Today on Summit Life, J.D. Greer talks about an often misunderstood aspect of God's character. It is only when I believe that vengeance belonged to God that I developed in my heart the capacity to forgive and to love because only the sense that God would get justice took away the hatred and rage from my heart. My love will begin to grow when I embrace the God to whom vengeance belongs. Welcome back to Summit Life with pastor, author, and theologian J.D. Greer.
I'm your host, Molly Vitovich. You know, everyone's born with a natural desire for justice. We see it all over social media and the news. And I think that's why that we love it when the bad guy in a movie gets what's coming to him, right? But the Bible makes it clear that as Christians, we're called instead to forgive. So does that mean that we're supposed to just let justice fall by the wayside and not concern ourselves with it? Pastor J.D.
answers that question today. We're discovering how the gospel satisfies God's justice and mercy and equips us ultimately to instead forgive. If you'd like to catch up on the previous messages in this study called Home Records, you can find them at JDCreer.com. Now let's get started with today's message titled bitterness. One of the things that I love about the Bible is that it is not at all like the Brady Bunch. Sometimes people in the church are fake.
That's true. But the Bible never is. When the Bible presents families, it presents them as they are, not like we would wish that they always were. You read some of the stories of families, especially in the Old Testament.
It's like watching a Jerry Springer show. What that tells me is that there are families and there are marriages in here in this church that have issues. And we've got a statement around here at the Summit Church that everybody's normal until you get to know them. Then when you get to know them, you realize that their families are as dysfunctional as many of yours were.
Now let me make sure I'm clear on this. Some of you had great families, and you come from great families, and you have a great family now. I am not trying to imply that behind every family is some deep, dark secret. My mom and dad were faithful to each other for our entire lives. They never abused us. They loved us.
They served us. I grew up in a great home. Regardless, however, everybody's family looks a little different on the outside than it does on the inside.
Isn't that true? You can say amen right there. Everybody's family looks a little bit different on the outside. The little smile that you got in your face, everything perfect, everything looks good. You got your Bible with the precious moments that are scattered throughout there. That is what it is on the outside. But some of you, five minutes before you walked onto this church campus, in the car, things did not look nearly that neat and that put together.
Did it? It is in our families that our sin and our selfishness becomes the clearest. It is certainly that way in mine. You want to see me at my least sanctified, just follow me around the house for a while. All right, so what I'm telling you is that regardless of how great your family was, if you're ever going to survive, you're going to have to learn how to deal with hurt and how to deal with disappointment. Listen, there are two ways to have a great family, two ways. One is you can all be perfect all the time. The other is that you can learn to show grace. Now, the first one's not really an option. Okay, so wake up. It's not a Brady Bunch.
The first one is not an option, so I want to explore the second one with you. That is what it looks like to have a gospel-centered, grace-saturated marriage and family. For many of you, the deadest part of your heart right now goes back to some family hurt that is wrecking your life. It might be hurt that came from your parents. It might be hurt that comes from a spouse, maybe an ex-spouse, maybe a sibling.
I don't know where it comes from, but it's something inside you. Proverbs 14, 30 says it this way, a sound heart is life to the body, but bitterness is rottenness to the bones. That is a Hebrew metaphor, meaning all the way down to the core of who you are, there is a rottenness that has just affected everything. That means it affects relationships that have nothing to do with the hurt. That means that this hurt that you carried from some point in your life is unforgiveness now affects every part of you, your job, how you see yourself, how you see your kids, how you see other people.
The way the New Testament says it, basically the same verse just put into different words, Hebrews 12, 15, see to it that nobody fails to obtain the grace of God or nobody lives up to it or grasp it or embraces it. See that no bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it, many become defiled. In other words, that place of bitterness becomes something that defiles you, your children, your relationships, all of your life. Some hurt in the past. Again, I don't know where it comes from, but it's an open cancer sore that is seeping poison into your whole life. I agree with one marriage counselor I read this week who said that the enemy's greatest foothold in many of us is one that none of us, that many of us don't even realize is there, it's a place of bitterness and unforgiveness in our lives. In fact, after having dealt with skeptical people now for many years in my ministry, I'll tell you that for many of you, your skepticism has less to do with intellectual problems and more to do with some area of hurt and unforgiveness that comes from somewhere in your pasts. Well, by God's grace, listen, if you will open your heart and you will ask the Holy Spirit to help you, by God's grace it ends today because God doesn't want you to be trapped in a prison of bitterness.
