As we have been studying the life of Joseph, we’ve seen several parallels to Jesus’s life. Joseph was betrayed and so was Jesus. Joseph was sold for shekels and we know that Jesus was betrayed for money as well. God arranged Joseph’s life as a foreshadowing, in the Old Testament, to let the audience know there’s going to be a better Joseph. There will be a better King, and He’s going to save and restore the world.
I want to remind you that no matter what kind of despair or hopelessness or brokenness you’re facing, that you’re not alone. All of us come to Jesus on our worst day and He is faithful to meets us where we are. Most likely on your worst day, there is someone you need to forgive. I know that whenever I discuss forgiveness, that it makes people uncomfortable. You might have made vows about how you’re never gonna let anybody do your dirty again. Our culture says things like, “I forgive, but I don’t forget,.” Forgiveness is this ultimate turning point where we have to choose if we’re going to surrender that situation to God or not. Let’s read and see how Joseph delt with forgiveness:
Genesis 44:16-17 (NIV)
“What can we say my lord?” Judah replied. “What can we say? How can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered your servants’ guilt. We are now my lord’s slaves—we ourselves and the one who was found to have the cup.”
But Joseph said, “Far be it for me to do such a thing! Only the man who was found to have the cup will become my slave. The rest of you go back to your father in peace.”
Twenty years prior to this, Joseph’s brothers conspired together to kill him or sell him into slavery. When they sold him into slavery, they thought that he was dead. At that time, often slaves would be worked to death. They definitely thought that they would never see him again. In fact, they told their dad that he was dead. Now years later, Joseph is not only in Egypt, but he is the prime minister of Egypt. He’s second in command to Pharaoh himself and leading the most powerful empire at that time. In fact, the whole world was experiencing a famine and because of Joseph interpretation of Pharoah’s dream, they were prepared and had plenty of food. Joseph’s brothers show up to get some grain for their families, because there was no food back home. Joseph recognizes them even though they don’t recognize him. Long story short, he sends them back to their dad as a to go get his little brother. When Benjamin arrives, Joseph hides a silver chalice in his sack of grain. When they headed back home, Joseph sent Pharaohs guards to catch up with them to find the missing chalice.
When the guards come looking the missing cup, Judah speaks up and says there is no way they would’ve taken anything, because they have received so much kindness. After searching through the sacks, they find the missing chalice in Benjamin’s belongings. Joseph had set up his little brother to test his half-brothers and see how they would respond.
Have you noticed that God tests us a little bit? God doesn’t test us so that we will fail. He tests us, because He wants us to win. He wants us to show us that we are more than conquerors. So, here Joseph sets up a test for his brothers. Judah steps up and tells Joseph, “We’re all guilty! God has uncovered our guilt, we’re finally exposed.” It’s in this moment that Joseph is seeing a confession and surrender. When Joseph hears Judah talk like this, it breaks his heart. He realizes that his brothers have had a change of heart. In fact, Judah, he was the one that came up with the idea to kill Joseph. He was the one who said, “Hey, look, here comes that dreamer. Let’s kill him.” Now 20 years later, Judah is the one standing before all the brothers taking responsibility for the very thing that he did to Joseph. Now, here’s Joseph going through two decades of loneliness, and yet somehow not harboring this unforgiveness to the point of poisonous bitterness. Instead he’s looking for a reason to forgive his brothers. Judah takes it a step further and says, “I know the chalice was found in Benjamin’s sack, but take my life instead. I don’t want all my brother to answer for this. I’ll answer it for my little brother.” What do you think Joseph is hearing? He’s hearing Judah stand up for give his life for his youngest brother.
Genesis 45:1-8 (NIV)
Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all of his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.
Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.”
You’re never more like God than when you forgive.
Don’t you want to be like Joseph? Don’t you want to have a heart that’s quick to forgive and eager to show grace? Don’t you want to have a heart that says “God, this is the most painful thing that I’ve ever done. But even when I don’t understand, I still want to put my faith in You.” Forgiveness is the hardest thing in the world to do. But you’re never more like God then when you forgive.
Forgiveness is absolutely optional, for everybody who’s not in Christ. Forgiveness is extremely difficult. But at the same time, Jesus says, “If we don’t forgive others, he won’t forgive us.” So, forgiveness is not optional if we are in a relationship with Christ. If I want to receive the forgiveness of God, then I better be willing to extend forgiveness. But here’s what I know, I know that nothing is impossible with God. When it comes to forgiving the most wicked person or the greatest act of betrayal, nothing is impossible with God.
How to Forgive Like Jesus:
John 8:31-32 (NIV)
Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Forgiveness doesn’t fix your past, it frees your future.
Forgiveness doesn’t change your past. When you forgive someone it is not going to change what they did to you. But it will absolutely change your future. It will set you free for your future.
1. God’s timing = Take the first step
The world’s timing when it comes to forgiveness says, “When that person apologizes to you, then it’s time to forgive them.” The world tells us that when you feel like forgiving them, then that’s your true authentic self. When in a relationship with God, then I no longer forgive when I feel like it. I forgive others, because of what Jesus has done for me.
