God has always distinguished between those who worship Him according to His desires and those who worship Him according to their own desires. Jesus taught us a lot about proper worship. Robert explains in this valuable lesson.

ROBERT >> A 21 year old white supremacist, Dylann Storm Roof, walked into the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on a Wednesday night, sat amongst the members for more than an hour, and then pulled out a gun, aimed and shot over and over and over again. He left a bloody scene as he walked away. Nine victims lay in his deadly path. After Roof was captured and appeared before a judge for a bond hearing, the victims’ families were allowed to address him. And those who were strong enough echoed the same sentiment. While they would miss their loved ones, they repeated the same phrase to Roof, I forgive you, I forgive you, I forgive you.

SINGING>> Speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth in love.

ROBERT >> It may be difficult for many of us to understand how those people could say to that one who had taken their loved ones, I forgive you. But a representative of the church said, This church is built on love, and we have no room in our hearts for hate. It was reported that forgiving Roof helped them take back the power that was stripped away from them. It was liberating and healing. And I certainly hope that nothing like that ever happens in our churches; but I know that often, even those of us who are Christians take shots at each other. I mean that we sometimes hurt one another, whether intentionally or unintentionally. And the same thing happens in our physical families and all our relationships with others.

We might ask, how can we ever forgive one another?

This is so hard sometimes. How can I forgive that one who has hurt me so? But the real question that I want to consider with you today is not how can I forgive, but will I forgive?

Will you forgive?

Let’s notice a couple of things that the Bible teaches us about forgiveness. First of all, forgiveness is a choice. When we’re hurt by someone, we respond emotionally with hatred, with anger. We want retaliation. We want revenge. We want that person who hurt us to hurt like we hurt or worse. We say, I could never forgive that person. But I want you to read with me from Ephesians 4:32, because the apostle Paul teaches the church that really, forgiveness is a choice.

Here in Ephesians chapter 4, let’s begin reading together verse 31 and 32. “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.”

All of these emotions and how we have been hurt, he says let it go. It’s a choice that we make. And then he says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

God commands us to forgive. We have a choice. God says forgive; not because he does not know or understand our hurt. He does. He understands it, he knows it better than anybody else. Let me read another passage to you from Hebrews chapter 2.

Hebrews chapter 2, beginning in verse 17, because it reminds us of how he is able to understand us, how he knows us so well. In this passage that was written for the Hebrew Christians we learn that Jesus Christ knows all about us because he has been where we have been. He’s walked in our shoes. He has become one of us while he was on this earth. Here’s what the Bible says: “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. He is able to help us because he has become like us, he was made like us. He became flesh and dwelt among us,” as John says in John 1:14.

He has walked this earth. He’s been tempted like we’ve been tempted, he’s been tried like we’ve been tried, he knows suffering, he knows hurt, and so he is able to be merciful as our high priest.

In Hebrews 4:15-16, the writer says this: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace,that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

You see, this one who understands, who knows us, who sympathizes with us, encourages us to come and to come with confidence to find the mercy and the grace that we need from God. And remember, too, that God’s commandments, including this commandment to forgive, are always for our good.

Deuteronomy 6:24, when Moses spoke of the many statutes and commandments of God, he says it’s for our good always. God knows that holding onto our hurt, holding onto our hatred and anger can only make us bitter. It’ll destroy us from within. He knows that revenge and retaliation can only make matters worse. And so God calls for us to choose to forgive.

I think one passage that would especially help us with this, I know it has helped me, is Romans chapter 12, because there I realize that God is going to take care of things, and he’s going to do a much better job of that than I could ever do, so I just need to forgive, and I need to leave everything to God.

Here in Romans 12:19 the Bible says,”Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord. Therefore, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Yes, God calls us to make a choice, to react emotionally to those who hurt us or to act on faith in God towards them. We can go on in our hurt and keep hating those who offend us, or we can choose to take God’s remedy for healing and reconciliation, forgiveness. Yes, forgiveness will enable us to see past that hurt, to see those who hurt us; to realize that we all have our problems, and to find compassion and pity for one another. And only then can we begin to heal and make reconciliation possible. Now there’s something else the Bible teaches us about forgiveness. Not only is it a choice; but before we can forgive, we must put away some things. Let’s read verse 31 of our text here in Ephesians chapter 4 once again, where we learn that we can choose to hold onto these things or let go of them.

In Ephesians 4:31 he says, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.”

