John Hagee - The Power Of Forgiveness
Forgiveness will heal the tormented soul. As the pastor of thousands of people for many of years, it has been my privilege to rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who are full of sorrow. Most of the time when the phone rings, someone needs major help in navigating the storms of life. On this particular day, I picked up the phone, and I heard the cries of a man on the other end of the phone. He immediately apologized for crying. I don't know why men feel it's required to apologize for crying. Jesus cried and he's pretty good company. John Wayne cried.
Some of you relate to John Wayne a little better, because you've seen all the movies. On this particular day, as he began to speak, I recognized it as a man that I knew and of a dear friend. He began by saying that his wife had come to him and just announced that their marriage of 15 years was over: that she wanted a divorce. There had been no quarreling. There hadn't even been a dispute. There was no warning. And like lightning out of a clear, blue heaven, "I want a divorce".
He had been a faithful husband. He had provided handsomely for his children, which were the love of his life. His wife had just told him that she had been having an affair with a man in her office for six months and that she could no longer pretend. She said, "I love him and he loves me. Of course, I will want the children. We will be married, and as soon as possible. We will move to another state". It happened. She filed for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, which is modern-day terminology, generally, for adultery.
The court gave her the three children and a handsome child support settlement. The father returned to an empty house full of memories. There were places on the wall where his childrens' pictures used to be. There were empty closets. There was a rag doll on the floor. And there was an abandoned baseball glove in the backyard, testifying to the absence of his children, specifically his son. His house was now filled with the sound of silence. The emotions of this father vacillated from deep depression to words of rage and maximum retaliation.
One day, his life was secure. It was beautiful. It was happy, filled with the perfect love, as far as he knew. The next day, his life was filled with rage and a burning passion for revenge. Bitterness, resentment, loneliness became his constant companion. His emotional nightmare affected his job performance and he had a good job. His friends were withdrawing from him because all he wanted to talk about was the bitterness of this relationship and rehash it one more time.
After several weeks, he came to my office and we both knew what he was wanting to talk about, again. He sobbed through the gory details of his tragedy one more time. And he opened the door for forgiveness with this question: he said, "Pastor, what can I do to go on living"? Our eyes locked, and I spoke to him as directly as I possibly could. I said, "For your emotional, physical, and spiritual survival, you're going to need to do something today that you have not considered doing throughout all of is this marital crisis". And he said, "What's that"? And I mean he was yelling. He was unhappy with me. I said, "You must forgive your wife today totally and completely".
He said, "I don't feel like forgiving her or that scum bucket that she ran off with". I called him by name, and I said, "Forgiveness is, at first, an act of your will. And following the obedience to the Word of God, peace will come, and inner healing will become so complete that you will recapture your peace of mind. But if you don't forgive her, you're going to live in a prison that you've allowed her to build. She has the key and you're not ever going to be free".
That day, he sobbed his way to complete forgiveness, and the healing process began. Peace began to replace that unspeakable pain. He was ready for a new beginning and made possible because he was willing to forgive someone who had deeply wounded him for life. Are you? Who is there in your life that has you in an emotional prison, and they have the key, and you're the prisoner, because you can't get out of a prison you've allowed them to put you in?
Forgiveness is not optional. Say that with me. Forgiveness is not optional. If the Bible teaches anything, it teaches that. The word and the will of God make it very clear. Jesus said, "If you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you forgive men not their trespasses, neither will your Father in Heaven forgive you". That's Matthew 6:14 and 15. We've just read that. And then the Lord's prayer confirms heaven's policy of forgiveness with the words that we speak from memory and seldom practice. It goes like this: "Forgive us as we forgive those". Say that with me. "Forgive us as we forgive those", Matthew 6:12.
Saint Paul puts his pen to parchment and he continues the power of forgiveness established by Jesus Christ, by writing, "And be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another even as God for Christ' sake has forgiven you", Ephesians 4:32. Now I know that verse of scripture since I was a child, because my mother made me and my older brother say that to each other every time we got in a ruckus, and that was about three times a week. We said the words, "Be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another even as God for Christ' sake has forgiven you. Amen". Pow! Sometimes we know the words but we don't get the message.
Paul continues teaching the New Testament church by saying, "Therefore, as the elective God", speaking of the church, "Holy and beloved, forgiving one another", say that with me, "Forgiving one another". "If anyone has a complaint against another, even as Christ forgave you, so must you forgive that person", Colossians 3:13. The point is clearly established by Jesus Christ, by saint Paul. Forgiveness is not optional. If you won't forgive another person, God will not forgive you!
There are 62 words for forgiveness in the New Testament. And 22 times, it means the forgiveness of other people. Without that, there could be no forgiveness for anyone, not ever. Many of you are thinking: well total forgiveness, you know preacher, is a very lofty thought. But when you've been hurt like I've been hurt, there's no way you can really forgive someone that's really hurt you.
