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Reconciling Broken Relationships Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
February 24, 2021 1:00 am

Reconciling Broken Relationships Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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February 24, 2021 1:00 am

Once you’ve given up your bitterness against someone else, how do you repair the breach in your relationship? Many people live in a tangled web of hurt and alienation, and bridges need to be built to make things right.

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Once you've given up your bitterness against someone else, how do you repair the breach in your relationship? Many people live in a tangled web of hurt and alienation, and bridges need to be built to make things right. Today, the how-to of doing just that. 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, tell us where we're going today as you teach on reconciling broken relationships. Dave, what I intend to do in this message is to help people think through what sin needs to be confessed to others and what sins perhaps should not be confessed.

They may be private issues. How do people navigate all that? And what we're trying to do is to give them principles that will enable them to have that kind of wisdom. And you know, today my heart is just so filled with thanksgiving to God for this ministry. And I want to thank the many of you who support us with your prayers and your gifts. And I need to tell you that we are contemplating what the next step in our expansion should be, possibly going into another language.

Right now, we are in Spanish and Arabic and, of course, English. But we're thinking of expanding thanks to the many people who say we believe in this ministry. Would you pray for us? Pray for wisdom.

Pray for this expansion. Because what we want to do is to get the gospel to as many people as we possibly can. And now let us try to think through what it means not only to be reconciled to God, but to be reconciled to others. I'm sure you have noticed that sin always divides people.

It never unites. Sin separates us from God. It separates us from one another.

And it even separates us from ourselves. I feel sorry for some of you who grew up in homes where there were all kinds of injustices. Perhaps there were addictions and unfairness and harsh discipline. And never were these issues resolved. It was not as if this happened and there was forgiveness requested and granted.

You just kind of all shoved it down and pretended that everything was OK when it wasn't. Jesus in the fifth chapter of the book of Matthew said this. Today's message is going to be on reconciliation with broken relationships, of broken relationships. But I want to just simply read a very brief part of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said in Matthew chapter 5, and I'm actually going to pick it up here in verse 23, where Jesus said, so if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and first be reconciled to your brother and then come back and offer your gift. Jesus is saying that if you bring even a sheep perhaps to be offered and the priest is about to kill the sheep or you bring some other offering to the Lord and lo and behold, you remember that I'm out of sorts with somebody, leave it there, leave the gift there, the sacrifice, and go and be reconciled and then come. Imagine for a moment what Jesus is saying.

He is saying that reconciliation precedes worship, that if you really want to worship in God's temple or for that matter in God's church, what you need to do is to understand that these human relationships may get in the way and they need to be taken care of as best you can take care of them, and then you come to church to sing the praises of God. There's something else that I need to warn you about in this message and that is this. This is the most difficult message in the series of ten messages, the power of a clear conscience. This happens to be number nine and what a message it is going to be under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Some of you are going to have a huge difficult time with this message because the Holy Spirit is going to bring to your mind things that need to be resolved and this is not easy. The Apostle Paul said in the book of Acts chapter 24 verse 16, he said, I always seek to keep my conscience free of offense before God and before others. Before God is quite easy, you know, you come before God and you confess your sin and God's not telling anybody and he knows all about you anyway, but to go to others, now we're talking about flesh and blood, now we're talking about history, now we're talking about self-justification and all of those things, it's going to be very difficult, so difficult that I think we should pray right here and ask God to grant us the strength and the ability to be obedient to whatever he shows us.

Would you do that? Father, I pray that this message might be as clear as I'm able to make it. I pray, Father, that you'll give me wisdom to speak it well and clearly, but at the same time, Lord, we know that there are many issues that will be raised and your people need wisdom in resolving them. Would you grant us, Father, a spirit of obedience and learning, that this might be transforming and that your people would be set free, we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Amen. Well, where do we even begin? I mean, I'm thinking, for example, I began this series by telling you about a man who fathered a child in his college days and that child is growing up in another city. His wife doesn't know, his kids don't know, and he wants to worship God, but there it is.

There it is. What does he do? I think, for example, of a true story, though the names are totally fictitious, Fred marries Anne. Anne has an affair that she carries on the early years of their marriage, she's convicted, she breaks it off, she tells her lover, whom we shall call Frank, that she is going to tell her husband. Frank is very, very upset because he and Fred are actually friends. So they ask me the question, what do we do? First of all, yes, Fred is finding it difficult to forgive, though it seems as if their marriage is going to make it, but now the question is, does Fred call Frank? And what is that conversation going to be like?

Many different issues. I think, for example, of my own counseling experience when I was in the presence of a couple where the wife had to confess to her husband that their third child was not his. Wow. You remember the words? Was it Walter Scott who said, what a tangled web we weave when first we choose to deceive. Today we're talking about those tangled webs. Now I know that this message is going to scare up a lot more rabbits than I'm able to shoot. By the time I'm finished, you're going to have questions and say, well, what about this?

What about that? And you're going to have some legitimate questions that maybe I'm not able to answer, maybe somebody else can help you answer, and ultimately God has to give you the wisdom to answer. But I am going to try to give you principles that apply scripture to your particular situation. And because of that, I'm going to be very direct.

