Mark Batterson - LOVE, Unoffended
I'm so spent. I'm so tired. It feels like I'm running on empty, just not bouncing back. My head is foggy. My heart is irritated. Lord, help me. Those were the words that I wrote in my journal November 11 of last year. I was in Lakeland, Florida. It was a sunny day, but I was in a dark place. It felt like the last couple of years caught up with me. It felt like I hit bottom, but I wasn't bouncing. Wouldn't classify it as clinical depression but the check engine light came on, and I knew I needed to do something about it. So I did three things. One, I started counseling. If you don't hear anything else, maybe you'll hear this. I've never met anybody that doesn't need a counselor.
Some of us just need more than one. My counselor took me through a forgiveness exercise that helped me identify and release some bitterness, some unforgiveness, some offenses that I had taken that I hadn't realized were there and I'll detail that a little bit later. Two, I doubled down on my gratitude journal. Now when I say worship, I think for many of us what comes to mind is what we just did. It's worshiping corporately in gathering like this. And that's a beautiful thing because when we do, we are mirroring what is happening in heaven. But for me, the truest form of worship, the purest form of worship may be my gratitude journal. Why? Because I'm not singing someone else's lyrics on a screen. It's my words out of my experiences, my ups and my downs. It's my ins and my outs.
In fact, Loren and I will begin our Sabbath at sundown by sharing gratitudes and its a moment of worship. The gratitude journal is the way I give thanks in all circumstances, I Thessalonians 5. It's the way I enter into His courts with thanksgiving, Psalm 100. It's the way I give God the sacrifice of praise, even on bad days, Hebrews 13. It's the way I acknowledge that every good and perfect gift comes from God, James 1. And it's the way that I sing a new song to the Lord, Psalm 96. So I got some counseling. I doubled down on my gratitude journal. And I deleted some words from my vocabulary. They're not those words, okay? I know what you're thinking, okay? But here's what I realized. I had this revelation after a lot of self-examination that I was using negative words with a high degree of frequency and those negative words were functioning like self-fulfilling prophecies. I was speaking it into existence. I was giving it power. I was making it harder than it had to be.
In a series of studies conducted at the University of Chicago, the recordings of thousands of counseling sessions were analyzed. Some sessions were successful, resulting in sustained change. Others sessions were not successful. The differentiating factor was not the therapeutic technique. "The difference," said Dr. Eugene Gendlin, "is how they talk". If you want to change your life, you have to change your words! According to the constructive conception of language, our words do not represent the world objectively. Rather, our words create the world subjectively. The power of life and death is in the tongue. Words matter now more than ever. Words create worlds. And I think I was in a world of hurt in part because of the words that I was using.
Now we could stop right here, right? Get some counseling, double down on your gratitude journal and delete some words from your vocabulary. God bless, we'll see you next week. But we're already here, so why don't we keep going? Little bit of group counseling this weekend. Here's the thing. My external circumstances have not changed a whole lot in the last three months but I'm in a totally different place. What I want to do this weekend is talk about how I got from there to here. And I don't have all the answers. I'm not completely out of the woods. I'm a work in progress. But I want to reverse engineer that process because my hunch is I'm not the only one that has that check engine light.
So, welcome to National Community Church. Shoutout to all of our campuses, Cap Hill, Lincoln Theatre, NOVA. Little bit of love to our NCC online, wherever you are. But by the way, why don't you just put it in the chat, love to know where you are. I just heard this week we had a couple of folks from Majorca, an island off of Spain. I think last week or a week ago or two or... And I just wanna say I wish I was there. But welcome! Okay. So this weekend we wrap up our series on love. We've talked about Love Unconquered, Love Regardless, Love Undistracted. This weekend we talk about Love Unoffended. Here's the big idea. Hurt people hurt people. And forgiven people forgive people. If you meet someone who is causing a lot of collateral damage, emotionally, mentally, relationally, there is a good chance that they are projecting their pain.
There is a good chance that there is unconfessed sin or unforgiven sin, and they're acting out of open wounds. There's a good chance that they've taken offense, which means that their defense mechanisms are on overdrive and all they're trying to do is protect their ego. That's not just true individually. I think it's true internationally. Russia's invasion of the Ukraine is past my pay grade, but don't tell me that there aren't some of these factors at play. If you have a Bible, you can meet me on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. Matthew chapter six, Jesus delivers his Sermon on the Mount. And he prays this prayer.
