Forgive your brother from your heart

Introduction Albu van Eeden

Welcome. To the South Africans, dear brothers, sisters and friends, although the lockdown levels have been relaxed due to the economy, now is the most dangerous time in South Africa since the start of the epidemic. Two days ago, on that day only, 10 000 new people were diagnosed with the disease. The Medical Research Council in South Africa has announced a study in which it was found that the number of people who are dying of the disease is double the number we have thought.

Healthy young people, you are not keeping to the rules for your own sake. The people who will die from this epidemic are the elderly, people with diabetes, HIV and other conditions. So, in a very strange way, God has put us in a place where we are forced to stop thinking of ourselves and to think of others. Once this epidemic is over, many of us will have lost grandfathers, grandmothers, brothers and sisters who were sick. You do not want this on your conscience. If you had been more careful about wearing a mask or keeping your distance, you could have possibly saved the life of your grandfather or grandmother.

Unfortunately, the economy is forcing us to open the country, otherwise it will go bankrupt but let us each do our utmost to maintain social distance, wash our hands and wear masks. At the end of this day there will be 10 000 more people who are sick. We expect the next two to three weeks to be critical and then hopefully the wave will pass.

We are here today to feed our souls. Ultimately, you and I need God more than ever in this time. Let us quieten our hearts so that God can speak.

Detlef Stegen

God sees our hearts and He can touch you through His word. Today your life can be transformed. Allow Jesus to speak to you. Do you want to continue as you have, troubled by cares, sin and burdens that weigh down your soul? Today new life can enter your weary soul. Do not lose out. Today, when you hear the call of God, do not harden your heart.

We thank the Lord for sustaining His work. We are weak but He is strong. It is wonderful to experience His strength and His almighty power. It is wonderful to have leaders who are full of the power of the Lord, who do not plant mistrust or weakness into you but through their words you experience something greater than what you are and who you are.

I would like to share a portion out of Matthew 18.

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant[i] fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Matthew 18:21 – 35

We have a king who wants to settle accounts. Have you been to Him and begged for mercy or do you want to stay indebted to Him?

Peter asked Jesus “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Peter was a disciple of Jesus and he was serious about this question. On another day Peter had also said, “Lord, if all forsake you, I will not. Let them forsake you but I will not.” Has Jesus been able, through His work, to impart such a spirit to you? Let them all go, Lord, but I cannot let you go. You alone have the eternal words of life. Have you re-nailed the colours of your flag to the mast?

Peter’s question: how many times shall I forgive my brother? Matthew Henry states that these are ‘…personal wrongs, which is in our power to forgive.’ You have the power to forgive and tell your heart and mind that you forgive your brother. It can be difficult. It can be inexplicable why your brother wronged you.

Peter knew that he needed to forgive his brother. How many disciples know this: I need to forgive my brother. You may be proclaiming the gospel or active in God’s service and you are very convinced about what you do but have you forgiven your brother? You may have a large group of faithful followers who raise their arms, but have you forgiven your brother? It is in your power to forgive your brother, your brother in Christ who may be your enemy. You may have labelled your brother or sister in Christ as your enemy because of the suffering and hardship you have had to endure. It is a pity that Peter will have to condemn you one day and say, “Brother, I knew I had to forgive my brother, didn’t you also know that? How dare you venture out with unforgiveness?”

Peter asked, “Will it suffice if I forgive seven times?” Seven times? Have you numbered the times you have forgiven your brother? God has counted and woe to you if you fall short of His 70 times 7.

‘He (Peter) takes it for granted that he must forgive; Christ had before taught his disciples this lesson (ch. 6:14, 14), and Peter has not forgotten it. He knows that he must not only not bear a grudge against his brother, or meditate revenge, but be as good a friend as ever, and forget the injury.’ Matthew Henry

Forget the injury! You have been injured by your brother, but you need to forget it. You need to forgive.

He thinks it is a great matter to forgive till seven times; he means not seven times a day, as Christ said but seven times in his life; You may have forgiven, and then you ‘…abandon his society and have no more to do with him…’ because you have forgiven him seven times in your life.

‘Christ's direct answer to Peter's question; … seventy times seven…’ Matthew Henry It is for us an indefinite, unending forgiveness. It reminds us of the word of the Lord having loved His own, He loved them even unto death. Don’t you treasure this mercy and loving kindness of the Lord Jesus that reaches into eternity? You may respond and say no one knows what it costs you to forgive. Remember how much it cost God to forgive you. ‘It does not look well for us to keep count of the offences done against us by our brethren. There is something of ill-nature in scoring up the injuries we forgive, as if we would allow ourselves to be revenged when the measure is full. God keeps an account (Deut 32:34), because he is the Judge, and vengeance is his; but we must not, lest we be found stepping into his throne.’ Matthew Henry

‘The master's wonderful clemency to his servant who was indebted to him; he forgave him ten thousand talents, out of pure compassion to him, v. 23-27.’Matthew Henry  23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

Clemency means showing mercy, especially to an offender or an enemy. The master forgave him 10 000 talents out of pure compassion. In the introduction, our brother mentioned 10 000 new cases on Friday. We wish them Christ’s compassion. Dr van Eeden would also like to spare those people the pain and the suffering and that is why he warns us to take heed and to save those who can be saved.

