Reformation: Healing Broken Relationships

Reformation: Healing Broken Relationships

Scripture: Romans 5:10
Date: 09/21/2013  Lesson: 12
"What is forgiveness? Does forgiveness justify the behavior of someone who has horribly wronged us? Is my forgiveness dependent on the offender's repentance? What if the one with whom I am upset does not deserve my forgiveness?"
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Welcome to Sacramento Central Seventh-day Adventist church. Wherever you are, and however you're joining us, we welcome you today. And, actually, we have a warm welcome for you because in Sacramento today it'll be 95 degrees - very hot. I think that translates to maybe degrees celsius. So no matter the season where you are, with song and service this morning, we welcome you with open arms.

So let's sing. I hope you have your hymnals. Our first song this morning is hymn #469 - 'leaning on the everlasting arms'. Now today we found out that we have gotten requests from countries, amen? This is wonderful. So, 'leaning on the everlasting arms' this morning comes as a request from Canada - rose in Canada, manfred in germany, suvarna in india, miguel in Mexico, felix in rwanda and many, many, many other people - probably a part of those countries.

So this morning we'll sing the first, second and third stanzas - 'leaning on the everlasting arms'. Amen. Now, if you would like to be the 98th country, send us a note at 'www.saccentral.org' - 'saccentral.org' - if you click on the 'contact us' link and send in any hymn - old or new - from our hymnal, we'll be happy to hear from you. Our next song, if you've been with us anywhere within the past year is number - we're moving our way through the hymnal and we're already on 69. This is a very lovely simple American negro spiritual and it reads just like a prayer.

Now this week - this past week - commemorated martin luther king's March on Washington. It was the fiftieth anniversary and - with his 'I have a dream' speech - and we've come so far since the civil rights era, but we still have so far to go. And I can just imagine the freedom fighters fifty years ago singing this song asking for strength, asking for peace on their March to freedom. And as I was reading it this morning, it parallels our walk with God. I imagine us singing this song - as we sing this song this morning, think of how much - how far you've come in your walk, but how far we have to go until Jesus comes again.

So let's sing hymn #69 - we'll sing all four stanzas. Amen. Let's pray. Dear Heavenly Father, we ask that you make us more humble. We ask that you make us more loving, more faithful, more like you.

Through death and disaster and confusion and craziness in this world, sometimes we forget that we do have you and that we do have a hope that we could hold on to and actively pray for until you come again. So as we study and worship today and as we study in worship throughout the week, lord, we ask to always give us a still small voice telling us to turn the other cheek. We ask that you fill our lips with praise and to thank you when you give us a little bit more desire to be humble and we just thank you. We adore you and we love you for all of the blessings that you have given us and will give us. In Jesus' Name we pray, amen.

Good morning. What a beautiful morning. Thank you all for being here to worship and praise God. Beautiful day, beautiful time to be alive. God is good, right? We have a special offer to share with you, #723 and you will know before this lesson's over that this is a good book that we all should have because it is entitled 'Holy Spirit: the need'.

We'll definitely understand before the lesson's over that we all need more of the Holy Spirit in our lives, that's for sure. Now, we're moving right along. We're on #12 of this quarter and it's entitled 'reformation: healing broken relationships'. Let us read - if you would join me please - our memory text found in Romans 5:10 there in your quarterly. Ready? "For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

" So, if there's ever a lesson and it is practical, it is this one. I heard someone recently complaining about - this was in another church a long ways away from here - but they were complaining about, 'oh, I just never heard any messages that were real practical for every day living.' Well, believe me, this is a practical lesson for every day living when we talk about broken relationships. Maybe there isn't a more relevant topic within the church than this one, for who among us have not experienced a broken relationship? Painful, isn't it? We should not be surprised because, just like our memory text reminds us this morning, that mankind is in need of being reconciled to God because we have this broken relationship with God - it all started 6,000 years ago or so. And it says we need to be reconciled to him because we are his enemies. That sounds awful, doesn't it? You are an enemy to God? Well, most of us probably don't think we're enemies to God.