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 this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen.
I want to focus on the fifth petition: "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors". Simply put, our vertical forgiveness is contingent upon our horizontal forgiveness. Jesus adds a postscript to this prayer and we read right over it. And I think one of the reasons why we do that is 'cause it's one of the hardest verses in the Bible to put into practice. It says, if you forgive other people... If, if. So it's conditional. If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Last summer, I got on the train up to New York City and had an opportunity to have lunch with someone who I'd admired from afar.
RT Kendall pastored Westminster Chapel in London for twenty five years, written fifty books. And at lunch, we were talking and he mentioned a book that I hadn't read called Total Forgiveness. So I read it and I recommend it. And in that book, he shares about a defining moment in his life when he was full of unforgiveness. He was holding a grudge against someone. And he told a friend and that friend empathized with him but also exhorted him. Five words, his friend said: "You must totally forgive them". RT said, "I can't". His friend said, "You can, and you must". He said, "Release them and you'll be set free". RT Kendall said, "It was the hardest thing I had ever been asked to do".
Right now, some of you are having flashbacks to things that people have said, to things that people have done. And I empathize with that and I also exhort you. You must totally forgive them. "But Pastor Mark, you don't know. You don't know". I don't know. But you can. And you must. You have to release them and you will be set free. In that book, RT talks about what forgiveness is not. And I think that's really important at this juncture. He said forgiveness is not excusing what they did. It's not justifying what they did. It's not forgetting what they did. It's not even pardoning what they did. That's past our pay grade. Forgiveness is not turning a blind eye or subjecting yourself to that kind of abuse ever again. If someone commits a crime, they can experience God's grace, but that doesn't mean that they don't live with the consequences. Forgiveness doesn't cancel the consequences. It cancels the penalty, praise God. But those are two different things.
Here's what I know for sure. If you hold a grudge, if you allow a seed of bitterness to get into your spirit, if you hold on to the offense, if you fail to forgive, it will not hurt them, it will hurt you. Forgiveness is not excusing or justifying or forgetting or pardoning, per se. Let me tell you what it is. Three things. One, forgiveness is mandatory. I don't know how else to say it. Vengeance is mine saith the Lord. You have to leave room, please hear me, for God's justice or God's mercy. And I know, if we're being honest, sometimes we want justice for others and always mercy for ourselves. That doesn't mean that we subject ourselves to abuse. It doesn't mean that we don't establish healthy and holy boundaries. It doesn't mean that we become a punching bag for someone else's bad behavior. But forgiven people forgive people, seventy times seven.
When I was five years old, I put my faith in Christ after watching a movie called the Hiding Place. It was this story of Corrie ten Boom who survived the concentration camps. She lost her father and her sister, endure a tremendous torture and abuse but she came out the other side and eventually, she would go back to Germany and she would preach the good news of the Gospel that Jesus forgives. And there was a moment, where at one of those gathering, she was approached by a former guard who she recognized, who was the cruelest guard in the entire camp. And he came up to her and said, "I heard your message about forgiveness but I need to hear it from you".
Corrie said it was the hardest thing she'd ever done. But she said forgiveness is not a function of emotion, it's an act of the will. And so there was this moment where she reached out and held the hand of this guard and here's what happened. She said, "A current started in my shoulder, and raced down my arm, and sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. I forgive you brother, I cried, with all my heart. I had never known love so intensely as I did then. But even then, I realized that it was not my love. It was the power of the Holy Spirit". This gets me because you have to understand if Corrie doesn't forgive, then this is not our life message. There's not a movie made about her life and a five-year old Mark doesn't see it and doesn't make that decision. That forgiveness changed my life. Mm. One, forgiveness is mandatory. Two, forgiveness is a pre-decision.
