Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.
One thing kids learn real quick is how to get even. Taking revenge is a natural reaction when we're offended, but the Bible commands us to not seek revenge. Today, rising above our instincts and allowing God to be the one who makes things right.
From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, today you'll be teaching us to remember the difference between seeking justice and seeking vengeance. Yes, there's no doubt about it, Dave, that Christians should be involved in seeking justice. Justice for ourselves, justice for others, that is part of our responsibility. But vengeance belongs to God.
Remembering that distinction is very important. You know, we come to the end of a series of messages entitled After You've Blown It. And I need to tell you that I preach this series because in my ministry I've discovered so many people who feel that they have walked away from God, they've messed up their lives, and they're finding it very difficult to find their way back, back to the Father, back to home. We're making this sermon series available to you for a gift of any amount. This is what you do. Go to RTWOffer.com.
That's RTWOffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. I believe that this series of messages will be a blessing to you, to your friends, and you already know people who need it. Now let's listen carefully. You see, vengeance is the strong desire to even the score, and in the process of evening it, justice even will probably not be served because vengeance goes beyond a desire for justice. Vengeance says, I'd like to destroy you. I'd like to give you what you deserve ten times over. Remember the woman I said, what would you like to have done to your husband? She said, hell sounds good to me.
Hell sounds good to me. That was not exactly justice, that was vengeance. Do you know why the Bible says, do not allow a root of bitterness to fester with you and spring up and defile many?
It's because many are defiled. Where the devil cannot go, he sends a bitter Christian, and that bitter Christian will do all the devil's work and more. They will defile themselves, and in the process, in their complaining and in their bitterness and in their gossip, they will do all the work that the devil ever wanted to be done, and they defile many. That's why the Bible says, do not seek vengeance.
Vengeance is mine. I will recompense, says the Lord. Do not render evil for evil. You say, well, shouldn't we pursue justice for those who are marginalized?
Absolutely. The Bible has much to say about pursuing justice for the widows and for the orphans, but it's very interesting that when it comes to ourselves, it is very careful. It is very careful lest our pursuit of justice turn out to be vengeance, and the Bible says, vengeance is mine. I will recompense, says the Lord, and God is saying, can you trust me to do what you think you should do?
Let's get to the seventh principle. What we have to do is to commit all unresolved matters to God, all unresolved matters. You say, well, what's an unresolved matter? An unresolved matter is people whom you've had to forgive, to whom you are not reconciled because they do not acknowledge their sin, people maybe who you've asked their forgiveness and they have not granted their forgiveness to you. So it's a situation that is untidy.
It's not wrapped up very nicely at all. It's unresolved, and if you've done everything before God that you possibly know of to resolve the situation, all that you can do is to commit the matter to God. All kinds of situations in our lives must be left with God because we may pursue justice, but at the end of the day, we know that it's not going to be attained in every situation. May I say that in this world seldom is justice actually attained, occasionally, but seldom. So you have all of these matters that impinge upon the soul, and what we need to do is to commit it to the Lord.
Why? Vengeance is mine. I will recompense, says the Lord. Don't you do my work for me, says God.
How do we do this? May I give you some suggestions? Maybe, in fact, they aren't just suggestions. Maybe I should turn them into commands. Is that all right with you, Phil, if we just say these are commands?
These aren't options. This isn't something you can say, well, you know, the pastor stands up there and he gives us suggestions. Did you notice that on Mount Sinai, God did not give ten suggestions? This could be transforming in the lives of many of you. Many of you could walk with a new sense of freedom and relationship with God and others. Many of you could experience personal revival if you take seriously these commands. Number one, empty your heart of all vengeance. Don't become obsessed with vengeance. Leave room for God's wrath.
Don't say to yourself, I have to even the score no matter what and it's going to be my lifelong pursuit. I remember meeting a woman whose father died because of a botched surgery in a hospital. Now, there's nothing wrong with pursuing some kind of justice because of what they did, but seven years later, she was still going from attorney to attorney and from pastor to pastor, looking for someone to take up her cause, to bring justice to that situation and vengeance because the hospital got by with it. Maybe the hospital did get by with it. One of the problems in hospitals, real big problem in a hospital is that it's run by human beings.
These human beings are full of flaws and they sometimes do wrong things and I'm not saying they shouldn't be held accountable for it. I'm just simply saying that maybe she was right. I don't know, but I want to lovingly look across the table in her eyes and say, look into my eyes for just a moment. I have something I would like to say to you. Give it up.
Be free. Leave room for the wrath of God. Exercise faith in God's governance of the world and that this is one situation that clearly you're not getting anywhere in and you can spend the rest of your life and you can go to the grave seeking the justice and the vengeance that you will never get and you have a life to live. Give it up. Again, I don't want to be misunderstood. It's not wrong to seek justice, but there comes a time when you simply give it up.
