Let me invite you to turn to the Epistle of 1st John. God the Holy Spirit used the Apostle John, the beloved Apostle, to give a letter that is very instructive for us today. Let’s look in 1st John at chapter two and verse number seven. We’re going to go through several verses. We will not get to all of them, but I want to use them to set a context for one particular area to which we are going to draw our attention. God, the Holy Spirit, wrote through the Apostle John,
v. 7 Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. v. 8 Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. v. 9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. v. 10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. v. 11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not wither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.
This is John’s 3rd test. Previously, in verse number six, “if we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness we lie and do not the truth.” This is what he says: if you think you have fellowship with God but you walk in the darkness Monday through Friday, stop kidding yourself. Now that sounds harsh, critical, and abrupt, and it would be if it were my words. But it’s not my words. It’s the Word of God. He’s going to give us five tests; we’re going to look at the third one. So anyone that says “I know God. I have a relationship with God. God is my Savior” Oh, you know Him? “Yes, I know Him.” Do you have a relationship with Him? “Yes, I have a relationship with Him. Yes, I know God.” Do you keep His commandments? I’m not talking about being morally good. There are a lot of morally good people. I’m talking about His commandments.
“Pastor, what do you think is one of the first commandments that Christ presented in His preaching ministry?” It was repent and believe the Gospel. That was one of the first commandments ever out of His mouth. And so anyone who has not obeyed that commandment first and foremost has no assurance of their salvation. Now He takes us to commandment number three. Let’s look at what Matthew Henry said pertaining to this particular passage. There are those who say they are in the light. And he’s going to clarify it. The Divine Revelation made an impression on their minds and spirits, and yet they walk in hatred and enmity toward their Christian brethren. So there’s a group of people out there Matthew Henry says, now this is 400 years ago, who believe they’ve been converted. They say that the Divine Light has made a difference in their life, and yet when we examine them, they hate their Christian brethren. They are at enmity toward them. These cannot be swayed by the sense of love of Christ to their brethren. And therefore they remain in their dark state. Notwithstanding is their pretended conversion to the Christian religion. That should be of great concern to everyone. I want to make sure that I don’t have a pretend conversion. I want to make sure that I have a relationship with Christ that’s real. I want to make sure that I’ve been truly born again. I want to have a tremendous assurance of my salvation. I don’t want to have to wonder. I want to know for sure. I want to know the Truth.”
He’s going to tell us how we can know. He’s going to show us. He’s going to give us true tests in this study of 1st John so that we can know for sure. He says in verse number seven “brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which you have heard from the beginning.” So John says, “I’m not presenting something new. It’s old and yet at the same time it’s new. John doesn’t quote the old or new commandment; he just starts talking about the law of fraternal love. Notice the text, in verse number nine, he says that there are those that hate their brethren, and in verse number ten he says there are those that love their brethren. In verse number eleven, he says there are those that hate their brethren. What John is referring to is the second great commandment. He recalls what Christ said when Jesus said “by this shall all men know that you are my disciples if you have love one for another”. Please notice very, very especially the Apostles—I’m talking about Matthew, John, Paul, and Peter. The Apostles knew nothing of this idea that someone can be assured of their salvation while he or she ignores the Spirit of Christ or while they harbor hatred toward a person or a group of people. No one in the Christian religion should have any assurance of their salvation while they have hatred or malice toward another particular person or group of people. You cannot say I hate blacks and I love Jesus. Don’t kid yourself. Have no assurance.
Previously, John makes specific reference to keeping the commandments. Now, he’s going to examine the second great commandment. Here’s the biblical fact that I want you to retain: One can say they love God, but how they relate to other humans will be the true test of their relationship with God. You can say all day long “I love God”. You can mouth those words. You can stand in corporate worship on Sunday and act like the greatest Christian in the world. You can wear the white shirt which is the appropriate color shirt to wear, right? And you can wear the dark suit and you can sing “Amazing grace how sweet the sound.” You can look the part, and you can fake the funk, but let me go with you to your jobsite on Monday morning and that’ll show it. That’ll prove it. That’s what we call “rubber meets the road Christianity” right there. It’s going to get real when we get there.
