The Tyranny of Unforgiveness

What Happens When We Don’t Forgive?

Matthew 18

Audio MP3


Pastor Craig Ledbetter

Bible Baptist Church, Ballincollig, Cork, Ireland

27 June, 2010  AM


I.       Introduction (Acts 18:38,39)


A.    THE greatest thing that could ever happen in ANY person’s life is to be forgiven by God!


1.      You many not get much else right in your Christian life, but you better get the concept of forgiveness right!

2.      People have such a flippant view of their sin, and all its consequences, that God’s forgiveness is the last thing they are worried about.

3.      Oh, they are very concerned when someone wrongs them, and they are very determined to make sure that justice prevails when they have been hurt…

4.      But, when it comes to their own actions and attitudes, they couldn’t be bothered – people just don’t worry about getting right with other people

5.      And it is because people aren’t concerned with getting right with God


B.     The Gospel is all about fixing our relationship with God. That’s what the disciples went all over the world preaching! The Gospel is NOT about health, wealth, success, houses, economies, family, education, accomplishment, or anything else. Because there is nothing, I mean NOTHING greater than being absolutely and completely forgiven by God!

C.     AND, it is about enabling us to fix our relationship with others!


1.      When THAT relationship is fixed up (vertically), we can fix up and enjoy any relationship problem (horizontally)!

2.      When we can’t forgive others, it is because we have neither known or experienced forgiveness ourselves!


II.    Review – We learned a few weeks ago about The Greatness of Forgiveness (Mt 18:21-27)


A.    Peter’s Struggle (Matthew 18:21-22)


1.      With forgiving people!

2.      He saw what people did against him as SIN

3.      Asked how many times must he forgive them before he would stop and say there was no more forgiveness for them!

4.      Peter offers what he thought was very extreme – “I’ll give them seven times, and any more than that would just be asking me too much!”

5.      Jesus responds and says, “Try forgiving 70 times 7” – 490 times the same brother, and possibly the same offense!

6.      I can imagine not only Peter’s mouth, but every disciple’s mouth hit the floor in amazement! How could ANYONE forgive like that?

7.      The answer is by looking at how much we have been forgiven!


B.     Jesus’ Lesson - A King’s Pardon (Mt 18:23-27)


1.      Great Debt (Mt 18:23-24)


a.       Unbelievable Debt


1)      This servant owed the king 10,000 talents

2)      This was an immense sum – like a king’s ransom. Equivalent to €20,000,000

3)      That’s pretty hard to imagine a single person getting into that much debt

4)      Jesus choose an impossible amount to show our debt account with GOD!

5)      The Concept of Sin and Wrong (Isaiah 59:1,2)


a)      We have forgotten that we humans are in trouble with God!


(i)     Matthew 3:7 “who hath warned you…?”

(ii)   John 3:36 “The wrath of God abideth…”

(iii) The hardest part of Christianity today is getting people to admit that they are in trouble with God. That they owe God big time!

(iv) The fact that people are finding it harder and harder to forgive today is simply because they know less and less of the forgiveness that THEY need themselves


b)      Why are we in so much trouble with God? Why is wrath coming? Because of sin


(i)     If we break a window, we owe it to replace that window

(ii)   If we steal a game from a shop, we owe it to replace that game in full

(iii) If we gather a grocery cart of food, and just walk out of a shop without paying, we OWE it to pay for all that food don’t we?

(iv) If we say hurtful things to someone, we owe it to make it up to them

(v)   It is called being in debt to the person we have wronged!


c)      All have sinned (Rom 3:10) – every last one of us have disobeyed God, and broken God’s laws, and ignored His commandments

d)     There is not one of you, not one person on this planet who has not sinned against God almighty! That has not become indebted to God for some wrong word, or action against Him!

e)      The wages, the results, the consequences of sin is death (Rom 6:23) – serious punishment. Not a slap on the wrist, or a verbal rebuke, but an eternal punishment of death in hell!


b.      Unable to Pay! (Mt 18:25)


1)      What an understatement!

2)      Just any one of you try and pay back 20 million!

3)      This man had no way to pay such a debt!


c.       Unavoidable Ruin (Mt 18:25)


1)      No bailout

2)      Payment HAD to be paid – oh that people were FORCED to repay their debts, and pay all their bills again!

3)      His debt was going to ruin not only his life, but the lives of his wife and children

4)      Payment was going to be made!


2.      Great Repentance (Mt 18:26)


a.       Notice the worship


1)      Worship occurs when we realise who it is we are facing!!!

2)      No one worships a “god” to whom we owe nothing

3)      But OH how we worship a God to whom we owe everything


b.      This man has a resolve – a determination – “I will take responsibility” for my debts


1)      That’s a Good attitude

2)      Willing to take responsibility – OH how we need people to take responsibility for how they are living and the costs of their lifestyles, and the price they must pay to make things right


c.       Repentance is the sincere desire to be forgiven


1)      Not that something be overlooked, but that all debts would be paid

2)      He didn’t just walk up to the king and ask him to erase all his debts!

