Following, Forgiving and Making Things Right


It can be difficult to recognize our own pain, or the pain of those that we're close to. Though ultimately we come to a place where we grow tired of leaning on our own understanding and being a slave to our feelings, reasoning and impulses. But because Christ forgave us, we can come to a place where we can reconcile and take responsibility for our sins, and through His grace receive the courage to proactively work to restore what our sins have destroyed.

Todd WagnerFeb 2, 2014Luke 4:18-19; Mark 8:34-36; Ephesians 4:32 - 5:1; Psalms 94:1-11

God loves you, and he wants to set you free. Let's pray together.

Father, would you help us this morning, as we come in here strapped into our bondage of hate of self and of others for what they've done to us, our hatred of you because we don't understand how you could have allowed the things that happen to us to have happened, a hatred of life so much so that we just want it to end or we just limp through it without the joy you say should mark your people? Lord, I pray you would use our short time together today to set us free. We thank you that you love us. Amen.

Sometimes when you watch things like that it's so personal and it's just difficult to see the pain, and not just up here on stage but to recognize the pain is ours or those who you're close to. We're in the middle of a series where we're talking about a God who wants to set you free. We want to let you know something. The church does not farm out recovery and rescue. We believe this is where it can happen. We believe we are people who represent the love of God who came to set you free.

In Luke, chapter 4, you have Jesus revealing his purpose in coming here and living on this earth. Luke 4 says, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."

That is why he has come, and I believe it's why he's drawn you here today, to help you to understand that for the very first time or to remind you what has happened to you so you can go and love others who are bound by hatred, fear, and sin. There are three characteristics of people who get well.

They know God is good and they admit they are not, they acknowledge they don't have in themselves the means and the strength to break themselves free from what they are trapped in, and they dare to believe there is a God who is there to care for them. They admit, they believe, and then they commit to that God to follow him in all of his ways.

I want to read you a story. It really sets us up for what we're going to focus on today as we move forward basically on the steps God has given us to walk in the freedom he intends. The story goes like this. It was written by a sweet little nurse named Sue Kidd. She said, "The hospital was unusually quiet that bleak January evening. Quiet and still like the air before a storm.

I stood in the nurses' station on the seventh floor, and I glanced at the clock. It was 9:00 p.m. I threw a stethoscope around my neck and headed for room 712, the last room on the hall. Room 712 had a new patient, Mr. Williams, a man all alone, a man with no one there with him, and strangely silent about who might come.

As I entered the room, Mr. Williams looked up eagerly, but he dropped his eyes when he saw it was only me, his nurse. I pressed the stethoscope over his chest and listened. Strong, slow, even beating was there. Just what I wanted to hear. We could see the little indication he had suffered a slight heart attack just a few hours earlier. He looked up from his starched white bed. 'Nurse, would you…?' He hesitated. Tears filled his eyes.

Once before, he had started to ask me a question but had changed his mind, and he did it again. I touched his hand not saying a word but just waiting. He brushed away a tear. 'Would you call my daughter? Would you tell her I had a heart attack, a slight one? You see, I live alone, and she's the only family I have.'

His respirations suddenly speeded up. I turned his nasal oxygen up to eight liters a minute. 'Of course, I'll call her,' I said, studying his face. He gripped the sheets and he pulled himself forward his face tense with urgency. 'Will you call her right away, as soon as you can?' He was breathing fast, too fast for my comfort. 'I'll call her the very first thing,' I said, patting his shoulder.

I flipped off the light. He closed his eyes. Such young blue eyes in a 50-year-old face. Room 712 was dark except for a faint nightlight under the sink. Oxygen gurgled in the green tubes above his bed. Reluctant to leave, I moved through the shadowy silence to the window. The panes were cold. Below a foggy mist curled through the hospital parking lot.

'Nurse, could you get me a pencil and paper?' I dug a scrap of yellow paper and a pen from my pocket, and I set it on the bedside table. I walked back to the nurses' station. I sat in the squeaky, swivel chair by the phone. Mr. Williams' daughter was listed on his chart as the next of kin. I got her number from information I dialed. Her soft voice answered. 'Janie, this is Sue Kidd,' I said. 'I'm a registered nurse at the hospital. I'm calling about your father. He was admitted tonight with a slight heart attack…'

'No,' she screamed. 'He's not dying, is he?'

'His condition is stable at the moment.' Silence bit my lip. 'You must not let him die,' she said. Her voice was so utterly compelling that my hand trembled as I listened to her on the phone. 'He's getting the very best care,' I said. 'But you don't understand,' she said. 'My daddy and I haven't spoken in almost a year. We had a terrible argument on my 21st birthday over my boyfriend. I ran out of the house. I haven't been back. All of these terrible months I wanted to ask him for forgiveness. The last thing I said to him was, "I hate you."'