That is a home wrecker and we're going to talk about what that looks like. Romans chapter 12, if you have your Bible is where we're going to be focusing today. I was trying to think of what passage really that would get at the heart of this one and this is the passage that I just consider to be absolutely foundational to knowing how to get along in relationships.
So we're going to look at it and we'll walk you through it, show you different things on it, then try to try to show you how it applies to you specifically. Romans chapter 12 verse 17, here's how Paul begins, repay no one evil for evil when somebody hurts you and you hurt him back. That's what you're doing.
You're repaying evil, you're giving them evil for their evil. They smack you, you smack them back. Now, people with different personality types do this in different ways. Some of you have more of an aggressive personality type, which means you're more of a, you're more of a yeller, right?
Anybody, anybody like that or grew up in a family like that, you yelled at each other, you threw things, you hit, you smacked, okay? Then there are others of you that have more of a passive personality type and you don't actually do it that way. You're more of the kind that you take wounds in and you just kind of withdraw. On the surface, it kind of looks like patience, but it's actually not patience at all because what you're doing is you're just absorbing the hurt and this rage is kind of boiling in you. You slowly turn the fountain of love off for your spouse until there's nothing left because they disappointed you. These kind of people, again, they look patient on the surface, but they just take it in and take it in and take it in until they hit a limit and they just explode, right? All of a sudden, they leave the marriage. They have an affair.
They go postal and shove their spouse into a wood chipper one night, right? These are passive people. It's just all of a sudden. So you've got aggressive people, people who fight, then you've got passive people, people who flee, and a lot of us were kind of a mixture of the two, like me. I'm kind of a smack and run guy, you know, a little bit of passive, a little bit of aggressive. Now, actually, you call these people passive-aggressive and this person responds just now by attacking frontally.
It's a lot more subtle. You go cold on the person, right? That's how you pay them back is with silence.
You think about it. This is what the father did to the son when he punished him for our sin. It's a form of anger and retribution.
God turned his face away. That's what you do to your spouse. That's what you do to this person that's hurt you. You go cold on them. You're like, you're not worthy of my relationship. You withhold sex from them. That's another one. Withholds that you don't deserve.
I'm going to give you a chance to devote yourself to prayer and fasting, like JD talked about last week in first Corinthians seven. You go cold on it. Maybe it's crying. It looks like hurt, but it's not hurt. It's actually a way to pay him back. John Piper says it this way.
He says, personalities differ. Your retribution may take the form of tears that look like hurt, but the heart has learned that this may be the only way to hurt back. It might come out of silence because we've resolved not to fight.
It might show up in picky criticism or relentless correction. It may strike out at persons who have nothing to do with its origin, and it feels warranted by its actions by how wrongly it has been treated. Paul says, repay nobody evil for evil. We're going to get too wide hound a minute, but verse 18, if it's possible, he says, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. There's another thing I love about the Bible.
It's just very practical. It recognizes that it's not always possible to live peaceably with everybody, and there's a time you got to withdraw yourself and remove yourself from the situation. We'll talk about that more in a minute, but let's keep going. Verse 19, beloved, never avenge yourselves, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God because it is written vengeance is mine. I will repay, says the Lord. You see, in your heart, there is this sense when something has been done that is unjust, there's a little tuning for it that gets rung in your heart that lets you know that the balance in the universe is off and that something needs to be repaid. It's like a, it's like the sense that you've got that the guilty must pay, the wrong must be righted. Y'all, that is God-given. That is a God-given impulse that you have.
He put it in you. It's why we enjoy revenge movies so much. It's why everybody's so fulfilled at the last Harry Potter.
