Craig Groeschel - Jesus Never Said You Don't Need to Forgive Them
Hey, I'm excited that there are some people excited today in churches all over the nation and people all over the world at church online gathered together to worship God and to hear God's word. And before we dive into a brand new message series, I gotta take a moment to celebrate that this weekend at 32 locations, next weekend there will be 33 locations. But this weekend we are seeing people baptized. And I wanna congratulate those of you. Just a few stories from Life.Church in Norman, Oklahoma, Therese started a prison ministry using the messages from our church. In prison, Marissa actually came to faith in Christ. Marissa, congratulations on being out of prison and being baptized this weekend. We celebrate with you.
From Fort Smith, Arkansas, Misty, drug-free, no longer bound by addiction celebrating new life in Christ being baptized. And from Life.Church in South Oklahoma City, Crystal, you acknowledged you made a lot of poor life decisions, but someone invited you to church last weekend. You said yes to Jesus, and you're being baptized this weekend, congratulations! Church, I hope you feel it. Can you imagine this weekend over 1300 people going public with their faith, surrendering their lives and being baptized? I say it all the time. We're not praying for revival, church. Can you feel it? We're right in the middle of one.
And so today we're gonna do what we always do. We're gonna let God's word speak to us. We're launching into a brand new four-part message series. It's called Things That Jesus Never Said. What I wanna do over the next few weeks is I wanna look at some of the words that are in red in your Bible. If they're in red, that means that Jesus said them. The words of Jesus, they are other-worldly. To truly understand the power of the truth of what Jesus said, sometimes it helps me to look at what he didn't say, what he could have said, what I might have said. But what he didn't say helps us understand the power of what he did say.
Today I wanna look at what Jesus didn't say about the topic of forgiveness. I'll introduce it this way. How many of you know somebody, need everybody to participate. It's no fun without you. How many of you know somebody who's really annoying on Facebook? Raise your hands, raise you hand, okay? Leave them up for a second, leave them up. If your hand's not up in the air right now, could be you, probably is you, just wanna say. Let me tell you what Jesus didn't say. Jesus didn't say, Father forgive them for they do not know what they post. He did not say that to you Facebook annoying people. He didn't say this. He didn't say, fool me once, and I'll forgive you. Fool me twice, and I'll give you hemorrhoids. He didn't say that. I might have if I had his power, but he didn't say that. Jesus never, ever said, sorry, you've sinned too much for me to forgive you. I can forgive everybody else, but you really get on my nerves. Jesus never said that. How many of you thank God for the grace of our good God, the forgiveness that we received freely through his son, Jesus?
As we talk today about what Jesus did say about forgiveness, we're gonna look in Matthew's gospel. And we're going to dive into a portion of a sermon that Jesus gave. It's known as the Sermon on the Mount. We'll be in Matthew, chapter six, and in this chapter, part of the sermon Jesus was actually teaching the disciples how to pray. Some of you may not be people of faith. You may be new to church, and you don't really now how to pray. Jesus was very, very specific, and he was teaching them and us how to pray. And at the end of his teaching on prayer, he kind of gave a PS, a postscript, a couple of sentences about the topic of forgiveness in the prayer. That's what we're gonna focus on today.
How do you pray? Jesus said this in verse nine. He said, "This then is how you should pray". Then Jesus said, "Our Father". Everybody say, our Father. Our Father. Jesus said, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread". Then let me highlight what Jesus did not say. He did not say, forgive us our debts though we're still holding grudges against other people. He didn't say, I'll forgive you, but you don't have to forgive what someone else did. What Jesus said is this, verse 12, "And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors". Then in verse 14 he's finished teaching how to pray, and he gives us additional thoughts on forgiveness. And this is what Jesus did say. "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins".
I wanna read this to you again, because I wanna let it settle in for just a moment. This is what Jesus said. "If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don't forgive them, your Father will not forgive your sins". That's what Jesus said, very intense, very sobering words. The first time I ever taught on this text, I was probably 24 years of age, maybe 25 years of age. I was filling in for my pastor, Pastor Nick Harris, who was out for the weekend. I was in a robe looking rather pastoral, standing behind a pulpit the size of a Honda Accord, and I preached this message, when suddenly I realized in the middle of this message that I was holding a grudge and carrying unforgiveness.