Please turn back to Mark chapter twelve, as we look at this second great commandment. Mark is the second gospel. It was written by John Mark. Let’s look at Mark chapter twelve and verses thirty and thirty-one. I’m going to draw your attention to the second great commandment. It is a very, important text, one that you should have highlighted, marked, and underlined in your Bibles. Commit it to memory. I’ll read twenty-nine:
“And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:” (There are not multiple gods. There is one God. There is one Lord.) vs. 30-31 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. Now here is where it becomes tough to be a Christian. It’s easy to love people who love you. It’s easy to love people who are taking care of you. But let that neighbor cross you, and you’re still commanded to love them? This is where it’s going to get really tough. This is where the rubber meets the road. But yet, we know that He said this is an old commandment. How old?
Let’s look at Leviticus chapter nineteen. Let me show you how old this commandment is. Remember John said it’s an old commandment, and at the same time it’s a new commandment. Let me show you what he means by that. Let’s look together at Leviticus chapter nineteen and verse number eighteen. He’s going to give us a commandment here: “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but though shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord.” You should not avenge. You should not bear a grudge. You should love your neighbor as yourself. Why? Why do I have to do those things? He is the Lord; that’s reason enough. That’s reason enough for you to be obedient to God. He’s in charge. He’s the boss. He’s the Sovereign One. Now let’s take these one at a time. By a show of hands, how many of you here today got in a fist fight with somebody this week? Did anybody get in a fist fight this week?
Alright, let’s change it. At any time this week, did any of you take your car in anger and smash into somebody. You know what I mean. Did you get aggravated with them when you were driving? You were kind of aggravated with somebody. They cut you off - you know what happens. So you decided I’m going to avenge them. Did anybody do that this week? No. See, we have a pretty good handle on that. We don’t do a whole lot of avenging. Did anybody murder someone this week? Alright, so we probably don’t have too much of an issue with avenging. Christians don’t avenge one another very much. We don’t really slam doors in each others face too much. We don’t normally elbow each other. We don’t normally get into fist fights at church, but what about the second part? Can I go to the next slide please? How about this one: Nor bear any grudge. Oh, oh, now wait a minute. Now we’re going to change a little bit. See if you crashed into someone this week, we’d all come up to you and say “Dan, what happened to the front corner of your car?” Well you have to understand I lost my temper and… But you see a grudge is a grudge. Brother Mike, a grudge is great because no one sees a grudge. I can hide a grudge. I can take that grudge and bury it inside my shirt behind my t-shirt where no one sees it. That grudge, let’s go on to that next slide so we can define a grudge.
It’s resentment. It’s deep-seeded ill will. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve been hurt. You’ve been crushed. Someone was rude to you. You thought you were treated wrong. All of a sudden you get a little bitter and you start forming it in your heart. Now here’s the beauty of this message: everyone has a problem with this. There isn’t anyone that is exempt. Do we have any seventy year olds in here? Do you still have an issue with this? How about eighty? How about five year olds? Does anybody work with kindergarteners? I’ve seen kindergarteners cop an attitude and form a grudge. See here’s the reality of this morning’s message, no one is exempt. Males. Females. Four year olds. Five year olds. Six year olds. Seven year olds. Eight year olds. Eighty year olds. Ninety year olds. Every one of us has the propensity to form a grudge. All of us have that issue. None of us are exempt from that. And let me tell you it’s killing the body of Christ. Nobody knows about it. It’s our little grudge. We keep it inside us. We harbor it. We let it deep inside there and it buries in there. You know what I mean. It’s deep seeded bitterness toward perceived wrong doing, and my thesis is this deep seeded bitterness toward perceived wrong doing is a failure to trust God’s Sovereignty and His promises. That’s my thesis, and that’s what I’m going to try to prove to you.
I’m going to prove to you that the formation of a grudge in your life, that the idea of grabbing a grudge and harboring it in your life, is in fact, if you’re willing to be honest, a questioning of whether God’s really in charge or not. God, I can’t believe that my sister has cancer. I can’t believe that my son died when he was four years old. I can’t believe that my husband is a bum, or whatever it is. We begin to put God on trial, and we begin to question His ability to control and watch over and care for and protect our lives. We begin to say God, you’re not really in charge or you would have kept this from happening. You would have watched over and cared for me. You would have answered my prayer. You would have protected me in some form or fashion. And what we do is take that ill will, that resentment, that bitterness and we grab a hold of it and we bury it in the recesses of our hearts. And it stays in there and it grows and gets larger and larger and larger.