10 000 talents and to receive pure compassion from God! Every sin we commit is a debt to God…there is an account kept of these debts…the debt of sin is a very great debt. There is no evading the enquiries of divine justice; your sin will be sure to find you out.’ Matthew Henry 10 000 talents. Matthew Henry estimated the value to be ‘…one million eight hundred and seventy-five thousand pounds sterling; a king's ransom or a kingdom's subsidy…’ Matthew Henry lived during the 1600s.

Matthew Henry was born in 1662 in Wales. He died at the age of 51. As a three-year old he could read the Bible distinctly. He showed a passion for books at an early age. Lest he should injure his health by excessive application his mother was frequently obliged to drag the little student from his closet and chase him out into the fields. His parents were godly. His father’s name was Philip and his mother Katharine. The father’s devotion and industry inspired his son. And surely this was as it ought to be. Though love to a pious father is not piety, yet with the children of the godly the fifth commandment has often proved the portico and gateway to the first.

No character could be more impressive than Philip Henry’s, no spirit more impressive than that of Philip Henry’s son. Till an upgrown lad he was in his father’s constant company. He witnessed the holy elevation and cheerful serenity of his blameless life. He was aware how much his father prayed in secret, and besides occasional sermons he heard his daily expositions and exhortations at the worship of the family. And from what he saw, and much as from what he heard, the conviction grew with his growth, that of all things the most amiable and august is true religion, and of all lives the most blessed is a walk with God.

Through the Sabbath atmosphere every peaceful feeling and heavenly influence fell in sacred and softening intensity. When the services were over, he would haste to his little chamber to weep and pray and could scarcely be prevailed on to come down and share the family meal. On one of these occasions his father had preached on the grain of mustard seed, and wistful to possess this precious germ, he took the opportunity of a walk with his father to tell his fears and anxieties about himself. The conversation is not recorded but he afterwards told his confidante, his sister, that he too hoped that he had received a ‘grain of grace’.

He started studying law when he was about 24, but instead of following a career in law, he began to preach in his neighbourhood.

‘The debt of sin is so great, that we are not able to pay it…’ Matthew Henry Children, you can never pay for your sin and make things good again. If you owe the King of Heaven, how will you pay Him because of all your debts - your trespasses, your sin, your lying, stealing and dirty games, your deceitful ways and dishonesty towards your parents? There is the King of Heaven and He has recorded your shameful acts. He is waiting for you, girl, boy, teenager to fall on your knees and ask for pardon because you cannot pay. You have no money, you have nothing with which to pay, even if you pay with your body and ask to be cut into pieces this will not remove the guilt of sin. Only the blood of Christ will. Only if Jesus says I forgive you. Only if you do as the Bible says.

When I was small, I listened to some sermons. I said that it would be better if I were thrown into a mill and ground as food for the geese that at least I would not have to appear before the King of Heaven and be found guilty. Many people do not like that word in the Bible that says that if we confess our sin Jesus is faithful and just to forgive us. Your guilt can be gone. You can say, “I did what the Bible told me to do and Jesus promised that He will forgive me and even cleanse me.”

Nowadays there is much corruption and even businesses prefer not to use cheques. A cheque is a piece paper issued from the bank and the man with money in the bank can use this cheque. He can sign the cheque and purchase what he wants because the bank has authorised him to do so. People have used cheques in fraudulent ways. They bought more things than money that they had in the bank. Some businesses require bank-guaranteed cheques. The cheque which has been made out for a particular amount of money.

We have a guaranteed cheque in the Bible. If you want the guarantee of the promise of Jesus, confess your sin. Jesus is no liar that He will not forgive you. He will surely forgive you if you confess and come like this man who said, “I can’t pay, please be merciful.” Fall on your knees and beat your own breast and say, “Jesus, here is the robber, here is the liar! Jesus, here. I am the one with filthy talk. I am the one with filthy ideas and imaginations.”

I hope that you are mature enough that you will not think in the same manner as some rich men - I will simply write out a cheque in order to enter heaven. If you believe as Peter did that you need to forgive your brother, then you will do that. Do not think that by not confessing your sin, you do not need to forgive your brother. You are invalidating God’s word. What will the King of Heaven say if you add debt upon debt? How will you ever get out of debt? You will be locked into jail and your tears will be in vain. Now is the time!

This man had nothing with which to pay his debt. Sinners are insolvent debtors; Silver and gold would not pay our debt, Ps. 49:6, 7. Sacrifice and offering would not do it; Sinners are insolvent debtors.’ Matthew Henry Do you hear that Christian? ‘Sacrifice and offering will not pay it.’ It is only by the means of the King of Heaven, by His compassion, by His Son who paid the highest price and salvation through Him.

