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Watch 2022 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Your Second Most Important Decision

Robert Jeffress - Your Second Most Important Decision

Robert Jeffress - Your Second Most Important Decision
TOPICS: But God..., Joseph, Life of Joseph, Decisions, Forgiveness

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress. And welcome again to Pathway to Victory. What is the most important decision a person can make in life? Some people might say the person you choose to marry, or which career path you decided to pursue, or which church you choose to attend. And while those are all monumental choices with lifelong consequences, no decision is quite as important as these, the choice to receive God's forgiveness and the choice to grant forgiveness to others. My message is titled, "Your Second Most Important Decision", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

You know, the truth is the two most important decisions we ever make in life, both deal with the subject of forgiveness. The first, the most important decision is choosing to receive God's forgiveness. But the second most important decision in life is the decision to grant forgiveness, to those who wrong us. And they interestingly, both decisions are inseparably linked to one another. The decision to receive God's forgiveness and the decision to grant that forgiveness. Jesus linked them together in the passage we read earlier in Matthew 6, Jesus said, "If you forgive others, I will forgive you". But if you do not forgive others, neither will I forgive you. Paul said in Ephesians 4:32, be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ has also forgiven you.

What is the key to receiving forgiveness from God or others, perhaps that we've wronged that need to forgive us. What's the key to granting forgiveness to others even those who don't ask for it. The answer to both questions is found in the passage we're going to look at today. If you have your Bibles turn to Genesis chapter 44, as we talk about life's second, most important decision. Today in our study of the life of Joseph we've come not to the end, but we've come to the climax of his life story. Now, that he's got all of his brothers in Egypt, Joseph is ready to reveal himself, but before he does that, he has one final test for his brothers.

Now, this is so important for you to understand the reason he kept testing his brothers over and over again, to see if they had repented of their sin was not so he could decide whether he was going to forgive them or not. Joseph had already forgiven his brothers. He forgave them 22 years earlier. How do I know that if he were still harboring bitterness in his heart, the moment those brothers set foot in Egypt, he would have had them executed, but he didn't. He was setting them up to receive forgiveness. And that's what I want you to understand. There's a difference between receiving forgiveness from others or God and granting forgiveness to other people. The key to receiving forgiveness is repentance. You can never receive somebody else's forgiveness, unless you have truly repented of your sin.

And we see that in the story in chapter 44, look at 44 verse one, "Then Joseph commanded his house stewards saying, 'fill the men's sacks with food, as much as they can carry and put each man's money in the mouth of his sack'". He was ready to say goodbye to his brothers or so they thought. So he fills their sack up with grain and gives them their money back. And then he says to a servant, put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest brother, Benjamin and his money for the grain. And so the servant did, as Joseph had told him. In other words, he's planting some evidence on the youngest brother. And then he told his brother in verse, his servant in verse six.

Now, once they get out of here and they're on their way back to Canaan, I want you to approach them and accused them of stealing the silver cup. And so the brothers make their way back to Canaan. Sure enough, Joseph servant chases them, tracks them down and says, how could you do this great evil against this governor who has been so gracious to you? They said, "What evil are you talking about"? "You have stolen the governor's silver cup". And they protested their innocence. They said, "We didn't take it, search our bag". And so the steward started searching the bag of each son. He started with the oldest, Ruben and then went to Judah and then Asher, down the line opening the sack. Nope, no cup here, no cup here, no cup until he got to the youngest brother, Benjamin and he opened up the sack, the servant did. And there was the silver cup. The brothers were heartbroken. They couldn't believe what they saw. They tore their clothes in sorrow and they returned with Benjamin back to Egypt to face the music of this accusation.

Now, just think of how they would have responded 22 years earlier if this had happened. These brothers who had left their own brother, Joseph for dead, if this had happened 22 years earlier, and Benjamin had been accused of theft, what do you think the brothers would have done? They would have said to the governor's official. Yeah, we always knew our brother was a kleptomaniac at heart. This is so embarrassing. You go ahead and take him back to Egypt. We'll just hightail it on to Canaan. That's not what happened at all.

