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Jack Graham - Overcome Evil with Good

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    Jack Graham - Overcome Evil with Good
TOPICS: All In, Evil, Goodness, Forgiveness

Take your Bibles and turn to the twelfth chapter of Romans Verse 14 says: "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight". In other words, we're to walk in honor and humility before all. And then in verse 17: "Repay no one evil for evil". We live in a get-even world. But God says: "Repay no one for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. Think about what is honorable. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all".

And verse 19, key verse: "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing so you will heap burning coals on his head". That is, it will be a strike to his conscience. But then verse 21: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good".

The message today is in two parts really: two questions: Have you been forgiven? And question number two: Are you a forgiving person? Have you been forgiven? The message of Jesus Christ, the cross, the resurrection is the message ultimately of forgiveness. We all have a sin problem and that sin separates us from God. It is a debt that we owe that we cannot pay. It is disobedience to God. It is defilement in the presence of God "who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity", to even look at iniquity. But God in His holy love sent His Son; He came on a mission of reconciliation to forgive us of our sin. And the way that He did that, it was not cheap; it is costly! Forgiveness is costly! Don't forget that! It will cost you something to forgive. It cost Jesus His life; His blood poured out at Calvary in order to forgive us, in order to change our lives.

And so we remember the cross. The first words that Jesus spoke from the cross were these words, and He spoke them again and again apparently as is recorded in the language of the New Testament. "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing! Father, forgive them, Father, forgive them". He prayed for His enemies. He died for His enemies. And we are all born with our backs towards God. We are all estranged from God. We chose rebellion and sin. We have become the enemies of God. And yet God has made peace with us. If you don't have peace in your heart, if there is strife and chaotic life, lifestyle in you, then that's because you don't know the peace of God in your life. And that's because our sin has broken that peace. But Jesus came on an errand of peace, and He died on the cross, and He prayed, "Father, forgive them".

When Jesus was in the Garden preparing for His death on the cross, praying drops of blood, the betrayer came, Judas, one of His own. It's especially hurtful, isn't it, when we are betrayed and hurt by someone that should love us? Someone hurts us that we know and care about very deeply? Judas was one of the beloved disciples of Jesus, and yet he betrayed Him. And Simon Peter, the fisherman, took a sword that he had somehow brought with him and he started slashing away as the Sanhedrin guard came to arrest Jesus. He'd cut off the ear of one of the soldiers, and he wasn't trying to cut off his ear. He was trying to cut off his head. He was a fisherman; a bad swordsman, just missed. And you remember what happened, Jesus healed the man's head, his ear, and then He spoke very straight forwardly to Simon Peter and to us, when He said, "You live by the sword, you die by the sword". He said, "Don't you know that I could say the word and My Father in heaven would send ten thousands and ten thousands of angels to deliver me".

Yes, there are angels, and they're still active today! Jesus said, can you imagine? Angels there with drawn swords, ready to go. "Just say the word, Jesus, we're there"! But it wasn't the nails or the persecutors or the killers of Jesus that kept Him on the cross; it was love that kept Him on the cross! He could have said, "Judge them"! He could have said, "Destroy them"! but He said, "Father, forgive them for they are ignorant of what they do". And with those words, we are reminded that our ignorance of our own sin brought us to judgment, but Jesus took our judgment and our sin on the cross. The debt that we owed that we could not pay, and He died for you and me.

Forgiveness is what Christ is all about! Forgiveness is about what the cross is all about, and the reason for our hope. The question is: Have you been forgiven? Have you come to the place in your life where you repented of your sin, which means to turn from your sin and then to trust in Christ and Christ alone to be your Savior and your Lord? Have you come to the cross and because of the resurrection believed that Jesus is alive? Have you trusted Him? Are you saved? Have you been forgiven? You can be; you must be today. Are you forgiven?

