28 Jun Real Marriage – Key #3 Overcoming Past Hurts
– Maybe I should do this
– You should do this, ’cause I keep messing it up. This is like our 57th take. Howdy, Pastor Mark Driscoll here, with my wife and best friend, Grace. And, I want to thank all of you, through Mark Driscoll Ministries, who give any amount, who pray at any time, or encourage with any email or social media posts. We’ve got a brand new sermon series, Real Marriage. It’s six keys to unlocking all of your relationships, including your marriage, that we’re teaching right here at the Trinity church. I’m preaching, we’re doing Q&A, and we’ll give it all away through www.Mark driscoll.org. So thanks a bunch for helping us out. Have you ever just thought, not from your perspective but God’s perspective, how awful it is to deal with me, you, us? Just think about it. Here’s the storyline from God’s perspective. God exists in perfect union and communion, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. No need, angels obey him, glorified, Everything’s good for eternity past. That’s a long time. You probably get used to it being like that. And then God decides, well, I’m gonna make some universes, or univer-I, I don’t know what it is, but God makes a couple of universes. God makes a planet and says, “you know what? I’ll make a guy, and I’ll let him enjoy this planet.” That’s our first father, Adam. “Adam, here you go. Nice planet. Nice weather. Everything’s perfect. You’re perfect. You seem lonely, I’m going to make you a woman.” Not just a woman. What kind of woman? Perfect. “You can’t blow this right son. You can’t blow this one. I’ll give you a perfect woman. Puts you in a perfect place. Everything will be perfect. You can enjoy everything I’ve given you. You can do whatever you want. There’s only one thing you can’t do. Don’t partake of this particular tree, ’cause that will get you in trouble. Just walk around that.” Here comes Eve, wedding ceremony, all’s well. Boom. Turn the page, it goes from a wedding to a war. They separated themselves from God. They’ve sinned against God. They’ve disobeyed God. They’ve ruined creation. They’ve shipwrecked their relationship. God comes down to have a conversation with Adam and what Adam does, he blames it on the woman. “Lord, everything was fine. You made this woman.” After the woman, “she’s the variable in the equation that’s ruined everything.” So then, then imagine you’re God. You’re like, okay, I made the planet. I made these, these are the only two people I’ve got to work with, and they both blew it. Well, they’ve got sons. Maybe, maybe there’s a little hope of the sons, ole Cain and Abel. Cain, not a good kid. Abel a really nice kid. I’ll work through Abel, Oh no, wait, Cain whacks Abel. Cain kills his, now I’m only left with Adam, loser, Eve, loser, Cain, murderer. Not really good. So all of this continues for a while. I’m giving you the whole Bible in a little nutshell here. So the whole story continues. Everybody’s only evil and wicked all the time, generation after generation. You get to Genesis 6, it says that God, God is literally crying. He’s grieved in his heart that he made man. He sees our heart. He knows that all we think is evil all the time. And so God decides, “you know what? That’s it, I’m going to flood the earth. That’s it. That’s it. I’m going to flood the earth. But you know what, Noah, how about I give you a shot? You and your family, you build a boat, and I’ll spare you if you’ll obey me.” So God saves them by grace. God gives them righteousness. God gives them a plan. God spares Noah and his family. Everybody else dies. Noah gets off the boat, the waters retreat, and immediately he builds a place to live. And then he plants an orchard and he waits for grapes to grow. And he turns the grapes into wine so that he can get drunk and pass out naked in his tent. This is the good guy, right? This is the good guy. Redneck, first redneck in the history of the world, drunk, naked in a tent. There’s the hope of humanity. Ah, okay. Story continues to a guy named Abraham. All right, well maybe we’ll pick Abraham, and we’ll love and bless him and tell him and his wife you’re going to have a baby. And through that baby will come a savior. He’ll bless all the nations of the earth. And Abraham’s like “no, I’d rather commit adultery,” and gets another woman pregnant. And that’s led to a lot of problems ever since. And then twice he gives his wife away, twice. How many of you ladies go, “that’s at least one too many?” Absolutely, giving your wife away twice, when she’s supposed to bring forth the son of the promise is a real problem. Now how many of you at this point, would just be like, “you know what? If I’m God, I’d set the earth on fire.” That’s what I would do. I would set it on fire and I’d hang a big sign up saying, “I told you so.” If I was God, that’s what I would do. How many of you would do the same? You know what God does? He waits a total of 1600 years. Some of you are not patient, right? You’re like me. You yell at the microwave. Hurry up, hurry up . God waits 1600 years. Sin, rebellion, death, folly, bad religions, brutal dictators, broken marriages, absolute crisis. And then the Father and the Son decided it’s time. And God, the Father looks at God, the Son, and says, “1600 years,” what Galatians says is the “fullness of time.” “It’s time, time to go.” So the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, gets off his throne, enters into human history. God becomes a man to walk this fallen, cursed, brutal earth, to show us how to love, to show us how to live, to show us how to forgive. And you know what we do? We hate him. We harass him. We despise him. Religious people are constantly trying to put him head-first into a wood chipper. It gets to the point where even his disciples abandoned and betray him. He is falsely accused, falsely tried. And then we decide, you know what we’re going to do? We’re going to murder him. The sinless, perfect, loving, forgiving, God who’s put up with us for 1600 years. And he goes to the cross, the most shameful, brutal, painful way of dying. And while Jesus is hanging on the cross, the creator is being murdered by his created. He says this, “Father, what?
– Forgive them.
