Virgil Grant: Have you ever traveled or hauled something a long way that was physically heavy? Have you ever done that? Anybody ever done that? We usually do that when we go on a trip. I don’t know if you know this or not, but there’s only two types of people in the world. There are those that when they’re taking a trip, they travel really, really light. And those are called men. And then there’s the other kind. And we have both in our family. You know what I’m talking about, right?
But, you know, here’s the thing. It’s one thing to carry something that is physically heavy, but why would we ever carry something that would cause bitterness in our spirit? Why would we ever carry something that would weigh our soul down? Why would we ever carry something that would crush our hearts? But people, they do it all the time. And the reason why I bring this up is because, over the last four or five months, I’ve been thinking a lot about grudges and bitterness.
Now I can just honestly say in my lifetime that, I’ve never held a grudge. I’ve never really been bitter with anyone, maybe for no more than a day, maybe four or 5 hours. But usually, you talk to my wife, I can usually let things just slide off my back, and it doesn’t really bother me. But over the last four or five months, I’ve had this issue in my life with this individual, and I haven’t been able to shake it, haven’t been able to let go of it. So bitterness and holding a grudge has been a tempting thing for me. It’s been temptation for me because I want to hold on to it, but then I know now I can’t do that. And so it really bothers me that someone has made it on my radar of bitterness in holding a grudge.
Then I kept thinking about, Well, what would a grudge look like physically? Have you ever thought about that? What would a grudge look like physically? I mean, if you could just have a physical description of a grudge, what would it look like? What would bitterness, resentment look like? And the best description that I can give you is what is in my backpack here. And in my backpack, I have several large, different stones, and I think that this is what a grudge looks like. It’s a stone. It’s a brick. It’s a rock.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this or not. Have you ever noticed how we describe a grudge? It’s kind of like how we talk about babies is that you can hold a grudge. You can carry a grudge. You can bear a grudge. You can nurse a grudge. You can feed a grudge if you will. And there’s a lot of people that they feed their grudge and their stone, their rock. It continues to get bigger and bigger and bigger. And the way that we feed it is through angry emotions, through hostile intentions. And what starts out as a small thing becomes a really, really large grudge that we carry.
Now, folks, think about this. There’s people that carries a grudge or bitterness for days and weeks and months, and even years. And you wouldn’t think anyone would volunteer to sign up to carry one of these around. But there’s people who every day they’re carrying a grudge. They’re weighing their soul down. Their joy for life is being just depleted. You know, I don’t know anyone who signs up for holding a grudge. And they wake up every morning and go. You know what? Me and my grudge that I’m picking up, we’re going to go out, and we’re going to have a banner day. We’re going to rock it today. Me and my grudge. We’ve got this. I don’t know anybody that does that. But you know what? When you pick up your grudge every day, it’s an intentional act.
Recently, a lady shared with me that God gives us three things every day. He gives us energy. He gives us time. And he gives us our gifts and talents. Three things that God gives to us. And the thing that she said that struck me is she said, “You know what it’s about energy?” She goes, “You know why forgiveness is so important? Because when you’re focused on bitterness, when you focus on grudges, you know where your energy’s going. Your energy is going to the past, not to the present or to the future.” And I thought that was really good.
And folks, there’s people that signs up every single day, and they intentionally pick up their grudge, and they carry with them. And in some little twisted way. Can I just be honest with you that there’s something dark inside of me. There’s something dark inside of you, that you love to carry a grudge around, right? I mean, because what it makes us feel what? Superior to other people. Can we just be honest that there’s something feels good about carrying the grudge? But you know what? It doesn’t contribute to authentic joy. It doesn’t help us to become a more loving person. And it does not help you and I, who’s trying to pursue the All In Life. It does not help us to live the All In Life. And so there’s something about you. There’s something about me that we love to nurse a grudge.
And this is the reason why you find grudges among broken family. This was why I have family broken family relationships because of grudges. This is the reason why the work force is a dog-eat-dog world, because people are nursing grudges day after day, week after week. And folks, this is the reason why we find grudges being even in the church, people who comes Sunday after Sunday, they worship the same God. They hear the same sermon preached from the word of God. And they worship together, and they pray together, but they’re still carrying a grudge, or they’re holding on to their stone, and they’re stone carrier these days.