It's why 24 was so popular, right? Because Jack Bowers pay him back the world for all the bad things they've done, right? It's a God-given impulse. Paul says, listen, that for the believer, you don't have to avenge yourselves because you can rest assured that justice will be done by God. The person who has done the wrong will either have their sin paid for by Christ on the cross, like yours was, or they will suffer for it themselves in hell.
Either way, vengeance will be served to the fullest extent. And that means that you have the ability to forgive. That is huge in the ability to forgive because any amount of forgiveness that does not include a sense of justice will be a hollow forgiveness and one that won't last.
Miroslav Volf, he was a Croatian that lived through the Serbian genocide. He's a believer. He says, you know, a lot of times I hear people say that if you believe in a God of justice, then you become very hateful and judgmental and violent yourself.
He said, anybody who says that is an academic or a Hollywood liberal who's never actually lived through injustice. He says, when you have suffered injustice, like a child being killed or, or watching your parents drug out and be slaughtered, he said, anybody who's lived through that level of hurt knows that the only way that you can deal with the rage and the hatred that dominates your heart is the belief that one day the God of the universe will right all wrongs. He said, it is only when I believe that vengeance belonged to God that I developed in my heart the capacity to forgive and to love, because only the sense that God would get justice took away the hatred and rage from my heart.
He said, my love for the Serbian people begin to grow when I embrace the God to whom vengeance belongs. That's what Paul is giving you there. Verse 20, to the contrary, to the contrary, if your enemy's hungry, feed him.
If he's thirsty, give him something to drink. For by so doing, one of my favorite phrases, you will heap burning coals on his head, we'll come back to that. Verse 21, do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. That's the heart of the passage right there. Verse 21, some of you need to memorize that. Do not repay evil for evil, repay good for evil. Don't be overcome by evil, overcome evil with good.
You're listening to Summit Life with JD Greer. Learn more about this ministry by visiting jdgreer.com. Do you have someone in your life that you want to reach out to, but you're not really sure how to get started? Let me suggest a simple way.
You might even call it an old-fashioned way. We've packaged together a set of greeting cards this month with inspirational verses on the front and blank inside for you to use this year around Thanksgiving or really any time throughout the year to encourage someone to let them know that you're thankful for them. It could even be to simply reconnect with an old friend or to take the first step to mend a broken relationship. Your set of 20 cards comes as our thanks for your generous gift to the ministry today.
Reserve it right now by calling 866-335-5220 or visit us online at jdgreer.com. Thanks for being with us today. Now let's get back to the final moments of today's Summit Life message.
Here's Pastor JD. When we are harmed or we're hurt, our natural response is to harm back, to return evil for evil. There are several motivations for this. I've already given you the sense of, well the first one, the sense of justice. We feel like that the balance of the universe is off and we feel right nigh unto deity when we are righting that wrong. A lot of times it's hatred. I want to show you because I hate you for how you hurt me and I want to make you suffer for how you made me suffer. Sometimes it's a sense of self-protection. I've taken, been taken advantage of so now I got to take a shot at you. Sometimes it's a sense that this is how we'll change them.
They're never going to learn if we don't make them pay. Listen, this passage overturns every single one of those. Every single one of those. It teaches you two revolutionary things about grace that I want you to write down here. Two revolutionary things about grace. By the way, a lot of times I hear people say that all religions basically teach the same thing.
You know, interestingly, C.S. Lewis in his book, The Abolition of Man, which in my opinion is his best book, The Abolition of Man made a statement. He said, when it comes to most ethical issues, it is indeed true that most world religions teach the same things about stealing, about murder, about adultery.
He said there's a lot of uniformity there. He says, but on this one right here, this passage we're looking at, this truth I'm about to teach you. He said the New Testament teaching stands in a class all by itself. No other religion in the world teaches you what I'm about to teach you from this passage.