– “Forgive them.” How many of you would not say that? How many of you would say something else? We can’t say it because we’re in church and there are children, right? “Father, forgive them.” Jesus is talking about forgiving his enemies, who are murdering him, and have been rebelling against him since day one, generation after generation. And then he says something else. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I think he’s quoting Psalm 22:1. And in the most inexplicable event in the history of the world, Jesus, in that moment takes upon himself all of our sin. He substitutes himself in our place. He pays our penalty and debt of death to the Father. He puts himself in our place, and he puts us in his place. So his condemnation, our salvation. He takes upon himself unrighteousness, and gives us his righteousness. And he literally trades places with us. Now, hearing this, those who are present, the mob that is screaming for his death, the soldiers that are seeking to destroy him, openly, and publicly, and shamefully. It says that those Roman soldiers, they take a sponge they dip it in wine vinegar and they shove it in his mouth. I’ve been to Israel, Greece, Turkey, the archeological sites of the new Testament, multiple times. I’ve been there with the professors. I’ve been there with the tour guides. I’ve been there with the people who have studied it firsthand. And I learned something when I was onsite that was very curious, and that it was common for a Roman soldier to get, as part of their battle deployment, part of their kit was a sponge. And as you’re out marching, across this vast Roman empire, and you’re in the middle of nowhere and you need to go to the bathroom, you wouldn’t have toilet paper or amenities. So you would take your sponge. You would sop it in wine vinegar as an antiseptic. You’d put at the end of a long stick and then you’d use it to clean yourself. It was your toilet paper. So Jesus is saying, “forgive them.” Jesus is saying, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? I’m taking their place so that I can answer the prayer, so that they can all be forgiven.” And they shove their toilet paper in his mouth to shut him up. And with that taste on his lips, the Lord, Jesus Christ, says this in a triumphant cry, “it is finished.” And he answers his own prayer. And he dies in our place. And at that moment, we are forgiven. We are forgiven. He is buried. Three days later, he rises. And what goes forth is a message of forgiveness. Jesus forgives people, and his people go out proclaiming the message of forgiveness. 2000 years later, here we are. And the essence of our Christian faith is the forgiveness of sins through the personal work of Jesus Christ. And our creeds even say that we believe in the forgiveness of sin. And so today I want to talk about healing from past hurts. And the only way you do that is through forgiveness. Sometimes we use the word forgiveness so tritely, so frequently, so flippantly, that we don’t think about it very deeply or earnestly. We wanna do that today. So the first question is what is forgiveness? In the most famous prayer in the history of the world, Jesus tells us how to pray. It’s in Matthew 6. “Pray then like this, our Father in heaven, hallowed,” or holy, “be your name.” That’s the number one attribute of God in the whole Bible is that he is holy. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. In Luke, chapter 11, it’s another book of the Bible in the New Testament, it also records Jesus’ prayer. But instead of the word debts, it uses the word sin, because sin and debt, according to the Bible, are synonymous terms. So there it will say, “forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” Here it is “forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.” Here’s what happens. We sin against God and we accrue a debt. And then the question is, who will pay? Either we pay, you pay, by going to hell. So that’s how you pay. Or Jesus goes to the cross, substitutes himself in your place for your sins. And he pays for you. He pays for you. So what forgiveness is, it’s the canceling of a debt. It is that God doesn’t make us pay him back. God pays us back by paying out of the account of his son. You understand that? So let me say it this way. How many of you don’t like paying your bills? Okay, If you’re not a Christian, you’re like, “I agree with that point.” We all agree on that point, Christians and non Christians. We don’t like paying our bills. You get your bills, you get a little anxiety, ’cause you realize what kind of debt you have, amen. That’s why some of you don’t open the mail. You just know what’s coming. So you get the mail and you’re like, “Oh my golly, here’s what I owe the credit card company, the mortgage company. This is what I owe the utility company. My student loans, my car payment. Ah, all this debt.” Now, let me ask you this, how would you feel if every lender that you were indebted to also sent at the bottom of every debt, “paid in full, paid in full, paid, in full, paid, in full?” There’s, a generous benefactor somewhere. And they have decided that they’re going to pay all your debts for the rest of your life. You will get a total of your debts, but you’ll never own anything because it’ll all be paid in full. You feel good, right? You’d be like, “yay,” . Some of you would even skip. Guys built like me, you might even skip too. We’d be that happy, amen. Now imagine this, fathom this, consider this. Imagine that God sent you a bill every month. “Okay, here’s your thought bill.” You’re like, “oh, really? You know my thoughts?” “Yeah, and I don’t sleep, so I even know your dreams.” Ah, ah, okay, okay. “Here’s your word bill. Here’s all the words you said. And what you meant in your heart.” Oh, uh oh. “Here’s your deed bill. Here’s all the bad things you did. Here’s all the good things you were supposed to do, you didn’t do.” Uh oh. “Here’s your financial debt. You were supposed to spend your money like this. You spent like that. Here’s how you misappropriated all the funds I’ve entrusted to you.” Oh no. Oh no. “Here’s all the people you were supposed to love, and help, and serve, and you didn’t.” So imagine every month God sent you the debt, and every month it got bigger, and Jesus paid your debt, in full. Past, stuff you did in the past. You can’t pay him back. Stuff in the present, stuff you’re doing right now, you pay. In the future, stuff you haven’t even gotten to. You’re so busy with your current sin, you haven’t even gotten to your future sin. You’re all backed up on your rebellion, but you’ll get there. You’re very committed to getting to your future sin. But the current sin is just so complicated, you’ll get there eventually. So your past, your present, and your future sin, all forgiven, paid in full, nothing you can do to lose your salvation, nothing you can do to lose God’s love, nothing that God would say “I was gonna pay, but now I won’t.” Because when Jesus died, he died once for all sin, amen. How many of you, you go, “oh, that’s good news.” That’s exactly what it is. You’re forgiven. Jesus has paid your debt. You don’t owe God. If you belong to Jesus, you don’t go to hell. You don’t have to suffer in this life. God is not penalizing you. You won’t reincarnate to pay God back for your suffering. And all of that’s really good news. Really good news. So that’s our relationship with God, through Christ. And if you don’t belong to the Lord, Jesus, you still owe God and you literally have hell to pay. If you belong to Jesus, then your debt was paid through his death on your behalf. That’s forgiveness; it’s the canceling of a debt. So, here’s my next question. We’ll make this a little more personal. Who has sinned against you? We just established that we’ve all sinned against God. Who sinned against you? This is where the message