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Watch 2022 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Our Greatest Need - Part 1

Robert Jeffress - Our Greatest Need - Part 1

Robert Jeffress - Our Greatest Need - Part 1
TOPICS: Prayer That Really Work, Prayer, Forgiveness

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. When most people bow their heads in prayer, they typically pray for things like: health, safety, and daily provisions, and while none of these things is a bad request, there's another need that's even greater, I'm talking about our need for forgiveness. Both receiving God's forgiveness, and extending forgiveness to those who hurt us. We can't live without either one. My message is titled: "Our Greatest Need," on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

Many of you will never forget, I know I never will, the date of September 11, 2001. The day that represents the single greatest terrorist attack upon American soil. But that day has caused many Americans to forget an attack that occurred just a few years earlier on our soil, but the residents of the Oklahoma city, will never forget that attack, when the Murrah Federal Building was destroyed by Timothy McVeigh. Do you remember where you were when that happened? I remember where I was, we were in our previous church, it was in the morning, the staff members were all gathered around television sets, watching the horrific pictures of that disaster, I mean, who will ever forget them. Do you remember the scene of rescuer workers searching through the rubble, looking for any sign of life? Remember that picture of the fireman carrying the bloodied limp body of an infant.

But the picture I remember more than any other, is of a police car that was roaming the streets right after the blast of a deserted Oklahoma city, and on the back window of that squad car, were written these words in shoe polish: we will never forget. I believe the reason those words made such an impression on me, is that I've heard a similar sentiment through the years, expressed by people who have been hurt. A husband discovers that his wife of 25 years, has been having an affair with his best friend, he vows, I will never forgive. An employee is unfairly terminated, because of a false accusation, he vows, I will never forgive. A woman who's innocence is destroyed by incest, promises, I will never forgive. The results of unforgiveness are just as powerful as any blast of any bomb. We all know that there are physical ramifications to unforgiveness. Doctors tell us that refusing to forgive, actually decreases the lymphocytes in our bodies, and makes us more open to infectious diseases.

Dr. S.I. McMillen, in his book, "None of the Diseases," has a chapter titled: "It's not what you eat, but what eats you," and that's really true, that makes a difference in your health. There's an emotional fallout from unforgiveness, one writer has said, "The moment I start hating a man, I become his slave, he even controls my thoughts. I can't escape his tyrannical grasp on my mind. When the waiter serves me steak, it might as well be stale bread and water. The man I hate will not permit me to enjoy it". But the greatest and the most negative consequence of unforgiveness, is the spiritual consequence. Simply put, Jesus says, "If I will not forgive other people, God will not forgive me". And that's the truth we're going to look at today in Matthew chapter six.

If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to Matthew chapter six, as we look at our greatest need. Matthew chapter six, we're in the study of the Lord's prayer, I'm calling it: prayers that really work. And remember, Jesus gave this prayer in Matthew six, not as words to be chanted, or repeated through a ritual, this is a pattern for how we're to pray. And we looked at the first half of the prayer, that deals with our relationship with God, a focus on his glory, praising his name, making our petition according to his will. But now we're in the second part of the prayer, in which Jesus shows us how to pray for our very real needs. Don't think you're doing something wrong, when you ask for your needs to be met. Jesus said, "Pray in this manner". He said first of all, our need to pray for, is that for provision, "Give us this day our daily bread," material provision. But then we've come to verse 12, the need we have, not only for provision, but for pardon.

Look at this in verse 12. "And forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors". Now even though this request is second, it comes after our need for provision, it's not secondary. In fact, I say this is our greatest need, because Jesus elaborated more on this request, than any other request in the Lord's prayer. He elaborates in verses 14 to 15, look at this: "For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others, then your father will not forgive your transgressions". One respected pastor said, "90% of my counseling situations have to do with the issue of forgiveness, either receiving it from God, or extending it to other people".

If you do not receive God's forgiveness in your life, you will be overwhelmed by guilt. If you refuse to extend forgiveness to other people, you will be overwhelmed by bitterness. Both emotions are lethal to your physical, emotional, and spiritual well being. And that's why Jesus said , our greatest need in life, is forgiveness, receiving it from God, extending it to others. Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Let's look at the first request: forgive us our debt, that is our need to receive God's forgiveness. Let me ask you this morning, if I were to give you an assignment, I were to say, I want you to sit down with a non-Christians, who knows nothing of the Bible, has only vaguely heard of Jesus Christ, is not even sure there is a God, and I want you to explain to him, how to become a Christian. Would you be able to do that? Could you sit down with somebody and explain to them simply, what is it to become a Christian?

