This sermon is number 7 in a series of 8
Deeper Healing - Part 7
"Judgement vs Forgiveness"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2016 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
We're going to look tonight at 'Judgement vs Forgiveness'. Now that might have confused you a little, in the sense that many people might think we're referring to the judgement of God against us because of our sins, and maybe forgiveness from God that we experience at salvation - but that's not what we're talking about tonight. What we're talking about is the judgement of others, when we in our hearts make judgements against another person, and the ability - through the grace of God - to offer forgiveness to people who we might feel a right in judging. Now this is a complex subject, and I've said this probably several nights: we're not going to look at it in too much depth, it's impossible to do that, but hopefully you'll get a gist of what the Bible has to say on this subject this evening. But the big question is: to judge, or not to judge? Because, as you read the Bible, you begin to discover that there appears to be contradictory information concerning the issue of judgement. Now we know the Bible doesn't contradict itself, but on a superficial level we can get confused about this subject.
Let me just show you this. We're turning in our Bibles to Matthew chapter 7, to quite a well-known passage of Scripture here in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew chapter 7. We will be looking at several scriptures here, so stay with me as we begin this subject tonight and delve into many biblical passages. Matthew 7 and verse 1: "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye".
This is what Bible scholars call a hyperbole, an exaggeration of the Lord Jesus to prove a point - and it really does, doesn't it? I mean, if I was to go over to Trevor there and I had this plank in my eye, and I would say: 'Trevor, look what you've got in your eye there, look at that speck in your eye, take that out!' - it is ridiculous, isn't it? But it illustrates for us how we can be so judgemental of others in a spoken or unspoken way. If you look, there are two references here: we can look at other people and judge them in our hearts when we have got planks hanging out of our eye; or we can actually take it upon ourselves to step beyond their boundary and reference that speck in their eye, and tell them: 'I can help you with that', with the plank hanging out of our own. That is judgement, and what Jesus teaches here - we'll not go into the whole depths this - but that will come back on you, that's what He says. Now we're not talking about 'karma', we're not talking about 'what goes around comes around', but nevertheless Jesus is saying: 'From others you will be judged, according to how you have judged them'. OK, so others will judge you as you have judged them; but also: God will judge you for how you have judged others, in accordance with how you have judged others. So that's why Jesus says here: 'Don't judge'.
If you turn with me to Romans chapter 2, Paul goes deeper in a sense, or he teases out what Jesus is getting at in verse 1 of chapter 2 of Romans. He says: "Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?". Now Paul was speaking here specifically to religious Jews, and it's interesting that often religious people are folk who think they are right and are just in judging others, but often they are hypocritical - because what they are judging in other people's lives is actually present within their own. Paul is saying here: 'Do you honestly think you're going to get away with this? Judging other people for the things that are in your own life?'.
In Romans chapter 14, if you want to go a few passages further into the epistle, you will see categorically the teaching of Scripture on judgement. Verse 10: 'But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: 'As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God'. So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way'. I think that's pretty clear, isn't it? Paul goes even further, if you turn with me to 1 Corinthians chapter 4, he says that we ought not even to judge ourselves - apart from judging others, we're not meant to judge ourselves. First Corinthians 4 verse 3, Paul says: 'But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know nothing against myself', that's something else, isn't it, 'yet I am not justified by this' - he's saying, 'As far as I know, there is no sin in my life, conscious, wilful sin; and yet I am not justified by that, because there could be something hiding deep within my heart that I don't know about' - 'but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time', that's a good word there for perfectionists or introspective people in our gathering tonight, 'judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God'. Paul is saying: 'I don't waste any time analysing my inner motives, I just try to live a godly life before the Lord and before men, and I'm leaving everything to the day of judgement'. That's interesting, isn't it?
Another very clear passage, if you want to turn to it, is James chapter 4 verses 11 and 12. You might want to just listen to it: 'Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?'. Categorically: you're not meant to be judging your brothers and sisters, that seems clear enough, doesn't it? The problem is there are other scriptures, and the other scriptures - such as John 7:24 - say, Jesus speaking of course, 'Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgement'. Hold on a minute, is this a contradiction? When you look at the epistles, turn with me again to 1 Corinthians 5 - do follow with me if you have your Bible, it's important that you see this - 1 Corinthians 5, just after where we were already reading, verse 1, it seems that Paul exhorts the believers in Corinth to judge. Verse 1: 'It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles; that a man has his father's wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you'. Now watch this: 'For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus'.
Paul is saying: 'There is sin in your church, and you need to judge it. I'm not even there, and I have judged it! You need to deal with it!'. If you look at the end of chapter 5, and look at verse 11, he says: 'But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore 'put away from yourselves the evil person''. Now look at the first couple of verses of chapter 6: 'Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?'. Paul is saying: 'You should be judging matters in the church yourselves, but you're running to the law courts, the secular law courts'. Verse 2: 'Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge?'. Do you see this? Alright? Paul is saying: 'You need to judge and sort out these matters in your ranks that are not pleasing to God, and don't be running to the law courts - you judge and deal with the matter!'.
Now, you ought to be really confused by now - because, on the one hand, Scripture seems to teach 'Do not judge, lest you be judged', and 'However you judge, that's the way you will be judged'; and yet there are several scriptures that tell us we ought to be judging righteously, not according to appearance, but according to the heart. Now, here's how to solve this conundrum, alright? What does 'Judge not' actually mean? Well, Derek Prince puts it very well, he says: 'Judgement is a function of ruling, descending downward from God Himself' - now it's vital that you understand that. Judgement is a function of ruling, descending downward from God Himself. Now, in the Bible, ruling and judging always came together - that's not the way it is in our modern Western society. So what I'm saying is: judges ruled, you look at the book of Judges and you'll see that, judges ruled, and later on rulers judged - but we have separated the government from the judiciary and all the rest - but in Bible terms the two were together. So if you ruled, you also had the responsibility of judging. We know from Scripture that God takes just judgement very seriously, so whether it's in the national government, or whether it's in the church as we have been reading, God wants there to be righteous rule and judgement. He has given authority to certain people to make judgements, He has given those who are responsible to rule the authority to judge. Do you understand? He has given those responsible to rule the authority to judge.