What makes a person an enemy to God? Well, it comes because of disobedience. If we're not for something we're against it, right? If we're not for the total word of God, somehow we're against it, that does make us enemies and adam and eve got the ball rolling back there in the garden of eden when they disobeyed and they found themselves in need of reconciliation. When they disobeyed they hid from God. And you know how they hid from God, right? They went and found some fig leaves. Now, have any of you ever picked figs? They're - the leaves on a fig tree are about the itchiest things you can think of.

They keep your arms itching for a long time. That must have been an awful thing to try and hide behind fig leaves. So anytime we try to hide from problems or with God especially, there's always some unpleasant results. Camouflage - you know all the armies in the world wear a camouflaged material or clothing. Why? Because they want to hide from the enemy.

That's what adam and eve tried to do with God. They tried to hide from him. It's a common ploy with all mankind when we do something wrong. We sometimes want to hide from God. But does that work? You can't hide from God, can we? But even in the best possible conditions, such as - the lesson points out - right after the amazing experience at pentecost - and was that an amazing experience? I mean pentecost was one of the most - most live experience of God's presence among his people for they had been praying for days and pouring out their hearts to God, coming into unity - and they experienced a unity that they had never experienced before - these believers - and God's Spirit was poured out upon them and thousands were being converted to the gospel.

But then, strained relationships very soon developed. Imagine that. Such an experience that they were having and before long they were having problems with each other in some way or another. So we need not be surprised if this happens in the church from time to time. We may desperately try to avoid it but there is a master enemy that is at work full time - 24 hours a day 7 days a week trying to bring broken relationships with God's people.

Do you believe that? All the time - working hard at it - because if he knows he can do that, he's going to have some good success in other areas. Now before we get into our lesson this morning, the thought struck me and I believe there is one passage of Scripture that if each of us applied fully to ourselves, strained relationships might not take place. Now you might be thinking of a text that would apply to what I just said and there's probably several, but the one that I am thinking of is found in Philippians 2:3, where it says this: "let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves." Whew, that's a hard saying. How can you esteem somebody better than you when you know they're doing something that you don't ever do? Well, all you have to do is stop and think you do some things maybe that they don't do, right? We all fall short. We all are sinners.

Now there are times when we have to address issues, for sure. Of course, there are those who have a distorted picture of this kind of text, thinking to themselves, 'I am worse than dirt. I need to eat worms. I am so lowly' - that's a distorted perversion of this text. The real concept of esteeming others better than ourselves is because of the relationship with Christ can often sway too far from their striving to thinking they are doing better than others because you know as well as I do it is so easy to see the faults in other people, right? It's very easy.

It's easier to see those faults than sometimes in ourselves. And when we see these glaring faults, isn't it hard to think that you are better than they are? Easy, isn't it? Sure. But that's not what we should do. So, most strained relationships start because - they start to feel the strain because one or both parties feel better than the other. Well, the lesson mentioned that the focus of the week would be on restoring relationships.

Before we can restore relationships, we have to understand why relationships break down, what is the cause of it sometimes? And this kind of thing. So we'll find out as we go through the lesson. Sunday's is entitled 'from fractured to friendship' and the example of the strife that existed between Paul and barnabas is given. The strife came about because there was a young man working with them, his name was Mark or John Mark, and he kind of left them in the lurch and Paul didn't appreciate that. You kind of get the idea that Paul was a no nonsense kind of guy, don't you, as you read his writings? No nonsense type of guy and if this young man can't do better than that, we don't have any room for him in the ministry and so Paul and barnabas kind of split up - split their ways - and barnabas, evidently, he could see something in this young man he wasn't going to give up on.

Now the story has a happy ending, but what made it this way? What made it was - the happy ending - because Mark, evidently, over time proved himself as a worthy dedicated worker for God and Paul was able then, finally, to see that. And so Paul and barnabas patched up their - they reconciled their relationship and they went on to work with each other. But what if it hadn't become so apparent to Paul that this was the case? Would the difference of feelings between Paul and barnabas probably continue to exist? We don't know, but likely. So, one thing we can begin to say this morning is to bring reconciliation between two people, righting some kind - making right some kind of shortcomings would be a good place to begin. If you know there's something wrong, let's make it right and then maybe we'll be able to get someplace and the issue of the strife was Mark and Paul's opinion of him not being dependable.

