Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Many look back and see horrible abuses they've suffered or others they've abused.
Even though forgiven by God, they feel dirty and that feeling turns into depression and anger. Is there a way out of being chained to the past? Please stay with us. 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, your current series is about restoring the soul, healing in an age of brokenness. We can't turn back the clock.
So what do we do? Dave, I think in a single sentence, what we have to do is to cleave to God, to cleave to his promises and believe that God has the ability to take us from where we are to the next step where he wants us to be. It's absolutely true that we cannot pray as the teenager did, Oh God, I pray that this accident might not have happened. The past is past, but God is able to forgive it and to give us hope.
And that's why the Ministry of Running to Win exists. And we also want to make resources available so that people are enabled to run the race of life successfully. I have in my hands a book that my wife and I have written entitled Life Changing Bible Verses You Should Know. Actually, it's not so much about Bible verses as it is about various topics about Christian living. For example, issues such as the glory of God, God, grace, grief, heaven, hell, the Holy Spirit, hope, the fear of the Lord, justification, and the list goes on.
Each of these topics has two or three pages, but it introduces you to all aspects of Christian living. I think it'll be a great blessing to you. It'll be a great blessing to your friends. For a gift of any amount, it can be yours.
You go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Here at Running to Win, we're here to encourage, we're here to guide, and to give you hope. Louis Smeeds wrote that one of God's better jokes on us is to give us the power to remember the past, but give us no power to undo it. We've all wished, had we not, for a magic cloth to wipe the past away. We think that we remember the past very accurately, and it happened as we remembered it, but if only the past had been different. For many of you, the past is an open wound, very sensitive, very raw. How does a woman put her past behind her if in point of fact she comes home one day as happened and discovered that her husband is in bed with her daughter? What happens when a young boy is lured by a priest into a sexual relationship and a part of the childhood of that boy is forever missing? What about the grown boy who is now a man but inside still a boy, still longing for the acceptance that was given to him, or I should say longing for the acceptance that was denied him by an abusive father?
And what about the girl who was date raped? How do you put your past behind you? I have a solution today. It's the only solution.
It's not an easy solution, but it is the only one that is out there. The Bible says that a spirit of a man can endure his illness, but a wounded spirit who can bear. What we need to keep in mind is that the deepest wounds that people face are not physical wounds. They are the wounds done by others that just seem to not go away, but if we live with bitterness and anger, bitterness and anger have a lot of relatives that they always bring into our souls once they are there. Some of those relatives are depression, hard-heartedness, rage, and oftentimes directed toward God or the people of God, and people say, you know, I hate them so I hate their God. I'm sure before I've used the illustration of Nancy Reagan, who said that her father as a boy in Sunday school memorized verses, but he was denied the Bible that was available that was given to the pastor's son who didn't memorize the verses as well, but he was the pastor's boy and so he got it.
Nancy said that her father never darkened the door of the church again until he died in his 80s. Wow! One root of bitterness, the Bible says, springing up, defiling many. As you know, this is a series of messages on restoring the soul, and last week I told you I was going to speak on the topic of breaking the cycle. What I did not realize is that in my mind, the sequence of these messages was just a little bit confused, so you're going to get that next week. This week, the issue is that having been forgiven by God, we must forgive. Now I'll tell you what I'm going to do.
I'm going to let you know up front what my agenda is so that you don't have to be listening to the message trying to figure it out. When it comes to this matter of hurt and bitterness and an unforgiving spirit, what we do in our minds is we build fortifications around our wounds. These are fortifications that are built through years oftentimes of rationalization, of self-justifications, of the fantasies of revenge, and these fortifications are there. And then when a message like this is preached, antennas go up all over the place saying, saying danger, danger, danger, someone is encroaching onto my wound. Well, I'll tell you what I want to do is I want to go under your radar. I want to smash those fortifications by the power of God's word and his blessed Holy Spirit, and I want to get right to your heart and I want to break down all of the denial and the defenses and get right to your wound.
That's what I'm aiming for, is everyone clear as to where we're going in the next few moments. So what I'd like to do, God helping me, is based on the 18th chapter of Matthew, though I am only going to be referring to the passage incidentally. I've preached on this before many years ago and went through the whole passage, but I'm going to assume you know the story of that Jesus told about the need for forgiveness. But what I'd like to do is to give you six misconceptions that people have, misconceptions that keep people from freedom in Christ and a whole heart.
What are those misconceptions? First of all, that we should forgive only when asked. That we should forgive only when asked. You know when Jesus said there in Matthew 18 that we should forgive 70 times 7, or some translations say 77. Either way, when Jesus said we should forgive, I don't think that he assumed that each time the offender came and asked for forgiveness. There is such a thing as unilateral forgiveness. Now in this message I'm going to be mentioning a lot of first names, and I want you to know that these first names are completely disconnected from the stories that I will tell you.