So Hebrews 13 verse 17 teaches us: 'Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you'. It's talking about leaders in the church, and it's basically saying: those with responsibility to rule over you with authority, also are given the responsibility of judging - and they themselves will be judged according to how they have ruled. Are you with me so far? Let me illustrate it very simply: say you give your eldest daughter responsibility to babysit on a night out, you also have to give your eldest daughter authority to rule. Right? If she's got the responsibility, she needs the authority to apply the rules - i.e. what television programmes are they allowed to watch; what time do they have to go to bed; are they allowed any treats and, if so, what are they? Are you with me? It's not enough giving her responsibility, you've got to give her the authority to rule - and that's the way God works, OK? So the government is responsible to judge its citizens; parents, to an extent, are responsible to judge their children; leaders in the church are responsible to judge, under God the Chief Shepherd, responsible to judge the flock. In other words, the principle is: we are to judge what we are responsible for, even ourselves. We are responsible for our behaviour, that's why Paul says: 'Examine yourself, look at your life'. We are responsible for moral standards in our own walk, in our families, and in the church. We are responsible for what we believe, doctrine, and ministries that we get behind. We are meant to responsible, as Paul says, for disputes among believers - so if somebody has something against me, Matthew 18, I'm responsible to judge that issue and go and sort it out with them. Equally, leaders are responsible to judge issues between believers in the church.
But what we are not responsible for is what we are not given authority over to judge. You're not responsible for the final evaluation of anybody's character, even your own. Did you get that? You're not responsible for the final evaluation of anybody's character, even your own. We read it from James chapter 4 verse 12: 'There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?'. The only person that knows our hearts is God. You're responsible for things He has given you authority over, if you're in a ruling position, but you're not responsible for evaluating your own motives, your own character, the final analysis of your whole life or anyone else. So, to put it practically: if we find ourselves speculating in a negative way about a person's motives for doing a thing, or their desires, we're probably judging in an ungodly way. Ungodly judgement can contain an element of the truth, but it lacks balance. Ungodly judgement tends to be harsh and uncompassionate, and often leads us to expect the worst in other people.
Now, I'm going to illustrate this for you tonight very, very practically, to show ways in which we judge in an ungodly way. One very common ungodly judgement is against God. Yes, many of us have made judgements against God. Whether God didn't come through for us at a time, or something happened that we think He ought to have interjected and stopped, and it can be long after we actually made those judgements - they may well be forgotten about - and yet they are still affecting us. Sometimes the earthly fathers we have had, we have superimposed their inadequacies upon God, and we have problems - or maybe other authority figures in our life - and we get problems with God. We make judgements against God. Another ungodly judgement is against ourselves. We tend to focus on how we judge other people, but many of you in this room have looked at the limitations that you've got - and, by the way, you've all got them, we've all got limitations - but you have judged yourself because of them. Do you know something? You should never define yourself only in terms of your limitations, we've all got them but they do not define us. Neither do our failures define us. We're not denying them, we're not ignoring them, or trying to be something we know we are not, but what we are stating is: that is not the way we ought to find our identity. So often we judge ourselves: 'I'm not athletic', or 'I'm not good-looking', or 'I'm not clever', or whatever - and we condemn ourselves because of that.
Another ungodly judgement is the judgement of pastors upon their people. Now this is not just in legalistic types of circles, although that does happen, but it's an awful thing to hear a pastor run down his flock, or members of his flock. I've probably done it, it has to be said. It's a very easy thing to do, it's not the easiest job in the world being a pastor - and yet it is an ungodly judgement to do that. Now we're not talking about genuinely discussing legitimate problems. Remember, when you're given a responsibility to rule, as God has given pastors and elders to rule over the flock, there is a necessity to judge between issues - but that's not the same as ungodly judgement. Equally, people can judge their pastors, or their ministers, or their leaders with ungodly judgement. Now, don't misunderstand me: pastors and leaders are not above contradiction, and this whole 'Touch not the Lord's anointed' is a copout, OK? We are not above contradiction, but if you've got serious issues - that's a vital term, serious issues - with leadership, there are accepted biblical procedures for you to go through, that you ought to be prepared to pursue if the matter warrants it. If it doesn't, shut up! It's as basic as that. If there is an issue, deal with it biblically; if there is not, pray for your leaders. Have you ever had roast pastor for Sunday lunch? Have you? Carved him up, discussed slanderously leaders in your church? Do you know something, I believe very much in the spiritual gift of discernment - but, you know, people who maybe have that gift, it's very easily lapsed into criticism when you're in the flesh. Maybe God's Spirit shows you something that is deficient within your leaders, or something that's just not right, or something that is going wrong - do you know why God is showing you that? He might be asking you to go and do something about it through biblical procedures, but more often than not, He's asking you to intercede on behalf of that person or that particular issue. But when you lapse into the flesh, what do you do? You don't pray about it, but you talk about it. Maybe you do have the gift of discernment, but make sure that fine line between discernment and a critical spirit is not crossed by you. It's very dangerous.