gets really personal and really practical and can get quite emotional. Who has, and some of you say, “well, I don’t know if they’ve sinned against me.” They’ve failed you, they’ve disappointed you, they’ve hurt you, they’ve wounded you, they’ve scarred you, they’ve altered your life course, and they’ve affected your wellbeing. They have betrayed you. They have taken advantage of you. They have lied about you. They have used and, or, abused you. I’m not just talking about minor things, but major things. Who has sinned against you? And I want to distinguish this, because some people, they’ll use the category of sin too much. And some will use it too little. But what we’re not talking about here is a minor offense. Here’s what it says in 1 Peter 4:8. “Love covers a multitude of sins.” There’s minor offenses. How many of you are in a relationship and you realize there’s just some stuff we need to let go. I just need to let that go. It’s not a big deal. I just need to let it go because you’re not perfect, I’m not perfect. And if we just have this relationship where we wear striped shirts and blow whistles on each other all the time, this is going to be a miserable relationship, amen. Some of you are married to that person. You’ve brought them. Welcome. Okay, good, good to know. We’re not talking about minor offense. We’re talking about that’s such a big deal that God had to die for it. Also, what we’re not talking about is faults, quirks, eccentricities. How many of you are in a relationship with someone who’s odd? They’re thinking the exact same thing. Just so you know, okay. Here’s what it says in Colossians 3:13, “make allowance for each other’s faults.” Faults, these are eccentricities, peculiarities. These are things when you’re dating, you’re like, “oh, that’s interesting.” 10 years later, you’re like, “I’m gonna stab you in the liver if that continues.” It’s not cute anymore. I’ll give you an example . I had a counseling session with a couple a little while back, and she’s just frustrated, and angry, and just. And I said, “what drives you crazy about him?” She says, “he’s so short.” I was like, “well,” “first of all, you knew this going in. Unless all of your courtship and wedding was sitting down. And this is not like a ninja that snuck up on you. You saw this coming.” Secondly, I said, “there’s not a lot he can do about this. He can wear boots like me. But there’s just, you can put your husband in high heels and he’ll be taller, but I don’t know if you’re going to be any more attracted to him.” I don’t know what this poor guy can do. That’s just, he’s got a fault. He’s just, that’s the way, it’s a quirk. It’s the way he is. How many of you you’re married to someone, you’re in a relationship with someone, these are relationship principles, you know someone, and they’re just odd, peculiar, strange, quirks, just strange. I had lunch with somebody recently, when they laughed, it sounded like a witch was going to work on a broom. That’s not a sin. It’s just something that bothered me. And if you’re going to sign up for that, sign up for that. Good luck with that. But anyways, we’re not talking about a minor offense. We’re not talking about a peculiarity or an eccentricity. And we’re also not talking about you being grumpy. Because 1 Corinthians 13 says that love is not irritable. How many of you are irritable? You’re like, “I am not.” For sure you are. Look at that. You’re heritable. You’re grumpy. You’re like a grenade with a pin pulled. You’re a person who’s always just on the verge of exploding. You’re grumpy. How many of you, you get tired? You’re grumpy. You’re pregnant. You’re grumpy. You’re married to someone who’s tired and pregnant, and you’re grumpy. You’re all grumpy. I have a daughter. She gets hangry. She’s usually very sweet. And sometimes you’re like, “this person, with your driver’s license, is not you. This is someone else.” And she’ll get very, I was like, “honey, what’s wrong?” She’s like, “I’m hangry.” Like “what’s hangry?” She was like, “I’m hungry and that makes me angry.” Oh, okay, I obviously don’t know that. I’ve never been in that hungry position, but it could lead to anger. So I eat so much. I’m terrified of being angry, and I stave it off with snacks. So she gets hangry, which means when she’s hangry, I need to give her a snack. And not criticize her. And that means, I’m praying for her husband every day that he could maybe have a job driving a snack truck, or something, and bring some stuff home, keep her from getting hangry. We’re not talking about minor offenses. We’re not talking about faults and glitches. We’re not talking about you being irritable. We’re talking about somebody who has hurt you. So let me say this. I love you, I’m your pastor. I’m honored to preach and teach. The people that we’re most likely to be bitter against, unforgiving of. So you say, “I’m not bitter, I’m just hurt.” Same thing. “Well, I’m not hurt, I’m just angry.” Same thing. We’re just doing synonyms here. Hurt, angry, wounded, disappointed, unforgiving, bitter. Those are all synonyms for the same condition, unforgiveness. The people that we are most likely, the people that you are most likely to be unforgiving of are those that you love the most. Our hurt, our disappointment, our unforgiveness, our bitterness, our anger, our sadness, our brokenness, oftentimes has very little to do with how large the offense was. And it has much more to do with how much we love the offender. Meaning a total stranger could do something devastating, and 10 years later, you’re not really thinking about it when you wake up in the morning, because it wasn’t personal. Someone you love very much, they may have done something that, in comparison, was rather minor. But it wounded you very deeply, because your expectation, your hope, for that relationship was so much greater. You have no expectation for a stranger, so when they sin against you, there’s not a great distance. When there’s someone that you love and you open your life to, family, friend, neighbor, coworker, spiritual leader, close friend, parent, grandparent, someone that is supposed to be trustworthy and safe, and then they hurt, betray, or disappoint you, the distance between your hope and reality is great. And that’s where your bitterness and unforgiveness can come in because you had a higher expectation of the relationship. Therefore, the disappointment was even greater. So Holy Spirit, I ask in the strong name of Jesus that you would now reveal to these people who they need to forgive, who they are nursing a grudge, or a hurt, or a wound with. Please give them a name. Please give them a face. Not so that, Lord God, they can be destroyed today, but so that they could be delivered today in the strong name of Jesus. Amen. Who did God bring to mind? Was it a name? Was it a face? Was it someone from the past or someone from the present? I want to take the rest of the sermon and use that as a case study, and an example, and the precedent of the pattern for the rest of your life. So then the