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TEXT: Ephesians 4:32

SUBJECT: Baxter on Forgiveness #2

Tonight, with the help of God's Spirit, we'll continue the Puritan study we began last week. It's Richard Baxter on Forgiveness.

The Lord wants you to forgive others. On this point, the Bible could not be clearer. Our verse commands forgiveness. Good men practiced it; bad men rejected it; and-somehow or other-your forgiveness depends on forgiving others,

"If you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will forgive your trespasses. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses".

Because forgiving others is so important, you'd think it would be a top priority for every believer. But, of course, it isn't. Many Christians are not forgiving; they hold grudges and wish others ill. Are you this way? If you are, I can only refer you to the words of our Lord. Having so freely received forgiveness yourself, you ought to freely give it to others.

But this is easier said than done. It's hard to let go. It's easier to justify a grudge than to repent of it. But repent, you must. Here's where the old Puritan is so helpful. Richard Baxter offers a lot of good advice on learning how to forgive those who've done you wrong.

Last week, we looked at four things you can do to become more forgiving. The Lord wants you:

This is what we studied last week. Now, before moving on, I have to ask you: Are you doing anything about it? I know you don't feel like it or want to, but so what? This is not about your feelings or desires. It's about doing the will of God.

Now for the new material. If you want to be more forgiving.

HUMBLE YOURSELF.

The world is chock-full of insults, exclusions, betrayals, and more. They're all bad, of course, but the worst ones of all are those directed against.me. If Bob is not invited to the party, it's an oversight. But if I'm not on the list, it's an outrage.

Why is this? What makes disrespecting me worse than doing the same thing to Bob? It's because I'm Somebody! As long as I feel this way, I'm going to be quick to take offense and very slow to forgive them.

But what if I humbled myself? If I did, the little things done to me would be no big deal. They wouldn't take on the proportions of a Cosmic Scandal! That would make me slower to take offense and a lot more willing to forgive others.

Why wasn't our Lord Jesus always offended? Hardly anyone worshiped Him and most people treated Him like dirt. Yet He wasn't cranky or defensive at all. Why? Philippians 2:7,8 explains it all. Though He is Lord of all, He

"Made Himself of no reputation. [and] humbled Himself".

If anyone had the right to demand respect, it was our Lord. But He didn't! If you weren't as full of yourself, you wouldn't be as touchy as you are. Humble yourself and you'll be a lot more forgiving.

Here's the quote,

"To this end, be sure to mortify your selfishness. For it is the inordinate respect that men have for Themselves, which makes them aggravate the Faults of all who are against them or offend them. A proud, self-esteeming man is easily provoked, and hard to reconcile. Because he thinks so Highly of himself, he thinks heinously of all that is said or done against him. And he is so overly dear to himself that he is impatient with all others".

Are you eager to take offense? Are you hard to make up with? If you are, maybe it's because you're proud. Maybe you blow everything out of proportion because you're so important in your own eyes.

Are you self-important? Hardly anyone admits to being that way. But here are a couple of tests: (1) Do you ever laugh at yourself? And (2) Can you take a joke? If not, maybe you're full of yourself. Have you ever wondered why you're always offended, mad, hurt, and so on? Proverbs 13:10 may have the answer,

"By pride comes only contention, but with the well-advised is wisdom".

And so, if you want to be slower to take offense and easier to make up with, humble yourself. That's Number One. The second is this: If you want to be more forgiving.

ASK FOR HELP.

"Be not your own judge in cases of settled malice or revenge. Let some impartial and sober by-stander be the judge. For a selfish, passionate, distempered mind is very unlikely to judge properly. Ask some wise, impartial man whether it is best to Be malicious and revengeful against one who has Greatly wronged you or whether you should love And forgive him".

You've got to be fair to the person who has offended you. If you were accused of a crime, would you want a man who's mad at you to be your judge? You wouldn't, because you'd know-no matter how good and smart he is-his feelings have biased him against you. His bad attitude has clouded his judgment.

That's easy to see in others. It's harder to see in yourself. In fact, it's so hard that-in serious cases-you need to call in someone to help you see things clearly and to do the right thing.

What should you look for in your helper? Three things: patience, wisdom, and courage. He needs to be slow enough to sort through the issues. He needs to be wise enough to figure things out. He needs to be brave enough to tell you the truth-even if it's not what you want to hear.

You don't have to follow his advice, of course, but you have to listen to him and give him the benefit of the doubt. Unless Scripture clearly says he's wrong, you ought to take his word for it. Why? Because you're upset and he's not. Which means his judgment is probably better than yours.

And so, if you want to be more forgiving, you've got to put things in perspective. It's very hard to do that all by yourself, so get help. But remember-it's help you're after-and not sympathy or agreement. Help, unlike the other things, is not always easy to take,

"Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful".

If you want to be more forgiving, ask for help. That's Number Two. Here's the last one for tonight: If you want to become more forgiving,

THINK LONG AND HARD.

"Take time to deliberate on the matter, and do nothing rashly to another in the heat of passion. Wrath and malice will vanish if you bring them into the light which reveals their sinfulness and shame".

Bitterness, wrath, self-righteousness, and grudges all seem justified for a time. But the longer you think about them, the worse they become. Think of

"Without God and without hope in the world".

The more you think about a grudge the shabbier and more shameful it becomes. So think about it. Think about it long and hard. And think about it in the Light of God's Law and His Saving Work in Jesus Christ.

CALL TO ACTION

Are you holding a grudge? Maybe you call it something else, but are you holding a grudge? If you are, it's time to let go of it. I know it was bad and hurtful and humiliating. It messed you up for years and led to drinking or womanizing or coldness or something else.

But it's time to let go of it. God commands you to let go. And, in the cross, He's shown you that He's willing to let go of it! What you've done to Him is far worse than what anyone has done to you. If He let's go, you can too. So do it. Don't wait for a feeling, just do it. Now.

And the love of God be with you. Amen.

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