Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Resolving conflicts with others can be as painful as it is necessary. We must extend forgiveness when every emotion tells us to get even instead. Today, more practical counsel on reconciliation, making things right with God and man.
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, despite our best intentions, some people we've offended cut off all ties with us. Today you'll be speaking about what to do when others won't forgive you. You know, Dave, the longer I live, the more I realize that there are many human relationships that will never be resolved on earth. And the reason is some people won't forgive. Some people look at the same event very differently.
We have to do whatever we can do and then move on. But let me switch topics and ask you a question. We know, for example, that water never runs uphill.
How does water get up to the top of trees? I mention that because I'm holding in my hands a book that I wish I could put into your hands. It's a hardback book, 365 readings about science, about God the Creator, one for every day of the new year.
We have never offered this book before. 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. Isn't it wonderful to know that the God who created all things is our Savior, our Lord, and our King, and He is with us no matter what? We've prayed a number of times today, but I want you to bow your heads with me and close your eyes one last time as we invite the blessed Holy Spirit of God to do something in us that no man could ever possibly do.
Would you join me? Father, in Jesus' name, we ask that as these truths are shared for many, they may be painful and obedience may be difficult, but we ask, oh Father, that whatever you say to us, you shall grant the ability, the courage, and the strength to do. And we pray that we may not listen for others today, but listen for ourselves. We ask in the blessed name of Jesus, upon whom we depend and the one whom we love.
Amen. We've been learning in recent weeks that there are two connections, and all of us are born with a desire, an indistinguishable and inexhaustible desire, I should say, a desire, a thirst for God and for others. As a matter of fact, everybody is seeking after God, even those who go headlong into pleasure and who try this and that, they don't know what it is that they're looking for, but they are seeking for God. Because thou has made us for thyself, said Augustine, and our hearts are restless until they find they're all in thee. But also, we're looking for meaningful connections with other people. We were created as social beings, and God made it very clear, it is not good for man to be alone, and it is not good for man to be alone, nor for woman to be alone. We all desire that there be others who share their lives with us in some way. The problem is that sin always breaks human relationships.
Sin destroys our relationship with God, and it destroys our relationship with one another. Consequently, we've been speaking on the topic which is entitled, After You've Blown at Reconnecting with God and with Others. Three of the messages particularly had to do with connecting with God. Today, we're going to be speaking about connecting with one another. We're going to be talking about reconciliation and forgiveness and oneness and unity and love as we talk about our differences and discuss how they can be laid aside. Now, you know that in the last message on this series, I gave you seven principles, but I got through only three of them. Today, we're going to pick up the last four, and in order, though, to provide some kind of continuity, but I do need to say that it is very important that you get the message that preceded this one on this particular topic of reconciliation.
I'll simply review where we were. We mentioned, first of all, that sometimes reconciliation is impossible, and I gave you some instances in which reconciliation simply does not work. That was in the preceding message, but now the principles. Number one, we must confess our faults and failures to those we have wronged, and we emphasize that even if our part is only, say, 20 percent and someone else's is 80 percent, we treat the 20 percent as if it were the 100 percent.
We take care of our side of the teeter-totter. The second principle we discussed is that confession must be as broad as the offense. All those who are involved in our offense should be involved in our forgiveness, in our restoration, and in the unity that should be achieved as a result of that forgiveness and restoration. Third, and this became very difficult, you remember in the last message, reconciliation, whenever necessary, involves restitution.
Restitution should be made whenever there is a debt that can be paid, a debt that has been occurred because of our own sin and because of our own negligence and our own offense. True story. Here's a man who works for Ford Motor Company, and when he comes home at night, he brings more than an empty lunch basket. He also brings some tools with the Ford insignia and he uses them at home. And then the Holy Spirit of God begins to speak to him and he begins to pray really sincerely, not all those little prayers, oh God bless everyone, but he really wants to have power with God and men. He's really desperate and God says, don't bother, look at the tools that are on your bench in the basement. Now he has a decision to make. Can he simply say, well, I accept God's forgiveness? Well, he accepts God's forgiveness, but to have a conscience that is without offense before God and man, he has to go back to Ford and he has to say, I took these tools. You say, well, there could be terrible consequences.
Yes, there could be. But again, we're back to the question of how much are you willing to pay to be fully right with God and man? You say, well, the things that I've done, there can be no restitution for.
Maybe you swindled so much money, there's no possibility of paying it back. Well, in a case like that, you have to commit the matter to the Lord and sometimes maybe even there may be a way to make it right. In the New Testament, there's an interesting story of a man by the name of Onesimus who ran away from his slave owner and the Apostle Paul says, whatever he has taken, I will repay.
