John Hagee - The Decision To Forgive
Forgiveness is not optional in the Kingdom of God. Matthew 6:14 and 15 says, "For if you give men their transgressions, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you". Notice this phrase, "But if you forgive not men their transgressions, your Heavenly Father will not forgive you, neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses". Listen to the thundering truth of this verse. If you do not forgive other people, God's not just going to look over it: he is not going to forgive you. And without God's forgiveness, you're not going to enter the gates of heaven.
Forgiveness is a major decision that will indeed determine your eternal destiny. Colossians 3:13 reads, "Forgiving one another even as Christ forgave you, so also are you to do". The message is clear. If you will not forgive others, God won't forgive you. There are 62 words in the New Testament for forgiveness. And 22 times out of those 62, it relates to forgiving other people.
Secondly, forgiveness is the secret of absolute freedom. It is the secret of absolute freedom. Forgiveness brings freedom from those that have hurt you. The sweetest revenge you will ever experience is to totally forgive and forget the incident, and then you will be free. Otherwise, you are in a prison that you allow other people to build for you, because the foolish opinions of other people should not shape your destiny, and your past should not control your future. Forgiveness breaks the handcuffs. It opens the door. Forgiveness is the key that removes revenge, and bitterness, and hatred from the soul.
Jesus used his last breath on the cross to forgive the Romans, who were executing him. He looked at them and said, "Father, forgive them: for they don't know what they're doing". That was his last example to the church. And I can see that some of you say, "Well preacher, that kind of forgiveness is unrealistic in a dog-eat-dog world of the 21st century". Why don't you get real about something that's happened lately in the matter of forgiveness?
Let me tell you this true story from the dark days of the Korean war. A South Korean Christian was arrested by the communists, and he was ordered to be shot. When the communist commander learned that the foreigner was in charge of the local orphanage, he was caring for small children, and so he decided to spare the leader of the orphanage. But he decided to shoot his 19-year-old boy. The communist leader took the believer's son, 19 years old, and shot him dead in front of his father and mother.
The fortunes of the war changed. And the same young communist leader was captured by U.N. Forces. He was tried and condemned. Before the execution was carried out, the Christian, whose son had been killed, came and pled for the life of this communist leader. The Christian said, "This man is young. If you will give him to me, I will train him in the ways of the Lord". The U.N. Forces granted this strange request. And the father took the murderer of his son into his home. He forgave him. He loved him. This man gave his heart to Christ and served the Lord until the day he died, as a missionary. That's the power of forgiveness!
Or are you on the other side of that nickel? You get high on the hatred you have for somebody else. Do you relish planning the revenge that you want to take? If you will not forgive another, there is no forgiveness for you, not ever! We are like beasts when we kill each other. We're like men when we judge each other. We are like God when we forgive each other. Forgiveness is a full pardon. It's a fresh start. It's another chance. It's a new beginning. It's the canceling of a debt. It's not burying the hatchet with the handle up so you can get it just in case.
Forgiveness is, first, an act of your will. If you wait until you feel like forgiving somebody, you'll be waiting till your hair turns whiter than mine. It'll never happen. In an act of courageous faith, forgive that person! And then watch God go to work in your defense. Watch how everything they put their hands to crumbles, and everything you put your hand to, God blesses. Forgiveness will release a healing force that will change your life forever. Joy will replace grief. Peace will replace anger. Love will replace hate. Contentment will replace frustration. Your mental, emotional, physical health will surge with new life! Do it! Do it! Do it, in Jesus' name! Give the Lord praise in the house!
Ephesians 4 is Saint Paul's miracle formula concerning forgiveness. Ephesians 4:32 says, "And be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you". Now I knew that verse of scripture by the time I was five, by heart, because every time my older brother and I got in a fracas, my mother would sit us down on the couch, and we would say that to each other. "Be kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven you". Now let's go out in the backyard and finish this fight. That's about the way it went.
