Robert Jeffress - Meet The Divine Director
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome, again, to "Pathway to Victory". Wouldn't it be nice if life had a reset button? I'm sure we've all wished for that at some point in our lives. Well, while we can't undo our actions or their consequences, we can have a second chance. And it all starts with receiving God's forgiveness. My message is titled "Meet The Divine Director", on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
Somewhere in your distant, or perhaps even recent past, is a giant failure. Your failure may involve an opportunity you've squandered. It may be a relationship that has been broken. It may be a terrible moral choice you've made. Perhaps, right now, you're living with the embarrassment of that mistake of yours that everyone knows about. Or perhaps that mistake is still hidden from other people's view, at least for now. But in the back of your mind is this foundational question about your failure, will my failure become the defining moment of my life? A moment that I'll spend the rest of my life paying for? Or is it possible that I can move beyond my failure?
When you think about it, there're only really two people that can determine the answer to that question, you and God. I mean, after all, if God is our divine director, if he's the one who has created, written, produced and is now directing every moment of this 70 to 80-year drama we call life on this earth, doesn't he have the final say about if we can move beyond our failure or not? I mean, after all, if he wants to, after our failure, he can bring down the curtain and say, "It's over for you". Or he can choose to raise the curtain again and give us a wonderful second act. So, the real question is, is God willing to forgiving me of my failure? And that's what we're going to talk about today as we meet the divine director of our lives.
Now, I want to move beyond the theological to the intensely practical. Right now, I want you to picture the biggest failure of your life. I'm not talking about a slip up or a mess up, I'm talking about the mother of all screw ups, you know what I'm talking about? I'm talking about that past event in your life that if it were projected on this big screen for everybody to see, you would crawl under the pew in embarrassment. Have you got that mistake in mind? Isn't it funny how easy it comes to our mind what that biggest mistake was? So let's ask the question again, is God willing to forgive me, to let me off the hook for that mistake?
Let's listen to what the scripture says. Isaiah 54:8, "In an outburst of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting lovingkindness, I will have compassion on you," says the Lord your redeemer. Or Jeremiah 31:34, "For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more, declares the Lord". Or Joel 2:13, "Now return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil". Or Psalm 103:12, "As far as the east is from the west, so far he has removed our transgressions from us".
The Bible says God is willing to forgive you and me. Well, what is that meaning, what does that mean? What is the meaning of forgiveness? Remember that word forgive literally means to let go of, to surrender. You know, when we are hurt by somebody else, you've got a choice to make. We can hold on to that offense that somebody has committed against us, we can demand our pound of flesh from the other person. Or, we can choose to let go of it. And that's what forgiveness is. My definition of forgiveness is letting go of your right to hurt somebody else for hurting you. That's what forgiveness is, letting go of your right to hurt others for hurting you. And the Bible says our ability and willingness to forgive other people is directly related to God's ability and willingness to forgive us.
In Ephesians 4:32, Paul said, "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you". We are to forgive the same way that God has forgiven us. I want to think about those words for just a moment, just as God has forgiven us. Do you realize God is willing to release, to let go of every lie you've ever told, every impure thought you've ever had, every time you've put your desire above his desire? He is willing and able to let go of those offenses. You say how is that possible? What is that basis of God's willingness to do that? Well, we find the whole basis of God's forgiveness in 2 Corinthians 5:21.
You know, some people, I find, many Christians are rather nonchalant about God's willingness to forgive us. I mean, after all, we tolerate the sins of other people, what's the big deal about God forgiving us? Well, the simple answer is God is not like us, he is holy, he is pure, he can not tolerate any evil at all and therefore his holiness demands, Nahum says, that he cannot allow the guilty to go unpunished. You know, the big problem with that word guilty, we all fall under it. We all have slipped up, we've all messed up, we've all screwed up, and because of that, we all deserve hell.
Now here's the $64.000 question, how can a holy God, who cannot allow sin to go unpunished, how can he forgive somebody like you and me? Well, only God could have come up with this solution, and it's found in 2 Corinthians 5:21, God made him, that is Jesus, who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in him. The Bible says we're all overdrawn in our spiritual righteousness account. Every time we sin against God, it's like a deduct from our account with God, and we're all in an overdrawn position.