Now, at least one of the parties in this strife had to be willing to address the issue and work with it, which I give more credit to barnabas in this area than I do Paul. But barnabas was willing to keep working with John Mark. Maybe he knew him better than Paul did, I don't know, but he kept - he had the willingness to continue to work with this young man. I think, probably - there is probably in all of us a little bit of this no nonsense kind of attitude. If something is right, let's make sure that it's right and so forth and let's don't have any nonsense and so forth and it exists in all of us and sometimes we can show signs of intolerance if we're not careful.

I know I've been there before and it can be humbling. You know, this song we just sang - I'm always a little bit reluctant to sing 'lord, make me holy - humble', I mean or 'humble me o lord'. God has ways of humbling us, believe me. I don't even have to sing about it. I don't even have to pray about it.

God has ways of doing that, but yes we should be humble. We should probably pray about it, I suppose, but God can do that. If you have a strained relationship and you are willing to really examine yourself and ask God to help you to do this so that you would be able to see if there's any part of the problem that you are responsible for, then that is a huge point. But probably, most often in strained relationships, you know how it goes: 'I'm right, the other person's wrong. I know it.

I know you're wrong. I know she's wrong. It's just the way it is.' Now even if one person is more to blame than the other, which I say, again, this case probably had to be Paul. Thank God for barnabas. He didn't deepen the strife, barnabas didn't deepen the strife by arguing over the matter, but worked with the source of the problem that brought about the changes that were necessary.

I want to be quick to point out that this wasn't a problem as serious as some become in the church. Some problems get much bigger than this and over issues of morality and doing things right versus doing things wrong. You know, our senior pastor preached a sermon one day and this church probably brought more disaffection to him than any other sermon. He could have preached for the rest of his life and never preached on that subject. He could have found lots of things to preach about other than that subject, but he had the conviction from God to preach the truth about that subject.

Even though it might make some people upset, right? Now preachers shouldn't be in this work to be part of a - you know, just to be liked by everybody. It's not just some contest to be loved by everybody. So, sometimes, when you have to dress wrong, it brings you an enemy. That's just the way it goes. I've been in those kinds of situations before and I've tried to take the low road, even apologizing, you know, the best I can but, you know, sometimes when somebody is really out to accuse you and rebelliously cause problems by continuing to do something wrong, there's not much you can do about it.

But that was not this situation. Paul and barnabas had a simple disagreement over this young man. Reconciliation, though, is still the goal in all of broken relationships. Would you agree to that? Reconciliation. Now, before we go to Monday, I want to share another example from the Bible to show a difference because not all problems are the same, we know.

I'm talking about a relationship between Isaac and Rebekah. Remember that relationship? There might not be a more romantic story in all the Bible than Isaac and Rebekah. Think about it, Isaac was a young man that was willing to allow his father to sacrifice him because God said so. That's how willing and loving and how much he was dedicated to God. Now, it came time for him to think about marriage and Abraham, his father, said, 'I don't want him just marrying any old lady, I want somebody special for him that will believe in the God of heaven.

So he sent his servant to his homeland to find - see if he could find a marriage partner for his son. What a task to give a servant, but he went on it. And we know the story. It was a remarkable story. He found Rebekah.

Rebekah was a wonderful young lady. Think about her situation. Here she was, she heard the story, she saw the hand of God leading and guiding and, 'yes, I will leave my family, most likely for the rest of my life - never see them again - to marry this man I have never seen before.' Suppose he looked like a toad. No, he didn't - he didn't. But this was God's leading and she was willing to go with the servant to be married to this man called Isaac.

Now I recount all that to help us realize how committed and dedicated these two young people were - amazingly so. And listen to part of the story one could say was more than an amazing romantic novel. Genesis 24, starting with verse 63. Genesis 24, verse 63 says, "and Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide; and he lifted his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming. And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel.

" Just think of that. If this was a movie, the music would change, it would be more exciting and the cameras would pan out and pan in and, oh boy, maybe even go down in slow motion watching these two young people come towards each other - whew. Then it goes on to say, "for she had said unto the servant, 'what man is this that walketh in the field to meet us?' And the servant said, 'it is my master:' therefore she took a veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done. And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.