Her voice cracked, and I heard her leave a great agonizing sob. I sat listening with tears bursting and burning through my eyes. A father and a daughter so lost to each other that I was thinking of my own father many miles away. It has been so long since I have said to him, 'I love you.' As Janie struggled to control her tears, I breathed a prayer. 'Please, God! Let this daughter find forgiveness.'

'I'm coming now,' she said. 'I'll be there in just 30 minutes.' Then, the phone was silent. I tried to busy myself with a stack of charts on the desk. I couldn't concentrate. Room 712. I knew I had to go back to 712, so I hurried down the hall nearly in a run. I opened the door, and Mr. Williams lay there unmoving. I reached for his pulse. There was none.

'Code 99! Room 712! Code 99! Stat!' The alert was screaming through the hospital. Within seconds after I called the switchboard, the intercom by the bed lit up. Mr. Williams had had a cardiac arrest. With lightning speed, I leveled the bed and bent over his mouth breathing air into his lungs. I positioned my hands over his chest. I compressed. One, two, three. I tried to count. At 15 I moved back to his mouth and breathed as deeply as I could.

Where was help? Again, I compressed and breathed, compressed and breathed. He could not die! 'O God! His daughter is coming. Don't let it end this way.' The door burst open. Doctors and nurses poured into the room pushing emergency equipment. A doctor took over the manual compressions of the heart. A tube was inserted through is mouth as an airway.

Nurses plunged syringes of medicine into the intravenous tubing. I connected the heart monitor. Nothing. Not a beat. My own heart pounded. 'God, don't let it end like this! Not in bitterness and hatred! His daughter is coming back. Let her find peace!' A doctor cried, 'Stand back!' I handed him paddles for the electrical shock to the heart.

He placed those on Mr. Williams' chest. Over and over we tried but nothing. No response. Mr. Williams was dead. A nurse unplugged the oxygen. The gurgling stopped. One by one they left grim and silent. How could this happen? How? I stood by his bed stunned. A cold wind rattled the window pelting the panes with snow outside. Everything seemed like a bed of blackness cold and dark.

How could I face his daughter? When I left the room I saw her standing there against the wall by a water fountain. A doctor who had been inside 712 with me only moments before stood at her side talking to her and gripping her elbow. Then, he moved on leaving her slumped against the wall."

There is so much hurt in this world. The truth is most of us believe our hurt is unique. "My hurt is the one hurt God can't handle. My hurt is the one hurt I could never share with anybody else. The sin done against me is the sin nobody can forgive, so I'm right to sit here in my bitterness. The sin I've done to others is the sin that can't be forgiven, so I'm right to be sitting here in my hopelessness and despair." Those are the lies that imprison us and keep us in a straightjacket of death and hopelessness.

What I pray you understand about what we're talking about in these weeks is there is a God who loves you and he wants to set you free. You have to admit you are powerless to bring that freedom. You have to believe there is a God who is there who is good and who cares for you, and you have to commit to him.

We talk about the fact that part of committing to him is to begin to trust him. It's to do a fearless moral inventory, to acknowledge the harm we have done to others and to fearlessly face the harm that has been done to us. Then, we take the steps of confession. The reason we confess, again, is because the very first casualty of all sin is relationships, and God created you to live in relationship. There is a reason God wants you to confess your sins. It's to restore things.

We just got through with connecting hundreds of people to Watermark. One of the things we do before somebody is a part of this church family is we ask them to share their story of grace and how they came to acknowledge their helplessness, to believe God was good, and to commit to him.

One of the things we always do is ask people about the certainty of the rescue and the provision of Jesus Christ. We ask them what we commonly call around here diagnostic questions. We ask them questions like, "Are you at the point where if you died tonight you know you have peace with God and you would be welcomed into his presence and you wouldn't have to shrink back at his coming?" Then, we always follow it up with, "On a scale from 1 to 10, how sure are you?"

Recently, there was a dear friend who answered, "I don't know. A 6 or a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. I'm pretty sure." My friend leaned forward to this couple, speaking specifically to the wife, and he said, "Let me ask you a question. Which sins of yours did Christ die for?" Her face just flushed completely red because she thought at that moment he was saying, "Why don't you tell me all of the worst things you have done, all the sins Christ died for, so I can act as a priest and forgive you of your sins?"

He realized it and said, "No, no, no, no! That's not what I meant. You don't need to tell me your deepest, darkest secrets. What I'm asking you to do, though, is to tell me that he died for your sins in the past and he died for your sins in the present and he died for your sins in the future. He died for all of your sins."

Two things were happening. First, she was like, "Oh, my gosh! I can't tell anybody the truth about me and still believe they would love me." Secondly, she came to an awareness that when Christ died and said, "It is finished," he had died for everything she had ever done and everything she ever would do and that his grace was sufficient.

He went on to explain to her why there do need to be people (not this stranger she's meeting as she's sharing her story of grace), not behind some screened door on a weekly basis so she's at peace with God but so God can remind her she has been completely forgiven and to accept that hug and that embrace and that tender welcome back into relationship.

