Three Reasons to Forgive

Since Jesus placed such an emphasis on forgiveness, you would think that forgiving others would easily be at the top of our list of priorities. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Pastor John MacArthur gives three reasons, or incentives, for forgiving others.

You are never more like God than when you forgive.

“Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with [Moses] there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin . . .” (Exodus 34:6–7).

Do you want to know who God is? He is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, full of lovingkindness, and full of truth. He also forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin. Our God is a forgiving God. God’s forgiveness then requires our forgiveness of others. The Bible says, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Remember, Jesus taught us to pray, “Your will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven” (Matthew 6:10). What goes on in Heaven? The worship of God, the lifting up of Christ, and the granting of forgiveness are all taking place in Heaven right now. And that is what we should be doing here on earth.

Matthew 18:18 says, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven.” This verse means that if someone is sinning, and you confront that person about his sin, and he repents and you forgive him—Heaven has already done that. You are just lining up with Heaven. If he does not repent, however, he is bound in that sin—and Heaven confirms that, as well.

You are literally bringing Heaven down to earth when you forgive others.

It is only reasonable that those who are forgiven forgive.

Jesus was speaking on the topic of forgiveness when Peter asked, “‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven'” (Matthew 18:21–22).

Jesus then tells Peter the story of a man who had apparently refused to pay his taxes (see Matthew 18:23–35). He was a tax collector for the king, and he was supposed to collect a certain amount for the king, after which he was allowed to keep some money back for himself. But this man kept it all! As a result, he owed the king ten thousand talents. One writer said that would roughly equal the national gross income of Galilee. The king generously pardons him and completely forgives him of his debt.

This tax collector, however, fails to show the same kindness to his fellow man. He finds a man who owes him one hundred denarii (about three months wages), and demands payment of the debt. When the debtor pleads for mercy, he is thrown into prison. Upon hearing this, the king reverses his decision and throws the tax collector into prison until he has paid in full.

When we read this story, it is easy to point our finger at the tax collector. But we must take this lesson to heart. Jesus is saying that a forgiven person must forgive. It is only reasonable that if you have been forgiven a massive debt to God, you can forgive a small one for man.

God forgave you for your sins, an unpayable debt. Are you going to take all of the forgiveness of God and give none of your own?

Failure to forgive results in chastening.

“When his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (Matthew 18:31–35).

Jesus is clearly telling us that failure to forgive results in divine chastening. You will be tortured by your own bitterness and resentment and personal separation from fellowship with God because of your unconfessed sin.

In essence, when you choose not to forgive, you are usurping the authority of God. Not only are you disobeying Scripture, but you are taking the place of God Himself.

“Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:19–21).

We as Christians should never take revenge. In fact, instead of wanting revenge, we are to extend mercy and kindness.

Forgiveness is important in prayer (see also Matthew 5:23–24). Don’t wait to forgive until you feel like doing it. Remember how much God has forgiven you and ask the Holy Spirit to help you take that first step towards forgiveness.

“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”

“Lead us not into temptation” (Matthew 6:13) does not mean that God tempts His children, for it is not part of His character. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:13–14).

In this petition, we are asking God to guide us so that we will not get out of His will and place ourselves in the way of temptation. In essence, we’re saying, “Lord, don’t let me be tempted above my capacity to resist.”

A Litmus Test for Temptation

The problem with temptation is that we often fail to see it for what it is. We try to rationalize it. Other people’s temptations look so ugly and foolish, while ours look so enticing and innocent. Then one day our little house-of-cards collapses, and we see our sin for what it is. Here is a little litmus test to apply when you are not sure if something is an enticement to evil:

First, pray about it and bring it into the clear light of the presence of God. Should you allow yourself to be in this potentially vulnerable situation? Jesus said, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

Then, ask yourself the question, “How would this look if some other Christian gave into it?” If you saw your Christian friend doing this, how would you react?

Sin can hinder our prayers.

Why did Jesus place such an emphasis upon temptation? Because He understood that sin can hinder our prayers, making them fruitless and ineffective. That is why we need to recognize our sinful vulnerabilities and ask Him to keep us from the power of sin. We need God’s help to make the right choices and to avoid those things or activities that could pull us away from Him.

As author and pastor John MacArthur notes in The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, this part of the Lord’s Prayer is “an appeal to God to place a watch over our eyes, our ears, our mouth, our feet, and our hands—that in whatever we see, hear, or say, and in any place we go and in anything we do, He will protect us from sin.” It is laying claim to the promise that “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Don’t allow yourself to be lured into the temptation of sin.

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