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God’s Amazing Grace
Offering Grace
Ephesians 4:32
If you have God's Word this morning, I want you to turn to Ephesians 4:32.  In our study of God’s Amazing Grace we have seen that it is
  • Saving Grace
  • Sustaining Grace
  • Healing Grace
  • Liberating Grace, and
  • Abounding Grace
Today I want us to think about "Offering Grace".  Not only are we privileged to be recipients of God’s grace, we are responsible for extending His grace to others.  And one of the desperate needs of the church is to learn how to pass the grace of God on to other people. 
Just as we have received the grace of God, we can become a channel through which God can pour His grace in to the lives of others.  Now I am convinced there are lots of ways we can do that. 
It is done through personal evangelism.  In fact, the most gracious thing we can ever do for someone is help them come to know and embrace Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. 
We can do it through grace giving and stewardship.  It is a wonderful thing to come to realize that as I give my tithes and offerings to the Lord, the grace of God is extended to people I may never meet or know about as missionaries spread the Good News!
We offer the grace of God when a cup of cold water is given in His name.  God’s grace can be offered in a multitude of ways, but I have one way in particular in mind this morning and that is it by forgiving others when they wrong us.
That is what we find in
Ephesians 4:32
Notice this phrase "in Christ".  We’ve looked at that phrase several times already in our study.  Remember, as a child of God, my standing has changed.  I am not what I used to be.  I am “in Christ”.  I am standing in grace.  I am “accepted in the Beloved”.
And I would submit to you the only way we will ever be able forgive someone who has hurt us and wronged us is because we are “in Christ”.  In fact, the only way it can be done is through the miracle of the grace of God that lives in you as a believer in Jesus Christ as you offer grace to those who’ve wronged you. 
Notice what Paul says here, first of all, about
1.  The Reality of Forgiveness
There are a lot of wrong ideas and misconceptions about what forgiveness is that are floating around today.  So right off the bat, we need to come to terms with the fact forgiveness can be offered only through God's grace. 
Perhaps it will help to define what we mean by forgiveness.
Let me offer you a couple of suggestions to help understand forgiveness.  First forgiveness doesn’t mean  
  • conditions must be met
Forgiveness never uses the word “if”.  Sometimes we are tempted to extend forgiveness “if” certain conditions are met.  But if you place conditions of the forgiveness, it’s not forgiveness.  Forgiveness is unconditional.  Grace simply extends forgiveness looking for nothing in return. 
Is that not how Jesus forgave us?  Did he not offer you forgiveness unconditionally?  And when He saved us, He forgave us for the penalty of our sin not only for time, but also for eternity.  He forgave us every sin we committed and those we commit today and those we will commit in the future when we receive the grace of God into our life.  So forgiveness is not conditional.
You don’t have to beg ro bargain for it.  You don’t have to earn it, in fact you can’t earn it.  When you come to Jesus Christ and give Him your life and receive Him as your Savior, He forgives your sin. 
You say, well I don't deserve it. That’s exactly my point.  That’s what grace does.  Grace is God giving us what we don't deserve.  And grace is you forgiving that person who has wronged you that doesn’t deserve it.  They don't deserve your forgiveness; there is no doubt about it.  
But you don't forgive them because they deserve it; you forgive them because Christ has forgiven you.  And you do it through the power of the grace of God.
So first of all, forgiveness is unconditional. 
Second, forgiveness isn’t  
  • ignoring the seriousness of the offense
Think about it this way:  forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to minimize the seriousness of the offense.  Some people say, “Well they did that to me but it is no big deal.  It doesn't really hurt.  It didn't really bother me.”
And in reality, what happened was devastating.  It not only hurt when it happened, it still hurts.  What happened may have left your life in shambles and it is dishonest to say that it didn’t hurt and it wasn’t a big deal. 
Listen:  that is not forgiveness.  Forgiveness is not minimizing the situation. I promise you’re your sin and mine was a big deal.  It hurt.  In fact, it hurt like hell.  Jesus went to the cross and paid for our sin and extended God’s grace at the price of His life.  It was devastating, but in spite of that, through the grace and power of God, we were saved. 
And the same will be true for you to offer grace to those who’ve injured you.  It hurt; it was devastating; the wounds are still there, but through the grace and the power of God we can forgive them. 
Third, forgiveness doesn’t mean  
  • everything returns to normal.
If somebody has offended you, you are obligated to forgive them and forgiveness is instantaneous.  But trust has to be earned.  Some of you may have a mate that sinned against you in your marriage. 
You can forgive them instantly and it is a tremendous thing to witness.  I’ve been there and seen it happen. 
