Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.
Each of us is wired from birth to put self first. Only the Spirit of God can smooth the rough edges and help us extend ourselves in blessing to others. Today, the story of a cab driver with a horrid past, a man who needed a friend. 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 will be in Romans chapter 12.
Tell us what to expect. Well, you know, Romans chapter 12 is pivotal in living the Christian life. It begins by telling us to renew our minds, and then it goes on to give us many different commands as to how to live among one another, including being able to emotionally identify with people, weeping with those who weep, rejoicing with those who rejoice. Rebecca and I have written a book entitled Life Changing Bible Verses You Should Know. This book deals with about 40 different topics. It deals with each topic briefly regarding issues of the Christian life, regarding theology. It will help you in your walk.
It will help you even as you think about relationships. For a gift of any amount, it can be yours. Here's what you do.
Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Ask for Life Changing Bible Verses You Should Know. And now let us listen carefully as we open our Bibles to Romans chapter 12. We rejoice with those who rejoice, which is very difficult to do. To weep with those who weep, that's even the unsaved can weep with those who weep.
But can we rejoice with those who rejoice? Somebody who's always been a little bit uppity in relationship to you, a little bit bragging, you know, and we've all met people like that. They're like a cowboy I once knew in Texas.
He was all hat and no cows. You know, you know the color, right? We've all met people like that. And then suddenly they get a windfall. You know, they call you on the phone and they say, you know, my uncle died and I just inherited $2 million.
I just learned. And they say, let's go celebrate. Let's go to McDonald's and celebrate. Then you go with them to McDonald's and they expect you to pay for your own burger. Can you rejoice with them?
Oh, that's difficult to do. The Bible says, rejoice with those who rejoice. I've always prayed that God would enable me to rejoice over those who are more successful than I. And imagine when we get to heaven, Jonathan Edwards says, we are going to be so free of envy that when we see those above us in the kingdom, we will rejoice as if their exaltation were our own.
Humility means that we rejoice with those who rejoice and we weep with those who weep and we are not conceited. You, we read the text here and we associate with those who are lowly in the early church. Slavery was still a problem, but one of the things that the church insisted on was that the slaves sit with the owners in the early church. They sit with the owners in the same bench because they knew that to make a distinction was unscriptural. That's why James says, if somebody comes into your assembly and he's got all kinds of gold chains and he's living large, you don't put him in a special category.
No, no, no, no, no. He sits with the rest. It means impartiality. How does humility help us to get along with one another? Humility makes us realize that we do not have to insist upon our rights. We give up our right even to happiness. We give up our right to be somebody.
We give up our right to be noticed and to be recognized and we give all of those rights over to God and we no longer have them and that enables us to have a different kind of relationship with people because we are now no longer obsessed with fairness. You see, it is fairness that makes us so angry because we feel as if it isn't fair. This isn't fair.
That isn't fair. He gets that fair, fair, fair, fair. When we are finally broken before God and totally humble, we realize something that grace isn't fair. The fact that God loved us so much and forgave all of our sins, that isn't fair and therefore because grace isn't fair, we're willing to live with unfairness and we're not obsessed with the need to make sure that we get our piece of the pie because we are content with who we are and our relationship with God. We fight for fairness on the part of others, but we ourselves are not obsessed with the need of our own need to be treated fairly. That's the way we get along with one another and God helps us in the process. We think of Jesus, you know the Bible says that God humbled himself and yet man remains proud. So what is God trying to do?
He's trying to help us get over the idea that we have rights that we need to hang on to. I told you years ago about a woman who came to see me buckets full, buckets full of papers, trying to prove that one of the hospitals here in the area had been guilty of malpractice and that's why her mother died. How many years ago did this happen?
Seven. I've been to all these attorneys, these attorneys, these attorneys, but maybe you as a pastor could help me. Lady, maybe the hospital is as guilty as you think it is, but give it up. Life is passing you by. Move on. And as we shall see in a moment, we don't have to reconcile all of these things in this life, so hang on. First of all, we have the power of blessing. Secondly, the power of humility. Thirdly, the power of faith.
Now the word faith doesn't occur in verse 17 and following, but you'll see in a moment why I have labeled it faith. You need faith to be able to obey this. It says, repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.
Wow. Faith. Why faith? Faith means that I don't have to get vengeance. Faith means I don't have to even the score. I don't have to say, you know, you did me this evil and so I'll show you a thing or two and I'll do this evil back. Faith means that I can entrust God to even the score and I don't need to settle these disputes because vengeance belongs to God. In the Old Testament, where it says an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, it says that because it wanted to limit vengeance. And by the way, that was not a personal thing that you were supposed to do. That was part of civic law because when you have someone who deliberately pokes out your eye, what do you want to do?
