Relationships: Restoring Relationships for Him
This message is on restoring relationships, but the basis for restoring relationships from man’s perspective begins with forgiveness. Here’s a skit that explains man’s way of forgiveness. [ the skit actually shows how we often fall short of God’s way of forgiveness and we botch it.]
Forgiveness is often tried, but often it falls short of what God intends. Relationships will push you beyond you. They will take you beyond the range of your natural abilities and beyond the borders of your natural and acquired wisdom. That is part of God’s plan. But also part of God’s plan is to see what can happen from God’s abilities. What would it take on your part for others to see Christ at work in your life? How can others see that you are a disciple of Jesus? One of the greatest miracles is restoration of relationships, because it doesn’t often happen in everyday life. Why do you need to restore relationships?
Normally, we think of forgiveness and restoration of relationships as a good thing to do from Scripture, because it helps us get along with people. It helps in families, at work and at church for us to get along. Is that why God wants us to forgive and restore relationships? There is a much higher reason. The first basis is because that is the pattern God established. If we want to imitate God, and every believer is commanded to imitate God (Eph. 5:1), then we must mirror His pattern.
1) God reconciled the world to Himself as our pattern 2 Cor. 5:18-19
I’m going to give you a quote that is utterly fantastic. It’s a little long, but bear with me and you will greatly advance in spiritual understanding. It’s helpful to understand the antimony of God’s sovereignty and Man’s freewill. An antimony is an apparently unresolvable conflict or contradiction, especially between two true statements. For example, Scripture declares that God is Sovereign. Scripture also declares that man has free will. If one is true, the other cannot be some will say. It’s like God is one and God is three. Both are true statements, but man’s finite mind cannot fully understand, except by accepting them both by faith and making our best understanding of both true statements.
This is a quote that helped me greatly understand the antinomy of God’s sovereign work in salvation and man’s non-meritorious choice. It’s a quote from Merrill Unger who wrote Unger’s Bible Dictionary. He defines what the word “reconcile.” He explains what God did to restore man to Himself. Read this and I’ll break it down.
“Reconcile comes from a word that means to change thoroughly from one position to another (Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20-21). It means that someone is completely altered and adjusted to a required standard. (Rom. 5:6-11). By the death of Christ, the world is changed in its relationship to God. Man is reconciled to God, but God is not said to be reconciled to man. By this change lost humanity is rendered savable. As a result of the changed position of the world through the death of Christ, the divine attitude toward the human family can no longer be the same. God is enabled to deal with lost souls in the light of what Christ has accomplished. Although this seems to be a change in God, it is not a reconciliation; it is rather a ‘propitiation.’ God places full efficacy in the finished work of Christ and accepts it. Through His acceptance of it He remains righteous and the justifier of any sinner who believes in Jesus as his reconciliation. When an individual heart sees and trusts in the value of Christ’s atoning death, he becomes reconciled to God, hostility is removed, friendship and fellowship eventuate.”
Let me break that down for you.
“Reconcile comes from a word that means to change thoroughly from one position to another (Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20-21). It means that someone is completely altered and adjusted to a required standard. (Rom. 5:6-11).
He is saying that the word “reconcile” means that by the death of Christ on the cross, God changes a person to a completely altered state related to God and adjusts that person to the required standard of God. What is God’s standard? His own righteousness. Because Jesus died on the cross for the sins of man, paying the penalty of sin, man is altered and adjusted to the righteousness of God. Listen to what Paul writes in Romans,
10 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. 11And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Rom. 5:10-11)
We were considered as enemies by God, but because of the cross, we were altered and adjusted to the required standard. The sin barrier was removed by Jesus’ death, so that God could now look at man in a different way. Note that last phrase, “we received the reconciliation.” We’ll see that below. It is the part man must do for the fullness of reconciliation. Then Unger says,
By the death of Christ, the world is changed in its relationship to God. Man is reconciled to God, but God is not said to be reconciled to man. By this change lost humanity is rendered savable.
Here the change is caused by the death of Jesus on the cross, Who died for our sins. Notice he says that man is reconciled to God, but nowhere does it say in Scripture that God is reconciled to man. THAT is very significant. Furthermore, man is then placed in a “savable” condition, whereby man can be saved. Man has been placed in an altered condition and adjusted to the righteousness of God and rendered savable. But man is not saved at that point, because there is a second part of the reconciliation that is necessary.
Unger continues addressing the relationship,
As a result of the changed position of the world through the death of Christ, the divine attitude toward the human family can no longer be the same.
Because of the death of Jesus, God’s attitude had to change toward mankind. It couldn’t be the same. Why couldn’t it remain the same, that is, considering man as an enemy (Rom. 5:10)?