" Did God ever bring these two people together? Do you believe that? God brought these two people into a fantastically wonderful relationship, both dedicated to God absolutely, until, until they had children. Oh, and so many people hearing that can relate. Boy, things were really different after we got some children. Maybe not so when they were babies, but by the time they became teenagers, things changed in our home and even in our relationship as husband and wife. Children do bring some changes, do they not? And in this home, it brought some changes.

Genesis chapter 25, verses 27 and 28 gives us an idea of some of the strain that would be brought upon this marriage relationship. Listen, "and the boys grew: and esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. And Isaac loved esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob." Tension over who was the privileged child and who would get the birthright, believe me, brought some tensions to this relationship - this wonderfully fine Christian, devoted couple had some problems over that issue, let me tell you. And here is one - here is the thing - so much different than the relationship we were talking about between Paul and barnabas. In this relationship, you can't just go off - you're not supposed to anyway - go off in this direction while the other one goes off in that direction continuing to live your lives like Paul and barnabas did.

No, in a marriage, you have committed to be together through thick and thin - for better or for worse. So you're just not supposed to run away which, unfortunately is happening quite often these days, but you're not supposed to. So in a marriage relationship you have to have the mind set that when - and they will - when problems come up - they will, right? They will - I know, I've been married 45 years. We survived them all, thank God, but they will come up. Reconciliation is the name of the game, right? Absolutely.

If it isn't the main name of the game, then you will find what many married couples are doing - bailing out - going their opposite directions. Now, evidently, Isaac and Rebekah found enough reconciliation to last a lifetime, because we didn't find them parting, you know, in their relationship. They stayed together. So praise God they did. In all relationships we should be committed to reconciliation if the need arises, especially in a marriage.

The apostle Paul would have us consider, in the book of Ephesians, where he says, 'be ye angry' - you know, you can be angry - 'but sin not. Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.' And how many young couples - or couples of any age - have been told by a counselor, 'whenever you have problems don't let the sun go down on your wrath? Here's what the Bible says.' That's a perfect ideal. Paul would always give us the ideal, but I can assure you that won't work in every relationship because some of us are not just made that way. In some marriage relationships, for example, maybe it's the man, maybe it's the woman, the man says, 'yeah, that's what I want. I want to get this settled before we go to bed tonight.

' And the wife might say, 'that's not how I work. I need to let this stew a little bit. I need to think about this. Then we can talk again. So, yeah, it's an ideal maybe we should all shoot for, but it doesn't always work that way and so there's always many different ways to try to approach reconciliation.

Well, we need to move on to Monday - 'from slave to son'. The title, itself, throws out a significant challenge, doesn't it? Slave - just the word slave - is slavery a good thing? Slavery is a bad thing. Never should be - nobody should ever be a slave. We are all slaves to sin. The Bible tells us that.

But we can be set free from that, we also are told. So nobody should be a slave in the way we think about slavery. And the story on Monday, of course, is one of onesimus who was a runaway slave who met Paul. And this runaway slave ran away from a man by the name of Philemon, who Paul also knew. So Paul gave him instructions to Philemon how he should treat this man and he shouldn't treat them the way most people treated slaves back in those days, very rough and awful.

He told him he should treat him as an equal. Now that was - that was an amazing thing. And, probably, the most important lesson we could get out of this particular part of the lesson is how Paul approached Philemon over this serious, serious issue. Would we all agree that slavery is a serious issue? Sure it is. So he didn't come out and say, 'slavery is awful.

How could you even think of such a thing?' No, he did it much different than that and it brought about the right results. He worked as kindly and lovingly as he could with Philemon and Philemon, evidently, was a good Christian man. He accepted Paul's admonition and there was reconciliation. This slave then became like a son to this master. It's almost an overwhelming emotion to want to set someone straight on an issue, but that isn't how Paul approached it.

From slave to son is a huge concept because of where we all find ourselves as slaves. Now I know to be called - I know there were so-called slave owners in that time that were good people and they actually treated their slaves kindly and - like the centurion. He must have been a wonderful man because he wanted Jesus to come heal his slave - his servant - and he even said, 'you know, I'm not even worthy enough, Jesus, for you to come into my house but just speak the word and my servant will be healed.' Jesus healed him because he was a good man. He turned this man around to the people who were listening - the Jewish people - and said, 'I have not found such great faith - no not in all of Israel.' And oooh, that's got to sting a little bit of you're an Israelite, because you pride yourself in having faith in God, but there were slave owners that acted much like the centurion - some of them - a few of them, probably. Much like a good employer treats their employees.