How real is this, Pastor Sean? Let me tell you something, if God doesn’t have mercy, and that storm hits Louisiana, there are going to be a lot of Christians in the next week that are going to be battling this. And they’re going to say, “Why God? Why?” And we have to rely on His promise that He’s in control. If any human being in the Bible had reason to hold a grudge against his brothers it was Joseph. Joseph goes to see his brothers to deliver a message, to take care of them, to see what’s going on, and to give a report, and those brothers throw him in a pit? They sell him, and he ends up in Egypt. He’s doing a great job, gets thrown in jail, takes care of people in jail and is supposed to get released, and then they forget about him? I mean we are talking about somebody that, if they wanted to hold a grudge, he’d have a laundry list of reasons to hold a grudge, and we’d all be ill equipped to say “Joseph you shouldn’t have done that.” Yet, church, this is what he says as his testimony “But as for you, you thought evil against me, but God meant it for good.” And in our finite minds we will often think “God, this is an evil thing.” What’s happening in my life is an evil thing. Losing my mother when I was thirteen years old is an evil thing. And we will, if we’re not careful, begin to form a grudge. Teenagers, please listen this morning because I know that there are grudges. There are grudges that are formed. Ill will happens. Teacher, you should’ve given me a break. Teacher, you should’ve been merciful. Teacher, you should have done that. And we begin to form grudges in our hearts toward teachers. Either this Scripture is true or it’s not. It really comes down to that. Either He is in charge, and we know that “all things work together for good to them that love God and to them that are called according to His purpose,” or it’s not. There’s no in between, church. Do you understand that God’s not semi-Sovereign? Either He is the Sovereign Lord of the Universe, or He’s not. There isn’t an in between.
Do not allow yourself to be distracted by this nonsense of open theism that is being communicated nowadays. If you don’t know anything about it, don’t worry about. If you’re getting involved it in, it’s heresy. It really is. I’d be happy to entertain that conversation with you. But God is in charge. God is in control. Even when we have what we perceive as the most ill treatment in our own lives, God is still in control. So let’s ask ourselves a question: How much of a problem is this in the body of Christ? This is what I believe: I believe that there are a lot of Christians walking around with a huge grudge on their back and nobody sees it. The grudge is invisible; it’s not like that big backpack. But here’s the reality, that grudge that you’re holding in your heart is just like that backpack. It’s weighing you down. There’s no way around it. And here’s the truth: You let that gentleman carry that around all his life, and don’t be surprised when he’s 50 years old and has chronic back problems. With the same token, if you carry a grudge around, don’t be surprised if you have premature aging. Don’t be surprised if you have stomach ulcers. Don’t be surprised if you have extra stress because that grudge is wearing you down.
How many of you have read Pilgrim’s Progress? That little pilgrim needed to get that backpack, that grudge, that burden, off his back. Do you know what we need to do? We need to let those grudges go! We need to get them off our back. Many of you have been in the military like me. You remember. You couldn’t wait until the final step of the 12 mile or the 20K or whatever and whoosh! Wasn’t that an awesome feeling when you just let your pack go? Wasn’t it awesome? Let me tell you something: that will pale in comparison to the day you let your grudge go. It’ll be the greatest relief in the world, but you have to do it. You have to let the grudge go. Pastor, what are some of the quadrants or areas in our life that we could have a grudge? God would be the first one. You could have a grudge toward God. God, why is so and so married to that great husband and I am not? God, why are they so gifted and I am not? God, why is their child naturally compliant and mine is (fill in the blank). And if we’re not careful, we begin to allow little, tiny seeds of bitterness in our life. It’s like the little stoutly part of the “g” in grudge. A little part of the lower case “g” appears first. The longer it stays the “r” comes and then the “u” comes with it, and it gets larger. Every day that you let that grudge go, and you don’t deal with that grudge, it’s like a tumor in your body. It grows and grows and grows and grows.
How about parents? You have a lot of 40 year old parents walking around with grudges toward their own parents. They are still resenting what their mom and dad failed to do in their mind. They are still struggling with that. How about spouses? Failure to forgive a spouse for a sin that happened five years ago, eight years ago, ten years ago, and you just won’t let it go. You just keep bringing it up over and over and over again. You have that grudge and nobody knows about it. You come to church. You look great. Hair is just right, big smile on your face. But inside your heart, you’ve got a grudge that you won’t let go. And I’m here to tell you right now that the Apostle John says if you won’t let this grudge go and you hate that brother because of it, there’s an issue with your relationship with Jesus Christ. Don’t kid yourself. That’s exactly what he’s saying.
