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The Beauty of Forgiveness - Acts Part 27

So What? / Lon Solomon
The Truth Network Radio
July 5, 2022 8:00 pm

The Beauty of Forgiveness - Acts Part 27

So What? / Lon Solomon

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Well, as you know, we are in a verse by verse study of the book of Acts.

And last week we looked at what happened in Damascus after the Apostle Paul had met the Lord Jesus on the road there. And if you missed last week, I want to urge you to go back to our website and download the message and catch up with us. But we're going to pick up now where we left off last week.

So are you ready? Okay, the title of my message today is The Beauty of Forgiveness. Here we go. We begin in Acts chapter 9 verse 22. The Bible says, But Saul increased all the more in strength and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.

And we said last week the way he proved it is by taking people back to the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament and showing how Jesus had fulfilled every one of these ancient prophecies. All right, that's verse 22. Now we pick up at verse 23. And after many days were passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, that is Paul, but their plot became known to Saul. And you know, by comparing scripture with scripture, we learn that actually between verse 22 and verse 23, there's a three year period. We learn about this by looking at the book of Galatians chapter one.

Let me show you. Verse 11. Paul says, I want you to know, brethren, that the gospel which is preached by me is not according to man, for I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it by man, but it came to me by revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the Church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. But when God, who set me apart from my mother's womb and called me by his grace, when he was pleased to reveal his son in me. Where did that happen? Tell me. On the Damascus road.

That's right. When he did that so that I might preach Jesus among the Gentiles. Watch now. I did not consult with any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before me. But I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus, still having never gone to Jerusalem yet. Now, when Paul says that he went into Arabia here in Galatians one, he does not mean Saudi Arabia. He means the Arabic or the Arabian kingdom of the Nabataeans.

Let me show you a map. The Nabataean kingdom was an Arab kingdom that was a mighty kingdom, a wealthy kingdom at the time of Christ. And you see where it was not far from Damascus. And so Paul went into this Arabian kingdom and it was while he was here that 2 Corinthians 12 four happened where Paul says, I was caught up into paradise and I heard inexpressible things which a man is not permitted to speak. It was here in the Arabian desert that the risen Lord Jesus personally taught Paul the gospel message. What did Paul say? I wasn't taught the gospel by man. I was taught the gospel by the Lord Jesus himself.

Well, didn't he say that? Well, that's where it happened. And this is also where Jesus taught him all the other great theological truths that he wrote in the books of Romans and first and second Corinthians and Ephesians and Colossians and first and second Thessalonians and so forth. Folks, this was the Arabian theological seminary. There was one classroom in heaven in paradise. There was one professor, the risen Lord Jesus Christ. And there was only been one graduate from this seminary, and that was the Apostle Paul himself. Praise the Lord. Huh?

Yeah. And then Paul says, After I graduated, I came back to Damascus and began preaching again where the Jews wanted to kill me. All right, verse 24. And they, the Jews, were watching the gates day and night to kill Paul. But the Bible says his disciples took him by night and let him down over the wall, lowering him in a basket. And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, remember, it's been three years since he gave his life to Christ. He tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he, Paul, had seen the Lord who spoke to him and how at Damascus he, Paul, had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. And so Saul stayed with them. That is the Christians at Jerusalem coming in and going out among them.

But he did more than that. Verse 29 says, And he, Saul, was talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews, but they also tried to kill him. Now, I hope you remember that these fellows from Acts chapter seven, these were the fellows, these Hellenistic Jews who stoned Stephen to death. You remember these guys? Hello.

Okay, good. And that means that Paul knew these guys because Paul was in on that lynch mob. Paul records that he was standing there watching their cloaks, their robes while they were stoning Stephen to death. Paul was friends with these guys. These guys knew the apostle Paul well. And yet, look at this, these guys hated Jesus so much that their previous friendship with Paul was irrelevant to them. They tried to kill him too because he stood for Jesus.

Hey, you know what, man? You got to love the apostle Paul's chutzpah, don't you? I mean, look, he knew these guys. He knew how they felt about Jesus. He knew how they felt about the gospel. And yet he went there anyway and preached Jesus to them. Hey, praise the Lord for this guy.

Praise the Lord for this guy. Now, the Bible goes on to say, and when the brethren learned of it that they were going to try to kill him, they brought him down to Caesarea, Paul, and they sent him away to Tarsus, which was, of course, his home city. I'll show you a map so that you see where Tarsus was in southern Turkey today. And the apostle Paul ends up spending somewhere between six and ten years here in Tarsus until, in Acts chapter 11, Barnabas comes looking for Paul and entices him to come back and help pastor the new church that had formed in Antioch.

So we'll pick up when we get there and we'll see Paul again. Verse 31, last verse. So the church throughout Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was built up.

