Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.
People look forward to getting together with friends and relatives. But many dread these times because it means facing those who've hurt us, or worse, those we've hurt. Today, putting damaged relationships back on track. 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, it takes heavenly humility for us to restore broken earthly relationships, doesn't it?
It really does. And of course, even as we think of the Christmas season, many families will be getting together, and oftentimes there's lots of hostility in the room because there are unresolved issues. We hear it, Running to Win, and you hear it often. We exist to help people make it all the way to the finish line and to do so successfully, running the race of life. But you know, we can't run that race alone. We can encourage others, but we run together. Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? I think of endurance partners as members of the Running to Win family.
They help us each month with their prayers and their gifts. Of course, you need more info, so here's what you can do. Go to RTWOffer.com. That's RTWOffer.com. Of course, RTWOffer is all one word.
RTWOffer.com. When you're there, click on the endurance partner button, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. And remember, we are running a race, and we can't run it alone, but we help each other all the way to the finish line. You say to them, because I have wronged you, I seek your forgiveness.
Now, here it gets tricky. What the other person might say is, well, it wasn't really that big a deal. Don't you dare be satisfied with that, and I'll tell you why.
What they want to do is to keep the teeter-totter balanced. You see, what they want to say is, you know, if I actually forgive this person, if I say I forgive you, then the weight and the responsibility is now with me, and the teeter-totter is no longer in balance, but all the weight now comes on my side, and now suddenly I become responsible for my responses, and I would much prefer if I could just continue to fester this hatred and this dislike for this person. And if I forgive him, God knows what's going to happen.
It's all going to fall on me. So I prefer to say, well, it wasn't that big a deal. Then what you say, with a smile on your face, of course, all of this is happening with smiles. You say, you know, I just find it so wonderful if you could find it in your heart to forgive me, and I'd love to hear you say those words, I forgive you, for X, Y, and Z. Now, if the person isn't ready and says, I can't forgive, then you simply say that when you're ready, you come and tell me. But reconciliation with you is a very, very high priority within the church. And the more powerful the Holy Spirit of God works, the more powerful people overcome all kinds of barriers and bitternesses and long-standing family feuds and arguments and who was right and who said what. And it's all laid down because Jesus forgave us, and therefore we are quick to forgive. Forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake, has forgiven you. We seek reconciliation through forgiveness. That's the first principle. Second principle is that our confession must be as broad as the offense.
It must be as broad as the offense. Look at what it says again. I'm reading again, chapter 18, verse 15 of Matthew. If your brother sins against you, go show him his fault just between the two of you. At this point, there's no use bringing others in. If it is a personal feud and a personal offense, then what happens is you go to the people who are involved, and at that point, it doesn't have to go beyond that. Later on, some member of the church may get involved, as Jesus said, if there cannot be reconciliation.
But you don't begin at that point. You go to the person whom you've wronged, and you ask their forgiveness, and you receive their forgiveness. Now, of course, there are all kinds of complicated situations.
Anyone who's done any counseling knows that immediately this question is asked. What about a man who may have an affair or a woman who may have an affair? What do we do then? A couple of months ago, I told you that after a worship time in Minneapolis, two or three hundred men came forward when an invitation was given for all those who are involved in adulterous relationships that need to make something right.
And it dawned on me that that's just like men because men are oftentimes the aggressors, and then in my more sober moments, it also dawned on me that that meant that there were two or three hundred women also involved in this. What happens then? To whom does this man have to confess now? He confesses to the person with whom he had the relationship, most assuredly, because there has been wrong there, but he has also wronged his wife because of the delicate nature of the marriage relationship. And yes, in order to have reconciliation in that home, in order for that to take place, there must also be reconciliation between the spouse who has been wronged.
And I suggest to you today that if you're in that category, that you talk to one of the pastors who can help you and maybe meet with a pastor as they guide you through the process, because that can be a very difficult process, but at the end of the day, our desire is that our conscience be cleared because if not, what we'll discover is that something will always be in the way when we really want to walk with God. You say, well, do we have to confess longstanding sins? Well, that depends. There are some things, of course, that after a period of years might be less relevant, but have you ever noticed this? How long does it take you to forget someone who lied to you? And you forget that in about a month, huh? What about a year? Ten years.
Do you still remember it? Or do you remember their birthday much better than the fact that they lied to you? How long does it take you? How long does it take you to forget someone who cheated you out of $5,000 and they cheated you out of money? How long does it take you to forget that? Is that something that you forget about? And lo and behold, you meet them six months later and it doesn't even come to mind.