3)      He just wanted to live and not be punished for getting so far into debt!


3.      Great Forgiveness (Mt 18:27)


a.       Obviously by now you know that this parable is about us and God

b.      Attitudes about Sin


1)      Wrong Attitude: that they are just mistakes, minor details, God doesn’t mind

2)      Right attitude: Ezra 9:6; Psalm 38:4; 40:12!!!


c.       The king has great compassion towards the servant


1)      Not because of his ability to pay – he had no ability

2)      But because the king was moved – something pulled Him towards forgiving the entire debt

3)      Psalm 130:3,4, “If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.” – thank God for His mercy and compassion!


d.      It was Complete Forgiveness - The king forgave the entire debt


1)      He didn’t REDUCE the debt

2)      He didn’t RENEGOTIATE the payments

3)      He completely REMOVED the entire debt (forgave it)

4)      AND the king removed the punishment for getting into such debt!

5)      This servant was able to walk away, FREE of all debt – as if he had never been in debt – justified – pardoned! His forgiveness was PERFECT (Ps 103:12; Heb 10:17)

6)      The King, who just moments earlier was the enemy of that servant, was now at peace with him (Rom 5:1; 8:1)


e.       Look at what the king did:


1)      The king was ready to forgive! Didn’t live in vengeance. He wanted to forgive. God is so ready to forgive (Psalm 86:5; Isa 55:7)

2)      The king waited for the servant to be repentant. The servant had to be repentant to receive forgiveness!

3)      The KING bore the debt now. The money did not appear from somewhere else. It cost the KING to forgive the servant!!!

4)      Now you can understand how GOD forgives us! The price of His perfect forgiveness:


a)      The bloody death of His Son (Ephesians 1:7)

b)      The crucifixion (Col 2:13,14)

c)      And His death was enough to pay for the sins of the whole world (1John 2:2)


f.       What kind of a sinner can God forgive? The worst – those that murdered His Son were offered forgiveness!!!


C.     You would think that such an event in a person’s life would completely change it, and that he/she would be able to forgive others, but it doesn’t happen very often!

D.    Not unless we understand the dangers of Unforgiveness!


III. Message – The Tyranny of Unforgiveness


A.    Jesus next teaches the second half of His lesson on forgiveness. Remember that Peter has asked Jesus just how many times he has to forgive his brother? This was Jesus’ answer:

B.     The Servant’s Failure (Matthew 18:28-34)


1.      This is the Same Servant (Mt 18:28)


a.       The same guy who had just been forgiven the most incredible debt imaginable!

b.      This guy should be the happiest and most amazing man you would ever meet


1)      Forgiven, pardoned, justified, his record is clear

2)      Sounds like a blessed man (Psalm 32:1; Isa 1:18)


c.       But he is definitely not a happy camper!


2.      He is an Angry Servant - Holding a Grudge (Mt 18:28)


a.       Went out looking for someone who owed him money!

b.      Grabbed him – took him by the throat!

c.       Demanded him to pay him what he owed him that very moment!

d.      This is anger in action.

e.       Do Christians do such things? Oh yes indeed!


3.      He has a Fellow Servant (Mt 18:28)


a.       The man he grabs was not his own servant, or a slave, but a fellow-servant – an equal. This man was at his level, so to speak – just like him

b.      Yet, because he owed him a little bit of money, he was treated like dirt now

c.       Money, and especially debt, makes slaves out of anybody! Prov 22:7 says, “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”


4.      He is Owed A Small Debt (Mt 18:28)


a.       100 pence – equivalent to 100 loaves of bread

b.      Many people got this far in debt – it was normal for people to owe something to someone

c.       Notice the comparison Jesus is making – between an incalculable debt, and a tiny debt. It should have been EASY to deal with this guy

d.      It is most amazing how the smallest thing can become a large grudge in our hearts!


1)      Someone getting ahead of you in line at the register

2)      Someone cutting in front of you on the highway

3)      Someone taking the parking space you were backing into!

4)      Someone ignoring you or not saying hello to you

5)      Someone getting a raise and you not

6)      Someone buying a better car than yours, for less money!

7)      Someone saying a hurtful word to you


e.       I have talked with people who are still holding things against people who are dead and gone. Of course the dead ones are no longer being harmed, but the living one is in great danger from the Tormentors. We know who the Tormentors are don’t we? We are going to learn them. The fact that a person is dead and gone does not relieve us from the responsibility of forgiving them!

f.       Many a family has carried on the grudges and bitterness of a generation that is dead and gone: see Northern Ireland, and Africa!


