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2021 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - The Basis For All Forgiveness - Part 1

Robert Jeffress - The Basis For All Forgiveness - Part 1


Robert Jeffress - The Basis For All Forgiveness - Part 1
Robert Jeffress - The Basis For All Forgiveness - Part 1
TOPICS: When Forgiveness Doesn't Make Sense, Forgiveness

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. It's a lot harder to grant forgiveness than to receive it won't you agree? So, when someone hurts you, how do you find the grace to move past their offense? Well, today we're beginning a new series called When Forgiveness Doesn't Make Sense. And in this first message, I'm going to explain why we need to forgive. Because this we're about to see forgiveness is not optional for those who want to be forgiven. My message is titled The Basis For All Forgiveness on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

Dawn Smith Jordan, had to learn about forgiveness the hard way. Her dramatic story was the basis for the CBS television movie "Nightmare in Columbia County". Some years ago, Dawn came to visit my previous church to share her remarkable testimony. On may 31st, 1985, Dawn's younger teenage sister, Shari was abducted from in front of the Smith family home. Five days later, Shari's body was discovered. She had been brutally murdered. A few days after the discovery of Shari's body, the family received the letter in the mail. It was a letter from Shari, the murdered girl. A letter that her kidnapper had allowed her to write to her family before he killed her. And Shari knowing that she was about to die, wrote this letter to her family. She said, "I know I'm about to be killed but I wanted this letter to be my last testimony", she wrote, "Dad, you remember that when Dawn and I were little girls, you would take scripture verses and put on the bathroom mirror, so that we would see them and would memorize them. One of those verses was Romans 8:28, 'for God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose'. Please don't let my death ruin the rest of your life. I'll see you in heaven one day. Love Shari".

Can you imagine receiving a letter like that, from your daughter who is about to be killed. Upon the discovery of sharI's body, South Carolina launched the largest and most expansive manhunt in their history. During the time the killer was on the run, he would actually call the Smith family home while the fbi listened in on the phone call. And he would taunt the family. Describing in gruesome details the way he had murdered Shari. But family had to listen to it, if you can imagine such a thing. Finally, the killer was apprehended. He was sentenced to two life terms in prison and Dawn, the older sister told our church. We thought finally, our ordeal was over. Several years after that Dawn said, she went to the mailbox to retrieve the mail. And as she was slipping through the mail, she noticed a letter addressed to her. She didn't recognize the handwriting but she recognized the name in the left-hand corner of the envelope. It was the name of her sister's killer. He was writing her a letter from prison. With her hands trembling, she opened the envelope. She pulled out the letter and this is what the letter said.

"Dear Dawn, since I have been in prison, I have found Jesus Christ as my Savior. And I know he has forgiven me for what I did to your sister, but I'm asking, will you forgive me"? What would be your response? Shari said, immediately God brought to her mind, another one of those scripture passages her dad had taped to the bathroom mirror. It was a Ephesians 4:32, "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven you". Dawn said, "It didn't come easily. It didn't come instantly. But I realized that given the great forgiveness I had received from God, I had no choice, but to forgive my sister's killer".

There's an inseparable link between our willingness to receive God's forgiveness and our ability to forgive other people just as God in Christ has forgiven you, the Bible says. Does that mean that only Christians can forgive? No, non-Christians forgive all of the time. They have to forgive things as trivial as getting cut off in traffic when going down the tow way. As to perhaps even forgiving marital infidelity. It's not that non-Christians can't forgive, but Christians ought to be much better at forgiving the non-Christians. And we're going to talk about why today. Today we're launching a brand new series I've entitled when forgiveness doesn't make sense. And in the weeks ahead, we're going to talk about what forgiveness really is and what it isn't. We're going to look at four misunderstandings about forgiveness that may right now, have you nodded up in bitterness and unable to forgive other people. We're going to look at how to become a better forgiver as well.

The fact is many times, especially in cases like Dawn Smith Jordan forgiveness doesn't make sense. But it's the only remedy God has given us to heal the unchangeable hurts of the past. Today as we begin, we're going to talk about the basis of all forgiveness. And let me say at the outset, if you're wondering why we're doing a series on forgiveness. Why in the world we would take eight weeks to talk about forgiveness. Pastor aren't there more weightier and topics that we ought to be considering than forgiveness? Don't fall into the trap of thinking, forgiveness is one of these nice Sunday school words. That it'll be nice if you can do it but not that big of a deal if you can't. No, the Bible says your eternal destiny depends upon your willingness to forgive other people. Did you know that? Whether you spend eternity in heaven or hell depends on whether or not you are willing to forgive.