Listen to this true story. Years ago while I was speaking at a church, the pastor told me the story, and I have checked it out and researched it. And here it is, the story of Adolph Coors IV, who attended that church. On February 9, 1960, Adolph Coors III, the founder of Coors, was kidnapped and held for ransom. Seven months later, his body was found on a remote mountainside. He had been shot to death. Adolph Coors IV, his son, then 15 years old, lost not only his father, but his best friend.
For years, young Coors hated Joseph Corbett. That was the man that was sentenced to life for murdering his father. In 1975, Adolph Coors became a Christian. He divested himself in his interest in the family beer business. He could not divest himself, however, from the hatred that was eating him on the inside. Resentment and rage seethed within him and blighted his growth in faith. He believed God for help, because he realized his hatred for Corbett was alienating him from God and from other people. It was affecting him in every capacity of his life.
The day came, however, when he said, "Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Adolph Coors IV visited the Maximum Security Unit of Colorado's Cannon city penitentiary and tried to talk to Mr. Corbett, the man who murdered his father". Corbett refused to see him. Coors left a Bible inscribed with this message: he said, "I'm here to see you today and I'm sorry that we could not meet. As a Christian, I am summoned by the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to forgive you. I do forgive you, and I ask you to forgive me for the hatred they I have held in my heart for you". Later, Coors says, "I have a love for that man that only Jesus Christ could have put in my heart". That is forgiveness.
Adolph Coors practiced a principle that Christians seldom hear taught in their churches, and it's the principle of going, first, to be reconciled to the person with whom there is a point of difference. You must make the first move. Jesus taught that. When Jesus of Nazareth was teaching, he presented the "You make the first move" principle. He said, "Therefore, if you bring your offering to the altar, and there you remember a spiritual brother has something against you, leave your gift at the altar and go your way. First, be reconciled to your brother/(sister/whoever), and then come and present your gift to the Lord", Matthew 5:23-24. The point is you make the first move.
Can you imagine how many tens of thousands of Christians are meeting today in churches all over America, believing that they are forgiving someone because they thought it in their heart or they said a few whispering words in a dark bedroom? The forgiveness process does not begin until you go to that person. There's a grudge. There's a resentment. There's an anger. There's a bitterness that you have toward another person, a group of people, for something that has been done to you.
According to Jesus Christ, stop praying, because God's not listening. And make the effort to be reconciled with the offended. You may need to make a phone call or send a letter to make the first move to remove the barriers of resentment that exist between you and another person. If there's another person that rejects your effort, that's on that person, not you. You are clear to return to the altar to be heard of God with a clear conscience and a clean heart.
Who is it that you need to forgive? What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is an act of your will. It's not a warm and fuzzy feeling. If you wait until you feel that warm and fuzzy feeling, and angels harping, you'll meet the mortician before that ever happens. It's not going to happen. In the last moment of his life, Jesus on the cross, demonstrated the act of forgiveness that Christians are to follow. His exact words on the cross, as he was being crucified by the Romans, was, "Father, forgive them: for they don't know what they're doing". In his last breath, he used it to forgive a brutal Roman Empire that had harassed him and his family from the day of his birth.
They killed him because they feared him. Why did they fear him? They feared him, because anyone who can raise someone from the dead, anyone who can heal someone, anyone who can feed a mob of people out of a boy's sack lunch, can Marshall an army. Many people read the story of Jesus and think of him as the Prince of Peace. Please be assured: Rome crucified him because he was an insurrectionist too dangerous to live. They were afraid of him. Jesus was crucified, because he fought a battle for your soul and my soul. And on that cross, he shed his blood. And my sins and your sins were forever forgotten, buried in the deepest sea, never to be remembered against us anymore, not ever. Can you say an "Amen"?
After Jesus rose from the grave, a group of his disciples met him. They weren't all there. Jesus saw them and he said, "Go tell my disciples and Peter", Mark 16:7. "And Peter" is specifically added. Why Peter? Peter, who was always running his mouth off: Peter, who was making grandiose statements he never did back up: Peter, who said, "I will take up a sword and I will die for you". And when an 18-year-old girl challenged him and said, "Do you know him?" he denied the Son of God three times.
Forgiveness is a full pardon. It's a fresh start. It's another chance. It's a new beginning. It's a lifting of a heavy burden and the canceling of a debt. But I want you to hear this: forgiveness demands a change. Say that with me, forgiveness demands a change. The forgiveness that Jesus taught is not soft-hearted, mushed-mouthed foolishness. I want you to commit this next statement to memory, because it may be the most important statement concerning grace you ever hear. "To forgive another person without demanding a change in their conduct is to make the grace of God an accomplice to evil".
