Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Upside Down Kingdom series #3)
Jason White

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How forgiving should Christians be? Is there a limit to the amount of forgiveness we should extend to others, even if they repeatedly wrong us? In this parable, Jesus shows us how we ought to forgive others because of the great forgiveness that He has given us.

 

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Hear firsthand about the incredible power of forgiveness as Christ works in us and through us to forgive others.

Britney Jones Testimony from Colonial Hills Baptist Church on Vimeo.

 


 

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SERMON TRANSCRIPT

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*This transcript was auto-generated by a transcription service and may differ from the originally spoken content*So we live in a culture that is pretty obsessed with movies. I often can get obsessed with movies. I love watching movies. I'm sure most of you love watching a good movie as well. And there's of course all kinds of different types of movies. I don't know what your favorite is, but I mean you've got your your comedies and your your romance movies, you got your romantic comedies, even you've got action packed thrillers, you've got my wife's favorite scary movies, right? You got dramas. And I mean, you could go on and on and on. Right, but one of the types of movies that I think a lot of us really enjoy watching our movies that have to do with revenge. We love a good movie, a good story, where someone who has been wronged gets revenge on the person that they were wronged. By, I mean, there's so many of them right i mean gladiator with Russell Crowe, you got Unforgiven with with Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman, you've got taken with Leon Nils Neeson, you've got the Count of Monte Cristo. I mean, I could just go on and on, there's probably others that are popping into your mind. But we we do love seeing those people just kind of get what it is that they deserve. Right. They they had a common tomb for what they did to these other people. I think the reason that we like watching movies like that a lot of times is because we really find ourselves in the story. We've all been wronged by people. And it's easy to find ourselves and relate to whatever the character that we're watching on the screen, unfold, we're easily able to relate to those things. So we cheer for the revenge, we cheer, that they'll get justice. And really, we're cheering for ourselves in some way. Because of the fact that we've been wronged, we would love to get some justice in our own lives for the ways that we've been wronged. We would love to get revenge on the people that have wronged us, we want to see them suffer in the same way that they've caused us to suffer. This is the message that we hear in a lot of movies, it's the message we hear all throughout our culture, really don't let other people hurt, you get even fight back, hurt them before they can hurt you, again, put them in their place. Don't you dare let that person disrespect you in that way. It's the messages that we receive on the screen. It's the messages that we have through social media. It's what we hear in our schools and in our workplaces. And it's just all around us in this culture. And this is what is valued. And because it's valued in this world and the culture that we live in, we can also find ourselves acting out in these same ways where we are getting even where we are shutting people out where we are putting people in their place. The question, though, really isn't what's valued in this culture that we live in what's valued in this earthly kingdom that we live in, but what is valued in God's kingdom, that's what we're trying to unpack. And we're trying to learn about from God's Word, through these parables that we're looking at throughout this series that we've been in the last couple of weeks, called the upside down kingdom. And today, we're going to look at a parable where we see this kind of thing, and we see what is valued in God's kingdom when it comes to this. Matter of fact, as we get ready to dive into Matthew chapter 18, we're gonna see that Peter is thinking and wondering about these things. It's, it's on his mind about how we should treat people who have wronged us. And so he asks Jesus about it. Look at what he says, in chapter 18, of Matthew, beginning of verse 21, says, Then, Peter came to Jesus and asked the Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times? So Peter is obviously wondering, again, what to do in these situations when someone has wronged us now, to his credit, he does recognize that seeking revenge is not the value of the kingdom of God that it is forgiveness, that is the value. But as we saw here, Peter assumes that there's a limit to the forgiveness that we extend others, right. I mean, at some point, we get to say, Hey, I've done the whole forgiving thing. And now it's time for me to get even right to get some justice. And so that Peter Really though, had a good reason for asking it in this particular way, because it was most likely what he had been taught, we have access to a lot of ancient Jewish writings. And here's what most likely Peter was taught during his time. One of those Jewish writings says if a man commits a transgression, the first, second and third time he is forgiven the fourth time, he is not forgiven. So Peter is asking about it. And he says, Hey, should I give my brother or