Let’s talk about this fourth quadrant right here, boss, co-worker, relative. Many of you know that I was in the military some time ago, and I was the First Sergeant of a unit. I made a decision that I thought was the right decision. I really did. It was a little bit hasty. I probably in hindsight would have given more thought to it, but I thought I did at the time. I thought I made a reasonable decision. Nobody died and it wasn’t immoral. But the Battalion Commander and Battalion Commander Sergeant Major found out about it, and let me tell you something, they destroyed me on my evaluation report. By the grace of God, I had been a good soldier, and I had a series of evaluation reports that we would say would walk on water. You know what I mean by that: these were good evaluation reports one right after another since I was a Buck Sergeant. And I tell you I thought I was going to get promotion after promotion. I got that evaluation report, and those X’s were in those particular blocks, and those scores were those numbers. I’m going to tell you right now, I struggled with this. I had a grudge with a capital “G.” I had ill will. I had resentment. It was a struggle. I was a Christian, yes, I was a Christian, but really felt I was done wrong. I still talked to them. I saluted them when I had to see them. You know how that salute goes, men. You can tell those kinds of salutes. If I saw them coming down the street, I would cross the street. That’s what I did. I’m just being honest with you all this morning. I just crossed the street. If they came into the dining facility I finished my food; even if I wasn’t done, I’d had enough. I got up and left. I just gave them whatever was required. It was cursory communication. I had a grudge with a capital “G” and a capital “R” and it was killing my relationship with God. It was killing my testimony at work. It was killing it. I’m going to tell you how you can get rid of that grudge.
Let me ask you a question, do you need to hear this? Is this going to be practical, or am I the only one that struggles with? This is tough. Let me tell you something, this is “rubber meets the road Christianity” right here when you can get rid of a grudge because it doesn’t take long at all. Once we perceive that we’ve been done wrong, it’s only a matter of time before we will begin to build that up, and I think we need to know how to get rid of it. So what are the issues behind holding a grudge? Let me give them to you. Number One: In a quasi spirit of self-righteousness, we believe if the situation was reversed we would always do what we perceive is the right thing, so we resent the ill will. Now please pay close attention to this. These are my words. I’m not copying them from anyone. If I copy, I give credit. In a quasi spirit of self-righteousness, we would never claim it as self-righteous, but the reality is that it is. So, this is how it works: adult children who are resenting their parents always believe if they were the parents, they would have done it differently. Maybe some of you all didn’t hear that. Any adult child who is resenting and begrudging their parents, any teenager who is in the auditorium this morning who has a grudge toward your mother or father, this is what you believe: in the deep recesses of your heart you believe if the situation was reversed, you would have done it differently. You do it the right way. Now ask yourself how self-righteous is that? Because you know what it implies? You always do the right thing; that’s what it implies. You always make the right choice. It implies an air of superiority. It is in fact self-righteous. Whether you admit it or not it is.
Okay that parent analogy is not working, so let’s change it. Let’s go down the road that most men will go with me. On Monday morning, how many of you are wearing out the coach from Sunday night? Come on? You know exactly what I’m talking about. If I was the coach, I would have called a time out here instead of here. I would’ve put in Player X instead of Player Y. I would have called the time out earlier. If I were the coach, we would have won the game. Every one of you can arm chair that quarterback and that coach to death! If I was in charge of the soccer team, I would have done this. If I was in charge of the basketball team, I would have done that. And as we critique them, we believe that we always make the right choices. We always are kind. We always are doing the right thing. It is incredibly self-righteous. Here’s the reality: we fail to love our neighbor as our self because if the situation was reversed we would want to be forgiven.
You see, if we were the parent that was harsh; if we were the parent that lost their temper; if we were the parent that did wrong; if we were the deacon that lost his temper; if we were the trustee that made a mistake; if we were the novice pastor who made a mistake. If we fit in any of those situations, do you know what we’d want? We’d want forgiveness. We’d want understanding. We’d want compassion. We’d want to go to our son or daughter and say, “Please understand you were our first child. Everything was new to us. Everything was tough for us. This was a whole different ball game. We’d never parented before. This was really tough stuff!” and we’d want to be forgiven. But the reality is we don’t extend to others what we would want extended to our self. That’s what we do. And this is why it is in fact a failure to love our neighbor as our self. Because when Christian X goes up to Christian Y and says, “Please forgive me.” If the situation was reversed, we’d want to be forgiven. If the situation was reversed, and I was asking forgiveness instead of being asked I would want that person to say, “Yes, I forgive you.” But the reality is, that it’s not reversed and now we have to decide will I forgive or will I not forgive? You see, you cannot put more than 500 adult members, all the visitors, regular attenders, and those candidating for membership altogether in a church and not have ill will happen. It is impossible. We’re not perfect. We make mistakes. We don’t think through things all the time. We lose our temper. We’re not always the clearest with our instructions. We make mistakes. We are human beings. We are fleshly beings. The only way you’ll not carry a big old grudge around is if you say, “Yes, I forgive you.”
