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2021 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Why Forgiven People Must Still Sit in the Electric Chair

Robert Jeffress - Why Forgiven People Must Still Sit in the Electric Chair

Robert Jeffress - Why Forgiven People Must Still Sit in the Electric Chair
Robert Jeffress - Why Forgiven People Must Still Sit in the Electric Chair
TOPICS: When Forgiveness Doesn't Make Sense, Forgiveness, Consequences

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. No matter how often or how badly we mess up, God is always willing to forgive our sins. But just because we've been forgiven, doesn't mean we won't have to experience the consequences of our actions. Today I'm going to explain how justice and consequences fit into God's plan of forgiveness and grace. My message is titled, "Why forgiven people must still sit in the electric chair," on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".

The late Chuck Colson, who was the founder of Prison Fellowships, told the story about the time he took a group of volunteers to visit death row at the Indiana state penitentiary. And after Chuck had delivered a brief message to these inmates, he allowed his volunteers to pray one-on-one with these prisoners who were facing death. And after a period of time, it was time to leave and Chuck asked his volunteers to follow him out the gates, but he noticed over in the corner, one of his volunteers continuing to pray with one of the inmates. He gently reminded him that the warden said it was time to go. And this volunteer said, "Chuck, you need to give us a few minutes longer, for you see, I was the judge who sentenced this man to death. And since he's been in prison, he's found Christ as his Savior. And we need just a few more minutes to pray for one another and to forgive one another".

And this judge was willing to forgive this murderer on a personal level for what he had done. For the threats the prisoner had made against the judge's family. He was forgiving him on a personal level, but his forgiveness did not erase the consequences of this murderer's action. He still had to die for what he did. You know, one of the greatest misunderstandings about forgiveness is if I forgive somebody, I automatically erase the consequences that that person has to experience. Is that true? Does forgiveness remove consequences? Or let's put it on a personal level, if we have been forgiven, should we expect God or other people to erase the consequences of our sins? The answer to that dilemma is really found in understanding the difference between two key words in the Bible. The first word is the word vengeance.

What is vengeance? Write down this definition. Vengeance is my desire to see another person suffer for the pain that he has caused me. And I've said it this way, vengeance is my desire to hurt you for hurting me. And throughout the Bible, there are all kinds of warnings against vengeance. Romans 12:19-21, "Never take your own revenge beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God for it is written, 'vengeance is mine, I will repay,' says the Lord". Is there somebody who has committed an offense against you? Don't try to settle the score yourself, God says, and if God or others do settle the score, don't gloat when your enemy, your offender is dealt with justly. We have a great illustration of that found in the Bible, in the story of David found in second Samuel chapter one. Even though Saul had hurt and offended David, David refused to seek vengeance. And when justice came to Saul, he didn't gloat over it as well.

David understood that vengeance was God's responsibility. And God says that like David, we are not to seek vengeance against other people, but there's a difference between vengeance and a second word and that's the word, justice. Justice is the payment that God or other people might demand from our offender. And while we're to surrender our desire for vengeance, we can never separate our surrender, our desire for justice. In fact, over and over again, the scripture talks about that as godly people we ought to seek justice. Psalm 82:3, "Vindicate the weak and the fatherless. Do justice to the afflicted and the destitute". Or Micah 6:8 everybody knows this verse. "He has said to you o man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God". We're to surrender vengeance but we're to seek justice.

What's the difference between vengeance and justice. Vengeance is our desire for retribution against our offender. Justice is the repayment another person demands from our offender. Vengeance is striving to settle the debt ourselves, justice is allowing somebody else to settle the score. Third vengeance leads to bitterness, always. Vengeance leads to bitterness but justice leads to healing. Justice leads to healing. You know, throughout this series, we've been saying that we're supposed to forgive in the same way that God forgives us. "Forgive one another just as God in Christ has forgiven you," Ephesians 4:32. Well think about it, what has God done for you when he has forgiven you? When you trust in Christ as your Savior, God removes the eternal consequences for our sin, doesn't he? We never have to fear being in hell forever, separated from God. God has removed the eternal consequences from our sin, but he doesn't necessarily remove the temporary consequences of our sin. Christians, those who have been forgiven still have to experience many times a broken marriage, a severed friendship, a lost job, a life-threatening illness. Forgiven people still have to experience consequences, don't they?

