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2021 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Forgiving Without Forgetting - Part 1

Robert Jeffress - Forgiving Without Forgetting - Part 1

Robert Jeffress - Forgiving Without Forgetting - Part 1
Robert Jeffress - Forgiving Without Forgetting - Part 1
TOPICS: When Forgiveness Doesn't Make Sense, Forgiveness, Consequences

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. If you've ever been hurt by somebody you love, you've probably been told to forgive and forget. And while the idea sounds nice, it's not exactly realistic. Today I'm going to discuss how to move past those hurts that are so painful, so deep, they're impossible to forget. My message is titled "Forgiving Without Forgetting," on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

President Dwight Eisenhower once described his unique method of forgiving those who had wronged him. He said, "I make it my practice to avoid hating anyone. If someone has been guilty of despicable actions, especially toward me, I try to forget him. I used to follow a practice, somewhat contrived I admit, to write the man's name on a scrap of paper, drop it in my bottom drawer and say to myself, that finishes the incident, and as far as I'm concerned that finishes that person. That drawer over the years became a sort of private wastebasket for crumpled up spite and discarded personalities. Besides it seemed to be an effective way to deal with problems and help me avoid harboring useless black feelings".

Now, Dwight Eisenhower may have been a wonderful president, but he didn't understand the first thing about forgiving. Forgiving somebody is not the same as trying to forget what someone has done to us. And as we're going to discover today, forgetting the hurts that have been inflicted against us, forgetting is neither the means of or the test of genuine forgiveness. In this series on forgiveness we've been talking about some of the barriers that keep people from forgiving. A lot of people have misunderstandings about forgiveness. For example, some people confuse forgiveness with repentance. They say, well, I can't forgive somebody unless they repent and say, I'm sorry. We saw why that's not true. Some people equate forgiveness with consequences. They say, well, I'd like to forgive, but I don't want to erase the consequences that person has to experience for what they've done to me. No. When you forgive, you're giving up your right for vengeance, but not your desire for justice.

Last time we saw that there's a difference also between forgiveness and reconciliation. You may forgive somebody that you never want to have lunch again with, or never see again with until they make some changes. Forgiveness doesn't always result in reconciliation. Forgiveness is dependent upon me alone. Reconciliation is dependent upon me and the one who has offended me. Forgiveness has no strings attached to it. Reconciliation has several strings attached to it. And today we're going to look at another misunderstanding about forgiveness and that is equating forgiveness with forgetting. Let me say it again. Forgetting what somebody has done to us is neither the means of nor the test of whether we've genuinely forgiven somebody. Let me express first of all, two dangers confusing forgiving with forgetting. First of all, making that correlation can short circuit the forgiveness process. If we equate forgiving with forgetting, it can short circuit the forgiveness process.

Let me illustrate that for you. Let's say I've got a knot on my arm, it's really bothering me. And people say, you know you ought to get to the doctor and have that checked out. And I say, "Well, I just don't have time". And so instead, every two hours, I pop some Advil to dull the pain. And I do this for several weeks, I've learned to manage the pain that way. One day I finally go to the doctor and he does a biopsy of that knot. He said, "Robert, I'm sorry to tell you that's cancer, and it's metastasized to the rest of your body. If only you had taken care of it earlier". Well you see I use that aspirin, that Advil to dull the pain when in fact what I needed to do was deal with the source of that pain. It's the same way with forgetting. When we try to deal with offenses committed against us by simply forgetting what had happened to us, that's our way of taking Advil so to speak. Of dulling the pain, so we don't deal with it. When in fact we do need to deal with it through a surgical process called forgiveness.

In Hebrews 12:15 the writer says, "See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God: that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled". Listen to me, if you don't take care of that root cause of bitterness in your life. If you don't deal with that hurt somebody has caused you in the proper way through the surgical process of forgiveness, that bitterness will metastasize in your life. It will destroy anything and everything that is important to you.

Secondly, the danger of confusing forgiveness with forgetting is that it many times causes us to experience unnecessary guilt. You know, you may say, if God has really forgiven me of this thing that I did five years ago, why do I keep remembering it? Is it a sign that I really haven't been forgiven by God? And if I've really forgiven my father of what he did to me years ago by, have really forgiven him if I keep remembering those painful words he spoke to me. Many times if we confuse forgiveness with forgetting, we experience unnecessary guilt. Well how do we understand the relationship between forgiveness and forgetting? Well, let's look at how God forgives us, and I think it provides some clarity here. You know in the series we've been saying that we're commanded to forgive other people in the same way that God forgives us.