God is enabled to deal with lost souls in the light of what Christ has accomplished. Although this seems to be a change in God, it is not a reconciliation; it is rather a ‘propitiation.’
Because of the death of Jesus, God is enabled to deal with fallen man. How does that work? Because God’s righteousness was propitiated – satisfied. Legally, the penalty for sins was paid by Jesus and God was satisfied with His death payment. However, there hasn’t been a full reconciliation, because a second part is necessary. God was satisfied with the death of Jesus for the sins of the world, so God could no longer look at man as an enemy, but a soul waiting to accept what God had done for him. Catch this next section,
God places full efficacy in the finished work of Christ and accepts it. Through His acceptance of it He remains righteous and the justifier of any sinner who believes in Jesus as his reconciliation.
Jesus did the work. God makes effective, or considers of great value, the work of Christ. Why? Because God the Father accepted the work of Jesus on the cross and therefore can place man in a position of being justified, if man makes a non-meritorious decision of faith to accept what Jesus has done, that is believe in Jesus as his reconciliation. Finally, Unger says,
When an individual heart sees and trusts in the value of Christ’s atoning death, he becomes reconciled to God, hostility is removed, friendship and fellowship eventuate.”
So God calls you to salvation and waits on you to put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior. When you do, then the fullness of the hostility is removed and you can grow in fellowship with God. That is deep, I know, but is utterly important to understand as you grow in your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, you may have been offended, harmed, hurt, or attacked by another Christian, even one in authority, like a husband, elder or pastor. I don’t know the circumstances of your event, but I know they happen and they can cause great harm and pain. But let me tell you about the One who has never offended or attacked. Let me tell you about the One who reconciles, because at the base of reconciliation is forgiveness. Listen to the greatness of my Lord.
It’s my Lord’s character to forgive,
16 “But they and our fathers acted proudly, Hardened their necks, And did not heed Your commandments. 17 They refused to obey, And they were not mindful of Your wonders That You did among them. But they hardened their necks, And in their rebellion They appointed a leader To return to their bondage. But You are God, Ready to pardon, Gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, Abundant in kindness, And did not forsake them. (Neh. 9:16-17)
We get a clear picture of Israel’s hardness and rebellion. They even wanted to go back to the slave market of Egypt, even though God promised a land full of milk and honey. Even though they were stiff-necked, God was ready to pardon and merciful. It makes a Christian want to sing of the mercy of the Lord forever!
When God forgives, it’s complete,
10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; 12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103:10-12)
My God hasn’t treated me, or you, the way I deserve. In fact, He removes my sins an infinite distant, as far as the east is from the west, because of Christ’s sufficient death on the cross. Additionally, there is a great illustration in Isaiah 38 about how God deals with my sin. God speaks through Isaiah to Hezekiah to get his house in order because Hezekiah is going to die. Well, Hezekiah is not ready to go and becomes very bitter about it. He goes into his bedroom and faces the wall and weeps. But he comes to his senses and he is filled with peace, because he realizes what God has done with his sins.
17 Indeed it was for my own peace that I had great bitterness; But You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption, for You have cast all my sins behind Your back. (Is. 38:17)
The picture Isaiah gives is of God taking my sins and putting them in the small of His back. That is a place that you know is there, but you can’t see it. God doesn’t look at my sins after they have been dealt with. That’s the mercy of my God! In Hebrews we have another aspect of how God deals with us.
14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. 15 But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, 16“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” 17 then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” (Heb. 10:14-17)
God doesn’t forget our sins, He chooses not to remember them. God is all knowing, or omniscient, so He cannot forget our sins. Fortunately, He chooses not to remember them. Finally, God’s infinite forgiveness costs me nothing, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21) It was free to me, but cost the death of the Lord Jesus. That’s what God is like! He is ready to pardon, therefore we ought to be ready to pardon people also. IT IS not easy. It takes God the Holy Spirit to soften our hearts, and the decision of the will to forgive and begin the restoration process. There is a second reason why Jesus wants you to restore relationships.
2) Restoring relationships is more important than worship Matt. 5:23-24
Does that make sense? What could be more important that worship? Isn’t that what God calls us to do? Worship Him? There is something more important according to the Lord Jesus.
23 “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 “leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matt. 5:23-24)
That is what Jesus said. He said, if you are coming to worship God, and you remember that a brother has something against you, then first go seek to restore the relationship, and then come back and worship. That means we need to forgive, even when/if the other person hasn’t done what he needs to do. Paul says it well,
31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph. 4:31-32)
I need to put off any bitterness and anger and put on forgiveness if I’m going to restore a relationship. I’m going to have to forgive. What does that mean?