Paul says let these things go, quit holding onto them, get rid of it all once and for all. One of the problems we have is that we keep replaying that hurt over and over again in our mind, and we keep talking about it and telling others about it and repeating it over and over. And the more we think about it, the worse it becomes. And it just keeps festering and growing within us. That’s what makes us bitter. Someone has well said that hurt is what others do to you, but bitterness is what you do to yourself. And it not only makes us bitter, but we begin to seethe for revenge. That’s the wrath that Paul was talking about here. And then it causes us to lash out in anger and clamor. We can’t have a calm discussion about it, but we want to argue and we want to fight about it, and we get to where we enjoy speaking evil about the person because we know that they have hurt us, and now we have this malice in our hearts towards them, and we want everyone to know how awful they are and how we wish only bad upon them. Before we can ever forgive, we must make a conscious effort to put all this away, this bitterness, this wrath, this anger, this clamor, this evil speaking, this malice that’s in our hearts. But let’s also notice today that there are two things that go along with forgiveness.

Look at verse 32 ”And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

Paul teaches us here to make a conscious effort to be kind toward those who mistreat you, to help them, to do good to them. As we read earlier from Romans chapter 12, this is how we’re able to overcome evil: We overcome evil with good. You know, it’s really hard for others to wrong us when we’re kind to them, when we’re doing good to them. Your kindness will convict them. It’ll heap coals of fire upon their head, as Paul said there in Romans 12. It’ll show them that you’re not out to get them. And so we need to be kind to them, but we also need to be tenderhearted, he said. That’s compassionate and sympathetic and understanding and merciful. People who hurt others do not deserve your kindness, but that is what mercy is all about. It’s not giving others what they deserve, but what they need. And more than anything in the world, we all need mercy.

James 2:13 reminds us, “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”

When we realize our own need for mercy, it’ll help us to be more merciful towards others. And so we need to realize that forgiveness is a choice, that there are some things that we have to put away, but there are also some things that go along with forgiveness: Kindness and compassion, mercy, tenderheartedness. But finally, Paul tells us to forgive like God forgives.

Look again at verse 32. At the end of that verse he says, “Forgiving one another even as God in Christ forgave you.”

To forgive as God forgives. God didn’t wait for us to come to him. He came to us. He took the initiative. When God looked down upon this evil world and he saw the many sinners, he loved them and he made a way for them to overcome their sin and to be reconciled to him.

The Bible says in Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”

That’s what God did to us. That’s what God did for us while we were still sinners.

1 John 4:10 reminds us of the love of God. “ Not that we loved him, but he loved us and sent his son to be that atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

While Jesus lived a perfect life before others, he was treated worse than any.

And still, what did he do?

He died for our sins. Remember on the cross as all of those who had crucified him were there around him and the others as well, some mocking, and there were those that were ridiculing him; but on the cross, Jesus prayed for his enemies, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” Luke 23:34.

And do you remember those words before dying that day on the cross when he said, It is finished. He had completed his work in providing the payment for the sins of the world. He had paid the price. Our debt had been canceled. It was all over now. Let me encourage you, if you’re having a hard time forgiving others, to go to the cross. To go to the cross means to willingly suffer like Jesus suffered, to suffer mockery and ridicule and disrespect and affliction, even death at the hands of others. Whatever it is, show them that you will love them no matter what they may do to you. That’s what Jesus showed us at the cross, and that’s what we must show others. Pray for them. Pray for them like Jesus prayed. They don’t know what they’re doing.

Pray for their eyes to be opened, their hearts to turn so they can be set free. And then be finished with it all. It’s all been paid for at the cross. Don’t keep replaying it over and over again. Let it go and give it to God. Let me do something with you to help you to really remember this lesson. Let’s make a fist right now. Whoever you are, wherever you are, make a fist right now, and just squeeze your fist as hard as you can. Tighter. Squeeze them tighter and don’t let go until I tell you. Just told it there for a while.

You getting tired?

Keep holding it. Hold on. Just a little tighter. Okay, now let go.

Now, did you notice the pain in your fingers when you finally let go?

The fists were causing you pain, but it also hurt to stop making that fist. And when we won’t forgive, it squeezes us to death. And the longer we carry that hurt, the more painful it is to let go of it. But did you also notice every second, it took more and more strength to keep squeezing that fist? Carrying your hurt will consume more and more of your life and your energy. Some of you may have even noticed some numbness in your hand.

When we refuse to forgive, we can become numb, insensitive to the person who hurt us, insensitive to God, insensitive to others around us. But I also want you to think about this. You can’t keep your fist closed and receive anything else. Until you let go, there’s no room in your heart for anything else: For forgiveness, for love, for peace, for freedom, for joy. Before we leave this lesson today, I want to read these very powerful, yet probably pretty well known words of Jesus, but I think often forgotten, about forgiveness.

Matthew 6:14-15. In his great Sermon on the Mount, as he was teaching his disciples how to pray, he reminded them of the importance of forgiveness. And this is what he said: “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 your trespasses.”

