Series: Preacher: Date: August 30, 2015 Scripture Reference: 1st John 1:7-9; Ephesians 4:32

Good morning!  Today we are completing our series called “Builders and Busters of Fellowship.” For the past few weeks, we have studied God’s Word to help us better understand the things that either build up or bust up our fellowship.

Our Senior Pastor Mark Adams began the series with a buster called “Sowing Dissension.” The second week we focused on a double feature BUILDER called, “Humility” as well as a BUSTER known as “pride.”  The third week we covered the buster of “Hypocrisy”.

Last week our Minister to Students, Kevin Freeman covered “Celebrating Our Fellowship.”  We have learned that fellowship refers to getting involved and connecting in relationships with one another.  Becoming like family.  All the topics we have covered are important for either building or busting our relationships in the church.

The topic we are discussing today is FORGIVENESS.  The practice of forgiveness can build church fellowship.

I do not want to assume too much, but I think we all know what forgiveness is, right?

Just in case…according to the International Forgiveness Institute, forgiveness is defined as “a response to an injustice.  It is turning to the ‘good’ in the face of the wrong doing.”  In other words, Forgiveness is releasing someone for a wrong they have done.

I understand that aspect of what forgiveness is.  It’s letting something go.  But does forgiving compromise my morals?  What if I just avoid conflict altogether, is that forgiveness?  I do not believe either of those aspects are a part of forgiveness.  I do not struggle with that aspect of forgiveness.

The aspect of forgiveness that I do struggle with is…APOLOGIZING.    

If we all were honest with ourselves… and took off our masks, I bet you struggle or have struggled with apologizing too. 

A parent struggles…to say “I am sorry” when they have broken a promise to their child.

A teenager struggles…to “admit he or she was wrong.”

A co-worker struggles… to ask “What can I do to make it right?”

A Bible Study group member or Sunday School class member struggles…to say “I’ll try not to do that again.”

A husband or wife struggles…to ask “will you please forgive me?”

Many of us struggle with how to apologize.  We struggle with our attitude when we apologize.  We even struggle with the content of our apology.  We write it out…we try to determine the delivery method.  We blurt it out in the middle of an argument and it does not communicate genuinely.

God knew we would struggle with apologizing aspect of forgiveness. 

Turn to 1 John 1:7-9…the text will be on the screen as well.

 But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 

If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Verse 7-But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light…

  • Walking in the light is living consistently with God’s commands and character.

…we have fellowship with one another…

  • Fellowship is the shared knowledge of God’s light and love.

…the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 

  • “The blood of Jesus,” John identifies as the focal point of Christ’s saving work on the cross.

It gets a little sticky in verse 8… If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.   

Throughout Scripture and church history, people have excused their sin or wrongful deeds by claiming to be right with God.  John, the writer of 1st John, points out in verse 8, our reoccurring human tendency to think we are right and do not need forgiveness.  We think we do not need to apologize.

The sin of pride closes our hearts to see the real need for repentance.  We make excuses for our actions, or we just refuse to admit we were wrong.

But the good news comes in verse 9… If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

“Confess our sins” This means owning up to what we have done wrong and bring our lives in line with God’s goodness and commands.  God can forgive and cleanse us from terrible transgressions.

As we begin to humbling ourselves, we can start down the forgiveness path.

All we have to do is confess our sin to Him.  He will forgive us.  Maybe that part is easy.  Because we have the guarantee that God will forgive us.  Apologizing to someone else is not that easy.  What if they do not forgive us.  That does not excuse us from doing our part.  Our part as Christ followers is to seek forgiveness.

We are reminded in Ephesians  4:32, “be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ.

God wants us to forgive others, just as he forgives us.  Ultimately the purpose of forgiveness is to lead us towards reconciliation.  The goal of forgiveness—the goal of apologizing—is to reconcile…to heal the relationship.

Unforgiveness is a burden… it is a lostness because unforgiveness is severing a relationship.  Unforgiveness creates an impassible barrier between a relationship.

God made us for relationships.  That is why forgiveness builds up church fellowship.

Forgiveness is “freedom,”…it brings comfort and peace.  Forgiveness is the “good news,” because of God’s forgiveness we are released from bondage.

We can offer the same grace and forgiveness to others.