You're absolutely insistent that you poke out both of his eyes and do a whole lot more. There's something within us that desires vengeance and vengeance belongs to God and not to you. You commit it to the Lord and you walk away free. Two examples from Scripture. Joseph, as you know, was a man of God who understood the providence of God. He knew that the evil that his brothers had done against him would be used for good. After his dad dies, this is in the 50th chapter of Genesis, we have the brothers coming to Joseph and they say, oh, you know, we're afraid. The Bible says they were so afraid that Joseph would take out vengeance on them.
Finally, now that dad is dead, we'll even the score. So they come to him and they say, you know, our father before he died says that you shouldn't repay us because of the evil that we've done. Joseph breaks out weeping, the Bible says. When he heard it, he wept.
Why? He wept because he thought to himself, you mean even at this point, my brothers still think that I'm the kind of person who's going to mete out vengeance, who's going to even the score. And he was terribly hurt.
And he was terribly hurt. And then he said these words, am I in the place of God for you? What Joseph is saying is, look, if I were to even the score and take out vengeance, I'd be doing God's work. I'd be saying, God, you're not doing anything. So you move over.
You're too slow. Years go by and you're not doing anything about this situation. So I'm taking it into my hands and I'm finally setting the record straight. Joseph said, I won't do that because I'd be doing what belongs to God. Vengeance, the text says, is mine. You do not repay evil for evil. You leave it to God and you trust him. And that's where faith comes in.
It's an old story. But I've had women come to me and say, so you expect me to get rid of my bitterness toward my husband? Here he divorced me. He leaves me with the kids.
I've got two jobs to keep things together. He's down in Florida somewhere, has a good job, won't make child payments. And now you expect me to be the one to release all that bitterness to God. Where is justice? Isn't that what we want?
Of course we want it. And God has built the desire for justice within our hearts. Our hearts cry out, where is justice? And for years I didn't know how to answer that until I had the insight from first Peter chapter two, verse 23, which you've heard me quote many times regarding Jesus, who when he was reviled, reviled not again. When he suffered, he uttered no threats. He didn't say, now wait till I'm in charge. I'm going to blow you guys away.
Am I ever going to even this score? He uttered no threats. But what did he do? Did he give up his desire for justice?
No. He kept entrusting himself to him who judges righteously. Jesus said, I can endure this injustice because I know that there's a time when my case will be tried by the Supreme Court and I can trust my father in the end to do right by me.
My friend, you do not have to even the score. Your desire for justice is well founded, but what you need to do is to be sure to give yourself fully and totally to God and to trust him. That's where faith comes in. That he will do what you're not supposed to. Let God be God. Let me nail this down now in our relationships as we think about the power of blessing, the power of humility, and then the power of faith.
First, keep this in mind. God has a reason for your conflict. God has a reason for your conflict. God wants to reproduce in us those qualities that Jesus had, so he has to put us through some of the experiences that Jesus had. A man once asked a sculptor, how do you make an elephant?
The sculptor said it's not hard at all. All that you do is you take a block of marble and then you chip away everything that isn't elephant. What is God doing? He's chipping away everything that isn't Jesus, and he's molding us into his image, and difficult people do that best in our lives. If I had more time, I could give you illustrations of this.
Secondly, keep this in mind. God has a reason for your conflict, and secondly, our treatment of others is based on God's treatment of us. Our treatment of others is based on God's treatment of us.
What does the Bible say in Ephesians 4? Be tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ has forgiven you. Has God forgiven you much? Is there anyone here today who says, yes, God has forgiven me much. My hand is raised.
What about yours? He has forgiven us so many times, even the same sins over and over again. We knew better.
We despised him by doing our own thing. He has forgiven us and forgiven us and forgiven us, and now why are you so stingy when it comes to forgiving others who have hurt you? You see, the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ gave himself up for us, and if you're here today and you've never received his grace and his love, understand that he died for sinners so that if we stop trusting ourselves and we trust only in Jesus, that we can be forgiven and we can experience grace, and because we can experience grace, we can now dish it out liberally, and love covers a multitude of sins. Finally, the final resolution of conflict is God's business. The final resolution of conflict is God's business. Now the Bible says, as much as lies within you, verse 18, live peaceably with all. Can you live peaceably with everybody?
No. There are all kinds of people you can't live peaceably with. There are people who refuse to make peace.
There are people who make false accusations. There are people who, if you tried to make peace, would use it against you to control you. There are all kinds of people you cannot have peace with, but as much as lies in you, so far as your side of the ledger is concerned, do what you possibly can, and then what do you do?
You trust God and you believe that in the final judgment, God is going to make it right and all the truth is going to come out, and you're willing to trust him for the final resolution. Here are two people, both of whom claim to be Christians, let us suppose, and here's a man who leaves his wife, divorces her, goes with another woman, and they are separated. There's all kind of bitterness. There's not a reconciliation.
There's no justice in terms of payments, all of those ugly situations. They both die. Do you think that when they get to heaven, God is going to say, well, you know, the blood of Christ forgives everybody's sin, you're a Christian, she's a Christian, now is the time for you to walk into heaven happily, hold hands, and we'll just pretend bygones are bygones.