question comes, why should you forgive them? Because immediately, when I say they’ve sinned against you and I say you need to forgive them, there’s a small attorney that rises up you and starts to try the case. “Well, here’s what they said. And here’s what they did. And guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty.” “Put on,” Colossians 3:13 “as God’s chosen ones,” God has chosen to love you, “holy,” Jesus has made you holy, “Beloved,” because of Jesus you stand in the position of the beloved, “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another. And if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other as the Lord has forgiven you. So you also must forgive.” Here’s why we forgive people. Because we’re forgiven people. Forgiven people are to be forgiving people. What he doesn’t say is forgive them, because it wasn’t a big deal. Forgive them because it’s okay. Forgive them because nobody’s perfect. Forgive them because we all have faults, and flaws, and failures. What he says is, “forgive them because you’re forgiven.” This actually doesn’t make light of the offense, because the offense was so great that God had to die for it. And so what happens is, how many of you really like being forgiven? You like that? I do. I’m glad God’s not in heaven right now saying “I’m going to do a Liam Neeson movie on Mark Driscoll, and I can’t wait till he gets here. This is going to be painful.” I’m glad right now, God is not preparing for me an eternal revenge flick in which I am the victim, amen. I’m glad that he’s decided to forgive me. And so what it is, is that since I’m forgiven, I need to be forgiving. And sometimes people will think, “okay, God forgive me, but I can’t forgive them.” You’re not holy, as God is holy, and their offense against you is not as grievous as your offense against him. And if what you’re saying is “God, I deserve to be forgiven, but they do not,” what you are saying is “I will now take God’s position. I will declare that I deserve more from them than he’s received from me. And I will not give to them what he has given me.” Here’s what I need you to know. Forgiveness is a gift that God gives to be shared. It’s a gift for you, and for you to share with them. And forgiven people have to be, need to be, must be, forgiving people. And when we forgive someone, it is not, it is not because they deserve it. It is because he deserves it. Do you understand that? We forgive because we’re forgiven. Now, let me say this, in forgiving them, this is not trust. Forgiveness is free, trust is earned. Let’s say someone abuses or harms your child. You can call the authorities, let justice run its course. You can forgive them from the heart like Jesus says. But they shouldn’t babysit your kid again, because trust is broken. Forgiveness is also not reconciliation. It’s not, “we had a close relationship. You really betrayed that. And now that I’ve forgiven you, we pick up where we left off.” Wife came to me, “my husband’s committed adultery. He says he’s sorry. I’m trying to forgive him. But he’s broken trust.” Yes he has. And you just don’t pick up where you left off. In fact, sometimes with certain relationships, you’re like, “I love you, I forgive you. But going forward, I don’t think that this is a safe relationship for me to continue.” And also, forgiveness is not God’s forgiveness. You need to know this. Some of you are justice people. you’re saying, “but if I let them go free.” No, what you’re doing is you’re taking the case and you’re saying the Bible says that we should not seek vengeance. God says, “vengeance is mine.” You’re taking the case. And you’re saying, “I’m not going to try it. I’m going to send it to a higher court. So Lord Jesus, this is now your case to try. You deal with them. You deal with me. I’m going to take this case out of my hands. I’m going to place it into your hands. I’ll let you be the just judge. I’ll let you deal with this person in situation,” amen. And so when you forgive someone, you’re not letting them get away with everything. You’re letting yourself get away from everything, and you’re leaving it in the hands of the Lord, Jesus. A couple of reasons why we should forgive. The Bible is not just true news, it’s good news. And I want you to see where it is good for you to forgive. Firstly, because forgiveness glorifies God. So in Exodus 34:6-7, this is the verse of the Bible that is quoted more frequently than any other verse of the Bible. So you could make a case that this is the preeminent, the most popular verse, in the whole Bible. And it’s God’s self disclosure. Here’s who God is. So this is God introducing himself. You think about how you introduce yourself. This is how God introduces himself. “The Lord, the Lord, a God,” what? “merciful, gracious, slow to anger.” Here’s what he’s saying, “I’ve got a really long wick.” Some of you, you’re like a grenade with a pin pulled. You’re always on edge, ready to explode. If you get God to the point that he’s angry, you really worked for a long time to get him there. You really pushed it for, sometimes, generations. God has a long wick. God starts “with mercy, and grace, and forbearance, and patience, abounding in steadfast, love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin, but will by no means clear the guilty.” Here’s what God is saying, “I love to forgive. I love to endure. I love to persevere. I love to forebear. I love to pay debts. That’s what I like to do. And if you’ll turn to me, I will forgive you. And if you don’t, then you have chosen the courts of justice.” This is the heart of God and what it means to glorify God. And one of the great themes of the whole Bible is that we exist to glorify God. When the Bible uses words like “glory,” or “glorify,” or “image,” or “reflect,” it means to mirror. When you got ready this morning, you looked in the mirror, and the mirror reflected your image. We are to be God’s mirror on the earth. So as God forgives us, we forgive others. And then that becomes something very curious. People ask, “why would you do that?” Because this is what he’s like. I forgive you because he’s forgiving. I love you because his loving, I endure with you because he endures with me. And my goal is when you see me that you would see something of his character reflected in my life. And that is what it means to live as a worshiper of God and one who glorifies God, that we would not respond as we would naturally respond. That we would supernaturally respond as God has responded to us. Another reason why we should forgive, it is grace to them. And this is what happens. We have a hard time, not receiving grace, but giving grace. Which is grace for me, justice for you. If I sin against you, “oh, nobody’s perfect. We all have faults and flaws. I’m Irish, we have two emotions, angry and asleep. And I took a personality test, and I always come out as a J-E-R-K. That’s just my type. And that’s who I am. You need to understand me and how I operate. You did what?” Boom, I shoot you. Law for you, justice for you, grace for