So Paul made restitution for Onesimus. This is where we need wisdom. I mentioned to you last time that what I'm sharing with you is biblical counsel, hopefully with huge doses of good wisdom. And you have to seek the Lord. Here's a woman who writes an essay in college and she gets several hundred dollars because hers was the top essay, which she did not write.
There's no way there to go back and to correct this because the essay contest has long since passed and the organization that sponsored it no longer is in existence. So what does she do? She takes the money that she wrongfully received and she puts it into the offering plate as conscience money because what she wants to do is to make sure that she has done everything humanly possible to make things right with God and with others. And last time I told you the story of a man for whom restitution meant jail time, possibly for the rest of his life. But it's worth it because there is nothing as important as living to please God.
Well, all that by way of review. Now we come to the fourth principle. Forgiveness must be granted whether it is sought or unsought. Now you and I know that forgiveness is very difficult. You say, Pastor Luther, why is it so hard to forgive?
Well, I'm here today to tell you. Forgiveness is so difficult because forgiveness is so unjust. That's the problem with forgiveness. Because forgiveness says I'm not demanding what is owed me. Forgiveness is saying that even though I've been wronged, I will bear the wrong and I will no longer hold you guilty of having done the wrong. I'll let God take care of that as we shall see in a moment. But I set you free. I set aside what is owed me and I give up my demands to be paid.
Oh, that hurts. But it's the only way of freedom and it's the only biblical way. Now there are some of my friends who disagree and they say forgiveness always means reconciliation. I don't believe that. If we had more time, I would go through all the scriptures and show you why I disagree with some people who have many good things to say about forgiveness. But on this point, we have a disagreement. What I'm saying is that it's possible to forgive someone who has died.
Some relative of yours who abused you. There's no possibility of reconciliation. But you can forgive. You can choose to lay down your bitterness and commit the matter to the Lord, as we shall explain today. You can forgive someone who does not even ask for your forgiveness.
If you've been wronged by someone, if you've been abused and that person does not come and ask forgiveness, and may I add, they seldom do. What you can do is to choose before God to give up that bitterness and to say, Lord, this is yours. I can't deal with it.
It is ruining me. Hasn't that person done enough damage against you yet? Must he also poison the rest of your life by you carrying the resentment and the bitterness? No, you forgive in the sense that you give that resentment and bitterness and revenge to God. And then you can even forgive those who ask for forgiveness. But catch this now, you may withhold reconciliation. This gets sensitive now because I don't want to be misunderstood, but you remember in the preceding message, that man, that womanizer who thought that his wife should forgive him, whenever he was out with another woman and no matter how often he asked for forgiveness, Jesus said 40 times, what was it Jesus said, 70 times 7, and that she should forgive him. Yes, she may forgive, but reconciliation is another matter. You can forgive someone who chiseled you out of money, but you don't have to do business with them again.
Why? Reconciliation has three legs to its stool, if I can put it that way. It's a stool, it's a chair with three legs. And the first one definitely is forgiveness. That's the beginning of it all.
That's what starts it. But the other two are trust, trust and respect. Forgiveness can sometimes be granted quite quickly, but trust may take a great deal of time to rebuild. Trust is like that vase that crashes on the floor and all the pieces have to be glued together very carefully.
And even after you have them in place, it still doesn't look quite right. And that's what takes time. It takes only one person to forgive, but it takes two to be reconciled. Reconciliation is based also on trust and respect. Please don't use what I've just said as an excuse to say, okay, well, we can't be reconciled because he doesn't respect me.
He doesn't, I can't trust him. True Christians always work toward reconciliation. That is their burning desire and zeal. But sometimes, sometimes it's not possible to achieve. And when there is that rebuilding of trust that needs to take place, oftentimes you need, you need Christian counseling. Somebody says, well, why do Christians need counseling? I have a friend who answers that question this way. It's because they don't do drugs and alcohol.
That's why. God doesn't let us bypass our problems. God doesn't let us avoid and deny and drown our difficulties. God confronts us with reality and says, here is a problem and you cannot go around it. You can't go under it.
You can't go over it. You must deal with it. And sometimes we need some biblical help and some wisdom in dealing with it. Because I'm a pastor and I believe that I have sensitivity to people, I'm always thinking to myself, I'm preaching to people who've been hurt. And these dear people need to forgive even though they've not been asked to, et cetera, et cetera. And I'm sure that there are hundreds of people who fit that category here today. But I also have to wake up and realize that I'm not only preaching to people who have been hurt, I'm also preaching to people who have done the hurting. And I appeal to you today. You know what's out there. You know what you have done to others.
You know that the other has no offense against you because of your actions and because of issues that you've not been willing to face. Would you please today, by God's grace, take the initiative and say to someone, I have hurt you. I seek forgiveness and hopefully reconciliation.