Here’s the reality: Those who are born again really do forgive. I’m not talking about this quasi “Yes, I forgive” and yet we’re still not communicating. We’re still not embracing. We’re still not relating one to another. You see, I cannot say in my mind to that commander, “Yes, I forgive you” and still cross the street and avoid him and all that. That’s not real forgiveness. There’s still an issue. Real forgiveness is when you let it go. You let it go and you actually move from a position of hating your brother to loving your brother. You know, time goes so fast. Here’s the Scripture that we’re ignoring. The Scripture that says you ought not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. We must recognize the possibility that, if the situation was reversed, any of us may have done just what that person did. In other words, in my own personal analogy, I have to recognize that if I was the Sergeant Major or I was the Commander, I might have done just what they did. In other words, I might have written the same evaluation report. I don’t know.
It’s always easy to question the commander on the ground when you’re not the commander on the ground. It’s always easy to question the pastor of the church when you’re not the pastor of the church. And you can go on and on. It’s always easy to question the high school teacher when you’re not teaching 18 brats. It’s always easy to question the school bus driver and why the school bus driver didn’t keep this and this in control on the school bus when you’re not driving that school bus. But now what we all must be willing to all say because we’re not going to think more highly of our self than we ought to. We’re all going to say, “I might have done the same thing.” Listen to me very closely please, once you come to the conclusion that you might have done the same thing, you can forgive. That is the absolute key to what I’m telling you. Once you realize that if the situation was reversed I might have done the same thing, once you acknowledge that fact, your self-righteousness will go away and you’ll be willing to forgive. Do you see how practical this is to your every day living? This is in fact something that can help you this week.
Colossians 3:13 says, “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” That’s the new commandment. Here’s the reality: We had no idea what it meant to love your neighbor as yourself until Christ came on the scene. Then Jesus Christ began walking and talking on the planet, and He started saying things like “Love your enemies.” “Pray for those who persecute you.” When He began to say things like that, we got a whole different look at what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. When Jesus Christ was being persecuted, punished and nailed to that cross, when we saw Him in the utmost agony taking our burden, and when He is being beaten, spat upon, despised and rejected; yet at the same time He is uttering these incredible words. When He said “Father, forgive them”, we get a whole new idea of what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. It radically changes everything that we ever thought of before.
Here’s the conclusion. How can we presume upon the grace of God and expect God the Father to forgive us of our sins while we hold a grudge against our neighbor? How can we? Ask yourself: How in the world can you presume upon the grace of God and say, “God, I expect you to forgive me. I enjoy the fact that you forgive me. I love the fact that you’re interceding on my behalf, but I’ll tell you right now, I will not forgive her.” There’s no way I’m going to let that go. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’m not letting that one go. That’s it! You crossed the line. Is there a line? No, I read about 70x7. I read about an endless degree of forgiveness. Would you like God the Father to have a line with you? No. We want from our God, 24-7 forgiveness. Well, if you want from your God 24-7 forgiveness how about you give 24-7 forgiveness? You say, “Pastor, I can’t do that.” Then I say to you, “Are you really in the new covenant?” I say to you, “Are you really converted?” Because here’s what it comes down to: Is God’s grace sufficient or is it not? If the grace of God is sufficient, then you can do it. With God’s grace, you can do it. With God’s grace, you can forgive that person. With God’s grace, you can let it go. You can do it!
You say, “Pastor, you don’t know my situation.” Really? Was it worse than being crucified as an innocent man? Is it that bad? “Well, now that you put it that way then no.” Then, let it go! We need some restoration! We need some healing! We need some marriages put back together because the grudge is going! We need some moms and dads put back together. We need some fathers and sons put back together. We need some church members put back together. We need some teenagers put back together. Why? Because we’re letting it go! We’re not going to carry a grudge. I’m not carrying this burden any more! Pastor, what’s the solution? The solution is very simple: Repent and believe the Gospel. Repent? Yes, confess your sin. Confess the sin, “I’ve been holding a grudge.” Pastor, I have not let this grudge go. Then what? Believe that God is willing to forgive you through the power of the shed blood of Jesus Christ and claim that forgiveness.