You saying, "Pastor, that's an overstatement". Now, listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 6, when he talked about forgiveness. He said in verses 14 and 15, "For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your father will not forgive your transgressions". Forgiveness is not optional for those who want to be forgiven. Today as we launch this series, we're going to look at the basis for all forgiveness. And as a background text, I want you to turn to Luke chapter seven, beginning with verse 38. This is a story of Jesus being invited to a dinner party by Simon, the pharisee. And there were all kinds of illustrious guests at that dinner party Simon was hosting for Jesus. But suddenly the party was crashed by a prostitute. And look what happened, when the prostitute came into Simon's home, verse 38, "And standing behind Jesus at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with tears and kept wiping them with the hair of her head and kissing his feet and anointing them with the perfume".

You can imagine what kind of a stir that caused. A prostitute, coming into the home of a religious leader and hugging and kissing Jesus. Well, Simon, the pharisee had a few thoughts about that, that he kept to himself. The Bible says, he thought to himself, well if Jesus knew who this was, he wouldn't allow this kind of thing to happen. It's obvious Jesus must not be the Son of God, a prophet because if he were, he would have put a stop to this all of a sudden. Well, Jesus was able to read Simon's mind the Bible said. So, he decided to have a little fun with Simon. And so he addressed the concern that Simon had just spoken to himself. He said, "Simon, I've got something to say to you". Simon started to stutter and stammer. Lord, what is it? Look at verses 41 and 42, Simon, let me tell you a story, "A certain moneylender had two debtors, one owed him five hundred denarii and the other fifty". 500 denarii, that was about a year and a half wages salary 500 denarii. One denarii was one day's wage. 500 would have been about a year and a half's worth of wage.

"A moneylender had two debtors, one owed him five hundred denarii and the other owed him only fifty. But when they were both unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. Now, which of them therefore will love him more"? The one who was forgiven 500 denarii or the one who was just given 50 denarii. Simon was a smart guy. He knew where this was going. So he said, "Well, Lord, I guess the one who was forgiven the 500 denarii, he was more grateful". Jesus said to Simon, "Bingo, Simon, you nailed it on the head there". Now, look at verse 44, "Turning toward the woman, Jesus said to Simon, 'do you see this woman? I entered your house: you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss: but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with perfume". Then Jesus, through the application, he said "For this reason, I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much: but he who is forgiven little, loves little".

Now it's easy to read the story and come away with a completely wrong point. In fact, I'm sure that's exactly what Simon did. Infected with a bad case of self-righteousness, Simon made the wrong application. He said, "Lord, now I get it. I know what you're saying. I get it. You're saying a big sinner like this prostitute has a lot more to be forgiven for, than a little sinner like me. She has a lot of sins. I just have a few sins. Well, no wonder she was so grateful for what she did". That wasn't the point Jesus was making it all. What Jesus was saying was, in God's economy there was really little difference between Simon, the pharisee and the streetwalker. The only difference was a difference that Simon perceived in his own mind. The fact is, God was willing to forgive both but it's only the one who was aware of her sin, that was truly grateful.

I remember years ago, when my mom was dying of colon cancer. When she had only a few weeks to live and Channel 8 went out to our home to do an interview with her. And they asked her this question. They said, "Ms. Jeffress, you only have a few weeks to live. How does it feel to know that you're terminal"? And my mom with her great wit shot back and said, "We're all terminal. The only difference is some of us know it and some of us don't". Well, that was the case with Simon, the pharisee and the streetwalker. The fact is both of them were terminal. Both of them had contracted the disease of sin. Both of them were facing eternal death. The only difference between the two was the prostitute recognized it, Simon, the pharisee never did.

You may be asking, "What does this have to do with forgiving other people"? What I'm saying to you is, it's not that non-Christians can't forgive, but Christians ought to be better forgivers. Christians ought to be better at extending grace, than non-Christians for three distinct reasons. Mark these down. First of all, Christians forgiven people are better forgivers because they understand their own guilt. That's the primary reason we ought to be better at forgiveness. If we've really been forgiven with God it means, we've had to come to terms with our own guilt. You see Simon, the pharisee felt contempt for the streetwalker because he supposed, he imagined in his mind, there were some great moral gulf between him, the pharisee and this lowly prostitute.