In fact, when they get back to Egypt and stand before Joseph, I want you to notice what Judah says to Joseph. Now, remember he doesn't know Joseph is his brother. So Judah said, "What can we say to my Lord? What can we speak? And how can we justify ourselves? God has found out the inequity of your servants. Behold, we are my Lord slaves, both we, and the one in whose possession the cup has been found". What was Judah confessing to? He wasn't confessing to stealing the cup. He wasn't guilty of that, but he and the brothers were guilty of something else. They were guilty of having sold their brother into slavery 22 years earlier. And Judah was in effect saying, God is punishing us for that now. We're not going to protest our innocence. We will become slaves for you, for Benjamin sake. And then Joseph says, verse 17, "Far be it for me to do this to you, to punish you all, the man in whose possession the cup has been found, he shall be my slave. But as for you go back home and peace to your father".

And how does Judah respond to that invitation to return, to be free, to live free. Beginning in verse 18, Judah gives one of the most moving speeches in all of the Old Testament. He says, "Sir, we could never do that. We could never go back without Benjamin. It would kill our father if we were to return home without him". And so Judah proposes this in verses 33 and 34. He says, "Now, therefore, please let your servant remain. Let me remain here in Egypt, instead of the lad, a slave to my Lord and let the lad go up with his brothers for how shall I go up to my father if he is not with me, for fear that I see the evil that would overtake my father". He was saying, if I returned home without Benjamin, it would kill my old father. So do this, let me be the slave. You blame me, let me take the punishment that you think Benjamin deserves.

Here again, you see Judah as a type of the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember Jesus a thousand plus years later would come from the tribe, the line of Judah. What did Jesus do for us? Paul said it this way, "He, Jesus, who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him. Jesus voluntarily took the punishment, the condemnation that we deserved, so that we might live as free men and women".

Now, I have to admit this story has always bothered me, every time I've read it and preached for it. Because it just seems like Joseph is playing a cat-and-mouse game with his brothers. This is the ultimate when you think about it, of frame and blame, entrapment by law enforcement officials, planting evidence to make people appear guilty, who aren't guilty. By the way, I'm not the only one who's had a problem with this chapter. Martin Luther, didn't think this chapter belonged in the Bible, he thought it ought to be ripped out of the Bible. But anybody who believes that doesn't understand what's going on here, Joseph isn't playing games. Joseph loves his brothers. He wants to be reconciled with his brothers. He wants them to live forever. He's already chosen to forgive them, but he knows the thing they need most is to receive forgiveness and they can never receive his forgiveness or God's forgiveness until they repent of their sin they had committed 22 years earlier.

Let me show you four ingredients of repentance that you find illustrated in this story. First of all, repentance and that word repent means to change your mind. Metanoia or a change of mind that leads to a change of direction in life. Judah has just finished his moving speech about his willingness to pay for Benjamin's sin. And Joseph could stand it no longer. Look at verse one. Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. And he cried, "Have everyone go out from me". So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it. And the household of Pharaoh heard of it. Then Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph"!

Can you imagine what his brothers must have thought? Those words came like a thunder bolt from heaven. "I am Joseph! Is my father still alive"? But his brothers could not answer him for they were dismayed at his presence. I think that's perhaps the largest understatement in the whole Bible. They were dismayed at his presence. That Hebrew word niphalu literally means they trembled at his presence. And then Joseph said to his brothers, "Please come closer". And they came closer. Can't you just see the sweat pouring from their face as they approached their brother whom they had left for dead. They knew this was it. It was over. This man, the second most powerful man in Egypt, could have them executed. And surely that was what was about to happen to them.

And then Joseph dumbfounded then by what he said next. "I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into slavery. Now, do not be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here for a God sent me before you to preserve life, for the famine that has been in the land these two years. And there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore it was not you who sent me here, but God..." That's where this sermon series title comes from. But God, "And he has made me a father to Pharaoh and Lord of all of his household and ruler over the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, thus says your son, Joseph, God has made me Lord over all of Egypt, come down to me and do not delay. And you shall live in the land of Goshen and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children's children and your flocks and your herds and all that you have".

Verse 15, and Joseph kissed all of his brothers and wept on them. And afterwards his brothers talked with him. I think we understand at this point why it is scripture devotes more space to the story of Joseph than any other character in the book of Genesis, more than Adam, more than Noah, more than Abraham. Why the focus on Joseph? Because Joseph illustrates the second most important decision you'll ever make in your life: the choice to forgive those who wrong you. Some of you are struggling with this issue of forgiveness. Well, how do we go about forgiving those who have wronged us, maybe those who never ask for our forgiveness? Will you notice four characteristics of genuine forgiveness Joseph illustrates for us. First of all, if you've really forgiven somebody, you will resist unnecessary embarrassment of your offender.