You see, several years prior I was in school. I was a fraternity guy in a college. And at my particular school there were some fraternities that we liked more than others and some that we really didn't like at all. And we disliked people 'cause they had different color shirts for really holy and special things like that. And so I was driving by kind of the enemy fraternity house back then. And this guy came out and he saw me driving by. He knew who I was. I sort of knew who he was. And he gave me a signal, basically pointing one way to heaven, peel the banana, whatever, you can figure it out. And he gave me the bird, and he followed my car giving me the bird.
I was not a Christian at the time, and so I did what only felt right, which was I stopped my car immediately in the middle of the street, abandoned my car, and starting running toward him as fast as I could. What I was intending to do was simply right that wrong on behalf of our good God. I was gonna break his finger off and put it wherever seemed right at that moment, if you know what I'm saying. And so when he saw me coming, he turned the other way, and he ran into his fraternity house. And so I followed him in. He evidently went into some room and hid. And I was yelling, "Where's finger guy"? I was gonna settle the issue. It didn't take long to realize there was one of me and about 30 guys from the other fraternity, and this wasn't my best strategy. I decided I'll settle it later and just made a vow.
Next time I see him we'd get things straight. Well, evidently, at the end of the semester he didn't come back to school for one reason or another and life went by. And I just was still looking for him anywhere, anytime, all the time, and I saw him in the middle of my sermon. I looked up into the balcony, and there was finger boy looking down at me from the balcony. And it dawned on me I'm preaching about forgiving others, and at that moment I was carrying a grudge and holding the burden of unforgiveness against someone else.
Some of you are going to have a similar unsettling moment with God even now. You came to church. You feel like all is good. And suddenly you recognize the very sobering words of Jesus might have direct application in your life because you too have a grudge, unforgiveness. You're carrying a grievance against someone who wronged you, hurt you, disappointed you, let you down, or betrayed you. Anytime, over the years I've talked about this subject, forgiving others, it creates a lot of emotion, and rightly so. Inevitably I'll get letters, emails. I'll talk to somebody, and they get riled up, and they'll say, but Craig, you don't know what somebody did to me!
I talked to somebody just a few days ago that is devastated because her husband cheated on her, and she's ringing with pain. And telling her to forgive at this point might almost seem cruel because of the emotion that she's living under, even right now. Maybe you experienced something similar. A best friend lied to you or maybe lied about you. Maybe someone that you loved or admired, maybe even a Christian figure or a hero to you, let you down and wasn't who they pretended that they would be. Maybe there's someone who didn't pay you what they owed you and left you in a very bad place. Maybe someone broke a promise to you. Maybe someone took advantage of you and used you for their benefit. Maybe, and unfortunately for many of you, there was someone who should have loved you and should have protected you, but instead of protecting you they hurt you.
Tragically there are many of you who would have suffered very real abuse, verbal or emotional, some physical, some sexual abuse. And here you are maybe years, perhaps, even decades later, and you still feel that pain, and you still carry the scars. So if you say, for a moment, that's just not fair, you don't know what someone did to me, I just wanna take a moment and acknowledge that there are so many wrongs in this world. And let me acknowledge it may have been grossly unfair, brutal. It may have been reprehensible what somebody did to you. I wanna acknowledge that pain. Sometimes I found that there's even another level of pain. In other words, there's a lot of people that have hurt me personally. But I don't know about you, but what tends to get me even more is when someone hurts or abuses someone that I love.
There's almost even a deeper emotion sometimes that comes from that. And that's the case in our family. My sister Lisa is courageously open about something that happened to her when she was younger. She's a part of our church and is a great mom to her kids and wife to her husband and such. But when she was in the sixth grade, there was a respected leader in the community, her sixth grade teacher, that everyone knew and loved. And unbeknownst to us, he was not only grooming her, but he was grooming us. You could even say he was grooming the community, and this was before we really even called it grooming, because we just weren't aware in the same way that we are nowadays.
What this man, I call him Max, it's not his real name, but what this man did, not only to my sister, but to scores of little girls throughout the years, it's so horrific that I would never say what he did out loud. How do you forgive something that seems unforgivable? How do you forgive something so brutally wrong from someone you trusted, maybe even respected? How do you live out what Jesus taught us to do? There's a clue in the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray in verse nine of Matthew six. Jesus said this, he said, "This then is how you should pray". He said, "Our Father". Everybody say, our Father. Our Father. It's really interesting to me that Jesus was teaching people to pray, and he didn't tell them to pray, my Father. But he taught them to pray, our Father, our Father. In other words, God is not just my heavenly Father, but he's your heavenly Father. We share him in common. He is our heavenly Father. And because he is our Father, we are his children. And our relationship with our siblings under God truly matters to God.
