Freed to live through the death of another.

Category: Sermons (Page 2 of 3)

Should I Forgive Those Who Don’t Ask for Forgiveness?

This past Sunday I was blessed with the opportunity to preach Matthew 18.21-35 at Grace Fellowship Church. That is the passage where Jesus tells the parable of the Unforgiving Servant.

Naturally, in speaking about forgiveness, many questions were raised. People approached me later and asked many questions about when forgiveness is appropriate and what it looks like. One person who heard the sermon online (you can get it here) e-mailed and asked some questions as well.

Since most of the questions were generally along the same lines, I thought that posting my response here might be helpful to others. Here was the question that I was aiming to answer:

A friend said to me that as a Christian we do not have to forgive everybody. And the reason that was given was that God does not forgive everyone. God only forgives those who ask for forgiveness. Following this argument, as a Christian we would only have to forgive others who have asked us for forgiveness.

That question was followed up with another:

As a former psychology student/social worker, I’m interested in understanding more about how repetitive forgiveness looks without setting up boundaries or getting distance from a Christian who continually sins against you.

Here is my take:


Your questions are not uncommon, that is for sure — and they are good ones. Typically when I’ve encountered people who argue that we only need to forgive those who ask, I’ve discovered that they hold that position because they’ve been deeply hurt in the past by someone who may or may not have been repentant. The prospect of forgiving someone for something genuinely evil when they haven’t even sought forgiveness or admitted their wrongful actions is a scary one that can seem like death. So the much easier answer is to appeal to the reality that God only forgives those who ask.

The trouble, of course, is that whether God forgives or not is God’s prerogative (should God forgive those who die as young children, incapable of understanding the gospel and exercising repentance and faith?). There is nothing outside of himself that compels him to forgive. When we view ourselves as the ‘God’ figure in the relationship, we’re missing something. The reality is that we are servants, compelled by the mercy we’ve been shown, to forgive other (equal) servants. That’s different than God’s forgiveness. Our forgiveness displays the reality and power of God’s forgiveness, but it’s different. We are commanded to forgive; God does so of his own character. When God forgives it is a superior showing mercy on an inferior; when we forgive it is servant to servant. The connection between God forgiving us and us forgiving each other is a little more nuanced than some like to admit.

That being said, how can there be true reconciliation in relationships if the offending party doesn’t admit wrong? Offering forgiveness really means next to nothing if the offender doesn’t believe they need forgiveness in the first place.

All things considered, I think that what Christ is calling us to is a stance, a posture of forgiveness. He’s calling us to a readiness to forgive in a moment. I think he is calling us to treat people with love and mercy, with humility and compassion. He is calling us to remember that if someone has sinned against me, I should be quicker to identify with them (‘I have sinned this way too…’) than to identify with God (‘I have been offended without cause…’). When we realize that it could have just as easily been me offending as me offended, I’m much slower to hold offences against other people.

Whereas most people say ‘I don’t need to forgive because you haven’t asked for forgiveness’ in order to justify holding on to feelings of woundedness and bitterness, Christ calls us to identify with the offender and to be ready to be fully reconciled in a moment. It’s a the posture of the heart more than a specific action in that case, but it will make all the difference in the world in the way you think about, relate to, and pray for the person who has offended you.

As for the questions regarding boundaries, I’m not sure I have absolute answers for you in specific instances. Again, what Jesus is striving to portray for us is a heart that is ready and willing to be wounded again and again for the sake of love and for the sake of modelling the heart of God. But in the wisdom literature (e.g. Psalm 1) there is much to indicate that we ought not to make it our habit of making persistent sinners our close friends (for numerous reasons).

I think, in this context (Matthew 18), the difference between the sinner of verses 15-20 and the sinner of 21-22 is simply that the former refuses to repent, while the latter is genuinely repentant, and seeking to change. Each specific case will need to be dealt with according to wisdom. Some sins must be treated differently than others, and some have more lasting consequences.

But in all things, we are called to be ready and willing to forgive, and hopeful of fully reconciled relationships through repentance and forgiveness. I think that’s the bottom line.

I guess what concerns me about the position that says we forgive only those who ask is not so much that they are outright wrong, but that it seems to be asking, ‘Who can I get away with not forgiving?’ It’s the wrong question. The right question is more along the lines of ‘How can I respond to the matchless and limitless forgiveness I’ve received from God? Who can I forgive in order to display the gospel to the world?’ That seems to me to be a world of difference.

