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TEXT: Ephesians 4:32
SUBJECT: Baxter on Forgiveness #6
Tonight, with the Lord's help, we'll get back to the study we began a few weeks ago. It's called Richard Baxter on Forgiveness. For believers in Christ, forgiveness is not an option. It is a command of God, binding all of His people in times, places-and circumstances. He never says "Forgive unless you've been hurt too badly", or, "Forgive unless you've been hurt too often". He simply says,
"Forgive men their trespasses".
There are no exceptions to the rule. We know that because-when Man was at his worst-Jesus Christ said,
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do".
You must forgive others. You have no choice. You can't go to heaven unless you forgive others. Our Lord said so,
"Unless you forgive men their trespasses, my Father in Heaven will not forgive your trespasses".
It is that serious. You need to act on it without further delay. You don't know if you'll wake up tomorrow morning-nobody does! But if you "let the sun go down on your wrath, you give place to the devil"-and put your soul in grave danger. Jesus Christ wants you to forgive someone. Why don't you obey Him? Whatever the person did to you, whatever he's doing to you, whatever he may do to you in the future. Why don't you let go of it? Right now. And forever.
It's hard to do! Even petty offenses are hard to let go of. But you're not in it alone. Jesus Christ is with you-"willing and enabling you to do His will". So why don't you give into the Gentle Pressure of Heaven? And why not now?
Up to now, we've looked at eighteen ways to become more forgiving than we are. I won't recount them here, but think about what you've heard the last few weeks. And act on it in the grace that God gives you.
Tonight-Lord willing--we'll study three more ways to forgive others.
IF YOU WANT TO BE MORE FORGIVING, REMEMBER THAT AN UNFORGIVING SPIRIT MAKES YOU REPULSIVE TO EVERYONE.
"Wrathful and hurtful creatures are commonly hated and pursued by all, while loving and gentle creatures are commonly loved. Will you make yourself like a wild beast or vermin, that all men naturally hate and seek to destroy?"
Do you know anyone who's bitter or nursing a grudge? If you do, let me ask you: Do you enjoy his company? You may feel sorry for him. Or, his acid tongue may amuse you for an hour or two, but are you glad he's around? Of course you're not-nobody is! You may tolerate him, but you don't like him! It's a real drag to be around him--a bummer deluxe. Again, he may be put-up-with; others may do him good, but nobody enjoys his company!
Resentment and griping never made anyone holy, happy, or.likable.
That's pretty strong language. But, compared to Baxter, I'm pussyfooting around. He calls resentful people,
"Wolves, foxes, snakes, and vermin".
City slickers think these animals are cute or sleek or awesome or something. But country-folks know better. They trap wolves, they shoot foxes, they cut off the heads of snakes, and they poison rats. Animals that get into the henhouse or eat the sheep or destroy the grain or bite the foot are hated by everyone who has to deal with them.
And, according to Richard Baxter, people who hold a grudge are no better liked than the varmints and predators that make farm life so hard. A second quote is even harsher,
"If your end be nothing but to do mischief and to make another miserable, you are to the world as mad dogs, wolves and serpents.and they who know you will be glad when the world is rid of you as when [a poisonous snake] is killed".
Do you want to be disliked? Do you want even the people who love you to sigh when you come in? Do you want to be death to every conversation and a wet blanket on every flicker of joy? If you do, hold a grudge. But, if you don't, let go of it.
If you want to be more forgiving than you are, just remember how disliked you'll be if you hold a grudge. That's Number One.
IF YOU WANT TO BE MORE FORGIVING THAN YOU ARE, REMEMBER THAT A GRIUDGE WILL MAKE THE ONE WHO OFFENDED YOU WORSE.
Unless you're so full of bile that you'd like to see the offender rot in hell, I assume you want him to repent of his sins and to make things right with you. This is quite proper; it's what God does and the effect love will have on you.
But think about it: Is your unforgiving spirit likely to soften the offender's heart or harden it?
I told you this story before, but it fits in here: Two or three years ago, a friend and I had a problem in which I was mostly in the wrong. I felt guilty about it, and called him up to make things right. He told me, in no uncertain terms, that unless I did what he demanded I do, we could never make up. The problem is: Though I was wrong in the first place, doing what he wanted would make things worse. I told him I couldn't do it. Next, I tried to write him a letter and he sent it back unopened.
What do you think his response? Did it make me more eager than ever to make things right? Or, did it just make me mad? It made me mad, of course. His ugly spirit poured gasoline on the fire!
It has that effect on everyone, Proverbs 15:1,
"A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger".
This means: If you want the person who made you mad to never make things right, hold a grudge. But, if you want to make up, let go of your hard feelings. They only make things worse for you-and the other person. Baxter says,
"Your sin is aggravated, in that it hinders the good of those you are offended with, and also provokes them to add sin to sin and to be as furious and uncharitable as you are. If your neighbor is not at fault, why are you so displeased with him? If he is, why will you make him worse? Will you bring him to amendment by hatred or cruelty? Do you think one vice will cure another? Or, is any man likely to heed the Advice of an enemy? Or to love the words of one who hates him? Is malice or fierceness an attractive thing? Or, rather, is it not the Way to drive men farther from their duty when you pretend to reform them by such Unlikely measures?"
Do you want the person who hurt you to repent of his sins and to make things right? If you do, do you think bitterness and sulking are the best ways to get what you want? Do they work on you? If they don't, why do you think they'd work on someone else? Like has a way of breeding like. Bad attitudes never bring others to repentance, but only to worse attitudes, Proverbs 30:33,
"As the churning of milk produces butter, and as wringing the nose produces blood, so the forcing of wrath produces strife".
And so, if you want to be more forgiving, remember a grudge will only harden the person you're mad at. That's Number Two.
IF YOU WANT TO BE MORE FORGIVING THAN YOU ARE, REMEMBER A GRUDGE UNFITS YOU FOR WORSHIP.
"Observe how you unfit yourself for all holy duties, and communion with God, while you cherish wrath in your heart. Do you find yourself fit for meditation or prayer while you are angry? I know you do not. It indisposes you to the duty and the guilt frightens you and tells you that you are unfit to come near to God".
Bitterness keeps you from worshiping the Lord with a good conscience. When you open your Bible to read, or kneel down to pray.well, something's not right. Your conscience is needling you.
You can respond to it in three ways:
The best way is by repentance, Matthew 5:23-24,
"If you bring your gift to the altar and remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift".
If you don't want to repent, you can quit worshiping the Lord altogether. That's very bad.
But there's one more thing that you can do, and it's far worse than quitting the Lord. You can continue worshiping Him while stubbornly refusing to give up your grudge. This is called Hypocrisy. The Scribes and Pharisees were famous for it. But the Lord condemned it in the strongest possible language.
Your choices can be put this way: (1) good conscience, (2) bad conscience, and (3) seared conscience. Do you want to worship the Lord without pain or pretense? If you do, you've got to give up your hard feelings. It doesn't matter how long you've had them or how deeply they've taken root in your soul. You've got to dig them up and be rid of them. If you want to worship the Lord "in Spirit and in truth".
If you want to worship the Lord, do others good, and to be well-liked yourself, you have to let go of the bitterness and forgive others from the heart.
May God give you the grace. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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