That happens every time we confess our sins. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We are secure in our relationship with him, but our fellowship can be broken and our confession and agreement that what we've done is wrong can restore that, or for the very first time when you confess that you're a sinner who has left God, he can restore the relationship for the first time. Then, you walk in continued repentance moving forward.

God says, "I want you to tell somebody because I want you to see my grace in them." Who do you tell? The Scriptures tell us who to tell. It tells us we are not just to flee immorality, but we are to pursue righteousness, life, peace, and faith with those who call on God with a pure heart. You tell somebody who can be trusted, somebody who understands the power of reconciliation.

You tell somebody who is not going to be overwhelmed with your sin because they, too, have been forgiven and they know the source of forgiveness is in Christ. You tell somebody who is walking with a pure heart with the Lord, and you let them in tenderness receive you. You let them in tenderness walk you through steps that lead to life.

We don't just do that here at Watermark on Monday. We know in Fort Worth you all don't have re:generation yet. We're moving that way. Everything that happens here at Watermark starts because members who have been reconciled to God use their gifts and their passions and their hurts. They step up and say, "I want to minister to others in the midst of those things."

We're continuing to work with Gary and Patrick and other leaders over there. Let them know, "I want myself to develop as a leader in this way so I can provide a place of rescue for others," but you need to know something. That's what all of Watermark is. We don't just work on offering people that grace and forgiveness on Monday nights here in Dallas, and you don't have to wait for it to start on Monday nights in Fort Worth.

It happens every time the people of God truly show up with one another. Shackles are undone, darkness is invaded by light, isolation is informed with community, and hopelessness is replaced with joy. God wants you to have that freedom of knowing you can be loved and not to buy the lie that in your isolation no one can ever really know, so you just have to make your way through.

Once a person admits and believes there is a God who is there who can help them in their brokenness and commits to that God and fearlessly looks at all that needs to be reconciled and confesses that, they begin to walk in repentance. I want to remind you that the way to deal with brokenness in your life is not to focus on not doing the things that made you broken.

Some of you guys are like me. You love bad food. You love junk food. You love Cheetos. You love Big Macs. You love Whataburger. You love In & Out. I could continue. Sometimes what we do is we go, "I'm not going to eat that stuff anymore! I'm not going to eat junk food! I'm not going to eat junk food!"

But here's the thing. If all you ever do is say, "I'm done with that," and you starve yourself and you don't replace it with something good, not only are you going to be unhealthy if you don't eat, but you're going to go back to wanting satisfaction where you found that satisfaction before. The Scriptures don't tell you just to stop sinning; the Scriptures tell you to repent.

That doesn't mean stop what you're doing. It means start to run where you have not been previously running. It's not just enough to stop eating bad food. You'll starve to death. Your cravings will only intensify. You have to pursue good food. You have to fuel your body with that which will give it real strength, nourishment, and satisfaction.

The reason so many of you guys are still struggling is because all you're doing is trying to not sin, and Jesus doesn't tell you to not sin. He tells you to come to him, all of you who are weary and heavy-laden. It takes so much energy to not sin, and there is no power there, and there is no life there, but running with Christ…

It reminds me of the guy who drove a truck for a pet shop. At every time he got to a stop light, people would watch him quickly put the truck in park. He'd run out. He had a 2x4 that was there by his side. He would go back to the side of the truck, and he would just nail the side of the truck with a big 2x4. The light would turn green. He would run back in the truck, put it in drive, and would go away.

Some people were following him. They watched him do this. Finally, they go, "What are you doing?" The guy said, "I'm driving a two-ton truck, and I have 400 pounds of canaries in the back, and I have to keep them in the air all of the time." So many of us are like that guy. We spend so much energy trying to carry our load that people look at us and go, "You're crazy! You have to come up with a different system!"

The system Christ offers you is to run to him and to walk with him and to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call on God from a pure heart. He tells you to pursue it with folks like us who understand that apart from the goodness of Jesus Christ and the good news of what he has done (the gospel) we are forever in prison.

Jesus says, "Follow me." That's really step seven. By the way, these aren't just steps; these are just a logical sequence of how you walk with God. You have to dare to follow. You have to say on a regular basis, "God, I humbly ask your Spirit to change my heart and mind in order that I might fully follow Jesus Christ."

You have to be a person who understands that foundational truth, that that which sets its mind on the flesh leads to death but that which sets its mind on the Spirit leads to life. You might want to pray something like this: "Father, I humbly yield to you. I'm tired of leaning on my own understanding and being a slave to my feelings, reasoning, and impulses. Thank you for freeing me from my body of sin and death and leading me moment by moment on the path of life."

