Michael Youssef - Crafted, Marriage God's Way - Part 2
C.S. Lewis makes a profound statement. It says: "Everyone thinks that forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have to forgive someone". How true that is. In fact, you know that next to the word "love," the word "forgiveness" is the most bandied-about word, most talked-about word among Christians and non-Christians alike. And yet, it's the least understood or practiced. Beloved, the Scripture makes it very clear, namely, that only when we recognize how our sins have offended a holy God, a righteous God, only when we realize how dreadful condition we were in without God, only when we experience the depravation of sin and the burden of sin, only then can we come to God in crying out to him and asking, not in remorse, but in true repentance and deep conviction, repenting of our sins and asking for his forgiveness, his true forgiveness that brings joy, peace, replaces ashes with gladness.
Only those who know they've been forgiven much can forgive other much. Well, the Bible teaching is very clear, forgiveness and remission of sins is an experience that we receive. But as we receive the forgiveness, we exercise it toward others. And forgiveness in marriage is a microcosm of our ability to forgive others. Just like I said in the last message about selflessness, until and unless selflessness is exercised in that microcosm in the marriage relationship, it cannot be exercised outside of a marriage relationship. We began in the last message to talk about the three foundational stones of marriage God's way. They are selflessness, forgiveness, which we'll see today, and the next will be conversation.
In the selflessness message last week, we saw that there are three foundational stones in that one, and they all started with the letter M: maturity, magnanimity, and malleability. Today, I want to talk to you about forgiveness in marriage. And so, turn with me to Matthew chapter 18, verses 21 and 22. Matthew 18, 21 and 22: "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?' But Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.'"
I wanna give you the summary of what Jesus is saying in a very short sentence. Jesus is saying that you forgive until you lose count. That's really what the Hebraic seven times seventy means, until you lose count. This message is not gonna be about the usual subject of forgiveness and the importance of forgiveness. I'm gonna talk about the anatomy of forgiveness, the anatomy of forgiveness. Because when you understand the anatomy of forgiveness, you begin to develop the ability to start losing count in forgiving, or even not count at all.
So I want to share with you three things, three ways by which you can begin to develop the ability to lose count or not even count at all, particularly in forgiving your spouse, and they all start with the letter A. And they're a little bit complex sentences, for one reason, is so that I can come and unpack them for you. Okay, here they are: attack the insignificant, arrest the incompatible, attain to your true identity. Let's look at these very quickly. Attack the insignificant. Let me ask you a question. Those of you who've been hearing me for quite some time, how many of you remember me saying on numerous occasions to, "Major on the majors, and minor on the minors"? Raise your hand. Ooh, good, thank God.
You do remember some things. But today, I'm gonna reverse myself. Why? Because when it comes to the forgiveness in a marriage relationship, the opposite of that statement is true. When it comes to forgiving between husbands and wives, it is absolutely necessary to reverse my formula of majoring on the majors and minoring on the minor. Why? Because in forgiveness between husband and wife, we have to start by learning to forgive the small things first. When you practice forgiveness of the small things, you are equipped to forgive big things. In the Song of Solomon, chapter 2, verse 15, Solomon's wife make a very intriguing statement, to say the least, very intriguing. Let me read it to you: "Catch for us," she's speaking to her husband, "catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom".
What is her deep concern here? And why she's asking her husband, Solomon, to catch these small foxes? Her biggest concern, her deepest concern is that little foxes that creep into the vineyard through broken fences, if they're not stopped dead in their tracks, they will slowly destroy the marriage vineyard. Hear me right, please. Little foxes or major hurricane both can destroy the harvest. Both can cause huge damage to the harvest. Foxes will do it slowly. Hurricane will do it all at once. The result is the same. The danger, the damage is the same, destruction, right? But when you train yourself with the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells in us to forgive each other the small offenses, you will avoid both the hurricane and the small foxes.
