to him he may have sought for revenge) – then he would have been too bitter, too unforgiving to have been trusted with that wealth, blessing, notoriety and influence that God granted to him.
God blesses people he can trust and that don’t have a secret agenda that desires to lift themselves above God. As Christians our aim should never ever be to get even, or settle some score, for if we are going to be blessed we must continually throw off the offences of life. Now there is no point in me praying that God might keep me in an environment where there are NO offences: for just as the sun rises and sets so “offences will come”! If right now you are in a place of offences, where you have been deeply wounded or offended by someone, you are in the danger of throwing away your blessing, if you cannot recognise that blessings often come with offences.
This does not mean that an offender can hurt and get away with it. Remember Jesus said: “woe to those by whom they come” and in the previous verse he says that it would be better for those who offend the “least” in the kingdom, if “a millstone were tied around their neck and they were cast into the sea” Matt 18:6. God says “you’re going down” not just because you offended, but because you offended one of mine! He also adds “touch not mine ” the least of mine. God says: Leave my children alone!
If I am one of Gods Children I don’t have to protect myself,
fight my own battles and get even, and settle scores? God will put the stone on their neck and bury them. God will deal with it, cast the offences away to Him, and let him deal with the offenders. I discovered a while ago, that Good Business Practice includes an arbitration clause, so that if a problem between partners arise, they are to prepare in advance.
To not prepare for an offence is not realistic, you should do the “out” clause going in! God has already placed inside of you a method to deal with, to get out of life’s offences. So what I
are saying here is that “To him whom much is given much is required.” The more you have the more offences you will concur. Your ability to deal with offences depends on the system you have in place. Jesus says to the apostles, you are to forgive 70 times 7, no matter what they do to you. So the system you should be operating in, is what I call the Throw off System!
Some don’t like this terminology because it speaks of weakness, or of a walking away from our accusers, and they argue that we should defend ourselves. Let me show you that Anger is a gift from God, placed in my body to protect my life. God does not tell me not to be angry, but God says “be ye angry but sin not” – in other words we may be angry at nothing but SIN! Anger is OK, it teaches us to stand and fight or run to flight. I need this righteous indignation to fight, to drive, to fuel me, to motivate me in my war against evil. The Bible says – confront it, because you cannot confront what you will not release. One of the quickest ways to end a business, a marriage, or a partnership, is to brush everything under the carpet. We need to stop and release the problem so that we can confront the problem, and fix it: and usually that fix involves forgiveness.
But our Enemies can become our Friends and you should leave my Judas alone, I may need him! I would not have fought as hard in life if they had not said I would amount to nothing, if they had not said I was wasting my time and effort. Everything that hurts you has a part in it that can help you, but you must first release the part that hurts you or it may make you sick;
before you can see the part that can help you. Anger can turn into bitterness if you don’t use it properly. The more you get rid of it, the more you will see God fight for you. – But Why should God fight for you when you are fighting for yourself. I don’t respond to my critics, because God will fight for me, but if I get into the fight I give life to the fight and I am likely to keep the fight going.
It is interesting to notice that Jesus addresses them here as Apostles, and not as Disciples. That is significant as a disciple speaks to the discipline of the cause, while apostle speaks to the status, the level to which they have advanced. Is it possible that you have come to a high status but you still have a low thinking? You may have a spiritual way of walking but a carnal way of thinking? Maturity in Christ is not about age
it is about character.
Your gifts could be on a University level, but your ability to forgive could be on a pre-school level. When it comes to dealing with conflict the 48 year old acts like an 8 year old. You throw a tantrum. In the Church I have discovered that there are people that are wonderful (as long as you don’t cross them)
but the moment you cross them – they turn into devils!
Sometimes your gifts and talents can take you to that Apostolic level, but when it comes to conflict you deal with those things
like an idiot.
So Jesus says 70 times 7, and here is where their Apostolic maturity kicks in – they say “increase my faith”. He was
talking about forgiveness why did they say ” increase my faith” – What in the world does faith have to do with forgiveness?
If you believe that the offence stopped your progress, robbed you of your dream, shut your life down, then you have to hold on to the bitterness – as blaming the person excuses your inability to move on. But this kind of thinking places your focus on the offender rather than the God who can deliver you from the snare of the fowler. We need to be praying Lord, increase my faith to believe that “no weapon formed against me shall prosper”!