me, mercy for me. If we’re going to receive grace, and mercy, and forgiveness, we have to give grace, and mercy, and forgiveness. This is the story of Joseph. It’s the end of the book of Genesis. Many chapters are devoted to this story. Here’s Joseph. He’s a bit arrogant and mouthy. Okay, he is. And he has this dream where his older brothers, he’s the kid brother, they bow down and worship him, and so do the sun, and the moon, and the stars. So let me just say, if God gives you a vision like that, keep it to yourself, okay? Just tuck that in. That’s just for you. Don’t put that on a Facebook. “Hey, I had a.” So what he does, he’s a little arrogant, a little mouthy. So he tells everybody, “hey, guess what? You’re all gonna bow down and worship me.” And his brothers take a vote. They’re like, “nah, we’re not. In fact, we’re sick of you.” So they pretend like he’s dead. They leave him in a hole for dead. They tell his dad that he’s dead. They literally abandoned him. He’s sold into slavery. He’s falsely accused of sexual assault. He serves a prison sentence. Let me say this is a lot. So it’s like a guy’s guilty of jaywalking, and we give them the electric chair. The punishment doesn’t fit the crime. He’s a little mouthy, he’s a little arrogant. And he ends up in prison, in a foreign country, as a slave. Through this bizarre, amazing, extraordinary, providential set of circumstances, a famine hits. He rises up to power in Egypt. His brothers are back home in Israel. They are powerless. He is powerful. They are poor. He is rich. They are starving. And he’s got all the grain. And they don’t know it’s him. So God sets it all up, and there’s this reunion. Now imagine you’re Joseph’s brothers. You’re just like, “oh my gosh, it’s Don Corleone.” Like, “oh, we’re dead. He’s going to get vengeance on us,” amen. They’re totally worried about vengeance. And in this great reunion, here it is in Genesis 50:19-20, Joseph said to them, “do not fear for am I in the place of God?” You know what? That’s the question. Are you in the place of God? Am I in the place of God? We’re not. I don’t judge. people’s eternal destiny. I’m not the judge of the living and the dead. Nobody’s going to rise from their grave and stand before me. Here’s what Joseph says, “you don’t need to be afraid. I know that God judges, and it’s not my position to judge.” He goes on to say, back, please, “as for you, you meant,” what? Did they do evil against him? Yeah. “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good to bring about that many people should be alive, as they are today.” Here’s what Joseph is saying. “God’s forgiven me. And he’s revealed to me that I’m not God. And God has brought you here today, and I’m not God. So I’m not gonna condemn you. God has forgiven me. God wants me to forgive you. And even though this was intended for evil, God’s gonna use it for a ministry, and a whole bunch of people are going to be saved.” They’re safe, physically, as he feeds them. They’re safe spiritually, as they come to know and meet the God that Joseph worships, the God who is slow to anger and abounding in compassion. In fact, the story continues through Exodus, and I won’t get into all of it. But as God’s people are delivered from this nation, it says that many of the Egyptians go with God’s people back to Israel because they’d been converted to worship Israel’s God. You’re not God, you’ve been forgiven. Forgive people, and use that as an opportunity for ministry. Because ministry is better than vengeance. Ministry is better than vengeance. Ministry is better than vengeance. It is a grace to them. In addition, another reason that we forgive is that it’s a witness to others. When we are hurting, when we’re emotional, when we’re frustrated, when we’re angry, when we’re sick of it, when we can’t take it anymore, we forget that non-Christians are watching. And the world never tires of Christians fighting with Christians. They will pull up a seat, and pop the popcorn, and kick their feet up and watch that all day. Because for us to say, “we are the forgiven family of loving people who beat each other. Would you like to join our family?” It’s like, “no, it’s a hypocrite family. I don’t see love, and grace, and mercy, and forgiveness. I see flame throwing, and internet trolling, and commenting.” Never forget that your test is your testimony and that non-Christians, including family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers who know you, they are watching and they’re wanting to see, will you leak? Will you vent? Will you gossip? Will you curse? Or will you love, and will you forgive, And will you bless? Here’s an example, Acts 7, there’s a guy named Stephen. He’s a deacon, a leader in the early church. This is early Christianity. “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” So in the context here, Stephen’s gonna forgive. But let me say this, this is mind-bending. Jesus had already died, risen, ascended back into heaven. The Bible says, repeatedly, that Jesus Christ “is in glory, seated at the right hand of the Father.” Here, is he seated? What happens? He gets up. He gets up to give Stephen a standing ovation. You want Jesus to get off his throne, forgive somebody. It is for Jesus, the proverbial end zone. You know what happens in a football game. Everybody’s seated until the ball crosses the goal line. And then everybody jumps out of their seat. Jesus is watching human history. Once someone forgive someone else, Jesus jumps out of the seat and he cheers, and he applauds. Because, for him, that’s the end zone, forgiveness. That’s who Jesus is. That’s what Jesus does. That’s what Jesus sees. That’s what Jesus celebrates. Jesus gets out of his chair to cheer for Stephen as he is approaching forgiving. And he said, “behold, I see the heavens open and the Son of Man,” that’s Jesus, “standing at the right hand of God. But they cried out with a loud voice. They stopped, covered their ears, rushed together at him. They cast him out of the city, stoned him, throwing rocks at him, murdering him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.” He’s the leader. He’s the most bitter, unforgiving, rebellious man in the entire story. He’s the leader. And as they were stoning, Stephen, he called out. So here’s Steve and he’s down on his knees. There’s a group of angry, violent, bitter, unforgiving, religious men around him. And these are the fiercest beasts of all, unforgiving, self-righteous, bitter, angry, religious men who think that God’s word is a bunch of rocks to throw at other people. And they’re just picking up stones and they are throwing them at Stephen. And you’ve just got to see this man. He’s taking rocks to the head, to the mouth, to the chest. We’re on the brink of spring training. Imagine a bullpen closing, everyone descending on the mound, and one guy on his knees, and they empty a bucket of balls, throwing them at that guy. Stephen is bleeding. He is disoriented. He’s got a concussion. He’s probably lost some teeth. What’s he gonna