Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leaving Self Behind, Part 3

Leslie Basham: There are certain times when forgiveness seems impossible, but nothing is impossible with God.

What would you find difficult to forgive? Can you believe that God could give you the power to forgive anything? Today we'll hear that God requires us to forgive and discover the power that comes when we do. To introduce today's message, here's Nancy.

Nancy DeMoss: Elisabeth Elliot is a woman who knows what it means to be a forgiver. In 1956 after she had been married for just 27 months, her husband, Jim Elliot, was martyred by the Auca Indians along with four other missionaries. Months later, Elisabeth returned to that tribe with her baby daughter and continued to share the good news of Jesus Christ with those very people who had been responsible for the death of her husband.

Only an understanding and a commitment to God's principle of forgiveness could have enabled her to take that kind of step. What we're going to hear today from Elisabeth Elliot is not just head knowledge; it's a life message for her. Let's join Elisabeth Elliot as she speaks to a group of women on the subject of forgiveness.

Elisabeth Elliot: Baron Von Hegel wrote, "The law of suffering and sacrifice is the one way to joy and possession. To forgive someone is an act of sacrifice. It is to give up your right to yourself."

I had a phone call from a friend one morning and she said, "Elisabeth, I need your help," and she told me this long story about how she and her husband had very close friends with another couple. [They've] been good friends for years but then they made the terrible mistake of going on a vacation together. Everything fell apart on that vacation and from that time on this woman had not spoken to her [friend] until just yesterday.

She said, "You know, she called me, Elisabeth, can you believe this? She called me to ask me if I would be Godmother to her new baby!" She said, "Do you think I have to say yes to that after what she did to me?"

"Well," I said, "I'm certainly not going to tell you that you have to be Godmother to her baby, that's none of my business. But I do know what you have to do."

And she said, "Well, what's that?"

"Uh," I said, "You have to forgive her, don't you?"

"Forgive her? After what she did to me? Did you hear what I told you about her?"

So I said, "Well now wait a minute, what does Jesus say about forgiveness?" And there was just a dead silence.

"I don't know."

So I repeated the words that she knew perfectly well, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."

She said, "Is that what it says?"

I said, "Yes, and furthermore, when Jesus finished that prayer He turned to His disciples and He said, 'If you do not forgive your brother from your heart, neither will my Father in heaven forgive you.'" There was a thunderous silence.

"Is that what it says?"

"Yes."

Now you know, that is simple, but it's not easy. Let's not ever confuse simple and easy. There are a whole lot of things that are very hard to do but they are perfectly simple. Because God is telling you, "This is what I want you to do."

Amy Carmichael has a wonderful story, beautiful story, of a certain man who was a Hindu in a village which was thoroughly Hindu. And he became a Christian. And of course when the word got around he was hated by the people because of his testimony.

And so one of the men just decided he would test the reality of this Christianity thing. And so he demanded the use of this Christian man's bullock and cart. And the Christian said, "Take my bullock and my cart and take the fodder for the bullock, as well." The Hindu was astounded, shocked and ashamed. Too ashamed to go ahead and do what the Christian had told him he could do. But it didn't take very long before he became a Christian because of that outrageous response.

And Jesus in Matthew 5 tells us to do some outrageous things, doesn't He? "If somebody takes your coat, give him your cloak. If somebody wants you to go one mile, go two miles." So why not let yourself be wronged?

Matthew 16 tells us that we are to leave self behind. Ephesians 4:32 is another passage I want us to look at. I should start with 31. "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander along with every form of malice." I like the bluntness of the New International Version here. Get rid of all bitterness. And I can hear some of you saying, "Well, you know, I've really been struggling with that for a long time." And you know what struggling means, ladies, in a case like that? Struggling is simply delayed obedience.

Most of the time, now I know there are exceptions to that. There are other ways in which we struggle and the apostle Paul struggled with the churches that he was responsible for. But if we examine our consciences, deliberately, clearly, and in the presence of God, I think we're going to find out that a whole lot of what we call struggling is delayed obedience.

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other." How? "Just as in Christ, God forgave you." Now how was that? He had to die, didn't He? He had to go to the cross and die. And if it hadn't been for that, where would we be?

On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross,
the emblem of suffering and shame.
And I love that old cross,
where the dearest and best,
for a world of lost sinners was slain.