I'm going to use illustrations to help us. And at the end, I'm going to call for our obedience. You know, there's another passage we won't take time to turn to because you probably know it well in Matthew 18, where Jesus says, if your brother has something against you, go to him. If that is unresolved, bring somebody else with you. Tell it to the church, and there are steps on reconciliation.

And I'm not going to go there exactly today. I'm going to talk about those kinds of principles, but I'm interested in their application to life, and life is often messy. Are you ready for the principles? Number one, sins of the heart should be confessed to God alone. Sins of the heart should be confessed to God alone. Wouldn't it be a terrible world if we all said what we thought of one another all the time, and can you imagine the fiasco? You know, I'm just thinking, you know what I thought about you last Wednesday? Let me just tell you what came to mind.

What a mess. Thank you that the blood of Jesus Christ covers all sin, and there are many sins that need not be confessed if they are sins of the heart. Now, if you have a poisoned attitude to somebody, you can't say, well, you know, it's just my thoughts. You may have to confess that attitude, but there are plenty of things that go on in our minds that need to be left with God.

Sometimes it is OK to leave, to let the sleeping dogs lie. Second principle, sin and offense against a person should be confessed to that person. Now, because the marriage relationship is the most sensitive relationship that we have on earth, let me talk about that.

Here's a man, for example, who commits adultery. Does he have to confess to his wife? The answer is yes, or she to him. Does the man who fathered a child, does he need to eventually sit down with his wife and say, I need something?

There's something that I need to tell you so that my conscience is free of offense before God? The answer is yes. Private addictions should be confessed that rupture the marriage relationship, whether it's drugs or pornography or any other kind of addictions or stealing, as I've had in some of my counseling situations. Now, you say, well, are there times when you shouldn't confess?

And the answer is yes. I believe that there are times when you shouldn't. For example, if the relationship is already so frayed, so tenuous, if the relationship is so weak and it is already falling apart, then perhaps it is best to confess it to someone else, to a pastor or a counselor, because you may not be ready in order to be able to straighten out that relationship.

Timing, therefore, is important. Or what do you think of the man who just before he dies confesses to his wife, you know, 15 years ago I had this affair and now I'm dying and now I need to get it off my chest so that I can have a clear conscience when I enter into eternity? Well, thank you very, very much. How wonderful of you to have a clear conscience. And you dumped this now on your wife, who has to process it alone for the rest of her life. That should have been confessed when it happened so that the two of you could process it together, because these things take time. The rebuilding of trust, the whole fabric of the marriage is destroyed, and you can imagine how that affected their marriage and on and on and on it goes, but he's free now, supposedly.

What about her? I think he'd have been better off to confess that to a pastor or someone else and leave it there rather than put that on her and then die a couple of days later. Counseling sometimes is important. The relationship that if it's fragile, that also is important. But nonetheless, when the relationship is strong enough, these hidden things must at the right time, in the right way, through counseling usually, they need to come out and they need to be dealt with. And blessed are those relationships that are strong enough to handle it and within time rebuild the trust that has been so cruelly broken. I understand these things. Having been around a little while and seen couples struggle through these things must be done carefully. But God would say, I believe that these issues need to be resolved. What about theft?

You're stealing from your employer. We've had a number of instances like that too. I've gone to a hospital years ago to help a woman who was cheating on her time chart. And I interceded for her. And there are people, I remember one woman, God bless her, she was stealing money from their checking account by writing down a fraudulent number into their checking account book.

Well, she needed to get to her husband before the bank did. Let's just put it that way, okay? Let us say also that if you go to someone who harmed you, don't expect too much. If I remember correctly, about 80% of all abusers deny that they abused you. So don't expect a whole lot. It may be good for you to simply explain to them the hurt that they've created, but human nature is very entrenched.

It is protective. And if you've been listening to these messages, you know how narcissistic people are able to get and they live in denial. All right, now let's continue on. Second principle, or are we already at the third? Yes, we are at the third, of course.

I was just checking to see if you were still with me. The confession should be as broad as the offense. The confession should be as broad as the offense. I mean, you know, it's not necessary for everybody to know about this, but the people who have been affected by the hurt, they need to know about it. So what we need to do is to exercise caution and wisdom here. In the case of unrepentant elders, the Bible does say that there's a possibility there that it needs to be confessed before the congregation, but the fact is that generally speaking, most issues need to stay within the area in which the offense has been, the offense happened.

Number four, when appropriate, when appropriate, others should be present. You remember Jesus said this. He says that if you go and you can't be reconciled, bring somebody else with you. Well, of course we follow the words of Jesus, but I also think that Jesus would agree that there are times when right from the beginning, someone else should be present during this time of confession. It would have been very unwise for this woman, this mother, to confess to her husband that the third child they had was not his.

Let me just say this and take it from me. It would have been very unwise for her to approach her husband and do that on her own, but rather in the presence of someone who's able to help process this very destructive fact, that's the way in which reconciliation often helps and should be helped, I should say. Next, confession should reflect the seriousness of the offense.