I'm amazed at how many Christians, really don't have a clear understanding, what we're asking people to do, when we ask them to become a Christian. For example, many people would say, and I've heard them say this to somebody: would you like to invite Jesus into your heart? Did you know, there is nowhere in the Bible, where we are told to invite Jesus into our heart? Parent, grandparents, let me say to you, whatever you do, don't ever ask your children, your grandchildren, honey, would you like to invite Jesus into your heart? That's like saying to a child, would you like to know Santa Claus, you know, what child wouldn't want to have Jesus in their heart. They think Jesus shrinks down, and climbs into their heart, every child would like for that to happen, but that's not what being a Christian is about. Nowhere does the Bible say we are to invite Jesus into our heart.

You say, oh, we got you on this one pastor, Revelation 3:20, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock, and if any man opens his heart, I will come in and dine with him, and he with me". Remember, that is a promise to Christians, not to non-Christians. It was written to the church at Laodicea, but nowhere are non-Christians told to invite Jesus into their heart. That's not what becoming a Christian is about. Then what is it about? It's found in this phrase, "Forgive us of our debts," that's what becoming a Christian is all about. I want you to notice in this phrase, there are three profound implications to this simple request, forgive us of our debts. First of all, that request implies, we have all sinned. Whenever you start to talk to people about their need for Jesus Christ, you have to begin with sin, without the bad news, there is no good news. And here is the bad news, there is a God in heaven, he has an objective list of requirements, and all of us have fallen short of those requirements.

You know, the Bible says in Romans 3, "There is not one righteous among us, no, not even one, for all of us have sinned, we have all fallen short of the glory of God". Now, most of us, honestly have difficulty accepting that truth. We really have a hard time believing, there's not one righteous person on planet earth, and we really have a hard time believing we're not one of those righteous people on earth. And the reason that we have a hard time believing that we really are in need of forgiveness is, we continually compare ourselves to other people.

Civil war historian, James McPherson, tells a true story about a plantation owner in the civil war, his name was James Hammond. He was a professing Christian, he was married, but he had a voracious sexual appetite, and he bought a slave, an 18 year old slave, named Sally, and he began having sexual relations with Sally, and fathered four children by her. When he bought Sally, Sally had an 18 month old daughter, Louisa, and when she became of age, a teenager, he started having sex with her as well. His wife ended up leaving him. An epidemic struck his cattle, and killed all of his livestock, and in his spiritual journal he kept, he wrote these words, "God, why has this happened to me? What have I done to deserve this kind of treatment"? Do you know, most of us are deluded in that way. We really don't understand the depths of our sin. And why is that? It's because we tend to compare ourselves to other people, and usually, we find somebody a little worse than we are to compare ourselves with.

You know, if I compare myself to Ron Harris, I come off pretty good, okay? You know. But you know what, God doesn't compare us to other people. We think as long as we, you know, haven't molested a child, or dealt drugs, or committed murder, we're pretty good, not perfect, but good enough. But the standard God uses to judge us, is not other people, his standard is his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the perfect standard, and the Bible says, compared to the perfection of Jesus Christ, we have all fallen short. Now that is the first implication of this phrase, forgive us our debts. All of us have sinned, and secondly, we owe God for our sin. Where ever there is sin, there is created an obligation. Wrong creates an obligation, a debt that we owe God for our sin.

Now we understand that in our world, if a teenager breaks curfew, for example, the result is a grounding. If there is a traffic violation, the result is a fine. If there is a guilty verdict, the result is a prison sentence. Wrong creates an obligation, and the Bible says, because we have sinned against God, we owe God a debt for the sin we have committed. What is that debt? Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages," that means the payment of our sin is thanatos, it is death, not just physical death, but eternal death, eternal separation from God. We've all sinned, we owe God a debt for our sin, but here is the essence of the Christian message, Jesus Christ paid for our sin. He paid our debt for us. In Isaiah 53:6, Isaiah says, "But God laid upon him, Jesus, the iniquity of us all". When Jesus came and died on the cross, he offers to pay our sin debt for us. How does he do that?

I want you to turn over in your Bibles to Colossians chapter 2, verses 13 to 14. Here is how Jesus paid your debt. Look at Colossians 2, verses 13 and 14. Paul said, "When you were dead in your transgressions, and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive, together with him, having 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 has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross". Now that's a mouthful. What in the world is Paul talking about? In Paul's day, if you were found guilty of a crime, there was created, what was called a certificate of debt, listing your offenses. If you were placed in a prison cell, that certificate of debt was posted above the jail cell. If your crime was a capital crime, and deserved execution, your certificate of debt was placed on the cross where you were being executed. The certificate of debt. And once you have paid your prison time, you had done your time, across that certificate of debt, was written the word tetelestai, paid in full.

