Robert Jeffress - Why the Words I'm Sorry Are Highly Overrated - Part 2
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". In the Lord's prayer, we ask God to forgive us our trespasses just as we forgive others who trespass against us. But what about those who refuse to say they're sorry for what they've done to us? Are we just supposed to let them off the hook and pretend like nothing ever happened? Well, today I'm going to explain what to do when you're waiting for an apology. My message is titled: Why The Words "I'm Sorry", Are Highly Overrated on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
Can we really forgive an unrepentant person? Doesn't that encourage further abuse? Such an objection doesn't take into consideration that there is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. You can forgive somebody without ever being reconciled to that person. We're going to take a Sunday and actually explore the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation but just listen to this. You can forgive somebody without their ever saying, "I'm sorry," but you cannot be reconciled with somebody until they say, "I'm sorry". Forgiveness is simply a way that we say, "I am surrendering my right to settle the score with you. I'm leaving that to somebody else". When I forgive somebody, I'm giving up my right to hurt them for hurting me. I'm saying, "God, you or somebody else take care of it but I'm not going to do it. I'm going to get on with my life". You can forgive somebody without ever hearing the words, "I'm sorry," you can never be reconciled with somebody until you hear the words, "I'm sorry".
Thirdly, some people say, "Well, forgiving an unrepentant person, that is just unbiblical". It also seems like repentance is necessary for forgiving other people. In Luke 17:3-4, "Be on your guard". Jesus said, "If your brother sins, rebuke him and if he repents forgive him". Verse four, "And if he sins against you seven times a day and returns to you seven times saying, 'i repent,' forgive him". Now, the argument seems pretty airtight, doesn't it? First of all, if God requires us to repent before we receive forgiveness and secondly, if the Bible says we're to forgive others in the same way that God forgives us, Ephesians 4:32. Doesn't it seem logical that we can only forgive those who are repentant, remorseful of their sin against us? Case closed.
Well, not so quickly because such a conclusion... Stay with me on this. Fails to take into consideration the difference between receiving forgiveness from God or other people and granting forgiveness to others. There is a big difference in receiving forgiveness and granting forgiveness. Repentance is absolutely necessary to receive forgiveness from another person or from God but it has nothing to do with granting forgiveness to somebody who has hurt us. And so when we're talking about this issue of, do people have to repent before they're forgiven, we need to know the audience to whom we're speaking. Are we speaking to the offender or the offended?
Let me illustrate that for you. If a husband comes to me and says, "My wife caught me red-handed, I've been having an extramarital affair and I don't know what I can do to get her to forgive me". What am I going to say to him? I'm going to say, "No, buddy, you better come crawling on your knees to your wife. You better beg her for your forgiveness, you better admit to her that what you did was wrong and you better promise that you will never, never do it again". From his point of view, the one needing forgiveness, repentance is vital. I would say to him, "Don't expect your wife to forgive you if you are unwilling to repent and have a change of direction". But suppose instead of him coming to me, the wife comes to me. She says, "Pastor, I've discovered my husband is having this affair and I'm so angry, I just don't know what to do. I'm obsessed by this, I can't let go of it. What should I do"?
Certainly, I'm talking to another party and what I say to her is, "You need to forgive". I explain to her forgiveness doesn't mean erasing the consequences of what your husband has done, I explain that forgiving doesn't even guarantee that the marriage will continue. But what forgiveness is, is letting go of my right to settle the score. It's letting go of my right to hurt somebody for hurting me. For her to forgive her husband means, "I'm giving my husband over to God. I'm well like, 'God, settle the score with him or other people settle the score with him'. I'm not going to hold on to that bitterness in my own heart". I counsel her to forgive unconditionally. Not necessarily be reconciled, but to forgive so that she can be free to get on with her life.
You've heard me say this often, letting go of a rattlesnake may benefit the snake, but it benefits you a lot more to let go of it. The same way with bitterness, forgiveness, letting go may benefit our offender, but it benefits us much more. We need to know the audience that we're speaking to. Forgiveness can be granted without repentance, it can never be received without repentance. Let's talk about this word repentance for just a moment. What does the word repent mean? We hear it all the time, repent, repent, repent, what does the word really mean? The word repentance comes from a Greek word metanoia. It literally means to change one's mind. Now, this isn't just an intellectual changing of the mind, it is a change of mind that leads to a change of direction in life.
Many times when I'm driving down to church, I come down the tollway and I get off at Harry Hines and I'll be going down Harry Heinz which is one way and it seems like more frequently I see a motorist who has lost his way in downtown, Dallas trying to figure out where to go and he's invariably coming the wrong way down Harry Hines toward me. I see this all the time. And so, I'm driving and I'm seeing this guy coming toward me and I just wonder, how long is it going to take him to realize all the headlights are facing him, he's going the wrong direction. Sometimes it's immediate, sometimes he gets dangerously close to me and the other cars until he slams on the brakes, realizes what he's done, does a U-turn and starts going in the right direction.
Now, that is a perfect picture of what repentance is. Repentance means having a change of mind. It means realizing you're going in the wrong direction and deciding to take action, turn around and to start going in a new direction. That is biblical repentance. And there are some instances in which repentance is absolutely necessary. In fact, there are four instances in which the Bible says we must repent. First of all, jot these down. Repentance is necessary for receiving God's forgiveness. It's necessary for receiving God's forgiveness. Now remember, God took the first move in saving us just like the father of the prodigal son did, he made the first move when he sent Christ to die for us. Romans 5:8 says, but God demonstrated his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, he sent Christ to die for us. He made the first move but we must repent in order to receive that forgiveness.
