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TEXT: Ephesians 4:32
SUBJECT: Richard Baxter on Forgiveness #5
Tonight, with the Lord's help, we'll get back to the Puritan study we began a few weeks ago. It's called Richard Baxter on Forgiveness.
Forgiving others is every believer's duty. If your Heavenly Father has forgiven you your wrongs, you must forgive the wrongs others have done to you. No matter how often they've done them or how badly they've hurt you. You have no choice! A grudge will not just hinder your Christian walk, it will send you to hell! Not because I say so-or Richard Baxter either-but because the Lord says so!
"If you do not forgive men their trespasses,
neither will your Father forgive your
You cannot go to heaven if your sins are not forgiven. But if you don't forgive others, your sins are not forgiven. Which means you cannot go to heaven unless you forgive others.
To say you've got to forgive others is not the same as saying it's easy to forgive others. It never has been and never will be. Forgiving others is hard because they've offended your sense of justice, hurt your pride, and deserve to be punished. What's more, if you forgive them, you make yourself vulnerable-you open yourself up to them hurting you again. And again. And again.
Peter once asked the Lord how often he ought to forgive others. He thought seven times was plenty. If someone has hurt you seven times, you know his offer was quite generous. But the Lord answered him-not seven times, but seventy times seven. In other words, don't keep track of how often people have wronged you, but forgive every wrong.
And so, forgiving others is very important and really hard. How do you do it? Richard Baxter has given a lot of advice so far, and now we'll move on to more of it. But, before we do, let me remind you, listening to advice is not the same thing as taking it. Almost anyone can see the beauty and goodness of letting go of offenses, but not many are willing to do it. They admire the concept, but they don't put it into practice.
In other words, they are "Hearers of the Word", but not "Doers of the Word". Paul reminds us that,
"Not the hearers of the Law are just before God, but the doers of the Law shall be justified".
It is not polite listening the Lord wants, but obedience. If you're holding a grudge tonight, God says Drop it. He doesn't say explain it or pray about it; He says drop it. Without further delay. Do you resent your husband? Do you hate your wife? Are you bitter about your kids? Do you have a bad attitude about your parents? Do you wish ill on your boss, your workers, your neighbors, or someone else? If you do, why don't you let go of it.tonight? Are you afraid you can't live without a grudge? That forgiveness will make you unhappy and unholy? That loving others who've done you wrong will keep you out of heaven?
Why don't you stop explaining yourself? And obey. If someone has done you wrong, God knows that and He'll take care of it in His own good time. You don't have to dwell on it or take revenge into your own hands. Just let go of it. When Jesus Christ was brutally mistreated,
"He committed Himself to Him who judges righteously".
"When He was reviled, He did not revile, when He suffered, He did not threaten".
That's enough exhortation for the moment. Now, let's get back to the advice the Puritan for people who've been hurt and don't want to hold a grudge. We've looked at sixteen points so far, and now we'll look at two more.
IF YOU WANT TO BE MORE FORGIVING THAN YOU ARE, REMEMBER THE PERSON YOU'RE MAD AT IS GOING TO HEAVEN OR HELL.
This is not the clearest thing I've ever said, but it's a lot clearer than what Baxter says! Though the wording is awkward, the content is powerful. Let me quote him at some length,
"The person that you are angry with is either a child of God or of the devil, and must live either in heaven or hell.
If he be a child of God, are you not ashamed Of meeting him in heaven whom you hated and Persecuted here on earth? Believe sincerely that you must dwell with them forever in the Dearest intimacy of eternal love, and you cannot possibly rage against them".
The Day of Judgment occurs at one time and in one place. We'll all be there! Together. Now, just think about it: Think of the Christian you've held a grudge against, the one you've gossiped about, and so on. Jesus Christ will be happy to see him and welcome him into "The joy of [his] Lord".
How would that make you feel? The one you hated, He loved; the one you wished were punished, He wanted to reward? I suspect grudges held against other believers will seem very petty and dirty and stupid on the Day of Judgment! And do you know why? Because that's what they really are! The Day of Judgment doesn't change anything. It only exposes things for what they really are.