Secondly, if you are forgiven, are you a forgiving person? Because what Jesus taught us and what Romans 12 here is saying to us in a variety of ways. Each sentence that we have that we read earlier about our relationship with others and how we are to treat people and that we are to walk among the lowly, and not just among those who are prideful and arrogant; that we are to live honorably and bless those who curse us, and love those who hate us, and so on. But the key passage that we stopped to note was give space to the grace of God. The Scripture says, and Paul is quoting the Old Testament here, as well as giving us New Testament truth, "Vengeance is Mine, says the Lord". In other words, you can trust God to bring justice in your situation. You can believe in a God who will get it all right, and make it all right.

So the question is: Have you forgiven those who have wronged you? Who have hurt you? Betrayed you? Ephesians 4:32. "Be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you". Are you forgiving as you have been forgiven? So many people live with resentment, revenge on their minds, full of hatred, anger, hostility, bitterness, and even rage. But I want to give you a warning: Unforgiveness is hazardous to your health and well being. Not only to your spirit, but your soul, your mind, your body. Someone said, "Unforgiveness is like pouring a cup of poison for your enemy and drinking it yourself".

Modern medicine has made a clear link between toxic emotion such as anger and hostility and rage and bitterness, unforgiveness in particular, have made the connection between that and physical and emotional health, and damage to our physical and emotional health. This damage includes cardiac problems, high blood pressure, stroke, emotional problems such as depression and anxiety, and even cancer. But it's also been noted that if unforgiveness causes these problems, then forgiveness, when we forgive that these conditions can even be reversed. We can be healed body, soul and spirit. The well known, renowned Mayo Clinic has correlated acts of forgiveness with positive, healthy outcomes in your life. Their studies show, and I quote: "Letting go of bitterness leads to lower blood pressure, fewer stress-related illness, healthier relationships and reduces risk of alcohol or drug abuse".

So if there is unforgiveness which really is unrepented of sin in our own life, what did Jesus say when He taught us to pray? "Forgive us our debts", sin is a debt, "forgive us our debt as we forgive those who are our debtors". Jesus said, "You want my forgiveness? Pray for it, ask for it. But not without the willingness to forgive others". You say, "I can't forgive that person. I just can't do it! I won't do it"! Then don't expect the forgiveness of God. Not in terms of your eternal salvation if you're a Christian, but if you are a believer and you have an unforgiving, unrelenting spirit in your life towards someone else, you're cutting yourself off from God. The Bible says, "He who regards iniquity in his heart, God will not hear him". You want God to answer your prayer? Then forgive others. You want God to forgive you? Then forgive others.

There's a correlation here, and you can't live your life always up tight and stressed out and angry and vengeful. I mean just take your hands as many of you as will like mine. Just hold them like that and squeeze them as tight as you can and hold on. Come on, let me see this. Come on, this is group therapy right here. Just take your hands and hold them and squeeze them as hard as you can. Come on kids, you can help me with this. Just squeeze, squeeze, squeeze! Keep holding, keep holding, keep holding. We can do it all day long, right? Not really! Now let go. How good does that feel? Shake it out. You know, and when it comes to holding on to our past pains, our problems, and certainly resentments in the past. If you keep holding on to that stuff, it's only going to break you down.

God wants to set you free with the freedom that only He can give. It's the freedom of forgiveness. And that's what this passage is teaching us. Hebrews 12:15 says, 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; So bitterness, I define bitterness as anger turned inward. Bitterness is the root; rage, anger on the outside is the fruit. And many people are bitter because they've been betrayed or hurt and they can't let go. So bitterness is within, and the Scripture says you've got to let go of that because it causes not only destructiveness in your life but defilement!

I've known people because they are bitter, angry at God, angry at someone else, that they've fallen or leap into all kinds of other sins, defiling sins in their life because they're so angry about something that's happened in their lives. That's bitterness. And it will defile you. It will destroy you. And embittered, resentful, revengeful spirit dishonors God and grieves the Holy Spirit. You're a Christian. You don't want to grieve the Holy Spirit! And yet Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 30 says, and this is The New Living translation, "And do not bring sorrow (or grief) to God's Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, He has identified you as His own, (You're God's child.) guaranteeing you that you will be saved on the day of redemption"!