Why? Hey, because the one man wrecking machine, the apostle Paul, was gone. And walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it, the church, multiplied. Well, that's the end of our passage. What a great passage of scripture. Huh? Yeah.

Wonderful passage of scripture. But it's time now for us to ask our most important question. So you ready? All you guys at our campuses, you ready? Okay.

This needs to be big and warm because it's cold outside. All right. You ready? Here we go now. Come on.

One, two, three. Oh, how sweet it is. Yeah.

You say, Lon. Okay, look, you're right. It's a great passage. And boy, am I proud of the apostle Paul and man, did that guy have guts. But I'm not really sure I see how all this relates much to me. Well, let's talk about that because it does relates to you and me. Look, I want you to see that something incredibly important happened between Acts chapter nine, verse twenty six and Acts chapter nine, verse twenty eight.

Let's see if you see it. All right. Here's verse twenty six. And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him and did not believe that he was a disciple. And now here's verse twenty eight. So Saul stayed with them, the believers at Jerusalem, coming in and going out freely among them as a companion, as a compatriot, as a friend.

All right. Now, what happened between these two verses? Do you see it? Let me just tell you what it is.

The Christians in Jerusalem forgave the apostle Paul. Do you see that? Do you see it? All right.

Let me know that you see it. And let's not forget what the apostle Paul had done to these Christians in Jerusalem and to the people that they loved. He had arrested them. He had tortured them. He had abused them. He, by his own confession, had tried to get them to blaspheme the name of Jesus. He brutalized them. And again, by his own confession, he killed them without pity, men and women. In fact, that was probably not a Christian in the city of Jerusalem who had not either themselves or in the case of one of their loved ones, been in some way negatively impacted by the apostle Paul. Do we understand that? And yet, in spite of that and all the hurt that he caused, they forgave Paul. Now, friends, I want to say to you, brothers and sisters, that forgiveness is a beautiful thing.

When it's empowered by the Holy Spirit, it is one of the greatest healing forces in the universe. I read a quote recently by a British psychiatrist who was running a psychiatric hospital. And here's what he said, and I quote. Listen to this. He said, I could dismiss half of my patients today if I could only get them to forgive.

End of quote. You know, this is why God calls you and me as Christians to a lifestyle of forgiveness. Why he wants us to forgive other people, brothers and sisters, because he wants us to be free, to be free in our souls, to be free in our minds, to be free in our hearts, to be free in our spirits. And the path to that freedom is the path of forgiveness. And that brings me to three very important questions about forgiveness I want us to ask and answer. Number one, what is the greatest hindrance to forgiveness? And the answer is that the greatest hindrance to forgiveness is our stubborn human pride. You know what it sounds like? Well, she started this. Well, he did it first. Well, they were the one who was in the wrong, not me.

Well, I want them to hurt some after the hurt that they caused me. Any of this sound familiar? If you're human, it should sound familiar.

Now, if you're Mr. Spock, then maybe not. But if you're human, hey, this is what we do. All of us have been guilty of this. Can we be honest and admit that? Can I get an amen?

All right. And, you know, some of us walked in here today like this, feeling like this towards some person. Or maybe you didn't walk in here consciously thinking their name. But if I were to come up to you and mention their name, you would immediately go to on the inside. Now, this is church. So on the outside, you smile.

But on the inside, your heart would be doing backflips. Can you relate to any of this? You bet you can.

I can, too. So that leads to my second question, which is, why should I forgive this person? Where does my motivation come from to forgive this person? Well, if you're a follower of Jesus, if you're not a follower of Jesus, I don't know what to tell you, honestly. But if you're a follower of Jesus, I can answer that question.

It's real simple. Ephesians 4 32, be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another. I want you to say the next seven words out loud with me.

Ready? Just as God in Christ forgave you. There's your motivation, folks. Colossians chapter three says the same thing, bearing with one another and forgiving each other. Just as the Lord forgave you, so also do ye. Listen, the Bible says that experiencing God's forgiveness is where we get the motivation to grant other people forgiveness. Now, if you're here and you've never experienced the forgiveness of God, we need to start there first before we worry about you forgiving anybody else. You need to experience that forgiveness by surrendering your heart and your life to Jesus Christ. And once you've experienced his magnificent forgiveness of you, then that will open the door for you to be able to forgive other people. I hope you'll do that. And, you know, folks, as Christians, let's admit that Jesus just didn't forgive us once at the cross.

Right? No, no. Listen to 1 John 1 9. If we confess our sins daily, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins daily and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness daily. Look, as a follower of Jesus, God's forgiveness is every moment of every day of every year of your life. And our forgiveness of other people needs to be the same. Praise the Lord. Now, you know, whenever anybody does something to me that I don't like and I start to get, you know, You say that happens to you as a pastor? I'm still human, right?