So we can make ungodly judgements against God, ourselves, pastors make them of their people, people of their pastors and leaders - but another very common people group that we make judgements about, which is probably the most popular, is family. Right at the top would be our spouses, if we are married. Now I haven't got time to go into this one, but whether it's the wife of a husband, or a husband of a wife - take, for instance, a husband judging his wife; maybe in one particular negative area, but it can be the case that the husband will allow that perception of her to colour every other aspect of her character. He forgets about the positive qualities, and becomes obsessed with her negative trait. A further dangerous step that moves on from that is that he, or she, might look at other spouses, other couples, and think: 'I wish he was like that', or 'I wish she was like her'. That's very, very dangerous, the enemy will use that, potentially, for adultery. We can so easily judge our spouses.
Then, of course, maybe one of the most common of all is parents judging their children. How do you do that? Well, there are a thousand different ways we can do that, but even innocent ways. We might say: 'Well, our eldest child is the smart one', we mightn't articulate that, but that might be what we think; or 'Our youngest child is the fit one' - and we're not saying that you ignore realities, but we're saying we ought not to judge. Maybe some have said even more strongly: 'You'll never be this', or 'You'll never be that', which is a judgement not only on their character, but upon their future. Of course, we're all familiar with the judgement of children on parents, the blame game. I honestly believe that, because we emphasise so much in healing and deliverance ministry upon the need to forgive, that we can often fall into the trap of blaming our parents. Now, there is no doubt about it, that our parents are guilty for a lot of things that go down in our lives, but we've got to keep the biblical balance in all of this teaching. Ephesians chapter 6 and verse 2 is very clear: ''Honour your father and mother', which is the first commandment with promise' - it is one of the Ten Commandments, and of course the promise within the commandment in Exodus 20 and verse 12 is: 'Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you'. So there is a connection, Paul is saying, with the command and the promise: honour your father and your mother, and the promise is that you'll live long on the land. It's critical to this concept of judgement: when we do not honour our parents, when we make hard judgements upon them, God is saying we actually close the door to many blessings that God desires to shower upon us as His children. We close the door to many blessings, not just longevity, but many other blessings He wants us to have. But also, conversely, we open the door of negative consequence upon ourselves.
Let me illustrate this to you, for instance: if you've got a Mum or Dad and they are not exemplary, and you make a vow in the place of judgement against them that sounds like this, 'I will never ever be like you', or 'If I ever have children I will never treat my children like you treated me' - OK? Do you follow? When you make those vows from a place of judgement, those can be deeply damaging. In fact, what actually may happen is: the thing that you have vowed never to happen, does happen - OK? You don't want to become like your mother, perhaps, but often this can take place - where the very thing that you have detested in a parent, you start manifesting yourself. Why is that? Here's one reason perhaps: when we make those vows, 'I'll never do this', 'I'll never be like that', in the place of judgement, that is an act of the flesh. It is an act of the flesh that is actually contrary to the Holy Spirit's power changing you into what He wants you to be, OK? 'That which is of the flesh is flesh, that which is of the Spirit is spirit'. So if you align yourself with the flesh, that's enemy territory, and if you make a vow in judgement in the flesh, the enemy can make it happen the other way round. It can actually be like a sort of self-fulfilling thing. Do you see how serious this is? It's a huge subject, isn't it? The danger of making judgements. The Lord says it will come back at you. Judge not that you be not judged.
Another huge area of judgements is that of generalising judgement, generalising judgement. Let me explain myself: it begins with a simple judgement against another person. So maybe you have an abusive parent, or an unfaithful husband or wife, or an offensive person of a different race, nationality, or religion; and then based on that one, or couple of negative experiences with those people, you judge the larger people group because of that one or two people. So then the judgement becomes: 'All parents stink', or 'All men are bad', or 'All Asian people', or whatever nationality or ethnicity, 'All of them'. What it is is stereotyping due to prejudice, but it is coming from a judgement, and then from it may well evolve an expectation, so that you expect - because all men are bad - you expect that when you meet a man, or begin maybe to explore a relationship with a man, you expect it to be a bad experience; and, lo and behold, it becomes bad because you have put faith in that belief, that stronghold of the mind that the enemy is very obliging in fulfilling. Again, it's almost self-fulfilling - are you with me? Do you see what a vast subject this is, of judgement?
There are areas that God gives certain people responsibility of authority over to judge, but what we are not meant to judge is the motives, or the heart, or a life evaluation of another person. You're not meant to judge what you don't have authority over. Judgements against God are perilous, against ourselves, against our leaders, against our spouses, against our parents, against our children, against whole swathes of people groups, political or religious persuasions - it's ungodly judgement.
So the question begs: are you here tonight, and you are caught in one of those aforementioned types of judgement or another? You realise now, and maybe you can even identify how this is kind of reversing against you, and revisiting you - the very thing that you feared has come upon you, having done all in your power to avoid it. You're realising that it's a consequence of judgement. So, if you're caught in judgement, and probably bitterness as well - what is the answer? Well, I hope you're starting to see, even through this talk, but right throughout the scriptures, that God has established certain laws in the universe. He has established natural laws and spiritual laws. Now, man-made laws can at times be broken without any consequence, but God's laws cannot. Whenever you break His laws, there is always fallout. Take gravity, for instance, you may want to fly, you can try and jump off a building if you like, wave your arms, but you will die - OK? Because the law of gravity is: what goes up must come down. You say: 'Well, what about aeroplanes?'. Well, that's the law of aerodynamics, and the law of aerodynamics overcomes - it doesn't cancel out, as it were, or deny, or break the law of gravity - it is a stronger force, a stronger law that overcomes it.