That's why the Bible says all of us have sinned, we've all fallen short of the glory God. We are all spiritually bankrupt. That's the bad news, we have no righteousness left in our account. The good news is, Jesus has plenty of righteousness in his account, and when you trust in Jesus as your Savior, God simply transfers the righteousness of his son into your account, so that when God looks at you, he no longer sees your son, your sin, he sees the righteousness of his son, that's what 2 Corinthians 5:21 means. He made him, Jesus, who knew no sin, to become sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
Now, what does that mean for us? The fact that God is willing to forgive us of our sins. In the few minutes that we have left, I want to share with you two practical implications of the forgiveness by our divine director of our lives. Implication number one is this, we are free from God's condemnation. We are free from God's condemnation. Because Jesus took the penalty of our sin and paid it himself, we never have to worry that some time in the future, God's gonna make us pay up. We never have to worry about that because our sin penalty has already been paid. And that's why Paul said with great confidence in Romans 8:1 so there is therefore now no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus. Isn't that a great truth? There is no condemnation, there is no wrath, there is no punishment awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus.
Now, I'm not suggesting that because Christ died for our sins, that erases the temporary consequences of our sin. You say, "Well then what use is God's forgiveness if I still have to suffer consequences for my sin"? Think about it, 30 years of painful consequences in this life, sure beats 30 billion, trillion years of suffering in the next life, doesn't it? I mean, that's what the promise is. I keep thinking about king David. We'll talk about his story often in this series because he is the supreme Old Testament example of somebody who had a Second Chance and Second Act in life.
You know the story, after his one-night stand with Bethsheba, because of that sin, he experienced consequences until the day he died. A divided kingdom, a disloyal son, a dead child, those were all parts of the temporary consequences that he paid for his sin. And yet, was he bitter about that? No, listen to what he exclaimed in Psalm 32:1-2, how blessed, how happy is the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. How happy is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity? How could David be so excited about God's forgiveness, when he would spend the rest of his life suffering the aftershocks of his failure? Because he understood what God's forgiveness meant in his life.
There are three words in these two verses that explain exactly what God did for David and what God does for you when he forgives you of your sin. Mark down the first word, forgiven. Forgiven, you've heard me say before that this Hebrew word forgiven literally means to separate, to separate. When God forgives you of your sin, he separates you from your sin. Psalm 103:12 says as far as the east is from the west, so far God has removed our transgressions from us.
You see a great illustration, that truth in the Old Testament day of atonement. Remember that was the highest day on the Jewish calendar? It was when the high priest would go in to the holy of holies and make atonement for the sins of Israel. But before he did that, before he went into the holy of holies, he would take a goat, it was called the scape goat, and he would place his hands over that goat and he would confess the sins of Israel. And that goat would be sent into the wilderness, never to be seen again. It was God's way of saying, "Israel, I am separating you from your sin". That gives that verse a whole new significance. As far as the east is from the west, so far God has removed our transgressions from us. That's what David meant when he said, "How blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven".
But there's a second keyword here, and that word is covered. God not only separates us from our sin, the Bible says he covers over our sin. You know, frankly allowing God to cover our sin is much easier and more effective than trying to cover over our sin ourselves. And yet, as impossible it is for us trying to cover our sin, we always try to do it, don't we?
Let me go back to David. I mean, after he was found out about his sin, or I mean after he committed his sin with Bathsheba, for the first six months after that sin, he tried to remove the stain of his sin. He tried to cover over it. He didn't allow anybody to talk about it. And he took Bathsheba's husband, Uriah, had him killed on the frontlines, thinking he could cover over it and cover it over it. And then came that day when Nathan the prophet confronted him and said, "Thou art the man".
David tried and tried to cover over his mistakes, he couldn't do it. It's impossible for us to cover over our mistakes as well. We can rationalize, we can excuse, we can engage in a cover up, it is impossible to cover the stain of our sin. The good news is, God can cover it for us. He covers it with the blood of his son, the Lord Jesus Christ. David, after trying and trying to remove the stain and not being able to do so, he finally asked God to do that for him.
And listen to what he said in Psalm 51:7, he said, "Purify me, and I shall be clean. Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow". That's the relief of allowing God to cover your sin. How blessed is the man whose sin is forgiven and is covered. And then notice in verse two, whose sin the Lord will no longer impute. He does not impute iniquity. What does that mean, impute? That word impute is an accounting term. It mean to put on somebody else's account. How grateful we are that God does not credit our sin against us, that is he doesn't impute it. He doesn't put it on our account. Not only does he not impute or credit us with our spiritual bankruptcy, he gives us the perfect righteousness of his son Jesus Christ.