sister up to seven times? In other words, I mean, Peters being pretty generous here, right? Most likely, he was taught, hey, it's it's three. I know, it's Jesus. I've heard him talking about this kind of forgiveness thing. So I'm going to, I'm going to take the number that's required of me, I'm going to double it. And then I'll add one more to it just for good measure, right. And so he's probably thinking, Boy, Jesus is going to come back with a attaboy Peter, man, what a great disciple you are, right? I mean, you're being so generous to be willing to forgive someone up to seven times when they have wronged you. And yet, it's not what Jesus says, look at how he replies in verse 22, Jesus answered, I tell you, Peter, not seven times, but 77 times and there's even some debate as to whether Jesus really said 77, or if he said, 70, times seven, because of the way it's written in the original language, really doesn't matter. It doesn't change what Jesus is trying to say through this either way, it's an insanely higher number than the seven that he put out there. It's really not about an exact number. It's not like Jesus was saying that and say, uh, now on the seventh the eighth time, though, if you kept good records or the 400 and 91st time, then you let them have it, Peter, you know, you can get after I'm at that point. I mean, he's saying there is no limit to the number of times that we forgive people, as citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Now, Jesus probably knew that this wood floor people, I mean, Peter, especially, I mean, he had been taught three times he asked for seven, he now he's saying 77 or 490. And so I'm sure Peter, and even the rest of them standing around are going now. Come on, are you kidding me? You've got to be joking, right? There's no way. So knowing this leads Jesus to tell this parable that we're about to read, to explain and show why they are expected why we are expected to live in this way. Here's what it says in verse 23. Therefore, Jesus is saying that the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him 10,000 bags of gold was brought to him now we don't really know if it's gold or not. The NIV takes the liberty of suggesting that it was gold. What it says in the original writings is it was talents, 10,000 talents, which was the highest denomination of currency in Anke and the ancient Roman Empire, but it was actually a measurement of weight. So it could have been gold could have been silver could have been copper, we don't really know what it is here. But here's what we do know, this was a lot of money. I mean, incredible amount of money. Those who have studied this kind of thing and attempted to translate it into modern day currency are guessing modern estimates say it would be at least in the millions of dollars, could be more like it's in the billions or trillions of dollars. So I mean, this is an incredible debt, amount of debt that this guy owed no way that he could ever pay it off, which is what Jesus says Next, look at how he continues in verse 25, since he was not able to pay the master order that he and his wife and his children, and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. Verse 26, at this, the servant fell on his knees before Him, be patient with me, he begged, and I will pay everything, pay back everything. The servants master, took pity on him, canceled the debt.And let him go. It's important, I think, to pause here for a second and just kind of really take in what Jesus is saying here. I mean, the first thing that we've got to notice is that this guy owed this money. He was responsible for paying this money back. Right and so what Jesus began to say when he was telling In this parable about the master ordering that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt was justice. This is what he deserved. In this moment, it was what was necessary in this particular moment. But secondly, even if the master had been moved by pity for him, he certainly didn't have to go to the links that he just went, that Jesus described. I mean, it would have been merciful for him to just not sell him and his children into slavery, he could have just had mercy said, You know what, here's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna give you some more time to keep earning some more money and pay me back. I mean, that would have shown him mercy in that way. And quite honestly, it's what we would have expected. I mean, wouldn't it have been in the Masters best interest to get his money back, he was owed an incredible amount of money back. So hey, go keep working and keep making sure that I'm getting my interest back. But of course, we saw that's not what he does. I mean, not only does he not punish the man and show him mercy, He cancels the entire debt, he lets him go, this guy's completely free, and completely off the hook. In other words, we don't just see mercy here. I mean, we see grace upon grace upon grace, what we see here, then what I'm getting at is this, Jesus is giving us a picture of the gospel. This is a great picture of the gospel, I think the problem is, is that we don't see it, because we don't really understand how much of a debt we really are with in God, sometimes, we really don't grasp it. I mean, Jesus picked an insane amount of money here, that to show that this guy owed a debt that he could never repay, which is the position that we are all in as sinners before a holding in a perfect God. It is a debt, that ginormous debt that none of us could ever repay. And I know a lot of us like