That's not a prayer you just pray once; it's a prayer I pray every single day as I remind myself consistently of the God who loves me and that I'm not to today avoid sin; I am to run with Christ, yield to him, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with others who have been saved as I have been, who will encourage me day after day as long as it is called today so I won't be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Let me just tell you Jesus says this in Mark, chapter 8. When Christ was telling other folks of what it meant to really begin to walk with him, he tells us that our lives should be marked by the fact that we deny ourselves, we take up our cross, and we follow him. Listen. The way we follow him is marked by a negative command and a positive command. We deny ourselves. I don't lean on my own understanding. I don't rely on my own emotions. I don't deny my feelings. Feelings are real; they're just not reliable. I don't trust them. I'm not moved by them.

I no longer live according to my own understanding. That's what has led to my isolation, pain, brokenness, and death. That's why I have to rush to a hospital before my parents die hoping I can reconcile with them one more time. That's why I'm in a hospital alone or a straightjacket, very healthy physically but very dead spiritually.

Deny yourself and take up your cross. It's a positive command, and what it basically means is simply this. When you died by death on a cross, anybody in that little Roman province was taking on themselves and acknowledging the authority of Rome over them. They were saying, "Rome has the right to lead me, to judge me in this instance, and to rule over me," and in submission you would carry your cross through the city.

In other words, you would do what your sovereign authority said even though it was death to self. Jesus says, "That's what you have to do. You have to take up your cross." Let me just say this. Death on a cross was a very slow process. It did not happen quickly. So is sanctification. Be patient with yourself as you learn to die.

There will be moments of rebellion. There will be moments when you want to throw that cross down. There will be moments when you won't be dying on that cross, underneath that cross, underneath that submission, but keep acknowledging God's sovereign authority and lordship in your life. That death to self and life that comes in the Spirit will increase in your life.

One of the ways it should manifest in your life if you know Christ and follow him is that you will not only dare to follow, but you will dare to forgive as you have been forgiven. It's part of what a follower does. You'll say something like this on a regular basis. You'll say, "I forgive those who have harmed me, and I will become willing to make amends to those I have harmed."

The biblical foundation for this is in Ephesians, chapter 4. It says, "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." Ephesians 5:1 says, "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children…" You might pray something like this.

"Father, thank you for the kindness you have shown me. Thank you for granting forgiveness and acting in love toward me so I can forgive others as I have been forgiven. Thank you for your grace toward those who are justified by faith and for your promise to deal justly with those who continue to live destructive, rebellious lives. Make me an instrument of your peace."

Folks, this is where it really begins to show if you're an individual who has, in fact, repented, and in fact, follows Christ. Are you an individual who can say with integrity, "I have been forgiven; therefore, I forgive"? Are you free from that which you were sure you could never tell somebody or they wouldn't love you?

Have you told it to God? Have you found someone you can trust who understands the power of being forgiven and who won't be alarmed at what you've done because they themselves have been beset by weakness and ignorance (somebody who pursues life in Jesus Christ)? Have you found tender acceptance from them?

Because this can be very abusive stuff when you are told to forgive, what I want to do is walk you through a biblical understanding of forgiveness. The way I'm going to start this is by just removing a lot of lies about what forgiveness is. We always hear this little phrase: "Forgive and forget." Right? Well, not only is that inhuman, it is not required biblically.

Let me say that to you again. You are not called to forget harm that has been done to you, but he encourages you to not be defined by harm that you have done or harm that has been done to you. Forgiveness is not forgetting. You will always be tempted to hate again. Temptation is not sin. Not forgiving is sin.

Corrie ten Boom, who was not a Jew, lived in the Netherlands in Holland. She and her family, because they were people of faith, said, "We're not going to hate people just because of their descent." She and her family sought to protect them. They were caught, and she herself was incarcerated by the Nazis and suffered incredible harm. She lost family members. Corrie talks about how her life was imprisoned, like many other victims of the Holocaust understandably were. One gentleman who suffered the same way Corrie ten Boom did said, "If you could lick my heart it would poison you."

Some of you guys have been through your own Holocaust, and you go, "I can't forget that! It was decades of my life what I grew up with in my home and what happened to me in that moment and the injustice by that person in power. I will not forget what they did." I'm here to tell you this morning that it's not sin to be tempted to hate again. Temptation is not sin. Not forgiving is.

Corrie ten Boom says, "Forgiveness is like that bell rope you pull. It takes a lot of energy to get that bell ringing, but when you do there is that sweet sound that comes as you pull those heavy ropes that get that bell of freedom ringing, but if you stop pulling on that rope, silence will come again. On a continual basis, it will be easier each time if you keep pulling that rope of forgiveness. It will be easier but you can never stop pulling it."

In other words, it's a one-time act that takes incredible faith, and it is a continual act that we do day by day. Forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness is not reconciliation. The Scripture says, "As much as you are able, be at peace with all men." Forgiveness is not reconciliation. Reconciliation takes two. God calls us to do our part and rest. It takes one person to forgive; it takes two people to be reunited.

Forgiveness is not condoning. When you forgive somebody, you don't condone what they've done. It's the opposite. You don't condone sin. You denounce what they have done as wrong, and that's why it needs forgiving. When you forgive somebody, you're not saying, "Oh, that's okay." You're saying, "What you did was wrong. What you did was awful. What you did needs to be forgiven." That which is wrong does not need to be forgotten.