It should reflect the seriousness of the offense. Now, just yesterday, I began reading Gary Chapman's book entitled When Sorry Isn't Enough. That's a great title, and the book is very, very helpful in helping us understand as to how we should ask for forgiveness and all of the elements that are involved. So what I'd like to do now is to give you the five different ways that you can say you're sorry when sorry isn't enough, and sometimes all five ways are necessary to ask for complete forgiveness. So you stay with me as we go through these five different ways to apologize. Way number one is I'm sorry, and that usually does if it's a minor thing. I'm sorry that I spilled some coffee on your coat was unintentional, but I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I happened to have forgotten to carry out the garbage. I'm sorry. A breeze there a man with soul so dead who never those things to his wife has said. I wasn't planning to quote that, by the way, and I quoted it a little differently than it was originally written, but you do get the impression.

And, of course, wives, too. You know, I'm sorry that I didn't get home when I said I was going to. Most of the day-by-day interaction between us to say that you're sorry, it is enough, but oftentimes it isn't. Okay, I messed up.

I'm thinking now of a couple where a man took their savings, and he invested it in a get-rich-quick scheme on the internet, and they lost all of their retirement. All right, I'm sorry, I messed up. Oh, okay, so let's just move on and pretend that this was no big a deal.

It is a big deal. I think sorry is not quite enough. Second, Gary says, I was wrong. I accept responsibility.

This was no minor matter. And when you say I was wrong, you do not add, okay, I was wrong, but look at what you did. That's not the way you say I was wrong. You take your responsibility so seriously, even if you think that you're only 30% responsible, you look at that 30% as if it is 100%, and you take responsibility for this, for your part. And if the other person doesn't take any responsibility, well, then you begin to understand that that's between them and God. You know, there are some people that you cannot reconcile with.

Just simply accept that they are so toxic, they are so skewed, their reality is so different from yours that there's really no way that it's possible for you to do anything else except, of course, perhaps if you feel that you have wronged them to give your side, but then don't expect anything back. What's important is that we do all that is possible for us to have a clear conscience before God and before men. Now, here's something very, very critical. When we have harmed someone, what that person wants to know is that we understand the extent of their pain. You see, that's why saying I'm sorry is often not enough, because after all, you know, if you've done something to ruin your marriage, then for you to simply say, oh, I'm sorry, I mean, you're sorry?

Thank you. But do you understand the pain that you caused in this relationship? And it would be good for you to be able to articulate the pain and to say I know that my actions did this, this, this, this, this, because the person whose forgiveness you are seeking needs to know that you understand the depth of the pain. You know, where sin is dealt with thought of superficially, it is dealt with superficially. And sometimes sin is not at all superficial.

Actually, it never is, but there are some instances in which it is absolutely huge. So to say I was wrong may be very, very important as you get to the depths of the reconciliation process. Well, I'm following Gary Chapman now.

Number three for him is this. How can I make it right? How can I make it right? Now, there's some things you can't make right, but there are other things that you can, and one of those things is what we call restitution. You know, in the 19th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, there's a very interesting story of a man by the name of Zacchaeus, who was a small man, and so he goes up the sycamore tree to see Jesus going by, and Jesus just, apparently from our standpoint, arbitrarily says to him, hey, Zacchaeus, come down from the tree.

I'm coming over to your house. Now remember, he was a tax collector, and tax collectors did not have a good reputation. They really did not.

99% of them made the other 1% have a bad name, let's just say. I think that that floated past you far too quickly. And so Jesus is there, and Zacchaeus evidently believes on Jesus, and he says, half of my goods I'm giving to the poor, and if I defrauded anyone, I'm going to pay them back fourfold. And you know what the next words of Jesus were? Jesus said, salvation has come to this house.

Yeah. Well, my dear friend, this is Pastor Luther, and we really do have to live out the forgiveness and the reconciliation that we talk about, don't we? I've written a book entitled The Power of a Clear Conscience, and I want to read a letter that we received from one of our listeners. He writes, I've struggled with great guilt, severe anxiety, and depression for so long, even have read Christian books on anxiety, but not knowing that I needed the issue of my conscience settled once for all. I received God's forgiveness with wide open arms, with gladness and joy. I experienced my conscience being cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. No longer does my mind condemn me nor criticize me, nor feel foreboding and troubled after reading this book.

All that is gone. The title of the book is The Power of a Clear Conscience. If you'd like to have this resource, we're making it available to all those who give a gift for any amount. Here's what you can do. Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now, I neglected to mention that this is one of the last days that we're making this resource available. So right now, you can go to or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. Ask for the book The Power of a Clear Conscience. And thanks in advance for helping us as we share the gospel of Jesus Christ with thousands upon thousands of people. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you find God's roadmap for your race of life. Making things right with someone you've wronged or someone who has wronged you is not easy.

Next time, more practical steps to take to reconcile with another person. Thanks for listening. This is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-22 06:50:33 / 2023-12-22 06:59:15 / 9

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