The stories are essentially true, but the names obviously have been changed. So if you think that you know who I'm talking about, I can tell you with apodictic certainty you're wrong. But let's talk about Jennifer. She was told that she should forgive her alcoholic father who abused her, who came into the room at night and whipped her, and sexually even was involved with her. And she is supposed to forgive, and he has not asked forgiveness. And she's saying, why should I forgive in light of the fact that he hasn't even requested it?
Now listen to this carefully. If we tell Jennifer, Jennifer you don't have to forgive until your dad asks for forgiveness, do you know what we're saying? We're saying that Jennifer has to be imprisoned in her bitterness until her father unlocks the key to her heart and lets her free.
I think that's putting a whole lot of responsibility in the hands of an abuser. The simple fact is that Jennifer can have a freedom in Jesus Christ quite apart from whether or not her father asks. Now even if her father were to ask for forgiveness, I'm not sure that Jennifer knows exactly whether she would forgive him or not, but she knows that that's not a possibility because her father will not even acknowledge the wrong. I know that there are some Bible teachers who teach that we should not forgive or we don't have to until we have been asked to. And I understand what they're saying.
I understand the passages that they base this on. But I want you to know today that looking at forgiveness the way I do, I disagree with that because it means that someone cannot have a whole heart until the offender cooperates. And I want you to know today that there is a sense in which forgiveness can be offered even if it is not received, even if it is not welcomed, even if it is not asked for. There is a freedom to what I sometimes call one-sided forgiveness. There are some of you here today who've been waiting for that father, that mother, that relative, that brother or sister or friend to ask for forgiveness. Don't keep waiting.
It may not come. But today there is a freedom that Jesus can give you. Let me give you a second misconception that forgiveness means reconciliation. Let's talk about Linda, the woman I mentioned a moment ago who comes home and finds her husband in bed with her daughter, with their daughter. Linda said that it was as if the world in which she lived suddenly disappeared and there was no world except a world of unbelievable betrayal, hurt, a world in which everything that she believed and trusted was shattered. And because her husband was in a vulnerable moment as she confronted him with other things that she thought were in his life, he confessed that, yes, he had had a number of liaisons at work as well. And now suddenly Linda, who in her despair talks to a friend, the friend says, Linda, you're a Christian.
What you have to do is you have to forgive and forget and you have to be reconciled to your husband and move on as if it never happened. And Linda is saying, I can't do that. I can't pretend as if it never happened.
I can't just go on from here as if everything is supposed to be the same. And dare I say that it is important for Linda to know that she can forgive even though reconciliation is a separate question. You see, Jesus there in the same passage in the 18th chapter of Matthew, he talks about reconciliation.
He said, if you have something against your brother, if something has happened, you go. If it can't be reconciled, you take others with you and so forth. And then Jesus says, if he will not hear you, then there's nothing further that you can do. But that person has to be looked at as an unbeliever. Even Jesus knew that reconciliation is sometimes not possible.
It's not possible for a number of different reasons. It's not possible because the person, the offender, might not acknowledge the sin or the crime. Secondly, he may acknowledge it but consider it minor. This happens in marriage counseling all the time.
The woman is greatly hurt and the man is saying, well, look, okay, I messed up. But let's move on from here. It's really no big deal.
Okay, okay. It's not okay with the wife because she has been more deeply hurt and more deeply grieved and she's not prepared to think that reconciliation is possible. Or it is possible that he acknowledges it but the whole issue of trust. How do you trust a man who's done all these things, a man in whom you put your confidence, a man in whom you essentially believe that he was honest?
How do you trust him? All kinds of issues have to be dealt with. I have frequently recommended the book written by Dave Carter entitled Torn Asunder because one of the ministries that he has in his church in California where he is on staff is to have seminars for couples where there has been adultery working through the situation in the rebuilding of trust and the rebuilding of confidence because while there can be forgiveness and there should be forgiveness, reconciliation often takes a lot of time and a lot of effort. And even then, sometimes it fails. Now we should work toward reconciliation, obviously.
So let me put it to you very clearly. It only takes one person to forgive but it takes two people to be reconciled. Some of you think that if you forgive you have to go back to where you were, not necessarily. Let's go on to a third misconception and that is that forgiveness minimizes the offense.
Disminimizes the offense. So let's talk about Susan. She's part of a family.
The family has lots of money. The mother died years ago. The father dies. One of her brothers chisels her out of her inheritance. She's got a lot of money coming but because he manipulated the father before the father died, he was able to get a sharp attorney and so basically he ends up with all the money. Susan is a single mother who could use a few hundred thousand dollars but her brother has it all and she doesn't really have enough money to fight it because it was done in such a way that legally it can't really be changed and so now Susan is told well forgive and move on and she's saying forgive?
