Craig Groeschel - The Faith To Forgive
Hey, who's a little bit excited to be in church today at all of our locations? It is great to have you with us. We're in a message series called The Grudge. I wanna warn you today, it could be a little bit challenging. The good news is, how many of you know that oftentimes in life, the best things are on the other side of the difficult things?
Today, we may talk about some things that are a little bit difficult, but I believe the best things are to come. If you were with us last week, we started our message series called, The Grudge and we talked about overcoming the smaller offenses that hold us back and weigh us down. The good news is, we're getting over it. If you're over it, say I'm over it. I'm over it, I'm over it. Next week we're gonna talk about something that I believe will impact a lot of people. We're actually gonna talk about forgiving God.
Now, if you're technical, I think it would be fair to say we never really forgive God because God doesn't sin, but there are a lot of people and maybe some of you who feel like God let them down. God didn't do what he could have done or God allowed something that you think God shouldn't have allowed. And there are some of us who are actually holding a grudge against God. And we're gonna talk about reconciling with God next week. In the final week, we're gonna talk about something I don't think I've heard any messages on before, but we're gonna talk about forgiving yourself.
There are so many people that I believe may know the grace of Jesus and say, okay, yes, I believe God can forgive someone else or maybe God forgave me but I just can't seem to let it go. I'm still carrying the guilt and the shame of something that I did in the past and we're gonna talk about forgiving ourselves. Today is a heavy one. Today is a heavy one. And it may not be easy, but I believe that on the other side of difficult, we often find what is best. To start today's message, I would it at all of our churches, if you're able to stand, would you mind just standing to your feet in honor of the reading of God's word. We're gonna let the words of Jesus in Luke's gospel, Luke chapter 17 set the tone and the stage for our study today.
When Jesus was talking to his disciples, he was helping them understand that they would be hurt, they would be disappointed, they might be betrayed by someone close to them when he said to his disciples, "Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come". There's another version that says it this way, that it's impossible that no offenses would come. There are times when we're going to stumble, people will hurt us, they will let us down, they may betray us and Jesus says, that's going to happen. Then he says, "So watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them". In other words, let's just not pretend like it didn't happen. Let's confront them, let's deal with it. We're followers of Christ, we try to make things right. Our goal is reconciliation.
So we're gonna talk about it, we're gonna deal with it and we're gonna try to find healing. If your brother or sister sins against you rebuke them and if they repent, forgive them. Let it go, let them off the hook, release it, forgive them. Then Jesus says something that's incredibly challenging. He says, "Even if they sin against you seven times in a day, in a day and seven times they come back to you saying I repent, you must forgive them". The disciples are hearing that, perhaps thinking the same thing you're thinking, I'll give you one time, not two, not in a day, maybe in a lifetime, not two, not three, not four times in a day. If they come back and they apologize, they repent, seven times in a day, forgive them. The disciples said this, the apostle said to the Lord, increase our faith. We need more faith to do that. The title of today's message is the faith to forgive.
So father today we ask that you would increase our faith. I know God today that I'll be talking to many people that have been hurt deeply. Their lives impacted significantly by the sins and betrayal of others. God we ask that your word would speak life and hope and your spirit would give us the power to do what humanly we don't have the power to do on our own. God, we ask that you would increase our faith to offer the same forgiveness you've offered to us through your son Jesus, in his name we pray and everybody said... Amen, amen.
You may be seated where you are. Who betrayed you? Who lied to you or lied about you? Who mistreated you or took advantage of you? Last week we talked about letting go of the small offenses, that's relatively easy when someone does something one time or it's small. It's not so easy when it's not one time or something that's very, very big and very, very painful especially when you're betrayed by someone that you trusted, someone that you admired, someone that you loved dearly and always believed had the best out for you.
Who betrayed you? It could have been a roommate who stole something that you had, could have been a kid in school that bullied you or said stuff about you online. It could have been a boyfriend that lied to you and then ended up lying about you, it could have been a dad that you simply wanted to please and no matter what you did, he always seemed to make you feel small and insignificant. It might have been a spouse that you trusted and believed in, who betrayed your trust and crushed your heart. It could have been an authority figure in your life, someone that you admired, someone that should have protected you, but that person did not protect you but instead they touched you inappropriately and in their twisted, sick way somehow they made you think it was actually your fault.
