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Watch 2022 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - The Freedom of Forgiveness - Part 1

Allen Jackson - The Freedom of Forgiveness - Part 1

Allen Jackson - The Freedom of Forgiveness - Part 1
TOPICS: Freedom, Forgiveness

It's good to be with you again. We're working through a series on "Truth Be Told," and in this session we're gonna talk about the power of forgiveness. You know, we live in a very divided season. I don't remember our nation ever being divided as deeply as we seem to be these days. We're divided over masks or no masks, vaccines, no vaccines. We're divided over opened borders, closed borders, you name it. We're divided over political parties. We're divided over whether we should eat fried foods or not, whether our car should be electric or not. It's just nuts and it's not helpful.

You know, one of the outcomes Jesus prayed for his disciples in John 17 is that we would be one. We're gonna unpack a component in this lesson that will help bring some unity across those divisions. And it's not about how to change the people you disagree with, it's the power of forgiveness. If we can learn to forgive, it sets us free. It's a very powerful premise. Grab your Bible, get a notepad, most of all, open your heart to the Spirit of God. Let's see what he has for each of us today.

It seems to me the truth of the nation we're living in right now is that we are facing hatred, and lawlessness, and division like they're being fostered amongst us. We're not just seeing them, they're being encouraged and fanned into flame. Fuel is being added to that. Powerful spiritual forces are tearing at the fabric of our civilization, more powerful than I have ever witnessed. Our failures are not fatal unless we succumb to hatred and bitterness. And there are many voices coming at us from many perspectives with a lot of authority trying to convince us that hatred, and bitterness, and resentment is the best way forward. I don't believe it is. I believe there's a path forward that can bring personal freedom and ultimately justice for all of us, but it's not a path that's marked by hatred, and bitterness, and division. We're gonna have to find a way to stand together, and I believe God's Word gives us that pathway.

I want to start in Genesis chapter 45. It's the concluding scenario of the book of Genesis. I suspect it's a story you're familiar with. It's about Joseph and his family. Joseph belongs to the textbook example of a dysfunctional family. If you looked them up in the dictionary, and the pictures and there were accurate, you would have the picture of Joseph and his brothers. His father played favorites with his sons, as you could imagine it created tremendous resentment and hatred to the point that Joseph's brothers sold him as a slave.

Now, I've had brothers and we've disagreed, but we've never sold one another. And for more than a decade, Joseph labored underneath that crushing weight, and he suffered multiple other injustices in his life. And then through God's sovereign intervention, wisdom that God gave to Joseph to interpret a dream, he found himself instated in essence as the Prime Minister of Egypt, in charge of their economy, second only to Pharaoh himself. And a famine besets the Middle East, and as you might expect, his brothers have to come to Egypt to buy food, and they have to deal with Joseph. It's Genesis 45, we're gonna listen in. You know the story, I suspect. "Joseph said to his brothers, 'Come close to me,' and when they had done so, he said, 'I'm your brother, Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt.'"

Now, at this point, he smells like an Egyptian, and looks like an Egyptian, and he speaks like an Egyptian. They are clueless. "I'm your brother. And now, do not be distressed and don't be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there's been famine in the land, and for the next five years they'll not be plowing or reaping". Can you imagine the total economic destruction and the starvation that would come if you are an agricultural society, and for seven years there were no crops? I can't imagine what that would mean. That's more than a supply-chain disruption. Verse 7, "But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance".

Joseph's perspective on what had beset him was that God had orchestrated it. I know this is in our Bibles and we read that like it's normal, but there's nothing about that interaction or that passage that fits what my expectations would dictate into the narrative of that family system. Joseph should have been angry, murderous, violent, filled with hatred. This is his chance to get even. Maybe there might be some family relationship that would ring a bell on the back of his head, but not until he's exacted some measure of revenge, but all of that is absent. Joseph's perspective is that God sent me ahead of you. I'm actually here on a God assignment. And what you meant for my destruction God meant for my good.