Ephesians 4:32, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven us". Now here's the question, when God forgives our sin does he forget our sin? Well, there are certainly some passages in the Bible that seemed to indicate that he does. And I'll have to admit to you, they say confession is good for the soul, I've preached messages in the past, in which I've said when God forgives, he forgets. After all, we've got the authority of scripture behind that. Look at Psalm 103:12, "As far as the east is from the west, so far God has removed our transgressions from us". Or Jeremiah 31: 34, "For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more". Or Micah 7:19, "He will again have compassion on us: he will tread our iniquities underfoot. Yes, thou will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea". I mean, those passages really seemed to indicate that God forgets when he forgives, doesn't it.

But let's think about that, is that really true? The moment you trust in Christ as your Savior, does God suddenly develop a case of heavenly Alzheimer's and he can't remember anything anymore. I mean, do we really believe that's what happens? And if God really does forget, then how does he judge us? You say, well as a Christian, I'm never going to be judged by God. Oh, that's not true at all. Even as Christians, we're going to stand before judgment. It's called the Judgment Seat of Christ. It's not a judgment for condemnation to send us to hell, it's a judgment of commendation to reward us for the good things we've done in the name of Christ, but it's a judgment never the less. In 2nd Corinthians 5:10 Paul says, "For we must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad".

Paul is writing to Christians here. He says, we must, every one of us, appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ. You're going to be evaluated by God. Every part of your life is going to be evaluated by God. Not to determine whether you go to heaven or hell, that's already been decided when you trust in Christ, but it is a judgment of rewards. And for God to properly evaluate your life, he has to evaluate all of your life, and that's what he does Paul says. He is going to reward us for what we've done whether good or bad. How can God make that evaluation if he's suddenly forgotten everything bad that has happened? So pastor, are you saying you don't believe the Bible? You're saying you don't believe these passages that say that God forgets our sin. I'm not saying that, but here's what I am saying.

Now listen carefully, I believe every word in this book is true. This is God's inspired and errant word. We're to take all of the Bible seriously, but we are not to take every word literally. Can't believes, the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas said, we're not to take all of God's word literally. Well, you don't take it literally. I mean Jesus said, "If your eyes cause you to sin, gouge them out". Now that command, every one of you ought to have a see an a dog right now, okay. And I should as well. And God said, if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. We don't take that literally. We understand Jesus was speaking in hyperbole to illustrate a very important truth. And that is you're to go to whatever extent necessary to eradicate sin from your life, that's what he's talking about. And the same thing is true when we talk about God forgetting our sin. It's not that he can never recall our sin, what he's doing is using a human term and experience that we all have forgetting to explain the extent, the wonderful extent of God's forgiveness, that when he forgives he forgives completely.

You know Micah 7:19, I quoted a moment ago. He cast our sins into the depths of the sea. Corrie ten boom, added the words, and he posted a sign there that says, no fishing allowed. That's what God does when he forgives you. He forgives completely. And you never have to worry that he's going to dredge up some failure from your past and judge you again. You know to really understand what it is that God does when he forgives us, hold your place here and turn over to Romans 4:7-8. These are familiar words, we looked at them months ago. And remember what Paul said about how God forgives, "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and those who sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account".

Now that phrase, take into account, is one word in Greek. It's an accounting term, it means to be charged against somebody account. When God forgives us through our trust in Jesus Christ, he takes our sin and Marks it, paid in full. And we never have to worry that he is going to ask for a further payment for our sin. Paul made another illusion of that in Colossians 2:13-14. We're going to look at those verses more next week. But here's what Christ did when he forgave you. "Having forgiven us all our transgressions". I don't care what sin you have in your life this morning that you think God can't forgive, listen to what Paul says. He has forgiven us all of our transgressions. "Having canceled out the certificate of debt, consisting of decrees against us, which were hostile to us, and he's taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross".

That is, he took that long list of your sins and my sins, sins that we owe God and eternity in hell to pay for. He took that long list of our sins, and what did he do? He nailed it to the cross of Jesus Christ. And that's why when Jesus said on the cross, it is finished. What he literally said was, paid in full. Your debt has been forever canceled, it has been paid in full. But here's the point I want you to understand today. It is possible to forgive a debt without forgetting a debt. You can forgive a debt without forgetting the debt.

Some years ago, Amy and I decided that we were going to give one of our cars to our church. It was rundown, broken, worthless. So we thought, why not give it to the church? And... No that's not the car, I'm just kidding. It was in perfect running order, it was a good car. And we we're going to transfer it over to the church and I had lost the title. And so before I could get a title to make the transfer, I had to call the the lending agency, general motors acceptance corporation to show that there wasn't a lien against the car, that in fact the debt had been paid.