If you can really believe and have faith and confidence in God, then you will see that your vision or dream may be delayed but it is not denied.- it may be a setback but it can be a springboard, if you forgive. A while ago I preached a sermon on “Speaking to your Mountain” from Mark 11:23 where Jesus curses a fig tree and tells the disciples that faith can not only remove trees, but can remove mountains! Most of us recognise the necessity for faith in speaking to the mountains in our lives, but why do I need the same amount of faith for a tree? Moving a mountain would be a miracle but moving a tree is easy; you can cut down a tree! But Jesus said it takes just as much faith to move a tree as it does a mountain, and the reason why, is that a mountain
had no root! Cutting down the tree is easy but getting the roots up is not. Why does Jesus mention the root, because the offence that is blocking your blessing, usually finds its root in bitterness! And if you can get rid of the root of bitterness,
then you will begin to walk into the blessings that you
could not otherwise imagine.
So you have to decide if the root is more valuable to you than the blessing. If so, you can keep your old hating attitude and the bitter spirit and the physical side effects that go with it and the hypertension it produces, and be hateful, resentful, bitter and angry … and it may kill you, –
but if you are going to walk in supernatural blessings and benefits, you are going to have to find a way to get rid of it.
I am not telling you to keep or get rid of the Person, I’m not thinking about the person, I am talking about the bitterness and the doubt and the scepticism and the negativity and suspicion that comes up in your life because of the root of bitterness that came into your life back then. But in order to have your hands and your arms open to receive what God is about to do in your life, you have got to throw it off and cast it down.
I’m talking about freeing your hands and your heart and your expectation, without being encumbered by bitterness.
There is a reason why God taught us to pray “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. That’s the scariest verse in the Bible – because we are asking God to treat us like we have treated those who have offended or hurt us! This is why at the risk of being misunderstood, and being called weak and without back-bone, I have always tried to be merciful to everyone, for the rope that you twist to hang her, may end up
hanging you. Every time there is a scandal in the Church it is best to say nothing, only that that’s why Jesus died. We need to be careful that we do not build a hangman’s noose and gallows, on which we may someday hang ourselves. The Apostle Paul said: “let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall! 1 Cor 10:12 Forgive us Lord, as we forgive others!
Every time we pray this, we could be asking for condemnation because we offend God all the time.
The Bible says that the world could not contain the books if all that Jesus did between 30 and 33, had been recorded. But the most important thing he ever did for me was what he did on the cross. The things that he said while he was dying were amazing. You must remember that he is dying with the expectation of resurrection. He has to pull this off, because if he does not
do it, we have no Gospel and no Church.
He could have messed up Lazarus’s resurrection, he could have messed up the feeding of the 5000, but we would still have the gospel. But if he had messed up his own resurrection, the whole of Christianity goes down the drain! They had just nailed him to the cross and the blood is gushing out his body. His body has been torn apart by flogging and his beard has been plucked from his face, yet he says “Father forgive them!” They don’t even ask him for forgiveness, and he still says father forgive them, WHY? – because he has to lose every weight – so that he can get up in the resurrection. Throw it off – every weight that could keep you buried and dead to the destiny God has for you.
This bitterness, this toxic waste that is burning through your blood system – is destroying you. You must end it. God wants to release you, so that your heart is open so that you can do
what he called you to do. You haven’t done your best work yet, but get this unforgiving and bitter spirit out of the way and out of your life – and you’ll feel like running again.
NOW THIS FINAL WORD
Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. By forgiving, I am not saying that you were right to hit me, I am not saying that I am weak and allow you to walk all over me. But what I am saying is that I cannot afford to put this much energy into being angry with you any longer – to put time and thought into a place that I am no longer going to. So when I forgive you it is not so much about you but about me so that I can be free. If it was important enough that Jesus stopped dying to do it, for he knew that in three days he had got to be at his best and not angry with those who nailed him to the cross and not bitter otherwise he could not have resurrected. He had to throw it off and you and I must learn to do the same.
But sometime when we know we are supposed to forgive we don’t know how to do it. So how do you forgive?
Forgiveness is not a feeling, it is a decision. The reason that people can’t do this is that many are controlled by their feelings. When you first forgive you wont feel like you forgive, but as long as you resist your emotions you will bring them into captivity and you will be free. Don’t allow your feelings to change your decision.
You will never feel forgiven until you learn how to forgive.
So let all that bitterness and unforgivingness go today – and
may God help you do it, for the sake of your well-being and
God Bless You…Amen.