Last week, wow, was amazing, was it not? Bob Goff in the house. No way you're not gonna have fun. It was like a baptism of love. It was like a baptism of joy. And in between services Bob shared a story and I've heard before. I think I've even written it in a book. Before his daughter was born, he wrote a note forgiving her for crashing their car, put it in a mason jar, and buried it. Eighteen years later, sure enough, his daughter crashed the car and he handed her a shovel, with a note with the latitude and longitude. She dug it up, opened the jar and discovered that her dad had forgiven her before she was even born. Which makes me feel like a failure as a father. But that is awesome! Forgiveness is a pre-decision. And three, forgiveness is forever.
So I'm in my daily Bible reading plan, I get to Act 7 last week, and you know, Stephen first martyr in the book of Acts, and I read that chapter but I noticed something that I hadn't before. He is stoned to death, but do you remember the very last thing he does? He kneels and he prays in a loud voice: "Lord, do not hold this sin against them". How do you use your dying breath to forgive those who are stoning you to death? I can't even describe it, but I wrote in my journal with this renewed resolve: I'm gonna forgive until the day I die. I'm gonna live unoffended. I'm gonna love unoffended. I'm gonna let it go and I'm gonna let God. Let me switch gears. If you're in-person, you're online this weekend, and that check engine light is on, may I say a couple of diagnostic question. Is it all right if I get in our business a little bit? Is it possible that there's unconfessed sin vertically, or unforgiven sin horizontally in your heart? Is it possible that a seed of bitterness has taken root? Is it possible that you're holding a grudge or that you're holding onto in offense?
The writer of Proverbs said, "Above all else guard your heart". Just put your hand on your heart right now. "Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life". See, unconfessed sin and unforgiven sin will block your arteries. It's true physically. It's true spiritually. And the symptoms are similar. If you are experiencing a tightness in your chest, a shortness of breath, an excessive tiredness, I wonder if it might be bitterness blocking that blood flow. If you've lost the peace that passes understanding or the joy of your salvation or this feeling of intimacy of being in right relationship with God, is it possible that some unforgiveness has accumulated in your arteries and it's hindering your heart function?
Ephesians 4:30, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, and rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you". RT Kendall said, "The primary way we grieve the Spirit in our lives is by fostering bitterness in our hearts". But let me flip that script. "The absence of bitterness," he said, "allows the Holy Spirit to be himself in us. When the Holy Spirit is not grieved, He is at home with me".
I want you to hold that thought. Michelle Nelson makes a distinction between three degrees of forgiveness. First-degree forgiveness is detached forgiveness, there is a reduction in negative feelings towards the offender, but no reconciliation happens. Second-degree forgiveness is limited forgiveness, there's a reduction in negative feelings towards the offender, and the relationship is partially restored, but there's a decrease in the emotional intensity of that relationship. Are you picking up what I'm throwing down? You've been there. You've done that, yes? Third-degree forgiveness is full forgiveness, it's a total cessation of negative feelings towards the offender, and the relationship is fully restored.
Now I know it takes two to tango. I understand that you cannot control someone you have hurt or someone who has hurt you. Yes? You cannot control that but you can offer full forgiveness. What does that look like? I'll tell you what it looks like. It looks like Jesus on a cross saying about these soldiers who drove spikes through his hands and his feet, and saying, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do". That is full forgiveness. RT Kendall says this, "When I truly and totally forgive, I've crossed over into the supernatural and have achieved an accomplishment equal to any miracle". Oh, please don't miss this. I am more and more convinced that yes, turning water into wine, that's what I'm talking about. Feeding 5000 with five loaves into... raising Lazarus from the dead, healing a man who was born blind, installing a synaptic pathway between the optic nerve and visual cortex, that's what I'm talking about! None of those miracles are greater than this miracle. On the cross, totally forgiving. I don't have time to do this, but I'm gonna do it anyways.
Matthew 13, Jesus goes back to his hometown and says he couldn't do many miracles there. Do you remember why? They took offense. Listen to me. Third-degree forgiveness, full forgiveness, in my book is a miracle. We're believing for a supernatural demonstration of love and power. We're believing for signs and wonders. But here's the deal. If we want more miracles, we need more forgiveness. We need to put it at the altar and if we do that, then anything and everything that would hinder, that would get in the way of what the Spirit wants to do is gone. Gone! Done, done! Don't you love that song? Come on! Whew. Let me double all the way back to that journal entry. I'll connect the dots. My counselor took me through a forgiveness exercise. And I'll be honest. It's not like super dramatic. He just said, "Carve out some time, grab your journal, your Bible, and just ask the Lord a question: Is there anyone or anything that I need to forgive"?