Are you serious? Don't you understand? I mean this, to somebody else it may not be that big a thing but to me it is a huge thing and my brother, my younger brother did it and you're thinking I should just say okay forgive and move on as if nothing serious happened. What we need to say to Susan is Susan, we're not minimizing the evil and I want to call it that, the evil that your brother did but you must forgive and move on. Now let's get to the parable of Jesus. You remember Jesus said that there was a king who had a servant who owed him ten thousand talents. Each talent is about a thousand dollars multiplied out, ten million dollars and this man owed that much money and the king was going to throw him in debtors prison and you know what happened? The Bible says that that servant who owed so much money fell at the feet of the king and says have patience with me and I'll pay you everything and the king had mercy upon him and forgave him the debt, ten million dollars. You know what Jesus wants us to see in the parable? He wants us to see ourselves. He wants us to recognize that the ten million dollars is what we owe God.
In fact, it's even greater than that because theoretically that man could have somehow worked it off. Maybe he could have won the lottery or something and gotten ten million dollars but you and I can never work it off. Could my tears forever flow? Could my zeal, no respite, no. All for sin could not atone. Thou must save and thou alone. We cannot pay our debt. Jesus had to pay it for us. Now here's the question. Is forgiveness free? Well it depends how you look at it.
It's free to the person who received it and if the person who received it somehow minimizes it that's just the reality of it but it's very expensive to the one who gave it because at the end of the fiscal year that king was out by ten million dollars and had to absorb the loss. And Susan is going to have to absorb the loss and she's going to have to absorb the loss and let her brother go free. Oh you say but Pastor Luther you're missing it. You don't understand. Don't you understand, I can imagine somebody saying it, don't you just understand how unfair forgiveness really is. And I say to you today that if you say that forgiveness is unfair I thank God because at last you're beginning to understand it. It is grossly unfair. What could be more unfair than a spotless sinless son of God having laid upon him in iniquities that he never committed to die for people who were rebellious to pay their price so that you and I could freely believe and be acquitted by God.
Can you think of anything more unfair than that? And I want you to know today that after this message is over I'm going to give an invitation and I'm going to invite many of you to come and to do something that is incredibly unfair. I'm going to ask you to forgive those who have wronged you. Well my friend you're not here at the Moody Church to participate in an invitation that I gave but God sees no matter where you are he knows where you are. Some of you are in a car, some of you are listening at your home or at your business wherever you may hear this message whether by radio or internet or some other way God has spoken to your soul.
There is hope but I encourage you to lay that bitterness and anger down. Forgiveness is unfair but thank God for forgiveness because by it we are redeemed. My wife and I have written a book entitled Life-Changing Bible Verses You Should Know. It's really a discussion of various topics in Christian living including redemption including justification. It's intended to help you make progress in the Christian life. If you read this book you'll be introduced to all aspects of Christian living and doctrine.
For a gift of any amount it can be yours. Here's what you do go to rtwoffer.com or if you prefer you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. I want to emphasize that we here at Running to Win are deeply committed to help you deal with issues in your life so that God may find you and me and everyone listening faithful no matter the pressure, no matter the situations that we are in. Ask for the book entitled Life-Changing Bible Verses You Should Know.
Go to rtwoffer.com or you can pick up the phone and call right now 1-888-218-9337. It's time once again for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Broken relationships can cause untold pain.
An anonymous listener contacted us with this question. How do you deal with someone who says they have forgiven you but continues to not want a relationship with you? This is the case with me and my daughter.
Well, I have a word or two to this dear mother. First of all, what you need to do is to ask exactly what was your part in causing this disrupter of relationship. Apparently you had done something because your daughter says that she forgives you and that seems to be the problem. She says she forgives and yet she doesn't act like it. So ask yourself again as I'm sure you have done many times, what is it really that I have done and have you adequately asked for her forgiveness? Now if the answer to that question is yes, now we go on to a second stage in this relationship. Your daughter says that she forgives you but she doesn't want to have anything to do with you.
Well, what you need to do is to continue to love her, respect her, let her keep her distance because the more you pester her to have a relationship, I can almost guarantee the more she's going to back away. So what you do is you display loving kindness and care that your responsibility. What you need to do is to give her space and trust God that in his grace as you are loving and you are not condemning that your daughter will eventually soften her heart and there'll be reconciliation.
Don't try to work at reconciliation too hard after you have done your part. God has to do the rest. Thank you Dr. Lutzer for your answer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at rtwoffer.com and there you can click on Ask Pastor Lutzer or call us at 1-888-218-9337.
That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. Your past may be a black hole, sucking all the joy from your life. Even bright prospects for tomorrow are dimmed by memories you can't shake. Next time on Running to Win, you'll find freedom from the despair of harboring a grudge and the way back to hope for the future even when injustice is being done against you. Plan to join us. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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