Notice the golden chalice of forgiveness presented by Saint Paul to the church. "For Christ's sake". This is why I chose the King James version here, because it is literally the text, "For Christ's sake". For Christ's sake, all the good things God has given to us, have come to us because of Jesus. The forgiveness of our sin has come to us for Christ's sake, who at the cross, did a redemptive work that made us sons and daughters of the Most High God. If there was not another message in Christianity other than that one, it would make this message the most important message in all of the world. You are sons and daughters of the Most High God! You are ambassadors of Christ! The royal blood of heaven is flowing through your veins! You are somebody! Lift your head and square your shoulders! You are a child of God! Give him praise in the house of God!
For Christ's sake, God the Father, hears your every prayer. He will send his angels to earth to protect you and to defend you. David writes, "He will give his angels charge over you to protect you in all of your way". "He will make the crooked way straight," for Christ's sake. He will turn your darkest night into glorious day, for Christ's sake. For Christ's sake, God has forgiven us of every sin. They have been buried in the deepest sea never to be remembered against us anymore! For Christ's sake, God lifts the heavy burden that you can no longer carry, "Casting every care upon him, for he careth for you". For Christ's sake, he gives you peace in the midst of the storm! Just when you're about to give up, when the winds and the waves have pounded your soul, you see him walking to you on the water, saying, "Peace be still" and "Peace will be yours for Christ's sake"! Shout "Hallelujah" in the house of God!
"For Christ's sake, hath forgiven you". Notice the absolute certainty of forgiveness. The apostle does not say, "He hopes you're forgiven". He said, "For Christ's sake, God hath forgiven you". Forgiveness is not something you earn for years of service after you come to Christ. Forgiveness is not infinite works. Forgiveness is by the grace of God.
Let's look in the ministry of Christ. The pharisees brought the woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus. Obviously, by the law of Moses, she is to be stoned. Say it. Stoned with rocks, stoned. It makes you wonder where those pharisees were to catch her in the act of adultery, maybe standing in line. Jesus, of course, looked at the woman. Jesus being absolutely perfect and pure, he said, "Neither do I condemn you, but go and sin no more".
The message: I expect you to change. I expect you to change. Well, you have to have two verses to prove any thought. I can bury you with verses, but here's another. "Whoever confesses and forsakes his sin," the proverbs records, "Shall have mercy with the Lord". What? "Who confesses and forsakes his sin," he changes. She changes. They stop doing it! Grace gives you the opportunity to repent. It's not a license to sin, never, never, never.
What's the pattern of forgiveness? How do you forgive? First, you forgive immediately. Matthew 5:23-24, "If therefore, you are presenting your offering at the altar and you remember your brother has something against you, leave your offering at the altar before, and go your way: lest you be reconciled to your brother. And then come and present the offering". This is the one place in the Bible that God says stop praying. Leave the altar. Go be reconciled with your brother. And when you're reconciled with your brother, I'll receive your offering. He's not going to receive the gift of a king's fortune over the stench of an unforgiving spirit.
And the word "Stench" is just exactly what it is. If you have a miracle ministry, if you can cast mountains into the sea, and you have an unforgiving spirit, you are a charlatan. You are a charlatan. God does not hear the prayer of a husband, who does not treat his wife well. Read 1 Peter 3:7. He says the husband that abuses his wife, "His prayers are let". The word "Let" is an old English word that we still use in tennis. When the ball hits the net, it goes straight down. It is prevented from getting to the next court. The Bible is saying, when you, husband, do not treat your wife well, and you get down to pray, your prayer ricochets off the roof and hits you on the bald head. God is not listening.
Ladies, uh-oh. How do you forgive? Totally. Jesus, our teacher, told the story of the unmerciful slave. The king, who wanted to settle his accounts, called in a slave that owed him ten million dollars, which was ten times the national debt of that nation. And when the slave announced that he didn't have the resources and please not to throw him, his wife, and his child into debtor's prison, the king forgave him of that enormous fortune. And he went right out in the streets and found somebody who owed him $20. And he had that guy thrown into debtor's prison, because it was his right as a debtor.
And the other slaves heard about it, and they went to the king, and said, do you know what happened to that guy that you forgave of ten million dollars? He went out and found a guy that owed him 20 bucks, and that guy is now in jail. The king went back to the guy that he let go of the ten million dollar debt. He said, you unmerciful servant. I forgave you of all of that. And you went out and did that to another person. And the Bible says, "And he was turned over to the tormentors". And he was there for life, because there's no way he was going to pay 10 million dollars.