I know it's a mixed metaphor, but that's the only way I can think about it. When you forgive these things as soon as they appear, you avoid building this invisible wall that can have equal results when a sudden knowledge of a major offense takes place. I know some of you are probably asking, "Michael, are you equating these irritating things, these aggravating things in marriage to breaking of the marriage vow"? Great question, and the answer, "Of course not," of course not. But if you begin practicing forgiveness with the little things, with the small things, then when, God forbid, a big one hits, you already have been in training for forgiveness.
You see, I am talking about an occasional failure. I'm talking about an occasional breaking of the marriage vow. I'm talking about an occasional sin. I'm not talking about a continuous sin, a deliberate sin, and the refusal to repent of that sin. The Bible said, Jesus said in Matthew 19, when that continuous adultery takes place and no repentance and fruit of repentance is showing up, the marriage is dead. All these little foxes, again, the list is just endless. If they are not dealt with by genuine forgiveness, they can grow into being a big things, and they come to a head if and when, God forbid, a big one hit. That's my personal opinion. You now, the marriage vows a couple recite, they need to be modified.
So, when a couple says, "I promise to love, honor, cherish," it should be added, "forgive". Please don't misunderstand me. Different levels of offenses have different levels of forgiveness. The little things need daily forgiveness, but the major offense or betrayal require a major time and effort and prayer. Those major offense take a genuine repentance, brokenness, and willingness for a total change. That must happen if there's gonna be a restoration. I'm realistic enough to know that when a spouse betrays the marriage vow, there is a far deeper level of forgiveness. I know that. And the level of forgiveness depends on the level of repentance and change of heart.
Hear me right. Just remorse or temporary remorse and crocodile tears, and then continuing in that betrayal will require forgiveness. Yes, we must forgive, even in our hearts, without the person even confesses a repentance. You have to forgive because we are commanded to forgive because Jesus forgave us. The second thing I wanna tell you is arrest the incompatible. What does that mean? What does it mean to arrest the incompatible? Well, it means that, once you forgive and you let go of the hurt, you need to learn what the Word of God said in 2 Corinthians chapter 10, verse 5, and you have to understand that and let it sink deep into your heart. Here's what the Word of God said: "You keep on taking captive every thought and make that thought to be obedient to Christ".
Let me give you an illustration. I pray to God you'll never forget it, okay? You must always remind yourself, if you're a child of God, you're in a state of war. The moment you forget that you are in a state of spiritual war, you get into trouble. I know that happens with me. So, remind yourself constantly you are in a state of war. Where is that battlefield of that war? In your mind. And our enemy knows that if he can conquer some territories in your mind, if he can conquers that, then he will be able to create a beachhead. From that beachhead, he not only harasses you, but he also start taking on other territories to occupy.
Unforgiveness is that incompatible thought for the believing spouse. Unforgiveness is the enemy's tent that he comes in and he pitches in a territory in your mind. From there, he tries to conquer other areas in your life, like continuing anger, uncontrollable lust, hateful heart, selfishness, and the list goes on and on and on. But all of these thoughts need to be arrested immediately. They are incompatible with a believing spouse. How? When you start with the original landing strip of the enemy, when he comes in, you start with that, then you're gonna find it's easier to clean all the rest of it and kick him out of that rest of the territories. So, instead of allowing the enemy of unforgiveness to hold you hostage, you take that unforgiveness as a prisoner of war.
Listen to what Paul said in Ephesians chapter 4, verse 31 and 32. And you gotta understand in the structure of sentences, the most important comes lust. And so, if one is the root, that's always lust, the fruit first. And so, look with me, if you have your Bible, to Ephesians 4:31 and 32. 31 is that territories from which Satan expands. 32, verse 32, is really the original landing strip. "Get rid of all bitterness, and rage and anger, and brawling and slander, along with every form of malice". Ahh, where does all this come from? The last verse 32, he says: "Be kind and compassionate to one another," here it comes, ahh, "forgiving each other, just as in Christ Jesus God forgave you".