say? “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He echoes Jesus from the cross. “Father into your hands I commit my spirit. And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And then he died. Stephen uses his final breath, as Jesus did, to pray for the forgiveness of those who were murdering him publicly. And Jesus is standing in heaven, giving him a standing ovation. And people are watching. And what they’re seeing from Stephen is, he really believes in forgiveness. He really believes in forgiveness. And what Stephen has done, he has handed this case to the Lord, Jesus. Will the Lord Jesus come down and take care of this. Yes, if you just keep reading your Bible, it’s a couple chapters. Jesus gets off his throne, comes down, finds Saul, knocks him off his horse, blinds him, and then converts him, and forgives him, and gives him a message of the forgiveness of sin that he preaches the rest of his life. Jesus answered Stephen’s prayer for forgiveness of his enemy and turned his enemy into a messenger of forgiveness. Other people are watching, your children are watching. Your friends are watching. Your family is watching. Your coworkers are watching. Your neighbors are watching. People on social media are watching. Angels are watching. Jesus is watching. Are you forgiving? Another reason we should forgive, a bunch of reasons in fact. Now, let me say this. I love you. I’m your pastor. I’ve been praying about this message, actually, for years. I spent a whole year studying forgiveness. I’ve got a whole eight-part series I want to do on forgiveness. We could talk about this for a long time. I believe that this is God’s work. And I believe that God’s will is holistic. And I believe that God loves all of his children. And when it’s God’s will, all of God’s children are benefited and blessed by God’s will. And so, thus far I’ve told you that it glorifies God, which it does. It’s grace to others, which is true. It’s a witness to those who observe, which is a fact. But this is why I’m motivated, because I care about you. And I want you to experience the blessing of forgiveness, as well. Both the forgiveness of sins you have committed and the blessing and benefits of forgiving those who have sinned against you. Forgiveness is something that blesses and benefits you, as well. It does. I’ll give you some categories. Physically, There’s a researcher named Luskin. He works at Stanford. He runs something called The Forgiveness Project. He started doing medical examinations of people, those who forgive, versus those who do not, just seeking to find, is there a difference in their quality of life, medically. He wrote a book called “Forgive for Good,” where he shares his findings. I don’t think he’s a Christian. I don’t know him, so I can’t judge. But he doesn’t say that he is. Nonetheless, what he found is, those who seek to forgive, their blood pressure goes down. The rate of heart trouble goes down. Their ulcers and their stomach problems go down. Their inability to sleep goes down. That their blood pressure goes down, and the duration and quality of their life goes up. That, literally, some of you, bitterness, hurt, unforgiveness, nursing a grudge, disappointment, it’s killing you. It’s physically robbing you of sleep. It’s robbing you of health. It is literally decaying your bones. And what he says is that people who forgive, they become healthy, and they’re their quality and duration of life is extended, mentally as well. He uses this interesting analogy. When you fly into an airport, you see all the planes. And they’re all lined up and they’re supposed to land. Well, imagine if the planes kept coming, but none of them landed. And you’re the air traffic controller, trying to keep them all in the sky without letting them collide into one another. What he says is this, “that unresolved relationships are like planes in the sky.” I’m hurt by you. I don’t forgive you. You’ve disappointed me. You’ve abandoned me. You’ve betrayed me. You’ve stolen from me. You’ve used me. You’ve abused me. You’ve lied about me. And I’ve not forgiven any of you, so all the planes are in the air. And then someone else says, or does something and then I don’t forgive them. And I have another plane in the air. What he says is that “forgiving someone is literally the ability to land the planes.” What this does for you mentally, it gives you your sanity back. Some of you are so obsessed by all the people that have hurt you. You’re stalking them on social media. You’re trying to figure out what they’re doing with their life. You’re obsessed about them. You need to let the planes land. You need some resolution. Forgiveness is how we land the plane. Emotionally, what he says is also very interesting. That we have experiences in our life that are painful. And the question is, where will they live? Where will yours live? The person that’s just hurt your heart, where does that experience live? If you come to my house, there are two places that really are the center of our home, the island in the kitchen and the dining room table. That’s where our family gathers. That’s where we have discussions. So at some point, the evening comes. We eat dinner together as a family. We all end up around the island. We’re visiting dinners, getting concluded. We’re talking, catching up, get our dinner. And then we go sit down at the family table. It’s a big table that we had built for our family to sit at, and love each other, and build memories. And friends of ours that come over, we give them a Sharpie. And rather than a guest book, we have them sign under the table to keep a memory of all the people that we’ve enjoyed a meal with. That’s the center of our home. If you come to our home, you’re going to end up at the island and the dining room table. Here’s my question for you, that hurt, that grievance, that disappointment, that sin, that betrayal, that anger, where does it live? Does it live on the island, in your kitchen? It’s the center. You’re always looking at it, passing by it. And everybody who comes over, “what’s that?” “Well, I’m gonna tell you the story. Here’s who they are. Here’s what they did. Here’s how it hurt me. Here’s how I felt. Okay. Now let’s go sit at my table. Oh, would you look? It’s sitting at the middle of the dining room table and we have to all work around it, and look through it. And it’s the center of all of our conversation. And it’s obvious, and we can’t get around it, and it’ll never leave.” If you come to my house, I’ve also got stuff in a closet, and I’ve got a garage, and I’ve got stuff on shelves, in a garage. And up in the corner shelf in the garage is a box. Do you know what’s in it? I don’t either. I have no idea, ’cause I haven’t looked. I threw it up there and I don’t even know what’s in it. The question is, this person, this thing, are you going to box it up and put it in the corner on a shelf in the garage? Or are you going to put it as the centerpiece in your dining room table? Where’s it gonna live in your life? Where’s it gonna live in your life? You decide