So I'll cherish the old rugged cross,
till my trophies at last I lay down.
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
and exchange it some day for a crown.

"Be imitators of God," This is chapter 5 now, verse 1, from Ephesians-- "therefore as dearly loved children. And live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering of sacrifice to God."

I was watching TV one night as I was getting supper. We have a tiny little TV set that sits on the kitchen counter and it's about the only time that I have time to watch anything. And I was watching one of those talk shows that had a particularly sardonic man who was in charge of that particular talk show. This was a number of years ago. And as I switched on the TV, I looked at the screen, which was filled with the very earnest face of a young man who happened at that very moment to be saying, "I forgive them."

Well I looked again to see what channel I was on; I couldn't believe that I would hear anything like that on that kind of a program. Whereupon someone in the audience leaped to her feet and she said, "That's sick!" She said, "After what they did to you, why would you forgive them?" And she said, "What you're doing is condoning their evil. I don't see why you'd want to condone their evil."

And the young man said, "I didn't say I condoned it, I said, 'I forgive them.'"

And as the program went on, I realized that I was looking at the young man who was beaten almost to death in the L.A. riots a number of years ago. He was a truck driver and so here he is looking straight at the audience and saying, "I forgive them."

Well, this same woman jumped up again and she said, "I don't care what you say. That's just outrageous and anybody who would forgive somebody for something like that, you gotta be, there's something wrong with your head."

Whereupon a very beautiful black lady stood up, very poised, with a quiet voice and she said, "I would just like you to know that I am the mother of the man who beat this man here." And she said, "I just want you to know that what my son did to him was a terrible thing, it was a wrong." But she said, "You know, in the court case, as soon as the verdict was pronounced," she said, "we were in each other's arms." This young man who is saying, "I forgive him" and the mother of the man who had beaten him. She said, "We understand this because we're Christians. That's forgiveness."

Why not be wronged? Why not just go ahead and be wronged? Well, that's what the Bible says.

Nancy DeMoss: We've been listening to Elisabeth Elliot with some very direct and penetrating words about the subject of forgiveness. You know, after years of ministering to women all across this country, I can say that one of the most deadly and destructive and common issues we face as women is this whole matter of bitterness. And our refusal to let it go, to be willing to be wronged if necessary and to extend forgiveness to others as Christ has forgiven us.

Elisabeth has challenged us by saying that sometimes when we say, "I'm struggling," what we're really saying is "I just won't obey God." For most of us the issue isn't so much that we can't forgive as that we won't choose to forgive. Now I'm not saying that that choice to forgive is an easy one, but it's one we've got to be willing to make if we're going to walk in freedom.

So who is it that you need to forgive? Can I just say there is no way that you will ever walk in the freedom and the fullness and the fruitfulness that Christ intends for you until you're willing to say, "Father, I choose to forgive, to clear their record, to let it go."

Leslie Basham: Thanks, Nancy. We'd like to help you grow in this area of forgiveness. Nancy has taught on the subject right here on Revive Our Hearts. And that series is available for a suggested donation of $8. Ask for the cassette series, Freedom through Forgiveness, when you call us at 1-800-569-5959. Or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

When you contact us, please remember that we can only bring this kind of teaching you've heard today through the support of our listeners. Would you consider what you could give to help us continue? You can send your donation to Revive Our Hearts.

We hope you have a great fourth of July holiday tomorrow. If you're not around to hear tomorrow's broadcast, we hope you'll write or call to get a tape. Elisabeth Elliot will continue to give a powerful message on forgiveness. Now to wrap things up, here's Nancy:

Nancy DeMoss: As we've been talking about forgiveness, chances are there's a name or a face that's come to your mind. And as you're thinking about that individual, I'd like for us just to stop and pray right now for this grace of forgiveness.

Father, we all have been hurt. We've been wounded. We've been sinned against. And we have wounded others; we have sinned against others. Where would we be if it weren't for Your forgiveness of us? You've had so much mercy and grace upon us. And now You're calling us as we think of those who've wronged us to extend forgiveness to them as You have forgiven us. So help us, Lord, to release those offenses, to choose to forgive and to be willing if necessary to be wronged that we might reveal Your grace and Your mercy to those around us. I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.