Now that reflects - all these unchangeable laws in nature actually reflect the character of our Creator. In the spiritual realm, and we're going to look at this in great depth next month, bad choices bring curse, good choices bring blessing. It's as simple as that. Here I'm going to share with you in the rest of our time one divine law of blessing, and it's this: forgive and you will know forgiveness. Forgive and you will know forgiveness. If you want to get out of the entrapment of the judgement cycle, you need to express forgiveness to know forgiveness. Jesus taught this in His prayer, we call it The Lord's Prayer, Matthew 6:12: 'Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors'. How many times do we pray that, but do we actually do it? Now, the Lord was teaching the disciples how to pray, and of course the disciples wanted their sins forgiven - of course, anybody with any sense would want that as well - but a cursory reading of the gospels will show you that the disciples struggled with the idea of forgiving one another. It's OK for me to get my sins wiped clean, but do I have to forgive other people? So Jesus had to reiterate this teaching in the very same passage of Scripture in chapter 6 verses 14 and 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 your trespasses'. He wants them to get the message. Later on in Matthew 18, quite a number of chapters after that, Peter asks the Lord again: 'How often do I need to forgive someone who has offended me?'. He thought he was being very overgenerous by saying: 'Lord, seven, the figure 7, would that be enough?'. Seven is the number of completion and perfection often in the Bible, he thinks this is it, seven must be the number of times! What does Jesus say? 'Peter, seventy times seven'. Now what is seventy sevens? 70x7 is 490. Now what did Jesus mean? At 491 can you deck the person, or take them to court? That's not what Jesus meant. What He meant is: 'Peter, stop counting and keep on forgiving! There ought to be no limit to your forgiveness!'.
Now here is the spiritual law that you need to grasp. We are, all of us, in danger of judging, if we are not at this present moment caught in it. Here is the law that Jesus enshrined: if we want to know the continuous blessing of God upon our lives, then we have to continually be forgiving others. Did you get it? If we want to know God's continuous blessing, we have to continuously be blessing others with forgiveness and pardon. Otherwise, effectively we are asking God to forgive us, and when we are asking God to forgive us for our sins, we are asking Him to do something we're not prepared to do for others. Do you know what that is called? Hypocrisy. We're asking God to forgive us, when we won't forgive others. We become trapped in our own hypocrisy, with grave spiritual and personal consequences.
Now Jesus, to illustrate this to Peter in Matthew 18, told the parable of the unforgiving servant. A very, very quick summary of that is: there is a guy who owed the King an awful lot of money, and the King is going to send him to prison until he has paid the full amount. He's going to get in real trouble with his family and everything, and he begs and begs; and the King has compassion upon him, and the King says: 'Look, I'm going to wipe the slate clean, you're forgiven, your debt is cleared, away you go!'. That fellow, that owed such a great debt, goes out and he bumps into a mate of his who owed him a small debt. He grabs him by the throat, demands his debt, that fellow begs him to be let off and he won't allow it. He throws him in jail until he pays every last farthing. The King hears about the hypocrisy of the unforgiving servant who was cleared such a large debt, but wouldn't forgive a small debt, and the King says: 'No, I'm not having that, he's going to jail! He's going to jail! He's going to get his just deserts!'. Just hear the conclusion of the Lord Jesus Christ about this matter, He says: 'His master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses'. Is that in the New Testament? Yes, it is. Along with Matthew 6, both those verses that we cited in the Lord's Prayer, verse 5 and verses 14 to 15, they're all there, and many many more. We can try and fudge these scriptures, but what Jesus is actually teaching here: 'My Heavenly Father will hand you over to torturers if you do not forgive those who offend you from the heart'. If unforgiveness is in your heart, you will never know true freedom.
Some of you, I believe, here tonight, are in the torture chamber of an unforgiving spirit. Jesus said unforgiving people would be given over to the torturers, and I believe that these are actually tormenting spirits, tormenting spirits that will hold you in the bondage of your bitterness, that will manipulate your mind and your emotions because you will not give over your offence to God, allow Him to deal with it, and be healed. Do you realise that our reactions to our offenders can do as much harm to us, if not more, as the original offence? Did you hear what I said? Our response to how others hurt us can actually do more harm than the original incident, because our own bitterness and unforgiveness can imprison us and torture us. I have to say to you: some of the most bitter, twisted, tormented people I have ever met are Christians who have got chips on their shoulder. You see, Jesus is teaching that there are consequences for conscious unforgiveness. So if you have got something against someone in your heart tonight, and it's not just a hurt - we're all hurt from one time or another - but an actual judgement, you're in the bondage of bitterness, you've got resentment in your spirit toward another, Jesus says there are grave consequences of that and you will certainly not be knowing the fullness of the blessing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Can I go a step further? You might be aware of issues that you have with other people, but you could be here tonight and there are unconscious issues where you have made judgements against others. Maybe people have hurt you, and it's deeply hidden, it has been suppressed and buried, you're unaware of it, you're oblivious to the effects. Let me seek to diagnose if that might be your condition. Peter Horrobin wrote a book 'Forgiveness: God's Master Key For Deliverance', and he uses an analogy in that book about our lives being like buildings with many rooms. Each room contains memories of important events in our life. Some of the rooms have the doors wide open, we can happily enjoy those memories, we can walk in and out and reminisce. Other doors are closed and even locked because there is pain associated with those memories behind the door. There are rooms named 'Trauma', 'Rejection', 'Betrayal', 'Abuse', 'Disloyalty', 'Addictions', 'Accidents', 'Divorce', 'Mistakes'. Because we don't know how to resolve these painful memories, we lock the door and throw away the key. Maybe we conceive that these are forgotten now, we have moved on. But Peter Horrobin says as the years go by it gets harder to cover up the hurt inside. Often what happens is: the mess on inside starts to seep under the locked doors. You try to cover it up, you try to carry on as if nothing is happening, but everybody can see the mess, the cracks are showing, you're going to pieces. Often what happens is that the mess on the inside seeps out.