Look at verse one again of Genesis 45. Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him and he cried have every one go out from me. So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. I've heard people for years speculate. Why did Joseph had the room emptied? Maybe Joseph out of pride didn't want those Egyptians to know that he had been sold into slavery. That wasn't it at all. He did this for the benefit of his brothers. He knew he was about to invite them to settle down in Egypt in the most fertile delta region of Egypt, the land of Goshen. But he knew that if everybody knew about the offense of his brothers, it would cause them to live in shame the rest of their lives. He didn't want that for his brothers. And the same should be true of us. If we've truly forgiven somebody, we don't want to see them embarrassed. We keep that offense as private as possible.

Now, let me say this important word. There are some sins people commit that have to become public. The law requires and rightly so that cases of child abuse or other serious sins and crimes have to be reported. But if you have truly forgiven somebody, you will seek to keep their offense as private as possible. Secondly, true forgiveness relieves our offender of unhealthy grief. It relieves our offender of unhealthy grief. One person said let's face it. We would much rather sit on the judgment seat than on the mercy seat. I mean, if we've been hurt and hurt deeply by somebody, we want to see them in pain for a while, we get a little bit of secret delight out of seeing then ride in agony over guilt. Oh, how could I ever pay you back for what I did to you? But that's not true forgiveness. True forgiveness will try to seek to relieve our offender of unhealthy grief. Verse five, look at what Joseph said to his brothers. "And now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here for it's God who sent me before you to preserve life".

Third, true forgiveness releases our offender of their obligation to us. I mean, the brothers deserve death for what they had done to Joseph, but instead of giving them what they deserved, Joseph gave them what they needed, forgiveness. Look at verse 10. He said, "And you shall live in the land of Goshen and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children's children and your flocks and your herds and all that you have".

Let me say this as clearly as I know how to say, forgiveness does not mean denying you've been hurt. In fact, you can never forgive until you admit that somebody has wronged you. You can only forgive those who you're willing to blame first of all. Forgiveness is not about denying. It's not about diminishing the seriousness of what somebody has done to you. Instead, forgiveness is to let go of your right for vengeance. It's to give up your right to hurt somebody else for hurting you. It's allowing God to settle the score. And why do we do that? The basis of all forgiveness is the forgiveness we received from God. God didn't give us what we deserved, he gave us what we needed, grace and we have the same obligation to other people. Cs Lewis said to be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable in others, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in us. Joseph said, I'm going to give you what you need, not what you deserve.

And finally, true forgiveness refocuses everyone's attention on the sovereignty of God. Look at verse nine again, "Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, thus says your son, Joseph it's God who has made the Lord over all of Egypt, come down and do not delay". Later on in chapter 50 verse 20, Joseph says again to his brothers, "And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God used it for good to bring about this present result and to preserve many people alive". Just look at the hand of God, Joseph said, how he worked through what you brothers did to me. Had it not been for what you did to me, selling me into slavery, I never would have ended up in Egypt. If I didn't end up in Egypt, I wouldn't have been Pharaoh's right-hand person. Had I not been the prime minister of Egypt, there would have been no excess grain during the seven years of famine. If there had been no grain, not only would the Egyptians have died, but you would have died as well and there would have been no nation of Israel. God used this evil action of those brothers to accomplish his purpose.

You see the real key to Joseph's ability to forgive was faith, faith that God was bigger than his brothers. As for you, you meant evil against me. I'm not downplaying what you did, what you did was evil, but thank God he's bigger than you are. God used it for good. Ladies and gentlemen, you will never be able to forgive that person who has hurt you and hurt you deeply until you are convinced that God is bigger than your offender. That he can take the worst things that may have been done to you, and he can still use them for your good and his glory. Are you convinced of that? You'll never be able to forgive. You'll never be able to experience the freedom that comes from letting go until you believe in a big God. A God who is so powerful that he is able to cause all things to work together for good to those who love him and are called according to his purpose. That is the key to genuine forgiveness.
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