Who betrayed you? Who hurt you? Do we really need to forgive something like that? Something that significant when they don't deserve it at all? And if we are supposed to forgive them, how in the world do we do it? Practically, how do we forgive if they're still doing things that feel unforgivable? I simply don't understand. If you've been betrayed in a significant way, I don't necessarily know what it is, but I promise you, I do have some sense of understanding in my own life.
I'll tell you three very quick examples. One example was one of the most significant and it happened early in life. Trusted sixth grade teacher that was admired in our small town. A family friend, who groomed and took advantage of my little sister and molested her in ways too gross to ever say publicly, not just her but other little girls that he had years of abuse. Then there was the second year of our church when a very trusted friend, a guy trusted my life with betrayed the integrity of the church, did something that compromised a lot and significantly hurt a friendship that was very intimate and important to me. Those are easier to talk about as they're way, way way in the past.
Let's get a little more current. There's a friend that I was honored to give to and give to give to give to generously with great joy invest in his life. And then this person hurt one of my children. I don't know about you, but sometimes it almost feels more difficult to forgive when someone hurts someone else that you love than when they actually hurt you. What do you do? How do you forgive? How do you forgive when you don't feel like forgiving? What if you even try and it just doesn't seem to go away? It's a little bit like trying to vacuum up a piece of paper or lint that just won't come up. Has that ever happened to you? You're vacuuming and there's something on the ground and you go over it with perfect technique and brush back and it doesn't come up and so you go at it from another angle several times and it doesn't come up and so you get at another angle and with all the power of the Lord in you, you do all things through Christ who gives you strength and when it doesn't come up, what do you do?
You reach down, you pick up the piece of lint, you look at it and then what do you do? You throw it back down and you try again. What do you do? When you go at it from every angle and you can't seem to forgive? This message will be painful for some, gut wrenching and agonizing. But I hope you'll understand that God tells us clearly as followers of Christ that we are to forgive. Three different portions of scripture.
Matthew's gospel chapter five, verse 43 and 44. Jesus said, "You've heard that it was said, love your neighbor and the hate your enemy". That sounds like a good plan to me, right? Love the people who are nice to you and hate the people that are mean to you. But Jesus says, "I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you".
Paul said this, Ephesians chapter 4:32, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ, God forgave you". Jesus's words in Matthew chapter six will stop you in your tracks. He says this, "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". God tells us clearly to forgive. If we are to forgive, what does that mean, really? What do we do? How do we do it? What does it mean to forgive? In order to really understand what it does mean to forgive, let's first start with what it does not mean to forgive. What is forgiveness not? I'll give a couple things.
First of all, we need to understand that forgiveness is not forgetting. To forgive doesn't necessarily mean you wipe your brain, you have no memory, no recollection whatsoever. It's not saying it never ever happened, it's not just sweeping it under the rug, it's not saying what that person did to you wasn't completely wrong, wasn't sinful, it's not saying you have to be a doormat the rest of your life, you have to allow them to continue to abuse you, continue to hurt you and you need to just smile and take it for the glory of Jesus and still send them Christmas cards and always put a heart emoji on everything they post on Instagram. That's not necessarily what forgiveness is.
You can actually forgive someone and still create healthy boundaries. You can forgive someone and say, yes, I've let it go, but we need to rebuild trust to get back to where we were before because of the consequences of what you did. We can forgive and still need to rebuild a relationship over time. In other words, forgiveness is not always forgetting. What else is forgiveness not? Forgiveness also isn't fair. There's nothing fair about it at all. I just let you off for no reason and everything you did that was wrong, it's just now gone. It's not fair, not natural. It's fair to pay them back. You hit me on the cheek, it's fair that you got one coming back, right? You hurt one of my children, justice says I get to do something back.