where it lives in your life. Emotionally that frees you up. You know what I have resolution, I’ve had the heart funeral. I boxed that up. That lives in the garage, in the corner. And if someday I’m really hurting and I need to revisit, I can go unpack it. But it is not living as the centerpiece on my dining room table, where my friends and family have to orbit around this for the rest of our lives. Relationally, what happens, as well, when we are hurt, we think, wrongly, that that will affect us, but not the rest of our relationships. But by virtue of affecting us, it’s affecting all of our relationships. In this regard, bitterness, unforgiveness, a nursed grudge, a hurt, a record of wrong, it causes you to become someone who is hurt. And as a result of being hurt, you either idolize or demonize your relationships. Meaning, “I need a relationship, I’m needy. Love me, trust me, save me, fix me, heal me, make it all better. Help, help, help!” Or demonize. “I can’t trust anybody. I’m all by myself. There’s nobody who’s for me. Everybody’s gonna betray me. Everybody I trust in, they walk away from me. They don’t follow through. When say they’re going to do something they don’t.” And so you idolize and demonize. And the result is then if you do enter into relationship, it’s very controlling. “I want good things to happen, not bad things to happen. So I’m going to control you. So I get what I want and I don’t get what I don’t want.” And some of you are very controlling people because you’re hurt people who haven’t been healed up through forgiveness. And it affects all of your relationships. Bitterness is in the soul like cancer is in the body, it’s never contained, it always spreads, and seeks to cause more death. And then, practically. Here’s what happens. Some people think, you have done wrong and I’m gonna tell you how to do right. And if you will do right then everything will be all right. And what these are, these are unenforceable rules. If you would just say, you’re sorry, if you would just stop that behavior, if you would just put down the bottle, if you would just keep a job, if you would just shut up, if you would just read your Bible, if you would just go to church, if you would just apologize, if you would just go to a counselor, if you would just be better with your money, if you would just go to bed at night and stop staying up and ruining our relationship, I never end that. If you would just fill in the blank. You know what those are? Unenforceable rules. And what it is saying is “I can’t be okay until you obey my rules.” But you have no authority to enforce them. And you’ll try and manipulate people, and threaten people, and control people. And the result is, eventually you got to reach a point where you realize they may disagree with my rules, or they may never obey them. So am I going to sit here yelling rules at them that they will never obey until we both die and stand before Jesus? Or am I going to do what Paul says in Philippians 3:13? “This one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind I press forward to God’s will for my life.” It’s fine to say, “I forgive you. I love you. I see these things in your life. I really wish they would change, ’cause I want good for you. And I fear until they change, your life is not going to go well. I love you very much. I’m here to support you, but I need to move on with my life now. And I need to change, even if you’re not going to change. And I need to move forward, even if you’re going to go backward. And I need to become the person that God has intended for me to be. And I would love for you to do the same, but that’s your decision to make them not mine. And I can’t drag you with me. And I can’t get behind you, and threaten you, and whip you so that you’ll go in the direction that I think God has for you.” Now let me do this. I can see I struck a nerve. So now we’ll have a counseling session. And I can’t meet with all of you, one-on-one. So we’ll do it all at once. If I’m your pastor, I love you. Thank you for letting me be your pastor. If I’m not your pastor, let me just occupy that slot in your life for a few minutes. When it comes to the issue of forgiveness, there was a season in our life and family where I really studied this intensely because I was concerned that I would be bitter, my wife would be bitter, my kids would be bitter. And some people even get bitter against the Lord. Not that he’s ever sinned against them, but they feel like he has. And so I started studying it. And I read a lot of books on forgiveness, Christian and non. I talked to counselors, and pastors. Grace and I talked, in process, and prayed a lot. And I also looked at God’s word. And, I’ll never forget it, I was sitting in my home office, my study, and I saw something in the scriptures that I had never seen before. And it’s right there. And I believe it was a revelation from God. It’s not something that I received from a book or a teacher. It’s something that I just literally saw in God’s word. And that is that, when the Bible speaks of forgiveness, it oftentimes mentions the Holy Spirit. Because to forgive someone is a supernatural, miraculous occurrence by the power of God. When I read about unforgiveness, bitterness, hurt, vengeance, grievance, in the same orbit, it often also talked about Satan and demons, Satan and demons. And I’ll never forget the moment, I was sitting in my office and I realized, Satan and demons are never forgiven for anything. Satan and demons are never forgiven for anything. And Satan and demons never forgive anyone for anything. All they do is haunt you, torment you, judge you, condemn you, convict you. They never forgive you. And so when you say “I don’t forgive,” you are saying, “I open myself to the demonic. And I close myself to the work of the Holy Spirit in my life.” This doesn’t mean, dear believer, I love you, this doesn’t mean that you’re demonically possessed. It means that you’re demonically oppressed. You are tormented. You are haunted. You have trouble sleeping. You can’t get over certain moments in your past. They continue to come into your present. That you want to just get certain people out of your life because they’re so painful to even look upon. People that you previously loved. You become isolated, withdrawn, because you just don’t want to be hurt anymore. It starts to cause health problems, and mental health problems. You’re tormented. You’re tormented. Give you two scriptures, Ephesians 4, “be angry and do not sin.” Is it a sin to be angry? No, God gets angry. Anger is a powerful emotion, and you need to put your will over your emotions and let the anger drive you toward forgiveness, and Jesus, not toward vengeance and the demonic. “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Today’s anger is not a problem. Yesterday’s anger is a real problem. When you drag hurt and anger from one day into the next, now you’ve started almost a cascade of events where it’s just anger, and hurt, and bitterness. And all of a sudden it becomes collective. And