Robert Jeffress - The Basis For All Forgiveness - Part 2
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to, "Pathway to Victory". Our human nature is flawed. We are broken people, and as a result, we often make mistakes, such as hurting people we truly care about. So how should we respond when the reverse is true, when someone deeply offends us? Well today, I'm going to suggest that healing a relationship begins by making the first move. When we truly understand what the Bible teaches, we're ready, and even compelled, to extend forgiveness to others. My message is titled, "The Basis For All Forgiveness", on today's edition of, "Pathway to Victory".
In your salvation and my salvation, it was God who made the first step toward reconciliation, not us. A great illustration of that is seen in the very first case of forgiveness recorded in the Bible. It's found in Genesis chapter 3, turn back there for just a moment. Do you remember the story? God had placed Adam and Eve in the garden. He had said, "You could have any of the trees, partake of their fruit that you want, except one". What did Adam and Eve do? Of course, they made the beeline toward that one prohibited tree. What happened as a result of their sin, their defiance of God? Look at verses 7 to 9 of Genesis 3, "Then the eyes of both of them, Adam and Eve, were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day. And the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord, among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord called to the man and said to him, 'where are you'"?
Adam and Eve had lost their way. They were running from God, but God started walking toward them. And what did he do? After explaining the temporal consequences of their sin, and the punishment that they would endure, he took the initiative in providing a covering for their sin. Look at verse 21, "And the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and he clothed them". Now, obviously before Adam and Eve could receive that garment, they had to acknowledge two things. They had to acknowledge, first of all their need for a covering. Before they put the garment on that God provided, they had to, first of all, admit that they needed a covering. They had to come to terms with their own sin, their own guilt before God. And secondly, they had to admit the inadequacy of their covering. Before God provided the garment, they had tried to sew together their own fig leaf covering. And while their own self-manufactured covering hid their nakedness, it could not cover their shame. It was inadequate. And before they received God's garment, they had to understand the inadequacy of their own effort.
And the same is true for us, before we can ever receive God's covering for our sin, the covering of Jesus Christ, we have to admit that we cannot cover ourselves. Adam and Eve had to admit and acknowledge their guilt, the inadequacy of their own covering, before they could receive that garment that God provided. Did you know, that's the first death recorded in the Bible? When God slew that animal, and he took the skin of the animal, and used it to cover Adam and Eve. And of course that was a great foreshadowing of what God would do one day on a hill called mount Calvary, when he would send his son, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, to be the covering for our sin. But my point today is even though Adam and Eve had to do something to receive the forgiveness God offered, God made the first step in reconciliation. And he did the same thing with you and with me. God took the first step in saving us.
In Romans 5:6, Paul says, "For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly". Ephesians 2:4-5, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, he has made us alive together with Christ. For by grace you have been saved". 1 John 4:10, "And this is love, not that we loved God first, but that he loved us, and sent his son to be the propitiation, the satisfaction for our sins". Again, repentance, remorse, that is an important ingredient to receive forgiveness, but not to grant forgiveness. As we'll see in the weeks ahead, if you make granting forgiveness dependent on what that other person does or doesn't do, you're going to become their prisoner for life. Forgiveness is something that we take the first step toward. It's something that we grant, instead of waiting for the actions of the person who has wronged us.
Why is it that forgiven people, Christians, ought to be better forgivers? First of all, forgiven people understand their guilt. Secondly, they understand their need for intervention. That is, sometimes forgiven people have to take the first step. There's a third reason forgiven people should be better forgivers. Forgiven people understand grace, grace. During a symposium on comparative religions in London, a group of religious scholars from all over the world had gathered together to compare different religions. And the discussion question that day is what is it that makes Christianity unique from other world religions? And the people in the symposium threw out several possibilities, the incarnation maybe, the resurrection? And yet when they were truthful, they had to say there are other religions that have shades, or versions of those stories as well. And so they were having this debate among themselves, when all of a sudden, the Oxford scholar C.S. Lewis walked into the room. He said, "What is the ruckus about"? They explained they were trying to determine what made Christianity unique from other religions. He said, "Oh, that's easy, it's grace, grace".
As they thought about it, they realized Lewis was right. Every other religion says God's love is conditional. You have to earn God's love. Do this, do this, do this, and God will love you, or he will forgive you. Only Christianity makes God's forgiveness unconditional. Every other world religion can be summarized by two letters, d-o, do this, do this, do this, and God will forgive you. Christianity is spelled d-o-n-e, done. It's based on what Christ has done for us. What is grace? Here's a simple definition. Grace is giving people what they don't deserve. Students, some of you understand grace. Perhaps your teacher had notified you that an exam was going to be on a certain day, or you had a research paper due on a certain day, and she extends the deadline, "I'm going to give you two more weeks to study. I'm going to give you three more weeks to write the paper". You are the recipient of grace.
I was talking to a woman not long ago. Her husband was guilty of infidelity. According to the biblical standard, she had every right to divorce her mate for his unfaithfulness, but she chose to keep the marriage together, to reconcile and work on building their marriage. That husband was the recipient of grace, receiving something he didn't deserve. And of course, the basis for extending grace to others is the grace God has extended to us when he forgave us. You know, there's a great misunderstanding about God forgiving us. We have this idea that, oh, that's no big deal for God to forgive us, it means God just chooses to overlook our sin, just kind of like we overlook a Smart Aleck comment from one of our kids. No, a holy God, now listen to this, a holy God cannot overlook sin. A just God cannot allow sin to go unpunished. Mark down these references, Exodus 23:7, "Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for i, God, will not acquit the guilty".