5.      Forgetting to Forgive (Mt 18:29,30)


a.       In the face of an angry lender, the fellow-servant fell on his knees and begged for time so that he would attempt to pay it all back (sound familiar? See Mt 18:26)

b.      Though forgiven himself, the first man does not forgive his fellow-servant.

c.       Instead he holds him Accountable and “makes him pay” what he OWES!

d.      He severely punishes someone who owes him only €1

e.       Uh, wait a minute… Wasn’t this guy forgiven of his great debt? I think he has forgotten it far too quickly, don’t you? He has forgotten to forgive!


6.      No Mercy - Only Punishment (Mt 18:30)


a.       Oh the power we take unto ourselves when we with hold forgiveness!

b.      He didn’t even give him a chance to pay it back

c.       The fellow-servant probably only needed a few days to get together the money

d.      Instead, he chose to TORMENT him – “made him pay!”


1)      Put him into bondage and prison (for the debt of a 100 pence)

2)      He had the power to do it – it was his right

3)      He felt good about what he was doing. In his mind, he was RIGHT to do what he was doing. Justice was prevailing as far as he was concerned

4)      But he forgot about his own Master!


7.      Ultimate Justice (Mt 18:31-34)


a.       Do you want justice? Do you really?

b.      Then you will lose big time yourself!

c.       This first man was held responsible for forgiving just as he was for his paying debts!

d.      For that wrong attitude, “he” is tormented for the rest of his life!


C.     The Saviour’s Lesson (Matthew 18:35) This is big!


1.      Forgiveness is a BIG deal


a.       Unbelief is the biggest obstacle between us and God – the sin that keeps a man out of heaven!

b.      Unrepentance is the second biggest obstacle – not giving up a sin!

c.       Unforgiveness is third biggest obstacle between us and God – you have GOT to learn this!


2.      The Meaning of Forgiveness


a.       To treat someone as no longer guilty. To pardon. To put away an offense, or a crime and restore peace between two enemies

b.      What it is NOT:


1)      It is NOT arbitrary, or random, but precise and exact

2)      It is not piecemeal. Forgiveness does not cover a majority of a crime, it removes the punishment completely

3)      It is not words you say – like when you were children and your parents made you say, “I’m sorry” and “It’s okay, I forgive you”

4)      It is not Denial – where the offended person just tries to forget something happened.


a)      Forgetting is NOT forgiveness

b)      Forgiveness however, will always enable you to forget!

c)      We might fool ourselves and others into thinking we have "forgiven". But all of the emotions and hurt are still there--only held back by force of will in deliberated denial. But when we see "that person" again and all the bitterness and pain rise up again within us, it only shows we have NOT forgiven them!


c.       It IS from God! Consider God's perspective.


1)      Nothing is hidden from His sight: the evil intent, the hidden lust, the damage done, the choosing of that which is wrong, etc. And yet He is the author and originator of forgiveness.

2)      If we are going to really forgive, we are going to have to do it His way: with our eyes open, not an avoiding a person’s hurt, but a dealing with it squarely, no matter how painful it may be.

3)      If we are ever going to understand forgiveness, we are going to have to see just how much God forgives and how He forgives!


d.      Now, what is our part in forgiveness?


1)      The way we treat others OUGHT to be the way we have been treated by God

2)      God sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins, so that we may be reconciled to Him, without spot or blemish. He asks that we give others the same forgiveness that paid for us.

3)      Jesus is not saying that the person we are forgiving is not guilty. Quite often they are! But, forgiveness on our part is a simple DECISION to do so. We must not judge whether or not we have forgiven by an emotional test. We cannot control our emotions, but we can CHOOSE to obey God and forgive. When the Lord sees our heart felt desire to forgive He will sooner or later help our emotions to fall in line with our decision. It is then that the feeling of God’s great Love floods our heart. Do not worry if this lovely feeling does not come at once, just hold fast to your decision and the Lord will certainly do His part.

4)      Forgiveness MUST be from the heart!

5)      You lose in order to win! When you forgive, you let go of the power that you hold over that person!


a)      True Forgiveness will change you – maybe not the other person, but it will change YOU

b)      Unforgiveness will damage you


3.      The Dangers of Unforgiveness


a.       Poison


1)      Unforgiveness is the single most powerful poison that Satan uses against God's people, and it is one of the deadliest poisons a person can take spiritually.

2)      It causes problems!

3)      It causes everything from mental depression, to health problems such as cancer and arthritis. I'm not saying that in every single case of cancer, it is due to unforgiveness, but I am saying that it can cause cancer. Scientist can't quite explain it, doctors don't understand where it comes from; it's the symptoms of a curse.