Some people, maybe even in this meeting tonight, have so many locked doors that they have very little living space left. Perhaps you know that things need to be sorted, and they can only be sorted if you go into those rooms and clear up the mess, but you don't know how to get in. The problem is: you've locked the door and maybe thrown away the key. Well, the good news tonight is that Jesus has the master key to get into those rooms, and it is the master key of forgiveness. You don't have to go into that room on your own. In fact, Jesus will go into that room with you, He will go in before you, He will clean up the mess - but you've got to use the key. I don't know whether the Holy Spirit, as you've been here tonight, already has been delineating to you names and events, historic incidents in your life where you have offence, where you have judged others. Would you be prepared, this evening, to take that master key of forgiveness and work your way down that list? You need to! If you haven't seen it already, there are grave consequences for not dealing with it. In fact, Satan, the Bible says, will get advantage of us - 2 Corinthians 2:10-11. The person we read about in 1 Corinthians who had committed gross sexual immorality, they put him out, he was disciplined by being put out, but now he had repented and he really was the genuine ticket. He had repented and he wanted to come back into the church, and they wouldn't let him into the church, they wouldn't forgive him. They had judged him, but they wouldn't forgive him. So Paul says: 'I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ' - you remember he said he had judged that one, and he had the authority to do that as a leader in the church, but now he was forgiving that one - 'lest Satan should take advantage of us', literally it means 'outwit, outsmart, overreach' us. That is what happens when we are in an ungodly judgement and we won't forgive: Satan outwits, overreaches, and outsmarts us - for we are not ignorant of his devices, his schemes, intentions, and designs... but, you see, we are so often. We think we can harbour hatred in our hearts - and that's not too strong a term at times - we think we can do that without consequence, but Scripture teaches the contrary.
So do you have your list? I remember one of the very first ministry sessions I ever had in a private capacity with someone in healing prayer. They had a very long list, and as we began to pray down them, they had like a stoppage in their speech. They couldn't. I thought, I didn't know whether it was something demonic was going on or what, but it wasn't. The person then looked up at me and said: 'David, how can I forgive these people when I can't even forgive myself?'. Some of you need to put yourself at the top of the list of the people you need to forgive. Now the terms we are using here - we don't forgive ourselves, God forgives us - what I'm talking about is letting yourself of the hook, stop holding yourself under judgement for something you did, a skeleton in the cupboard, some mistake that you made, and you haven't been able to get over it, and you need to release yourself tonight into the freedom of God's forgiveness. You might confess and sing and pray about the cross and the power of the blood and all the rest, it's time for you to experience it in reality and stop holding yourself under condemnation! Stop doing the devil's work for him!
Some of you, as I've mentioned already, need to put God somewhere near the top of the list, because you've got issues with God. Now, by the way, there are mysteries that I can't explain. I can't explain all your pain, all the turmoil, why things went down the way they did in your experience - I can't. What I do know is: often the devil does things, and God gets blamed on it. I do know that much. The thief is the one who comes to steal, kill, and destroy, Jesus came to give us life. God did not originate sin, and fallenness, and death, and all the rest. There are mysteries, and I can't explain every happenstance, but you need to come to God tonight and talk to Him about the controversy that is in your heart with Him.
Maybe the other people who are on the list, you're struggling with the concept of forgiveness because you're thinking: 'But they don't deserve it!". That's right, they don't! Just the way you don't deserve to be forgiven either! They still persist in that behaviour, that can be a tricky one - you know, if this is a live situation, if the offence is being perpetuated. It's different if it's an historical event away back in the past, done and dusted - it can be very grievous, but nevertheless if the behaviour is constantly being repeated... but is that not what Jesus said? For Peter's own good He says: 'Peter, stop counting, keep forgiving!'. Maybe you think: 'Well, they're dead and gone, how can I forgive them?'. Well, you can still forgive them, because it's still affecting you in the present. You see, we need to realise - and this is not selfish - but we are not forgiving people primarily for their sake, it's for your sake, so that you can enjoy an open heaven above you, knowing God's forgiveness, knowing all the blessings that come to you in the new covenant. You see, you need to be free, that's why you need to forgive. Until you do, you're still going to have the hold of that other person on you. Now this is very strong terminology I'm going to use, but it brings home what you need to understand: that person is still abusing you, still misusing you and mistreating you if you won't forgive them. They've still got a hold, you could still be hooked to that memory, chained to the past.
Now listen, just in these closing moments, what I want to do is take a bit of time to clear up some misunderstandings about what forgiveness is and what forgiveness isn't. Neil Anderson's 'Steps to Freedom' has been very helpful to me in my ministry along these lines, and if you know those you'll hear some of that coming through. The first thing that you need to understand is: forgiveness does not mean forgetting. You know that quip 'Forgive and forget', it's garbage, absolute nonsense. You cannot forget deep, hurtful offences in your life. Even God can't change the past - maybe you don't agree with that. But, you see, God has set time in motion, and this is a law that He has chosen to enshrine, He doesn't change the past. What He does is, He heals the past, He redeems the past - but for some of us, our problem is that we're trying to bury the past, we're trying to forget it and erase it from our psyche, and we can't do it! What we need to do is face the past, but face it with Him; then He will restore to us the years that the locusts have eaten. Sticking your head in the sand is not an option, being in denial, repressing issues is not an option.