Whoo. I wasn't prepared. I wasn't prepared. I had no idea. I had no idea. I had no idea that unforgiveness was in my heart. You know what the Lord revealed? I'm a lot better at repressing than confessing, a lot better at complaining than forgiving. Can I tell you one role of the Holy Spirit? Wears a lot of hats, right? Healing, sealing, revealing, counseling, convicting, comforting, right? Fruiting, gifting, guiding, Holy Spirit. Don't you love the Holy Spirit? He loves you. Can I tell you one more thing the Holy Spirit does? Surfacing. What are you talking about? I'm talking about I Corinthians 2:10, No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. But God has revealed it to us, how? By His Spirit. And what does this Spirit do?
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. The Spirit of God is searching the deep web, the dark web of our hearts and of our minds. And he'll surface those subconscious motives. He'll surface those repressed memories. There are 125 trillion synapses crisscrossing the cerebral cortex. And I'm convinced that the Holy Spirit dwells in the forty nanometer synaptic gap between all of them. And so here I am. Lord, is there anyone or anything that I need to forgive? I'm not gonna show you those pages in my journal. One, we don't have enough time. I'm gonna protect the innocent. But I couldn't believe it. Some of them were recent experiences that I just kinda brushed them off, slipped them under the carpet. It's no big deal. Uh, it is if you let it hang around. Some of them were old memories. I had this weird flashback.
Man, I must have been eight, nine years old. First time I remember stealing something. I'm in a music lesson, trumpet. And I'm waiting for the lesson in front of me to get done and it's crazy. I remember it so vividly because the Holy Spirit was even convicting me at eight. It was a Milwaukee Brewers baseball schedule. I wanted it so bad. I took it. There were other things that the Lord just surfaced in me and what I realized was I had all of these memories, all of these memories that just... We'll keep that under the surface but they always kind of bounce back up, don't they? By the way, came across the comic this week. I'll show it to you. "For 43 years, Hank had successfully stuffed every feeling he'd ever had, until, of course, the morning when Fred asked if he could borrow a paper clip".
I don't know. It's funny to me. I'm gonna share it. When people act out of proportion to the offense, there's a good chance that they aren't reacting to present-tense circumstances. They are projecting their past-tense pain. Listen, whatever you repress will eventually depress, and almost like a beach ball that you try to keep under the surface. No, no, no. No, no, no, no, no. No, you know as well as I do. It's gonna eventually surface, and usually at the most inopportune time. Are you repressing or are you confessing? Lord, help us. Matthew 5:23, If you are offering your gift at the altar, and suddenly remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary.
Now, the altar was at the temple in Jerusalem, where Jesus preaching the sermon on the mountain, remember? North shore, the Sea of Galilee, 72 miles away, as the crow flies. At 3 miles per hour, take 24 hours. And it's a 3200 foot change in elevation. So, we're talking about a week's journey cause they wouldn't go through Sumeria either, right? And so we're talking about Jesus is saying, if there is unforgiven sin, take two weeks. Deal with it. I sense in my spirit that we're on the brink of something that we're coming into a season where God wants to move with power and with love and wants to restore our joy and give us peace and wants us to walk with a holy confidence. But we have to... We have to deal with that unconfessed sin and unforgiven sin.
And so, there's nothing convenient about it. Somehow, someway, you need to do something. Because if you keep doing what you've always done, you're gonna keep getting what you've always gotten. And so, I just wonder is this a moment? Is it a moment? Like, I'm not gonna ask you to go 72 miles, but I'm gonna ask you to go 40 days. Okay? You should have gotten a habit tracker on the way in. And if you didn't, you can get one on the way out. And if you're online, you can download it. NCC.RE/LENT. We're gonna challenge to do a couple of things over the next 40 days. One, I want to challenge you to pray for three, or four, or five people. Who? You know what? My guess is a few people that you really love and a few people you need to forgive. Wouldn't that be something? What if God wants to set you free?
