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Lesson 1: God and Forgiveness *

Introduction: We are starting a new twelve-week study on the topic of forgiveness. What does it mean to be forgiven? What are the steps to forgiveness? How much will God forgive? Can we leave guilt behind? How important is our obligation to forgive others? We have a great deal to learn about forgiveness, so let's dive into the Bible this week and see what we can learn!

  1. The Confession Key


    1. Read 1 John 1:8-10. Who needs to confess sin? (Everyone)


      1. To whom do we confess our sins?


      2. What is the reason for confessing?


        1. Are our sins a secret from God? Are they a secret from us?


        2. If God knows our sins and we know our sins, what is the point of confessing?


    2. Read Luke 13:1-5. Why did the Galileans, who were killed while presenting sacrifices to God, die?


      1. Why did the 18 who died in the tower of Siloam tragedy die?


      2. Did these two groups die because they were sinning and God withdrew His protection from them?


      3. What is Jesus' point in mentioning these two stories? (That we will all die. The question is whether we will perish eternally. Jesus is telling us that we cannot look on those who are suffering or who die and conclude that this happened to them (and not me, thankfully) because I am a better person. The question for all of us is whether we are ready to die at any time.)


      4. What is the antidote to eternal death? (Repentance from sins.)


    3. 1 John 1 told us to confess. Luke 13 tells us to repent. What is the relationship, if any, between confessing our sins and repentance? (I think they are pretty much the same.)


    4. Remember, we started out asking why we should confess our sins when both we and God know about our sins already? What do these verses in Luke 13 suggest are the reasons to confess sin? (To avoid eternal death.)


    5. Let's continue on in Luke 13. Read Luke 13:6-9. How does this parable have anything to do with Jesus' statements about repentance? Or, did this vineyard story just pop into Jesus' head and it has nothing to do with repentance? (I find that proximate sections of the gospels are almost always related to each other.)


      1. If you agree that the vineyard story is related to Jesus' statements about repentance, is Jesus saying that repentance is a "fruit?"


      2. Read Galatians 5:22-24. Here is a list of the fruits of the spirit. Would repentance fit in this list?(Verse 24 is particularly instructive. It tells us that "crucif[ying] the sinful nature" is the result of the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The first fruit of the Spirit, the first step to crucifying our sinful nature, is to acknowledge the sin in our life. This is confession, this is repentance. I think the vineyard story teaches us that repentance is a fruit that God expects.)


    6. Go back and read 1 John 1:9 again. What is the key to being forgiven and purified from sin? (Repentance and confession of sin.)


      1. Is it that simple?


  2. How to Confess


    1. Read Luke 5:17-20. This turns what we just learned on its head! Where is the confession? Where is the repentance? How can Jesus say "your sins are forgiven" when there is no record the paralyzed guy said anything?


      1. What does the Bible tell us is the reason why Jesus forgave this fellow's sins? (Verse 20 is the key: "When Jesus saw their faith....")


        1. Are repentance and confession really a matter of faith? (We started out saying repentance and confession are a fruit of the spirit. Thus, they would logically be the first steps of faith.)


      2. Why did Jesus forgive the paralyzed guy's sins when what he came for was a healing? (Do we know the man came for a healing? The context suggests this, but the Bible never says the man came to be healed as opposed to coming to be forgiven. Since Jesus' response suggests the man was more concerned about his sins than his disability, we should accept Jesus' understanding of the man's needs.)


      3. Is there a link between sin and sickness? Sin and disability? (Read John 5:14 and John 9:2-3. The perception of the people was that illness was connected with sin. Jesus' admonition in John 5 and His comment in John 9:3 teach us that illness can be caused by sin, but need not be caused by sin.)


    2. If you were to look at the story of the paralyzed guy to learn a lesson about how to confess, what lesson would you find? (We must come to Jesus in faith. Turning to Jesus for help is the first step in repentance and confession.)


    1. Notice in this story that the paralyzed guy had helpers - helpers who also had faith in Jesus. What role do helpers play in the repentance and confession of sin?


  1. The Extent of Forgiveness


    1. Read Matthew 18:23-25. How much was this debt? (The bottom line is that it was worth more than everything the man had - including his family. Apparently, this debt was in the millions of dollars.)


    2. Read Matthew 18:26. Do you think this was a realistic offer? The debt was about 12 million dollars. (I doubt this fellow had a realistic expectation that he could raise the money.)


    3. Read Matthew 18:27. Why did the master cancel the debt and let this man and his family go free?


    4. Read Matthew 18:28-31. The amount of the fellow servant's debt was a few dollars. What was the reaction of the other servants? What is your reaction?


    5. Read Matthew 18:32-35. What happened to the family of the big-debt guy? (Interestingly, they are not mentioned. This is a penalty against the unforgiving fellow alone.)


      1. Why do you think Jesus mentions "torture?"


    6. Let's go back to what started this parable. Read Matthew 18:21-22. Is Peter being generous to offer to forgive seven times? How many times have you forgiven someone for the same thing? (Wiersbe's Expository Outlines reveals that the Rabbis taught that forgiving three times was enough. Peter is being generous.)


      1. If you were making the rules on your own, how many times would you forgive? Let's assume that someone borrows your car and then puts a dent in it. If this happened three times, would you still keep lending the car to this person? What if it happened seven times?


      2. Go back to Matthew 18:31. You just told me that you would not let someone repeatedly take your car and dent it up. Why does Jesus add to His parable the reaction of the fellow servants to what has happened? (Jesus is teaching us that what He requires is fair. You were thinking it was unfair to keep letting someone dent up your car. If we fully understand Jesus' teachings on forgiveness, it will seem fair to us.)


        1. In the "denting up your car repeatedly question," what addition to the facts would cause you to say it was fair to let someone repeatedly dent up your car? (If the additional factual background was that you had repeatedly dented up someone else's car. In that context forgiving someone who repeatedly dented your car would seem fair.)


        2. What, then, is fair about forgiving someone 77 times? (Whatever someone asks us to forgive of them, Jesus has forgiven us more than that - much more.)


        3. What is the "good news" in that? (Jesus is willing to forgive us beyond our imagination. The difference between millions of dollars and a few dollars is the proper characterization between what we are asked to forgive of others and what Jesus has forgiven us.)


    7. Read Romans 5:20-21. This tells us that grace increases to cover whatever sins we need to have forgiven.


    8. Let's assume that you have led a good life. A terrible person comes, kidnaps your only child from your home, and then kills your child. You have never killed anyone in your life. Are you required to forgive the killer of your child according to the principles we have just learned?


      1. Are you being required to forgive more than you have been forgiven, since you have never done anything like this? (Actually, you have done something very similar. Your sins are sufficient to kill the only Son of God - Jesus. Jesus has it right when He says that God has forgiven us beyond what we can imagine. This is the reason why Jesus mentions in the parable that the fellow servants thought it unfair that the servant had not been forgiving. Our obligation to forgive will seem fair when seen in the proper light.)


    9. Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-5. What does "keeps no records of wrongs" suggest about forgiving 77 times? (True forgiveness is not counting. The number 77 just means you keep forgiving.)


    10. Friend, God offers you forgiveness and expects you to forgive others in return. Is there someone that you need to forgive? Why not go to that person today?


  2. Next Week: Forgiveness in the Hebrew Bible.
* Copr. 2003, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2014 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
Website by Blake Cameron, M.D.
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