‘…our good works are but God's work in us, and cannot make satisfaction; we are without strength, and cannot help ourselves. If God should deal with us in strict justice; we should be condemned as insolvent debtors, and God might exact the debt by glorifying himself in our utter ruin.’ Matthew Henry

I would like to conclude with a story:

There was a terrible storm where Pastor O’Malley lived at the foot of a mountain. A snowstorm had struck the mountain. The electrical lampposts had been blown over and he was left with a small candle which threw some light on his books as he prepared his sermon. The wind was so strong as it seemed to shatter his house to pieces.

Suddenly the phone rang. It was a nurse from the hospital, “I am so sorry to trouble you on such a night,” she said, “but I have a patient who would desperately like to see a pastor.”

“I will gladly come,” he said, “but I don’t know whether I will make it to the hospital. If I’m not there within two hours then know that the storm has kept me from coming.”

He took his old Bible and got into his old car. The wind nearly took the door off the car. With his hands on the steering he prayed, “Lord, there is a soul in need. Help me to reach that soul timeously.” The road was slippery with snow and sleet. Trees had fallen over the road and he sometimes had to stop and drag the branches off the road or find a way around. He could barely see through the sleet and the rain. Suddenly he became afraid because he was the only one out in the storm. In order to drive away the fear, he began to sing.

He eventually reached the hospital and quickly ran inside. The nurse was there to meet him. “Oh thank you that you have come,” she said. “This poor man is in such anguish of soul.”

“Who is he?” the pastor asked.

“We do not know. We know that he is an alcoholic. We only know him as Tom. He ruined his life with drinking. He has been here for a few weeks and nobody visits him. He is just alone. Sometimes he comes for treatment but he pays cash for it. Nobody knows about him,” said the nurse.

(Do you expect that a drunkard should confess his sin if he accepts Christ? Yes, you say, he needs to confess his sin, he is an alcoholic. But a pious Christian, a disciple, no, I don’t need to confess my sin. Christ has carried it all, His blood has carried it all so away with this confession of sin. But the drunkard - yes, he needs it! An unforgiving disciple needs to confess his sin, you need to forgive your brother. You need to go to your brother and say, “Brother, I forgive. My actions, my reactions, the words that I spoke, in secret about you, have indebted me to the King of Heaven.” If your sin is as red as scarlet - preachers and disciples can have sins that are as red as scarlet – and these need to washed away and become whiter than snow.)

When Pastor O’Malley got to the man’s bed, he could see death written all over his face. He softly touched him on his hand. He opened his eyes and asked, “Pastor, please pray for me.” The pastor knelt for the patient and then he stood up and asked, “Tom, is there anything that you need to confess?”

“No, no,” was Tom’s response and he started talking about everything else under the sun just to keep the pastor at his bedside. Every now and again, the pastor would ask, “Is there something that you need to make right?”

Tom would quickly reply, “No, but stay and speak to me.”

O’Malley was very troubled. It was close to daybreak and Tom did not have long to live. Earnestly he said, “Tom, before you die you need to make peace with God.”

“I want to,” said Tom, “but it is so difficult. It is now 32 years, 11 months and 2 days since I did something that I cannot forget. I remember it every day. I started drinking more and more but I cannot forget it. It was two days before Christmas. I had received my pay and went to drink. I was drunk but I needed to start working. At 8.30 in the morning I had to go to a railway crossing to put up a stop sign so that the cars would wait while the train passed. In my drunken stupor I put up the wrong sign.”

(May God help us disciples that we will not be in a drunken stupor and put up the wrong signs. Pity for those cars and those people who will read your sign and end up where they do not want to be.)

“A car with four people approached at quite a speed. It was a father, mother and two daughters. Because it was the wrong sign, the car did not stop and the train smashed into the car. All four died instantly. I have remained silent for all these years but I am the guilty one. Can God forgive me?” Tom asked.

Pastor O’Malley was quiet for quite a while, and then he said, “Yes, Tom, I forgive you and God forgives you. In that car were my father, my mother and my two sisters. 32 years, 11 months and 2 days ago.”

Were it not for the blood of Jesus! No matter how difficult it might be for you to throw yourself into this cleansing water, this cleansing fountain, do it. Even if you are a Peter, a disciple. Let us forgive our brother from our heart because He is the King of Heaven. We seek pardon, we seek our debts erased. We do not want to be guilty. We do not want to appear before Him one day indebted, poor and bankrupt. May the Lord bless His word to us.

Conclusion Michael Ngubane

This story has touched me deeply. To forgive - how often does one need to forgive a person? In the Lord’s prayer He taught us to say ‘…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ How often haven’t you repeated that prayer but you have never realised what the words mean.

The way to heaven does not go according to my insight and logic. It is clear through this message how much it costs to be a child of God on the way to heaven. Just think for a minute – the pastor was the person who lost his family and he had to decide to forgive this man. Here is this pastor called to help a dying man and yet the things with which he had to help him pertained to him personally. Finally, he was able to say, “I forgive you because Christ has forgiven me.”

May we live under this knowledge – I, who have been forgiven so much, how much more should I not forgive others? The Bible says he who has been forgiven much, loves much. Whoever has received grace, wants to pass this grace on to others. Is there someone standing in your way who you must forgive? Remember the words of the Lord Jesus: if we have been forgiven, how much must we not forgive?