Forgiving is not forgetting, forgiving is not reconciling, and forgiving is not condoning. One man said, "When we forgive evil, we do not excuse it. We do not tolerate it. We do not smother it. We look the evil full in the face, call it what it is, we let its horror shock, stun, and enrage us, and only then do we forgive it."

Forgiveness is not dismissing it. We can't dismiss something if it amounts to nothing. It is because something is grave and substantive that it must be forgiven. We forgive sins. Forgiveness is good, but nothing that whitewashes sin and evil can be called good. When you forgive somebody, it is an opportunity to redeem what is evil. It is not make-believing that evil never happened.

One of the things I do, and it's awkward, if you're ever near me and something happens where you have wronged me… Because if I have wronged you, I will come to you and I won't just say, "I'm sorry." That's called confession. Confession is agreeing with God and others that what you did was wrong. That's what the word confess means. It means to agree. I won't just show up and say, "I'm sorry." I might begin with, "I'm sorry," and I'll be very specific about what I did that I'm sorry for.

When somebody comes to me and they go, "I'm sorry…" This happened to me recently. I was on a conference call with folks who had said they would do something that we counted on them to do and had contracted with them to do, and they failed to execute, and it cost tremendous opportunity and resource.

I said, "I want to just acknowledge what happened here, but I don't want to move quickly through that to what we're going to do as a result, I want to move forward with a pure heart with you, but I want to let you know something. This is exactly what happened, and I'm not going to say this in anger, but you need to know this was very expensive, very disappointing, very discouraging, and it lost us lot opportunity that we're not going to be able to regain."

They go, "You're exactly right. Thank you, Todd, for telling us this. We are really, really sorry. Okay. Let's move ahead." I said, "Wait a minute! Before we move ahead, do you guys want to hear anything from me?" They go, "You already told us what you thought we did."

"Right. And what did you say?"

"Well, we said we were sorry."

"Yeah, so do you want me to respond to that?"

They go, "Well, yeah!"

"Great. I agree. What you did was sorry."


I said, "I'm just telling you. You told me what you did. You were agreeing with me that what I said was right, that I had the facts correct, and your behavior was sorrowful. It created sorrow in me and, I think, sorrow in God. I think it was a sorry representation of you being men of integrity and wanting to do business with us going forward. It was sorry, so I'm agreeing with you agreeing with me." I said to them, "Do you want me to forgive you?"

"Well, yeah!"

"Well, then don't tell me what you did was sorry because I have forgiven you, but I want you to receive my forgiveness. I can't give you what you don't acknowledge you need."

"Oh! That's good! All right."

"All right what?"

"Thanks for telling us."

I said, "I did tell you that, but I need you to ask for it and I will give it to you. It has already been offered, and I'm not dismissing what you did. I want to go back over this. It was wrong, expensive, and opportunity was gone." Finally, one of them goes, "Oh. Todd, will you forgive us?"

I said, "Are you asking me to restore relationship with people who have broken my trust? Are you asking me to trust you again?" I go, "We have to rebuild that trust, but you need to know something. I release you from the harm you have done to me. I absolutely forgive you. I myself have been forgiven, so I eagerly extend it to others."

Do you guys get the idea here that forgiveness is not dismissing? It's because something is so awful that we have to, in fact, ask for forgiveness to be forgiven. By the way, the foundation for this, again, says, "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."

Here's my question. Has God offered forgiveness to everybody? What's the answer? Yes! Is everybody forgiven? No. Who is forgiven? It's those who admit that they're stuck in sin and death and isolation and bondage and hatred and shame who believe maybe there is a God who is slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness, full of grace and truth, and they commit to that God, and they ask for his provision to be their provision, and they are fearless in examining themselves and taking all of that sin to him and receiving all of his provision for them.

Then, they confess it to God. Then, they turn from that sin and begin to run with him. They follow him, and because they follow him and because they have been forgiven, they forgive others. This is what we're discipling you in on Monday nights. It's what the Christian life is. I'm going to take away the mystery. It's not a scary place. It's a healing place. It's what this place is.

We're not asking you to be perfect and pretty and not tell us the truth about yourself. We're telling you you'll never be well until you tell us the truth about yourself. You're only going to be as sick as your secrets. We say, "Come." We encourage you to come to the God we ourselves have come to.

Forgiveness is not pardoning. Let me just say this very clearly. Forgiveness is not pardoning. A pardon is a legal transaction that releases an offender from the consequences. That is an action of the law. Forgiveness is a personal transaction that releases the offended from carrying the burden of the offense and releases the offender from the concern of personal…this is key…retribution.

Forgiven people must still pay society, often severely, for their sins. Pardoned people do not. When you are forgiving somebody, you are not pardoning them. You're not saying there isn't evil that has been done; therefore, you don't say there isn't going to be justice that comes to you. What you're doing, though, is you're releasing them from you taking personal vengeance.