As a dad, this makes sense to me. Amy and I have six kids. People always say, did you know what caused that? We always said, yes, we did, and we're unwilling to give it up. Okay? That's all I know, but... And thankfully our kids are almost grown out of the stage of fighting in the car, but sometimes they're not. I don't know if this happens in your house and in your car, but on road trips everything can be fine until one screams, "You touched me! Take your hands off me! He hit me"! I don't know if you've ever watched in soccer when a player will barely bump another player, and then they'll flop on the ground? Our kids flop in the middle of the back seat. Boo! Draw a shield, deep penetrate of the shield. And then I find myself saying those annoying things, like, I'll pull this car over. And I've actually done that on the highway before.
And so Amy said this a million times. I've said it a million times. There's nothing that breaks our heart more than when our children don't get along. On the other hand, we've said the flip side. There's nothing that brings us more joy when our children love and honor and respect each other. When we pray, we're praying to our Father. And our relationship with God's other children really matters to the heart of God. Maybe that's one reason why Jesus said this in Matthew, chapter five. He said, "If you're offering your gift at the altar, and remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar". Before you give your offering, he says, "First go and be reconciled to them, then come back and offer your gift".
What was Jesus saying essentially? If you're going to worship your heavenly Dad, don't bring him an offering when you're fighting with his kids. Go get that straight first, because that's how much it matters to our heavenly Father. Amen. Amen. Go and make it right with your siblings, the other ones of God's children. Then come back and worship God. Think about this. Who does unforgiveness hurt? If God is our heavenly Father, then it actually hurts his heart when his children are not treating each other with love and honor and respect. Who else does it hurt when there's unforgiveness? It hurts the person who is not forgiving. It poisons their soul. You find yourself just seething in anger at somebody. They don't even know you're thinking about them. If we live with bitterness, resentment, and hatred, then we continue to let the wounds stay infected and poison our own soul.
Someone said this, that you may be living in a prison of offense. Someone hurts you weeks ago, months ago, years ago, decades ago, and you are in a prison of offense. Forgiveness is the key that sets you free from the prison of offense. It sets you free. Amy and I learned this years ago when we first got married. She brought a very old beat-up car into the marriage. I brought a Christian sanctified car into the marriage, a Honda Accord, and all the disciples gathered in one accord, thank you. And so the rule is in my house, the wife drives the better car. So I gave her that car, and I drove the other piece of car, okay? And so when I had to start commuting to cemetery, when I had to start commuting to seminary, it was an hour-and-a-half drive. And her car got bad gas mileage. It was dangerously high miles. And so I upgraded it to a red Geo Prizm, which was incredibly humbling in every way. It was a red aluminum can with a motor in it.
And so we sold her car to a gentleman that was kind of in need. And we were incredibly tight financially. I was paying for full seminary by myself on a very, very low salary. And so we needed the money from this car. But we discounted it significantly to bless this man. And we decided to carry the note at no interest over three years, and he would pay us. We felt really generous, and we're honoring him in every way. This guy made one payment, and he disappeared. He was gone, gone. Car's gone, no sign of him, no second payment, and I was beside myself, angry, hurt, upset. We were generous. We were trying to bless him, and he ran off. Amy recognized we're not getting this car back. I'm upset about it. And so holy wife that I have, she said, "Let's do this. Let's not let him steal it," which he did. "Let's just give it to him".
Her word for the year is Jesus, in case you did not know, and that's evidence of how incredibly holy my wife is. She was perfect and right in every way. Instead of letting it poison our soul, the car wasn't coming back, if we changed our perspective, let him off, forgave the offense, and said we're going to give it to you, guess who it would free? Not him, he was already driving our car for free, okay? It would free me from where I was. So we did. We just said, he never knew it, but we said, we bless him with this car.
Several years went by, and I was in Burger King. Yes, it's true, there was a time when you could have found me in Burger King. I don't drive by one now, but there was a time. And so I was in Burger King, and I saw the guy. There he was, and I looked at him. He met my eyes, and he ran toward the back door. I chased him down, and said, no, wait, you don't understand. I just want you to know we gave you the car. He was so confused. But so much earlier what had happened is we had been set free. Amen. Amen.