to categorize it a little bit, right? I mean, like, okay, there's, there's me. And then there's these people in the world who we know have, have done really heinous things and crimes in our world the way that they've treated children or, or other people in here. And in our minds, a lot of times, we like to maybe think there is a special place in Hades for people like that. And what we're doing when we say that is that they're in a way bigger category of being way more evil, way more of a different position before than I am before a holy in a perfect God, when in reality, there is no difference. There's no difference between you and me, in Vim. We're all in this position. We're all the guy who owes trillions of dollars of debt to God, if you will, because of our sin. I mean, we are all in this position, there's no way that we could ever repay it. It's the whole reason that Jesus had to come. And he's the one who paid our debt, of course, for us, the paying the penalty for all of our sins, and here's the deal. He doesn't just show us mercy. He doesn't just even extend us forgiveness and wipe it away. He even goes above and beyond. It offers us grace. He says, Listen, if you'll just put your faith and trust in me as your Lord and Savior, then not only will I forgive you, not only Allah show you some mercy for the things that is that you've done, I'm actually going to reward you, I'm going to put Jesus inside of you. And in that union with Him, you're going to become a citizen of heaven, you're gonna receive a whole new identity, you're going to become co heirs with Jesus Christ in the inheritance that he deserves by merit. And you get it by grace. I mean, he is going way above and beyond, right? This is Grace, right? Same way that this master is treating this servant in this particular way. And because it's because of that, because that we have been forgiven so much, because it says that he's extended and given so much to us. God is expecting us to forgive others as well, which is what he gets to. In the next part of the parable. Verse 28, he says, But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him 100 silver coins. It was actually denarii 100 denarii, which was probably around four or $5,000. Still a significant amount of money but nowhere near near the millions or billions of dollars that he had owed, which, again, by the way, remember he is off the hook for now, he doesn't owe that anymore. But watch what he does. He grabbed him and began to choke him, pay back what you owe me. He demanded, his fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, be patient with me, and I will pay it back. But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant and you wicked servant, he said, I cancelled all that debt of yours, because you begged me to Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you? If we are the person that has had our debt paid in this parable, then this is showing us that again, the value in God's kingdom is to forgive others, because of how much we've been forgiven by him. His expectation is for us to show mercy and extend forgiveness to those who have wronged us, hurt us or caused us pain. Because in comparison to how big of a debt ours was before a holding in a perfect God, whatever it is, that that person has done to us, is way less than right, we owe God the trillions, their sin against us. They were in debt to us for $5,000. So because we've had trillions forgiven of us, then we should forgive those who sin against us, which is less than whatever it is that we owed god. Look at how Jesus finishes up verse 34. He says, in anger, his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay everything back that he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart. Now, this certainly needs some clarification here. Because at first glance, a lot of us would think, Okay, that sounds a lot like I might could lose my salvation. Or this sounds like the grace and forgiveness that God offers us and extends toward us is contingent upon my willingness to forgive other people, neither of which is true. First of all, the thing that we need to notice is that this is not a parable about salvation. It's not it's not a parable about salvation and how we can be saved. It's a parable about our response to salvation. It's a parable about our response to the forgiveness that we have in Christ, when we are saved, and how we are to forgive others because of how much we've been forgiven by him. The second thing we need to be clear about is scripture is categorically clear in so many places, that salvation is the only requirement for salvation is faith alone in Christ alone. And we can't lose our salvation. Once that happens. The thing is, when we hear and we see Jesus mentioning something about being tortured, our minds automatically go, he must be talking about hell. We just assume that Jesus is talking about hell, we're going to be thrown in hell, and we're not going to be saved if that's the case. But Jesus didn't specifically say that. He didn't mention that that was held. He just mentioned torturing.I love the way that Pastor Ray Stedman puts this or summarizes this and a message that he gave on this parable one time, I think it offers some great insight to it. I just want to read to you what he said quickly. He says, as it says, In James 213 judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. The result he says will be as Jesus said in Matthew 1834, that we are delivered to the torturers. This is a marvelously expressive phrase. He says to describe