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Watch 2022 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Forgiving God? - Part 1

Robert Jeffress - Forgiving God? - Part 1

Robert Jeffress - Forgiving God - Part 1
TOPICS: Forgiveness, When Forgiveness Doesn't Make Sense

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. When something goes wrong, our immediate response is to look for someone to blame, but in some cases there's no clear cut offender. In those moments, why doesn't God intervene and make things better? And furthermore, did God contribute to our pain in any way? Well, today I'm going to address what it means to forgive God for painful circumstances out of our control. And you'll see what I mean when I say forgive God. My message today is titled, "Forgiving God?" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

A couple in a former church desperately needed to forgive someone. The only problem was they had a hard time knowing whom they needed to forgive. The woman had gone to the doctor six months earlier, complaining of stomach pains. Since the doctor had prescribed that she taken aspirin a day to alleviate any potential heart problems. He thought that was the source of the problem. And he just told her quit taking the aspirin, which she did. Six months later, the doctor had the unfortunate task of telling her that she had indeed contracted stomach cancer, and that she only had six months, perhaps a year to live.

The woman and her husband who met with me, said they were first of all, shocked naturally, but then they became angry over the misdiagnosis. The only problem was they were wondering exactly whom they needed to forgive did they need to forgive the doctor who had made the misdiagnosis and hadn't run the necessary tests? And did they need to forgive the insurance company that had recommended the doctor through the health plan they were under? Did they need to forgive themselves for not seeking a second opinion?

You know, we've seen in our series on forgiveness that it's impossible to forgive without first of all, blaming. Blame is a necessary prerequisite for forgiveness. You've got to identify exactly whom you're forgiving and what you're forgiving before you can actually forgive, but it's not always easy to identify who's really responsible for the suffering and the hurt that we've experienced.

Some years ago, Amy decided that we needed a new washing machine, I don't know why we needed one, we'd had the same one for 25 years, why switch? But she decided that we needed one because of all the sounds it was making and so forth. So she picked out a new washing machine and they delivered the washing machine. The only problem was there was a problem in the transmission and it spewed oil over all of our clean garments. So, we had that replaced by the second one. The second one, they brought, had a dent in the front door, that was replaced by the third one that was the wrong color, so I'd finally had enough of this. I called the department store and gave them a piece of my mind I couldn't afford to lose, but I complained about it.

They said, we're Dr. Jeffress that's fine. We understand we will credit your account I said fine, month later, the statement comes no credit. So I called again, kind of irate by this point. And they said, "Oh, we can't imagine what had happened, but called this 800 number it will take care of it that way". I call the 800 number the next month, nothing on the statement. I called the department store again, the customer service department. They said, "We can't imagine what what's going on, but we'll take care of it". On and on it, I had a legitimate complaint, but I was having trouble identifying who was really responsible for it.

I want you to, right now, imagine some hurt that you've experienced in your life. I'm not talking about something trivial, like a washing machine. I'm talking about some real hurt you've experienced in your life. Perhaps it was an unwanted divorce. Perhaps it was an undeserved termination from a job. Maybe it was the betrayal by a close friend. Maybe it was an unexpected illness. Maybe it was a tragic accident that cost you somebody you loved dearly. Now, I want you to have a very real hurt in your mind. And then I want you to imagine that you go to an imaginary department store, the complaint department of that department store. And as you enter the complaint department, there are a number of windows that you can choose from each with a particular name over it. That is a possible target for your blame, for the hurt you've experienced.

Let's imagine that window number one is write it down "Other people". Perhaps you think other people are responsible for your hurt. You know, other people really are the easiest targets for our blame. It's easy to blame unfaithful mate, that disloyal friend, that insensitive pastor, that negligent doctor for the problems that we have experienced and many times they are responsible. We've seen in this forgiveness series that God says we are to let go, we are to forgive. Not because people deserve to be forgiven, but because of the forgiveness we've received through Jesus Christ, Ephesians 4:32 says, "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted forgiving each other just as God and Christ has also forgiven you".

Remember what CS Lewis said? He said to be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable in others because God has forgiven the inexcusable in us. Other people are the easiest targets of blame. But sometimes it's not just other people who are responsible for the hurts we experience. Window number two, that we might go to is labeled ourselves. Sometimes we don't have to look any further than in the mirror to know who's to blame for our suffering. My brother-in-law's a surgeon and he used to perform liver transplants. And I remember he told me about a very prominent athlete. You all know his name, who needed a liver transplant. And so because of his prominence, he was put at the top of the list. But other doctors resented that because the reason he needed a new liver is he had destroyed his old one through the abuse of alcohol. And they thought why should we give this person a liver when he's responsible for destroying his liver?

Many times the injuries we sustain are self-inflicted, we're primarily the one responsible for that devastating divorce or for that physical illness, or for that termination from our job. And yet even when we're the culprit, we need to learn how to receive forgiveness. You know, this subject of forgiving ourselves is very controversial. Perhaps you've heard forgiving yourself, forgiving yourself. Some people would say, it's impossible to forgive yourself. That's kind of like playing solitaire tennis. You know, it's hard to be on both sides of the net at the same time, you can't be on the receiving end and the granting the end, you're on one side or the other. And they would say in the same way, you can't forgive yourself. The only people who can forgive you, are the ones you've wronged or God himself.