But that doesn't mean the relationship is the same and it is restored immediately and everything is hunky-dorrie.  There needs to be some action that demonstrates an appreciation for the grace that has been extended and demonstrates in a demonstrable, visible way that repentance has occurred so reconciliation can come. 
Forgiveness is not ignoring the facts or the history or the action and pretending northing ever happened and just opening the door for more abuse or hurt.  Forgiveness is realistic enough to recognize that it can be extended instantaneously and sincerely, but  reconciliation has to come after restitution and after true repentance and it will take some time.  .
And then number four, forgiveness is not  
  • forgetting
Everyone has heard the old saying, “Forgive and forget”.  Some believe that’s in the Bible, just like “Cleanliness is next to godliness” or “God helps those who help themselves”. 
We say, “Just forgive and forget”.  Well that may be a sweet sentiment, I’m just not sure it’s doable.  The truth is you don’t really ever forget anything. 
You may not be able to recall it when you want to, but it’s still in there.  You may get it out of your conscious mind but it will be retained in your subconscious mind.  But the good news is, in order to forgive, I don’t have to forget. 
In fact, there is something better than forgive and forget and that is to remember and forgive anyway.  It’s possible to remember and it not hurt anymore because the grace that you extend to someone else is the same grace God uses to heal you. 
And even though you remember the offense that was done unto you and you can't help but remember it, it is under the blood of Jesus Christ and the pain and resentment and hurt is gone. 
In fact, instead of forgetting, forgiveness is remembering and letting the grace of God work in your life so that in spite of the fact when you remember this thing it doesn't hurt any more. 
Instead of concentrating on all the pain the details of the injury, you choose to remember that Romans 8:28 promises the "God works all things together for good for them who love Him and are called according to His purpose."
And then finally, number five, forgiveness doesn't mean
  • there are no consequences
Forgiveness doesn't mean that the consequences are gone.  There are a lot of genuine jailhouse conversions, but you do the crime, you do the time. 
There are lots of drug-addicted mommas who’ve come to know Christ, but their little babies are still born with the effects of the drug in their bodies. 
And we need to know going in, with eyes wide open, what forgiveness is really all about.  But the reality of grace means forgiveness can be extended.   
Next, let’s think about
2.  The Requirements for Forgiveness
So how do you forgive?  First, forgiveness starts with remembering how much I have already been forgiven. 
Our text says, "be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another even as God in Christ Jesus has forgiven you."  Why should we forgive?  We should forgive because we have been forgiven.  And one reason it is hard for some of us to forgive is because we don't realize that we have been forgiven.  We know we were saved, we know we have trusted Christ but we don't feel forgiven. 
People who don't feel forgiven themselves find it impossible to give forgiveness to others because they don't realize what God had to do in order to forgive them.  God had to send His only begotten Son into the world.  Jesus had to die on Calvary.  God had to turn His back on His only begotten Son in order that you and I could be forgiven. 
So the first step in forgiving another person is to remember how much we have been forgiven.  That God has forgiven us.
The second part of forgiveness is relinquishing my right to get even.  The flesh says he hurt me, I will hurt him. The flesh says, I will fix him. 
But listen to what God says in
Romans 12:19
Never mind that person seems to be going on in their life, without a care in the world, doing anything they want to do after they have destroyed your life.  Don’t worry about it.  There will be a payday some day.  God will balance the books. 
By the way, who do you think has the greater ability to even the score, you or God? See, in many ways, forgiveness is a faith decision.  You’ve got to have enough faith to believe you can go on without holding a grudge and trust God to settle the score.  See, many times, we believe we have a greater sense of justice than does God. 
But faith is trusting God to do the right thing where that person is concerned.  One day God is going to balance the books, God is going to close the ledger and God is going to make it all come out even like it is suppose to do. Or better yet, God might do a work of grace in their life that will bring them to repentance and a closer walk with Him and bring reconciliation that honors the Lord.  You just let God handle it.
A fellow came in one day to work and his boss said, how are you doing?  He said oh terrible.  I didn't get any rest at all last night.  The wife and I got in to a big fight and she got plum historical.  The boss said, historical? You mean hysterical not historical.  No he said, I mean historical.  She remembered every bad thing I ever did and told me about it!
Well, I get historical sometimes when I see somebody and I want to remember the wrong that they did to me.  So what I have to do is I have to come to a point in my life when I can realize that person from offending me.  And I can leave the vengeance up to God.
Number three, forgiveness is responding to evil with good.  Now you think about this. What did we do to Jesus when He came into this earth?  Did we love Him?  Did we receive Him?  No the Bible said He came into His own and His own received Him not.  We spit on Him.  We slapped His face.  We pulled His beard.  We crowned His head with thorns.  We mocked Him. We nailed Him to a cross to die in agony and blood. 
