Allen Jackson - To Forgive or Not Forgive - Part 2
It's a privilege to be with you today. We're continuing our discussion on forgiveness, specifically we're talking about forgiving other people. I think a lot of us share this common fear that if we forgive someone of some wrong, sometimes it's even evil. We have this fear that they're gonna get away with it. Well, I have an announcement to make, nobody gets away with it. As much as God is a God of love, he's a God of justice, and God will not be mocked. Don't imagine that when you forgive, people have been released from the awareness of God. We are simply removing ourselves from the equation. It's a powerful idea to start to build into your life. Grab your Bible and a notepad, open your heart.
Now I wanna come back to that scene of Jesus on the cross. And I wanna take a moment or two with this notion of sin and consequences. 'Cause here is the challenge I think we all face, if I forgive someone, if I say, "Okay, I choose to forgive". I'm not looking to you for an apology, I'm not looking to you for rest, I'm not looking to you, I'm turning my face to God and saying, "I'm canceling that debt". If I forgive someone, are they getting away with it? 'Cause I think that's the real concern, are they getting away with it? And I'll give you my short answer before we look at the scripture, absolutely not. Because God is both just and loving.
See, we talk a lot, secular culture will talk about a loving God, and whether they accept or reject his behaviors, they don't frequently talk as much about the aspect of God's character that is every much as real, and that's that God is just. And because of the justice of God I assure you, no one gets away with it. That's not a threat, it's a little threatening personally, makes me wanna understand what I need to do to qualify for forgiveness. Let's go back to Luke 23:34, it's in your notes. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them. They don't know what they're doing. And they divided up his clothes by casting lots".
Again, who was the beneficiary of Jesus's question, Jesus's prayer? I would submit to you it was Jesus. I don't imagine that those responsible for him escaped consequences. Look in John 19. This is Jesus's interview with Pilate the Roman governor. Pilate understands that Jesus is innocent, that he has been presented to him because of the jealousy of the religious officials in Jerusalem, they're threatened by his popularity, they're concerned that they could lose their position, and so they've orchestrated an accusation against Jesus and now they're asking for the Romans to do what only the Romans can do, and that's the crucifixion, the Jews didn't crucify people. And Pilate knows that, now he's in a political quandary, we understand what this means.
We've all been in our version of this, he has some sense of what's right and he understands what's being asked of him is wrong, but there's some advantage in choosing the wrong. It's gonna earn him some political favor, it might help him in his agenda in the city, it might secure his career in a better way, so he's grappling with all of this. It's John 19. And Pilate says to Jesus, "Do you refuse to speak to me? Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you"? Pilate's a little full of himself. And it's true, he has that legal authority. What he doesn't understand is the spiritual authority that Jesus holds and who's standing in front of him.
When I say to you that the problem we have as a nation is spiritual, before it's legal, or political, or about violence upon one another, there is a spiritual foundation to it. That idea comes from the heart of the redemptive story of Jesus. And it's our distance from spiritual things that causes us to question that, to doubt that, to not engage that. I'm not asking you to agree with me, I'm asking you to meditate upon the Word of God until it takes root in your heart, our children desperately need us to awaken from our spiritual slumber. We're not gonna secure their future by expanding Disney. "Don't you realize I have power to free you or to crucify you? And Jesus answered," this is where you should lean forward, I wanna hear what he has to say. "Pilate, do you know who I am"?
There's so many things Jesus could have said, "Well, as a matter of fact I do". But that's not the path he chose. "Jesus answered, 'You would've no power over me if it weren't given to you from above.'" "My dad gave you your job, he can take it away". It's the next sentence that I think speaks to our topic. "Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin". The people that orchestrated this sham of an arrest, they're guilty of something greater than you. You may order me to be beaten, you may order me to be crucified, but the ones that delivered me into your authority, they're guilty of something greater.
Folks, there's no absolution there. I promise you there's an accounting to be given. You don't believe me yet perhaps. Look in Matthew 26, Jesus with his disciples, one of the holiest times in their relationship together. There's a few that I would submit were more spiritually transformational, but not very many. They're celebrating the last supper, Jesus has told them repeatedly about what's to happen to him, they've celebrated their last Passover meal before he begins his passion, his suffering. And he has a very candid moment with them, one that's gonna disrupt the whole evening. "Jesus said, The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me".
There's only friends in the room. And the Son of Man will go just as it has written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would've been better for him if he had not been born. Then Judas, the one who would betray him said, Surely not I Rabbi"? And Jesus answered, It's you". What did Jesus have to say to Judas? That it would've been better if he were never born. Are there consequences to sin? We better believe it, we've been a little sloppy. Now we've talked about how to be forgiven, I want us to understand the significance of our willingness to forgive, because it's connected to our ability to be forgiven. And I promise you when you forgive someone, you haven't removed them from the justice of God. Now they have choices to make. Forgiveness is for your freedom, it's for my freedom.