It doesn't even cross your pure mind that they cheated you out of $5,000. I'm glad that some of you are smiling. I'll tell you, we remember offenses much better than we do blessings. And that's why offenses sometimes are such a huge stumbling block because there are people who've had offenses in their life for 10 years, for 20 years, for 30 years, and they keep harboring it and they keep nurturing it and they keep reminding themselves and God of it.
I read a quote the other day that just happens to come to mind right here, and that is, you really know that you've remade God in your own image when he ends up hating the same people that you do. Someone came to me and said, what about lying under oath? This person lied under oath 25 years ago.
Now they want to be fully right with God and with man. In a case like that, the issues may no longer be relevant, perhaps confessing that to a pastor or to someone else and seeking resolution may be possible. As I am saying here, there's a matter of judgment that goes into this. I think it's so important to realize that there are times when you've done things in the past maybe where you should not seek forgiveness. For example, a man came to me and said, I really wronged a young woman when I was in college. And he says, this is upon my conscience, but she is now married to someone else and has children. Does he go to her in the midst of her marriage and try to drag up the past and to say, look at what happened in the past and will you forgive me? Probably not.
Probably not. There are some things that can be forgiven by God and then forgiven by others who know about it, who absolve you on a human level. We do not have the ability, of course, as counselors and pastors to forgive sins. I don't mean that, but sometimes people need to be affirmed in the fact that they are forgiven. I encourage you to seek God at this point with all of your heart and to ask him this simple question, what do I have to do? What do I have to do to be fully right with God and with others?
There is a third principle, and now it begins to hurt. Are you still all with me? God bless you.
Every once in a while, you know, I feel a little lonely up here. I could use an amen. I could use an amen, you know, if you're with me. All of this was prologue. Do you want to really keep going here?
You do? Praise God. Praise God.
Yeah. When necessary, reconciliation necessitates restitution. Restitution. You know, the Bible has a whole theology of restitution.
If you look at the Old Testament, it was always assumed that reconciliation involved restitution if it was possible. Remember the story of Zacchaeus? Jesus comes to Zacchaeus, and he was a chief tax collector, and he was wealthy, and he wanted to see who Jesus was, and he says, Jesus, come to my house. We used to have a little chorus we sang in Sunday school, come to my house for tea.
I guess the chorus was made up by someone in Britain coming to the house for tea. But it says in verse 8, but Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, look, Lord, here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor. And now remember, he's a tax collector, and these folks were not always examples of honesty. And if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount. Wow.
I think God would be satisfied with the amount, but he says four times the amount if I cheated anybody. Can you imagine how much salvation, restoration cost Zacchaeus? The very next verse Jesus said to him, today salvation has come to this house.
Wow. I have a friend who went into the garage to pray. I've prayed in the garage many times. When I was growing up, I used to sometimes go into the garage to pray. And he was praying, and this time he really wanted to pray.
Do you ever have, do you ever have a desire to say, boy, I really want to get through to God on this? Because his daughter was getting married and he wasn't sure about whether she was marrying exactly the man that the parents would have chosen. He really wanted to really connect with God. He gets down on his knees to pray, and God seems to say to him, Henry, don't bother. Wow. Don't bother.
Why would God not want somebody to bother to pray? Fifteen years earlier in college he cheated. And actually the cheating wasn't that big a deal. The professor in one class said, I want you to do new work in this course. He said, I don't want you to use research that you've used in some other course. But he was in a hurry. Is there a college student who is not in a hurry?
Is there a college student who is not poor and in a hurry? And so what he did is he took one paper that he had used in another class and he submitted it to the other class. He got an A and he was honored when he graduated because of his distinction and his very, very good grades. Fifteen years later when he really wants to connect with God, God says, Henry, why bother?
So he doesn't know. Are they going to take my degree away or whatever? He goes to the university, confesses what he did. They did not take his degree away from him.
I wonder how many college students would have their degrees taken away from them if cheating was a basis for withdrawing a degree. I interviewed a man one time who said, Pastor Lutzer, he said, I want you to know today that revival, God was working mightily in their church. He says, cost me thousands of dollars and has left me in the poor house. He was a contractor who built houses and what he did is he built the houses with inferior material.
You know, he said that he was going to build them with this, but actually in point of fact, he built them with inferior material. He was cheating the people, telling them they were getting one quality and he was giving them another quality. And now suddenly he asked the question, what do I have to do to be right before God and man?
And the Holy Spirit won't let him sleep until he answers that question, just like the blessed Holy Spirit of God won't let you and me sleep if we're honest until we answer that question. And so he did what he knew he had to do. He went from one person to another and confessed and agreed that he would pay them back. He said, I had to go to the bank and borrow money. He said, I mortgaged my house so that I could pay them back. I said, was it worth it? He said, it was worth every single penny to be right with God and right with man.