Some of you have been hurt by others. Give it up. You've been chiseled out of money. That is yours.
Give it up. I spoke to a woman who married a man who had miles of lakefront property in one of the richest states in these United States. When her husband was dying, some people came in and they had him sign something and he was so drugged, he had no idea really what he was signing. And then when he died, she discovered she had nothing. Nothing. God bless that woman.
I remember she said, I have boxes and boxes of papers and attorneys have looked at this throughout the years. Hey, listen, when there's big money involved like that, and when you have people who are following you, as in her case, ready to kill you, because remember this, big money makes people irrational. It makes them become criminals. If they do not have deep-seated principles, money will absolutely consume them and make them evil. There has to come a time in this dear lady's life when she simply says, look, I've been dealt injustice, but I'm going to leave room for the wrath of God. I can't deal with all these evil people. And so what we do is we take vengeance, just like this water.
I have a glass of water up here for those of you who are listening only. And you take and you look at that vengeance and take a good hard look at it, a really good hard look. And then you go into a desert or you go into a forest preserve or you go somewhere where you spill all of your heart and your tears to God. And then you take that vengeance and you pour it out symbolically at the foot of the cross because you're leaving room for the wrath of God. You do not have to resolve issues that in life are by and large irresolvable. Second, that's number one, second command, use the experience as one of positive growth.
Use the experience as one of positive growth. Do you think that God abandons you when injustice has been done to you? Does God say, oh, injustice has been done to this person.
I'm out of here. God comes along and puts his arm around you and says, I want to walk with you through this injustice and I want you to deepen your relationship with me. Somebody said this, I wish I could take credit for it, but I can't. But this statement has blessed me many times. Your friends can only take you to your potential. Only your enemies can take you beyond it.
Isn't that great? Your friends can only take you to your potential. Only your enemies can take you beyond it. Those whom God deeply hurts, God deeply blesses with a double portion of himself and you honor him by recognizing that he's the one who will right all wrongs.
And that's the third command. Affirm that God will set the record straight. God will set the record straight. And so what you do is you realize that the judgment seat of Christ, that's where Christians meet together and this person had this grievous situation that's been unresolved.
And this person says this happened and this man divorced this woman and he ran off and he didn't pay child support now. And he shows up at the judgment seat and his wife, who had to be a single mother, she shows up at the judgment seat of Jesus Christ. Do you tell me now that they're going to walk into heaven pretending everything's okay and Jesus will say, well, you know, let bygones be bygones.
This is heaven after all. That's where all those disputes are going to be reconciled is at the judgment seat of Christ. That's why the Bible says do not judge things before the time but wait until God comes who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, expose the motives of men's hearts, and that's where it's going to have to, it's going to be resolved. The truth will come out.
Listen to me carefully. If the truth does not come out, God is not God. Amen.
Always nice to know that I'm not alone up here, you know. And then for those who are unconverted at the great white throne of judgment, they will have to bear their own penalty, of course, but all of the sins and all of the deceptions and all of the lies and all of the evil and all of these things, all is going to come to the surface. Why? Because throughout all of eternity, we are going to sing just and true are thy ways, thou king of saints. God is a God who's into reconciliation. I want to end on that note. Jesus said, you know, if you're praying to God and there you remember that you have a brother who has an offense against you, go straighten it out.
Isn't that interesting? As you're praying, God brings it to mind, right? And the reason is because as we come to God in all sincerity, you see, what God is doing is he's saying, you know, you may be right with me, but you know, you can't be fully right with me until you take care of all of these other things. This bitterness, this sense of unforgiveness, this lack of reconciliation.
And that's what God wants us to do. And it means that we lovingly confront situations. There was a woman in a church who wanted to be fully right with God and man so she went to another woman and she said, you know, I've never spoken to you face to face before.
She says, I'm very nervous because up until now I've only spoken behind your back. So you no longer speak behind people's back, you lovingly bring to their attention some issue that they have done and you resolve it in the name of Jesus. The Bible says in Colossians, bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. That's a whole sermon.
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. One more story of the power of reconciliation. In Canada, there were two brothers who had not spoken for 20 years. In fact, their feud went back to their teenage days. It was well known in this small church that one came in through one door and the other came in through the other so that they didn't even have to see each other and they'd sing the same songs and they'd listen to the same prayers and listen to the same sermon and go home unchanged.
Remember, remember this, there's no message that you will ever hear that you want to rationalize as much as the one that you've just listened to. And so they would go home. Well, God was working in this church and so the pastor knowing of this feud took some deacons and took them into the church basement, brought these two brothers and put them in the middle of a circle, surrounded them with deacons and says, you're not leaving until you're reconciled. And one of the brothers looked at the other with some bitterness and says, well, it's about time he asked my forgiveness.