See the cultural narrative that is so popular and its popular tragically in many church settings as well, that Christians love properly expressed, would never criticize or warn of condemnation. That Christians should only be expressions of tolerance, and encourage people to pursue their own self-interest in whatever you want. Again the secularists are very ready to remind us of a loving God and our assignment to represent him. And there are a few choice verses that are harvested suggesting a New Testament perspective, that love covers a multitude of sins. And there is some truth in that, it is a part of the truth, but it's not the entire truth. You understand this, you understand it as a means of manipulation, broccoli is good for you, but if the only thing you eat is broccoli, you will turn green.
So you can take something that is true but is not the totality of truth, and you can lead somebody to a very destructive place with it. And it's true that love should cover a multitude of sins, but our message should be pre-eminently about love, so we're told. That we should talk almost exclusively about that and much less about things like holiness or purity. Well, I wanna be certain you understand Biblically, I believe that approach is inaccurate and it's very dangerous to the consumer.
Now we see expressions, we saw some this week, we are blamed for causing acts of violence or hatred, if we acknowledge a Biblical worldview. If we talk about marriage and the way it's defined scripturally, if we talk about God creating us male and female, there are voices that will say, "We're sowing the seeds of hatred and violence". And the result of that messaging, 'cause it's very prominent, you know it is, it causes us to be silent, unfortunately. The result is, a multitude of Christians unwilling or afraid to speak the truth. In the past few days, Focus on the Family, it's an organization that has served and strengthened our families in our nation for many years. Dr. Dobson founded it, it was vandalized after a shooting in the town where they are, at a gay nightclub.
Now the shooter was non-binary, you could figure that out. I needed thesaurus these days. Nevertheless, a Christian organization was blamed and attacked as the instigator of the violence. Pretty typical cultural message. You see, truth is incendiary to those who reject it. If you're not gonna yield to the truth of God, you don't wanna be reminded of it. And so you'll look for the weaknesses and the messengers and you'll try to discredit the systems that are advocates for that, and it's not particularly hard to do, because we are human and frail and broken and so are our systems. But I would submit to you that you shouldn't imagine the truth is less valuable or necessary just because it isn't embraced.
I've only got a couple of minutes, but I brought you a couple of passages that speak to this and they're worth a moment's attention. It's the same scene recorded in two gospels, so it's reported with two gospel writers and they highlight a couple of different perspectives, but together you get an overview that's helpful in addressing this question about sin and consequences. Should we imagine there are no consequences that because we forgive someone, they're just absolved. And I don't believe that's what the scripture tells us. In Matthew chapter 3, it's about John the Baptist and he's baptizing in the Jordan River. He's the predecessor of Jesus. He begins an awakening, a renewal movement, a movement of repentance that stirs the city of Jerusalem and the surrounding villages.
It's Matthew chapter 3 verse 7. "When John saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them; You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance". Now Jesus said, of those men born amongst women, there was none greater than John the Baptist. And did you hear what John the Baptist did when he saw the religious leaders from Jerusalem? The Pharisees are responsible for those places where the Jewish people gathered in their little communities. And the Sadducees are responsible for the temple in Jerusalem. It's the national bank, it's the most powerful expression of political power in the nation, so they're the power brokers at the national level and at the community level.
And John looks at them and he says, "You're a bunch of snakes". Brood of vipers, bunch of snakes, same thing. King James, first contemporary southern. "You bunch of snakes who warned you to flee from the coming problem, the judgment that's ahead of you? Produce fruit in keeping with a change of thought and a change of behavior and until you do, don't talk to me". Wow! Luke chapter 3 records the same scenario with a slightly different focus. "John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized to him, You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath"?
In Matthew, we understand Jesus directed that particular statement at the Sadducees and the Pharisees. But Luke gives us a little broader insight. They said to him, "We have Abraham as our father". And then he says, "Out of these stones, God can raise up children for Abraham". "The ax is already at the root of the trees, every tree that doesn't produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire". They understood what John was saying to them. You are about to lose your place, your power, your authority, your influence. "So the crowd asked". The crowd's watching this discussion take place with the most powerful religious leaders of their day. And the crowd says to John, "Well what should we do? And John answered, The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and then one who has food should do the same. And tax collectors also came to be baptized and they said, 'Teacher, what should we do?'"
The tax collectors, the biggest thieves in the community are asking John for counsel, not the Sadducees or the Pharisees. And John said, "Don't collect any more than you're required to. And then the soldiers asked". I mean it's like this descending thing like, well who is left? Well the soldiers said, "What should we do? 'Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely be content with your pay.'" So John is confronting these people, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, he said, "You're self-righteous, you're filled with racial pride. You think you were born into the right group of people and you're better than everybody else, repent". He said, "Think a different way, behave a different way, show me the evidence of that". The crowd said, "What do we do"? And he said, "You're selfish, you're covetous, you have to change".