And folks, I don’t know if have you ever thought about it or not. But where did all the grudge originate from? And I want to take you back to the Old Testament, and I want to introduce you to a character from the Bible that you may know nothing about. You may have never heard of him, but he’s often referred to as the Saint of the Grudge. This is where the spirit of a grudge originated. This is where The Grudge-the Grudge originated is from Genesis chapter one, two, and three. And you’ll find this. And the guy’s name is Lamech. Now, Lamech, He was a descendant of Cain. Now, remember, Cain and Abel were brothers. And who was their father? Who was Cain, and Abel was father? Adam, correct. And you remember that Cain killed his brother, Abel. And then you have to understand that a couple of generations, Lamech was born. Now you have to understand something about Cain in order to understand the story of Lamech.
Okay, so here’s the story of Cain. Cain killed his brother because he was jealous of them. Just go back and read it in the Bible. And as a result, Cain was like, Well, everybody will come after me and have revenge on me. And God says, Nobody’s going to seek revenge on you, Cain. Because I’m going to give you a mark. And the mark of Cain was put on Cain, and anybody who would who would try to get revenge would suffer seven times over. And so this was a warning because God realized that if we became revengeful, if we became going after other people and started getting revenge, then society would self-destruct. None of you ever thought about this or not. But we’re getting pretty close to that society that God is trying to keep us from.
So Lamech is born, and so he comes as a descendant of Cain. As a result of that. We know very little about Lamech, but the Bible tells us two things. Number one that, he was the first individual in all of Scripture to marry two women. And that was the first. And there was kind of eye-opening because, in Scripture, it says what that marriage is between one man and one woman.
The second thing that tells us in Scripture is that somebody had hurt Lamech. Now, we don’t know any of the circumstances. We don’t know anything that happened. But here’s what we do know is that Lamech became, as he thought about it, he became more and more bitter. He became more and more angry. And this is what happens to resentment. This is what happened to grudges. They begin to grow.
And so Lamech went out, and he did something about it. He killed a young man, and then he started bragging about it. Look what the Scripture says. It says, “Lamech said to his wives Adah and Zillah, ‘listen to me wives of Lamech. Hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times than Lamech, 77 times.'” And what Lamech is saying here he has no remorse. He has no guilt over what he did. Because why? In his own mind, he felt justified. And here’s the thing. If you’ve got enough bitterness, enough resentment, enough grudge holding inside of you, you can literally justify any action that you can take. And so, as a result, there’s no bitterness, there’s no sense of remorse or anything.
And if, again, this is the law of Lamech, and here’s what we take from this is you hurt me, and I will hurt you back. And so Lamech says, you hurt me, I will hurt you. And I want you to know this. The phrase 77 times. Bitterness has no way to be conquered. This bitterness is a thirst that can never be conquered. Bitterness can never be satisfied. I’ve never heard anyone to say. You know what? I’m so bitter at you, and I’ve put all the punishment I’m on to punish you for. And now you’re set free. You’re no longer owe me anything. I’ve never heard anybody say that because people who are bitter, their thirst for envy and for their thirst to get revenge is never, ever satisfied. And what happens is, is that as you pick up the grudge day after day, what happens to you is that the joy in the love of your heart that you have for other people quickly and simply over time it gets depleted. And the next thing that you know, you don’t have any love, you don’t have any joy, you don’t have any gentleness, you don’t have any grace. And the only thing that you have are grudges. And you just become a stone carrier for the rest of your days.
Well, you know what? But there’s another way. There’s another way. God sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to the Earth to die for you and to die for me. And as a result of that, God says there’s another way to respond to bitterness. There’s another way to respond to grudges. There’s another way to respond towards resentment. And here’s what God says. God says “You can forgive them. You can forgive.” And so what happens is we’re going to go to the New Testament, and Jesus Christ is going to reverse the law of Lamech. And I just want you to stay with me.
So Peter is having a conversation with Jesus. Peter realizes that someone has hurt him. Someone has dinged him. Now, we don’t know any of the details. We don’t know what happened. But apparently, it happened several times. And so Peter says to Jesus, Jesus, how many times should I forgive this person who’s ding me? Like, seven times? And so Jesus calls a time out. And Jesus teaches something to Peter. Now, the context of this conversation is super important because here’s what happens. This happens all the time. People will bring me a scripture reference and says, “Pastor, this is what the Bible says.” And I go, “Well, what is the context of this verse?” They say, “I don’t know. I just know what the Bible says here.” But in order to understand the passage, you have to understand the context. You have to do the research. You have to understand why the verse exists.