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. Second thing: forgiveness means living with the consequences of other people's sin. Now let me be categorically clear: I'm not talking about being irresponsible with your own welfare, I'm not talking about exposing your children carelessly to danger, or yourself. You ought not to tolerate sin or abuse, that's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is: whether we like it or not, we do have to live with the consequences of what other people do. That's the way the universe is made, no man is an island. So if someone chooses to do something it can affect you, and you can't always control that or save yourself. The only choice you really have is whether you will do so in the bondage of bitterness or in the freedom of forgiveness, whether you react one way or the other. No one ever genuinely forgave without bearing suffering and pain of another person's sin. It figures, doesn't it? You would have nothing to forgive if it wasn't painful or hurtful. We, as Christians, should know this of all people because that's what the cross is all about, isn't it?
Throughout the years (and I'm going to be a wee bit political here), throughout the years there was a debate went on here in Northern Ireland that we cannot forgive unrepentant people - do you remember that one? People will say, even in this whole area of teaching, we have to wait until a person is sorry in order to forgive them. 'Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing' - did Jesus wait until they were repentant or remorseful before He forgave? You might say: 'But where is the justice there?'. Well, the justice is right where it should be: with God, not with us. You see, we can't dispense justice because we are finite, we are partial, and that's why Scripture says in Romans 12:19 in the New Living Translation: 'Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath. For it is written, 'It is mine to avenge, I will repay', says the Lord'. You might retort: 'But you don't know what they did to me, David. It's all right you standing up there talking this way, you don't what they did to me!'. Correct! I don't know, but Jesus does know, God the Father does know, the Judge of Heaven knows. You say: 'But practically, how does that work?'. Well, 1 Peter 2:23, again in the New Living Translation, speaking of how Jesus dealt with the wrong offences against Him: 'He did not retaliate when He was insulted, nor threaten revenge went He suffered. He left His case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly'.
Now this is deep stuff, because there on the cross when Jesus said: 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do' - does that mean every one of those Roman soldiers went to heaven when they died? Is that what it meant? Of course that's not what it meant. So if Jesus was forgiving someone, does that not mean their sins are forgiven? Listen, Jesus was doing this for Himself. What do you mean? Jesus knew what it was to suffer like no other, OK? So don't put any theological sugar-coating on this, 'Oh, He was the Son of God, He's perfect', and all that. He was the Son of God, and He was perfect, but He was man hanging on a cross being killed. I know that He gave His life, but He's being put to death, He's being executed, people are harming Him, people are spitting on Him, people are humiliating and abusing Him. So He knows, as a man before God, that the only way to deal with offences is to give it up to God. The only way to be free from offence is to get out of the way, not retaliate, leave room for the wrath of God, and leave it in God's hands who always judges fairly. That's why He said: 'Father, forgive them', because He wasn't going to let bitterness or resentment get a hold of Him. Do you see how we deal with it, practically? That means if someone perpetuates an offence, as they continue to offend you and hurt you, you've got to ask God for grace to continually offer that offence up to God, to continually forgive them moment by moment. That's not easy, nobody said it was easy, Calvary wasn't easy - but it's necessary for you to be free.
A third thing - it doesn't mean forgetting, living with the consequences of others sin - thirdly: choosing not to hold someone's sin against them. The Greek word for 'forgive' is 'aphiemi', which literally means 'to let go of a debt by not demanding it', let go of a debt by not demanding it - like the King of the unforgiving servant in that parable. In other words, letting a person off your hook, keeping no record of their wrong, placing them in God's hands - so they're not getting away with it, don't think that - you're taking them off your hook, but you're putting them on God's. God will deal with it, but you're choosing not to hold their sin against them any more. Now you might object, if you're human, by saying: 'But I just don't feel like doing that'. That would be honest, wouldn't it? Because who is hurting deeply, and at the same moment feels like forgiving the person that hurt them? No one. So you're normal if you don't feel like forgiving. But, you see, here is the fourth point: it's a decision of your will, it's not a feeling at all. If you wait until you feel like it, you're never going to forgive anybody. You must choose to forgive.
Now, here's how it works in the spiritual realm. Once you choose to forgive, and you declare the forgiveness, do you know what happens? Satan loses power over you in that particular area, and God will begin to heal your damaged emotions. That means that the feelings, the right feelings might come later, it might be after a period of time - but it will certainly never happen until you choose to forgive. Some of you may well have heard of Corrie Ten Boom, and read some of her writings, or watched 'No Hiding Place' the movie. She was well known for her family's work in preserving lives, over 800 Jews pursued by the Nazis in World War II. Four of her own family gave their lives for this project. Her sister, Betsy, died just before the end of the war in Ravensbruck Death Camp. Corrie Ten Boom learned in Ravensbruck these words, and I'm quoting her: 'There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still'. Now, if I said that, that wouldn't mean too much, but when she is saying it it means a lot. Listen to something else she said: 'God will give us the love to be able to forgive our enemies'. I'd vote for her if she was up for election here! Here's the most profound in the context of what we're doing tonight, listen: 'Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart'. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. In other words, forget about your feelings, forget about them! Choose to forgive.
Now, that being said, and this is not a contradiction, I will explain myself: forgiveness must touch the heart for healing to come. Now maybe that really does confuse you, but let's clear up the apparent contradiction. When you choose to forgive, as an act of your will, do you know what often happens? The emotions of the hurt come to the surface, that's what we're talking about - the pain and the heartache - and you ought not to suppress that. Too often we bury those emotions because we are afraid of losing control or composure, especially we men - but in that moment of the act of forgiveness, choosing over our emotions, sometimes that pain comes up. It is Jesus' way of just drawing it out of us and taking it away, because He took it into Himself on the cross. But then what do we do? We push it down again, and we say: 'Jesus, You're not getting at that! That's mine!'.