Are you glad you're saved? Of course you are! So what? Verse 31: "Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you". There it is again. Have you been forgiven? And if you have been forgiven, are you a forgiving person? Because forgiven people forgive others. So many people are walking around angry and mad and agitated all the time. And some Christians, they just stay mad all the time about something. And they're mad that you're not mad about what they're mad about! Just a perpetual state of being ticked off, irritated, agitated, critical, cynical, carnal! Finding fault! And when one problem gets resolved, they're looking for the next problem, or the next person to hate on! They're always offended about something!

You know, most of our offenses are not major crimes, but they're common, ordinary, variety of offenses that we take on and refuse to let go. Have you ever noticed that bitter, angry people are always running their mouths? Because they're unhappy they want you to be unhappy. Because they're angry they want you to be angry. They can't keep their thoughts to themselves. They spread the venom and the poison. That's why in verse 18 it says, "As much as is possible, be at peace with all people". Some people are impossible! But you got to keep trying as much as is possible. Now I'm not going to compromise truth. There's some things I will never compromise to be at peace. I'll not compromise the Word of God just to get along. I'll not compromise truth just to get along, and neither should you. But as much as is possible!

I was speaking with a young Christian that I admire very much recently, and there was a conflict, and it was a significant conflict, and this young man, he flew across the country to try to make it right with that individual. I said, "Why are you doing that"? I said, "You're a better Christian than I am"! That's exactly what I said. And he said, "Because the Scripture says as much as is possible be at peace with all". And I said, "Well, amen to that"! This is it; you overcome evil with good.

Now I want you to just push pause for just a second because I want to say, if there is a crime committed against you in your home or anywhere else, at a school, at a church. If there is a crime committed against you, you call the authorities. You contact the police. You get the protection that you need. And that's biblical! Because on the heels of verse 21, chapter 13, there's a description of how government is used by God to correct the violent, and indeed, even capitol punishment is in play and is biblical!

For verse 1 says: "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities (God has placed government in authority over us) for there is no authority except from God. (So that police officer, that government official is over us in authority.) Therefore, whoever resists the authorities, resists what God has appointed. (So your argument is with God! If He appoints the authorities, your argument is with Him!) And those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive approval".

So what's the Scripture saying? (And you can read the rest of that chapter later). But, again, talking about government and the responsibility of government to protect us. So the whole idea of forgiveness, we're not to live as pacifists. Countries and governments should protect themselves. We have a military and we have those who are assigned our protection because it's vital because God has established government and control to reverse society, or to judge society. Else you would have chaos. So when God says to you forgive, it doesn't mean that you're going to be a punching bag or a whipping post, but rather that you trust God, "Vengeance is Mine, says the Lord", that you trust God, and according to verse 19: "Never, never, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.'"

So we are never to take personal revenge, but leave it to God, and trust God. Because God is sovereign and ruler over all, and God will bring justice to that which is unjust in your life and mine. I can honestly tell you I practiced this verse regarding my father's murderer. It was part of the process of healing for us; and, of course, for me to practice the truth that I preach to let it go and let God. To not maintain, not to put myself and our family in prison for the rest of our lives with the pain of the past, or the betrayal of the brokenness. I refused to get angry with God because I know that my God is good, that He will overcome evil with good! And better to light a candle than to curse the darkness! I wouldn't be standing here today preaching to you if this hadn't happened in my life. It's a choice we make, a decision we make.

You say, "Well, God will do a better job of vengeance than any of us can do", and that's true. But remember this: God may choose to bring your offender to salvation. It took a while, I'm being transparent with you, it took a while but I can tell you that I often prayed, though I never met him, for the salvation of the man who murdered my dad. That's not me, that's God. And I know that's what God has called everyone of us to do, is to forgive freely and fully. I could not have gone forward into my life in ministry to preach and lead if I'd lived the rest of my days in bitterness and anger towards what happened those years ago. Forgiveness is giving up my right to hate you for hurting me! It's true. Let your pain become the platform for your purpose in life! Overcome evil with good.
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