15 December 2017

Total forgiveness

Dr R T Kendall was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years. Born in Ashland, Kentucky on July 13, 1935, he was educated at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and obtained a Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) at Regent’s Park College, a hall of the University of Oxford. Dr Kendall is now in retirement, but remains actively involved in speaking at conferences and in writing. To date he has authored over 50 books.

RT Kendall was given this message a number of years ago and has preached it all over the world since, which he believes to be a divine appointment. We agree and feel that it is a message that every Christian needs to hear. The basic content is always the same but the illustrations he uses differ depending on the location. He came to the Waterfront Hall in Belfast last year and many who heard him that night felt they heard from God, which is why we have chosen to print extracts from a transcription of that particular talk. If you want to know more about this message it is available in the book written by RT Kendall, called Total Forgiveness, from all the usual outlets.


Belfast conference

“I hope this won’t be my last visit to Northern Ireland but it might be and therefore I am being very careful that everything I say is just right. I bring you a message which my good friend, the late Derek Bingham, said was the message the people of this country most needed to hear. I want to speak from 2 passages. The first is from Genesis 45:1-15.

The context of this is when Joseph is about to reveal his identity to his brothers. He knows who they are but they do not know who he is. Twenty two years previously, they betrayed him and had planned to kill him. In fact, it was Plan B when they sold him to the Ishmaelites, never expecting to see him again. Their father Jacob, not a good parent, showed favouritism, gave Joseph that ‘coat of many colours’, and the brothers were jealous of him and you couldn’t blame them. Joseph strutted around in that coat! The only thing worse than giving it was wearing it, and Joseph wore it; it didn’t bother him. Then he boasted of dreams that he had, dreams that indicated that those brothers would one day bow down to him. He seemed to be insensitive to their feelings and would say, “Hey, I’ve had another dream, and the sun, the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” You didn’t need to be Sigmund Freud to interpret that dream. They could take it no more. They would have killed him except that some Ishmaelites turned up at exactly that time and so they sold Joseph to them instead, so as not to shed blood. Then they took the coat of many colours, killed a goat, and smeared it with the blood and laid it before old Jacob, and he took the bait. Jacob said, “A wild beast has killed my son and I will go to my grave in mourning,” and so the brothers thought they had got away with it. Just remember however, the Bible says, “Be sure your sin will find you out.”

It is now 22 years later and Jacob is going to see his brothers, who have come to Egypt to buy food because of a famine in their own land. What they do not know is, the Prime Minister of Egypt is their brother Joseph. When they come begging for food, he knows who they are but they don’t know who he is. This is the literal fulfillment of the dream. Joseph always knew that the day would come when that dream would be fulfilled and he thought it would be a day when he could say to his brothers, “Got you!” He thought it would be pay-back time when he could throw the book at them, and as the second most powerful man after Pharaoh, he was in a position to do that. However, God postponed the fulfillment of those dreams until it was a new Joseph. As he hears Judah make his plea, Joseph could take it no longer. So we read in Genesis 45 v 1, Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, ‘let everyone go out from me….(read on to the end of verse 8) …it was not you who sent me here, but God.’

I have chosen as my subject:

“Why Bless your enemies?”

In Luke 6 v 27 Jesus says, ‘but I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.’ Verse 35 says, ‘love your enemies and do good. Lend expecting nothing in return.’ And now Jesus gives us the answer to, “Why bless your enemies?” “Your reward will be great, and you will be the sons of the most high, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil… (read on to verse 38) …for with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.’

This message was born in the greatest trial Louise and I have ever gone through. It happened during the time I was minister of Westminster Chapel in London. What happened was not right; it was unfair and unjust. The future looked so bleak. I was both angry and bitter and I asked myself, “How could people do this to me?” It hurt so much but I could not tell anybody. I really thought it was the end of my ministry. An old friend from Romania, Joseph Ton was in London at that time. Because I knew he wouldn’t tell anyone, I decided to tell him. Now if I’m honest with you, I hoped that Joseph would console me, agree with me and tell me what I wanted to hear; that I had every right to be angry. However, I wasn’t prepared for what followed. If I could narrow down 25 years in London into 15 minutes, they would turn out to be my finest hour. What Joseph told me was, “RT, you must totally forgive them, because until you totally forgive them you will be in chains. Release them and you will be released.” No one had ever talked to me like that! ‘Faithful are the wounds of a friend’ (Proverbs 27:6) “But Joseph,” I said. “I can’t!”