Of course it happens to me. I can say that right now I can say this honestly to you. Romans Chapter 12. As far as it lies with me, I am at peace with all men. But that may not last for the rest of the afternoon. You understand what I'm saying?

Okay. Now, whenever that happens and I start just I can feel that unforgiving, bitter, angry spirit. You know the verse that God always puts on me?

It's in Matthew Chapter seven. It's the verse that says, And why do you worry about the speck in your brother's eye in light of the beam, the plank that's in your own eye? See, boy, have I got a plank in my eye, friends. I got a beam as big as a railroad tie in my eye because I do so much wrong. I mean, I'm always saying something I shouldn't say about other people or thinking something I shouldn't think about other people, you know, or doing something I shouldn't do. I mean, I'm terrible. I mean, you talk about God forgiving me. It's like it's like a whole railroad track.

It's like it's like railroad tie after railroad tie after railroad tie. You understand? And then I have the nerve when somebody does something to me that by comparison is a speck.

I've got the nerve to not forgive them. That's what the Holy Spirit says to me. You're kidding, right, Lon?

This is what he says to me. You're kidding. You're kidding. You're not for real that you're not going to forgive him after all that I forgive you of? Are you serious? You're not serious.

I'm like, well, I was, but now in light of that, I guess I'm not. And I have no choice but to forgive people. Folks, I got the beam. They got the speck. And you got the beam.

Right? You say, all right, Lon, I hear what you're saying. But let's say I even wanted to forgive this person.

Where am I going to get the power to do it? I mean, they hurt me so badly. I don't I even if I wanted to, I don't think I can.

Well, wait a minute now. That's the third question is where do we get the power to forgive? And the answer is, friends, only the power of the Holy Spirit can do this inside of us. When we've been hurt deep, then, friends, it takes deep power to overcome it. And that deep power goes beyond your human power.

It goes to the power of the Holy Spirit in your life as a follower of Christ. And listen to what God says. He says, Ezekiel.

Thirty six. I will give you a new art, not like the unforgiving heart towards this person you have. And I will put a new spirit, a forgiving spirit within you. And I will remove from you your heart of stone towards this person.

And I will give you a heart of flesh. Listen, if we truly want to forgive somebody, even a rabbi saw in our life and we beseech God to give us the power, we will get that power. And I say that categorically because I had to forgive my mother. And some of you know the story that I hated her with a biblical passion my whole life. And I didn't think I could forgive her.

But you know what? When I said, God, I'm willing to, if you give me the power he did, my mother and I, when she died, we were friends. Praise the Lord.

We were friends. So do you tell me you can forgive somebody? I don't want to hear it because I'm telling you that the power of the Holy Spirit can give you the power to do it. I've been there. I've done that.

And I know it's true. Now, it may it may not happen in one day. You may have to pray about it for a month or two, but until you can do it. But if you want it, you'll get the power to do it because God will give you the power to obey God. He will give you the power to obey God.

Hallelujah. All right. Now, let me just say two important things before I end. Number one, that forgiving a person does not mean we automatically re-enter a close relationship with them. Hey, if a friend betrayed you, you can forgive them. But it doesn't mean you go back and be their bosom buddy. Hey, if a co-worker sold you out, you can forgive them. But it doesn't mean you have to make them your confidant again. If you're a teenager, if your best friend at school did you dirty and started dating your boyfriend. Hey, listen, or your girlfriend, you can forgive them and be kind to them without them being your best friend anymore. And besides, you know that the best way to get over an old boyfriend is get a new one.

Just get a new one. Praise the Lord. Well, it's true. Hey, this is what forgiveness means. It means that we let go of it, what they did to us. We let God have it and we begin moving on with our life. You understand?

And that leads to the second thing I want to say and then we're done. And that is forgiving a person does not mean that we're granting them immunity for what they did. You say, yeah, I forgive them. What does that mean? That means they get away.

They get away with what they did. No, no. You're just transferring the responsibility for their repayment from you to God. Listen, Romans twelve, nineteen. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather leave room for God's wrath for it is written.

Vengeance is mine. I will repay, says the Lord. Forgiveness means we release people from our desire to repay them. And instead, we entrust them to the Lord who promises that he will repay them. He will repay them when the time is right. He will repay them in the way that's right. And he will repay them appropriately and righteously for what they did.

And he'll do a much better job than you will. You're not letting people off the hook. Nobody's getting away with anything, folks. There's a sovereign holy God watching everything here. You're just releasing the responsibility from yourself, which does nothing but produce malice, bitterness, hatred and bondage. And you're giving it to God so you can go walk free.