Not only with kindness, but sometimes even with love. A lot of employers love their employees. But being a slave in the truest sense of the negative aspect of it is an awful plight for most people finding themselves in that predicament. There probably isn't a person who hasn't heard the story at one time or another - probably the most familiar slave story within the Christian circle but it's worth repeating again this morning because of one aspect to it. This particular young slave was brought to the auction block and he was a young man in the full vigor of manhood and stout and strong - muscles bulging all over and so the auctioneer knew he would get a good price out of this young man.

And so the bidding began - it was very active - many people bidding and bidding and wanting to buy this slave. This slave had a look on his face of such anger and 'I don't care who gets me. They're not going to get anything out of me. I don't care how much they whip me.' That's the look he had on his face and, finally, the gavel comes down. Somebody has bid the highest price for this slave.

And he comes forward, as the slave believes, to gather him and take him home and he belligerently says, 'you can take me away, you can whip me, you can beat me but I will never do anything for you. I will not be your slave. I will not do anything for you. I will not be your slave.' And the man said to the slave, he said, 'I bought you not to be my slave, but I bought you to set you free.' And the slave couldn't believe his ears and the man had to say it again, 'I bought you not to be my slave but I bought you to set you free.' And at that the slave fell down at the man's feet and said, 'I will serve you for the rest of my life.' 'I will serve you for the rest of my life because you set me free. You're treating me with such love and kindness and compassion.

' That's how God treats us, isn't it? Amen. And as he treats us that way, he doesn't set us free to go out and do our own thing the way we want to do our thing, but we have a responsibility to serve the one who set us free. Isn't that right? Yes we do. Slave to son - what a concept. From slave to son.

That's where we all are, we're slaves. But, no, because of Jesus Christ we are sons of God. Whew, that's pretty amazing, isn't it? So Paul was telling his friend Philemon that onesimus was now to be considered his son and he, evidently, understood exactly everything Paul told him. Can you imagine, in the resurrection, what it's going to be like for the - for onesimus and Philemon and their families as they come up out of those graves and they see each other, what joy there's going to be? What joy there's going to be that Philemon took the admonition - treated this man like a son and they are both Christian brothers in Christ. Isn't that wonderful? The concept of being transformed from slave to son should be a constant reminder to us where we have come from and where we would still be if it were not for our elder brother Jesus Christ.

Well, let us move on to Tuesday's lesson entitled 'from comparison to compliment'. Some examples are given in the book of 1 Corinthians. Now, tongue in cheek, Corinthians would have been such a splendid church to be a pastor of. Tongue in cheek because it seems like the church of corinth had a lot of different kinds of problems. One of the problems that arose was 'who's going to get the credit for these souls coming in?' Or 'who was more important, the one sowing the seed or reaping the harvest or whatever?' And Paul had to set them straight.

'Neither is he that planteth anything, neither is he that watereth but God that giveth' - God gives the increase. 'Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor.' Now I kind of think most problems with relationships would happen - wouldn't happen or could be solved if we just really focused upon God remembering that he is the one behind all good things. None of us are better than the other. Now it happens now and then that - right here in this church - sometimes one of us pastors is working with an individual clearing him or her for baptism. And I've had people say, at the end of it, when they're really getting ready to be baptized and they kind of ask the question very hesitantly, 'would it be alright if I asked pastor so and so to baptize me?' Sure it's alright.

None of us pastors care who baptizes anybody. All we do is rejoice over anybody that's baptized. That problem does not exist here. Evidently, that problem did exist in the church of corinth - 'who's going to get the glory? Who's going to get the credit?' Whatever, whatever - no, that should never find any place in God's church, right? I don't think it ever will here, at least I know, with the staff that we have today, that's for sure. Now the lesson makes a statement.

God calls us to cooperation, not competition. I have talked with so many married couples that have problems and I tell them, if you would just stop and do one thing: stop competing with each other. You didn't get married to compete with each other, you got married to compliment one another. Stop competing. 'Oh, he spends more money than I do.