Not everyone is going to heaven, of course. Some people are damned. Is it any less wrong to hold a grudge against them? Baxter says it isn't,
"If they be wicked men, are they not miserable enough in being the slaves of sin and Satan? And will they not be miserable enough and long enough in hell? Do you thirst to have them tormented before the time? O cruel Man! O devilish malice! Would you wish them more punishment than hell fire? Can you not patiently endure to see a Sinner have a little prosperity and ease, who must lie in everlasting flames?"
Can you imagine how awful it is to be under the Wrath of God-forever? Is it right to add insult to injury? Or to Kick a man while he's down?" It isn't right. The unsaved will suffer enough just punishment; you don't have to add your unjust kind.
If the believer is going to live with you forever in heaven, why not make friends with him now? If the unbeliever is going to suffer eternal torments, he doesn't need any of yours at the moment. If you want to be more forgiving than you are, remember the person you're mad at is going to heaven or hell. That's Number One.
IF YOU WANT TO BE MORE FORGIVNG, REMEMBER BOTH YOU AND THE PERSON WHO HURT YOU WILL SOON STAND BEFORE GOD.
As we grow older, many of us become mellower than we used to be. The things we took so seriously when we were young, we smile at now. What causes people to shrug things off that used to work them into a lather?
To some degree, it's the wear and tear of aging. I can't get as mad as I used to because I don't have the energy I once had! I've never heard anyone called an Old Turk. This is one cause of taking things a little easier than we used to.
But, for people growing in grace, there's another cause-and it's far more important. As we get older, it occurs to us that it won't be long before we see the Lord at the Judgment Seat of Christ. And that we've got a lot to answer for.
This puts things into perspective: It makes a bad attitude seem less excusable than it used to be. When young, you think you'll live forever! And that makes you feel like the Judge over people who've done you wrong. But, as you get older, it occurs to you that you won't live forever, and that you're not the Judge at all-that it's you who are on trial.
Think about the shortness of life and the Judgment that follows, and you won't be as quick to take offense or slow to forgive it. Baxter says,
"Remember how near both you and he are to death and judgment, when God will judge righteously betwixt you both. There are few who are so cruelly malicious, but if they both lay dying, they would abate their malice and be reconciled. Why, then, do you cherish your vice by putting Away the day of death from your Remembrance? O, hearken to the dreadful Trumpet of God, which is summoning you All to come away, and this would sound the retreat to the malicious".
If you knew you must die tonight, would you call anyone to make things right? If you would, why don't you do it tonight? Because, after all, who's to say you'll live to see tomorrow?
What would you think of a man whose dying words were full of bitterness and revenge? Would you say he died in faith, hope, and charity? Or, would you wonder if he knew God at all?
Andrew Jackson was our fifth president. Many historians they he was a great one. But none of them thinks he was a good man. They all admit that he was proud, bitter, and violent. Of all the bad things I've read about him, the worst words I ever read were his own. As the old man lay dying, he was asked if he had any regrets. He did, two of them,
"That I didn't shoot Henry Clay or hang John C. Calhoun".
Clay and Calhoun were political foes and rivals to Jackson. And he never forgave them. Not even death would humble his pride or soften his heart. Is bitterness what a dying man should feel? Self-righteousness? Pride? If not, then give them up right now! Because, even now, we're all dying.
If you want to be more forgiving than you are, remember, how near both you and the person you're mad at are to death and the judgment. If the person never apologizes or if he's not open to making things right, still the Day of Judgment calls you to forgive him. Baxter says,
"God will shortly be the Third Party, if you needs be quarrelling!"
If the dispute cannot be settled in this life, it will be before long! Knowing this won't always resolve the issue which caused you to differ, but it will drain off the bitterness that has turned the disagreement into a festering sore on your soul.
These are solemn things, aren't they? Death and Judgment. They're things we can deny or laugh at or not think about. But they're not things we can avoid. Thus, we have to live in light of them. One way of doing it is to forgive others. Even those who've done you wrong seventy times seven. Even those who've hurt you more deeply than anyone else can know.
Are you holding a grudge? Are you harboring bitterness? Is there a relationship in your life that isn't right-because of something in you? If so, it's time to do something about it. It's time to forgive and forget and-as much as lies in you-to make things right.
In the Light of Eternity.
The love of God be with you. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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