Will you take these steps tonight in a few moments, will you be prepared to allow God to bring painful memories to the surface in order to get free of them? Are you ready to acknowledge how you feel toward those who have hurt you, honestly? You see, it's only when this is done from the heart that God can begin to heal, He can change you from the inside out. Many of us have hearts like this - do you know what that is? A borehole on the ice, and many of our hearts are like reservoirs of tears covered in a layer of ice. The Lord Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit tonight, if you take the step of obedience to forgive, and to break judgements that you have made, renounce those and repent of them against other people, He wants to bore into that ice, and He wants to allow that little spring of warm salt tears to come up. Will you let Him? Because that's the process of healing: forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you - that our mandate. If you want to be a Christian, that's the way we have to live. The question is tonight: will you take that step? I believe very very strongly, and I know this is a heavy message, a lot to take in, but I believe very strongly that God has put His finger on stuff in your life tonight. I believe that this could be your Rubicon, this could be your breakthrough, this could be the night that you've been waiting for all your life. You've never known what's wrong, you've never known why you've been held back, you've never known why the things you hated in your father you see in yourself, in your relationship with your children - or put the analogies in there as it applies. But now you know: you have made judgements, you have got bitterness or resentment. I'm not underestimating what you've gone through in your life, or what abuse you've been party to, but you need to be free tonight.
I've got some prayers we're going to pray just now. I would like you, if you feel ready, to walk through this. I'm going to explain this before we pray it, so follow with me. 'Heavenly Father, You know my pain' - OK, so we are being real about how hurt we are - 'You know how much so-and-so's words and actions hurt me. I do not come to justify what they did', sometimes we do that with parents, sometimes we try and justify what they did, we try and explain it because - if we are the older generation in particular - 'Honour your father and your mother', that causes us to fear, and shut down, and be in denial about what they actually did. It's not honouring to them to lie about what they did. If they hurt you, if they harmed you, if they deprived you in any way, let's just be real about it. 'I do not come to justify what they did, but to forgive them for it. I now open my wounded and angry heart before You'. Two sessions ago wasn't it, we talked about anger, you can get the recordings: anger is not sin - it's what we do with the anger that can be sinful. God wants you to express that anger to Him and get rid of it. 'I open my wounded and angry heart before You, and I release to You all the negative feelings, the anger and the bitterness that I feel toward so-and-so. I also release any judgements that I have made against a person or persons, as well as my right to revenge' - that's a very hard thing to let go of. We have no right to revenge, but we perceive a right for our pound of flesh, justice. Would you release that right to revenge? 'I know that only You have the right to judge, and that You will do it justly'. Do you think He'll do a good enough job to leave it in His hands? 'I also ask You to come now and fill my heart. Where there has been bitterness, fill me with love. Where there has been turmoil, fill me with peace. Where there has been sadness, fill me with joy. I choose to forgive so-and-so for their words and actions, give me strength to walk in forgiveness toward them each day while You bring to completion Your healing work in me'.
So that's for the perpetual offences, this next part is very important for the spiritual dimension of all this. 'In the name of Jesus my Lord, I break the power of the judgement I made against... both in my life and in theirs. Also in the name of the Lord Jesus, I break the power of any judgement made against me'. So if a person has made a judgement against you, in the name of Jesus break the power. 'Namely that I' - what is the judgement they made against you? That you're stupid, or you would never amount to anything, or that you're ugly, or whatever, whatever it was that they judged you for. 'I ask You to break all ungodly ties between me and' - the person you have judged or who has judged you - 'I now declare in the heavenlies that the power of this judgement is broken, and that no spiritual powers may use it against them or against me'. Now that's deep stuff, but it's necessary. Some of you here tonight may have tried doing this many many times, and you've never been able to break through. Maybe it's because of a lack of understanding like you've gotten tonight, but it could be that you need the healing of memories, you need somebody to pray with you over those memories that have power over you. We can deal with that afterwards if that's the case, we maybe will together in a moment to - but initially, don't be discouraged, don't lose hope, pray through this prayer, believe God for a break through tonight. I really believe there are going to be huge breakthroughs, OK?
Will you pray it with me? Only if you want to and only if you mean it, let's pray together: 'Heavenly Father, You know my pain. You know how much' - you put the word in, you put the name in - 'their words and actions hurt me. I do not come to justify what they did, but to forgive them for it. I now open my wounded and angry heart before You. I release to You all the negative feelings, the anger and the bitterness that I feel toward.... I also release any judgements that I have made against... as well as my right to revenge. I know that only You have the right to judge, and that You will do it justly. I also ask You to come now and fill my heart. Where there has been bitterness, fill me with love. Where there has been turmoil, fill me with peace. Where there has been sadness, fill me with joy. I choose to forgive... for their words and actions. Give me strength to walk in forgiveness toward them each day, while You bring to completion Your healing work in me. In the name of Jesus my Lord, I break the power of my judgement I have made against... both in my life and in there is. Also in the name of the Lord Jesus, I break the power of any judgement made against me by' - and you might want to name that judgement, what they pronounced over you. Let's continue: 'I ask You to break all ungodly ties between me and... '. Let's stand together before we say this last part, let's stand together. We're going to declare that we are free from the power of judgement, it is broken, no spiritual powers may use it against us or against these other people. Are you ready? 'I now declare in the heavenlies that the power of this judgement is broken, and that no spiritual powers may use it against me or against them'.