Now, suppose I had written GMHC and they had written me back a letter that said, dear Dr. Jefferson, unfortunately we have no record of your debt because we have a policy as soon as the loan is paid off, we destroy the records of the debt. Does that happen? No, the computers at General Motors have long, long memories. But suppose instead they wrote me a letter and they said, dear Dr. Jeffress, we were able to find a record of your debt, we saw that you paid it off. However, upon further examination, we noticed that we had offered you an unusually low interest rate that on further reflection wasn't a fair interest rate. And so we've recalculated what you owe us. Please send us a check for $2.000. Now, fortunately, they didn't do that either. Instead they were able to recall the debt I had, but they were also able to recall that it had been paid. And I received a copy in the mail that had been stamped, paid. You see they remembered the debt, but they also recalled that the payment had been made to satisfy the debt.

And that's what God does for each of us. The fact is, God doesn't forget our sin. He could never forget our sin that demanded the death of his own son. However, he also recalls the payment that Jesus made on our behalf. Did you know the Bible tells us in revelation 12:10, exactly what Satan is doing right now. You know what Satan is doing? He's not down in hell stoking the fire getting it ready for those who are going to be there for eternity. No, Satan is not in hell right now, he's in heaven. He's been granted a limited access pass to heaven. He's parading before the Lord, revelation 12:10 says, accusing the brethren. That means you, that means me. He's accusing the brethren day and night. Right now your adversary, the devil is in heaven, accusing you before your Heavenly Father. Look at what he did. Look at what she did. Why would you ever want a relationship with somebody like that? And so God is being reminded of our debt.

But God also remembers the payment that was made for our debt through his son, Jesus Christ. And that's why in 1st John 2:1, John says, "If anyone sins, we have an advocate with the father, Jesus Christ the righteous". That word advocate paraclete means a lawyer and an attorney. We have an attorney before the judge of all the universe. As Satan rails against us we have an attorney, Jesus, who reminds our Heavenly Father. Everything Satan is saying is true. But remember father, I paid the price and I paid the debt in full. What I'm saying to you is, it's possible to recall a debt and still forgive the debt.

You know, I remember talking to a woman sometime ago who had been involved with an extra marital affair with somebody else in the church and she had repented of her sin. She had gone to her husband and asked for his forgiveness and he had forgiven her. And she was really walking with the Lord, but she said, "Pastor, every time I'm in church and I'm listening to the message, all of a sudden I have flashes of memory of that terrible sin I committed. When I'm alone with the Lord trying to read my Bible or pray I still remember my sin. What am I supposed to do? Is it because I really haven't been forgiven by God"?

You know, one of the things I explained to her was, forgetting is a biological function, forgiveness is a spiritual function. We shouldn't get the two confused. One counselor explains it this way, to me this was fascinating. All memories are stored in the brain by electronic impulses, and by chemical transference. Messages are sent simultaneously from nerve to nerve both electronically, and chemically. Memory is not a spiritual function, it's a biological function. Our brain can store at least 600 memories a second, that would work out to almost one and a half trillion bits of information if we were to live for 75 years. Can you believe that? I mean everything you do is seared into your mind electronically and chemically. Every experience is up there. You know that's hard for me to understand. I can't remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, but it's up there. It doesn't mean that everything can be recalled instantly, but it's there to be recalled in certain circumstances. And so when you talk about asking people to forget what has happened to them, you're really asking them to do the impossible. Forgetting is a biological function, forgiveness is a spiritual function.

In fact, the truth is there are some benefits to remembering offenses. You say what benefit could come from remembering, especially the sins we've committed in the past if we've been forgiven by those things. Think about the experience of the apostle Paul. Paul had done some horrible things in his life. He recast them in 1st Timothy 1. He said that before he was a Christian, he was a zealous Jew who thought he was doing the will of God by trying to stamp out this new heresy called Christianity. He was a blasphemy of Jesus Christ. He was a persecutor, a violent Christian. He had Christians imprisoned. He had Christians tortured. He had Christians put to death. All of that changed on the Damascus road when he met Christ as his Savior. But you know what, that confrontation with Christ didn't do a memory wide for Paul. It didn't erase the memory of what he had done against the Christian movement. Nobody was going to let Paul forget, even if he tried.

There were people until the day Paul died, Christians who said, he's not fit for service, we can't trust him. Look what he's done to us. Other times Paul would go to a city and he would come face to face with those who he had persecuted with the relatives of those he had had killed. Paul spent his remainder of life being confronted with his sin. But did you know Paul saw some benefit in that? Listen to his words that we read in 1st Timothy 1:12-16, "I thank Christ Jesus, our Lord, who has strengthened me because he considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. And yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief: and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant with the faith and the love which are in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am the foremost of all. And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate his perfect patience, as an example of those who believe in him for eternal life".
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