Listen to the words of 1 John 1:8-9. Although 1 John was written to Christians not non-Christians, it still reveals a universal principle. Verse eight says, if we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us but if we confess our sins... That's another word for repent. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us for all unrighteousness. One church father said it this way, he said, "God only gives the gift of forgiveness to those whose hands are empty". Only when we open our hands, only when we let go of our denials of our sinfulness, our rationalization, our excuses, only when our hands are empty, can we receive God's forgiveness. Only when we say to God, "God, I'm tired of arguing with you. You're right, I'm wrong. I've been going in the wrong direction. I'm ready to turn around. I'm ready to receive your gift of forgiveness". Only then are we truthfully forgiven. Repentance is absolutely necessary for receiving forgiveness.
Secondly, repentance is necessary for reconciliation with another person. It's absolutely necessary for reconciliation with another person. While God requires me to unconditionally forgive the business partner who cheats me, he doesn't require me to stay in business with him. There's a difference. I can forgive that business partner for cheating me, I don't have to stay in business with him until he repents, until he shows an acknowledgement of what he's doing is wrong. In fact, I would be a fool to continue to stay in business with an unrepentant cheat. Forgiveness has absolutely nothing to do with reconciliation.
Number three, repentance is necessary for restoration to a position that we've lost. In Matthew 18... This is so important to understand. Jesus describes two kinds of sins. Sins against the body of Christ and personal sins. In Matthew 18:21, Peter came to the Lord and said, "Lord, how many times shall somebody sin against me and I forgive them, up to seven times"? And Jesus said, "No, up to 70 times seven". And then he told that parable about the king and the unforgiving slave. But what Peter was asking about, "Lord, what about personal offenses, things that hurt me"? Jesus said, "Forgive". He didn't say, "Demand repentance first," he said, "Just forgive, let go, let somebody else settle the score". But earlier in Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus was addressing sins against the body of Christ.
What do you do when you come across a Christian whose life is being destroyed by sin and whose sin is hurting the church, is hurting the reputation of Christ in the community? Do you just let go and never confront him? No, Jesus gave a fourfold process of how you handle that person. Jesus said first of all, you go to the sinning Christian and confront him and if he repents you've won a brother. But if he doesn't repent, Jesus said step two is you take two or three Christians to go and talk to him about this sin.
It maybe a sin of immorality that's hurting the reputation of Christ, it may be the sin of divisiveness that is causing discord within the church body but if he repents after that warning from two or three, great, but if he doesn't repent, you go to step three and that is you tell it to the entire church, you say, "Church, we've got a fellow Christian who is living in sin and he's hurting the reputation of Christ, let's pray for him". If that's not enough to get his attention, step four says, Jesus said you have to turn him out of the church. You have to turn him out of the church. The only way a sinning Christian can be restored is by repentance. Repentance is absolutely necessary if you have fallen and are trying to be restored to a position that you have lost.
Number four, forgiveness... Part B, repentance is absolutely necessary to experience relief from guilt. It's necessary to experience relief from guilt. The other day while I was driving, had a little light on my dashboard that came on, it said, change oil now. Now, I have a very easy, cheap way to deal with a light like that. In my glove compartment, there's a little reset button. And all I have to do is open the glove compartment and hit the reset button and the light goes away. Believe me, that's a lot cheaper and a lot less time-consuming than going to the gas station and having them change your oil, it's great, just hit the button, you don't have to worry about it anymore.
Now, what happens if I hit that reset button and keep driving my car? I'm going to do some real damage to my engine, aren't I? That warning light is an indicator that something is wrong that needs to be taken care of. It's the same way with guilt that we feel, did you know guilt is a warning indicator that God has given each one of us? And when we start to feel that guilt, it's a sign that something is wrong. Now, we have two ways to deal with legitimate guilt. We can either hit the reset button, we can play like, "Oh, this isn't real, this is false guilt," and just keep on going like nothing's wrong and do real damage to our spirit or we can take that guilt seriously and say, "You know what? Something's wrong that needs to be taken care of," and allow God to do a renovation of our heart.
We've got a great illustration of that truth in the life of David, we read about it a few minutes ago. When David sinned against God by committing adultery with Bathsheba then murdering Bathsheba's husband, Uriah to cover up, David immediately, being a man after God's own heart... You can imagine how that affected him, he started to feel guilty immediately for that. He couldn't sleep. But every time he started to feel guilty, he hit the reset button. He would say to himself, "Hey, this isn't legitimate guilt, I'm the king. It's good to be the king, I can do whatever I want to do".
And the Bible says for about six months up to a year, he kept hitting that reset button. He kept trying to cover over his guilt. He describes what that period was like in Psalm 32:3-4, "When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night, thy hand was heavy upon me and my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer". And then as you know, David couldn't stand it any longer when the prophet Nathan confronted him about his sin. David finally said, "I'm not going to hide it any longer, I'm going to acknowledge my sin to others and to God" and look at verse five, "I acknowledge my sin to thee and my iniquity I did not hide. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord and you did forgive the guilt of my sin".
I'm speaking to some of you right now. You have offended somebody else, you have wronged somebody else, maybe you have wronged God himself. You will never experience relief from that guilt you feel until you repent, until you say, "I'm sorry," until you make a change in your direction of living.
Now, we've talked about four instances in which repentance is absolutely necessary. In receiving God's forgiveness and reconciliation with somebody who has wronged us and regaining a position that we've lost, in experiencing relief from guilt. But notice in each of these cases, we're talking about the wrongdoer, the offender, the sinner. Now, let's switch audiences for just a minute. No longer are we talking about the person you have wronged, we're talking about the person who has wronged you. Can you forgive them without ever hearing the words "I'm sorry"? Is unconditional unilateral forgiveness? Is it practical? Is it healthy? Is it biblical? Well, next week, I'm going to share with you the best reasons I know for forgiving the sorry people in your life who refused to say, "I'm sorry".