what happens to us when we do not forgive another. It's an accurate description of the gnawing resentment and bitterness, the awful gall of hate, or envy. It's a terrible feeling. We cannot get away from it. We cannot escape it. We find ourselves powerless to avoid it. We feel so strongly this separation from another then every time we feel Think of them, we fill within the acid of resentment and hate eating away at our peace and our calmness. This is the torturing, that our Lord says will take place. In the book of Hebrews, we even read, let no root of bitterness springing up trouble. You notice where the trouble occurs, he says, it hits you, not the other person. In other words, when we choose not to forgive others, we are ultimately the ones who will suffer, it will stay with us, it will eat at us, it will keep us from experiencing the forgiveness and the life and the freedom that Jesus has purchased for us and given to us in a union that we have with him. It's there. It's a part of who we are, it doesn't leave. It's just we're not able to experience what we have in Christ. If we're holding on to bitterness and anger and unforgiveness in our heart, we're going to be troubled. And it's going to be our experience rather than freedom and abundant life, and the forgiveness that we have in Christ. And so again, if you have put your faith and trust in Jesus for salvation, we've talked about this the last couple of weeks, you are already a citizen of heaven, you are already spiritually seated there. You're a citizen of that place. You may live in this world, but you are an ambassador to this world who is already from a different world. And now as an ambassador, here, Jesus wants to take this value of the kingdom of forgiving others who wronged us and manifest that value through you, as an ambassador into this world so that people will see it in they'll notice it. And because it's so upside down from the value found in this world of get even pay other people back, don't let them hurt you kind of a thing, then people are going to notice that and where they're going to notice that and wonder how in the world can you do that kind of thing. He's gonna use it to captivate their hearts with His love and His grace and mercy and lead more and more people into a life with him of forgiveness and love and mercy, and grace. And he does this all through you as one of his allowing people to wrong you. So he can express his value of love and mercy and grace through you, so that it will turn the world upside down around us. And a great example of this comes from the life of Michael J. Wilkins. He's a New Testament professor, he wrote a commentary on the book of Matthew and he shares a his own personal story in relation to this parable that Jesus was telling here. And I just want to read it to you quickly. He says, I was raised by a stepfather who caused my family and me a great deal of pain. He left our family when I was in my early teens, and I carried a deep animosity toward him for years, when I was in Vietnam, my animosity became almost obsessive. And I vowed that the first time I saw him on my return, that I would kill him. I would make him pay for what he had done to our family. But when I returned a few months later, and within a year or so I had become a Christian. My world began to change. And I put that stepfather out of my mind, I had not thought about him much until about four years later, when he suddenly showed up where my wife and I and our little girl were living, he had tracked us down. My wife being the loving person she is invited him in. And as we sat and talked politely, that vowel came back to my mind. I told him, I made a vow in Vietnam, that the first time that I saw you, I would kill you. And today is that day. He said, I will never forget the look of terror that came across his face, he started to sweat and slide down on the couch. But I went on and said, but now I know that I'm no better person than you. God has forgiven me and if he can forgive a sinner like me, then I can forgive you. I forgive you, because I have been forgiven. I probably was in shock, just like he was. I had not thought about saying those words of forgiveness, but honestly, they came fairly easily. I was deeply aware of the mercy and forgiveness that God had extended me I knew my sin better than anyone and I may not have been as abusive as my former stepfather. I may not have hurt people in the same way he had hurt our Family, but I had also abused and hurt people in my own self seeking way. When I came to that awareness, I knew that I needed mercy and forgiveness. And in receiving the gift of life that Jesus extended me through his work on the cross, extending mercy and forgiveness to my former stepfather was a natural response. my vow had been the rash, irresponsible reaction of a deeply hurt bitter young senator. However, my ability years, or my ability later to forgive came from the eternal loving act of grace in Jesus's sacrifice for my sin. What I discovered is that the key to forgiveness is to stop focusing on what others have done to us, and instead, focus on what Jesus has actually done for us. And that's it. It's what Jesus is trying to communicate, I think through this parable, I mean, if the guy in the parable had been focused on the trillions of dollars that he had been relieved from and forgiven from, he would not have sought revenge on the guy that owed him a lot less than that. And the same is true for you and I, you and I are the ones who have been forgiven for trillions of dollars