You see, the first landing strip and the first territory he occupies is that unforgiveness. And from there, he expands all the others. I find that the enemy attacks me in two ways. First, I would be sitting down in peace, minding my own business, and he comes through the flesh, ambushes my mind. How? By bringing past hurts and past anger and past resentment into my memory. Things that I know I have taken care of long time ago, I've placed under the blood of Jesus. The second way is that he leads us slowly down the wrong pathway, and he does it step by step by step, and before you know it, "Whoa, I'm in the wrong place," right?
All in here, right here, in the battlefield. And I'm in unforgiveness territory. The only way I know how to fight back and retake territory from him is immediately call on my Commander-in-Chief and say, "Help," then immediately aim my weapons at the enemy by immediately start praying for that person who wronged me, that person who may have betrayed a trust, that person who hurt me deeply. That is the only way I know, that is the only way I've found that I can succeed by taking every thought captive to Christ, when I arrest and handcuff unforgiveness and give it to General Jesus. Attain to your true identity.
Look, it's natural human reaction to those who hurt us, it is the absolutely natural reaction to those who betrayed us in marriage relationship or any relationship, is revenge, right? "I don't get mad, I get even". Have you heard that? But to the believing spouse, this reaction belongs to the old nature. It belongs to your life and my life before Christ came in and gave me his grace and his forgiveness and his restoration. It belongs to what the Bible call, "The flesh, the lower nature". It belongs to the time before I have experienced the indescribable forgiveness of my sins from the hand of Jesus, the blessing of living longer is that you're able to look back in hindsight.
You see things that you never thought you were gonna see because you realize, now, after you've been through this, that this was only temporary, that this was only a brief time. In the long run, God's justice will prevail, even though it might not be on your timetable. It might not be as soon as you wanted, and certainly, it's not as soon as I wanted, but God will have the last words. That's why he says, "'Vengeance is mine,' says the Lord," amen. So trust God. He works slowly, but he will work well. "Vengeance is mine". You practice forgiveness, and let him exercise justice. Why is that? Because we need to remember that we too offended a holy God, that we too betrayed our covenant with Christ, that we too have been unfaithful to the Lord, that we too have wounded the heart of Jesus. And yet, every time we come to him in confession, every time we come to him in repentance, every time we come turn to him, he extends forgiveness to us.
And so, he doesn't only do it seven times, he doesn't even do it seventy times seven. He keeps on doing it, keeps on forgiving for the rest of our lives until we see him face to face in heaven. When I was a young Christian and I would hear the preacher say, "God forgives and forgets," genuinely, I used to think that God has a case of amnesia. No, what it means is that he doesn't count it against us. He doesn't count it against us. That's why the Bible said, "Forgets". Attain to your true identity in Christ. I want to tell you this. Forgiveness is both an act and a process.
When you came to Christ, when you repented of your sins and said, "Lord Jesus, come into my life, I receive you as my only Savior and Lord, forgive my sins, I repent," God says, "That moment you have been justified with Christ. You become a new creature in Christ. You receive the forgiveness of Jesus, past, present, and future. You've been forgiven". But then comes the time when you fall and fumble in sin. You come back to him, and he forgives you, again and again and again.
You see, forgiveness is a what? An act and you say, "Lord, you know, I forgave this person. I forgave my spouse, but today, I forgive again". And as I said earlier in the message, you begin to pray for that person. You begin to pray that God will bless that person, and God will heal you in the process. Now, try what I'm just saying here now just for 7 days, okay? Try it for 7 days. Then extend it for 7 more days. Pray to God, "God, bless my spouse. Bless this person that has wronged me, bless". Extend it 7 more days. Then extend it 7 more days. Then extend it 7 more days. You're gonna reach the point where the extension is not necessary, and that experience of hurt becomes a memory, and forgiveness will reign supreme.