God cannot just simply pronounce an unilateral, unconditional not guilty. He can't do that. A holy God can't do that. Nahum 1:3 says, "The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means leave the guilty unpunished". A holy and just God can't say, "Well, I know you deserve death. I know you deserve hell, but I'm not going to punish for your sin". He can't do that. A holy God deserves that punishment must be meted out for sin. Where there is sin, where is there transgression, there must be a punishment, "For the wages of sin is death". You say, "Well, then how is any of us, how would any of us ever be saved"? Here's how, God extends us grace, giving us what we don't deserve, by giving somebody else, the righteous, what they don't deserve. 2 Corinthians 5:21 explains it this way, "God made him, Jesus, who knew no sin to become sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him". Sin has to be punished, but the great truth of the Gospel is Christ willingly bore the punishment that we deserve for our sin. And in this passage, 2 Corinthians 5:21, there are two amazing exchanges that take place when we trust in Christ as our Savior.
Transaction number one, God gave Christ our sin. That is, Jesus assumed the obligation for our sin when he died on the cross. It's not that Jesus became a sinner, it's that Jesus took responsibility for our sin. Some years ago, Steven Spielberg, I believe it was, had the movie, "The last emperor," and in one of those scenes about a young emperor in China, the emperor's brother approaches him and says, "What happens when you, the emperor, does wrong"? The young emperor said, "Well, when the emperor does wrong, one of his servants suffers". And to illustrate, he took a vase and smashed it on the floor, and then ordered that one of his slaves be beaten. Philip Yancey says, "God the Father, the King of kings has reversed that formula. That is, when one of the king's servants does wrong, it's the king who suffers". And that's exactly what happened when Christ died on the cross. He took our sin, he took the punishment we deserve. God made him, who knew no sin, to becomes sin for us.
But there's this second transaction that takes place when we become a Christian, God gave us Christ's righteousness. Not only does he take my sin and place it on Jesus Christ, he took God Christ righteousness, his perfection, and he credits us for that. He made him who knew no sin to became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him. Paul explained that transaction another way in Romans 4:5, he says, "But to the one who does not work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness". Listen to me this morning, the moment you trust in Christ as your Savior, he not only takes your sin and places it on Jesus, he takes Jesus' righteousness, and he credits it to you. That's what the word reckons mean. He counts it, in the great accounting room of heaven, your faith is exchanged for Christ's righteousness. That's a hard concept for some people to understand.
So let me illustrate it for you this way, I've used this before, but it's still the best illustration I know of what Paul is saying here in 2 Corinthians 5:21. Let's say that you're in the market for a new home. You want to purchase a home. The only problem is your credit rating stinks. I mean, it stinks. You haven't been able to find work for a year. Your credit card debt has gone through the roof. You only have $200 in your checking account. No bank in its right mind would lend you money for a new home. Now that's the bad news. The good news is Bill Gates is your father. So you're talking to your dad about your situation. And he says, "Oh, I understand your predicament, but let me help you out. When you go down to the bank tomorrow, instead of submitting your financial statement, you can submit mine. They can base the loan, not on your financial solvency, but on mine, and there'll be no problem at all".
Now you've got a choice at that point. You can respond in anger and say, "Dad, I don't need your help. I don't want your help. If that bank won't accept my application on the basis of my credit, forget 'em. I'll go without the house". That's one response. And you can March down to the bank with your pitiful credit rating, and you know what's going to happen? You're going to get thrown out the door. Or you can say, "Dad, thank you so much. You know, you're right, I've made some bad financial blunders. I've fallen upon some hard times, and I accept your gracious offer". And you can go down to the bank, and present your dad's financial statement. And trust me, he has more than enough to buy that home you're interested in.
Now that simple illustration is an example of the most profound spiritual truth in this world. If you want to secure a home in heaven, there's only one way you're going to get that home. If you apply for your home in heaven based on your righteousness, you're not going to have enough, because you see God demands absolute perfection. You have to have enough righteousness to equal that of Jesus Christ himself, and you don't have enough. I don't have enough. Now you may have more righteousness in your spiritual bank account than I do, and many of you do. And I know I have more in mine than Walter does in his. And Walter has more in his bank account, spiritually speaking, then Osama Bin Laden had in his. But guess what? It doesn't make any difference, because none of us has enough.
"All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". That's the bad news. The good news is God says, "I've got more than enough righteousness to make up for your deficit". And when you trust in Christ as your Savior, God takes all of the perfection of Jesus Christ, and he places it in your spiritual bank account. And your entrance into your heavenly home in heaven isn't based on your amount of righteousness, but on the righteousness of Jesus Christ. God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him. That's what grace is. When God forgave us, he gave us what we don't deserve, eternal life. And that's why Christians above all ought to be better at forgiving than non-Christians.
On the morning of December 1st, 1997, a group of students assembled before class began at heath high school in Paducah, Kentucky, in order to pray, as they did every morning. And while they had their heads bowed, a 14 year old who had obtained a handgun approached the praying students, and opened fire, killing three of the students, seriously wounding five of the students. Police officials, school officials, parents, the media, they were at loss to explain why in the world a 14 year old would do such a thing. But even more perplexing to the public, and to the media was why is it that the parents of those slain students, why is it the survivors of that shooting were willing to forgive the shooter? Melissa Jenkins was a 15 year old who was injured in the shooting. The shooting caused her spinal cord to be so severely injured that she was told she would never walk again. She would be a paraplegic, confined to a wheelchair forever. When she received that devastating news, she had a message for the young boy who had destroyed her life. Melissa said, "Tell him I forgive him". That's what grace is. Giving people what they don't deserve, just like God gave us what we don't deserve. It's a grace that you'll find it almost impossible to give away, until you've experienced on your own. It's the grace that is the basis of all forgiveness.