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Four Wedding & A Funeral - Wedding #1 ::

As the Minister of a University congregation in Canberra, DAVID McDONALD has plenty of opportunities to preach at weddings! Here is the outline of the first of four gospel-based sermons that have proven particularly effective, based on Matthew 18:21:35

All five sermons in PDF format:

“Forgiveness” – Matthew 18:21-35


We’ve just read from Matthew 18. And you know, verses 21 and 22 might well have said this: “Then Jeff came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive Justine when she sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Justine and Jeff, when it comes to forgiveness, are you keeping count? Maybe you’re past your quota already? How often should you forgive each other? Forgiveness is a very important topic when it comes to marriage. There is probably no other relationship where it’s more needed.

Marriage is getting a lot of bad press at the moment. It doesn’t exactly have a shiny record – in fact we hear about separations and divorces every day. For those of you who are married – how many of you would say your marriage is ideal, or even working well?

When you get two people, well practised at putting themselves first, and join them together in marriage, it can make for a serious explosion. That’s why forgiveness is so important.

When Jesus said we should forgive 77 times, it’s his way of saying keep on. Keep forgiving. And don’t stop.

[RECAST THE STORY IN MODERN TERMS – perhaps a boss who forgives a worker.]

It’s an amazing story, isn’t it. It leaves you horrified that anyone can be so mean and uncaring. In the end the bloke gets what he deserves. But there is a barb in the story. What we need to realise is that this story is really talking about us – about the way you and I behave.

Let’s identify the characters in the story. Jesus is telling a parable about the kingdom of heaven. The king in this story is God. The servant in the story with the massive debt is you. Each of us here. It’s you – Jeff, Justine, (start to mention other people in the congregation by name). This is the character you’re meant to identify with. The other character can be anybody you know. Someone who may have done something against you, hurt you in some way.

I want to make two points from the story: first, about God’s forgiveness, and then secondly, about our forgiveness of others.

1. God’s forgiveness

In the story, the king forgives the servant a debt of millions of dollars. In reality God is willing to forgive us far more than that.

Let’s look at the magnitude of God’s forgiveness. Everything we’ve ever done wrong – complete, total forgiveness. All the things we’ve done to hurt others; all our dishonesty, shame, selfishness, rejection of God; imagine if it was all written in a book. God promises to tear out every page and destroy it. He offers complete and total forgiveness.

I heard some one say recently: “Christianity is a religion of guilt.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Christianity is about guilt being removed – genuine, complete forgiveness.

And let’s look at the cost of God’s forgiveness. In the story the forgiveness offered by the king comes at great personal cost (millions of dollars). In reality the forgiveness God offers comes at an even greater price. The cost to God is the death of his Son, Jesus. Jesus, who bore all our guilt upon himself as he died upon the cross.

We’re about to celebrate Easter. It’s there that we see the love and mercy of God in action. It’s there that we see the forgiveness of God offered to those who ignore him. It’s there that we see the enormous price God was prepared to pay for us.

If you want to appreciate the enormity of God’s forgiveness, then look more closely at the death of Jesus. It’s there that you will see just how much God loves us.

If you have experienced and appreciate the magnitude and the cost of God’s forgiveness, then you’ve got a reason and a motivation to treat others in the same way.

2. Our forgiveness of others

The man in the story failed to grasp the size of God’s forgiveness. It didn’t affect the way he treated others. But this story is for us.

Let me ask you – Jeff and Justine – will the fact that God has forgiven you all that you’ve every done wrong, at great personal expense, be a reason and a motivation to treat others differently? Are you going to be willing to forgive others? Will you forgive each other?

Where there is no forgiveness, there is no relationship. Forgiveness lies at the very heart of relationship – with God, and with each other.

Jeff and Justine, if you want to destroy your relationship, there are two easy ways to do it…

1.forget how much God has forgiven you

2.refuse to forgive each other.

I know that’s not what you want. So, Justine, when Jeff hurts you – and he will – remember how much God has forgiven you and offer Jeff your forgiveness. And, Jeff, when Justine hurts you – and she will – remember how much God has forgiven you and offer Justine your forgiveness.

And both of you, please remember ‘forgiveness’ is more than just words. It’s an attitude that comes from the heart. It will be shown in the way you treat each other – by your actions.

There may well be big things that you will need to forgive each other. But it will start with the very little, almost inconsequential things. And it’s desperately important that you forgive each other those things.

Forgiveness will stop the little things becoming big things. There will be all sorts of situations. Justine leaving stuff lying around the house when Jeff is trying to keep it tidy. Justine organising friends for dinner and Jeff getting home late having forgotten.

One of you sick or tired and just taking it out on the other. One of you spending money on things without talking it through with the other. You’ll fail to consider each other’s needs. You’ll hurt each other’s feelings. You’ll see yourself as the innocent one and demand that your partner be the one to apologise.

In any of these situations, and the 1001 others that will come up, how are you going to deal with them? “I’m not going to be the one to apologise.” Stand your ground? Freeze up and not communicate? Start throwing bricks and abuse at each other? Ignore it and pretend everything’s okay? Walk out?

These are the normal solutions. Some others here may have other suggestions. But these are the normal ways people cope. And that’s why our marriages are so bad and divorce is so high. We need to break the mould. We need to rewrite the script. As Christians, we need to be abnormal.

Jeff and Justine, if you want a relationship that brings joy and that will last … and each of us, if we want to enjoy sincere relationships with others … then we need to remember two things. Number 1, how much we have been forgiven by God. And number 2, because we’ve been forgiven so much, let’s have the same commitment to forgiving others – whatever it costs.

David McDonald is the pastor of CrossRoads Christian Church in Canberra, and AFES chaplain to students at Canberra University and ANU.

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These are articles dealing more broadly with the general topic of preaching.

There are sample sermons for those challenging occasions like funerals and weddings, articles looking at preaching on difficult topics such as sex, and even the full text of an evangelistic sermon based on Isaiah!

Use them to stimulate, encourage and equip your preaching of the word.

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