Speaking to everybody today, everybody. Principles number five and six I'm going to lump together. We are talking here about not repaying evil for evil and not taking revenge. And those two are basically the same.
So we're looking at them together. The Bible says this in the book of Romans, Romans chapter 12. You say, Pastor Lutzer, why should we bring our Bibles to church?
I didn't answer that question, did I? When you're looking at the text, it becomes more firmly impressed on your mind and you begin to see that it's not my word, but God's word. And the word of God is then hidden in our hearts. Romans chapter 12 verse 17. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Even Paul knew, said that in some situations it may be impossible, but notice verse 19. Do not take revenge my friends, but leave room for God's wrath for it is written. It is mine to avenge. I will repay says the Lord. On the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him.
If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals upon his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Wow. What a statement from God's holy word. You see, there's something within us that wants vengeance.
You say, well, where did that come from? Well, we're created in the image of God and therefore there is something within us that cries up for justice. You remember in the first murder that was ever committed, Abel was killed at the hands of his brother Cain. And what did God say to Cain? He said, Cain, the blood of your brother cries up to me.
God was saying it cries up to me for vengeance. There's something within us that says, where is justice? And it says in Revelation chapter six, verse 10 that the martyrs say, how long, oh Lord, will it be until you avenge our death and our martyrdom on those who are upon the earth? How long, oh God, did before justice is brought to the situations and the evils that have been done against us.
Have you ever cried that? How long, oh Lord, you're crying the same cry as the martyrs. We want justice, but notice what the Bible says. Vengeance is God's. Do not repay evil for evil. Don't say you stick it to me, I'll stick it to you. You hurt me, I'll hurt you. You cheated me, I'll show you, I'll cheat you, I'll get even.
You know, I don't get mad, I get even. That's a bumper sticker. That's not God's word.
I know that this message speaks to the hearts of many people who are in conflict today with their families, with their friends, but I want to assure you that God is with you. Let me ask you a question. Have you ever considered the fact that there are birds that actually are able to sow and nest?
Did they go to sowing class? I'm holding in my hands a book. It has 365 different readings, one for every day of the new year. Great Christmas gift, emphasizing the fact that God is the creator and that his creation is unique and even beyond human understanding. For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours and I've already emphasized a great Christmas gift for you, for your friends, for your grandchildren and children.
Here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com. For a gift of any amount, I want to emphasize again, this book can be yours. We send this resource to you because we believe it'll be tremendously helpful to you and your family. Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Give a gift that will give every single day of the new year.
Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. From my heart to yours, thank you so much for helping us because together we are making a difference, thousands upon thousands of people listening to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's time again for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question you may have about the Bible or the Christian life.
Today's question was emailed to us by Doreen. If God totally forgives, why does one still have to face the consequences of sin and feel the guilt over and over again? Doreen, you've asked a very good question. I believe that there are hundreds of listeners listening right now who need to hear the answer to this. First of all, why it is that the consequences continue.
I think that that's very obvious. I mean, when Adam and Eve sinned, there was no way to go back to Eden. There were certain consequences that were going to happen. If you committed murder, for example, you'd have to go to jail and maybe even lose your life, even if God forgave you.
But your question actually goes in a slightly different direction. What you are asking is, why is it that we have to keep facing the guilt over and over again? So I'm going to give you some very, very good advice, and I'm going to pray that God is going to use it to deliver you from the need to go over guilt again and again. Here's the deal. What we need to do is to distinguish between the consequences of our sin and the guilt. The guilt we do not have to live with over and over again. The consequences are ever with us. But that does not mean that God's forgiveness isn't there.
It is. Best illustration I can think of offhand. David. David committed the twin sins of murder and adultery.
All the tears in the world could never bring back the purity of Bathsheba or bring Uriah back from the dead. So the consequences were there. His family was going to rebel. All of that was going to happen. That's the consequences. But now the question is, can David be free of guilt?
The answer is yes. You just read Psalm 51, and then after you've done that, you go and you read Psalm 32. In there, David asks that he might be able to be washed so clean that he can sing again, that the joy of his salvation can come back. And of course, he says in Psalm 32, blessed are those whose sins are forgiven and whose sins are covered.
Yes, Doreen, you can be free from the guilt, even though you have to live with the consequences. Thank you, Doreen, for that question, and Dr. Lutzer, thank you for that compelling answer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337.
You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. One thing kids learn real quick is how to get even. Taking revenge is a natural reaction when we're offended, but the Bible commands us to not seek revenge. Next time on Running to Win, rising above our instincts and allowing God to be the one who makes things right. We'll learn how to keep justice and vengeance distinct as we seek reconciliation. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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