Forgiveness is used many ways and this message only begins to address forgiveness. There are three main words for the word, “forgiveness.” The first is a Hebrew word, “nasah,” which means to “lift up.” You can remember the word because it sounds like NASA, which lifts rockets to space. The second Hebrew word is “salah” which means “ready to forgive.” God is ready and waiting on us and wants us ready and waiting on others to restore the relationship. The third word is a Greek word “aphia-mi,” which means “to send away.” God wants us to send away the penalty of the offense from someone else away to God. That way we let God deal with the offense of the person toward us and we can trust God to do the right thing. God is much better at helping people see their wrong, than we are!
There are four slides at the end of the message that explain this process. When we send the penalty and pain to God, then we are free to be in a position to love the person. We are satisfied that God can deal with the person. In fact, God may lead us to be a part of the restoration process. We may need to act for the person by expressing love toward him. That love takes the direction of Jesus and empowerment by the Holy Spirit.
What does that look like? Let me use Matthew 18 as the illustration that Jesus wants us to restore relationships more than even approaching Him in worship.
In Matthew 18, the disciples are discussing with themselves who is the greatest and they approach Jesus and say, “Jesus, who is going to be the greatest in the Kingdom?” Jesus takes a little child and putting the child in front of them, He says, “Unless you are converted and become like this child, you will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” He added, “And so whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom. And whoever receives this child in My name, receives Me.” In other words, this is available to all people. All people can be restored, but it takes the humility of a child who trusts in the one in authority.
Jesus wanted the disciples to understand how serious sin is, so He continues to say that whoever causes one of the little ones to sin, well it would be better to have a millstone put around his neck and be cast into the sea, so you can’t cause anyone else to sin. It’s a horrible thing to cause another to sin.
Then Jesus describes the seriousness of sin with an hyperbole. He says, that if your hand or foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It would be better to enter the Kingdom with one hand or foot, than to have two and be cast into the everlasting fire. Or if your eye causes you to stumble (maybe through pornography or window shopping and lusting after wanting more clothes), to pluck it out, for it would be better to enter into the Kingdom with one eye than to have two eyes and be cast into hell fire. But Jesus doesn’t just stand there like a stern judge. No He reveals the compassion we all need to have toward others.
He continues saying, if a shepherd has 100 sheep and one sheep strays away. He will leave the 99 to seek the one. And when he finds the one, he will rejoice more than having the 99. That’s a big deal! So we should have that kind of compassion that the Father has toward all people.
Forgiveness also includes the process of dealing with sin in a gracious and orderly way. Jesus describes a case where a brother sins against you. Well, you go to him and tell him his fault in private, alone. If he listens and repents, then you’ve won your brother and the relationship is restored. But if he doesn’t listen, then go get one or two witnesses, because Scripture says that the word is established based on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
If the brother listens and repents, then you’ve won your brother and restored the relationship. But if he doesn’t repent, then take it to the church leadership and establish the truth with them. Let the church know so they will fear God and want to do what is right. If the brother doesn’t listen or repent, then treat him like a heathen or a tax collector. He is likely not a believer. You’ll need to lead him to Christ.
So Peter hears all this and asks Jesus, “Jesus, if my brother sins against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Do I have to forgive him up to seven times?” Jesus said, “Not up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” And Jesus continued the explanation by describing a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. So he brought the servants in and one servant owed him ten thousand talents (that’s about 12 million ounces of gold). The servant didn’t have the resources to pay, so the king commanded that he be sold along with his wife and children and all that he had. The servant fell down before the king and begged, “Master, be patient with me and I will pay you all.” The king was moved with compassion, released him and forgave him the debt completely.
Then the servant went out and found another servant who owed him 100 days wages. He went to the servant and choking him said, “Repay me what you owe!” But the servant said, “Be patient with me and I’ll repay you all.” But the first servant would not listen and threw the servant in prison. There were fellow servants who saw what happened and reported to the king who called for the first servant. The king said, “You wicked servant, I forgave you all the debt because you begged me. Shouldn’t you have compassion on your fellow servant as I had pity on you?” Then the king said, “Deliver this one to the torturer, until he has repaid every last cent.
And Jesus succinctly said, “So My heavenly Father will do to you, if you do not from your heart forgive your brother his sins.”
Consider that forgiveness is an event and a process. How many times do you forgive? It’s a process because you’ll be tempted to think about the sin when you see the person.
Forgiveness is canceling a debt. You promise to leave it behind and not keep track of wrongs suffered. (1 Cor. 13:5) You are not to bring up the offense to others or slander the person who sinned against you. You also promise not to dwell on the offense yourself or replay the offense over and over.