Why is that important? There's Bible confirmation that the pharisees brought a woman to Jesus, who was caught in the act of adultery. And the pharisees, who are rotten to the core, wanted Jesus to make a decision based on the law of Moses, which would have called for instant stoning and death. Jesus looked at this woman and said, "Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more". You hear those last words? John 8:11, "Go and sin no more". I expect you to change. The point is clear. Jesus demanded a change in her conduct.
There are people in America right now teaching absolute grace that allows people to sin indefinitely and still be in the favor of God. That doctrine is not in the Bible. That is not a Bible truth. That's a feel-good theology that's corrupt to the core! It is true that God will forgive you of all sin that is confessed and forsaken. Hear that word, "Confessed and forsaken". The Bible said, Proverbs 28:13, "Whoever confesses and forsakes his sin shall have mercy with the Lord". Say it with me. "Whoever confesses and forsakes his sin shall have mercy with the Lord". If you don't forsake your sin, you're in trouble with the Lord! I repeat, "To forgive without demanding a change in your conduct is to make the grace of God an accomplice to evil". Simply stated, God says, when you're forgiven of that sin, stop it, period! Can I hear an "Amen"?
How do you forgive? Christ taught us how to love one another and he also taught us the pattern. Step one, step one, in forgiveness is to forgive immediately. Jesus said, "Stop praying". Stop singing another chorus: I'm not listening! Stop the facade. Stop being religious. Stop going through your routine. Go immediately and get forgiveness. Offer forgiveness. If they don't receive the forgiveness, that's not your responsibility. You just offer it. Step two, be reconciled. You take the first step and go make it right with your brother regardless of their reception of you.
Step three, forgive totally. Bury the hatchet, handle and all. Jesus is our teacher. He told the story of the unmerciful slave. The king, who wished to settle the accounts with his slaves, called in his slave that owed him a huge sum of money. And when he couldn't pay, he said, I'm going to send you to the debtor's camp. I'm going to send your wife. I'm going to send your children. I'm going to keep you there forever. And the man begged for mercy. And the king showed him mercy.
That slave that was forgiven of a fortune ran out into the street and found a fellow slave that owed the king a paltry sum of money. Let's just say $20. And because he owed him a debt, and he couldn't pay that debt, the one who was forgiven much, threw the man who owed him 20 bucks into debtor's prison. The king heard about it, recalled the guy that he had forgiven so much, and said, "You're going into the debtor's prison. And I'm going to turn the tormentors loose on you for the rest of your life", end of story.
That's a story Jesus told. In the 21st century, when you will not forgive, you insist in subjecting yourself to the tormentors. Medical science are now calling that "High blood pressure, ulcers, sleeplessness, depression, anger, resentment". But when you will not forgive, it will eat you alive. And it will destroy the quality of your life. It's something that you must do because God has made it possible for you through the cross. Forgiveness is essential for your mental health. It's essential for your physical healing. Wild horses of anger, bitterness, and resentment will eat you alive.
The story is told of a rebellious young man who broke the law. And he was sent to prison for eight long years. He knew his father was greatly displeased with him, angry with him, because he broke the law. And he knew that his father probably would not allow him to come back home. As the time passed in prison, he didn't know whether his dad would receive him, so he wrote a letter to his mother, stating that he would be released in a few days and he would take the train home.
The train track went up the hill and by the edge of their farm. He wrote this letter to his mom. "If you and dad will let me come home again, please tie a piece of bed sheet in the oak tree beside the railroad track, and I'll get off the train. If I do not see the ribbon of cloth in that tree, I will know not to get off the train. And I will never contact you again". The day came for his release from prison. He walked to the train station and he bought a ticket. And with every turn of the wheels, the tension mounted within him. Would there be a cloth of ribbon in that tree?
As the train rounded the bend that led to their farm, the pressure mounted, and he could no longer stand to look. And fearing he would be rejected and unforgiven, he asked the young man sitting next to him, "Would you please look out the window at the tree in the next farm we come to and tell me if you see a cloth of ribbon tied in that oak tree"? The man looked out the window. And he said, "No, I don't see one ribbon: I see hundreds of ribbons tied to every branch in that tree. There are ribbons tied to the fence. There are ribbons tied on the clothes line. There are ribbons tied on the back porch. There's so many ribbons on that farm: it looks like it snowed. What does it mean"? The young man says, "It means I'm forgiven and I'm going back home".
Hallelujah for the spirit of forgiveness. Can we stand? How many of you in this room, listen closely, can say, pastor, there's someone in my life, past or present, that has hurt me, that has offended me, that has betrayed me, that has lied about me: that I know today I must forgive? If that describes you, can I see your hand? Slip your hand up. The vast majority of this congregation. I want you to pray this prayer with me. Lift your hands. I want you to pray this prayer with me.
Heavenly Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, today, I forgive... (now you fill in the blank exactly who, what, when, where, and why) and now that the spirit of forgiveness has been released from my lips, I am going to be liberated by the heavy burden of this that I have carried for so long. May the Lord Jesus Christ fill you with his love and peace. Amen.