Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Many Christians are weighed down with sins they can't seem to stop committing.
They run life's race with difficulty, getting farther behind all the time. Some feel their sin qualifies as unpardonable. Today you'll learn that you can still run your race in the freedom of forgiveness.
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, many people are living with a crushing sense of guilt, since they can't undo what they've already done. Dave, what you have said is absolutely true, but we need to remind people that feelings are not necessarily facts. On the one hand, we may feel our guilt, but on the other hand, we have the promises of God not just for forgiveness, but also cleansing.
I love to emphasize that. It's possible to feel guilty, even if our sin has been confessed and forgiven. We need to help those who are depressed, those who think that there is no hope, to remind them of the fact that there is more grace in God's heart than there is sin in their past. That's why I think this series of messages is such a blessing to those who are struggling with guilt, who are struggling with a past that they may even think that God does not fully understand. My friend today, God is there for you. I've written a book entitled Putting Your Past Behind You. The subtitle says, Finding Hope for Life's Deepest Hurts. This book, I believe, will help you as you process the issue of guilt and consequences and addictions and abuse. For a gift of any amount, it can be yours. Here's what you do.
Go to rtwoffer.com, rtwoffer.com, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. My friend, God is greater than your guilt. Now hear me out, friend.
Listen to this like you've never listened to this before. You must always distinguish forgiveness of sins from the consequences of sin. You see, there are certain consequences that continue even after we have been forgiven.
And that's what throws many people off. They say, well, how could I be forgiven? Because look at what I've done and look at the awful consequences that have resulted from it. But my dear friend, you must distinguish forgiveness from consequences. Here's a young teenage girl, perhaps bearing a child because of an immoral relationship. She asks God's forgiveness and she is cleansed and she is forgiven completely.
But the baby continues to grow in her womb. And when she looks at the child, she says, how can I be forgiven because the child reminds her of sin? But I want to tell you something today.
That young lady can be washed as clean as the freshly driven snow, despite the consequences. I want you to hear me carefully. There was a man who gave his wife AIDS because he was bisexual. And he said later, I don't want God's forgiveness, even if he were to give it to me, because he said, I deserve to burn in hell. Now, I want to agree with him. He does deserve to burn in hell, but every one of us deserves to burn in hell. Every single one of us deserves that. But you see, what he was saying in effect was, if God forgives me, I want him to handle the consequences too.
But that's not the way the universe is set up. But I want to tell you today that that man can be forgiven. He can be cleansed and purged and declared righteous by the Almighty, even though his wife dies of the AIDS virus that he gave to her because of his sin. You must distinguish the consequences from forgiveness. You know, I'm told that Ted Bundy, the man who confessed to murdering, what was it, about 28 young girls because of his involvement in pornography, had led him from one bizarre thing to another. I'm told that before he died, he received Christ as his savior. Now, I don't know whether that is true.
Nobody can judge the human heart. But I'm here today to tell you that it is possible that that is true. It's possible that a Ted Bundy was acquitted by God, declared absolutely righteous in the sight of God before he died, even though there were 28 young women in their graves and families greatly and deeply upset because of the hurt and the devastation that he brought upon so many people. Now I want you to know, for the sake of the record, that it pains me to have to say that.
Because there is something within me that says Ted Bundy ought to burn. And if that had been one of my daughters, I'd have said that even with more emphasis. But I want to tell you something today. That is the amazing wonder of God's grace. You can be forgiven even if the consequences of your sin are deep, long-lasting, and in one sense go on forever. You must distinguish forgiveness and consequences. You see, there are so many Christians who look at the consequences of their sin and then they say, well, how could I be forgiven?
Look at the consequences. My dear friend, there's a difference between forgiveness and consequences. You must also distinguish guilt from punishment. Distinguish guilt from punishment. There are some people who say to themselves, well, I've got to feel guilty because I deserve to feel guilty. Well, of course you deserve to feel guilty. We all deserve to feel guilty, but guilt is not God's means of disciplining you for your sin. And God does discipline people for their sin by the internal struggles that he brings and the circumstances of life that he brings upon them. That is God's discipline, but it is never guilt.
Let me tell you why. If you say to yourself that before I am forgiven I need to feel guilty for a couple of days, weeks, months, years, what you are saying is that the blood of Jesus Christ was not quite sufficient. I must add to that sacrifice this awful crushing feeling called guilt. And you are calling into question the wisdom and the completeness of Christ's death. That's what you're doing.
However humble you may feel, however unworthy you may feel, some people feel good because they feel so unworthy and their unworthiness makes them feel as if they are so humble. What a vicious cycle. But I want to tell you today that when God forgives, his forgiveness is complete despite the consequences and guilt is never his means of punishment.