Jesus says pray for your enemies. Okay, that's fair, I'll pray for my enemies. I pray you get hemorrhoids in your ears. Now that's fair. I don't even know that's possible, I think is probably not but nevertheless, that's why you go to a doctor for medical advice and not your pastor. It's not fair. Whenever, my sister had the courage to tell us what had happened because this man had created a real sense of fear in her and the other girls, there was a rage in my heart that's difficult to describe. Bigger brother protects little sister. I can pick on her but nobody else can, you know the rules, right?
And the thoughts I had in my mind about what I wanted to do to him because that wasn't fair that he was still respected in our town. I want fair, God, you be fair, God, you got to be fair. What's interesting is we like it when God's not fair to us because he's not always fair. He's always just, but he's not always fair. Because if God was always fair, then I would get what my sins deserve. God's always just, but he's not always fair. And he's not always fair to our benefit. In fact, I love the power of Psalm 103:10, 11 and 12, it tells us that God does not treat us as our sins deserve. He's just, but he's not always fair. He doesn't repay us according to our iniquities.
In other words, we deserve death, we deserve hell, we deserve punishment, but he gives us grace. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him, as far as the east is from the west, so he has removed our transgressions from us. Forgiveness isn't necessarily the same as forgetting and forgiveness isn't always fair. So what is forgiveness? Forgiveness is giving others what God gave us in Christ. Forgiveness is offering to other people the same grace that God has offered to us. For those of you that are followers of Christ, have you been forgiven of anything? Have you experienced grace that you didn't deserve? Have you been the beneficiary of the mercy and the goodness of our God?
I don't know about some of you, I mean, some of you may be perfect. If you're perfect and you just sit there, just look self righteous because self righteous people are really good at looking self righteous. Just sit there and look self righteous and polish your halo all day long you perfect thing and please don't come back because this is a place for imperfect people, forgiven people, people of grace. I don't know what you've been forgiven of, but oh dear God, I've been forgiven of some sins in my life. I've been forgiven of stealing, like stealing and lying and cheating and having lustful thoughts and having hateful thoughts and doing hurtful things and betraying people.
I've experienced grace that I did not deserve, mercy from my God, forgiveness because of Jesus. What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is giving to others the very same thing that our good God has given to us. It is the power of the gospel. In fact, First John tells us this, in First John 1:9, that if we confess our sins, somebody say sins. Is it okay to say sins in this culture today because what I read and what I hear is, well, nobody's a sinner, we're all good people. Truthfully, we're all sinners. We have all messed up and sinned against a holy God.
What is sin? The word in the Greek, it's an archery term, it simply means to miss the mark. You can miss the mark by this much or this much, but we've all missed the mark. If we confess that before God, I'm sorry God. I'm sorry I've sinned against you, I'm sorry that I did wrong. I'm sorry that I was hateful, I'm sorry that I was lustful, I'm sorry that I betrayed somebody. I'm sorry God, I was so wrong. If we confess our sins, our God is faithful and just, he's not always fair, but he's always just. He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Forgiveness is giving to others what God has given us. In other words, the gospel isn't just receiving forgiveness, but it's giving forgiveness. It's not just being the recipient of the grace of God, but it's giving his grace to others. I'll say it this way, forgiveness doesn't just flow to us, as disciples of Jesus, forgiveness flows through us, it flows for us, it flows through us. It's undeserved mercy, undeserved grace, undeserved goodness to us that continues to flow through us. Forgiveness doesn't just flow to us, it flows through us.
The question is, how's your flow? How's your flow? In fact, the words prayer, I don't know if you know this prayer or not, but if you do, you may just kind of say it aloud where you are. And we'll get to a little part about forgiveness. Jesus said, this is how you should pray. Do you wanna know how to pray? You pray, our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, watch for it. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass...