Joseph told me, “You can, and you must!” It was the hardest thing I ever had to do and almost certainly it will be the hardest thing you will ever have to do. As I speak, I have just one request, that you will just apply this to yourself. Please don’t look over your shoulder and say, “I hope they’re listening to this.” You need it, and I want you to apply it to yourself. The only way this message can make a difference, is if it begins right where you are.

Why forgive your enemies?

What is total forgiveness? Is it letting them off the hook? Is it blessing them? Is it praying for them? And when you pray for them you don’t simply say, “Lord I commit them to thee,” because what you are really saying is, you hope God will kill them! That’s not what Jesus meant. He wants you to ask God to bless them. You say, “RT, I can’t do that!” – and I would understand. I happen to believe that this message is the first-fruit of true revival. It’s one thing to talk about revival. Question is: how much do you want it? How much does it matter to you? It requires that you go outside your comfort zone, and it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. That is, to bless the very people who have hurt you, who have let you down, who ought to be judged, and now you’re asking God to bless them! You see this is the teaching of Jesus. It’s amazing how we can go right through the New Testament and never see this. We all know this is what He taught. We go through the Sermon on the Mount, the Gospel, but we want to get to Acts and Romans and Galatians, and get our theology right. We wonder why revival passes us by. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. I dare say there are people here and what you have to forgive is far, far greater than anything I have ever had to forgive.

If I told you my story, I could probably win you over. But if I heard your story, I would blush to think that I’d ever thought I’d suffered. Some of you have suffered far greater things. Perhaps you were abused as a child. I wasn’t. I had lovely parents. I can’t imagine what that would be like. Perhaps you were raped. Perhaps betrayed by your best friend. Perhaps people lied about you and everybody believes that lie, and you have no way to clear your name. You’ve watched your enemies shoot. You’ve seen your friends die. And you see those who seem to get away with what they’ve done, even encouraging this sort of thing right before your eyes. You’re filled with anger, and now comes a word that you are to bless these very people!

You say, “RT, don’t insult me, you have no idea!” I agree with you, I don’t know how I could have endured what some of you have endured. But I’ll tell you one thing, the greater the suffering the greater the anointing!

Let’s suppose we had a way of finding out the person in this auditorium who has suffered the most. Everybody will have a story and even if we could hear all those stories and after hearing them all we decide to vote on the top 10 of the most hurt people, perhaps you would be in that top 10. The top 3, then the top one, and you are that top one, what would you say? “See I told you I was the most hurt person.” You have seen it as rational to be bitter and to seek revenge, waiting for your name to be cleared and for them to get hurt and judged and punished. Do you not realise that the angels have a word for you? “Congratulations!” If you can get over the hurt, you can cross over into the supernatural. You see the most natural thing in the world is to want vengeance, and to see them punished. However, when you bless them and pray for them, it defies natural explanation. This is what Jesus told us to do!

The English edition of my book, Total Forgiveness, has a picture of Mount Everest on the front cover. Totally forgiving your enemies is like climbing Mount Everest, because few do it! And yet anybody can do it. And you can be set free. There are people who have suffered this hurt; it’s even affected their health. Medical people have shown that there are good reasons to forgive, apart from anything taught in the New Testament. They have found that bitterness has led to arthritis, kidney disease, heart disease. There are non-Christian organisations raised up in this country to help people to forgive, showing that the greatest benefit is not to the one who is forgiven but to the one doing the forgiving. It could even be that God would begin a physical healing; that the physiological process that has brought you to where you are could be reversed and you will not only be set free internally but you can feel better and look better, and you might wonder, why did I take so long? God is coming and saying, the war is over; bless them!

Total forgiveness is not necessarily reconciliation. If your spouse sleeps with your best friend you forgive them but you don’t go on holiday with them. If a man is found to be a child molester, you forgive them but you don’t let him teach a Sunday School class. Total forgiveness is not living in denial. Some people, somehow cope because they live in denial. They say, “What they did wasn’t that bad!” They feel alright because they haven’t dealt with it. That’s not total forgiveness. It’s not total forgiveness until you come to terms with the fact that what they did was pretty awful, and then you let them off the hook. That’s total forgiveness. Total forgiveness is not approving of what they did. Jesus forgives us; He forgave the woman found in adultery and said, “Go and sin no more.” The fact that God forgives our sin does not mean he approves. Total forgiveness is to take the words of Jesus seriously, and act upon them.

If I was to ask how many people have forgiven others there would be hands go up all over the room, but I wonder if I could make a proposition? If I were to show you in this message, that you haven’t totally forgiven after all, would you then do it? The question is: how do you know you’ve done it? Well, it all comes out in the story of Joseph before his brothers.

Part 2 of this message continues in the July / August issue

RT Kendall