Here is number one. Grace absorbs evil and gives good. Grace absorbs evil and gives good. The thing about it this way, you borrow my car for the weekend. And for whatever reason, I lose my mind and I let you borrow it, okay? So I let you borrow my car. You take it out and you wreck it.
You don't have insurance. So you come back to me and you're like, JD, I'm so sorry. I wrecked your car.
I was playing Angry Birds. I was driving down the interstate and I just lost control and I wrecked it. Right now, at that point, I have a choice, correct?
Right? I can make you pay. I can say, well, you're going to pay every cent of damage to this, or I can forgive you. Again, if I lose my mind, I forgive you. Now, if I forgive you for wrecking my car, think about it, what have I just agreed to do if I'm going to drive that car?
I just agreed to pay for it myself. The damage, my forgiveness of you doesn't make the damage just go away. Oh, I forgive you.
Boom, it just pops back up. That's not what happens. If I forgive you, then I am agreeing to pay the damage for your mistake or for your sin against me. I'm agreeing to pay it myself. In the same way, listen, when you sin against me and you wound me emotionally, I have a choice, the same choice. I can make you suffer in return and take vengeance on you, or I can refuse to take vengeance and give you love, and then I suffer alone. Your sin costs me, but not you.
I, not you, bear the effects of your sin. You see, no one who has been deeply wronged just forgives. Nobody who has been deeply wronged ever just forgives. Grace always involves suffering.
If you forgive, you are agreeing to absorb the wrong for their action towards you and not give retribution in response. This is, of course, what Jesus did for us. He absorbed the effects of our sin and released us from the liability of punishment. Jesus didn't just forgive us.
He absorbed into his body the effects of our sin. Again, nobody who has really been deeply wronged ever just forgives. Tim Keller says it like this, there is never forgiveness without suffering, nails, thorns, sweat, and blood.
Never. You see, the myth about forgiveness is that you just forgive and forget. When you've really been hurt, that is almost impossible. Insane people forget. God never forgets.
He never forgives and forgets. God suffered our sin and put it away by choice. Every time God thinks about it, he chooses to see it resolved in Jesus.
You have to make that same choice. When they have wronged you, you have to choose whether you are going to give retribution or whether you believe their sin was put away forever in Jesus or will be vindicated in hell. I learned a definition of grace when I was a kid that I've never forgotten because I think it's just dead on.
Grace, G-R-A-C-E, God's riches at Christ's expense. God did not just forgive me. He didn't just forgive you.
He gave you his riches but at Christ's expense, which is yet another dumb Christian bumper sticker. Christians are not perfect. They're just forgiven. Christians are not perfect.
That is true, but they're not just forgiven. God did not just wave his hand and forgive us. He absorbed into himself the expense of our sin so that he could lavish upon us the riches of Christ. God's riches at Christ's expense. Grace absorbs evil and gives good like Jesus did.
Here's number two. Grace overcomes evil. The second revolutionary truth from this passage. Grace overcomes evil. Paul says that in giving good, you actually overcome evil. I love the word overcome. It's a war term.
It means literally to conquer or to wrestle to the ground. You see verse 20? It says, by repaying good for evil, you will keep burning coals on their head. I love that phrase because on the surface, you're like, well, that's exactly what I wanted to do in the first place. I wanted to keep burning coals in their head.
Now we're talking. Paul is not talking about heaping, burning coals on their head to hurt them. That would be against the entire spirit of that passage. Wouldn't it? I mean, that wouldn't make any sense.
Paul be like, yeah, forgive them. And then he burning coals on their head. So as you watch their flesh melt off their scalp, you will have this sense of it.
No, it's not what he's talking about. Heaping, burning coals on their head is not done to hurt them. It's done to wake them up.
That's the whole image there. But if I'm in bed and I'm asleep and you throw either really hot or really cold water on me, either one has the same effect. It wakes me up. He says your kindness to them, your repaying good for their evil actually wakes them up out of the slumber of their stupidity and their selfishness. That's what Jesus did for us.
Is it not? He gave us kindness and that woke us up. There is another deeply ingrained myth in us that the way we change people is by repaying them evil for evil. It's like I explained to you last week.