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us, to reconcile us in our relationship with God. (Romans 5:8)

So what do you do, now?  How do you learn to apologize?

This reminds me of a book I bought a year or so ago.  It caught my eye because it is written by Gary Chapman who wrote, “The Five Love Languages” and Jennifer Thomas, a psychologist and counselor.  It also caught my eye because it had the word Apology in bold letters on the front.  It has helped me learn the five fundamental aspects of an apology.

The book is called “The Five Languages of Apology,”  the basic premise is similar to his previous book (Five Love Languages).  Each aspect of an apology is important, but one or two of them may communicate more effectively than the others.

Chapman writes, “The key to good relationships is learning the apology language of the other person and being willing to speak it.  When you speak their primary language, you make it easier for them to genuinely forgive you.  When you fail to speak their language, it makes forgiveness more difficult because they are not sure if you are genuinly apologizing.”

The five elements of an apology are:

  1. Expressing Regret—“I am sorry”, The person you hurt wants to know, “Do you understand how deeply your behavior hurt me?” When you say you’re sorry, you also need to say what you’re specifically sorry for.
  2. Accepting Responsilbity—“I was wrong”, The person you hurt wants you to accept responsibility and knowledge what you did  or said.
  3. Making Restitution—“What can I do to make it right?”, What the person really wants to know is, “do you still love me?” The way you hurt them seemed unloving.  They wonder how you could treat them in that way if you loved them.
  4. Genuinely Repenting—“I’ll try not to do that again”, When you apologize to a person in this way, your apology must include a desire for your behavior to change.  If it does not, you will not communicate a genuine apology.
  5. Requesting Forgiveness—“Will you please forgive me?”, When you offend someone who has this language of apology, they want to hear the words “will you please forgive me?” You can communicate  a genuine apology in a way that is sincere and heartfelt.

Here are some practice steps to help you learn how to apologize in a way that moves the relationship towards the path of forgiveness:

  1. “Be specific about what you are sorry about.”  When you are specific you demonstrate to the other person that you understand how you hurt them.  The apology will have a greater impact when you are more specific.
  2. “Do not follow with, ‘But…’!” When you use the word “but” you are shifting the apology to blame and an attack.  Forgiveness and reconciliation will never take place when the apology is shifted to an attack.  Chapman points out, “any time an apology is followed by an excuse for the offense, the excuse cancels out the apology.”
  3. What do you do if you repeat an offense?  The repetition of an offense is more upsetting, then a one-time offense.  Chapman writes, “Repentance means to turn around or to change one’s mind.” When you repent, the first step is to express your intention to change. The second step is to plan how you will change. The third step is to implement your plan to change. What happens if you fail in your plan?  Acknowledge quickly that you have failed and try again.
  4. When you ask for forgiveness, it  indicates that you want to restore the relationship. Admit your guilt when you ask for forgiveness.  Admitting your guilt is saying that you deserve punishment.
  5. Don’t demand forgiveness.  When you demand forgiveness, you fail to understand the nature of forgiveness. Forgiveness is the choice to lift the penalty of a wrong.  You let the person back into your life.

Chapman points out, “Forgiveness is always to be requested but never demanded.” “…when you request to be forgiven, you are making a huge request. It will be costly to the person you have offended.”

When they forgive you, they must give up their desire for justice. They must relinquish their hurt and anger, their feeling of embarrassment or humiliation. They must give up their feelings of rejection and betrayal. Sometimes, they must live with the consequences of your wrong behavior.” (Chapman, Five Languages of Apology, p.99-100)

I know this can be hard.  Let me remind us, Redland.  Our purpose is to be a grace driven church for a grace needing world.  Let us committed as a church to wrap this series up by going the second mile in our walk with Christ and build up our precious fellowship.  Can you look for ways to use this series to grow in your faith?

Here is our challenge!  What if we committed for the next month to practice genuine apologies?

If we allow our apologies to lead us down the forgiveness path with the hope of reconciliation…Imagine how it would change our relationships at home, at work, and at church.

Let us pray…Lord help us to be a church driven by Your grace…Help us to see our sin and the wrong we have done to You and others.  Give us the quick response to obey Your command to love you and love other more than we love ourselves.  Please guide us in the next month as we practice making genuine apologies.  In Jesus Name we pray, Amen.



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