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TEXT: Ephesians 4:32

SUBJECT: Baxter on Forgiveness #3

Tonight, with the Lord's help, we'll carry on the Puritan study we started two weeks ago. It's called Richard Baxter on Forgiveness.

Thus far, we've looked at seven things to help you forgive others. They are:

    1. Remember what a grudge is; it's murder.
    2. Look for God in the person who's done you wrong.
    3. Make an honest evaluation of the offender, i.e., remember his good points as well as the bad.
    4. Love your neighbor as yourself.
    5. Stop being so selfish.
    6. Ask for help.
    7. Think long and hard about what you're doing and if it's what the Lord wants you to do.

Before we move on, let me ask you: Have you done these things? I know it's a lot easier to agree with them in theory than to put them into practice. But practice them you must. That's what it means to be "Doers of the Word and not hearers only". Everyone here has been done wrong at times-by parents, by children, by a husband or wife, by a close friend, a boss, a worker, or someone else. Everyone who's lived a little has been wronged a lot.

That's a given. But what are you going to do about it? Are you going to hold a grudge? Or let go of it? That's the choice. A choice you have to make under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. What would He have you do? You know that, of course. He'd have you forgive. Now, go do it. And the love of God be with you.

That's the review. Now, let's move on. If you want to be more forgiving.

ASK YOURSELF IF YOU WANT GOD TO FORGIVE THE PERSON WHO DID YOU WRONG.

The question is enlightening. And embarrassing. When someone has hurt you, do you want the Lord to forgive him? If you don't, you must want him to burn in hell forever. Because that's what it means to be unforgiven by God. But if you don't want that-if you want the Lord to forgive him--why don't you do the same?

"Let me ask you whether you desire that God should forgive his sins or not? If you say no, you are devilish and inhuman, who would not have God forgive a sinner. If you say yes, you contradict and condemn yourself While you say you would have God forgive him, and Yet you will not forgive him".

How in the world can you honestly face the question-and hold on to your grudge? Do you want God to send your husband or wife or kids or parents or boss or neighbor or friend to hell? If you don't, why don't you let him off the hook? Has he sinned more against you than against the Lord? Is the insult to your dignity bigger than the affront to God's Majesty?

If you read the Bible, you'll see that people who wanted God to forgive were forgiving themselves. Think of Moses and Paul, of Joseph and our Lord Jesus Christ. But, on the other hand, the people who wanted God to firebomb sinners were themselves the ugliest and most malicious of men. Think of the Pharisees, of Jonah, and the Sons of Thunder-James and John.

If you want the Lord to forgive others, you ought to forgive them as well. That's Number One. Number Two is this: If you want to become more forgiving.

REMEMBER YOU'VE WRONGED THE LORD MORE THAN ANYONE HAS WRONGED YOU.

Let me tell you a story. When I was a boy, there was a woman at church named Louise Zamzow. She had four sons, all of whom interrupted every service by walking around, talking, laughing, eating, spitting sunflower seeds, and more. One Sunday night, when I was about five, I was sitting in the pew, swinging my feet. Louise tapped me on the shoulder very hard, pointed her finger in my face, and said, "Settle down, Mike! You're disturbing me".

That was a mistake. My mother was sitting right next to me, and after the service, she read the riot act to Louise Zamzow. Why? For two reasons: (1) Swinging your feet in church is a very minor offense, and (2) Louise corrected me while her own kids were running wild.

Moral to the story: Big sinners shouldn't be too hard on little sinners.

Think of all the wrongs that have been done to you. The list is pretty long, isn't it? Now, compare that list to another one: To all the wrongs you've done the Lord. You don't feel so innocent now, do you? You're not quite the victim you thought you were. No, thinking of how sinful you are keeps you from justifying a grudge. And makes you more forgiving.

"There is no comparison between other men's offenses against you and your offenses against God, either for the number of them or the greatness or the desert. Does it seem right for a man to exaggerate or avenge His little injuries who deserves damnation and forfeits His soul every day and hour?"

