[This sermon is one of a series entitled “Sermon on the Mount, Concentrating on the Beatitudes,” which is being preached on Sunday mornings by Pastor Tim Senter.]
We finished the Lord’s Prayer with a study on temptation and testing. Interestingly, though many attribute evil and wickedness, death and suffering in the world to God’s sovereignty, it is sin that brought these things into the world. What many do not realize is that the first being to sin (Satan) perpetrates and perpetuates all evil, death, suffering and pain. These physical and temporal temptations to deny God, direct anger at Him or in any way deny His glory are the exact results Satan desires when he afflicts people with disease, pain and suffering of any kind. This is Hebrews 11:33-40 where the writer recounts the faith of Israel:
“33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
The temptations of Satan involved moving the entire army of Egypt against Israel, cornering Israel against the Red Sea with no escape. However, it was faith that delivered the Israelites unto salvation on dry ground as God parted the Red Sea. We find here that these men of faith conquered kingdoms and administered justice. Daniel shut the mouths of lions through faith. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego lived through fiery flames of persecution and sure death. The list goes on. All of these are temporal temptations that entice us to give in to a promise that dishonors God. This promise is an empty bliss in this temporary life on earth. This promise forsakes the eternal promise of life forever with a gracious God. Therefore, when we pray to not be led into temptation, we pray concentrating on the promises of eternal life with God in Heaven and forsaking those earthly temptations to which we are susceptible. We pray for the strength to stand up to the sword, withstand the heat of the oven and stand before the lion that may devour us. We care not for our mean estate. Christ’s was the meekest of existences on Earth, but His current existence in Heaven is filled with opulence and wonder beyond compare. Through faith, our destiny rests there in His glory, in His honor, in His promises.
Look at Matthew 6, verses 14-15 please. Let me encourage you in a couple of ways. First, when we read this passage do not think your salvation is dependent upon forgiving others their trespasses against you. Second, this scripture does not say that if you are unforgiving, you cannot be forgiven of your sins unto salvation. There are conditions though to forgiveness and a relationship with God that is unhindered by sin.
Louis A. Barbieri probably describes these two verses best:
“Though God’s forgiveness of sin is not based on one’s forgiving others, a Christian’s forgiveness is based on realizing he has been forgiven.”
The fact is, how we treat others depends largely on how we are treated. There is no justification in that statement; it is only a simple fact of the sin filled heart in operation. Every human heart out there sees their condition as unique and looks for reciprocation in relationships. We only have to ask one question. How many of us have thought or said, “Well, I never did that to them.” These are truly subtle forms of an expectant reciprocal relationship responses. They present in themselves a rather complicated expectation. The attitude in these statements displays the exact opposite of biblical forgiveness.
There are more simple versions such as, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” This happens frequently with my wife and I. One of us will need a back scratch; one of us will want one. The individual who wants only asks for a back scratch as part of a reciprocal endeavor. Who does more of one than the other? That is irrelevant, the fact is that we both do it. After all, why not get something you want out of the deal, right? This is our attitude. We are going to drive to get what we can when we can and especially if we have given something in order to earn what we expect to receive. Truly, if any activity – forgiveness and back scratching included – is not out of love and selfless in nature, it is out of desire and selfish in origin. Either we do things selflessly or we do not. This testifies of cooking, cleaning, caring, helping, providing, loving and any other function in life including and especially forgiving one another. Any activity directed at another person is either in the selfless love of God and directed without expectation of reciprocation, or it is a personal desire with a plan to eventually gain what our own heart desires. What does this selflessness have to do with forgiveness in Matthew 6:14-15? Everything.