You need to understand this. God has given government a ministerial position that he has not given you. This is why pacifists completely misread their Bibles. When somebody does you wrong and you go and say, "I'm going to kill them," that personal vendetta or that vigilante mindset is not like Christ. When a government calls evil good, God says, "That is not like Christ."

Scriptures specifically say that God has given government the sword in order that it, as an agent of God, might be a minister of justice. That is why military at times when there is evil must go and use the sword. You don't do it individually. I want to tell you. When I speak sometimes to those who are in the military, I say, "Hello, fellow minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ."

That's why you have to make sure your military executes in what is called just war, and if you're curious, I've done about an hour on that in a little message called War: What is it Good For? where I talk through a biblical view of war. I recommend it to you. Forgiveness is not pardoning.

Forgiveness is not restoration. I mentioned reconciliation earlier, but let me just say this. Reconciliation is what happens when the other person begins to work back toward you. Restoration is what happens when they have reconciled. Forgiveness is not reconciliation; therefore, it's also not restoration. Restoration often takes a lifetime before you reach the instant where there is full restoration.

But when you've forgiven somebody, you say, "I'm working toward that end with you. I'm not going to move on and leave you behind. I'm going to be an individual who wants to see this relationship restored. I'm not going to pretend you didn't hurt me, but I'm also not going to pretend just because I've offered you forgiveness and you've taken it that there is no problem. Let's rebuild that trust. Let's not keep walking back into an abusive relationship or practice. I'm not giving up on the relationship. I'm not moving on and starting others so I don't have to deal with you anymore."

Gang, forgiveness is not an emotional decision. It is not a feeling; it is an act of the will. You don't wait until you feel like forgiving to forgive. You acknowledge that you yourself have been forgiven, so you forgive others. Forgiveness is the decision to continually and purposefully commit to being driven by love.

This is how you know if you've forgiven somebody. When you think of them, do you pray for death and suffering or do you say, "God, would you be kind to them as you've been kind to me? Would you bring grace into their life? Would you get them out of the trap of their brokenness?" Let me just remind you of a couple of things. You're not the first to feel like you could never forgive somebody. Here's what the psalmist said in Psalms 94.

"O Lord, God of vengeance, God of vengeance, shine forth! Rise up, O Judge of the earth, Render recompense to the proud. How long shall the wicked, O Lord, How long shall the wicked exult? They pour forth words, they speak arrogantly; All who do wickedness vaunt themselves. They crush Your people, O Lord, And afflict Your heritage. They slay the widow and the stranger, And murder the orphans. They have said, 'The Lord does not see, Nor does the God of Jacob pay heed.'"

You're not the first person to feel that way. Let me remind you of this. You're not the first person to see their sin. Psalm 94, verse 8, says, "Pay heed, you senseless among the people; And when will you understand, stupid ones?" This is no longer the psalmist crying out to God; this is God responding.

"He who planted the ear, does He not hear? He who formed the eye, does He not see? He who chastens the nations, will He not rebuke, Even He who teaches man knowledge? The Lord knows the thoughts of man, That they are a mere breath." You're not the first one to feel like you can't forgive, but remember this. You're not the first one to see their sin, and you should not be the first one to take vengeance.

God says, "Vengeance is mine," and the reason he says that is not because he thinks you'll be too harsh. It is because, when they sin, no matter what harm they do to you, the sin and offense against your Creator, your Father, is greater than the sin to you. He's saying, "Ultimately, if you took vengeance, it would be finite because you're a finite person."

When God says, "Vengeance is mine," he's saying, "I can do vengeance better than you." That's why those who minimize hell and talk about annihilation are minimizing the vengeance of God. Let me just say this to you. I believe the great question I will have in heaven is, "God, why will you not relent? Why will you not allow those who sinned against you to not eventually just go to sleep forever?" and he will say, "Todd…"

If he didn't change me and make me understand who he is, my biggest problem with God would be hell. I have a problem with it as it is when I really get my arms around the awfulness of it, but that's where God says, "You'll understand one day the fullness of who I am." That is why the Scriptures say God takes no delight in the death of the wicked, and that is why I'm so passionate every week to tell you, "Come, all ye wicked and be forgiven."

Forgiveness. It's what we do. It's who we are. We are forgiven people, and we forgive others. Our lack of forgiveness leads to all kinds of issues in our lives. It's like the guy who walked in the doctor's office and said, "Doc, I need some more pills for my colitis." The doctor said, "Who are you colliding with now?"

We've all heard this. Right? It's not so much what you eat that makes you sick as what eats you. What's eating at you? Where is the lack of forgiveness? Lack of forgiveness leads to depression. It leads to stress which leads to everything. It leads to fatigue. It leads to bitterness. It is a prison. Gang, we forgive because he first forgave us. That's what it means to follow God.