And yet, He responded to us by giving Himself as a sacrifice for our sin, by taking our place on the cross, by dying in order that we might have eternal life.  Jesus said that is the way I want to treat those who offend you.  I want you to respond to evil with good.  And when you can do that then you know that you have truly forgiven them.
Number four; forgiveness is repeating the process as long as it is necessary.  I said you can forgive but can probably never forget.  But every time that offense comes back in to your mind, every time you remember what that person did to you and it hurts and the pain comes back, what do you do?  You repeat the process.  I don't care if it is fifty times a day, you repeat the process.  You say, Lord through Jesus Christ and the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, I forgive them.  And you forgive them over and over again.
Remember Peter asking Jesus Lord how many times should I forgive my brother who has wronged me?  Should I do it seven times?  You see, the Jewish law said you should do it three times.  You ought to give them three chances.  Back then, they had three strikes and you are out. When they wrong you three times that is it. 
And Peter doubled it then added one to it for good measure.  He said should I forgive a person seven times?  He thought man I am a super saint!  Jesus is going to notice me now.  He always wanted Jesus to notice him. 
Jesus said, “No, Peter you need to forgive seventy times seven times, not just seven times.” And seven is the divine number.   That means you need to give an infinite number of times.  You forgive until it doesn't hurt any more.  That is a requirement for forgiveness.
Now I know what some of you are thinking about now.  Why should I do that?  Why should I forgive someone who has wronged me?  Well, let’s talk about
3.  The Reasons for Forgiveness
First, we are to forgive because God has forgiven us.   John Wesley, the great Methodist evangelist, said, “The person who will not forgive another person destroys the bridge over which he must someday cross himself.”
Listen to what Jesus said, "If you forgive your brother his trespasses, then I will forgive you your trespasses.  But if you forgive not your brother his trespasses, neither will I forgive you his trespasses." 
Nobody ever needed to be forgiven more than you when Jesus forgave you.  So forgive because you have been forgiven. 
Second, forgive because the alternative is bitterness.  There is no emotion more destructive to your happiness and your joy than the emotion of resentment that brings bitterness into your life. 
When you are hurt you are either going to get bitter or you are going to get better.  Now which one do you want to get?  You can get bitter at God or you can get better and know God and pull up closely to Him and walk with Him and know Him.  Let that hurt in your life draw you to Him for strength and for help and resources.
You say, preacher you don't know how much I have been hurt.  And I know that is true, I don't know.  But I do know bitterness doesn't work.  I do know that when you are bitter against God or against somebody because of what they have done to you, a lot of times that person doesn't even know how they have hurt you.  That person doesn't even know how you are hurting on the inside. 
That person is going on about their merry way and you are being destroyed; you are being eaten up by the cancer of bitterness in your heart.  Who are you hurting by being bitter?  You are hurting your self.  
And that is why in Hebrews 12 the Bible says be careful that none of you fails to respond to the grace of God for if he fails, there can very easily spring up in him a bitter spirit.  And there are so many people who cannot pray like they ought to pray because they have a bitter spirit. 
There are so many people this morning who cannot witness the way they ought to witness because there is a bitter spirit.  There are so many people living in misery and bondage and have no freedom because they are carrying in their heart a bitter spirit. 
And the longer you hold on to it the more destructive and the more bitter it becomes.  And it not only poisons your life but it poisons the life of many others all around you.  And pretty soon you have no friends at all. 
Listen:  Nobody wants to be around somebody with a bitter spirit.  People want to be around somebody who has joy, who loves life, who is looking forward to the next day, who has the Spirit of God giving them victory in their life, not somebody who has been embittered and dwells on that hurt all the time. You  need to forgive because if you don't forgive you will become bitter not better.
And last of all, you need to forgive because God commands you to do it.  That is what it says in this passage we read, Ephesians 4:32.  This is in the imperative move in the Greek language.  God says, “Forgive.”  That is not a suggestion.  It is like baptism, it is a command.  It is something God expects you to do. 
And you have to find the way to do it.  You are going to be hurt in life, but you don't have to be defeated by that hurt.  You don't have to let some hurt that took place twenty years ago destroy your life today.  When you do that, you are giving the controls of your life, you are giving the remote control to another person. 
And that person is in your mind and in your heart and they are just changing the channels to however they want you to feel and however they want you to act and however they want you to live.
So when you are going through a time of hurt, forgive because God has commanded it.  And listen:  God never gave us a command that He didn't give us the power to fulfill.  If God tells you to do something, He will enable you to do it.  It’s not a choose of whether you can or not, but will you or not. 