Isn't it funny how Jesus spent most of his ministry narrowing the moral gulf between the religious leaders and the common people. Jesus was in fact saying, there's no difference. There's no difference at all, between people who are religious leaders and the everyday sinner. And that's true. The Bible teaches there really is no difference between the governor and the gunman, between the pope and the prostitute, between the sophisticate and the savage. The Bible says we're all sinners before God. Isn't that what Romans one, two and three teaches us? We spent time last fall looking at Paul's letter to the Romans. He takes the first two-and-a-half chapters showing the universal guilt of all men.

Look at Romans 3:9-12. Paul summarizes by saying, "What then? Are we better than they? Not at all: for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin. As it is written, there is none righteous among us. No, not even one. There is none who understands. There is none who seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have become useless. There is none who does good. No, not even one". No one does good in God's eyes. Now, we have a hard time with that. We say, "No, wait a minute. There is a great difference between these Al-Qaeda terrorists and the people who donate their time to work for hospice or pick up a hammer and work for habitat for humanity well, there's a great deal of difference. God, how can you say there's not one righteous person"? The problem is, we're comparing ourselves with other people. God's standard is absolute perfection. And by that standard, Romans 3:23 says "For all of us have sinned and all of us have fallen short of the glory of God". We're all sinners in God's eyes.

During World War II, Russian dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, befriended an army officer in the Russian army. They became good friends and bonded together. After the war was ended, they went two different directions. Solzhenitsyn, was placed in a Russian gulag because of his outspokenness. The army officer, his friend became an agent for the KGB and engaged in the torture of state suspects in order to ring confessions out of them. Solzhenitsyn wondered, why is it there is such a difference between us? How is it we could go in two opposite directions like this, when we had the same background and the same values? And then he offered this insightful answer. He said, "If only there were vile people committing evil deeds, it would be necessary to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them". But get this, "The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart"?

We look at this massacre in Paris and we say, how can people do that sort of thing? We look at the beheadings committed by ISIS, and we say how could anybody be more wicked than that? And it is wicked. It is vile. But before you get too self-righteous, remember the same evil that resides in the hearts of those men and women, resides in your heart and my heart. We are all capable of sinning and we are all guilty in the eyes of God. You say, "Well, what does that have to do with forgiveness"? When you understand that the same evil that resides in the heart of that person who has hurt you so deeply, that same evil resides in your heart. And there really is little difference between you and them. It makes forgiveness a little bit easier. When you understand your guilt, your need for forgiveness, it makes willing to extend forgiveness, a little more palatable.

Forgiving people, forgiven people understand their own guilt which is why they should be better at forgiveness. Secondly, forgiven people understand the need for intervention. They understand their need for intervention. One of the greatest barriers that is keeping some of you from forgiving other people is the very common but very mistaken belief, that before you can forgive somebody they have to make the first move. They have to show repentance. They have to show remorse. They have to offer restitution. And if you keep waiting for a person to do that, you may go a lifetime without ever forgiving them. The fact is many times, it's the offended person, who has to make the first step if there's going to be reconciliation. Every parent understands that.

I remember many years ago, when our girls were very little one of my daughters broke one of the house rules. And so, I had to pronounce the sentence because she had disobeyed me. I said, "No more television for three days". Well, she was absolutely furious. She started jumping up and down and screaming about the unfairness of all of it. And she stormed out of the room expressing her strong desire for a new father. So, she went into her bedroom and I stayed where I was. Believe me, repentance and remorse was nowhere in sight. Now, I had a choice at that point. I could wait her out, if I wanted to. After all I was the one who had been offended and wronged. The standoff may have lasted hours, days, perhaps even weeks. But as every parent knows, there's a desire to be reconciled with your child. And so, out of that desire for reconciliation I went stood in front of her bedroom. I knocked on the door, no answer. Turned the knob, walked in. I could hear her sobbing uncontrollably but I couldn't see her anywhere. I thought, where in the world is she?

Finally, I got down on my hands and knees and saw that she had crawled underneath the bed. So I got down on my hands and knees and I crawled under the bed and we're right there in the center. I took her in my arms. I explained to her why I had the punish her, but told her I still loved her and I forgave her. And in an instant, the relationship was reconciled. Sometimes the offended person has to make the first step. A lot of times people will say to me, well, wait a minute. If we're to forgive, like God forgives us. Doesn't God demand we show repentance and remorse before we can receive forgiveness? Absolutely. But as we'll see in the weeks ahead, there's a difference between receiving forgiveness and granting forgiveness. Yes, we have to do some things to receive God's forgiveness. There has to be repentance on our part but that doesn't keep God from making the first move. In fact, in your salvation and my salvation, it was God who made the first step toward reconciliation, not us. A great illustration that is seen in the very first case of forgiveness recorded in the Bible.
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