Do you really want to pray that? Forgive me, just like I forgive them? Forgive me as I forgave my boss that I still hate. Forgive me like I forgave my ex spouse that I just put tax under the tires. I don't know, I don't have an ex spouse, I'm just making this up. Forgive me like I forgive others. How's your flow? Forgiveness isn't just that which flows to us, but is that which flows through us. Why would God ask us to forgive? There would be many reasons why he would ask us to forgive, but one of the top reasons he would ask you to forgive something that seems unforgivable and isn't fair is because God loves you so much. He loves you, he doesn't just ask you to forgive someone else to heal the other person, he asks you to forgive to help heal you, the wound in you.
In other words forgiving someone else, the person that betrayed you, the person that lied about you, the person that cheated you, forgiving them may not set them free. But forgiving someone else always sets you free. Why would God asked you to forgive? Because he loves you so much. I pray, I pray so much about this message because I know this brings up so many significant wounds for so many people. I hope there's no part of you that hears me say this is easy. There's no part that says it's easy. Easy is to hold a grudge. Easy is to live in bitterness. Easy is to wish the worst for someone who deserves something bad. Easy is to continue to plot, to rehearse what they did, to rehearse what you will say next time you're there. Easy is to not talk, not try to heal. Easy is to let the devil continue to split your family. Easy is to walk in hatred and unforgiveness.
Forgiveness is not easy. It's easy to remain bitter. It takes faith to forgive. Increase our faith, increase our faith. What does faith do? Faith enables me to see an opportunity for freedom where others only see an opportunity for an offense. Faith empowers me, faith. Faith doesn't mean that you feel gracious, doesn't mean you feel excited. I'm just letting this go. In fact, you may not feel anything. Faith often activates long before feelings follow. I'm choosing by faith, I don't feel it. In my flesh, I'm still angry. In my flesh, I still feel betrayed, but by faith, I'm choosing to offer the same thing that God offered to me.
Forgiveness might be a process. It may happen in a moment, it may take some time. Increase our faith. It takes faith to forgive. It takes faith to believe that on the other side of the offense, there's something better than holding a grudge. I wanna talk to those of you whose marriages may be struggling right now. It takes faith to forgive. It takes faith, it's not easy. There's someone that we love that recently there was a significant betrayal in the marriage and now the betrayed spouse, biblically, you would say has grounds for divorce. You committed adultery therefore there is biblical grounds for divorce. Adultery is biblical grounds for divorce. Let me remind you, adultery is also grounds for forgiveness.
You can choose to walk away and you can choose to have faith and offer something that someone doesn't deserve. I can't tell you what to do in your marriage, I can't tell you can get in your faith and say, you know, I don't know the whole story, but I can tell you this, in the case of it, every good marriage is always made up of two good forgivers because we're always imperfect and because I need so much grace, I wanna freely offer grace. Faith to forgive. When you start to pray about, think about, lean into this, you might wanna ask the question, how much forgiveness do they deserve? We're not asking how much forgiveness do they deserve, we're asking, how much freedom do you desire?
Let it go. It takes faith. It takes faith, it takes to forgive. It's choosing to say, what you did to me is no longer gonna hold me prisoner. What you said, is not gonna limit my future. The betrayal that you did, I'm not gonna let it hold me down, I'm not gonna let it pollute my heart, I'm not gonna let it poison my soul. Yeah, what you said was wrong, yes what you did wasn't fair, yes, it wasn't right. It might have been years of abuse, but I'm not gonna let it rob me from years of my future by continuing to dwell in the past. By faith, I choose to let it go. I'm not a victim anymore. I'm not a prisoner. It takes faith to forgive.
I told you three quick examples earlier in the message of those who'd hurt me or hurt my family. The friend who hurt my child, apologized quickly and said, he said, I was wrong, will you forgive me? And at that moment, as I've been forgiven for similar offenses, I was quick to forgive and said, of course I'll forgive you. And our friendship is as solid as it's ever been because we are followers of Christ and we choose to forgive. Now, the man who molested my sister, that one wasn't so easy. He never asked for forgiveness.
So do I have to forgive? I became a follower of Christ holding a grudge and I heard a message similar to this one years and years ago, that as I forgive others, Jesus will forgive me. And I didn't wanna withhold what had been offered to me. And so my family who was all Christians at the time, including my sister who had been the victim of tremendous abuse, chose by faith to forgive this man who didn't deserve it. And I wrote him a note, he was on his deathbed dying of muscular scoliosis under the care of hospice. And I wrote him a letter on behalf of our family to say that by faith we choose to forgive him as we've been forgiven and told him about the gospel.