Now, Joseph has had to have some tremendous, inward change to arrive at that place. Please don't impute to Joseph an ease in that. You know, I find that we project on to other people that it's easier for them to be godly than us. Now, people will say to me, "Pastor, you know, I know you must just like to read your Bible, but I don't". News bulletin, when I started, it was the most miserable book I picked up. Please don't imagine it's easier for other people to be godly, or holy, or righteous, or make a godly choice, or to make a sacrifice. I don't believe it is, and I don't believe it was easy for Joseph to have forgiven his brothers, or his father, or Potiphar, or the jailer, or the people with whom he was incarcerated, or any of the other people who mistreated him. There was something that Joseph understood that kept creating doors of opportunity in the midst of the most devastating betrayals.

Now, if that's true, how many of you would like to know the key to those kind of doors? Well, I would. I think that's worth paying attention to, because life isn't fair, and it isn't just, and evil exists on Planet Earth, and it's highly improbable, if not impossible, that you and I should imagine we're gonna make our journey through time without being treated inappropriately. And yet, Joseph understood something that enabled him to flourish, no matter how dark the depravity that he was subjected to. I'll put alongside that another one of my heroes in the Bible, it's in the book of Daniel. Daniel is Jewish, he happens to live in the season when God is subjecting the nation of Israel to judgment, to punishment. He's allowed the Babylonians to destroy the city of Jerusalem, and they exported some of the finest young people from Israel. They didn't slaughter them, they took them back to Babylon, and some are being pressed into court service for the king.

Now, that may sound delightful, but imagine now you've got to serve as a courtier to the power that destroyed your city and slaughtered your family members. Not an easy place. And in the middle of Jerusalem was the temple, Solomon's temple. It was a physical reminder of the sovereign presence of God in the midst of his people. That our God was triumphant. They'd seen God turn back nation after nation, assault after assault, from Goliath at David's hand as a child, to the Assyrian army when King Hezekiah prayed. They expected God to deliver them until the Babylonians came. And the false prophets said this will be just like every other time, God will send them away. And Jeremiah said not so fast. So, I'm quite confident that in the heart of the citizens of Israel, there is resentment, disappointment, confusion with God.

How could he have allowed this to happen? And then we meet Daniel. He is a towering figure in Scripture. In fact, he was so trusted by God on more than one occasion, God sent an archangel to Daniel to tell him he was highly esteemed by God. I find that, at least in my opinion, God does not use words casually. If he sent an archangel to Daniel to tell him he was very valuable, my suspicion is that Daniel was in a place physically, emotionally, in every other way, where it didn't seem he was very valued, and yet God gave to Daniel such remarkable revelations about what was to come in the earth that we still study Daniel's writings to understand what's happening in our generation. How many of you would like to know the Lord so well that he could trust you with circumstances that were decades, centuries in front of you?

Don't be content to just sit in church. What a goofy idea. Don't settle for a faith that just gets your ticket into heaven but is indifferent in your journey through time. Esteem to be a person that God highly values. "Well, Pastor," Daniel's circumstances were awful. In fact, when we meet him in Daniel chapter 1, they'd been selected for service in the court. It means that it's most probable that he and his friends were made eunuchs. And then his response to the one who has charge over their wellbeing is, "We would rather not eat the king's rich food". Could we maintain our obedience to our God by honoring his dietary regulations for us? In the midst of the horror, and the disappointment, and the heartbreak, and enslavement, the question is, Could we still honor God?

You know, when we talk about forgiveness, a part of this is having forgiveness in our relationship with God, because you'll be disappointed at how God responds. You'll be disappointed in his timing. You'll be disappointed in some of the things that he allows to take place in your life. I don't really have any desire to mature, I'm good being immature. Every time my parents talked to me about maturity, it had something to do with responsibility, and they wanted me to be responsible in some new arena. I was never interested. We think it would be good for you if you were mature enough to pay for your own gas. No, I'm good on your card. We think it'd be good for you if you could pay your own car insurance. No, no, I'm good, you just help yourselves with that. I don't remember ever volunteering. I don't ever remember showing up.