Everybody understand what I'm saying? All right. Now, let me just give you a caveat and say we are not talking about criminal behavior here. God provides in the Bible chapter after chapter the punishments for criminal behavior. And if someone commits a crime against you, then you have every right in the world to prosecute that crime. Right? We understand that.

We are talking about personal hurt here. Is that clear? All right. So let me close by saying, brothers and sisters, what do I want you to take home today with you? Here it is.

If the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem, to whom the Apostle Paul had committed far more hurt than anyone's committed to you, if Jesus could give these early Christians the power to forgive the Apostle Paul that he gave them, then there is not a person alive as a follower of Christ that you can't forgive if you'll depend on the same power of the Holy Spirit that these early Christians did. That's it. That's it.

That's it. Got it? All right. Now, my question is, are you ready to ask God to give you this power? Are you prepared today to say, Lord, I'll forgive if you help me? I want to get free today from this bondage in my heart. Remember, you're not hurting them. You're hurting yourself.

Your bitterness is not affecting their life. It's affecting your life. God wants you free. And I want to give you the opportunity today, all of us, to get free. And so in just a minute at all of our campuses, I'm going to ask those of you who are willing today to say, Lord Jesus, I will forgive if you'll give me the power. I will. I'm ready to. You help me. I'm going to ask you in just a moment to get up from wherever you're seated and come down front at each of our campuses and get on your knees and say, oh, God, I'm here because I mean business.

I'm here, God, because I want to be set free from my bitterness and malice. And you say, well, Lon, I'm not coming down front there. Are you crazy? People are going to think I'm a bad person if I come down front.

No, they won't. Friends, listen, having trouble forgiving people doesn't mean you're a bad person. It means you're a human being. Yeah, it means you're a human being. And unless you don't want to be a human being, there's no reason not to come down here. So please don't let your stubborn pride keep you from doing what you need to do. That's how you got in this mess to start with.

And listen to me. Family is the hardest to forgive. I had a guy in the in the other service who, when I was shaking hands down front, he said to me was on his knees. He said, you know, family's the worst. And I said, brother, it is.

So if you got a brother, a sister, a mother, a father that I mean, you've been carrying it for years. It's time to let it go and let Jesus have it. I'll be down here to greet you. I'll be down here to shake your hand and tell you I'm proud of you for coming.

Your campus pastors will be down front at your campuses. So come on now. Let's get rid of that pride. Let's come down and do what we need to do.

Here we go. I'm proud of. I'm proud of.

Come on, wait for you. Boy, what a beautiful sight this is. Praise the Lord, huh? It's just a beautiful sight.

Praise the Lord. I can't get all the way over there to you guys way over there, but I'm proud of you guys. Honestly, I'm so proud of you over here. Come on, everybody. Let's go. Stubborn pride. Do not let that stop you.

You're going to leave here and say, oh, my gosh, why didn't I go down there? I shut up. Come on now. And I had one brother who came up to me just a moment ago and said, you know, my mother died before I could forgive.

Well, that happens sometimes. That's all right. You come up here and forgive her anyway.

And your dad, you come up here and forgive him anyway. That's it. God bless you. Come on. Anybody else before we close in prayer? Come on now.

So are you going to leave and say I should have gone? God bless you. Come on. I just saw two little girls come down.

They look to be about eight or 10. They can do this. You can do this. Let's pray. Dear Lord Jesus, I thank you, the Bible says that if the Son of Man makes you free, you shall be free indeed. And yet, Lord Jesus, there are so many of us down here on our knees who have been in bondage for days, for months, for years.

People who have hurt us and we have held it against them and we have refused to forgive them. We have planted our prideful feet and we have said no way. And, oh, God, as a result, we've been in bondage. Jesus, I pray for everyone down here on their knees and for people sitting in their seats who decided to forgive but not to come down. Lord Jesus, today's a day of freedom. Today is a day of liberation.

Today is a day of the jail cell opening and us walking out and the bondage is over. Lord, we've given these folks to you and you will repay. We need to go on with our life, with freedom. So, Jesus, help every one of these folks, I pray. Give them the power of the Holy Spirit to forgive from their heart, to declare it ancient history and to let's go on with life. We thank you that you are the great God of power and you can do this.

You did it in my life, you can do it in their life. And we pray this in Jesus' name and all of God's people said, amen. You've been listening to So What with Pastor Lon Solomon. So What is a broadcast extension of McLean Bible Church in Northern Virginia. If you would like to listen to today's message, you can download it at and you can also subscribe to our podcast. For service times, directions or more information about McLean Bible Church, check out our website Thanks for listening. Join us again next week when Lon answers one of life's most important questions, So What.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-27 16:01:07 / 2023-03-27 16:12:16 / 11

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