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Conquering Hurts, Habits, and Hang-Ups

Part 6 - Building Bridges

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(4/13) We’re in our Part 6 in our series Conquering Hurts, Habits, and Hang-Ups based on Rick Warren’s Road to Recovery and last week we looked at making up your mind to change. In Romans 12:2: "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." The way we’re transformed is by having our minds changed. By allowing God to influence us in such a way as to change our way of thinking. To make up our minds to: turn the page, to let go of the past, and to move on as God changes the hurts, the habits, and the hang-ups that have been messing up our lives.

So today we’re going to talk about building bridges and specifically about repairing relationships about trying to make something right that has been so wrong. And what this is… is doing a little relational reconnaissance. It’s going back and trying to repair some of the damage that others have done to us… and we have done to others. So we want to evaluate our relationships and offer forgiveness to those who’ve hurt us.

Next we want to try best as we can, when it’s appropriate, to fix the harm we’ve done to others. So next week we will talk about how to make those repairs to the people that we’ve hurt. But today, we’re going to deal with those who’ve hurt you and those you’ve hurt. And so this talk is based on Ephesians 4:17-32:

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Ephesians 4:17-32, NIV).

Now that we’ve made up our mind to let go and move on… how can we experience effective transformation from our old way of life to our new way of life? How can we repair and rebuild those relationships that we’ve spent… maybe for some of us… a lifetime tearing them down? And so how can we build bridges conquering those hurts, habits, and hang-ups? Paul addresses three areas that we need to focus on in order to experience positive life change and repair our relationships. We’ll take a look at these in the what, the why, and then the how of repairing relationships.

So first, the what is....

1. To Be Made New In the Attitude of Your Minds

In order to change from the old life to the new… you must change and be made new. Ephesians 4:22-23: "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds." This idea that you can change your life by changing your thoughts has been taught throughout out the ages. In the Old Testament, King Solomon wrote, "For as he thinks within himself, so he is" (Proverbs 23:7, NASU).

This is why a daily devotional time is so important. Our mind needs to be tuned in to God’s frequency daily... our mind needs to be saturated with God's wisdom… and we need to get in the habit of thinking God’s thoughts. We experience transformation by the presence of the Holy Spirit and the influence of the Word of God.

Secondly... it says change your words.

Ephesians 4:25: "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor…"

Skipping down to verse 29: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up..."

God is saying that we all need to learn to encourage one another. We must remember that our words carry tremendous weight. You may remember being told as a child that "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." That’s not true, is it? If you're like me, you can still remember some of the mean things said to you when you were a child… and they still sting. Words are destructive.

So this matter of watching our words needs to be taken seriously. It needs to be taken seriously by each one of us because it is an essential part of displaying your new nature in Christ. We shouldn't ever use mean-spirited, obscene, crude, or rude language… no matter how right you are… no matter how much they deserve it… and even if they used it first.

I have to admit, I’ve often regretted things I’ve said, but I have never regretted my silence. My dad used to always tell me, "If you don’t have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." And I guarantee, you'll be amazed at the benefits. If you want to display the new nature Christ has given you, change your words, and next...

Change your actions.

Paul says in verse 25, to put away "falsehood…" and then he says... "He who has been stealing must steal no longer." (v. 28)

Now you’ve got to wonder… what kind of people are attending church in Ephesus? Liars and thieves? Well actually, they were probably a lot like us, and they wouldn't consider themselves liars and thieves any more than we would. But Paul uses this extreme example to define the kind of transformation that needs to take place in our behavior. Listen to what he says… "He who has been stealing must… work… doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need" (Ephesians 4:28).

This is a new way of thinking. You see a thief thinks only of himself. He's looking out for number one. But God is saying, take care of yourself and take care of others. Be productive, so that you can be a blessing to others.

Every time you think a godly thought… every time you speak an encouraging word... every time you act with generosity and kindness… These things are foundational to building bridges in our lives.

Why should I do this and how do I do it?

2. Forgiving Each Other, Just As In Christ God Forgave You

Well verse 32 tells us, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other… Why! Because… "In Christ God forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32). Because God has forgiven me and if God has forgiven me, then I should forgive other people. Colossians says, "As God's chosen people… clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Colossians 3:12-13).

You see when I remember how much God forgives me it makes it a whole lot easier to forgive other people. You’ll never have to forgive anybody else more than God has already forgiven you. So if you have a hard time forgiving other people it’s usually because you don’t feel forgiven. Forgiven people are forgiving. And so we need to realize that if God’s forgiven us then we need to forgive others.

Holding on to that un-forgiveness only creates resentment and it’s unreasonable, unhelpful, and unhealthy. Job 5:2 says, "Resentment kills a fool and envy slays the simple." Resentment is foolish because it’s illogical, it’s irrational, and it’s a waste of energy.

It’s unreasonable, because resentment cannot change the past, cannot correct the problem, doesn’t change the person, doesn’t even hurt that person, and it only hurts you. Really… it makes you miserable.

I’ve never talked to anybody who’s been unforgiving and resentful who said, "I feel so much better… being resentful." Those who are carrying a grudge are the most unhappy people I know. So it’s unreasonable, unhelpful, and it’s unhealthy.

Holding on to that resentment, keeping that grudge, just makes you unhealthy. Research has shown that resentment is like a cancer that eats you alive, it’s like poison to your soul. It has physical and emotional consequences. It can lead to depression. It can lead to additional stress. It can lead to exhaustion, because nothing drains you like resentment.

You know, thinking of that person, that former girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife, or teacher who embarrassed you in school or the parent who never told you they love you, that person you were dating that just dropped you and never said anything about it. You hold all that and it drains your body of energy. It just prolongs the hurt. It’s kind of an emotional suicide.