There are those of you, you're living in a prison of offense. You're in the prison. And forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door. You may say, good story, good for you! I'm not there yet. I'm not close to being there. What do I do if I'm overwhelmed with hurt, anger, or bitterness? Matthew, chapter five, the very same sermon that Jesus was preaching earlier in the Sermon of the Mount, this is what he said. He said, "You all have heard it said, love your neighbor and hate your enemy". In other words, Jesus was speaking into a culture that believed in justice, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for life, someone wrongs you, you wrong them back. That was the direct culture Jesus was speaking into. You've heard it said, hate those who hate you. "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you".
What do you do when you're angry, when your hurt, when you're bitter? You can start by praying for the person who offended you. You can start by praying for the one who let you down. You can start by praying for the one who abused you. And you may say, I don't feel like praying. I understand. If we had waited until we felt like praying for Max, we would still be waiting to this day. But at some point we recognized, let's pray for this one who hurt us. We pray for our enemies. We pray for those who curse us. And so my prayers, honestly, when I started praying for him were like, God, do something to him, I mean, in him. Do something in him, God. Do something in him. And over time, what happened is my heart started to soften until we were genuinely able to pray, God, help him find forgiveness in you. Help him find new life in Christ. Our prayers, our heart started to change.
Here's what I've found about praying for those who hurt you. Your prayer for those who hurt you may or may not change them, but it always changes you. That's good. What you do? You've heard it said, hate your enemies. But Jesus says, I tell you pray for those who persecute you. What is prayer? Prayer is a God-honoring place to start. Then as God works on your heart, there will be a time, and it may be a process, and it may not happen immediately, or it may happen immediately, but at some point you recognize as I've been forgiven, with God's help I choose to forgive. What I love about the word, forgive, in the Greek language is what this word literally means is, it doesn't mean to sweep it under a rug. It means to hurl it away, to cast it out of your life. It's not pretending like it didn't happen. It's not explaining it away, but it's hurling this poison as far away from you as you can possible move it out of your life. It's to hurl away. It's to rid it from yourself. It's to let it go.
How do you do this? Colossians, chapter three, verse 13, Paul says this. He tells us to bear with each other. Some people it takes a little more grace to bear with than others. "Bear with each other and forgive one another if you have a grievance against someone". How do you do it? How do you do it when you're so hurt? How do you do it when you've been betrayed? How do you do it when you feel like every bit of trust has been ripped out of your heart? You forgive as the Lord forgave you. How do you do it? In the same way our good God has given us what we don't deserve and could never ever earn. That's the same way we forgive those who hurt us. I love what my friend Pastor Andy Stanley says. He says, "In the shadow of my hurt, forgiveness feels like a decision to reward my enemy. But in the shadow of the cross, forgiveness is merely a gift from one undeserving soul to another". Yeah, amen. Amen. We didn't earn it. We don't deserve it. We give it as we have received it.
I'm telling this story with my dad's blessings. My dad is very public that he had an ongoing battle with alcohol. And in my twenties, we hit a rough spot in our relationship. I was young. I was immature. And I was preaching to a relatively small group of people. And in that sermon I said some disrespectful and dishonoring things about my dad. A few years went by. And my dad enjoyed listening to my sermons on cassette tapes. If you don't know what a cassette tape is, you can google it and you can find out what it is. But evidently he listened to a message that I preached about the words of Jesus on the cross when Jesus said, "It is finished". And on that day something happened in his heart. And he was transformed spiritually. And in the upcoming months and years, he was able to become free from the addiction to alcohol. And now today he helps people readily overcome the same addiction.
And so as you can imagine in any type situation there's lots of healing that needs to take place. Years went by. And somehow, someone, for some reason, gave him the cassette tape of the sermon where I dishonored him. And he got that, and he listened to it. And he called me, and he said, "Son, this is what I had. And this is what you said". And I had nowhere to hide, no excuse. And so I just threw myself on the sword and said, can you please somehow forgive me? And without hesitation, without reservation, without even a moment of holding back, he said, "Ah, son," he said, "I've been forgiven of so much, I've made so many mistakes, of course. In the same I've been forgiven I will forgive you". Amen!