How much might reconciliation cost you? One more story and then this message has to be over. You can understand now why it's going to be two.
God knows it might be three. 1975, a young teenager murders a neighbor's wife just to see what it was like to murder somebody. You know that there are teenagers like that today. Thank God.
I don't believe they're here. How we thank God for our teenagers and we pray for them, but there are kids today because of the violence of our culture who murder just to see what it's like. He gets by with it. The police question him, but they don't have any hard evidence. So he grows up, gets married, has children and says to himself, I have a secret in my life that I will carry to my grave. But then he gets saved. You know, people think getting saved always makes your life happy, happy, happy, happy. Listen, sometimes it just makes it miserable, miserable, miserable, miserable, miserable, because the things you live with before your conversion, you can't live with them anymore and you've got a history and you know, right, well, you've got to do something about your past.
What should he do? 1997, 22 years later, he turns himself over to the authorities and he goes to jail and he is in jail today as I speak. This is what he says, yet God was faithful to his promise to uphold me at the moment of truth. Though I am now a prisoner of the law, I was set free before God for the first time in my life. I cannot describe the feeling of that burden completely lifted. The Lord now held his once disobedient child in his loving arms and true to his promise, he did not let me fall. A wonderful peace came over my soul, such as I have not known before.
I'm now confined to a maximum security prison serving time for second degree murder, but I am more free and more at peace than at any other time in my life. How much might it cost you to be reconciled to God? I really do believe I have a pastor's heart and so it's hard for me to say what I'm going to say now, but I'm going to say it and then we're going to end this message. What about those of you who are in the United States of America illegally because of falsified papers? Have you ever talked to the Lord about that and asked him what he might have you do?
And what about those of us who are in America legally? What is God saying to us? What does he say to us? Today we're going to observe communion. The whole point of communion is reconciliation with God but also with others.
You see, the reason that the early church always had a loaf of bread is because they wanted to say that there is one body actually and we're all members of the same loaf and we're all members of the same cup. What is there in your life you may have to take care of? Maybe you shouldn't participate today until you've been reconciled. I had a wonderful ending to this message but it's going to end here and we'll pick it up. What is God saying to you? And for those of you who have never trusted Christ as Savior, you know the basis of this whole thing is God's forgiveness.
So if you've never trusted Christ as Savior, you're not forgiven by God, therefore you really probably are not too interested in forgiving others and you say this is just messy business but it becomes important business when we experience God's gracious forgiveness. Would you join me as we pray? Father, would you just come to us in our need? Because there's no doubt that decisions are being made and issues have arisen in our minds that need to be dealt with and we ask, oh Father, show us the way. Give us the wisdom that we need to make wise decisions but also Father to pay any price that you ask us to pay to have a conscience void of offense before God and before man. We love your people and we grieve for your people and we ask, oh Father, make us an obedient people and even as we remember our Lord's death, make this a transforming experience because we honor him whom we love in Jesus' name. Amen.
Amen. Isn't it wonderful that we can have communion together and celebrate our unity? Of course there are thousands upon thousands of people who are listening to this and we will not be together on earth but we will celebrate in heaven. And you know there are many people who are seeking the Lord in various places. For example, I have in my hands a letter from someone who says that he's been in jail for two years and I listened every single day when I was in jail to your ministry and you were a comfort to me in that dark dungeon. Now my friend, the reason that the gospel of Jesus Christ can go to the dark dungeons of this world all throughout the world through the ministry of running to win is because of people just like you. And every report we get, we recognize that this is not a ministry of a man, of a church, or an organization. This is your ministry. Would you consider standing with us, becoming a partner with us?
We call them endurance partners. That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts. I hope that you have a pen or pencil handy because I'm going to be giving you some contact info.
But let me thank you in advance for all that you are doing to help us. Go to RTWOffer.com. That's RTWOffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now I neglected to say that when you go to RTWOffer.com, click on the endurance partner button and you'll receive all the info that you need.
Or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Thanks in advance for helping us get the gospel of Jesus Christ to the dark dungeons of this world. Thanks to radio and the internet, running to win goes to many, many different places ministering to many hungry, needy hearts. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. In human relationships, sometimes reconciliation is not possible. The other party may be seeking revenge, but as believers, we must extend forgiveness when every emotion tells us to get even instead. Next time on Running to Win, more counsel on reconciliation, making things right with God and man. Don't miss the final message in our series as Erwin Lutzer tells us what to do when others won't forgive you. This is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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