You may ask, "Well, why is that true"? People ask me all the time, "I don't understand pastor, if I've repented of my sin, if the blood of Jesus Christ has wiped away my sin, why do I keep experiencing the consequences of something that I've been forgiven for"? Have you ever wondered that? And the Bible gives us at least three reasons that God allows forgiven people to experience consequences for their sin. Number one, consequences promote order in society. Consequences promote order in society. What if there were no red lights? There were no rules, no laws, everybody could do whatever they wanted to do. If your boss ticks you off, just killing right there on the spot. If you're a little short of money, steal some, if your neighbor's wife excites you, go ahead and sleep with her. What would a world be like in which there were no red lights, no laws? Did you know the world was like that at one time?

We find the description in Genesis chapter six, immediately before the flood. Moses gave this description, he said, "Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked on the earth and behold it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth". God sent the great flood. And after the flood in Genesis nine, did you know that's when God established government for the first time. Government was established after the flood for one purpose, to maintain order in society by imposing God's laws upon the world. That was the stated purpose for government. Have you ever heard these morons today say, oh, you can't legislate morality. Really? Of course you can. Every law that's on the books today is an attempt to regulate people's behavior. The question is not, are we going to legislate morality? It's whose morality are we going to legislate? God intended government to legislate morality.

And you know what the very first law that God established was? It's found in Genesis 9:6, "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God he made man". The first law on the books after the flood, was capital punishment. God said, if somebody kills another person that person's life is to be taken. God uses consequences to maintain order in society. Secondly, consequences serve as a deterrent to other people. Consequences serve as a deterrent to sin to other people. Another reason God allows people, even Christians to experience consequences is so that other people will be discouraged from sinning.

We have a great example of that in Acts chapter five. It was the story of Ananias and Sapphira, you remember that story. The first church in Jerusalem was having their own version of a mission 1:8 campaign. So they stood up and said, "Well, we're going to sell a piece of property and give all we have to the church". They sold the property. They gave some of it to the church, but instead of keeping their commitment, they kept some of it back for themselves. How did God deal with that? In a very public way. Look at Acts 5:3 "But Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land'? And as he heard these words Ananias fell down and breathed his last and great fear came upon all who heard it". God struck him right on the spot.

Verse seven. "Now there was an elapsed time of about three hours and Ananias' wife Sapphira came in, not knowing what had happened". Verse nine, "Then Peter said to her, 'why is it that you have agreed together to put the spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door and they're going to carry you out as well'. And she fell immediately at Peter's feet and she breathed her last. And the young men came and found her dead and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband". And then in the greatest understatement in all the Bible verse 11 says, "And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard these things". Can you imagine if you were a church member and you saw two people struck dead? But that's why God does those things many times to discourage other people from sinning.

In First Timothy 5:20 Paul said to Timothy, "Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all so that the rest may also be fearful of sinning". Now, the context Paul was talking about was the church. He was talking to church leaders. He said, if a leader in the church sins, don't sweep it under the rug. Make his discipline public so that the rest of the church may be fearful for sinning. The context there is the church, but it has wider application than that. You know, parents if your son gets his third speeding ticket and you revoke his license, that's not only a lesson for him, it's a lesson for that younger sibling to watch and see what happens when a child is caught recklessly driving. You're serving as a deterrent. Those consequences serve as a deterrent to that other child in the home. You may have a dishonest employee who's embezzling funds. A reason to get rid of him is not only to get rid of the thief, but also to promote honesty among other employees as they see what happens to somebody who steals. It's God's principle and God's desire for people to experience consequences so that it can be a deterrent to others to sin.

Number three, consequences inoculate us against further disobedience. Consequences inoculate us against further disobedience. There's a lot in the news today about vaccinations and the controversy over vaccinations and inoculations. You know, when you get a vaccine or get a shot, you get a little bit of the disease they're trying to protect you from. And the reason is experiencing a little bit of that disease built up the antibodies in your body to resist the real disease when it comes to you. Did you know, in many ways, the reason God allows us to experience pain for the sin we've already been forgiven of, is to vaccinate us, to inoculate us against further disobedience? That's not original on my part, I got the principal from king David.