That is just not true. Repaying evil doesn't overcome evil. It only continues it, both in them and in you. Showing grace overcomes evil. And again, how did God change you? Did he change you by repaying you for your sin?
No. He changed your heart by showing you grace. By showing you grace, get this. He overcame evil in you.
He changed your heart and woke you up. He dumped hot coals of mercy on your head by dying for your sin. So you overcome evil in somebody and in yourself by showing grace. You see, when you have hatred in your heart for somebody, evil is growing in you.
It's like one of those rings in the Lord of the Rings. It corrupts your whole being. That's what those first two verses we looked at were showing you. Proverbs 14, 30, it's rotting your bones.
Hebrews 12, 15, it's defiling your whole body. Read a book a couple of years ago called The Bishop of Rwanda, written by a guy named John Rusihana who lived through. He was a Tutsi who had been persecuted by the Hutus and watched several members of his family die. He said one of the worst lies that has ever crawled out of hell is the lie that you have to wait until somebody is truly sorry for their sin before you forgive them. He said because forgiveness has less to do with that person and more to do with you and God. He said you see regardless of that other person's reaction, when you possess bitterness in your heart, it will eat away at your heart like a cancer until it has destroyed all of you. He said and until you get to a place where you can forgive irrespective of their reaction to you, you are still trapped in a prison of bitterness. Forgiveness has more to do with you and God than it does you and them.
Some of you this morning are holding yourself in a prison of bitterness. Lamentations 3, 22, a promise to every believer says that God's mercies are new every morning, but you live in a prison of the past. You will not embrace those mercies. Romans 8, 28 tells you that your father is working all things, even the bad things for good in your life, but you won't believe that. You won't embrace that. You feel like you want to go back and get vengeance and you want to hold yourself in the prison of this past and you are thereby forfeiting the mercy and the grace and the blessing that God has for you now.
Get out of the prison of past bitterness and into the promises of future blessing because God has a way of overcoming even the worst things in your life. So let me summarize these verses. Christians don't respond to evil aggressively. They don't respond passively. They don't even respond passive aggressively. Christians respond to evil, get this, with aggressive grace. That's what I want you to write down. Aggressive grace.
Not passive, not aggressive, not passive aggressive, aggressively graceful. God transforms our bitterness into forgiveness and our anger into joy. That's the power of the gospel and that's what we're all about here. You're listening to Summit Life with pastor, author, and theologian J.D.
Greer. Our goal through the teaching this entire month is to help listeners see how the gospel can change every aspect of their life, not just their Sunday morning experience. Right, J.D.?
Yeah. I get to see our people on Sunday morning, but I know the majority of their week has lived out the other six days and God is as concerned, if not more concerned, with what it looks like to follow Jesus and know him in those other six days. God wants to transform not the Sunday part of you, but all of you. That's one of the reasons that we have the gospel partner program here is we're inviting listeners to not just be receivers of the word, but to become channels of blessing. To become a gospel partner means I'm not only being benefited by the word, I want to give to help others be benefited by the word. And we'd invite you to join that ministry team.
In fact, I'm not even embarrassed about it. We are on the air because of people who give, who give sacrificially that enables us to go into places and put something on the air for free. So you become a participant with us in ministry. It's always a gospel partner. We were able to develop a relationship with them, give you some, just some special promos, some ways of saying thank you. We'd love to start that relationship with you.
You can, you can learn more at jdgreer.com. We take seriously our responsibility to be a wise, honorable steward of every financial gift that we receive. As a growing ministry, we desire more gospel partners to join us in helping others dive deeper into the love of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ. And when you sign up for an ongoing monthly gift of $35 or more, you become part of our gospel partner family. It's that easy to sign up. Just call 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220. Or you can set up monthly donations online at jdgreer.com. I'm Molly Vitovich, and I'm so glad that you joined us today. Be sure to listen tomorrow when we'll learn more about the cure for bitterness. That's Wednesday on Summit Light with JD Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by JD Greer Ministries.
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