Never. Third concept to get a hold of is conciliation. Conciliation. I use that word rather than reconciliation because I just wanted to have all of my four concepts begin with a letter C. I have that right when I preach to do whatever I like. Within certain limits.
I have to look over here to see some of the elders. What do I mean by conciliation? I mean reconciliation.
Listen carefully. That means first of all that you are at peace with yourself because you have forgiven yourself. You know there are some people who say well you know I have God's forgiveness but I will never forgive myself.
Oh let's just analyze that statement with a little bit of care. What are you trying to tell me? That you aren't going to forgive yourself. Are you trying to tell me that the God of the universe, the God who created the sun, the moon, the stars, the most holy, and the most high God has acquitted you and declared you to be free from condemnation because of the completeness of Jesus Christ sacrifice and you're going to turn around and tell me that you're not going to forgive yourself.
Who in the world are you anyway? Nothing but devilish pride. Devilish pride. Once again calling into question the right of God to pronounce you clean. If God pronounces you clean what right do you have to pronounce yourself dirty? If God has not withheld his pardon from you could you tell me one reason under heaven why you think you have a right to withhold pardon from yourself?
It's absurdity. You've got to forgive yourself. Reconciliation within. Also reconciliation without. You've got to forgive others who have wronged you.
And in a future message we're going to talk about that in a lot more detail. But also you must go to others whom you have wronged to try to make restitution, reconciliation. You see that's part of being forgiven by God. If there is a person who says well you know I've been forgiven by God and I've heard a lot of people but I have no interest in going back and trying to make things right and asking their forgiveness I have to seriously question whether such a person indeed has been forgiven by God. How can you be forgiven by God and not seek the forgiveness of someone else whom you have wronged?
How can that be? There's a final concept. We've talked about the cross, confession, conciliation. And now we get to another word and it's the word commitment.
Commitment. Because you're saying to me well Pastor Lutzer wait a moment. I'm glad that you are offering the pardon of Christ to me but those consequences of my sins still bother me to this day.
Perhaps you molested a child and there is some person growing up today whose marriage is messed up, whose life is messed up because of you. You say you deserve to burn and I agree you do. And don't we all regardless of the extent of our sin.
Could I just throw this in at no extra cost? Have you ever thought of the fact friend that instead of measuring sin the way we do what we ought to do is to recognize the bigness of our sin is determined by the bigness of the being against whom that sin has been committed. And when you look at sin that way you realize that even those of us who thank God are exempt from some of the sins that I've talked about today we have all offended the most high and we all deserve condemnation.
What do I mean when I say commitment? First of all what you have to do is to give the consequences of your sin over to God. That's what you've got to do. You've got to say Lord I committed this sin and these are the consequences I have ruined other people's lives I've done thus and so and I can't handle it I can't go back and make things right I wish I could but I can't but God I give you those people and I give you those circumstances and I turn the matter of my consequences all over to you. Be merciful oh God. And when you pray that God may be merciful and some of those consequences may be lessened. Did you know that?
How do I know that? Oh listen did you know that karma is wrong? Thank God that karma is wrong. Karma says that we get in this life precisely what we deserve there's a cause effect relationship in the universe and everybody gets exactly what they have coming to them oh I'm so glad that karma is wrong. I read in Psalm 103 he hath not dealt with us after our sins nor has he rewarded us according to our iniquities isn't that good news for sinners for as the heaven is high above the earth so great is his mercy toward them that fear him for he knows our frame he remembers that we are dust sometimes God takes consequences and intervenes and lessens them and makes them smaller than we predicted they might be and sometimes he takes even the messes and uses them for his glory. Would you give the consequences of your sin to God? Secondly there's something else you have to give to God in commitment and that is the memories. Some people who say well you know how am I going to get rid of those memories? You know there's a verse in the Bible that says God casts our sins in the depths of the sea now get this and he remembers them no more.
What on earth does that mean? Does that mean that God doesn't know everything after all there's something that God doesn't know he does not remember your sin and he's blotted it out and so while God is omniscient there are some things he's blotted out of his mind of course not God knows everything and he doesn't forget anything. What it means is this God says I no longer regard your sins I no longer hold them against you I no longer bring them up when we have discussions together as far as I'm concerned your sins are no longer a factor between you and between me I simply have taken them and put them away and they are no longer an issue. That's the way we're to interpret that and did you know that that's precisely the way in which God expects you to forget your past? It's not that your memory is going to be blotted out so you say well I can't remember what I did back there.
No. What it means is I yes I can remember what I did back there I can remember what happened but it no longer controls me it does not have authority over me I no longer am subject to its power it's there but it's put away so that I need no longer dig into my past. It's been said that God takes all of our sins and cast them into the depths of the sea and then he puts up a sign says no fishing no fishing. God says I've put them away you leave them where I've put them. Let me ask you a question today. Do you have a right to remember that which God says he has forgotten?