Many of you are aware of the life and ministry and testimony of Corrie ten Boom.  She and her family were arrested by the Nazi’s in WW2 for harboring Jews in their home and wound up in a concentration camp.  After her release, God used her in an amazing speaking ministry around the world. 
In 1972, Guidepost magazine published this article.  Please bear with me as I read it in its entirety.
“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him, a balding heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear.
It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.
It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown.
“When we confess our sins,” I said, “God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever.”
The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.
And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones.
It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!
Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbrück concentration camp where we were sent.
Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: “A fine message, fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!”
And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course–how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?
But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. It was the first time since my release that I had been face to face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.
“You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there.” No, he did not remember me.
“But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein”–again the hand came out–“will you forgive me?”
And I stood there–I whose sins had every day to be forgiven–and could not. Betsie had died in that place–could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
For I had to do it–I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality.
Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.
And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion–I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.
“Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”
And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!”
For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.
And having thus learned to forgive in this hardest of situations, I never again had difficulty in forgiving: I wish I could say it! I wish I could say that merciful and charitable thoughts just naturally flowed from me from then on. But they didn’t.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned at 80 years of age, it’s that I can’t store up good feelings and behavior–but only draw them fresh from God each day.
Maybe I’m glad it’s that way. For every time I go to Him, He teaches me something else. I recall the time, some 15 years ago, when some Christian friends whom I loved and trusted did something which hurt me.
You would have thought that, having forgiven the Nazi guard, this would have been child’s play. It wasn’t. For weeks I seethed inside. But at last I asked God again to work His miracle in me. And again it happened: first the cold-blooded decision, then the flood of joy and peace.
I had forgiven my friends; I was restored to my Father.
Then, why was I suddenly awake in the middle of the night, hashing over the whole affair again? My friends! I thought. People I loved! If it had been strangers, I wouldn’t have minded so.
I sat up and switched on the light. “Father, I thought it was all forgiven! Please help me do it!”
But the next night I woke up again. They’d talked so sweetly too! Never a hint of what they were planning. “Father!” I cried in alarm. “Help me!”  His help came in the form of a kindly Lutheran pastor to whom I confessed my failure after two sleepless weeks.
“Up in that church tower,” he said, nodding out the window, “is a bell which is rung by pulling on a rope. But you know what? After the sexton lets go of the rope, the bell keeps on swinging. First ding then dong. Slower and slower until there’s a final dong and it stops.
“I believe the same thing is true of forgiveness. When we forgive someone, we take our hand off the rope. But if we’ve been tugging at our grievances for a long time, we mustn’t be surprised if the old angry thoughts keep coming for a while. They’re just the ding-dongs of the old bell slowing down.”
And so it proved to be. There were a few more midnight reverberations, a couple of dings when the subject came up in my conversation. But the force–which was my willingness in the matter–had
gone out of them. They came less and less often and at last stopped altogether.
And so I discovered another secret of forgiveness: that we can trust God not only above our emotions,
but also above our thoughts.
And still He had more to teach me, even in this single episode. Because many years later, in 1970, an American with whom I had shared the ding-dong principle came to visit me in Holland and met the people involved. “Aren’t those the friends who let you down?” he asked as they left my apartment.
“Yes,” I said a little smugly. “You can see it’s all forgiven.”
“By you, yes,” he said. “But what about them? Have they accepted your forgiveness?”
“They say there’s nothing to forgive! They deny it ever happened. But I can prove it!” I went eagerly to my desk. “I have it in black and white! I saved all their letters and I can show you where–”
“Corrie!” My friend slipped his arm through mine and gently closed the drawer. “Aren’t you the one whose sins are at the bottom of the sea? And are the sins of your friends etched in black and white?”
For an anguishing moment I could not find my voice. “Lord Jesus,” I whispered at last, “who takes all my sins away, forgive me for preserving all these years the evidence against others! Give me grace to burn all the blacks and whites as a sweet-smelling sacrifice to Your glory.”
I did not go to sleep that night until I had gone through my desk and pulled out those letters–curling now with age–and fed them all into my little coal-burning grate. As the flames leaped and glowed, so did my heart.
“Forgive us our trespasses,” Jesus taught us to pray, “as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In the ashes of those letters I was seeing yet another facet of His mercy. What more He would teach me about forgiveness in the days ahead I didn’t know, but tonight’s was good news enough.
When we bring our sins to Jesus, He not only forgives them, He makes them as if they had never been.
And it is to the praise of His grace that it is so.
Let’s pray.
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