So let me just give you the Jewish calendar really quick. So in the Jewish calendar, there was the new year, and then ten days later was the Day of Atonement. Two very important things. In between those ten days, they call those ten days the days of all. And the reason why they called that, according to theologians, is that these were the ten days that you prepared your heart for the day of Atonement. Remember, you would never go into the Holy of Holies unless you were pure. Unless you was righteous. You made sure that there was no guilt. There’s no remorse. There’s no bitterness. There’s nothing inside of your heart. And so the whole focus of these ten days were on fasting and praying, seeking the Lord’s will, asking the Lord to reveal your heart and seek reconciliation. So in these ten days, the whole nation of Israel would seek out reconciliation with anybody that they had an ought against or they had something against. They would go to them, and they would seek reconciliation because, on the day of Atonement, nobody wanted to come to this day of Atonement and have a grudge in his or her heart. So they would do all this soul searching to make sure that everything was taken care of.
And so the theologians believe that when Jesus and Peter is having this encounter in Matthew 18, that this encounter took place during the ten days of all when that people were searching their hearts. And so Peter realizes that somebody has dinged him. Peter realized that this person has dinged him several times. And Peter is wondering now, why do I always have to take the responsibility? Why is it that I have to seek reconciliation? And do I have to keep on forgiving him? Do I have to keep on making the first move? And then Peter goes, “Jesus, how many times should I forgive this offender? Seven times.” And Peter is thinking that Jesus is going to respond, “Wow. Peter, you’re such an awesome disciple. You have went way beyond what’s required seven times. You’re awesome. That’s all that you have to do.” But instead of doing that, what does Jesus do? Notice what Jesus says. “I tell you, Peter, not seven times.” But what does it say? “But 77 times.”
Now, let me answer your question. Where did Jesus pull the 77 from? You think Jesus just pulled it out of thin air? Do you think Jesus made up that number? No. Why don’t you just pull that number? He knew the Old Testament like the back of his hand, and he went all the way back to Lamech. And now, what is Jesus doing? Jesus is now reversing the law of Lamech and said, You know what? There’s a better way. There’s another way for you to do this. And here’s what you can do is that. “Peter, You can choose to hold on to your resentment. Peter, You can choose to have and to nurse this thing that called a grudge. But Peter, there’s another way you can actually forgive. You can actually extend mercy. You can actually let the people off. You can forgive from your heart, Peter. You can choose to be reconciled to another person.”
And here’s what Jesus basically says. Jesus says, “Peter, you can carry the stone or the grudge around, or you have a different option now because I’m reversing the law, Lamech. You can follow me, but you cannot do both.” And many of you are wondering why is it that I’m not growing as a Christian. Many of you are wondering why the all-in-life is not really working for you. And here’s the reason, is because you cannot follow Christ and hold a grudge. And so what does Jesus do with Peter? He tells Peter story to drive home the narrative, to drive home the point.
He says to Peter, “Peter, there was this owner of a large business and this business owner who had this billion-dollar company, he had an audit done on his books, and he found that there were some unethical accounting procedures and billions of dollars were stolen.” Now, nothing like that would happen in our day and age, but it happened in the day and age of Jesus. Okay. “And so this guy embezzled billions of dollars from this owner of this company.
And so the owner calls in the employee. The employee comes in.” You have to understand that this man had stole so much money. It was more money than the Jews pay in taxes to the Roman government. It was that large of amount. “And so this man comes in, and he’s standing before the owner, before the CEO, before the this guy and this employee. What does he do? He falls upon his knees. And what does he start doing? He start begging for mercy. He begs the CEO, he begs the owner of the company to have mercy upon him. And the owner goes, You know what? I’m not even going to throw you in jail. I’m not going to throw you in prison. I’m going to let you go. But in addition to that, I’m going to forgive you of your debt. You owe me absolutely nothing.” Now, here’s the thing that you need to understand. The debt never disappears. The debt never goes away. Somebody has to absorb the loss. And who absorbs the loss? The CEO or the master absorbs the cost.
“And what happens to this man who’s been forgiven of billions and billions of dollars of embezzlement? He goes out into the streets. He goes out. He’s rejoicing. He’s shouting. He’s free. And he sees his buddy who lost a bet to him. And owes five bucks. You know what he does? He demands that his buddy pays up his debt. His buddy goes, ‘I don’t have the money. I can’t pay you.’ And so the this guy grabs him by the collar, starts shaking him, and says, if you can’t pay me, then you’re going to be put into prison. And so the guy that’s been forgiven of billions and billions of dollars, he takes his buddy, who owes him $5, and puts them into jail.