And that's why David said with such excitement, even though I am suffering right now for my sin, how happy I am, because I've been forgiven, separated from my sin. My sin has been removed, the stain of it will never reappear. And not only that, I never have to worry about God crediting my sin to my account. The fact that we have been forgiven by God, means, first of all, we are free from God's condemnation. But secondly it also means we can experience a radical transformation of our lives. Let's face it, if God is simply just willing to forgive us, that's enough. But the good news doesn't stop there, he is actually able to take the worst failures of your life and still use them, not only for your good, but even more importantly for his glory.
If you have a hard time believing that, just think about the example of the apostle Paul, the apostle Paul. You may say, well, maybe God could forgive me, but he could never use me again, I'm on the shelf. I'm beyond use, because of the terrible mistakes I've made in the past. I am just a terrible sinner, God can never use me. Don't think too much of yourself, you're not nearly as good of a sinner as you think you are. You know who gets an a plus in sinning? The chief sinner of all time, his name was Paul.
In fact, in 1 Timothy 1:13 he refers to himself as a blasphemer of God. A persecutor, a violent aggressor. I mean, here was Paul imprisoning, torturing, murdering Christians, and yet, when he found Jesus Christ, God not only forgave him, he begave him a great second act in life. Listen to 1 Timothy 1:12-16, I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has strengthen me, because he has considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was a persecutor and blasphemer and violent aggressor. And look at verse 16, and yet for this reason, I found mercy, in order that in me is the foremost sinner, Jesus Christ might demonstrate his perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in him for eternal life.
You know, when I was five years old, and became a Christian, the worst sins I was guilty of, up to that point, was stealing other people's crayons and disobeying my parents. That hardly qualified me for chief of sinner category. Now make no mistake about it, those infractions, even though they seem small, they were enough to send me to hell. But I couldn't go around as a five year old and say, "If God can forgive me, he can forgive anybody". That wasn't the story that I had. But it was Paul's story. Paul said, "If God can forgive me, he can forgive anybody".
But listen to this, God not only forgave Paul, he used Paul's terrible, horrible sins. I doubt anybody here today is guilty of murdering another Christian because of their faith in Christ. I doubt anybody here can be charged with the same sins Paul was charged with and yet God changed his designation from chief sinner, unto chief spokesman for the Christian faith. Now that is a powerful testimony, that God was able to use that mistake, those horrible offenses, and use them to give Paul a platform, a stepping stone to a great, great ministry.
You know, it was Gordon McDonald who said, "God seems to enjoy taking failure and squeezing good from it". God's willing to do that. He's willing to take your failure and squeeze good from it. You know, when I think of a modern-day example of the apostle Paul, I think about the late Charles Colson. Remember Charles Colson? During the 1970s he was the special counsel to Richard Nixon, president of the United States. He was Nixon's hatchet man. He was famous for saying, "I would run over my own grandmother to get Richard Nixon reelected as president".
That was Charles Colson. And yet, because of his participation in the Watergate cover up, Charles Colson, one of the highest ranking officials in the Nixon white house was sentenced to prison. And if you've read his great book "Born Again", you see how God used that terrible situation in his life to bring him to faith in Jesus Christ. And yet, it didn't stop there. God was able to take Colson's first act mistakes and use them for a second act success. Because after he came to faith in Christ, after he served his time in prison, God used that prison experience to give Charles Colson a platform to minister to hundreds of thousands of prisoners around the world through prison fellowship.
I remember going with Colson one time to a prison service and seeing just hundreds of prisoners come to faith in Christ. Why was he able to do that? Why was he able to speak to prisoners and minister to them? Because he had been one of them. God used Colson's first act mistakes for a great second act success. Charles Colson explained how his biggest failure played in his most enduring success. He describes a service, an Easter service in a well-known prison in which many people came to Christ, and he reflects upon how that was possible.
Listen to what he said, "My life had been the perfect success story, the great American dream fulfilled. But all at once I realized that it was not my success that God had used to enable me to help those in prison, or in hundreds of others just like it. My life's success was not what made this morning, Easter morning so glorious, all of my achievements meant nothing in God's economy. No, the real legacy of my life was my biggest failure, that I was an ex-convict. My greatest humiliation, being sent to prison, was the beginning of God's greatest use of my life. He chose the one experience in which I could not glory for his glory".
Isn't that great? God's willing to do the same for you. He is willing to take the greatest humiliation of your life, and not only forgive it, but to use it for the greatest use of your life. And in the weeks to come, we're gonna discover the five keys for allowing God to do that, to give us a second chance and a second act.