When you refuse to forgive someone else, God will turn you over to the tormentors. And in our society, medical science are calling the tormentors, "Bitterness," and "Rage," and "Resentment," and "Ulcers," and "High blood pressure". Those kinds of things do destroy your health. They produce major physical illness. There's a simple statement, "Forgive and live". Say that with me. Forgive and live. Forgive and live. How often shall I forgive? There was a Jewish teaching that if you forgave three times, you were good. So Peter thought he'd impress the Lord and say, "Till seven times," because that really sounded spiritual. And Jesus said, no. "Seventy times seven," which is 490. The message is, you forgive until it becomes a habit.
Now I know you have relatives, not you, but you have relatives that carry clip boards, and say, "Harry, this is number 489. And bless your soul, one more time, and smack right in the kisser, I'm going to get you". You say, "There are not people like that". Oh, yes, there are. Don't keep records of anybody's faults but your own, and you'll find that you have very few to keep. The power of forgiveness can restore your home.
This is a story, a true story, of a rebellious young man who broke the law and was sent to prison for eight years. He knew that his parents were deeply hurt by his foolish deed and shamed by his imprisonment. As times past, he didn't know whether his dad would let him come home again after he was released from prison. So he wrote a letter to his mother stating that he's going to be released in a few days and would take the train home. And in the letter, he said, "If you and dad will forgive me and let me come home again, please tie a piece of bed sheet in the oak tree by the railroad track, and I'll get off the train. If I do not see the ribbon of cloth in the tree, I will not get off the train. And I will never contact you again".
The day came for his release from prison. And he walked to the train station, and he bought a ticket. And with every turn of the wheels, the tension mounted in his heart and in his mind. Would my parents forgive me? Would my dad forgive me? Wondering if that cloth ribbon would be tied in the tree, as the train rounded the bend that led to their farm, he could not stand it any longer. Fearing he would be rejected and unforgiven, he asked the man riding next to him: he said, "Would you please look out the window at the tree that's next to the railroad track and tell me if you see a cloth ribbon tied to it".
The man looked out the train window at the tree. And the boy asked him, "Do you see it"? The man said, "No. I don't see one ribbon: I see hundreds of ribbons on every branch of that tree. I see them tied to the fence. I see them on the clothesline. I see them on the back porch. There's so many white ribbons on that farm: it looks like it snowed. What does it mean"? He shouted through tears, as he leaped off the train, "It means I've been forgiven! I'm going home! I'm going home! I'm going home"!
Can we stand? Can we stand? How many of you here in this auditorium, there's someone in your past that has hurt you? The memory torments you. Just the recalling of it sends you into a rage. You know you need to forgive that person if you're ever going to really have real peace. It's for your benefit. Secondly, how many of you here need to extend forgiveness to your husband, to your wife, for your family relationships to be healed? Think about it. "Forgive one another for Christ's sake," because if you do not forgive another, God will not forgive you.
Or how many of you here can say, pastor, my relationships are corrupted by bitterness, and resentment, and rejection? I would love to live a life of joy and peace, but there's that something in my past that gnaws at my mind and never lets me go. I want the cord to be broken. I want joy. I want peace. I'm tired of this corruption destroying my life. If any of those things describes you, would you slip your hand up right where you are, all over this building, all over this building?
I want pastor Matt to sing a verse of this song. And I want you to come and stand here. I want to have a prayer with you this morning. You're going to go home different today. If you raised your hand, just start coming this way. Do you see how much pain this represents and how much of it is immediately going to be removed when we pray this prayer? And I'm going to tell you to exercise your faith and let it go. Pray this prayer with me. Those of you that are watching by television can join in this prayer.
Heavenly Father, I come before your throne, in the precious name of Jesus. And for Christ' sake, I ask you to forgive me all of my sin. And I ask you, on this day, to let me have the power and the grace to forgive those who have wounded me, those who have intentionally hurt me, those who have brought to my life great grief. Father God, today in Jesus' name, I forgive them. I forgive them. It's over! I'm free, in Jesus' name! Give the Lord a shout of praise in the house of God! Amen. Amen. Amen.