Just release you into a new chapter of your life. But you have to cut the cord. You have to do something, right? I don't even know if this is gonna work. But you gotta confess it. Yeah? You gotta let the air out. Cause its downright... exhausting to spend your life trying to repress this and that and the other thing. Come on! Give it to the Lord. And by the way, did you know why most of us have a very vague feeling of forgiveness? Cause we make vague confessions. "Lord, forgive me for everything I've ever done wrong". Nice. You wouldn't let your kids get by with that. They need to know what they're sorry about.
Do you know, I remember reading a biography of Martin Luther flying over to Wittenburgh. I was actually there on reformation day, maybe 14, 15 years ago. I remember reading that he would spend six hours in confession. I remember thinking to myself, either he has a lot more sin than I do or he was confessing in a way that's very different than I do. We got some people who want to help. Sozo, celebrate recovery, don't have a whole lot of time but couple of length, you'll see. You can email [email protected] and you know what? Its about an intimate conversation with God, with the help of a prayer partner, that gets past presenting problems and maybe will help reveal some of the things that we need forgiven and then celebrate recoveries about those hurts, habits, hang-ups. Listen, if it's addiction, if it's abuse, if it's self-injury, if it's family disfunction, NCC.RE/RECOVERY. Listen, its really hard to do this by yourself. We need each other. The challenge is this. Would you pray for someone daily for 40 days? Would you fast weekly? Here's the inspiration.
Next week, we kick off a new series on Esther called Courage. I love Esther 4:16, "Fast ye for me". I just... Hear it is. Point blank. The Lord wants us to exercise spiritual disciplines, not just for our own edification, but for each other. Wouldn't it be amazing if this was a church where we go to the altar for others? Now, I think it starts going to the altar and maybe it's one of these guys, right? You just gotta, you gotta put it at the altar. You gotta confess it. You gotta forgive it. You gotta get free of it. So, we'll fast sundown Wednesday to sundown Thursday. If you're willing, NCC.RE/LENT. I think we have a couple hundred people already committed to do this. Come on! Let's do this thing and let's see what God does.
Let me close with this. The same year that I wrote The Circle Maker, I chose Proverbs 19:11 as my verse of the year. You've heard me share this before. It was a strange choice. "It's the to the glory of a man to overlook an offense". What kind of verse of the year is that? Can I just say this? Be careful what verse you choose, because the Lord will give you opportunity to put it into practice. And so, this is not a pity party. Listen, God has used that book beyond what I could ask for. Imagine, I've gotten thousands of letters and emails and testimonies and so, praise God! And God gets the glory for that. What I wasn't prepared for was... Wow! All of the accusations and false motives and false doctrine and whew! There's some people out there that I don't think they like me. And if we're being honest, it hurt. It's hard. I'm so glad that was my verse of the year cause I was bound and determined to be unoffendable. I'm gonna live unoffended. I'm gonna love unoffended.
You know what part of it is? You gotta pray for whoever it is. It's the only way. Read Job 42, the turning point is when he prays for his friends. Come on, who do you need to pray for on that habit tracker? Maybe it's that person that you need to forgive and it will set you free. But by the way, someone even sent me a letter and they were pretty upset that I ate at the Cheesecake Factory. I mean, this is how bizarre. I'm just thinking to myself, if that's wrong, I don't wanna be right. Well, at some point... So, here's the deal. Here's the deal. Someday we're gonna stand before the judgment seat, you're not gonna be on it and neither am I. Live for the applause and nail-scarred hands. Don't be afraid of offending some pharisees. And give God glory along the way.
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 this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts. Forgive us our debts. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Forgive our debtors. Forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. In Jesus name, Amen.
Can I invite you to stand? Here's what I think we need to do. We're gonna sing this song. We're gonna celebrate communion, so... You're online, would you kinda prepare yourself for that? You can grab some elements. Any of our campuses, if you haven't been served those elements, maybe our ushers can help us out. Make sure that you have those communion elements. So we're gonna sing this song. We're just gonna respond to the Lord, but would you just... Come on, can we nail it to the cross? Can we make sure that we don't walk out with any unconfessed sin, any unforgiven sin? In Jesus name.