Not at all. That's what the judgment seat of Jesus Christ is for. It's to resolve unresolved issues. There at the judgment seat, everything is going to be drawn out. Everything is going to be dragged out. Justice is going to be brought to that situation before they are allowed to enter into heaven permanently. That's why the justice of God is going to be manifest at the judgment seat of Jesus Christ. When we shall all receive, the Bible says, based on the deeds done in the body, whether they be good or evil. In the case of Christians, that's what will happen, and then they will go into heaven permanently and eternally.
But what about the unsaved? They are going to have to bear their own sin, and they will bear that for all of eternity. If you're here today and have never trusted Christ as savior, you've never believed on him, just understand that you are not under the protection of Jesus Christ from God's wrath and from God's justice, and God is an avenger for those who do not know him personally. And what will happen is every sin, every transgression is going to be part of the final evaluation. And at that great day called the great white throne judgment, you will stand there bearing your own sin and your own iniquity. That's why it's so important for you to flee today to Jesus. Because when you receive him as savior, God's vengeance has been received by Jesus and you are exempt. That is the good news of the gospel, and that's a good place for this text to end.
You see, the Bible says this in Romans chapter 12. It ends by saying in verse 21, do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Did you know that if you're avenger, did you know that if you're a vengeful person, you have been overcome by evil?
You've conquered, evil has conquered you. Today I encourage you to give up your vengeance. If you've never received Jesus Christ as savior, you receive his forgiveness and then you begin to forgive all of the hurts, all of the anxieties, all of the concerns that you have today.
And if you are a believer, how could I put this more strongly? Having bitterness and anger in our hearts does more to hinder the work of the Holy Spirit than anything else. So I conclude today by saying to you, give it up, lay it down, and be free in Jesus.
Let's pray. Our Father, we want to thank you today for the fact that you have rebuked us today. You have reminded us that the people that are brought into our lives that are difficult are there for a purpose, to make us more like Jesus.
And we've rebelled and we've been angry and we have lashed out and we've been filled with rage and we are obsessed with fairness and justice. And you're saying, let me take charge of all of that. We ask, O Lord, that you shall grant us the grace to do that in your love and mercy. And for those who are here who have never trusted Christ as Savior, we pray that they might do that. Before I close this prayer now, what is it that you need to say to God?
You talk to him now because he's listening. Father, whatever you've begun to do, make us follow through with it, we pray. A brief prayer probably is not sufficient, but it can be the beginning point when we say, O Lord, today we get rid of the bitterness, we get rid of the vengeful spirit, and we want to walk in the freedom of Jesus. Grant that we ask in your holy name. Amen. Amen.
Yes, my friend, God does give us the grace to lay it down. My wife, Rebecca, and I have written about a book entitled Life-Changing Bible Verses You Should Know. I also want you to realize that this is the second to last day that we are making this resource available to you. Perhaps you've heard me say this on previous programs, but it covers more than 40 different topics. These topics have to do with Christian living, also Christian doctrine. We believe that this will be a tremendous help with you as you make progress in your Christian experience.
Ask for the book Life-Changing Bible Verses You Should Know. For a gift of any amount, it can be yours, and as I've already emphasized, today is the second to last day that we are making this resource available. Here's what you can do. Go to rtwoffer.com.
That's rtwoffer.com, or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. Take advantage of this opportunity. I believe that it will be, as I've mentioned before, a tremendous help in your Christian experience. Ask for Life-Changing Bible Verses You Should Know.
Go to rtwoffer.com or pick up the phone right now and call 1-888-218-9337. Time once again for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Most Christians see heaven as the ideal place of rest and rejoicing, but one Running to Win listener is concerned that not all of heaven will be gladness and light. She asks, what about painful memories in heaven? Well, my friend, today I do think that in heaven those painful memories will vanish. You know, the Bible says that God will wipe away all tears from their eyes. Those may be tears as a result of our own failures. When we think of the way in which we lived in light of all the opportunities that we had, we may experience some deep regret and God will wipe tears from our eyes. Maybe also we will be weeping when we think of those who are not in heaven, whom we love, who will be lost forever.
I could think that that also would produce tears, but here's the point that's important. God will wipe away all tears. I don't think that means that God is going to go about with a handkerchief, wiping the tears from our eyes. I think that means that God is going to give us his perspective. We're going to see things from his viewpoint. We will discover that once we look at it through his eyes, so to speak, and his prism, that all things are well, justice has been done, the will of God has been accomplished in heaven and on earth, and the painful memories will all be gone. So don't worry about that. What we should worry about is living for God with all the energy and enthusiasm that we have until we see him face to face.
What a day that will be. Thank you, Pastor 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. That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois 60614. The government is repressing the freedoms Christians once had, favoring the agendas of same-sex marriage and unrestricted abortion. When the red, white, and blue no longer blends with the cross of Christ, what do believers do? Next time on Running to Win, don't miss the last message in this series, one on what to do when loyalties collide. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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