Now, what Paul was saying is, you and I have sinned against God, we have a certificate of debt with God. There is a list of every offense we have committed against God, and because of that, we deserve eternal death. That is the only way to satisfy that sin debt we have to God. But I want you to notice what Paul says, God has done with our certificate of debt. He took the certificate of debt, all of our offenses, and he did what with it? He nailed it above the cross of Jesus Christ. That's where our certificate of debt is placed, when trust in Christ as your Savior. He placed it, he nailed it to the cross, and remember in John 19:30, what were Jesus final words he said, "It is," what? "It is finished". There's that word tetelestai literally Jesus said, "Paid in full". Isn't that great news? That is what God has done with your certificate of debt. He has nailed it to the cross, he has said, "Paid in full".

Now ladies and gentlemen, here is the most important issue of your entire life, and eternity. The question is, who is going to pay for your sin? You have a choice, who's going to pay off your certificate of debt. You can say, "God, if it's all the same to you, I think I'll try to pay it myself," and you will spend all eternity in hell, trying to pay off that sin debt, and it will never be paid off, or you can choose to allow Jesus Christ to pay your debt for you. That's what he did when he came and died on the cross. He offered to take care of that debt for you. Romans 4:5 says, "But to the one who does not work, but believes, clings to, trusts in, the one who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness". When you are talking to somebody about becoming a Christian, you make them aware of their sin, you remind them that they have a debt to God, because of their sin, and the only hope we have is to allow Jesus Christ to pay our debt for us.

When you become a Christian, what you're doing is kneeling before a holy God, and you're saying, "God, I know I have offended you. I know I have wronged you. I know I need to suffer for my sin, but I believe Jesus came and paid the debt for me in full, and I'm trusting in, clinging to, believing in the name Jesus to save me". And the Bible says, when we cry out to God in that way, he takes our faith, and he exchanges it as his perfect righteousness. That's what we're praying when we say, "Father, forgive us of our debts". But somebody might say, well pastor, this is a prayer though, that Jesus taught us to pray as Christians, this isn't just for non-Christians, this is a prayer for us. Why should we pray this prayer, if our certificate of debt has already been paid by Jesus Christ? Why should Christians ask for God's forgiveness?

And people go to one of two extremes in answering that question. Some people teach, that you don't ever need to ask God for forgiveness once you become a Christian. You can go your whole life without ever asking God to forgive you again, because you're just asking him to do what he's already done, and it actually makes God mad, when you ask him to do that. That's a ludacris teaching. The other extreme, is the extreme that says, you know what, if before I go to bed at night, I don't remember every sin I committed and confess it, and I die in the middle of the night, I'm going to spend eternity in hell. No, when Jesus tells us as Christians, to ask God to forgive us of our sins, he's not talking about a judicial, legal kind of forgiveness. We received that, when we trusted in Christ. When we trusted Christ as our Savior, in the great throne room of heaven, God brought down the gavel and he said, "Not guilty," and that status never changes. When we pray, "Father, forgive us of our debts, our sins", we're asking for God's parental, his fatherly forgiveness. If you have children, I imagine every now and then, they do something wrong, don't they? Something that disappoints you, something to disenchant you.

Now what do you do, when your children disobey you? Do you run down to the lawyers office, and disinherit them? Do you make them change their name? No. Do you kick them out of the family? Of course not. But there is a wedge in your relationship with your child, until they confess, admit what they did was wrong, and promise to do better. Now it's the same, in our relationship with God. We need his parental forgiveness everyday. Listen to 1 John chapter one, verses 8 and 10 these are verses, not written to non -Christians, but to Christians. John 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, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we've not sinned, we make God to be a liar, and his word is not in us". As Christians, we need God's fatherly forgiveness, parental forgiveness, and that's why Jesus said to pray, forgive us of our debts.

And by the way, when we pray for this kind of forgiveness, it's not just an objective, intellectual saying, "Oh God, by the way, today I did this, this, this, this, this, this, forgive me, in Jesus name, amen". That's not the kind of forgiveness he's talking about here. To ask for God's forgiveness, is to be broken by our sin. It means not only to acknowledge it, it means to carry with that, a promise not to do it again. It's not just trying to manage the pain of our sin, there has to be a resolve to make things right with God. One writer says, "Why should you expect anyone to take your confession seriously, unless you promise, that you don't intend to fowl up your relationship with still more of the same unfair pain. You can give no guarantee, the best of us go back on promises, but anyone who has been hurt, should expect a sincere intention at least"

That's true if you're apologizing to other people, it's certainly true when you're apologizing to God. To ask for his forgiveness, carries with it that intent not to do it again. Forgive us of our debts. But I want you to notice here, the second part of this request. This request is dependent upon this other request. Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Think about what that prayer's saying, father, we want you to forgive us, in the very same way that we forgive other people. Now that's a prayer that will send you to hell if you're not careful. Think about it, you're saying, "I want you to forgive me God to the extent, that I am willing to forgive other people". And that's why Jesus said, "If you do not forgive others, neither will my Heavenly Father forgive you". The second part of this prayer relates to our need to extend forgiveness. There is an inseparable link in the Bible between receiving God's forgiveness and being willing to forgive other people.
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