of worth of sin. And as we keep our eyes on that, he will enable us and empower us to actually forgive those who have hurt us who have wronged us. And we may feel like don't even really deserve it at times. And it may not always be easy. A lot of times I can guarantee you, it won't be easy, our flesh will want to cling to that. Hold it against them, make them hurt for how they've hurt us. But it is possible, in and through the power of Christ in you and through you. And I want you to see in here another extremely powerful example of just that in the life of one of our own family members here at Colonial hills, one of our sisters in Christ. So turn your attention to the screen, and listen to her testimony.I am the youngest of four in the only girl. My mom and dad are drug addicts. And they still are. And my dad spent the majority of my childhood in prison for robbery and child endangerment. So when I was five years old, my mom took me and my youngest brother to Child Protective Services and dropped us off and told that she no longer wanted us. And she was there to sign her rights away. She left without saying goodbye or at WestView I, when she was leaving. I begged her to keep us because I was afraid that because I was arguing with my brothers that that was the reason why she wanted to get rid of us because we were fighting all the time. That moment will be ingrained in my memory forever. I spent the next 13 years in foster care. During my childhood, I was verbally, mentally, physically and sexually abused. I was in 16 homes. Andthose were the hardest years of my life. So during that time, I would come home from school and my bags would be packed and I would be moving to a new foster home with a new family with a new school to a new town. And I never had any control over my life. I was always told what to do all the time. And I didn't want to do opened myself up for getting hurt again. So I started to hurt people that started a cycle of resentment and bitterness and hatred towards people but God and His goodness allowed me to be in a good a few good foster homes. One of them were Ed and Linda, who I still keep in contact with today. And I was eight years old when I I moved into their house and, and I participated in VBS lock ins, church events, pine Cove, all of it. At around nine and a half, I started having questions about God and wanted to learn more about him. So my foster mom, Linda shared the gospel to me. And I accepted Jesus into my heart. During that time, I left her house shortly after that. And during that time, I began to have lots of questions. And I didn't understand how he could let something so horrible happened to someone that he loves. There was a lot of times where I hated God, there was a lot of years where I hated God. But through lots of counseling and prayer and people that God had placed in my life, I begin to understand my identity and God, I begin to understand His unconditional love for me. Later, in my high school years, I met Greg, my husband, my husband, who has been so faithful, and so loving to me used Greg to break down all those walls of fear and doubt, and bitterness. There were so manywalls put up with people. And he has been such a blessing to me. He's truly showed me that love that I've always needed. And it wasn't. It wasn't Greg showing me that love it was God. And I'm so thankful for that. The way Greg loved me through Christ led me to starting to forgive my parents. I hold no resentment, no anger. Because I feel sorry for them. We live in a fallen world. And I know that they are in pain too. As a matter of fact, this past Christmas was the first time that I allowed my dadto come to my house, to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with us. It's still a little awkward. It's but we're building a relationship. We're getting to know each other. It's the first time that I have had him, even around my children, and my boys love him. But through God's love and grace, I have told my father that I wouldn't have changed anything that where I'm at today is such a blessing. And I'm so thankful that he's led me to where I amjust incredible. So thankful for Brittany and her courage, willingness to record that video and share her story and what a testimony to being so raw, so hurt but the power of Christ in us and through us to be willing to forgive and extend and even reconcile. And if he can do it in and through her, he can do it in and through you and me. So who is it that you need to forgive today? Who is Jesus, leading you to forgive, to let go of the bitterness, the anger and the resentment that you feel towards them. I pray that you will be emboldened by Christ living in you and through you to forgive them today. You Let us pray.Father, we can't thank you enough for the forgiveness that you purchased for us through your Son Jesus. We recognize this morning it was an enormous debt. It wasn't one that you had to forgive. It wasn't one that you had to allow your son to pay for us and yet out of your love for us, you did it anyway. We don't understand that. But we're grateful. Father, I pray that as we focus and think about how much it is that we've been forgiven, that you will enable us and empower us and strengthen us to forgive those who wronged us and hurt us. We pray that you would use it to capture the attention of a lost and dying world around us and turn our community in this world upside down. They thank you for the privilege it is to get to participate with you in your kingdom work in the us and through us. Jesus name amen.