When you think of how much wrong you've done God, you won't seem the innocent victim your bitterness says you are. That's Number Two. The next one is this: If you want to become more forgiving,

REMEMBER THE WRONGS YOU'VE DONE TO OTHER PEOPLE.

Think of the pain people have inflicted on you. They snubbed you; they mistreated you; they talked behind your back. It's easy to dwell on what they did, magnify every wrong and hold it against them.

But before you justify your bitterness, answer me this: Have you snubbed people? Have you mistreated them? Have you talked behind their backs? I bet just about everything you hold against others, you've done yourself. Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 says so,

"Do not take to heart everything people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. For many times also, your own heart has Known, that even you have cursed others".

If you've hurt others as often as they've hurt you, then what right do you have to hold a grudge against them? The pot shouldn't call the kettle black. And sinners shouldn't be too hard on other sinners. Here's the quote,

"Remember also that you have need of forgiveness from others as well as they have need of it from you. Have you wronged none? Have you provoked none? Have you not passions that must be pardoned? And a nature that must be borne with? He that Needs pardon himself is obliged to pardon others".

If you want to forgive others, remember the wrongs you've done them. That's Number Three. Number Four is: If you want to be more forgiving.

REMEMBER THAT YOU'RE FORGIVEN.

This, I think, is the best positive argument for forgiving others. It's hard for me to meditate on the forgiveness of my sins while at the same time holding sins against other people. That means: When I feel bitter or like taking revenge, I've got to force myself to remember: God has forgiven me!

Underline the word, force. If you're hurt or mad, the mercies of God won't pop into your mind. That means you have to make yourself think about them. The best way to do that is to read the verses where they are most prominent. Which ones are best? Here's my short list, Psalm 103:10, Psalm 130:3, Romans 5:8, and Luke 23:34,

"He has not dealt with us according to our sins or rewarded us according to our iniquities".

"If you, Lord, should mark iniquities, O LORD, who would stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that you may be feared".

"But God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us".

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do".

Every verse assumes sin-terrible sin, and sin not even repented of! The men were not beating their breasts for sorrow when the Lord prayed for them! God didn't send His love our way when we were seeking Him or feeling the pangs of guilt. No! The mercies of God come to people who don't deserve them!

And I'm one of them. If the Lord is so merciful to me, how can I be hard-hearted to people who've done me wrong? I can't. I have to give up one or the other. Either gratitude has to go. Or bitterness. Here's the quote,

"If you are a member of Christ, all your sins are pardoned at the cost of your Redeemer's blood. And can you feel the sweetness of such a mercy And not feel a strong obligation to forgive others?"

If you want to be more forgiving, remember you are forgiven! That's Number Four. Here's the last one: If you want to be more forgiving,

REMEMBER THAT UNLESS YOU FORGIVE OTHERS, GOD WON'T FORGIVE YOU.

If the last point was the best positive argument to forgive others, then this one is the best negative argument. I'm not sure I can explain it, but I mustn't explain it away. Somehow or other, your forgiveness is tied in with forgiving others.

The Bible says so-Matthew 6:14-15,

"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, Neither will your Father forgive you".

Richard Baxter has this to say about it,

"God has made your forgiving others to be a condition without which He will not fully or finally forgive you. You have no warrant to pray or hope for pardon upon Lower terms".

Do you pray for pardon? If you do, you've got to give it to others. Do you hope God will forgive you? If you do, you've got to forgive others. Life and death, heaven and hell-these are the issues involved in forgiving others. This is not an idle threat; the Lord is not bluffing. Forgive or be lost. That is the choice.

It's not a pleasant choice. Unless you forgive others. If you do, you have every reason to believe you too are forgiven. It's not that salvation is the reward of forgiving others, but where God's saving grace is given, a forgiving heart is created. Baxter says,

"If ever the love of God and the blood of Christ have come in power to your heart, they would have undoubtedly caused you to forgive your brother".

Thinking about these things will help you forgive others. Now think about them-and forgive others. That's your duty and privilege. Now go do it. And the love of God be with you. Amen.

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