Do you have that right? Do you have the right to say well you know I know that God has forgiven me but I must continue to wallow in the past sin or do you have a right to be cleansed and forgiven to be spoken clean as you stand before the angel of the covenant as you stand before Jesus Christ and pronounced clean and you take your past in all of the hurts both those that have been done to you and those that you have done to others and you give them over to God. What about my question is there an unpardonable sin? Yes there is an unpardonable sin and it is the sin of refusing to expose yourself to Christ who is the only one who can save you and who can cleanse you. The unpardonable sin today is people hardening their hearts against the Savior saying I'm going to hang on to my own sins and I refuse to expose my life to God so that he can cleanse me. So there is an unpardonable sin that is committed by people who withhold themselves from Christ and those who come to Christ also who try to add to what he has done on the cross by their own guilt and by their own good works thinking that they can receive forgiveness by a mixture of works and faith. Those two are excluded also from God's mercy and grace. That's why there are many people who confess their sins consistently and still have not even been saved and have no assurance that they have ever been pronounced clean by God. Is God reluctant to cleanse you? Does God say oh good night, good night?
No, why? Because Jesus died for sinners and if we say that there is a sin that is too big for God to forgive, we are saying that God is one who has poor planning and we charge him with foolishness of saying that there was more sin in the world, there was more sin in the world than God anticipated and the cross can't handle it. What kind of a God is that? Not the one I'm preaching to you today. Remember when the prodigal son came back? Did the Father say oh good night, not you again? He said bring hither the fatted calf and kill it and bring hither the best robe and put it on him and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet and yes bring hither that fatted calf and kill it for this my son was dead and is alive and is lost and is found and it's time to be rejoicing because a boy who has been in the pig pen is back home where he belongs. Generosity of the Father. Remember that story about the boy who left his parents and lived a very sinful worldly life and then when he wanted to come back in future years he wondered whether they would receive him. He knew that if they didn't receive him they had every right to do that but he thought he'd give it a try and he wrote them a letter and said dear mom and dad I'd like to come home if you won't have me I'll understand but he says I'm taking a train into town and from the train window I'll see our backyard. If you want to receive me if you welcome me put a handkerchief on one of the branches and then I'll stop at the station but if there's no handkerchief I'll go to the next town.
Days later as the boy was driving into town riding on that train as he looked out the window, you remember the story, he wept as he saw a handkerchief on every branch of the tree. God says today I can speak you clean I can cleanse you. Those of us who live in Chicago we know what snow is like. I can cleanse you like the freshly driven snow it says whiter than snow. I don't know what that would be because I've seen some snow that is so white I don't know what in the world whiter than snow means but that's what the Bible says God can do for you today. He can put that ugly past behind you cleanse you and say you are clean you're clean.
My friend today whiter than snow what does that mean? God is able to cleanse you completely come to him in faith come to him believing in his grace repent of your sin trust him to do what you can't and you'll discover that he is able to meet your need and that's why I've written a book entitled putting your past behind you. What I want people to understand is that your past may be dark it may be one of abuse maybe sins that you have committed maybe sins that others have committed against you. God is there are you willing to come to receive his forgiveness and begin to change directions for gift of any amount this book can be yours here's what you do go to rtwoffer.com as you've heard me say before rtwoffer is all one word or you can call us right now at 1-888-218-9337. I want to thank you in advance for helping us with this ministry you've probably heard me say before that running to win is in 20 different countries in four different languages and we are continuing to expand this ministry because of our partnership simply go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337 ask for the book putting your past behind you. It's time now for another chance for you to ask pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life doctor Lutzer today's question comes from Sarah who lives in Wisconsin she writes I don't think I can forgive the men who have taken advantage of me my last experience was with a man who promised to marry me but his parents talked him out of it saying I wasn't good enough for him he had talked me into being intimate with him then recently he emailed me saying it's over with us he's found a woman on the internet how can God expect me to bear this pain and why have I been deceived so many times pastor Lutzer I really don't know where to turn I don't know how to be healed. Well you know Dave we receive many letters like this but Sarah very very quickly it's important for you to know that many men today are untrustworthy sorry that I have to say that but it is true you need to give your desire for marriage to God you need to live with unfulfilled desires and I would simply say this you need to be cleansed because of your relationship with him accept God's cleansing and don't look for another man now if God does bring another man to you Sarah it's very important don't trust your own instincts what you need to do is to receive the wisdom and the counsel of other people and if you do that in the end God will honor you and I hope that whether you are married or unmarried that your life will be productive and lived for the glory of God. Thank you Dr. Lutzer if you'd like to hear your questions answered go to 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 Illinois 60614. Next time on running to win the battle for your mind uncovering the enemies unseen war to control what you think and to make sure you stay stuck in your past thanks for listening for pastor Erwin Lutzer this is Dave McAllister running to win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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