To be free of chains

Matthew 18:21–35

Many of you have been struggling with pain recently, and it is tiring. But it’s not the pain of a sprained ankle or a toothache. Your pain is a pain of the soul, an emotional or psychological pain that grips your heart and mind tightly and won’t let go. It’s as though a monkey has jumped on your back and dug its sharp claws deeply into your flesh. This demon monkey puts it’s claws into your heart and into your mind, and it won’t let go.
Lot’s of us have this experience of having the monkey demon jump on us. We will be perfectly fine one moment, and the next moment (with perhaps no warning) the claws will dig in and we know the monkey is back. He is riding us and tormenting us, and we don’t know why.
Your monkey is not my monkey, and we will experience our demons differently. For some of you there is an explosion of anger the instant the monkey lands on you. You hate it and fear it but there’s nothing you can do as his claws pierce your soul. Other of us, instead of anger we find ourselves overwhelmed with a bitterness that is excruciatingly painful. There are some who have a monkey demon that brings fear, an overpowering darkness that prevents them from doing all kinds of normal things. Perhaps your monkey curses you with jealousy, or envy, or hate, or greed, or pride that suddenly overflows for no apparent reason.
I have a strong word for you today about this monkey, and I pray you will see it is a loving word that will set you free. Please allow God to speak to your heart and we’ll break the chains.
The first bit of good news this morning is that you are not responsible for this monkey, this demon that has it’s claws in you and won’t let go. You didn’t create the monkey, but you are the one who made the chain that is around its neck. And the other good news today is that God has given you the power to break that chain and get the demon monkey off your back.
If the monkey on your back is not a result of something you did, then where did it come from?
You have been deeply sinned against by someone, or even by lots of people. They have hurt you once or many times, betrayed you and insulted you. Terrible injury has been done to you once or often, over the course of many years, by someone who ought to have loved you and cared for you. The sin and wickedness of that other person, those people, created the monkey demon that has its claws deep in your back.
The result of their wickedness, even if you never knew that it was wickedness, was that you began to have deep and hidden feelings of resentment, anger, bitterness, fear, etc. Your feelings are completely justified. You feel emboldened by your ability to hate the person who sinned so terribly against you. You might feel self-righteous, or you may be extremely afraid.
The father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, seems to have been correct when he said, “the mind will return again and again to that which gives it pain.”
That’s the start of the chain. Each time you return, consciously or subconsciously, to the cause of the pain you strengthen the chain that keeps the monkey on your back. You are trapped and the only way to break the chain is to stop thinking about it. You have to let go of the anger and resentment, but when you try you cannot. The monkey leaps back on and digs in his sharp claws every time something triggers the memory of the great wrong done to you.
The things that can be a trigger are vast in number and various in nature. It may be a smell that triggers your anger because it is associated with the sin done against you. It may be a tone of voice or an attitude or person of a certain age. For all of us, the trigger is personal. It can be very hard to identify and often seems illogical until the root has been revealed.
Only God can help you now. But in order for God to help you and release the monkey, breaking the chain that ties him to you, you must do something.
To understand the solution to the monkey problem, lets read Colossians 3:13. “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”
Here is today’s hard teaching, you ‘must’ forgive. It is God’s instruction to you, and in faith we are to obey our Lord’s orders. We ‘must forgive’ the people who sinned so grievously against us that they put an evil monkey on our backs. Does our heavenly father really say we must forgive those evil people who caused us such hardship and pain and suffering for so long?
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he told them to say, “forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” And then he explained to them in Matthew 6:15 that failing to do this would have terrible consequences. “If you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
As long as we cannot forgive the evil done to us, our father will not forgive us our evil and the monkey will torture us.
You may complain to me that you cannot forgive. You may grumble and murmur that I don’t understand how deserving of your resentment is the person, the people, who ruined your life.
The problem isn’t that you cannot forgive. The real problem here is that you fail to understand how much you have been forgiven already by Jesus.
Jesus told a story that explains this problem. Turn now please to Matthew 18 and starting at verse 21 read the ‘Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor’, also called ‘the Unmerciful Servant’.
It’s a story of forgiveness that starts with Peter boasting that he can forgive the person who sins against him seven times, and Jesus telling him it has to be “seventy times seven!” That means your forgiveness has to be unlimited, beyond counting or measuring.
Jesus then describes the Kingdom of Heaven as a place where the king forgives the huge debts of his people. Jesus deliberately makes the debts so large they would have been impossible to repay. Then he tells of one who had been forgiven by the king and is now refusing to forgive a much smaller debt.
When the king sees this he calls back his servant and says, “You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt.” He tells the man he should have copied that behaviour and forgiven others with much smaller debts. “Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
Your monkey will stay on your back, torturing you with endless pain, causing you to lose control, for as long as you don’t forgive. Not just once, but over and over and over again.
The starting place for us is to know how much we have been forgiven by the king. We somehow need to be so overwhelmed by this that we praise God from the core of our soul.
The hate, the anger, the bitterness, the resentment, the envy, the jealousy, the fear that is eating away at you inside will continue as long as you refuse to forgive whoever caused this.
The place you will enter once you truly forgive the one who sinned against you is a place of peace and calm, love and joy. You will enter into the presence of the Lord and bathe in his glory.
Think deeply and seriously about how much you have been forgiven. Dwell on it and praise God for his mercy. Meditate on his forgiveness so that it soaks into you.
The next step is be honest about the lingering resentments that cling to your soul. Think about your abuser, the parent, the friend, the stranger who callously and cruelly hurt you, and release the poison of bitterness in Jesus name. Let it out, let it flow away, tell Jesus you don’t want it, and then Jesus will set you free. But you have to go all the way in forgiving. Don’t stop your forgiving before it’s completed.
You cannot say that you’re ready to forgive, but you’ll never forget what evil was done to you.
That kind of limited forgiveness is of small use and won’t set you free. God who washes away the sin from your life can also remove the memories. Let that sit in your heart. Go back to the first point and try again. Remember that the monkey will cling to you, bound by chains, until you forgive and forget.
When God says that you must forgive or else, it’s because he loves you and hates the demon monkey that is ruining your life. The poison on the claws of that demon monkey is killing you.
The third and last thing to do is implore God to help you forget. You have accepted that it is your job to forgive, and you want to forgive. God is eager to help and he will accept his responsibility to help you forget. In this partnership, you do the possible and God will do the impossible.
Joseph named his older son Manasseh, for he said, “God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father’s family.” (Genesis 41:51)
God made Joseph forget and he will make you forget, so that later you will be ready to gladly bless the person who sinned against you. The monkey will be gone, the chain removed, the sin forgotten. And you will be free to live life to the full.
This is the fourth law of spiritual success and I pray that you practise it diligently.

The fourth law of spiritual success is ‘Remember to forget’.
영적인 성취의 제4 법칙은 ‘잊어야 함을 기억하라’입니다.

Amen 아멘

About Pastor Simon

Pastor at Jinju International Christian Fellowship. Formerly of Eastbourne, East Sussex, UK. I am Simon Warner of Jinju Church. We speak English at Jinju Church, South Korea.
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