4)      God allowed the Israelites to face diseases and sickness when they disobeyed Him (Deut 28:58-61), and when they would turn back to Him, He would heal their land and take sickness from their midst (Exodus 23:25, Deut 7:15). It is no different today!


b.      It will damn you if you do not receive it yourself from God

c.       It will ruin your life if you do not give it to those who have hurt you!

d.      The tormentors


1)      In Christ’s day, these guys were prison officers; wardens who made life in prison unbearable. Prison was not a place to recover, but to be punished, and they made sure you were convinced to never come back there again!

2)      But for us, the tormentors include (start with Dt 28:15…):


a)      Mental and emotional problems (Deut 28:28),


(i)     Fears

(ii)   Nightmares

(iii) Guilt

(iv) Sleeplessness

(v)   Demonic attacks

(vi) Emotional stress (Deut 28:34)


b)      Physical problems (Deut 28:35, 60, 61) – boils, rashes, blood pressure

c)      Financial problems (Deut 28:17, 38, 43)

d)     Divorce and unfaithful spouse (Deut 28:30, 56)

e)      Childlessness (Lev 20:21),

f)       And that's not all, those problems can be handed down to your future generations (Exodus 20:5).


e.       Leaving Doors Open for the Devil?


1)      We all agree the devil uses the following things to get a stronghold back in our lives


a)      Involvement in the occult (such as oui-ja boards, horoscopes, sceances, eastern religions, reincarnation, transcedental meditation, yoga, karate, hypnosis, New Age, drugs, etc)

b)      Cursed objects in your house (Buddha dolls, rabbit’s feet, new age crystals, statues or sculptures of pagan gods from Mexico, India, China, etc., Rock and Roll albums, books on the occult like Scientology, Psychic practices, ESP, Kharma, etc),

c)      Any habitual sins you might currently be in such as pornography, adultery, lying, stealing, etc., etc.

d)     All these things are forbidden and most of them are cursed by God in the Bible. By participating in these things, these curses open doors to the demons.


2)      But so also does the devil wait for us to become bitter and unforgiving!

3)      Unforgiveness is a open door for the devil to torment your life again (Eph 4:26,27)




a.       Unforgiveness must be cast down like any other sin.


1)      The spirit of Unforgiveness is just as demonic as witchcraft!

2)      When the full revelation of what our Lord said concerning turning us over to the Tormentors strikes, we will be afraid to hold a grudge. I wonder how often an unforgiving spirit has separated us from God’s flow of Grace and power in our lives?


b.      Examine Yourselves


1)      Is there anybody you feel edgy around? (Don't like them, feel anything in your heart against them, etc.)

2)      Do you have anything against anybody? In other words, is there anybody that you have a hard time demonstrating the love of Christ to?

3)      Has anybody wronged you that you haven't forgiven from your heart (thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc.)?

4)      How do your view your siblings, parents, coworkers, etc.? Do you have any hard feelings against them?

5)      Do you make a habit of blaming yourself for everything? Do you obsess over your mistakes and feel unusually guilty for them?

6)      Do you deeply regret things that you've done in your past? Could you kick yourself over something you've done in your past? If so, explain.


c.       Take a good look at your home!


1)      Some of you kids have let unforgiveness against your parents block your relationship with God

2)      Some of you wives are powerless because you refuse to forgive your husbands

3)      Some of you men are bitter against your dad, or your wife


5.      If you refuse to accept God's forgiveness or refuse to forgive others:


a.       You are placing yourselves in the position of being HIGHER than God.   This is a form of idolatry and subject to the judgment of God.

b.      You are also saying that sacrifice of Jesus was of no value.

c.       And you may well be under the control of a demonic spirit or a spirit of self condemnation or suicide. Shown by the torments of your life!


IV.  Conclusion/Application


A.    What people need is forgiveness of their sins. Forgiveness not through good works, or through the sacraments, or through absolution, or through denial.

B.     It is only fully paid for by Jesus Christ


1.      Though salvation is a free gift, it is not unconditional. It is conditioned upon faith in Christ. Putting our faith in the atoning work of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins requires that we view ourselves as truly in debt to God. We cannot receive Christ without true conviction of sin. We cannot receive him with the attitude: "I'm not really all that bad a person, but whatever trivial things you have against me, forgive me for these."

2.      The great news is that we do not have to live with unforgiveness. God sent his son Jesus to the earth to take our sins for us and provide us with forgiveness (and so much more). Not just forgiveness in a spiritual or religious sense, but cleansing so complete that it has no more affect on us. 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. You may need help to break free from unforgiveness and the entanglement of sin. If so, find someone who knows Jesus, who understands the Word of God and the power he has given us in his name. They will be glad to help you get free (1 John 1:7; Proverbs 28:13)


3.      Forgiveness is available right now.


a.       "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.   If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" (I John 1:8-10).


4.      Make it available to everyone around you!