The bottom line is forgiveness is a matter of faith, and if you don't forgive, you'd better understand that claiming you have faith is not necessarily a matter of fact. Let me say that to you one more time. Forgiveness is a matter of faith. You don't do it because it feels right, and if you don't forgive, you'd better hesitate before claiming your faith is a matter of fact.

That's why the Scripture says, "Father, forgive us our debts as we have also been forgiven by you who we are indebted to." Jesus tells an entire story in Matthew 18 about a guy who seeks forgiveness and then does not offer that to others, and the ending is not pretty. Let me close with this today.

People who get well repent and follow Christ. They forgive as they have been forgiven. They don't have a wrong understanding of forgiveness. They really understand the power of forgiveness. By the way, the one time we decided to make a movie here, what was our movie all about? The fact that love is powerful. Forgiveness is possible. It's the entire point of the story of Brady Gray. It's the entire point of the story of Joseph. It is the entire point of the story of Jesus. The power of his love and the possibility of forgiveness set us free.

People who get well dare to take responsibility for what they've done and they seek to make amends with others. They'll say, "I will make direct amends whenever possible, submitting to God, his Word, and biblical counsel." The foundation for this is all through the Scripture where it says, "Repay no one evil for evil but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all."

If your sin has hurt other people… We'll teach you how to do this on Monday nights because sometimes what you do when you go to make amends to somebody might even harm them, so with wise counsel and careful thought and planning, you need to think about how you will make amends, what that looks like. You make a list, certainly, of who you have harmed, you make a plan of what you're going to do, and then you go to them and do what is honorable in the sight of all men.

We have great stories of folks here at Watermark. There's a story I've told before of my buddy, Al, who when he was in college stole a bunch of records from the guy across the hall. He did some things in order to be completely unknown by this, he thought. Fast forward 23 years. He's working through what it really means to follow Jesus Christ. He did a fearless moral inventory. He realized he had stolen over 40 albums from this guy across the hall, so he called him. He said, "Do you mind if I come down to Houston and talk to you?"

He found out where the guy lived. The guy said, "You don't need to come to Houston. I'm going to be up in Dallas next weekend for a soccer tournament. You can just talk to me then." Al said, "Great." He went out to the soccer field. He thought, "What would I do? If I give the guy a dove like poor people do in the Scripture, that will seem pretty meaningless. If I bring a slaughtered cow, that would be kind of unnecessary and gross," so he went back and said, "What the Scripture is telling me to do is to love others as I myself would want to be loved, so what would I want?"

Al said, "I would like to be made whole with interest." He went back and added up the price of those albums. He added on 10 percent interest compounded over 23 years, and he wrote a check. He shows up at the soccer field with a check for thousands of dollars. He told the guy about what he had received from Christ, and he asked his forgiveness.

Actually, he said he had thought he had gotten away with it. He showed up at the soccer field. He walked up and said, "How are you doing?" He said, "Hey, Al. Is this about the records?" He said, "I've been carrying around 23 years of vinyl in my heart that had laired me from really feeling at peace with myself and my God and with you, and I want to make it whole."

Now, there are other times when going directly to somebody doesn't make sense, so we walk you through what we would call an empty chair scenario. We would warn you depending on what it is. How you do it matters because this is not just about you. You have to be tender toward others. If it involves people in relationship with other people, you have to really think through the consequences of going to them and telling them, "I'm sorry I slept with your wife. I did this to your wife." There are ways to make amends.

Let me just close with this. God does want to set you free. I want to end with the story I began with, and I want to show you a story of one our friends who is right here just to give you hope. Do you remember that little girl who was slumped over against the wall? Well, the story picks back up right here.

"I walked up to the girl slouched. I said, 'Janie, I'm so sorry.' It was pitifully inadequate. She said to me, 'I never hated him. I loved him.' I thought, 'God, please help her.' Suddenly, she whirled toward me. 'I want to see him!' My first thought was, 'Why would you put yourself through more pain? Seeing him would only make it worse,' but I got up, I wrapped my arm around her, and we walked slowly down the corridor to room 712.

Outside the door I squeezed her hand wishing she would change her mind about going inside, but we pushed the door open. We moved to the bed huddled together taking small steps in unison. Janie leaned over the bed and buried her face in the sheets weeping. I tried not to look at her at this sad, sad goodbye. I backed against the bedside table. My gaze fell down upon a scrap of yellow paper. I picked it up, and I saw this was written on it. 'My dearest Janie, I forgive you. I pray you will also forgive me. I know you love me. I love you, too. Daddy.'"

I hope you know God loves you and wants to set you free. I hope you run to him and follow him. Forgive as you have been forgiven. Make amends that seem right to mend.

Father, would you just now remind us of the power of healing, that you take broken lives and you make them whole again as only you can? Encourage us with the story of your Son. Amen.