Sermons on Friendship

I have had the privelege over the past four weeks of preaching a mini-series at GFC on the topic of friendship.

Below are the individual sermons. I came at the sermons with a bit of a different approach. Since we, as elders, had wanted to address the core values of our church again, we thought it would be best to address the topic of friendship under the five headings of our core values.

So the first message was basically answering the question, ‘Why prioritize friendship?’ After that we thought through what truth, authority, humility, freedom, and delight have to do with friendships.

Over the course of the series we offered the following definition of Christian friendship: Two souls knit together as one in the pursuit of God through commitment to ongoing fellowship.

Love Your Wife!


Pastor Tim Kerr

Pastor Tim Kerr

Yesterday we had our December meeting of the Toronto Pastors Fellowship. What a blessing it was!

Pastor Tim Kerr of Sovereign Grace Church Toronto gave us a presentation titled, ‘Pastor, Love Your Wife!’ It was an excellent message. It was theological, cross-centred, and ultimately practical.

While the paper itself was good, the presentation of it was even better. Tim’s elaboration of the details in the paper were excellent, as were his answers in the question & answer time.

This month at TPF was a special one for several reasons. We invited all the men to bring their wives this month (who are always welcome, but especially so this month). Then after the meeting we all went out for lunch at a local restaurant. What a great time together!

Even though the paper was geared directly towards pastors and their wives, any married person would benefit from Tim’s ministry. You can download the paper here or you can get the audio here

If you know of a pastor within driving distance to the Greater Toronto Area, please let him know about the Pastors Fellowship. It has been a blessing to me, and I’m sure it will be to him as well.

More Free Sermons for Download

Pastor Bill Bygroves

Pastor Bill Bygroves

I just noticed today that the messages delivered at the 2008 Carey Conference have been posted on the Carey website. There is some great stuff here for you to download!

Bill Bygroves, pastor of Bridge Chapel in Liverpool, was the main speaker for the evening sessions. 

The title of the series was ‘Sacred Songs’ and each evening he preached from a psalm. He preached: (1) The Song of Blessing, (2) The Song of Hurt, (3) The Song of Guilt, (4) The Song of Unity, and, (5) The Song of Joy.

There were also seven messages preached from pastors in the Sovereign Grace Fellowship from the Gospel of John. At least six of them are worth listening to. Here they are:

  1. Brian Robinson — Water Into Wine
  2. David RobinsonHealing of the Nobleman’s Son
  3. Stephen Kring — Healing at Bethesda
  4. Kirk WellumFeeding of 5,000
  5. Glenn Tomlinson — Healing of the Blind Man
  6. Ian Vaillancourt — Raising of Lazarus
  7. Julian Freeman — The Huge Catch of Fish

Listing of Tom Schreiner’s Sermons Online

While several have made admirable attempts to catalogue all the free online D.A. Carson sermons they could find, this is the first such list I’ve come across for Dr Thomas R Schreiner.

You can view the list here. Make sure that if you know of any others, you point them out in the comment section.

Sermons on James

For those interested, I’ve added an rss feed on the sidebar for the sermon-series I’m preaching through the book of James. Whenever sermons from that series are put online, it will be posted here as well. As always through sermonaudio, the sermons are free to download, or else you can stream them directly from the website.

Our sermonaudio homepage is here.
The homepage for the series on James is here.

Thinking and Feeling with God

It seems that the Psalms are the centre of much attention in evangelicalism in North America these days. The Psalms is one of my favourite books, so this is exciting to me.

It has saddened me over the years to see how many Christians are somewhat unable to understand, identify with, and apply the Psalms to their own spiritual walk. This just makes me even more glad that great preachers are spending time there these days!

Here are some valuable resources:

  • John Piper has just finished up a six week study in the Psalms at Bethlehem Baptist. You can download those messages for free here. I recommend beginning with the first one because Dr Piper gives some insight into the Psalms in general before jumping into the text of Psalm 1.

  • At Covenant Life Church, they’ve taken a team approach to teaching a series on the Psalms. Stacey and I were blessed by Greg Somerville’s message when we visited the church back in May. You can see a listing of the sermons available for free download or for streaming here.

  • Bob Kauflin‘s ‘Worship God ’08’ conference that is coming up will focus on the Psalms as well. Perhaps the most fantastic thing about this is that they’ll be releasing a new CD in conjunction with this conference.

I’m hoping to post some more of my own thoughts on how the Psalms ought to be interpreted and applied to the hearts and lives of Christians in the next few days.

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