Dr. Michael Youssef on how unforgiveness invites the enemy right into your relationships.
Unforgiveness is the enemy's tent that he comes in and he pitches in a territory in your mind. From there, he tries to conquer other areas in your life like continuing anger, uncontrollable lust, hateful heart, selfishness, and the list goes on and on and on. Welcome to Leading the Way with pastor and author Dr. Michael Youssef. And thank you for joining in as he continues an audio series of practical content that will help you experience marriage the way God intended it. He's called this series Crafted Marriage God's Way. And as you heard up next, a look at forgiveness and how inviting forgiveness into your life can infuse relationships with life and victory. Hey, and in case you can't stay with Dr. Youssef for the very end of this message, remember that you can always listen online at ltw.org or get information about Leading the Way's mobile app and podcast.
Now, here's Dr. Michael Youssef to begin his life impacting message. Today I want to talk to you about forgiveness in marriage. And so turn with me please in your Bible to Matthew chapter 18 verses 21 and 22. Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times, Jesus answered, I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven. I want to give you the summary of what Jesus is saying in a very short sentence. Jesus is saying that you forgive until you lose count.
That's really what a Hebraic seven times seventy means, until you lose count. This message is not going to be about the usual subject of forgiveness and the importance of forgiveness. I'm going to talk about the anatomy of forgiveness, the anatomy of forgiveness, because when you understand the anatomy of forgiveness, you begin to develop the ability to start losing count in forgiving and even not count at all.
Now I want to share with you three ways by which you can begin to develop the ability to lose count or not even count at all, particularly in forgiving your spouse. And they all start with the letter A, attack the insignificant, arrest the incompatible, attain to your true identity. Let's look at these very quickly. Attack the insignificant. In the Song of Solomon chapter two verse fifteen, Solomon's wife make a very intriguing statement to say the least, very intriguing. Let me read it to you. Catch for us, she's speaking to her husband, catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom. What is her deep concern here and why she's asking her husband Solomon to catch these small foxes? Her biggest concern, her deepest concern is that little foxes that creep into the vineyards through broken fences, if they're not stopped dead in their tracks, they will slowly destroy the marriage vineyard.
Hear me right please. Little foxes or major hurricane both can destroy the harvest. Both can cause huge damage to the harvest. Foxes will do it slowly, hurricane will do it all at once. The result is the same.
The danger, the damage is the same. Destruction, right? But when you train yourself with the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells in us to forgive each other the small offenses, you will avoid both the hurricane and the small foxes. I know it's a mixed metaphor but that's the only way I can think about it. Question, especially for young couples, do you know what I'm talking about when I talk about the small things?
You know the irritating things, the annoying things, oh the annoying characteristics, the aggravating traits. You see when you forgive these things as soon as they appear, you avoid building this invisible wall that can have equal results when a sudden knowledge of a major offense takes place. I know some of you are probably asking well Michael, are you equating these irritating things, these aggravating things in marriage to breaking of the marriage vow? Great question. And the answer of course not. Of course not. But if you begin practicing forgiveness with the little things, with the small things, then when God forbid a big one hits, you already have been in training for forgiveness.
And again I want to emphasize because I know from past experience everybody wants to hear what they want to hear. And regardless of what Michael said, you see I'm talking about an occasional failure. I'm talking about an occasional breaking of the marriage vow. I'm talking about an occasional sin. I'm not talking about a continuous sin, a deliberate sin, and a refusal to repent of that sin.
The Bible said, Jesus said in Matthew 19, when that continuous adultery takes place and no repentance and fruit of repentance is showing up, the marriage is dead. So what are the sum of these little foxes? The list is so long it would take me the rest of the day to go through it. But I'll give you just some examples, you know. And whether you are the person who squeezed the toothpaste tube from the bottom or from the middle, and it goes all the way to the dreaded toilet seat. I mean it goes from whether you are a neat person or messy person, all the way to the thermostat temperature in the house. Turn it up and turn it down.
Someone turn it up, someone turn it down. You know what I'm talking about. All these little foxes, again the list is just endless. All these little foxes that gnaw, you know what I mean? They gnaw their way into a marriage relationship. If they're not dealt with by genuine forgiveness, they can grow into being a big thing and come to a head if and when God forbid a big one hit. I'm realistic enough to know that when a spouse betrays the marriage vow, there's a far deeper level of forgiveness than simply those irritating things that I talked about.
I know that. And the level of forgiveness depends on the level of repentance and change of heart. He may write, just remorse or temporary remorse and crocodile tears. And then continuing in that betrayal will require forgiveness. Yes, we must forgive even in our hearts without the person even confesses a repentance. You have to forgive because we are commanded to forgive because Jesus forgave us. We don't have an option but to forgive.