Now, technically that's true. But the truth is sometimes we're the one who has wronged ourselves. And so we need to learn how to receive forgiveness. For example, consider a truck driver who falls asleep late at night at the wheel, veers over into the wrong lane, slams into a car and kills a family. He's primarily responsible for that, isn't it? I mean, he can ask forgiveness from God and receive it, he can seek forgiveness from the surviving family members, the extended family and receive it. But he also has to deal with the fact that he is responsible. You know, if only he had pulled over and taken a nap, instead of continuing to drive, if only he had had a third cup of coffee, if only he had refused to work overtime, then the injury would not have happened. I think better than saying forgiving ourselves, we need to talk about receiving God's forgiveness. And you know, the key to receiving God's forgiveness is to remember that God understands who we are. He understands our fordable Psalm 103:14 says, "For he himself knows our frame, he is mindful that we are but dust".

Do you know God understands your weaknesses and my weaknesses? He knows we are nothing but a pile of dust that has been infected with sin. God is willing to forgive us. We have to be willing to accept that forgiveness. Window number three, you might go to you say, well, it's not really other people. It's really not myself, it's really circumstances that's responsible for my problem, circumstances, bad circumstances, a local amusement park here in town a few years ago, had an accident in which eight people riding in an inner tube, floating down a fake river. That inner tube overturned, it trapped several people underneath who were injured and one person died drowned to death. And so they launched an investigation to see exactly who was culpable for this mistake. After a month of investigation, you know what they found? Nobody was responsible. It was just a series of bad circumstances that had converged together in a moment to cause the accident.

Years earlier, Jesus talked about a similar kind of circumstance. It was a construction accident. He talks about it in Luke 13:4 he said, "Or do you suppose that those 18 on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, were they worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem"? Jesus was talking about apparently a well-known construction accident. This tower that they were building collapsed and killed 18 people. Jesus asked, "Why did these 18 people die? Was it because they were worse sinners than anybody else"? No, Jesus was basically saying towers fall on the just and the unjust. Bad things happen to good people sometimes.

By the way, that's why we should never, never make pronouncements about why certain disasters happen. All the reason this hurricane came was because these were sinful people who lived in this city or the reason 911 happened was because of America's sins and all of these things. We can't make those judgments because the truth is, good people, righteous people, Christians die in those accidents, as well as non-Christians, unless God has specifically made a declaration about why something happened like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, unless God has said it, we're not to try to make pronouncements like that. Bad things happen to good people.

The same thing is true in your life. I mean, ultimately who's responsible for that downturn in the economy that costs you your job? Who's responsible for that electrical spark that causes a fire that kills a family member? Who's responsible for that maverick cell, that metastasizes and forms a tumor? Sometimes it's circumstances. But some people aren't happy with that. They say, I really don't want to blame other people. I sure don't want to blame myself. I don't want to just blame circumstances. I know in the fourth window they go to is Satan. Satan is the one who is ultimately responsible for what has happened.

I remember years ago, after a great national tragedy, I was watching CNN and it was back in the days before FOX, I was watching CNN and I remember Larry King. Remember Larry King? Larry King was interviewing a well-known world famous evangelist. And he said to this evangelize, why is it that God allowed this tragedy to happen? And the evangelist answered very quickly. Oh, "Larry, God wasn't responsible, that was Satan". And you could see Larry who's not a believer yet, Larry's eyes, I mean he wanted to ask that follow-up question. He was chomping at the bed, but out of politeness, he didn't ask it, but he should've asked it, and we have to ask it. What, if you say Satan is responsible, isn't God more powerful than Satan? Couldn't God have stopped Satan if he wanted to?

You know, let's be clear Satan is responsible for a lot of the tragedies in the world today. The Bible says, for example, in John 12:31, "That Satan is the ruler of this world temporarily anyway". 2 Corinthians 4:4 says "He is the God of this world". Ephesians 2:2 says, "He is the prince of the power of the air". And yet he's not all powerful, he's a created being. He is not the opposite of God. He's limited in what he can do. Somebody has said it well when they said Satan is like a junkyard dog on a very long leash, his power to destroy is considerable, but it's also limited. Martin Luther said it this way, he said, "The devil is still God's devil". Satan cannot do anything without the permission of God. So exactly who is ultimately to blame for the hurt in your life? That you're having difficulty forgiving?

Back to my washing machine ordeal for a moment. Finally, I'd had enough of all this run around. I got in my car, I raced up to the department store, I bounded through the entrance, the salesperson on the floor record nice to me, he said, "No Dr. Jeffress, we will get this solved". I didn't want to hear any of it, I wanted talk to the manager. And so I went into the manager's office and we had a ministerial conversation together. And it wasn't about his spiritual life either. And we talked for a while and in a few minutes he got the problem fixed. Now, I learned an important lesson that day. When you want a problem solved, you need to go to the top. You need to talk to the manager. And it's the same way when it comes to dealing with hurts from your past.