I don’t forgive you just because I love you. I forgive you because I love Him. My obligation to forgive you is not because of how great you are or how sorry you are. It’s because of how great He is and how sorry I am for what I’ve done. The cross is what dictates my timing and my forgiveness. The cross tells me as long as I’m still a sinner, I’m obligated to forgive other people.
Matthew 18:21-22 (NLT)
Then Peter came to him [Jesus] and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”
When talking about forgiveness, I look to see how Jesus forgives and what he taught his disciples about forgiveness. What he’s telling Peter here is, “As long as I’m forgiving you, you’re gonna have to keep forgiving them. As long as my grace doesn’t run out, then you’re never gonna run out of forgiveness.”
There’s no expiration date for the forgiveness of God.
Matthew 5:23-24 (NLT)
If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.
This verse has challenged me more than any other teaching of Jesus. It has changed my life more than anything else. The reason it is so impactful is that he’s saying, “Maybe there is someone that’s upset you, then it’s your responsibility to go make that right.” Jesus tells us, “Don’t come to church act spiritual like there’s nothing going on.” When God sees his church, he sees his family. When we ignore one another or don’t forgive, he is not okay with that.
Forgiveness in God’s timing is we take the first step. The world says, “When you apologize to me, then I’ll forgive you.” Jesus says, “Hey, go hunt down the people where things feel strained and make sure everything is reconciled and good.” Can you see the difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world? Jesus didn’t wait for us to apologize before he died for us. No, he took responsibility for our sin while we were still sinners. Jesus took the first step and if you want to forgive like Jesus, you’ve got to take the first step in your relationships.
2. God’s heart = No strings attached
Some of us can’t truly forgive a person until they admit how much they hurt us. But if you want to forgive like Jesus, you’ve got to be able to forgive someone, even when they don’t have the capacity to realize how much they hurt you.Jesus has given us his full forgiveness, no strings attached. Aren’t you grateful that he loves you where you are and is willing to meet you where you are at? You don’t deserve it and I don’t deserve it, yet his grace washes over us and he continues to be good to us.
We are never more like God than when we forgive.
If you want you want to forgive like Jesus, you need God’s timing. That means you’ve got to go first.
If you want to forgive like Jesus, you need God’s heart. That means no strings attached. It means even if they don’t fully understand how you have been hurt, you forgive anyway.
Be careful as you patch things up with people, that you respond with God’s heart and the teaching of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. You’re not looking just to get them to apologize to you. You’re actually looking to try to move forward with them in a stronger relationship, even if they don’t get it. Lastly, you don’t just need God’s timing and God’s heart but you need God’s plan.
God’s plan = Reconciliation
People often say, “I forgive, but I don’t forget.” But when we look at the ways Jesus demonstrates forgiveness, does he forgive and forget? I know that it is not natural to forgive and forget. I am asking if you want the supernatural help of God to forgive? Imagine if you could actually do that. What if the next time you saw your baby’s mama, it wasn’t awkward, because you really had let it all go? Reconcile, so that next time you’re throwing a birthday party for your baby, everyone is there and it’s actually a great party for everybody.
Psalm 103:12 (NLT)
He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.
This is a picture of God taking your sin, and throwing it so far that it never circles back to meet you. The cross obliterates your sin. It not only disappears, but God deletes it from his memory. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that “Love keeps no record of your wrongs.” He forgives and forgets.
Am I the only one that’s still blown away by the fact that none of the things that I’ve done in my past are ever going to catch up to me in the supernatural, because God has obliterated that? How good is His mercy? How good is His grace? If you are reading this and still feel so gross and wicked and like you’ve done so much, you’re just you’re lying to yourself. The Lord wants you to know that there are things that you’re still thinking about, that he’s already forgotten. There’s things that you are dwelling on that he’s already chosen to forget.
God’s not looking for your future to be impacted by your past. He’s looking for your future, to be dictated by his son. His son forgives and has made way when there was no way. Jesus has given you his righteousness, in exchange for your sin. When God looks at you, he doesn’t look at you like a sinner, He looks at you like a son or daughter.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (NIV)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Those sins aren’t attached to you anymore. That person is dead, okay? You’re a new creation. The old is gone. It takes two to reconcile and the Father and the Son made it possible for you to be reconciled to Him.
Not all reconciliation is possible with every situation of unforgiveness in your life. There could be an ex, or a father that hurt you or someone that has passed away that it’s impossible to reconcile with. I’m just saying, God’s plan is for you is to not to just move past the offense, but to move forward with the offender. Take that offence to God who makes it possible for you to move forward and be better. That’s a supernatural forgiveness and reconciliation of God.
Take a couple minutes before the Lord and search our heart. The book of James says “The power of life and death is in the tongue.” There’s something powerful about being the image bearer of God and speaking things. With your words, ask God for help in forgiving those that have hurt you. Don’t let this moment be wasted by not responding to what God is speaking to you. When you surrender your timing, heart and plan to God, He will supernaturally help you forgive.
Remember these three:
The first to apologize is the bravest.
The first to forgive is the strongest.
The first to forget is the happiest.