But listen carefully. Not necessarily restoration. Not necessarily becoming buddy buddies. Not necessarily being close friends. And even then it will take time for emotional healing to take place. And even then the scars may never go away. But healing and restoration of that trust can take place depending on the level of repentance and God's healing help and His power.
That is why I said attack the insignificant. The second thing I want to tell you is arrest the incompatible. What does that mean?
What does it mean to arrest the incompatible? Well, it means that once you forgive and you let go of the hurt, you need to learn what the Word of God said in 2 Corinthians chapter 10 verse 5. And you have to understand that and let it sink deep into your heart. Here's what the Word of God said. You keep on taking captive every thought and make that thought to be obedient to Christ.
Let me give you an illustration. I'll pray to God you'll never forget it, OK? You must always remind yourself that you are, if you're a child of God, you are in a state of war. The moment you forget that you are in a state of spiritual war, you get into trouble.
I know that happens with me. So remind yourself constantly you are in a state of war. Where is that battlefield of that war? In your mind. And our enemy knows that if he can conquer some territories in your mind, if he can conquer that, then he will be able to create a beachhead.
From that beachhead he not only harasses you, but he also start taking on other territories to occupy. Unforgiveness is that incompatible thought for the believing spouse. Unforgiveness is the enemy's tent that he comes in and he pitches in a territory in your mind. From there, he tries to conquer other areas in your life like continuing anger, uncontrollable lust, hateful heart, selfishness, and the list goes on and on and on. But all of these thoughts need to be arrested immediately.
They are incompatible with the believing spouse. How? When you start with the original landing strip of the enemy when he comes in, you start with that. Then you're going to find it's easier to clean all the rest of it and kick him out of the rest of the territories. So instead of allowing the enemy of unforgiveness to hold you hostage, you take that unforgiveness as a prisoner of war. Instead of allowing unforgiveness to imprison you, you handcuff unforgiveness and give them to general Jesus. Instead of you getting behind bars of unforgiveness, you become the sheriff in town and you arrest unforgiveness.
Arrest that thought. Listen to what Paul said in Ephesians chapter 4 verse 31 and 32. And you got to understand in the structure of sentences, the most important comes last.
And so if one is the root, that's always last, the fruit first. Thirty-one is the territories from which Satan expands. Verse 32 is really the original landing strip, Ephesians 4, 31 and 32. Get rid of all bitterness and rage and anger and brawling and slander along with every form of malice.
Where does all this come from? Verse 32. He says, be kind and compassionate to one another.
Here it comes. Forgiving each other just as in Christ Jesus God forgave you. You see, the first landing strip and the first territory he occupies is unforgiveness.
And from there he expands all the others. And from my personal experience I find that the enemy attacks me in two ways. First, I would be sitting down in peace minding my own business and he comes through the flesh, ambushes my mind.
How? By bringing past hurts and past anger and past resentment into my memory. Things that I know I have taken care of long time ago I've placed under the blood of Jesus.
The second way is that he leads us slowly down the wrong pathway and he does it step by step by step and before you know, whoa, I'm in the wrong place. Right here in the battlefield. And I'm in unforgiveness territory. How do I fight back? The only way I know how to fight back and retake territory from him is immediately call on my commander in chief and say help. Then immediately aim my weapons at the enemy by immediately start praying for that person who wronged me, that person who have made betrayed or trust, that person who hurt me deeply.
That is the only way I know, that is the only way I found that I can succeed by taking every thought captive to Christ. When I arrest and handcuff unforgiveness and give it to General Jesus. Attack the what? The insignificant. Arrest the what?
The incompatible. Begin to your true identity. Look, it's natural human reaction to those who hurt us. It is the absolutely natural reaction to those who betrayed us. In marriage relationship or any relationship is revenge. Right? I don't get mad, I get even.
Have you heard that? But to the believing spouse, this reaction belongs to the old nature. It belongs to your life and my life before Christ came in and gave me his grace and his forgiveness and his restoration.
It belongs to what the Bible called the flesh, the lower nature. It belongs to the time before I have experienced the indescribable forgiveness of my sins from the hand of Jesus. You know, one of the great blessings of living a little longer is that you are able to look back in hindsight.
You see things that you never thought you're going to see because you realize now after you've been through this that this was only temporary, that this was only a brief time. In the long run, God's justice will prevail even though it might not be on your timetable, it might not be as soon as you want it and certainly it's not as soon as I want it but God will have the last words. That's why he says vengeance is mine says the Lord. Amen. So trust God.
He walks slowly but he will work well. Vengeance is mine. You practice forgiveness and let him exercise justice.
Why is that? Because we need to remember that we too offended a holy God, that we too betrayed our covenant with Christ, that we too have been unfaithful to the Lord, that we too have wounded the heart of Jesus and yet every time we come to him in confession, every time we come to him in repentance, every time we turn to him he extends forgiveness to us. And so he doesn't only do it seven times, he doesn't even do it seventy times seven. He keeps on doing it, keeps on forgiving for the rest of our lives until we see him face to face in heaven. The truth is our sin of unfaithfulness to God may cost us some blessings.
