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TEXT: Ephesians 4:32
SUBJECT: Baxter on Forgiveness #4
Tonight, with God's blessing, we'll move on in the study we began three weeks ago. It's called Richard Baxter on Forgiveness.
Thus far, we've looked at twelve steps for pardoning people who've done us wrong. They are:
Have you thought about these things since last Wednesday night? Have you acted on them? Or, are you still justifying your bitterness? There can be no doubt what the Lord wants you to do. He said,
"Having received freely, freely give".
You ought to forgive others as eagerly as the Lord forgives you. Do you want Him to hold a grudge? Do you want Him to forgive-but not now? Do you want Him to say He forgives you, but bring it up later and use it against you? What you want from Him, you ought to give others. Now, go do it.
That's enough review. Let's move on to the new stuff. If you want to be more forgiving than you are, the Puritan says,
REMEMBER YOU'RE NOT QUALIFIED TO JUDGE OR PUNISH PEOPLE WHO HAVE DONE YOU WRONG.
To be a good judge, you must have at least four things: authority, fairness, knowledge, and wisdom. When it comes to judging other people, you've got none of the above. Because God has not called you to judge them, you've got no authority to do it. Because you're angry or hurt, you won't be fair. Because you can't know his motives, you're prone to think worse of him than you ought to. And, because you don't know what's best, you can't choose a punishment to fit the crime.
If you went to court over a speeding ticket, would you want a judge who had no authority, fairness, knowledge or wisdom? Maybe he was a janitor who was on the bench because.he got there first! Or, maybe he hated all women (and you're a woman!). Or, maybe he though going 40 in a 35 mph zone was a terrible crime and should be punished with death! Would that man be fit to pass judgment and assign punishment? Of course he wouldn't be! He lacks authority, fairness, knowledge, and wisdom.
And when it comes to judging people who've done you wrong, you're no better than he is. Baxter says,
"[When it comes to] execute revenge and justice on your enemies.you are ignorant and blinded by self-interest and passion, and are so [cruel] that you are inclined to do hurt to others. For all you know, you may miscarry justice in your passion".
Can anyone disagree with what he's said? When you're mad, are you really fair? When you're hurt, do you really want justice? Or is it something else you want? Maybe, revenge?
Even our system of government won't allow a judge to sit over a case where he has a conflict-of-interest. If the litigant is a man he knows-and hates-he has to turn the case over to another judge.
And that's exactly what you have to do when you're mad or hurt or embarrassed. You have to turn the case over to Someone Else. That's Number Two.
IF YOU WANT TO BE MORE FORGIVING, YOU MUST TURN THE CASE OVER TO GOD OR LET THE LORD JUDGE THE ONE WHO DID YOU WRONG.
"Consider how great a crime it is, for a worm to usurp the authority of God, and censure Him for not doing justice and to presume to anticipate His judgment, and take the sword, as it were, out of His hand, as all do, who will be their own avenger. `Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord'. He who becomes an avenger for himself, does, by his actions, say to God, `You are unjust and will not do me justice, therefore, I will do it for myself'. And shall such an impatient, Blaspheming atheist go unpunished?"
What would you think of a first year Law Student going to the Supreme Court and telling the Justices how stupid they were? You'd think he was an arrogant fool! How could a twenty-one year old boy with three units of Law School behind him criticize a respected judge who has practiced law for forty years?
If the young man was a conceited idiot, just imagine what we are when we criticize God for being unjust or too slow to act or too lenient and so on. Yet, that's just what we do when we take revenge on others.
Honestly, don't you think the Lord is better suited to pass judgment on others than you are? Baxter says He is,
"Consider how much fitter God is than you, to execute revenge and justice on your enemies. He has the highest authority and you have none; He is impartial and most just, and you are unrighteous and perverted by selfishness and partiality. He is eternal and omnipotent, and sees to the end and what will be the consequence.
Therefore, He knows the fittest season and degree [to punish]. But you are a short-sighted creature, who sees no farther than the present day, and are ignorant of a hundred things, which would stop you and change your counsel if you had foreseen them."
If someone has done you wrong, leave the punishment to God. He knows what to do, when to do it, and how. Don't worry, God saw the person who offended you, and will take care of him in His own good time. So, let Him do it. If the person really deserves punishment, don't worry; God can mete it out far better than you can.
When we read of the horrors of abortion, stem-cell research, cloning, eugenics, and so on, we say, "They're playing God". And we're right, of course. Scientists, politicians, and judges should not decide who lives and who dies or what life is worth living. It's nothing but Human Pride writ large.
But wait, they're not the only ones who play God. If you take revenge, you're doing the same thing. You're playing God by trying to improve on His wisdom and justice.
If you want to be more forgiving, turn your enemy over to God and let Him judge.
IF YOU WANT TO BE MORE FORGIVING, REMEMBER A GRUDGE HURTS YOU FAR MORE THAN IT HURTS THE ONE WHO DID YOU WRONG.
Let me remind you of the story of a woman I knew as a boy and young man. The pastor of our church treated her and her family like dirt. There's no doubt about it, the man was in the wrong. And, for almost thirty years, the woman has nursed a grudge against him. She has gone from a very active church member, to one whose name is on the roll, but who does very little for the Lord. She hates the man; she thinks he's a devil; she blames him for every bad thing that's happened to her in half a lifetime.
And you know what the pastor thinks about it? Nothing. Her evil eye hasn't hurt him in the least. But it has destroyed her and her family. She's not alone. Bitterness hurts you far more than it hurts the one at whom you're so mad. A grudge is deadly-not to the person it's against-but to the one who holds on to it.
What you would do if a man said, "If you ever do that again, I'll punch ME in the nose?" I'd laugh. Punching himself in the nose wouldn't hurt me at all. And bitterness doesn't hurt anyone but the one who has it-and the people he loves.
"Do you not understand that your passion, malice, and revenge hurt yourself? The stone of reproach you cast at another, flies back into your face and wounds you. Did not he who offended you do enough against you? If you want more [hurt] why do you complain against him? If you do not want more, why do you inflict it on yourself? He who hurt you touched but your estate or body or name, but [your bitterness] wounds your heart. Will you take the dagger that pierced only your skin and pierce. your heart with it because someone wronged you? If you do, blame no one but yourself".
Hard feelings will not hurt the one who did you wrong. It can only you and the ones you love. So why not give them up. Right now?
The last one for tonight is this,
IF YOU WANT TO BE MORE FORIGIVING, REMEMBER BITTERNESS AND WRATH PROMOTE THE CAUSE OF SATAN IN THE WORLD.
"Be angry and do not sin; let not the sun go down on
your wrath, neither give place to the devil"
A bad attitude puts you in the devil's service. Nothing will make you sin more than bitterness or self-pity. They justify pride, malice, gossip, divorce, and even murder.
Do you want to serve the devil? Do you want to promote his cause in the world? If you don't you'd better drop your grudge. Baxter says,
"Remember that malice is the special image of Satan. All sin is from him as the tempter, but some sins are eminently his own, principally, malignity, Malice, hurtfulness, and murder. What a pity it is that a man who bears the image of God, should be transformed, as it were, into an incarnate devil, by being so like Satan and bearing his image".
Let me put it to you as simply as possible: Would you rather be like God or like the devil? If God is your choice, ask yourself, Is He forgiving? If He is, you've got to forgive as well. But, if you'd rather be like Satan, then hold on to every offense, nurse every grudge, and remember every wrong. But remember, in making that choice, you're also making another one.
To be like God is to enjoy eternal happiness. But to bear the image of Satan is also to share his fate. Forgiveness or a grudge. Choose wisely. And the love of God be with you.
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