If you have resentment toward God, you might want to say something along the lines: 'Lord, I'm sorry for blaming You for the bad things that have happened in my life', or for the good things that haven't happened, or whatever, 'I know that You don't want to harm me, please forgive me'. If you have held yourself in justice because of something that you've done that you haven't forgiven yourself for, you might want to pray: 'Lord, I now release myself into the freedom of Your forgiveness. I thank You that at the cross I am cleansed, I am pure'. Receive it, embrace it with both arms, embrace in your heart that forgiveness, completely as yours.
I'm just going to pray for the people that prayed this prayer right now: Father, I want to thank You for what You've been doing tonight. I thank You that the godly counsel of the mind and heart of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has been displayed here tonight. It's a vast subject, but Lord, I want to thank You that it has been made clear enough for people to know where they should be judging, and what they should not be judging. Lord, I pray that those ungodly judgements that You have uncovered, that we have been guilty of, Lord, that we will receive Your forgiveness for that - but that You, right now Lord, would release the freedom of Your forgiveness upon every person, having forgiven others who have offended or wronged them. Lord, for those who have genuinely and honestly taken that step with integrity, I thank You that all heaven comes behind them tonight. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I thank You that You forgive them, and I command every tormenting, torturing spirit of bitterness, unforgiveness, resentment, ungodly wrath, anger, hatred, spirits of judgement, spirits of legalism - I command you to leave in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ right now, leave the vessels of the Lord, leave the temples of the Holy Spirit. Every spirit of condemnation and accusation, every spirit of the devil the accuser, I renounce you in the name of Christ, and I command you to go in Jesus' name. We cut the soul ties with anybody who has judged these people, or they have judged. We break the power of any self-fulfilling act. We break the power of judgement. We break any curse that came into being because of acts of judgement or unforgiveness. Enemy, I give you your marching orders now in the name of the Lord Jesus, and I command every spirit that does not confess Jesus as Lord, who has people bound in bitterness, locked into their own hypocrisy, I command you to leave now in the name of the Lord Jesus. I command spirits of hurt and pain to go, all manner of spirits that have caused deep wounding, I command you to go in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Lord Jesus, would You just clear people completely of the enemy's encroachments, of his bondage, of everything that would come against them, mind, body, soul, and spirit. Lord, release them now in the wonderful name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank You, Lord Jesus. Thank You, Lord Jesus. Lord, I pray for deep healing now in hearts where there is hurt, where there has been abuse, where there has been offence, where there has been rejection, where people have been misused and mistreated. Lord, I pray that You will come and minister where there have been father wounds and mother flaws, and, Lord, when we have failed toward our own children, and we are guilty, Lord, would You bring healing, Lord, would You bring deep, deep, significant healing. Lord, if anybody is caught in any experience in the past, would You release them, spirit and soul, and bring them into the present, that You will take all those fragments and fractures and You will reunite them together in people right now. Lord, I pray, bring healing to minds and souls, I pray Lord now that You will even touch bodies. Lord, if there is anybody who is in some physical way wizened up because of bitterness, if there are pains in their body because of bitterness, if there is weakness or fatigue because of bitterness, Lord, would You heal them now in the name of the Lord Jesus. If there is anything coming from the source of judgement or unforgiveness, I speak healing to bodies, minds, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Be healed in Jesus' name. Lord, pour in Your healing, anointing, right now'.
If you're not a Christian tonight, you need to be right with God, you need to be born again. You need to trust Jesus as your Saviour - will you do that tonight? Will you admit your sin, ask Jesus to save you, because He died for you? If you need help with that, come and seek us out. If you're a backslider, come back to the Lord tonight, get the help that you need. I'm going to pray, we're going to sing, then you're free to go. There is a deep work that is going on here tonight, really deep work. Can I just say, listen - and I often am led to this at the end of the night - this is what Ireland needs, this is the Gospel that Ireland needs. Now I have not suffer gravely through the Troubles, I lived through them, and I witnessed things. I went to school in the centre of Belfast, there were bomb scares regularly, our windows were blown out. I had family members in the security forces and so on - but thankfully there wasn't huge tragedy but came to our home. I don't underestimate what anybody has gone through, but listen: if we're going to be free, if we're going to know revival and healing for our whole land, we've got to know this forgiveness and we've got to stop judging one another. It's big, isn't it? We have a culture of offence in our land, a culture of offence. We put memorials up to how we have been offended over the years. We engrain them within our psyche, and we pass them on to succeeding generations. That cycle needs to be broken - will we be the ones that will break it for our children and our children's children?
Father, thank You that what we are hearing tonight goes so deep and so broad across so many strata of spiritual dimensions, and even in our nation Lord. It's unreal. We pray that this recording will go to places we would not even have believed possible, we pray that there will be great knock-on effects. Lord we need - not underestimating the pain that people have gone through through the years here - but Lord we need grace to forgive, and as the church we need to lead the way. We have not, and we ask forgiveness, Lord, because if anything we have given a bad example of how to hold offence and how to judge people. Lord, forgive us, forgive me for when I have judged people, and am still judging people. Lord, forgive me, teach me, put a watch upon my mouth, purify my heart Lord. Forgive me, and help us Lord, to forgive one another as God in Christ has forgiven us. Thank You for this evening, thank You that the cross is the great leveller for us all. When we see Him naked, hanging between heaven and earth, and off His lips roll those words: 'Forgive, forgive' - how dare any of us stick our noses in the air in offence or in pride, when He forgave so much. Thank You, Jesus.
God bless you.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Stables in Enniskillen by David Legge. It was transcribed from the seventh recording in his 'Deeper Healing' series, entitled "Judgement vs Forgiveness" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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