How many relationships could be healed if fathers and sons would embrace one another and say, I forgive you? What if mothers and daughters would hurl it away and let the words be in the past, let the letdowns be gone, and embrace and forgive in the same way that Jesus has forgiven us? What if husbands and wives, yes, adultery is grounds for divorce, yes, it's also grounds for forgiveness, yes! What if somehow in the same way that we've been forgiven by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us we could find the same grace to forgive someone else? How many people could be free? Jesus wasn't overbearing, mean, harsh, or lacking empathy when he loved us toward forgiveness. He was doing it to help us heal, to help us be free.
I like what Pastor Dave Willis says about forgiveness. He says this, he said, "Holding a grudge doesn't make you strong. It makes you bitter. Forgiving doesn't make you weak. It sets you free". Let me tell you what Jesus did not say. Jesus didn't say, I'll forgive you, but you don't have to forgive other people. He didn't say, you can treat people however you want, and we're okay. He said, "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins". Forgiveness empowers you to set the prisoner free, and you realize the prisoner was you.
So Father, today, I pray for miracles that go beyond our human ability to understand. I acknowledge right now that I'm speaking into, in many cases, immense and unbearable pain, unjustified abuse, horrible abuse. And God, I ask for the grace that you've given us to overwhelm and help overcome all the injustices that we experience on this earth. God, I pray for miraculous healing and restoration in relationships that seem unrepairable, that you would do what only you can do. At all of our churches today, those of you who, kind of like me, you walked into church, you're watching online, and you realize, oh, I'm holding a grudge. I've got unforgiveness in my heart. There's still bitterness in there. God, help me to hurl it away. Help me to let it go. If you find yourself there today, would you lift up your hand? Just all of our churches, just lift up your hands. Lift up your hands right now. God, I empathize with those who are hurting today. And at the same time, I thank you for your grace and your presence to be here. We ask for the power of your Spirit to do a work in our hearts. And God, even though we may be angry, and rightly so, we just take a moment, and maybe we don't even feel it, but we pray for those who hurt us. God, we pray that they would experience your goodness, your grace. God, we pray that they would know you, find healing in you. God, we ask that you would do a work in our heart. I know for some it's happening even right now. I know for others this may be the beginning or another part of the process. But God, help us by your power, because of your grace, undeserved, to forgive others even as you have forgiven us.
As you keep praying today with nobody looking around, there're maybe those of you who recognize you've done a lot of things wrong. If we sat down across from each other now, and I asked you kinda how you are spiritually, you might say, I'm not really sure. I don't know where I stand with God. I hope I've done enough good to overcome the bad, but I'm not really sure. The problem is this, that any type of sin against God is real. And all of us have sinned against God. His standard is actually perfection. Because of our sin nature, none of us are right with God. And this is the very reason why God sent his Son Jesus.
Who is Jesus? He is the sinless Son of God. He came to be a ransom, to pay the price for our sins. Jesus is called the Lamb of God. He was perfect, without blemish in every way. He was the final sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus, who never wronged anyone, who never sinned against God, he went to the cross perfect and holy. He became sin in our place, he died. On the third day, God raised him from the dead. He defeated death, hell, sin, and the power of the grave, why? So that anyone, and this includes you, it doesn't matter who you are, doesn't matter how dark your life is right now, doesn't matter how bad you've been, when you call on the name that is above every name, the name of Jesus, your sins are forgiven. They're hurled away. They're separated as far as from the east is from the west. God forgives you.
There are many of you, this is the very reason you're here today. When you call on his name, he hears your prayers. You are forgiven, and you are made new. In all of our churches, those who say yes, I need his grace. I turn from my sins. I turn toward him. I give my life to him, that's your prayer, lift your hands high now. All over the place, lift them up and say, yes. Right back over there. Right back over here, praise God for you. Others of you, lift them high. Right back over here, thank God for you. Others today, call on his name. Right back over here, Jesus, I need you. Over here in this section, both of you right here together, praise God for you. Church Online, you click right below me. And as we have people at all of our churches crying out on the name of the one who saves, would you all pray aloud with those around you. Pray:
Heavenly Father, I give you my life. Forgive all my sins. Make me brand new. Fill me with your Spirit, so I can follow you. My life is not mine. I give it to you. Thank you for new life. Now you have mine. In Jesus' name I pray.