So you know, I've been thinkin' about this a lot. On my next birthday, I'd like to be entrusted with more responsibilities, because I wanna mature. Nah, just keep doing my laundry. And I find that my habit really hasn't changed much with the Lord. I'm glad I'm in the family. Well, I'd like you to behave a bit more responsibly. No, no, no, I'm good, really. Let somebody else feed me, and care for me, and watch over me. God loves us too much. I don't know how Daniel understood that, but I can tell you through empire changes, and through great threats, and tremendous disappointments, he flourished.

Again, I want to understand how to walk that way. I brought you just a sample. It says, "The king talked with them". After they flourished on their limited diet, the king wanted to speak with them. "The king talked with them and he found none equal to Daniel, and Hananiah, and Mishael and Azariah," it's his friends. "So they entered the king's service, and in every manner of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom".

See, I think the motivation for forgiving, I think the motivation for enduring and overcoming is to understand that saying yes to the Lord will bring you to a better place. It's not intuitive, and it's certainly not gonna be reinforced by broader cultural voices, but hatred, and anger, and violence, and resentment, and entitlement will not take you to a better place. They're very destructive. They're destructive emotions, they're destructive forces. There's a better way.

I want to spend the rest of our time talking with you about the power of forgiveness, the freedom that forgiveness can bring to your life. We'll start in Luke 23. This was Jesus on Golgatha, it's crucifixion day, tough day. He's been beaten almost beyond recognition as human. He's been beaten to the point that he's hemorrhaged so severely he doesn't any longer have the strength even to bear the cross and carry it through the streets as is common practice for criminals. And now he's been stretched out and nailed to a Roman cross, and the soldiers have mocked him, and his enemies have mocked him. His friends have abandoned him. He's hungry, thirsty, naked, and on display in front of everybody, the Creator of heaven and earth. He's not there because he's powerless, he chose to go there.

And listen to the commentary. "There were two other men, both criminals, led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called The Skull, they crucified him along with the criminals, one on his right and the other on his left. Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing.'" Let me ask you a question. What do you think Jesus meant? 'Cause I'm pretty certain that the soldiers who nailed him to that cross knew exactly what they were doing, they were experts at it. They're professional executioners. Pilate knew precisely what he was doing when he condemned him do a beating and then to death. The chief priests and those who worked with him understood exactly what the objective was when they began the process with the arrest in Gethsemane that proceeded all the way to handing him over to the Roman governor.

It wasn't ignorance on their part, they had an intent and an objective and it was carried out seamlessly. "Father forgive them". There's a part of this narrative they don't understand. They're limited in their sight. Jesus modeled something for us. He's a victim. It's the epitome of injustice. The innocent, sinless, obedient Son of God being crucified as a common criminal, tortured to death because of our ungodliness. Oh, certainly there was an ungodly group of people that gathered around to orchestrate the event, but we're just as ungodly in our way. He took upon himself our punishment, and his response was, "Father, forgive them".

I wanna submit to you that how you and I choose to process forgiveness will ultimately define our lives. It defined Joseph, it defined Daniel's, it defined Jesus. And it's not a one-time lesson. It was not something that you'll learn one time, it's a life lesson, it's a lifelong course. Ignoring hurts does not produce the same result is forgiveness. Denying them, ignoring them, overlooking them, having a tougher outer shell is not the objective. Just being tough enough to push your way through is not the goal. Burying your feelings of rejection, of hurt, anger, or betrayal will not eliminate the consequences of those feelings, and our goal, remember, is not to have our course deterred by those consequences of injustice and evil. They'll continue to color your life until forgiveness is achieved, so understanding the process of forgiveness is more than a casual thing.