' Or 'she spends more money than I do.' Or 'he doesn't do enough around the house.' And they're competing for this and that and everything else and before long it's just a total world of competition. That's not what relationships are all about. Relationships would do well to take president kennedy's remark - remember? - To heart, 'ask not what your country' or 'ask not what your fellow citizen' or 'ask not what your mate can do for you but what you can do for this relationship.' Not so much what that relationship can do for me. That's when you have - begin to have trouble. Another important statement is brought out in the lesson on Tuesday, 'all comparisons with others are unwise because they will make us either feel discouraged or arrogant.

Now, if I - somebody wanted to compare me, as a golfer, with tiger woods, that would be totally discouraging for me. Wouldn't even compare. If somebody wanted to compare me with somebody, maybe somebody that was illiterate - 'well, at least I can read and write.' Maybe it would be - maybe I would tend to feel a little bit superior, which shouldn't be because that person maybe that can't read or write can do a thousand things better than I can, right? So that's what we need to keep in mind. These kind of things about each other. Never compare ourselves.

Comparing ourselves to Christ is bad and good, in a sense. First of all, as we compare ourselves to Christ we will come up extremely short, but as we come up short, we also understand that we can be covered with his righteousness and then we don't come up short anymore. We come up just like he is. When God looks at us, he sees his son if we're covered with his righteousness. You see what I mean? We are all lowdown, filthy, dirty sinners compared to Christ, but with Christ as our Savior, when his father sees us he sees Christ and covered with his righteousness.

So how does this concept help us with human relationships? If we see in that person that we might be having some trouble with - the same concept - I believe reconciliation could happen. By that I mean we see the defects - yes, we compare ourselves to Christ. We know we have defects too, but when we both would compare ourselves to Christ and see our need of being covered with his righteousness - then we both could look alike again, covered with his righteousness. If both parties would come to Jesus and be covered with his righteousness and look upon the other as a person covered with Christ's righteousness, then we really would be getting somewhere, wouldn't we? Would that mean that all troubles would dissipate immediately? No, there's still some things to work through for sure. All strained relationships could be healed if - maybe just yielding to this concept.

Now we need to keep moving on. I don't know if this has ever happened to you - 1 Corinthians chapter 10, verse 12 says, "wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." Remember that text? If you think you're standing, be careful because you might fall. Now I don't know if this has happened to you, but I know that if I ever allowed myself to fall into the pit of judging others - just pure judging - when it's just judging. Maybe there's some issues where you know the facts and you have to address them - that's a different issue - but if you're just judging somebody, it isn't long until, perhaps, you do something yourself - maybe in the same area or something completely different - and you realize, 'wow, that was sure stupid of me to judge that person because I'm just a sinner myself. So judging is way out of bounds.

You can't do that. And we need to really take this text to heart. 'If you think you're standing, take heed or you will probably fall.' Wednesday - we move on - entitled 'from friction to forgiveness' and this day starts out with some very pertinent questions I think we need to address, too. First of all, the question 'what is forgiveness?' Well, if you look to webster, the word forgiveness simply means 'to pardon' or 'inclination to forgive or pardon.' To look at the words 'to forgive' is a little bit more applicable for it says, 'to give up resentment against or the desire to punish' or 'to stop being angry with; to give up all claim to punish or exact penalty for an offense; to cancel or remit a debt'. Now that sounds like so much more than just saying, 'well, I'm willing to forgive somebody.

I'm willing to forgive them.' Are you really? Are you willing to forgive them? Are you willing to give up all resentment against or the desire to see them punished the way you think they should be punished for what they are doing? Oh, are you ready to give up all anger with that person? Well, if you are then you - yes, you are willing to forgive. Next question says, 'does forgiveness justify the behavior of someone who has horribly wronged us?' Huh, well that's an interesting question. Does it justify their act? Well, we say, 'if they confess their sins, Jesus is willing and just to forgive them their sins and they stand then justified in the sight of God.' Well, that sounds like, 'okay, they're justified.' But that doesn't mean their act is justified, right? Their act is wrong - it always is wrong - and never will be right. You can't do anything to go undo something that's been done so drastically wrong - you can't make it right. You can't undo it, I should say.