Forgiveness is costly, but lack of forgiveness is more costly. You may not choke anyone, but you may shut them out of your life. When you don’t forgive, you do at least three things. First, you don’t imitate God. (Eph. 5:1) Second, you show ingratitude to God. (1 Thes. 5:18) And thirdly, you sin (Jam. 4:17). Like Jesus said regarding the people while He hung on the cross, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Why do you need to restore relationships? First, because God is our pattern of restoring relationships. Secondly, because it is more important than worship to Him. And thirdly, because restoring relationships is your responsibility to Him.
3) Restoring relationships is my responsibility to Him Luke 17:1-10
The first part of the passage is a parallel to Matthew 18. Let’s start in Luke 17:3,
3 “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.
4 “And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, `I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”
5 And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
6 So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, `Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
7 “And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, `Come at once and sit down to eat ‘?
8 “But will he not rather say to him, `Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink ‘?
9 “Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not.
10 “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, `We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’” (Luke 17:3-10)
So if your brother sins, then you go graciously rebuke him. Yes, he sinned against you, but he’s not responding or interested in restoring the relationship. God gives you the opportunity to practice grace. Will you be like Jesus and initiate restoration? If he repents, then forgive and if you have to do that seven times in a day (quite a few times), then forgive and restore the relationship. Well the disciples are overwhelmed by the thought and ask Jesus for more faith. Jesus doesn’t give them more faith, because the issue is not greater faith, but rather humility and trusting God to work through the relationship. Just a little faith can uproot the mulberry tree and cast it into the sea, IF that is God’s will. Restoration is God’s will is most circumstances.
Then Jesus describes the kind of humility that is necessary in verses 7-10. This is difficult to understand and very few pastors ever do a message on this paragraph.
Jesus describes a servant who has worked hard all day plowing or tending sheep and then comes in to eat. But the servant doesn’t come in to receive a meal, but is expected to serve the master after which he is then allowed to eat. The master isn’t even expected to say thanks to the servant for making the meal. Why? The master has the right to tell the servant what to do and the purpose of the servant is to serve the master.
When it comes to people who sin against you, God gives you no right to withhold forgiveness or harbor bitterness. When I withhold God’s love toward another, I set myself up as a judge and arbiter to others, rather than be a servant of the Lord. I decide whether someone else is worthy of my love and relationship. I deny God’s glory from flowing through me. I become a spigot of God’s love, rather than a hose. Restoring relationships is my duty, because it is what He did for me.
Restore relationships for Jesus’ sake,
because He has restored you!
· Forgiveness is a vertical choice Mark 11:25 release it to God, so that you can unconditionally love as He does. In any situation.
· Forgiveness starts vertically, the horizontal depends upon the offender admitting guilt and asking for forgiveness Luke 17:1-4.
· Forgiveness is not forgetting. Jer. 31:34. I will not treat you as your sins deserve. I will instead forgive you. When you don’t forget, you’ll think you haven’t forgiven and filled with doubts. Or you’ll give in to bitterness without realizing it, because you think that forgiving equals forgetting.
· How do I know when I’ve forgiven? I love God, I just can’t deal with a few of His people. I’m better off without them. What about 1 John 4:20-21?
· When you forgive, do not demand restitution (sometimes it cannot be retrieved or repaid), but instead demonstrate mercy and love toward him with a goal of reconciliation. Restitution is part of the process of restoration and should lovingly be pointed out to the offender. God’s world has many other things to say about that.
At this point a second skit was done in the message to show God’s way of restoring a relationship. God’s way takes the process of forgiveness and restoration seriously and seeks to make sure the people are actually walking in unity of the Spirit again and working together. We restore relationships, not because it helps us, but because it’s what God’s pattern is, it is more important that worship and it is simply put – your duty.
There are some times when you cannot restore relationships. A girl who has been violated, ought not seek restoration with her abuser. There are cases where the person continues in sinful behavior and restoration is not possible. You are required to forgive, but restoration of relational fellowship may not be possible and could be harmful.
What do you do when you have to continue in a relationship that is not just hard, but very difficult? What about a marriage that sets you off? What about a relationship at work, or even church? How do you continue walking in the Lord if that relationship is not restored? That message will follow in the message, “Overcoming Difficult Relationships for Him.”
Message Based Discussion Questions
1) What bothers you most about religious fanatics?
2) How many steps does Jesus give in Matthew 18 for restoration? ___________ How would you describe the restoration process to a child? What are danger points in the process?
3) What are at least five description of love in 1 Cor. 13.? _______; __________; ___________; ____________; _______________. How does 1 Corinthians 13 influence the practical aspect of forgiveness?
4) To Whom are you to offer your body a living sacrifice in Romans 12:1? ______________ What are other principles regarding forgiveness can we learn from Romans 12?
Implementing the message to your life:
5) In what relationship situations is restoration difficult? What do you do? What counsel would you give another on what to do?