Sept. 14, 2008pm   The Old Account Was Settled Long Ago.   Matthew 18:21-35

by Ron George Jr. at the Fayetteville Baptist Church

Have you ever had a debt that you couldn’t pay?  Have you ever been asked to forgive someone who owed you?  What if someone gave you a million dollars?  Would you then be gracious enough to give it away? 

  A true Christian is a sign of contradiction--a living symbol of the Cross. He or she is a person who believes the unbelievable, bears the unbearable, forgives the unforgivable, loves the unlovable, is perfectly happy not to be perfect, is willing to give up his or her will, becomes weak to be strong ... and finds love by giving it away.  -- Joseph Roy, Leadership, Vol. 5, no. 4.

Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.a
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talentsb was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii.c He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

The accounts:  wrongs done to you and wrongs you have done to others.

1.  Wrongs you have committed.  Sin Rom. 8:9, 6:23  To God and to others. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  How many times have we disobeyed, been dishonest, not done what we could have, said something that hurt another, or broke the law?  Have we spoken against others or not loved the Lord as we should have?  How often have we failed to remember or not followed God’s direction for our lives?  How often have we not done or not been there when someone needed us? 

God forgave all of our sins.  Past, present, and future sins

2.  Wrongs done to you.  People have hurt you.  God has sought to help you.  No wrongs there.

3.  The payment:  Make it up to you.  Right the wrong.  Give you something or do something for you to pay for the wrong done to you. 

The parable:  You make the payment.  God made the payment for us.  We make the payment for others. 

a.  We have been forgiven of  great debt.  A debt that we could have never repaid.  One forgiven of a great debt.  This is who we are in relationship to God.

b.  One in need of forgiveness of a small debt.  This is who we are in relationship to others. 

c.  The result:  One received forgiveness and was unwilling to forgive the smaller debt?  Why?  One was forgiving but was unwilling to forgive.  He was sent to prison until payment was made. 

The forgiven:  If you are forgiven then you should be grateful because your account was paid long ago.   Remember your account was settled long ago. Remember where you came from and be grateful.  Be willing to give what you have.  Have we been forgiven?  Has your old account been settled long ago.

The Unforgiving:  If you aren’t grateful and have no gratitude then you will not be forgiven.  Do you have credit to give? 

God gives to us that which we can give to others. 

Recognize your need of forgiveness and ask for it.  Receive it with gratitude and humility.  Give it away to all those in your life.  This is our opportunity and our privilege. 

Would you receive forgiveness?  Give forgiveness and would you give God.

Can I propose that Jesus began his public ministry the same way he ended it? He ended his ministry being crucified, covered with the sins of the world. He began his ministry being baptized, identifying volitionally with the sins of the world.
   Would you allow me a couple of minutes of silliness? Let me give you a vision of what could have happened that day. It expresses, as I see it, the implications of what is going on here. We're standing around there, and we understand that big things like this have to be organized. We make a plan. One of us says, "When you decide to come and repent, folks, we want you to register. We'll get your name down on a mailing list, and we'll give you a name tag so that the baptizers can be more personal with you. Just step forward, and tell us your first name and your most awful sin."
   Up to this table steps Bob. "Name?"
   "What's your most awful sin, Bob?"
   "I stole some money from my boss once." The person takes a marker and writes, BOB: EMBEZZLER.
   Next person: "Name?"
   "Mary, what's your most awful sin?"
   "I slandered some people. I said things that weren't true. I just didn't like them. So the person writes, MARY: SLANDERER.
   "What's your most awful sin?"
   "I've been coveting my neighbor's Corvette." GEORGE: COVETER.
   "Gordon. "
   "Gordon, your most awful sin?"
   And the person writing, with some degree of gloating, slaps the name tag on the chest of each person. Then all these people, with their name tags and their most awful sins, line up by the river, waiting to be baptized in repentance.
   Up to the table comes Jesus. Jesus' most awful sin? Well, there aren't any. So Jesus starts walking down the line. He steps up to Bob and says, "Bob, give me your name tag," and he puts it on himself. "Mary, give me your name tag." He puts it on himself. "George, give me your name tag." It goes on himself. "Gordon, give me your name tag."
   Soon the Son of God is covered with name tags and awful sins. Someone comes up and gently says to Jesus, "It's a nice thing you're doing. If you must do this, couldn't you take off a few of the worst ones? If you're going to spawn a messianic movement, you've got to be above reproach. Why don't you take off the tag that says, MURDERER. Take the adulterer tag off, too. Those are too despicable. We're talking about nines and tens here."
   Jesus says, "You don't realize that I am the Son of David. David had to wear those name tags, and I will not write him off, for I have forgiven him."
   In my vision, I see Jesus going to the water to present himself to John. The Savior is baptized. At the risk of being trite, in my vision, the people who had the markers didn't buy indelible ink. When Jesus comes up, all of the ink has been washed away and is going down the river. And I recall the words, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us."
   That's what repentance does. And that's what Jesus' ministry is all about. Without him, you and I are stuck.   -- Gordon MacDonald, "Repentance," Preaching Today, Tape No. 121.

a Or seventy times seven

b That is, millions of dollars

c That is, a few dollars

The Holy Bible : New International Version (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984). Mt 18:21-35.