it’s one person after another, and one thing after another, and now you’ve got a real problem. “Give no opportunity for” who? “The devil.” Satan and demons are waiting for you to be hurting because then you’re weak and vulnerable. Satan and demons are waiting for you to be in a place where you are exhausted, where you are weak, where you are empty, where you are hurting. I’ll tell you another thing, Satan and demons, they don’t have the limitations of our humanity. Satan and demons don’t have a physical body, so they don’t get the flu. They don’t need to eat lunch. They don’t need to take a nap. They don’t get exhausted and tired. We do. They will torment and haunt until you’re exhausted. And then you’re weak, and you’re vulnerable. And then all of a sudden, you open yourself up to torment, to bitterness, to vengeance, to rage, to hate. Is this true? This is true. This is not in my notes, but I feel inclined to tell you, mental health professionals want to love and help people. And praise God for their efforts, and their attempts, and they’re intents. But if you read the mental health manual that lists all of the statistical diagnoses, it says nothing about the demonic. It says nothing about Satan. It says nothing about the soul. So what we’re talking about here is something that only God’s word reveals, because God is the one who, ultimately, has the ability to heal hurts and to deliver people from bondage. It says, “do not give the devil a foothold. The foothold becomes a stronghold, becomes a stranglehold, becomes a death hold.” Paul continues, “how do you know where your heart’s at?” Well “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” So you check your words. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Do you see it? The Holy Spirit wants you to do the supernatural, to love, and forgive, and to bless. Satan and demons want you to do the natural, to curse, to attack, and to hate. Some of you will say “I can’t,” and I hear the tears. I love you guys so much. I’m so sorry for what you’ve gone through. I really am a man. I feel it, I feel God’s heart for you. And I just need you to know that by hanging on to that hurt, you are not hurting them, you’re hurting yourself. And God loves you. And I love you. And we love you. And we want the Trinity Church to be a safe place where people get delivered from bondage and they get healed from hurt. And the Holy Spirit does that. He does that. “Let all bitterness, wrath, and anger, and clamor, and slander, be put away from you along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted.” Why? “Forgiving one another as God and Christ forgave.” We’re forgiven people, so we’re forgiving people. We’ve received the Holy Spirit. We have the supernatural ability to forgive. One more text I’ll share with you. I’ll summarize it just for brevity’s sake. In Matthew 18, Jesus tells a story. Here’s the context. So Peter comes to Jesus and he says, “Lord Jesus, how often should we forgive someone?” And the real conservative theologians in that day said “one and done, son, that’s it.” How many of you are like that? “You cross that line, I’ll shoot you in the head. You’re one and done son.” The more liberal, the real liberal folks, they said seven times. They had a committee, took a vote. They came up with seven. What did Jesus say? “70 times seven.” How many of you are not good at math? And that sounds like a lot. That’s a lot. You know what I think around 460, you probably stop counting. What it means is just keep going. And then Jesus tells this story. I’ll close with Jesus’ story. Jesus says, there’s a really rich guy, and someone’s made a bad business decision and owes him millions of dollars. And the time has come due for payment on the debt and the guy can’t pay the debt. So what he’s looking at is the rich man seizing all of his possessions, enslaving him, and taking legal ownership of his wife and children. Men, emotionally go there with me. You tell your wife and kids, “I made a bad business decision. The debt has come due. I don’t have it. I think, boys, you’re going to be slaves for the rest of your life, paying off your dad’s debt, maybe gladiators. Girls, I’m sorry. I think you’re going to be prostitutes to pay off your dad’s debt for the rest of your life. And dear wife, I’m so sorry, but you’re going to be a concubine and belong to another man.” See our sin affects our whole family, especially us men. What happens then, he goes and meets with the very rich man and he throws himself on his mercy, and he says, “I cannot repay you.” And what the rich man says is, “then I’ll just forgive your entire debt.” Millions of dollars. Can you imagine that guy going home and looking at his wife and his kids, assembling his family. “Okay, dad, what’s gonna happen?” “It’s over, we’re forgiven, debt-free. He paid for everything. He didn’t have to. This was pure grace.” The story continues that then this man went out and there was another man that owed him a couple of thousand bucks. And rather than forgiving that man, he looked at that man, and he literally grabbed him by the neck and he shook him, and he choked him, and he yelled at him, and he said, “you will repay me every dollar. I won’t forgive you one dollar of the debt. You’ll pay me back every dollar.” Now the people see this, and they can’t believe this forgiven guy is not a forgiving guy. And the story is to show that God has forgiven us millions. And when we forgive each other, it’s only thousands. The story continues. Jesus says that then the rich man comes and finds this man that he’s forgiven. And what he says is, “because you have been forgiven and you’re not forgiving, you’re going to go to jail. You’re going to prison. And they’re the jailers will torment you.” Who’s the jailer? Satan. Some of you are tormented. Some of you are haunted. Some of you don’t know how to get out of the tormenting, haunting place that you live, emotionally and spiritually. So here’s my question. You’re in this prison, emotional, spiritual, of unforgiveness, being tormented by the demonic, oppressed, haunted, condemned, shamed, reliving, traumatized. Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. Who has the key to get you out? Does the person who did the offense have the key to get you out? If they would just apologize. If they would just see what they’ve done, If they would feel the weight of their sin against me. If they would just change. If they would just stop it. Then you could get me out. Do they have the key, friend? Who’s got the key? You do. You have the key to your own jail cell. “I forgive you. And I’m walking away from this.” Forgiveness is a key that defeats the demonic. And you have it. And there’s no reason for you to spend the rest of your days in torment, being haunted, and harassed, being discouraged, being oppressed, being harmed. You need to forgive them, as Jesus says, from the heart. And then here’s why I tell you, cause I love you, and it’s good for you. And what you’re doing is bad for you. And it’s bad for your family.