So you need to forgive those that hurt you, for your own sake, because you’ll need forgiveness in the future. I’ll need it in the future. And in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus said it like this, "If you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins" (Mark 11:25).

Resentment blocks you from experiencing God’s forgiveness in your life. The Bible says we cannot receive what we are unwilling to give. Did you know it’s dangerous to pray the Lord’s Prayer? It is… listen to what Jesus said, "Our Father in heaven… "Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us" (Matthew 6:11-12). Do you really want that? Do you really want the Lord to forgive you as much as you forgive everybody else?

You and I need to forgive other people, because God has forgiven us, because resentment doesn’t work, and because we’re going to need forgiveness in the future. You don’t want to burn the bridge that you’re going to have to walk across. Forgiveness is a two-way street. Don’t burn that bridge!

So how do we do this? How do I forgive those who’ve hurt me?

3. Put On the New Self, Created To Be Like God...

Well first, I’ve got to admit my hurt. I’ve got to admit it. I’ve got to let it out and face it.

We’ve got to be honest with ourselves. You can’t get over your hurt until you admit it hurt. And you know, we don’t like to admit it, but often the people we love the most are the ones who have hurt us the most. So we’ve got this inner struggle going on, because we think that you can’t love somebody and be angry with them at the same time. But you can.

Until we’re able to admit, "They didn’t do the best they could…" Until we’re able to admit, "They treated me in some ways that were wrong." Until we’re able to admit it… we can’t learn to forgive them. You can’t forgive what you won’t admit. So first you admit you’re hurt. Admit it. "That hurt. It was wrong and it hurt me."

And then you make a list, you write it down. Who it was that hurt you, what they said, and what they did. You put it down on paper, you get it in black and white, it’s a specific name and event. It’s that teacher who embarrassed you. It’s that parent who said, "You’ll never amount to anything." It’s that former relationship that was unfaithful to you. You write it down and you admit your hurt.

Then you release the offender. I release my offender. I let them go. I stop holding on to the hurt. But how do I do that? How do you release an offender? You do it by forgiving them. It’s the only way you can release them. You don’t wait for them to ask for forgiveness. You do it whether they ask for forgiveness or not, because you’re doing it for your sake and not theirs. You’re doing it because God has forgiven you and you’re going to need forgiveness in the future and holding on to that grudge just makes you miserable. So you release your offender and forgive them for your own sake.

One time Peter came up to Jesus and he asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times" (Matthew 18:21-22). The point is it’s got to be continual. Forgiveness is not a one-shot deal, because those feelings are going to keep coming back, and every time you get those feelings you’ve got to forgive them again. It’s got to be continual. Jesus said, "Not seven times, but over and over."

So every time they come to mind, you forgive them again until you know that you’ve released them fully. But how do you know when you’ve released them fully? When you can pray for God’s blessing on their life. When you can hear their name, look at them or think of them and it doesn’t hurt anymore. You see you can’t forget a divorce, the abuse, or the whatever, but you can get rid of the pain. You can let go of it. And you do it for your own sake.

Once you’ve done that, once you’ve released them, you replace your hurt with God’s peace. Jesus said, "My peace I give you... Do not let your hearts be troubled..." (John 14:27). Colossians 3:15 says, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…" You see you’ve got to trust God. I know at first glance it seems unfair. You know… we forgive them and they get away scot free. It’s like they drew the "Get Out of Jail Free card" right? But they didn’t and they don’t.

We just need to trust God to settle the score. And He can do a whole lot better of a job than you and I can. The Bible says, one day God is going to settle the score… He’s going to call in the accounts… He’s going to balance the books… and one day He’s going to have the last word. Romans chapter 12 tells us, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge… but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord" (Romans 12:18-19). So let’s let God have the last word on that. OK? He’ll take care of it. He’s the judge. And He’s a just God.

You know that’s why there’s a place called hell. Jesus talked about it more than He did heaven. And if there wasn’t hell, then Jesus wouldn’t have been murdered, people like Hitler would get away scot free, and that’s not just, and God is a just God. The Bible says, there will be judgment. So you’ve got to release them. And in the meantime you focus on God’s peace rather than trying to get even. And you let the peace of God rule in your heart.

You see, the fact is relationships can tear your heart into pieces. They can just rip it apart… it hurts… but God can glue those pieces back together again, surrounding it, holding it together, and covering it with His peace (Colossians 1:17). So today as we close, you must release those who hurt you so God can do some repair in your heart.

Let’s have some God time… Let’s get serious about what God has said, because I’d like to see you refocus on doing God’s will starting today. Conquering your hurts, habits, and hang-ups is all about starting over. It’s putting on the new self, embracing your new identity as a child of God, as one created to be like God… in all of your relationships.

The good news is this… that God wants to deal with all that relational garbage in your life. He knows what you can handle. He knows where he needs to step in. So He cuts through one layer at a time. Like a surgeon, God works with you, cutting it off and releasing you from the hurts, habits, and hang-ups. And today is another day, another step, and he asks you to forgive those who’ve hurt you. Better yet He offers to take out the relational garbage of your life.

So I encourage you to reach out to God. Ask Jesus Christ to come into your life. There is power in the name of Jesus. Reach out to Him. You can’t come up with enough forgiveness for all the times you’re going to be hurt in this world. You just don’t have it. Human forgiveness runs dry. You need to plug in to Jesus Christ, so that daily He gives you the forgiveness you need. And daily you can let go of that whatever… until it’s finally released.

Will you reach out to God today, receiving his forgiveness, so that you can give that forgiveness to others?

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