You can make things right between you and the party you did it to, but it won't make the act right. So, no, it'll never justify the act, but the person committing the act can be justified. Does that make sense? Yes. The next question is also an interesting one. Is my forgiveness dependent on the offender's repentance? If that were so, then forgiveness may never be offered in some cases.

What did Christ pray as he was being nailed to the cross? 'Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.' Was that carte blanche forgiveness for everybody despite what they did? No, it was a full and complete willingness to forgive everybody that was nailing him to the cross that would accept that forgiveness. Did all the people that were there at the cross turn to Christ and ask him for forgiveness and receive his forgiveness? No, they didn't. Some did, praise God, but, no, not all. In one sense, the act of forgiveness never happens if the offender doesn't act upon it, right? But in another sense, we as Christians should be ever on the stand by - we should be ever on the stand by willing to forgive, right? Or already having forgiven that person in our heart, whether they want to be forgiven or not. Think of the text that we are all very familiar with, 1 John :9, "if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness', right? And there's a huge, big, little word there - the big little word 'if'.

Everything hinges upon that word. If we confess he is faithful and just. The transaction of forgiveness is never fully complete until we cooperate fully with the principles of forgiveness, right? Okay, thank you very much. Let's say you stole a hundred dollars from me. I wouldn't be very happy.

I would be downhearted. But if you apologized - okay, I forgive you. If you gave me back the hundred dollars that'd even be better, but if you didn't give me the hundred dollars, could I still forgive you? Yes. Would the act of taking my money ever be right? No, but you can be forgiven whether you're able to pay it back or not. We're not able to pay back God for all the wrong we've done.

There's no way you can pay God back for all the wrong you've done - for all the wrong I've done - no way. So I accept his forgiveness and thank him wholeheartedly so deeply, that he is willing to forgive. And since this lesson is about reconciliation, we can see how important the aspect of forgiveness is. What is the problem of not being willing to forgive someone? Let me ask this question to help us understand the seriousness of it. Will God forgive us if we are unwilling to forgive someone else? And if we will not forgive - if he will not forgive us, what is our eternal destiny? If God won't forgive us because we won't forgive somebody else, where does that leave us? That's leaves us out in the dark, right? Eternal destruction.

So how important is the willingness to forgive somebody else? It's totally important and if you don't feel like it, then that's why I say this little booklet that you need to send for shows us we need a power out and above and beyond ourselves - the holy spirit - to help us to have those feelings of forgiveness. Yeah, there's some things that it's mighty hard to forgive. I know people - I have known people through the years that they have struggled with forgiveness for somebody all the days of their life and they lived a very bitter and miserable life and they died a very bitter and miserable death all because they weren't willing to forgive. And in your own humanity, yes it is hard and sometimes impossible, but with Christ - what? We can do all things, right? You can even forgive somebody that kills one of your most beloved friends or family members or some of the most serious offenses in the world people have forgiven them because of God living in their hearts. And that's why we need the holy spirit.

I've had people tell me there's someone in their life they just cannot forgive and I shudder when I hear that. Don't you realize what you are saying about your own eternal destiny? You cannot forgive somebody? Then go to your knees until you can forgive that somebody. That's what this lesson is all about today. Now, in one sense, it's an honest approach, 'I can't forgive them. I just can't forgive them.

I can't forgive them.' That's an honest approach - that's the first step - but don't stay in that step because you'll forever be a bitter, miserable person. Go to step two - 'Jesus, help me. Give me a new heart in this one area with this one person - this one broken relationship. Give me the heart of Jesus.' And will he answer that prayer? He's answered it in thousands and millions of people. He'll answer it in your life and ours too.

Now, we go to Thursday's lesson entitled 'from rancor to restoration'. And, of course, for all of you who read the lesson this week, you realize that the passage of Scripture that is being referenced in this day's lesson is Matthew 18. All of us probably have heard of Matthew 18, right? If you have a problem go to Matthew 18. I've seen Matthew 18 used marvelously and wonderfully to bring about reconciliation. I have seen Matthew 18 distorted and so miserably represented and not used correctly and it always brings the opposite result.