There's some scriptural boundaries, kind of ground rules, if you'll allow me, for forgiveness. One is to know that forgiveness is not optional. I mean, you can choose not to forgive, but you'll forfeit your future as a Christ follower. In Matthew chapter 6 and verse 14, Jesus said, "If you forgive men when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins". It could not be plainer. Jesus said if you'll forgive others, God will forgive you, but that if you refuse to forgive, you won't be forgiven, wow. All the options just left the table. Our previous session, we talked about guilt. Here's our truth, we're all guilty. "Amen" is the word you're searching for. I can do both sides of this.

So, if we need forgiveness, and we do, the prerequisite for that is we have to be willing to forgive others. It's not about whether they deserve it, whether they've ask appropriately. When Jesus taught us to pray, remember the Lord's Prayer, the Our Father? He taught us to pray this way, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us". There's a link between our willingness to forgive and our ability to be forgiven, so it's not optional. Secondly, there's no statute of limitations. You can't outwait God. You can't think, "Well, it's just a long time ago. I've carried that for so long, I think I'll carry it a while longer".

In Matthew 18, Peter comes to Jesus. The disciples struggled with Jesus's teaching, and it gives me great comfort. Jesus would look at 'em and say, "Are you really that slow? Are you still so dull? Can you not understand? You of little faith". Clearly Jesus recruited from the slow group. "Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me"? And he wants to appear spiritual, so he reaches for, like, the most absurd number he can think of. "Up to seven times"? Hmm, I can see Jesus, I mean, he must have smiled. He said, "No, not seven times," and it's not really clear. You can translate the next phrase two ways. "As many as 77 times," or it could read just as legitimately, "Seven times 70". Either way, a whole lot more than seven, Pete.

You see, we're not going to get to a threshold where now I can choose hate. There's not some point in time where you think, alright, now it's my turn. I get to be bitter. And the third ground rule I would give you, and this one's hopeful, forgiveness can be achieved quickly. There's many things that come to us spiritually that have to be worked out over time. In fact, most of the things in life, the really important things, have longterm lead times. If you want to get healthier, you probably can't do that with one trip to the gym. We've all tried that, right? You haven't been in the gym for years, you're going to go for a really good workout, and you do. You work out really hard then you feel awful for ten days, so you learn the lesson, don't go to that place it makes you feel bad. Most of the important things in life have longer-term leadtimes. Forgiveness can be achieved quickly.

Look at Mark 11:25. "When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him," when? While you're standing there praying. If anything comes to mind about anyone, just forgive them. It's a choice. You don't have to fast for 30 days, you don't need to call the pastor, you don't need to meet with your small group. If God brings to mind anyone and you recognize anger, resentment, hatred, bitterness, whatever it might be, forgive them, forgive them. We're gonna talk a bit more about how to do that. Ernest Hemingway, you read a lot of Hemingway? I'm waiting for the cartoon versions.

Well, in his short story, "The Capitol of the World," he tells the story about a father and his teenage son who lived in Spain. Their relationship became strained, eventually it was shattered completely, and the son ran away from home. And in the short story, the father begins this long journey in search of his lost and rebellious son. And finally, just as an act of his last desperation, he put an ad in a Madrid newspaper, and the ad simply read, "Dear Paco, meet me in front of the Madrid newspaper tomorrow at noon. All is forgiven. I love you". Hemingway writes, "The next day at noon in front of the newspaper office, there were 800 Pacos all seeking forgiveness". I think we all understand our need for forgiveness, but oftentimes we're not nearly as anxious to extend forgiveness.

We're gonna pray before we go. Forgiveness is a decision of the will, it's not an emotion. We don't have to feel like forgiving, we have to choose to. Jesus taught us to pray that way, to forgive those who've sinned against us. Let's pray:

Father, by a decision of our will today, we choose to forgive everyone of anything they have done to us. We release them in Jesus's name. May your best come to them, and we thank you for our freedom, amen.

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