“So the master, the owner of the company hears about this. And guess what he does? Because the employee back in. The employee comes back in.” and you can imagine how the meeting went. It wasn’t anything like the first meeting. “The master said to him, ‘You wicked servant. I canceled all the debt because you begged me to. I forgave a mountain of debt. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow friend? Just as I had on you?’”
In other words, here’s how Jesus said it in Matthew Chapter 18. Jesus says, “In anger, his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured.” How long was he going to be tortured? Notice this “Until he should pay back all he owed.” And notice this my phrase. Read this with me. “This is how my Heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive a brother or sister from your heart.”
Now, I just want to stop right there for a second. I want that to sink in. I want us to read that one more time. “THIS is how my Heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive a brother or sister from your heart.” Folks, we act as if Jesus never meant those words. We act as if those words are negotiable. I personally think there’s some of the most humbling words in all of Scripture. Is that you’re commanded, you’re required as a Christian to forgive those who’s offended you. It’s non-negotiable. People comes to me. I have an unforgiving spirit. You have to forgive. It’s non-negotiable.
Folks, forgiveness deals with the past. You can let go of that. But to rebuild the relationship, to be reconciled it, to move forward is two different things. Forgiveness is one act, and it doesn’t matter if the person is alive or not. It could’ve been your father who’s passed away. It could’ve been your grandfather. Grandmother. It doesn’t matter who it is. You can release them right now. You can forgive them. Let them off the hook at this moment, right now, because forgiveness is non-negotiable.
And if we walk around with unresolved bitterness, nursing grudges, refusing to seek reconciliation, then we’re at severe spiritual risk. Here’s what I believe. We’ve been praying as a church for three years now for revival. We’ve been praying as a congregation that God would bring revival to this community, bring revival to our student ministry, to our high schools and middle schools and elementary schools, and to colleges in our community.
Here’s what I believe, that God, God’s not going to bless us if we’re nursing grudges in our hearts. If we’re carrying grudges around, that’s not going to bless us. God is not going to pour his Spirit out. God’s not going to pause blessings. Because why? It is spiritually impossible to follow Jesus and to nurse a grudge.
Now, here’s what I know about you. If you’re here this morning and you’re nursing a grudge, there’s only one reason why you’re nursing a grudge. And why you’re withholding forgiveness from somebody because you’re walking around carrying a grudge, because you’ve forgotten about how much Jesus Christ has forgiven you. You’ve forgotten about how much it cost God to forgive you of your sins. Is it you’ve forgotten that forgiveness came at the price of the cross? You’ve forgotten that you’re forgiveness cost, God, the death of His Son Jesus. The only way that I can be callous hardened my heart, and choke someone else is when I forget how deeply stained I am by sin.
Folks, every one of us in this room, we’re deeply stain by sin. We’re stain to the core of our soul with sin. I’m a walking stain. You’re walking stain. Scripture is consistent on this subject. Scripture confirms that I and you are one big, huge stain. In 10 seconds, here’s what I wrote down about the stain on my soul. I’m full of pride, self-centeredness. I have prejudice, deception, apathy, arrogance. I’m coward. It took me 10 seconds to write that down, Coach. What if I had 30 minutes? Wonder how long the list would be? But we forget how deeply stained each and every one of us are.
There’s something about us that loves to nurse a grudge. Because it makes us feel superior. But the cost God, his most prized possession. To extend forgiveness to you and to me. And some of you are here, and then you go pastor, you don’t know what I’ve gone through. You don’t know anything about my past. You don’t know what was done to me. You know what? I don’t know. I don’t know. I’ll be the first one to admit that. But I can tell you something. It doesn’t matter. Because holding a grudge, nursing a grudge is not even negotiable. You have to let it go. Because it prevents you from living the All In Life. It prevents you from living with joy. And love and gentleness and grace and kindness.
I think this is the reason why the world is so angry today. Because they don’t know what to do with their bitterness. They don’t know what to do with their resentment. They don’t know what to do with their grudges. But Jesus tells us that we can lay them at the foot of the cross. And you may say, “Pastor, there’s no way that I can lay this down.” Well, I want you to hear testimony from a young lady who laid down her resentment, laid down her bitterness, and was reconciled with her father. Would you welcome Ali to the stage?