Now, listen to me as long as you only focus on other people, or yourself, or circumstances, or Satan, you'll never complete the forgiveness process. Ultimately you have to be willing to acknowledge God's role in the suffering, the hurt you've experienced. And that's what I want to talk about for a minute today. What is God's role in our suffering? You know, Job's said in Job 42:2, "I know that you can do anything and that no one can stop you". Job was saying, God, you are powerful enough that you can do whatever you want to. And that means God has to take some responsibility for the hurt in your life. I mean, after all, if his claim is true in Isaiah 45:6, that "I am the Lord and there is no other". Then that means he's the only true sovereign, he's the only true ruler in the universe. And he has to be held accountable for what happens in his universe. After all, as the old saying goes, "He who calls the shots, has to take the shots".

If God is really in control as he claims to be, then he has to be held accountable for the bad things that happen, the hurts that we experience. But you know, sometimes the attacks against God can be pretty vitriolic. I've read the story again this week of a tailor who went into the synagogue to pray and to say his daily prayers, and as he was exiting, he ran into the local rabbi and the rabbi said, "Good to see you, what were you doing"? He said, "Well, I went in to say my prayers". The rabbis said, "Well, did you confess your sins"? The tailor said, "Yes I confessed my little sins". The rabbi said, "What do you mean you confessed your little sins"? The tailor said, "Well, I told God that occasionally I cut the cloth short and I cheat my customers". The rabbi said, "You actually said that to God"? He said, "Yes I said that to God and I said something else to God. I said, 'God, I cut my cloth short and I cheat my customers and you let babies die, so I'll make you a deal. If you'll forgive me of my little sins, I'll forgive you of your big sins'".

Now, that idea of forgiving God, that's offensive, if not downright blasphemous. I mean, after all to say, we need to forgive God implies that God has sinned, that he's done something wrong. That he owes us for the wrong that he's committed. And that we have the power to release God of the wrong that he's committed. All three of those ideas are absolutely wrong. Make no mistake about it. There is no sin in God, there's nothing but goodness. The Bible also says we have no right to question God.

In Romans 9:20-21 remember what Paul said? "On the contrary who are you oh man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, why did you make me like this? Or does not the potter have the right over the clay to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use"? That is God is our Creator, he can do whatever he chooses to do. No, we don't need to forgive God, we can't forgive God. And that's why I don't like that term forgiving God, I think a better term is holding God accountable. And in that sense, I think it's very important in the forgiveness process to acknowledge the role God plays in the hurts that we've experienced.

Again, you will never be able to let go of the hurt in your life until you acknowledge God's role in your life. And until you allow God to assume some responsibility for that failed marriage, for that ended career, for that devastating illness, for that tragic accident, until you acknowledge God's role, you'll never be able to forgive. If you have a hard time with that concept of holding God accountable, I want you to consider three propositions today that I want you to write down. Proposition number one, God assumes responsibility for everything in his creation. Did you know God assumes responsibility for everything in creation? That means everything in your life. He says, I'm ultimately responsible.

Now, let me be clear, God does not cause sin. God is not the author of sin. It's impossible for a holy God to be the author of sin. So God is not directly responsible for evil in the world, but he's indirectly responsible. I mean, after all if God sees evil and he has the power to stop it, but he doesn't stop it, he's assuming responsibility, isn't it? I mean, if you walk out of this church today and you see an elderly woman beam mugged by an attacker and you simply walk by, you're not directly responsible for that crime, but you're indirectly responsible if you had the power to stop it and you didn't. As the same way with God. If God sees evil going on and has the power to stop it, and doesn't, then he has to be held responsible for what has happened. You know, the good news is, God does assume responsibility for things you might not think he had any role in at all.

For example, consider Exodus 4:11, God was talking to Moses and he said, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf are seeing or blind? Is it not i", say it the Lord? Now that's an incredible statement when you think about it, who's responsible for dumb, deaf and blind people in the world, is it not i? You know, some well-meaning Christians trying to help God hold onto his reputation, they tried to let God off the hook. They'll say to the parents of a handicapped child, "Oh God is so sorry for what's happened here, he wishes he could have stopped it, but you know the law of genetics, he just couldn't have any power over that, bad things happen". Does that give people comfort to think that they're just the victims of anything that happens in the universe? No, God says, "Wait a minute, I'm responsible. I'm the one who takes responsibility for handicapped children. I'm the one who makes the blind deaf and dumb".

God assumes responsibility for everything that happens. Now, some of you are choking on that right now. So let me give you something bigger to choke on Acts 2:23, Peter was preaching at Pentecost just a few weeks after Jesus was crucified and resurrected from the dead. Listen to what Peter said about the death of Jesus. He said in Acts 2:23, "This man Jesus was delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of Godless men and you put him to death". Who was responsible for the death of Jesus Christ? It was angry men who nailed him to the cross, but he said it was all according to the predetermined plan, and foreknowledge of God.
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