You see, we must learn to be forgiving if we want to be forgiven. We’ve already been forgiven by God if we’re Christians today. We know his forgiveness. We know what it cost him to pay for our sins so we could be forgiven. And having had that experience, we then must share it with others. Surely if God in his holiness, in his righteousness, in his greatness is able to look down upon us sinful, filthy, awful creatures, and forgive us, we ought to be able to forgive each other. We realize how we have sinned against God and his mercy and his grace towards us.

Why is it that we cannot overlook, that we cannot hide and cover the multitude of sins that people may bring our way?

They may sleight us, they may ridicule us, they may hurt us in a number of different ways, and I know some of you have been hurt very badly by others; but God knows that, he understands that, and he’s ready and willing to forgive that. He’s forgiven us.

Let’s forgive others. This morning, ask yourself, Who do I need to forgive? Who is it that has brought hurt into your life?

Maybe you’ve been abused. Maybe you have been taken advantage of and mistreated. Maybe somebody said something against you. You’ve got some really hard feelings. Sometimes it’s our own family members, it’s our dear friends or our fellow Christians.

Who do you need to forgive today?

And then secondly, ask yourself this question: Who do I need to ask for forgiveness?

We’ve all made mistakes, said things, done things that we wished we hadn’t. We’ve hurt others, we’ve offended them, we’ve wronged them in so many different ways. Who do you need to ask for forgiveness today? Don’t wait for them to come to you. You go to them. You let them know that you’re sorry and you’re going to try to never do that again. I know that there have been many times when I have hurt others. I certainly didn’t mean to. There are times when I’ve hurt them and I didn’t even realize it. And I hope and I pray that I’ll be able to extend the same forgiveness to others that I need in my own life, because I know that’s what God has done for me.

Are you in need of God’s forgiveness today?

If so, let me encourage you to see what Jesus did for you at Calvary, to trust that payment for your sins today, and to receive God’s forgiveness by turning away from your sin and giving yourself to him in the waters of baptism, where you’re cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

As the Bible says in Acts 22:16, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”

Will you not call upon him today in obedience to the gospel and know the cleansing, the salvation, the forgiveness of your sins?

Will you not let us know here at The Truth In Love how we can help you towards heaven? And if you’re one of those who have come to Christ, but for whatever reason you have walked away from him, please come back to him today, and please know that he is always ready and willing to forgive you.

Bring it to God. Be honest about your sin problem, because the Bible says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” 1 John 1:9.

Claim God’s forgiveness today. That’s our prayer. May God bless you.

SINGING>> All hail the power of Jesus’ name, let angels prostrate fall.
Bring forth the royal diadem and crown him Lord of all.
Bring forth the royal diadem and crown him Lord of all.
Oh, that with yonder sacred throng we at his feet may fall.
We’ll join the everlasting song and crown him Lord of all.
We’ll join the everlasting song and crown him Lord of all.

SINGING>> In heavenly armor we’ll enter the land.
The battle belongs to the Lord.
No weapon that’s fashioned against us will stand.
The battle belongs to the Lord.
And we sing glory, honor, power and strength to the Lord.
And we sing glory, honor, power and strength to the Lord.
When the power of darkness comes in like a flood, the battle belongs to the Lord.
He’s raised up a standard, the power of his blood.
The battle belongs to the Lord. And we sing glory, honor, power and strength to the Lord.
We sing glory, honor, power and strength to the Lord. When your enemy presses in hard, do not fear. The battle belongs to the Lord. Take courage, my friend, your redemption is near.
The battle belongs to the Lord. And we sing glory, honor, power and strength to the Lord.
We sing glory, honor, power and strength to the Lord.
We sing glory, honor, power and strength to the Lord.
We sing glory, honor, power and strength to the Lord.

ROBERT >> I want to thank you for watching our program today, and we would really like to hear from you. If you have any questions, comments, or requests, if you would like a personal home Bible study or special prayers, if you would like to order today’s lesson or any other lesson on CD, DVD, or in manuscript form, let me encourage you to write The Truth In Love at P.O. Box 865, Hurst, Texas 76053.

You may e-mail us at requests@ttil.tv.

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And also, please visit our web site at ttil.tv.

Remember, all our materials and services are absolutely free of charge. And we want to thank the many churches of Christ who help support this program and encourage you to visit one of them in your area very soon. Their names will be scrolled on our screen at the end of our program. We just want to do what we can to help us all towards heaven. So let us know how we can help you, and please, join us next time right here on The Truth In Love.

SINGING>> Unto the hills around do I lift up my longing eyes.
Oh, whence for me shall my salvation come, from whence arise?
From God the Lord doth come my certain aid,
from God the Lord whom heaven and earth hath made.
From every evil shall he keep thy soul, from every sin.
Jehovah shall preserve thy going out, thy coming in.
Above thee watching, he whom we adore shall keep thee henceforth,
yea for evermore.

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