So we need to apply it - we need to apply it in the right way. Let's turn to Matthew 18, if you would, this morning. Matthew 18, verse 15 says, "moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church; but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

" Why not take a serious problem directly to the church? Well, it's better to confine it to the smallest number of people possible and if reconciliation takes place in that first step, whoa, praise God. Nobody else needs to worry about it. They don't even have to know about it. Reconciliation took place. Praise God.

If you have to go to the second step - take somebody with you - praise God if it's settled there because by the time, if you have to take it to the church, it's like opening up a big can of worms and nobody likes that. In fact, there's a lot of people in God's church that don't even like to discuss the concept of church discipline. They don't even like to talk about it. 'We shouldn't discipline anybody unless - don't even approach that subject. Let everybody be to themselves doing what they want to, how they want to, when they want to, where they want to, etc, etc.

' You know, the church has more of a responsibility than that. And it's not pleasant - it never is. If somebody thinks it's pleasant then, probably, they need a little attitude change anyway, I guess. But - now in the end, when everything is wrapped up and Jesus comes back again and we all go to heaven for that thousand years, we get to look at the books, right? We see why uncle george didn't make it, even though uncle george professed to be a Christian, professed to believe in the three angels' message. Uncle george, the records reveal, had some real problems going on in his life and that's why he can't be here.

So, at the end of the thousand years, Jesus, the angels, and all the saints come back down out of the sky with the holy city and the wicked are all raised to life. Uncle george is among them and he's going to have to be destroyed but all of God's people and anybody that knew uncle george, now know exactly why this is going to happen this way. There will be no questions. All questions will be answered. And when that fire comes down out of heaven and destroys sin and sinners once and for all, what does God call this? He calls it his strange act.

Why is it strange? Because everything about God is creative, not destructive. Everything about God is building up - making better, not destroying and making things bad and destroying sinners is bad. But he will do it because he has to. It's like having a hundred cows and ninety-nine of them have the mad cow disease - you better get rid of them, right? Or it's just going to keep spreading and spreading and spreading. That's what God is going to do with the sin problem, take care of it once and for all.

So he calls it his 'strange act' and if any of us enjoy this concept of 'let's discipline somebody because they're just so terrible' and 'let's get him kicked out of the church' and, 'let's do this.' It should be kind of a strange act to us too because what are we called to be? We're called to be fisher's of men. We're called to bring people in. We don't like to kick people out and if we do, we'd better have an attitude adjustment, as I mentioned. We have to do it sometimes but it's not what we relish in and enjoy, but let's have this be a strange phenomena or strange act to us likewise. And I like the comments towards the bottom of Thursday when it talks about an issue that has to be taken to the church.

You probably read this too. It says there on the bottom of Thursday's lesson, 'the appropriate place to bring the issue, if the first two steps have not helped to reconcile the two parties, is the church board.' Then, the next sentence is the one I like. 'Again, Christ's purpose is reconciliation, it is not to blame one party and exonerate the other.' Have you ever seen that? People fighting and they want to take it to the board and they want to take it to the board because they want to be exonerated and they want to make sure everybody else sees that that person is the one to blame. That's not the purpose to taking it to the church. Taking it to the church, first of all, should be remedial.

Try to remedy the problem, whatever the problem is, let's try to bring reconciliation to the problem - to the parties in the problem. Let's bring reconciliation to us and God, to us and our fellow man. Reconciliation, reconciliation, reconciliation - that should be our byword, right? It's what God has done for us - reconciled us to him. Let us be reconciled, by his grace, by his presence and his power, let us be reconciled to each other. Now, this morning, I want to remind you again that the free offer is entitled, 'Holy Spirit: the need' - 'Holy Spirit the need' - offer #723, and all you have to do to get that little booklet is to call -866-study-more or -866-788-3966.

'Holy Spirit: the need' - offer #723. Well, I want to thank all of you who have joined us here in the sanctuary at Sacramento this fine, beautiful Sabbath morning and all of you who have joined us by live streaming. Thank you. Come back again next week - same time, same place - for central study hour. May God bless all of you.

May God bless us to have wonderful Christian relationships with brothers and sisters. What do you say? Amen. If you've missed any of our Amazing Facts programs, visit our website at 'amazingfacts.org'. There you'll find an archive of all our television and radio programs, including amazing facts presents. One location.

So many possibilities. Amazingfacts.org.

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