Ali: Good morning, everybody. Like Virgil said, my name is Ali. I’m one of the leaders and pastors’ wives around here. God has been faithful to me in times whenever things seem hopeless. Growing up, I was a home-schooled worship pastor’s kid, so I pretty much fit the description. Whenever I was 12, my dad was caught having extramarital affairs and was asked to step down from his position at the church. My now single mom was left to raise five kids on her own is what it felt like. My dad moved to Chicago, left us kids feeling abandoned and undeserving of his love. The years following were filled with him, caught up in addiction, selfishness, and emotional abuse.
Every interaction we had with him was self-centered and made us feel pretty much irrelevant to him. But because he had raised us to follow Christ and extend grace, we continued to attempt a relationship with him.
Once I got to college, I realized the heavy burden I’d been carrying. Resentment, hurt, anger, but I was finally in a place where I could just take care of myself. I knew my identity was Christ, and I learned to look to my Heavenly Father, who had never failed me. My earthly father had let me down countless times, but I could rest, knowing that God would never. He set the best example of what it looks like to forgive and love others. I had to learn how to self-help, set healthy boundaries for my heart, but I still wanted to be honoring to my dad in the process.
Whenever Mike and I got engaged, the joy of the night ended with the harsh reality that I had to tell my dad I didn’t want him there for my best day because he had caused a lot of my worst. He reacted in anger and silence. But with, that tough decision, it sparked a change in him. He had been in the process of finding sobriety and healing from the hurt that caused from his past. After our first family visit, without fights, tension, or tears, the following May, he called each of us kids and apologized for his behavior since the divorce. Like genuinely. I was able to say, “Well, Dad, I’d already forgiven you, but it’s nice to forgive someone who actually asked for it.”
We have been able to have conversations about why us kids continue to show them chances and chances. And I’ve been able to say, “How else am I supposed to show you the love and grace of Jesus without extending it to you in the midst of it all?”
Since then, we’re rebuilding a relationship one day at a time, and I’m so thankful for that. But this may not be how your story is. But there is so much power in forgiving those who have hurt you without them even asking. Your heart will change, and God’s light will shine through the pain to allow Him to heal your heart so you can love others the way that he intended you to. You guys have the opportunity to extend grace and forgiveness to those you have a grudge against. Thank you.
Virgil: Thank you, Ali. Here’s what I know. When people live at the foot of the cross, they don’t carry stones. They don’t carry grudges, and you can’t do both. You can’t live at the foot of the cross and carry grudges. And so when you came in this morning. You’re supposed to receive a stone, a rock. And here’s what we’re going to do. In a moment, I’m going to pray. And then the worship team is going to lead us in a couple of songs. So there’s going to be no rush. In the moment, they will come out. But you’re going to have a choice to put your stone, put your grudge at the foot of the cross and let it go. You know, I hear people all the time. I forgave them, but I’ll never forget it. It’s not forgiveness, my friends. That’s not forgiveness.
Forgiveness is going to forgive them, and God takes care of the consequences. God makes things right, not you. Revenge belongs to the Lord, not us, is what the Scripture says. Now here’s the deal. If you don’t want to lay it down, you don’t have to. It’s your completely your choice. Here’s what I’m going to ask you to do, I want to ask you to take your stone home with you as a reminder that you will not lay it down. And next month, you should trade that stone in and get a bigger stone, and the next month you should trade that in and get a bigger one. Each month that you hold onto the stone, you just grow because that’s what happens to grudges and to bitterness and to revenge. It just continues to grow until it takes over your life.
And so this morning, you have an opportunity. To quit weighing your soul down, quit crushing your spirit. Keep from burden your heart. You can let go of it once and for all.
So would you stand as I pray, “Father, this morning. I’m grateful. That you reverse the law, they make. I’m grateful that there’s a new way. There’s a better way. There’s the way of forgiveness.
“And Father, I know that for many people, this is hard stuff this morning. It’s heavy. Because what had been done to them, the Lord, they also have to understand what they have received from you through Jesus Christ. How they’re stained, how their guilt has been removed by the blood of Jesus.
“And so, Father, as we just enter into this time of worship, as we sing these songs, there’s no rush. We’ve got plenty of time. Not everyone has to charge the crosses at once. But Father, may they take this moment seriously and may choose. To extend forgiveness to those who’s been robbing them of their joy and their love and their kindness and their peace. So, Father, you come. And lead us in this time. Amen. “