The tax collectors, they're Jewish citizens, but they work with the Romans to collect taxes from the Romans 'cause they knew who has the most resources. They're traitors they betray their own people. They're greedy, they line their own pockets. It's Zacchaeus in Jericho, some of you know the story. The soldiers, they practice extortion, they're abusive, they're discontent.
Now listen to Jesus commentary on those two passages. This is nearing the end of his ministry, and he's talking to the religious leaders and he says, "What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, Son go and work today in the vineyard. And he said, 'I will not.' But later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the other son and told him the same thing. And he answered, 'I will sir.' But he didn't go. Which of the two did what the father wanted? And the crowd answered, 'The first.' And Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth.'"
And you know by now you need to tighten your seatbelt. Jesus is about to blow your mind. "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you". The extortionist, the traitors, the greedy, and the immoral are in line before you. "For John came to show you the way of righteousness and you didn't believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you didn't repent and believe him".
See, Jesus has the expectation that repentance is normal behavior for God's people. And that failure to repent, brings a forfeiture of benefits. You can call it judgment, you can call it a consequence, when we refuse to cooperate with God's instructions, we forfeit our benefits. See, when we forgive other people, we entrust them into the justice of God. Now they can choose to seek forgiveness, they can choose repentance, they can make choices, that's not our assignment. Our assignment is to find the freedom that we can have by being willing to forgive others. Folks, it's not an excuse to practice sloppy grace. Our assignment is to tell the truth to our generation. Not in anger, not in condemnation, it isn't condemnation, it's an invitation to freedom.
If Jesus told the truth, and I believe he did, that "No one comes to the Father except through him". When we say there aren't many paths to God, we're not being narrow minded, or belittling, or critical, we're inviting people towards the truth. Amen, there's a spiritual battle raging around us, and you and I have a choice to make about what we believe to be the truth. You'll have to choose. You're gonna have to invest the energy, the thought, and the wonderful thing about the truth of God, is you do it incrementally.
You hear a bit of truth and you embrace it, and then you decide if that brought freedom or not. And if it did, the clever next step is to take another bit of truth, and another bit of truth, and another bit of truth. Because every time you walk more fully into the truth, you'll find more freedom. Tragically, we've been given this idea that if you take that first bit of truth, and you experience the new birth conversion, salvation, it's really not necessary you take any more steps. And so we have a weakened, inept, anemic, frightened, cowardly church.
Now I live in the midst of it, I'm not throwing stones at anybody. I'm telling you, God will bring freedom to you. There is a power available to help you be changed from the inside out. We don't have to deny our sins, we don't have to deny our temptations, we don't have to sweep 'em away, we don't have to go find some groups of people to affirm us in them, we have to have the courage to say, "I need help". And a very powerful, powerful expression of believing the truth, is being willing to forgive others, forgive others.
You see, it will do more to crush hatred. It isn't that we need to be more open-minded, it isn't that we need to redefine our worldview. We have seen decades of expressions of tolerance and they have not brought to us greater unity. Because no matter what form of ungodliness you embrace today, they will move the standard tomorrow and ask for another concession. We're gonna have to have the courage to choose the truth. God will help us. When you forgive, you declare freedom for yourself and you bring freedom to your family. Brought you a little prayer, I think we could pray as a conclusion together. And if you looked ahead, it's not a prayer, it's actually a passage from the Book of Acts. But in its context, it is a prayer.
Peter and John have been arrested again, and threatened again, all sorts of dire consequences pushed at them, and they went back to their people. Now they're Jewish, the people threatening them are Jewish, the people angry at them are Jewish, and the people to whom they're going to pray are Jewish. This isn't a racial divide, this is a spiritual divide. It's not even a divide about the book because they all believe the Old Testament, they believe the laws of Moses to have governed their lives. They believe Jesus not to have launched a new faith, Jesus is the fulfillment of the faith that they have. We talk to Jewish people about the Christian faith, we don't ask them to become Christians, we acknowledge that Jesus, the Jewish rabbi is our Messiah.
So Peter and John come back to their people and they say, you know, "Herod and Pontius Pilate they met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel to conspire against our Lord, whom you anointed. They did what your power and your will had decided beforehand should happen". God, they did that under your permissive will. You allowed that to happen so that your purposes could come forth in the earth. And then they set a prayer, and this is the prayer I wanna invite you to stay with me this morning at our conclusion.
Why don't you stand with me? It's in bold, we're gonna read it together. Because we live in a time and a season where there are threats attached to being a Christ follower, not as much in our world, but I interact regularly with the Christian community in Ukraine, and they're under tremendous threat. And it's true all over the world. Let's pray this together. It's beginning in verse 29, let's just read it together:
Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and to perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus, amen.