In Psalm 119:6-7 listen to what he said. He said, "Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep thy word". What was he talking about? David's problem was immorality. But after the Bathsheba and Uriah fiasco, you know what David was saying? From that point on, anytime he was tempted to act immorally, anytime he began to look at another woman, he suddenly felt the sting of the public humiliation he experienced, of the dead child that was the result of that unholy union, of the rebellious son that God raised up as punishment against David. And as he felt the sting of that all over again, he said, not going there again. That's why God allows us to experience consequences not because he hates us but because he loves us, he wants to keep us close to himself. What is the difference between vengeance and justice? Vengeance is my desire to hurt somebody for hurting me, justice is desiring that God or somebody else exact the consequences.

Now admittedly, there is a fine line between giving up vengeance and seeking justice. And we need to all be aware that the ability of our us to delude ourselves is infinite. We can think we want justice when what we really want is vengeance. And it really becomes difficult when somebody has wronged us and yet we're the person. God has put a responsibility to oversee that person. Or let's say you're a parent and your child does something to really kick you off and hurt you and disobeys your rules. On a personal level you can forgive them, you can give up your desire for vengeance, but you can't give up your responsibility to discipline your child. So here's the rule of thumb, whenever possible we need to let somebody else exact justice on our behalf. Let somebody else do it, let God do it. But if we are the ones who are responsible, whether as a law enforcement officer, a parent or an employer, if it's our responsibility to seek justice, we need to make sure and check our motives. Are we doing this really for justice or for vengeance?

As I said, the best thing to do is to let other people settle the score for us. And in fact, when you look in the Bible, you'll discover that God has established three administrators of justice in society. Three different groups that can take care of settling the score for you so you don't have to do it yourself. The first administrator of justice is the government. The government in Luke chapter 18, Jesus told a parable. It was about a widow who was being treated unfairly by the religious leaders. They were trying to take away her house and so she went to an unrighteous judge seeking protection. Now you know what's interesting, never did Jesus condemn this woman for going to the courts, for going to the judge seeking justice. The courts are God's way of establishing justice in our society. And that's why Romans chapter 13, Paul said, "Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities for there is no authority except from God and those which exist are established by God". God is the one who has established the judicial system in our country and in our world and they are ministers of God. Verse four says, "To render punishment for those who practice evil".

Number two, another sphere of justice is the church. Let's say a fellow church member here cheats you out of $25.000. What are you supposed to do? Well on a personal level, you can forgive, but it may be true that this person who has cheated you maybe cheat other church members as well. And he may be hurting the reputation of Christ, not only in the church, but in the community. You need to let a church official know, why? Because the church may have to deal with that. In fact, in Matthew chapter 18:15-20 Jesus outlines the way that you deal with a sinning Christian, who is involved in the kind of sin that divides the body of Christ or brings disrepute to the reputation of Christ.

And the third administrator of justice in the world is God himself. Sometimes God just eliminates the middleman. He didn't use government, he didn't use the church. He sends illness, he sends financial reversal, sometimes he sends death upon those who practice evil. I think of the story of Korah found in numbers 16, Korah led a rebellion against God's man, Moses. Well, how did he deal with it? God simply opened up the earth and it swallowed Korah and all of his followers, God settled the score himself. You know, I realize in this series, we've been addressing two different groups of people. There are some of you right now, listening to this message and you're struggling with granting forgiveness.

Remember, to forgive somebody is not to give up your desire for justice. Your forgiveness does not erase the consequences your offender may face in the future. But to those of you who are seeking forgiveness and listen to this, you want forgiveness from your mate, from your parents or children. You want forgiveness from God. Remember, if you're granted forgiveness that doesn't automatically erase the consequences of your actions. God allows you to experience consequences to maintain order in society, to be a deterrent to others to evil, to encourage you to stay close to God. Chuck Swindoll has brilliantly distinguished the difference between forgiveness and consequences in his book on the life of David.

Listen to this. "Grace means that God in forgiving you does not kill you. Grace means that God in forgiving you, gives you the strength to endure the consequences. Grace frees us so that we can obey our Lord. Grace does not mean sins consequences are automatically removed. If I sin and in the process of committing that sin break my arm. When I find forgiveness from sin, I still have to deal with a broken bone".

Today if you're struggling to move beyond bitterness and truly forgive, I encourage you give up your vengeance, let God settle the score himself. You know, in my own experience I can tell you, God can settle the score much more effectively than you or I can. And today, if you are the one who is seeking forgiveness from God over other people, and you're wondering, why am I still experiencing the hurt and the pain of my sin? If I've been forgiven, remember those consequences as painful as they are, are not a sign of God's hatred toward you. They're a sign of God's love for you to keep you close to the father who loves you.
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