I never cease marveling at the human heart. And the pastor said, well, clearly that's not good enough. Deacons keep praying. As they prayed, the blessed Holy Spirit of God broke in on that little prayer meeting and two brothers with tears asking one another to forgive each other were gloriously reconciled. And so were their wives who also were estranged, understandably. The next night they gave their testimony in a church and sang a duet together. As a result of that, God so mightily moved in the congregation that hundreds of people made right all kinds of grievances, all kinds of petty bitternesses, all kinds of things lodging in the human heart.
Oh yeah, I really know what that person's like. All of those things were laid and God, the Holy Spirit of God, who oftentimes is so grieved because of these sins, began to work so mightily that from that church blessing flowed to literally hundreds of others. It all begins here.
It begins here. Letting go of grievances, forgiving, and getting on with what God wants us to do. Would you join me as we pray? Father, blessed Holy Spirit of God, we ask today, Lord Jesus, that you will bring to the surface things that we have harbored in our hearts against one another. We pray today, Father, that you'll give us honest hearts.
May we not say, well, this applies to so-and-so. No, Lord, it applies to me, and it applies to all those who have listened. Grant, O God, the power of your Spirit to do what is right, no matter the cost. We know that Satan, who's listened to this message as well as us, as well as we have, would like now for that word that has been sown to simply be put aside in the press of other duties so that we might not once again have to deal with issues that you've brought to our attention. Help us, Lord Jesus, to overcome that, we ask, and seek you until our hearts are pure and clean and our consciences cleansed before you and others.
We ask in Jesus' name, amen, amen. My friend, let me ask you a question. Right now, I'm sure that you know someone whom you wish had heard this message.
Maybe God has really spoken to you because you know that there are some things in your life that need to be made right, but you also know others who have grievances. Life, as we frequently say, can get very messy. That's why we are making this entire series of messages available to you.
Let me explain that we here at Running to Win are totally committed to helping people and not only that, giving you resources to help you in your journey of life. For a gift of any amount, this series can be yours. And even as you're thinking about it, let me emphasize again the need for this message and these messages to get to even more people.
Maybe you missed some of the sessions that we've had together. You want to listen to all of them. You want to listen to them again and again. Now here's what you can do for a gift of any amount, and thanks in advance for helping us financially. For a gift of any amount, these messages can be yours. You go to rtwoffer.com. As you frequently heard me say, RTWOffer is all one word. RTWOffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now if you're like me, you often don't have a pencil when you'd like to have one, so I'm going to be giving you this contact info again. But I want to encourage you to ask for the series of messages entitled After You've Blown It.
It'll help you make it all the way across to the finish line. Go to RTWOffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Today's question comes to us from Kathleen, who lives in Iowa. I am 71 years of age, and all my life I've been so surprised what learned Christian men say about forgiveness. I have read several books and many articles on the subject.
So far it is beyond my grasp, and I don't think I'm alone or there wouldn't be so many divorces. If forgiveness is the thing to do, why would it say in Titus 3.10, warn a divisive person once and then warn him a second time? After that, have nothing to do with him. Kathleen, I think that you are confusing some issues. I get the impression that you are equating forgiveness with reconciliation. When I say that we ought to forgive people, a wife ought to forgive her husband for divorcing her, for adultery, etc., I don't mean that they can just, on that basis of forgiveness, be reconciled. By forgiveness, I'm talking about a one-sided kind of forgiveness, where we lay down our bitterness and where we give our bitterness to God.
And when we do that, he releases us from the kind of bitterness that is really destructive to us, that blocks the ministry of the Holy Spirit and corrodes our own soul. That's what I mean when I say we ought to forgive everyone. But when it comes to reconciliation, that's an entirely different matter. I always say that reconciliation involves forgiveness, but it also involves trust and respect. If you don't have those three elements, you don't have real, true reconciliation. And you see, when the apostle Paul said what he did about false teachers, rebuke them and then have nothing to do with them, what he's saying is, he would agree, I think, don't be bitter against them, in that sense, forgive them. But most assuredly, you can't be reconciled to them, because you can't be reconciled on the basis of their lifestyle and their false teaching.
So that's, I think, what we mean about forgiveness. And I hope that this helps you clarify the issues. Thank you, Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at RTWOffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or call us at 1-888-218-9337.
You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois 60614. With happy music, the Christmas season's upon us. Economy experts say it's the key for retailers making money for the year. It's sad that so much darkness permeates our culture now, but that's why we look to Jesus as our source of light. Next time, Erwin Lutzer begins a four-part series on the gifts Jesus brought to us so long ago. Join us for gift number one, Jesus, the gift of light. Thanks for listening. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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