Jeremy: My name is Jeremy. I have a new life in Christ, and I'm recovering from sexual addiction, drug abuse, and alcoholism. When I was maybe 6 or 7 years old, I was playing with a friend down the street from our home. I remember turning the corner to come home for dinner and saw an ambulance backed up to the front door. My mother had attempted suicide.

A lot of memories surround that time frame, but I really remember after that just kind of being really insecure growing up. Through high school, it kind of advanced, and I would use relationships to make myself feel more secure. Alcohol and drugs entered into the mix and just kind of fed that whole struggle with vanity and insecurity.

After high school, I went into the army and really increased my drinking because we would train hard, and then we would come back and party hard. After the army, I went to college. The same thing. Now there were no barriers, no boundaries, and that behavior just really escalated, so I was still increasingly insecure. I was smoking dope at this point and doing cocaine as often as I could and drinking every day. It was just a train wreck.

Fast forward… I get to Dallas a couple of years later, and now I thought everything was going to be better because I had the job I always wanted. I was making more money than I had ever made before. I had total freedom to do whatever I wanted to do, but it just was never enough, so I would continue to pursue it.

Then, in January of 2010, everything really changed. I got a call from one of my parents, and they shared with me what had been going on in their marriage. That really began this process of pursuing recovery for my parents, and that ended up at an inpatient treatment center. A few months later, I was invited to visit as a guest.

I remember getting there and being really immersed in this treatment center and having the patients all around me, and hearing some of the stuff they were sharing was really scary because the things these people were doing in isolation I was doing that stuff all of the time. At some point maybe midway through the week, the therapist turned to me during a break.

She looked at me, and she said, "What do you think about all of this stuff you're seeing?" I remember looking back at her and pretty quickly I said, "It has me really thinking a lot about my potentially addictive behaviors." She whipped right back and said, "I think you're well beyond the potential in your addictive behaviors."

After that experience at that inpatient facility, a friend of mine invited me to Watermark. I really feel like the Lord spoke through the pastor. Then, the band sang a song, and it was so beautiful, and I couldn't fight the tears. It was like God's love was just so much and his grace was so much that I just couldn't even take it.

All of these things… I had been holding this stuff so tightly, and I feel like the Lord just started tearing that stuff away. It seemed like a very violent experience, but it was very freeing. Just this weight was lifted from my shoulders. It's not a matter of if you fail but what are you going to do when you do? Are you going to stay in the pit and make it worse or are you going to repent and turn to Jesus?

July 12, 2010, was the first time I walked in the doors of Recovery, and I didn't really know what to expect. I remember leaving that first night having a sense of hope that I could actually be sober and I could actually be free. While I went through the recovery process in a small group with men, I would run to them and tell them when I had been struggling or tell them what I thought the Lord had been teaching me.

I don't know that I would have made it through that early season of recovery without those guys. I started to really learn… I think the most important thing I've learned since the Lord got ahold of me is how he sees me. The way he sees me is not the way I see myself. He sees me as clean and as his son and as a friend.

Through that relationship, I've been able to shed all the chains of the sin and the bondage I didn't even know I was in before, and Christ met me right there, and he took that stuff, and he made me new. It's not my strength I'm depending on to do these things; it's the strength of Christ.

[End of video]

Jeremy: Good morning. My name is Jeremy. I have a new lift in Christ, and I'm recovering from sexual addiction, drug abuse, and alcoholism. When I first came to Recovery, I was tired. Everybody who knew me knew a different person, and I was tired of wearing the masks. I just want to encourage y'all. If you're tired, there is a rest, and his name is Jesus. You're not unique in your struggles or your story or your past, but you were uniquely made and you're individually loved by a Creator who came here so you can know him. Amen? Can I pray for everybody?

Todd: Please do.

Jeremy: Father God in heaven, thank you so much for your provision. Lord, thank you for the circumstances you bring us through so we can recognize that, and I pray we would recognize it more. Lord, I pray we would recognize how individually loved we are by you. Through that, it changes us. God, I just pray for everyone this morning. Lord, if they know you that they would know you more and if they don't that they would know you and find freedom and rest in you. In Christ's name, amen.

Todd: Gang, our prayer in the midst of this ministry that for the last 14 years has been called Watermark, which is a local gathering of the church of Jesus Christ, is that you would join us in admitting that you're powerless over sin, that you would join us in believing there is a God who loves you and has made provision for your sin in his Son Jesus Christ, and nothing but him can bring you peace.

Our prayer is that you would join us in committing to him, giving your life to him, calling him your Lord and Savior, that you would do a fearless inventory, bring him all of your sin past, present, and future, that you would confess that to him and others as is appropriate, that you would repent and turn from your addiction to self and death, that you would follow him forgiving others as you have been forgiven and making amends as it seems right to mend, and you would join us next week to find out what else we do because we love him.

The first thing you need to do is come. Come, ye sinners, poor and needy, weak and wounded, sick and sore. As you've come and been made whole, will you go and love and give your life away as he has given for yours? God bless you. Have a great week of worship.