You notice what I said? May cost us some blessings but nonetheless he will extend forgiveness every time you ask for it. Every time you ask for it he will extend it. He does not count. He does not add up your sins. He had lost count a long time ago. When I was a young Christian and I would hear the preacher say, God forgives and forgets. Genuinely I used to think that God has a case of amnesia. No. What the word means is that he doesn't count against us.
He doesn't count it against us. That's what the Bible said forgets. Attain to your true identity in Christ. I want to tell you this as I conclude that I want to tell you something. If I've lost you, I'm going to plead with you. Focus what I'm going to say now because if you forgot everything I said, I don't want you to forget what I'm going to tell you now. Forgiveness is both an act and a process. Let me illustrate this.
It's very important. Remember when you bought a house and you were so excited about buying a new house when you were young and you're both excited that you bought this house but at the same time you get sweaty palms thinking about the mortgage payment every month, right? You are delighted of this act of buying this lovely place. Then comes the monthly payment of the mortgage and have to come up with it. Now, the house is yours, right?
You live in it. Oh, but you also keep paying the mortgage. In the same way, the act of forgiveness. You remember the very moment that you said, I forgive so and so, right? Yes, I'm going to forgive that. I'm going to forgive my spouse. I'm going to forgive that person. But then comes the problem of a time especially when you're spiritually down and that anger begins to rise again. And then you convince yourself, gosh, I'm a phony person. I said I forgive that person.
Why am I feeling that way? Why am I not forgiving that person? What happens, you load yourself with guilt. You load yourself with shame. You load with things that don't belong to you. Because in your mind, you thought you did this.
How come you're still dealing with it? In the same way, when you came to Christ, when you repented of your sins and said, Lord Jesus come into my life. I receive you as my only Savior and Lord, forgive my sins.
I repent. God says that moment you have been justified with Christ. You become a new creature in Christ. You receive the forgiveness of Jesus past, present and future. You've been forgiven.
But then comes the time when you fall and fumble in sin. You come back to Him and He forgives you again and again and again. You see, forgiveness is a what?
An act and a process. And if you don't remind yourself of this, you're going to get into trouble. Jesus forgave us when we came to Him. He keeps on forgiving us. You forgive your spouse and you keep on forgiving. As I said, the reason many people live in pain and guilt and shame and are burdened is that they go through the act of forgiving.
They go through that act and they're genuine as can be. But then there are come times when they don't feel that they have forgiven that person. And so they burden themselves.
I don't want you to be burdened. I want you to understand that it's both act and a process. And when you understand that, you will keep on forgiving. You will know how to deal with the feeling of unforgiveness when it rises its ugly head in your life. You say, Lord, you know, I forgave this person. I forgave my spouse. But today I forgive again. And as I said earlier in the message, you begin to pray for that person. You begin to pray that God will bless that person.
And God will heal you in the process. Now, try what I'm just saying here now, just for seven days, okay? Try it for seven days. Then extend it for seven more days.
Pray to God, God bless my spouse, bless this person that has wronged me, bless. Extended seven more days. Then extended seven more days. Then extended seven more days. Then extended seven more days.
You're going to reach the point where the extension is not necessary. And that experience of hurt becomes a memory. And forgiveness will reign supreme. This is Leading the Way with Dr. Michael Youssef. Now ponder those key points as they relate to your relationships.
Attack, arrest, and detain. Do you have questions about what you heard today? Let me invite you to speak with a member of the Leading the Way pastoral team. No matter the topic, we're happy to work through it with you in light of God's Word.
Just visit ltw.org slash jesus. Now before our time is gone and we have to say goodbye, allow me to challenge you to listen to a powerful podcast featuring Jonathan Youssef, the youngest son of Dr. Michael Youssef. The podcast is called Candid Conversations with Jonathan Youssef. Now as part of his vision to reach many more people with the truth of the gospel, Dr. Youssef commissioned Jonathan to explore the many cultural and life challenges of today. So now through the lens of biblical truth, he speaks with trusted voices, tackling topics like family and faith and sexuality and suicide and education and so much more. Get the details when you hit the listen link right there at ltw.org. Or you can search for Candid Conversations with Jonathan Youssef on your favorite podcast platform. Well, that's our broadcast for today. Hey, and if you ever have any questions or you want to order products from Leading the Way, or you'd like to support the ministries of Dr. Michael Youssef, please reach out 866-626-4356. That's 866-626-4356 or ltw.org. Well, that's it. But do join Dr. Michael Youssef once again next time for another edition of Leading the Way Audio. This program is furnished by Leading the Way with Dr. Michael Youssef.
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