Why are you here? Why am I here? What is our ultimate purpose in life? Well, I’ve talked about this before. We were created to worship.
What is worship? The dictionary defines worship as: “The feeling or expression of reverence and adoration.” John Piper says that worship was designed to put the supreme worth of God on display. Jesus told us in John 4 that true worshipers will worship in “spirit and in truth.” I like to say that worship is your heart’s adoring response to God that flows from your head’s correct understanding about God.
Worship is not just singing in church. Worship is not just closing your eyes, uttering sweet words, raising your hands, crying, etc. Yes, those things are a part of worship. Emotional responses to a true understanding and adoration of God are absolutely a part of worship. But worship is wayyyyy more.
You worship with your life. You worship with your actions. You worship by constantly turning your heart toward the Lord.
This is my favorite way of thinking about worship. Don’t miss this. If you are a believer, then you are a part of the universal body of Christ. As a member of the body of Christ, your ultimate act of worship, is showing the world what Jesus is like. In fact, it’s your job. It’s your purpose. Let that sink in.
You worship your creator by being a reflection of His Son. It’s up to you to show the world what Jesus is like.
I’m sure you’re thinking: “I thought this was a lesson on forgiveness. Why are we talking about worship?” Well, I think it’s important to always come back to WHY. Why should you care about Biblical forgiveness? As a believer, you should absolutely care about forgiveness because you worship a forgiving God. You show the world what Jesus is like, so you must forgive as Jesus forgives. Gulp.
I’ll even take it a step further and say this: If you’re withholding forgiveness to others, you must ask yourself if you’re really a Christian at all. Gulp. Gulp. Gulp. I know. I know. It sounds harsh, but hear me out.
Take a moment and read Matthew 18:21-35.
In this parable a king canceled his servant’s outstanding debt. In today’s dollars, the debt would equal something like $6 Billion. That’s “billion,” with a “B!” Basically, it was a debt impossible for the servant to ever repay. In my study of this parable, I learned that the only way for a master to collect on a debt such as this, was for the slave’s family and multiple generations of his family to follow, to be bound to sold and bound to a lifetime of slavery. What a devastating fate. This is what the servant was facing. His debt could never be repaid. It was impossible. Can you imagine the hopelessness?
Conversely, can you imagine the servant’s joy after the master canceled his debt?! What mercy! Can you imagine the gratitude? The feeling of freedom? The lightness? The joy? I bet he walked through the streets of his town dancing, singing for joy, loving his neighbors and living forever changed with a new lease on life! Wouldn’t that be a normal reaction to such an act of mercy?
But what was the servant’s response? He turned right back around and mercilessly begrudged a companion who owed him money. He had the debtor punished to the fullest extent. No mercy.
Now. Let’s think about this. What does this parable have to do with us?
First let’s talk about your debt. You’re a sinner. God’s Holiness, Righteousness, Justice and Wrath call for a punishment for your sin, and the truly hopeless part is that you carry a debt you could never repay. Your ultimate fate is a life separated from God and an eternity separated from Him. The weight of your sinful state makes you completely unworthy to stand before a Holy God, much less be in relationship with Him. You were created to walk with God, but your sinful state keeps you separated from Him. On earth you can’t live as you were made to live and in eternity you’ll live in perpetual torture. Sounds hopeless, doesn’t it? Well it is.
But here’s the amazing part. This Righteous, Holy, Just and Wrathful God is also LOVE. You are unworthy, but your Creator loves you anyway. He sent His Son Jesus to live a holy and perfect life on earth. He was tempted just like you are tempted, but Jesus lived blamelessly. Then Jesus’ own creation turned against Him and sent Him to die a sinner’s death. He willingly laid down His life and went to the cross. When He did this, God put His wrath and punishment for sin on Jesus. This act of sacrifice gives YOU the opportunity for forgiveness. Jesus bridges the gap between your unholy self and your Holy God. Jesus paid your debt.
Do you believe that? No. I mean. Do you really? Do you get it? Has your heart grasped the fact that your debt destined you to utter hopelessness, but Jesus wiped your debt clean? Ok. You believe it. So, what’s your reaction?
If you holding grudges against others, you have to question whether you really believe what you say you believe. You have to question whether your heart GETS IT. You have to question whether you will live as Jesus lived, or whether you’re no better than the slave from our story.
You see, a true believer has been radically changed from the inside out. A true believer lays down their life and their rights just as Jesus did. A true believer knows that they have a greater purpose in life. A true believer wants nothing more than to worship their Lord and Savior, not just with words, but with actions. A true believer knows they’ve been forgiven of more than they can ever imagine or ever repay. A true believer knows that they must extend forgiveness to others.
My sweet friends, living a life as a believer will NOT be easy. Jesus calls us to do hard things. As believers, who truly GET what Christ has done for us, we should obey His commands simply out of reverence, worship and love for Him. The parable we studied today commands us to forgive. Forgiveness is sometimes very, very hard. And, yes, we should forgive simply as an act of obedience.
But here’s the really sweet part. Here’s the part that makes me love my God even more and more and more. I’ve discovered that usually, when God asks you to do something that goes against your human, fleshly nature, it’s for your own good. Isn’t that sweet? I just love Him.
My friends, forgiveness is not always easy. But let me ask you, do you know what the opposite of forgiveness is? It’s bitterness. I really want you to get this. Bitterness will eat you up. Bitterness will destroy you. Bitterness will cause you a slow, ugly death. Bitterness is a poison that you drink little by little until you are deathly sick but you don’t even realize it. Bitterness is a tool from the very hand of Satan himself. The crazy thing is, when you hold on to bitterness and unforgiveness against another person, it’s YOU who ends up getting destroyed! The other person isn’t impacted by your bitterness at all! Bitterness destroys the unforgiving person, not the person who is the object of the unforgiveness!
Your creator knows His creation. He knows you. He loves you. He wants what is best for you. He knows a life of bitterness will destroy you. Yes, forgiveness is hard, but the alternative is much much worse. Bitterness makes you ugly. Bitterness makes you miserable. Bitterness makes you down right mean. Does that sound like Jesus? Does that sound like someone who loves Jesus? NO!
I also need to explain that forgiveness is not always a transaction between you and another person. Forgiveness happens in prayer and in your heart. Many times the person who hurt you, won’t ever even ask for your forgiveness. Forgiveness is an act of obedience between you and God. If you’re finding it difficult to forgive someone, ask the Lord to help you. Tell Him that you want to show mercy the way you’ve been shown mercy. Ask Him to change your heart and even begin to change your feelings. He’s faithful.
In closing, I want to make absolutely certain that you understand I am not advocating that you allow others to take advantage of you or hurt you. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to be in relationship with someone who continues to harm you. Forgiveness is about about having the right heart with the Lord, and committing the situation to Him. Forgiveness is releasing a grudge you hold against another individual. Do not misunderstand me. Never submit yourself to unhealthy relationships. You can forgive someone and separate yourself from them at the same time. Yes, people are human and they’re bound to make mistakes and deserve grace. But some people just don’t have the right heart or intentions toward you, and you need to distance yourself from those individuals! Ask the Lord for wisdom. If a peer is continually hurting you or being ugly to you, talk to an adult. If an adult ever crosses the line of acceptable behavior with you, TALK TO AN ADULT YOU CAN TRUST!