I heard later on after he had died from the hospice nurse who got in contact with us that the note had not only impacted him in a significant way, but had significantly spiritually impacted her. We can't change what he did to my sister, but we can let God change our future. The second year of the church, my close friend who betrayed the integrity of the church, I forgave him, but it was after he took his life.
And so I have a little bit of freedom today because I forgave them, but not nearly the freedom that I would have had. And how could the outcome have possibly been different if we had reconciled earlier in our friendship. I know this is tough. I know this is tough. But sometimes the best healing happens on the other side of pain. Forgiveness doesn't change the past, doesn't change what he did, doesn't change what she said, doesn't change the betrayal, bit it changes your soul, it changes your future. What is forgiveness? It is giving to others the very same thing that God has given to us.
So increase our faith. God increase our faith. And God as I'm speaking into some of the most significant pain today, I ask that the power of your Holy Spirit would do what we cannot do. God increase our faith to forgive.
At all of our churches today as you're in God's presence, hearing his word, those of you who have been significantly betrayed and you may just wanna take a step of faith, you may not even feel it but you understand is the right thing to do or others of you who would say, now, in the present, in the future, I just want more faith to offer what's been offered to me. If that's your prayer today, increase my faith, increase my faith to forgive. Would you lift up your hands right now, it is all over the place, it is all over the place.
God I thank you for a church full of people that come prepared to hear your word and let your holy spirit do a healing word. God do spiritual surgery on our hearts today. Do a healing work. God I pray by faith that there are those who've been living in the pain of the past for so long, that that pain would start to fade away as your forgiveness washes over us. God we know it may not be fair, but God as we receive grace from you, help us to offer forgiveness to others. And we know God that this may or may not change them, but it always changes us. Give us faith God, faith. Increase our faith to forgive as you have forgiven us.
As you keep praying today at all of our churches, there will be those of you that you feel the weight of something that you've done, someone you hurt, someone you betrayed, something you said you shouldn't have said, something you did, you shouldn't have done. Somehow you've let others down, you've let God down, you sinned against God, you feel the shame, you feel the weight, you feel the guilt. Let me explain to you as clearly as I can the good news, the gospel. For God so loved you, so loved the world, that he sent his one and only son, Jesus, who was born of a virgin, who never ever sinned, he was perfect in every way. He sent his son Jesus, that whosoever would call upon his name would not perish, but would receive eternal life. Jesus gave his life on a cross for our sins. God raised him from the dead, his death created justice, he paid the price.
Now God can offer us what we don't deserve, his grace, his goodness, because of what Jesus did. Jesus paid the price. We get the forgiveness, that all of our churches those of you who say, I need his grace, I need his forgiveness, I don't know where I stand with God, when you turn from your sins and you call on Jesus, he forgives your sins. Our God is faithful and he is just, to forgive us all of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness as far as the east is from the west. So he separates your sins from you.
At all of our churches, those who say, I need his grace, I want his forgiveness, today I turn from my sins, I turn toward Jesus. Jesus I give my life to you. If that's your prayer, lift your hands. I'm now all over the place to say yes, up here in this section and right here as well. All of you guys on this front row, buddy here. Praise God for you and right here, my goodness. Right back up here in this section, right over here. Come on church, somebody.
Can you give our God some praise today? Right back up here, others have you said Jesus, save me, forgive my sins. Church Online, you click right below me. Would you all stand to your feet if you're able, nobody prays alone in the presence of God. His grace, his goodness, his power, his mercy is here, would you simply pray aloud with those around you.
Heavenly father. Forgive my sins. Save me. Jesus be my Lord. Holy spirit fill me. So I can follow Jesus. So I can show his love. So I can walk in freedom. And forgive others. As you've forgiven me. My life is not my own. I give it all to you. Thank you for new life. Now you have mine. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.