Sun, Feb 03, 2008

REMEMBER TO FORGET! GENESIS 41:50-52

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
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REMEMBER TO FORGET!
GENESIS 41:50-52

            Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Genesis chapter 41 as we look at a subject that many don’t like to deal with, FORGIVENESS!  Now before we get to our text this morning, let me share with you these two stories that will help set the stage for what we will be looking at. We are told that:

            A man lay dying in a hospital bed. But as he lay there, he suddenly remembered an old enemy he once held a grudge against. Calling a nurse to his bedside, he whispered, "Nurse, please summon my old enemy."

The enemy arrived, and the man opened one eye, and said to him, "My enemy, I have called you here today to say I'm sorry for all the wrong I've done to you."

Then he paused, and added, "But mind you, if I ever get BETTER, you be sure that the old grudge still holds good!"

- Source Unknown

            Isn’t that what many do, they refuse to let go completely; they refuse to forget and forgive. But you say, “I am a Christian and that is not how I would respond!”  Fine, let me give to you the Christian perspective on this. We are told:

            Two Christians, Paul and John, lived next door to each other in the suburbs.

One day, Paul sawed down a tree which adjoined their two properties. The tree fell and smashed John's lounge windows. John stormed out of his house and hollered at Paul. Paul hollered at John. Soon they had each other by the clothes, and finally John threw Paul to the ground.

Paul got up and brushed himself off. "Now look here, John," he said, "it's high time one of us acted like a Christian!"

He paused for a moment, then glared at his neighbor, and said, "So, why don't you turn your left cheek and let me punch you!?"

- Source Unknown

            I think Christians struggle with unforgiveness just as much as the unsaved do. How can I say that?  It is simple, look at how Christians act. Look at how they treat each other. And the reason they are unforgiving is because they are self-centered, self-consumed, instead of being Christ-centered and consumed with the Holy Spirit working in them and through them.

            Here in Genesis chapter 41 Joseph has been in captivity for 13 years now down in Egypt.  When he was 17 years old his brothers, who hated him and plotted to kill him, changed their minds and decided to sell him to make a profit. Thus, by doing this they not only did away with this dreamer of dreams, but they made some money!

            So as Joseph waited in the pit his brothers threw him in, along came some Midianite traders who end up buying Joseph for twenty shekels of silver, not a lot of money but it was better than nothing. That would mean that each one would get two shekels of silver, the 10 brothers, Benjamin was not in on this and obviously Joseph was not either!

            The Midianite traders take Joseph down to Egypt and they sell him down there as a slave.  I am sure they got a good price for him. Joseph was young, handsome, strong man and Potiphar, the head of the execution squad for Pharaoh bought him as a slave.  As Joseph works for Potiphar, his master, he serves Potiphar faithfully, he does a great job and Potiphar picks up on this and puts him in charge of his entire household. Potiphar, this pagan man, recognized that the true and living God was blessing Joseph and not only that, he was being blessed through the work of Joseph!

            Yes, his brothers sold him into slavery but things were working out, things were going well at Potiphar’s house. Then Potiphar’s wife steps in and begins to flirt with Joseph, she wanted to have sexual relations with him and we are told in Genesis 39:8-9, But he refused and said to his master's wife, ‘Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?’

            But that did not stop her from trying to get at Joseph. Day in and day out she made advances towards him, propositioning him and he kept rejecting her. Then, one day when the other servants were gone, Potiphar’s wife got him alone and grabbed his garment and said,Lie with me.  This time Joseph ran for his life, leaving his garment in her hands!

            This rejection made Potiphar’s wife very angry, she could not get her way and she cries out that Joseph tried to rape her. Thus, Potiphar had to do something. He didn’t trust his wife and yet, his slave was accused of trying to rape her. So he places Joseph in the king’s prison or dungeon. This was totally unfair and yet Joseph served faithfully in that dungeon and God honored his faithfulness and blessed him.  And, Joseph was placed in charge of the other prisoners!

            In that position he met Pharaoh’s butler and baker who were thrown into prison because Pharaoh uncovered an assassination attempt on his life and is unsure which one was going to do it. While in prison these two men each have a dream and it troubles them because they don’t know what it means.  Joseph picked up on this change in their countenance and inquired what was going on and they told him it was these dreams they had and they didn’t know what they meant!

            Joseph wants these men to understand that God alone can interpret dreams and then he reveals to these men what their dreams were about because God had spoken to Joseph about them.  For the butler, in 3 days he will be restored before Pharaoh. For the baker, in 3 days he will be put to death for plotting this assassination attempt on Pharaoh. And Joseph asks the butler to remember him before Pharaoh when he is released because he has done nothing wrong and does not deserve to be in prison, he does not deserve this punishment.

            Well, 3 days go by and the baker is put to death and the butler is restored but he forgets to tell Pharaoh about Joseph for two full years!  But, as Pharaoh has two dreams that trouble him and no one is able to interpret them in his kingdom, the light went on in the butler’s head and he remembered Joseph and told the king about him and how he correctly interpreted their dreams when the baker and he were in prison. Upon hearing this Pharaoh has Joseph cleaned up, shaven, new clothes placed on him and he is brought before Pharaoh.

            And once again Joseph points back to the true and living God as the one who can interpret dreams and Joseph was only a vessel from which God would speak through.  And Joseph tells the king that these two dreams are related to the same event. There will be seven good years of harvest followed by seven years of famine in the land. And during those bountiful years they were to store the grain so that when the seven years of famine came upon the land, the people would have food to eat.

            Once again, a pagan, Pharaoh recognizes that the Spirit of the living God is upon Joseph and he places Joseph as second in command over all of Egypt, overseeing the collecting and storing of this grain. And the king gives Joseph a wife by the name of Asenath. That is where we will pick up our study this morning, beginning in verse 50 of Genesis chapter 41 as Joseph has spent 13 years of his life as a slave and prisoner down in Egypt, and now God has restored him.  With that said, let’s see what the Lord has for us as we look at the subject of forgiveness!

GENESIS 41:50-52

            Here we see Joseph have two sons and he does not give them Egyptian names like you might think. He gives to them Hebrew names. That tells me he did not forget the faith of his fathers even though he was living in a pagan society.  And as we look at the names of these two sons I believe we will see that Joseph forgave his brothers for what they did to him. Joseph forgave Potiphar’s wife for the lies she said of him. He forgave the butler for forgetting to remember him before Pharaoh for two full years!

            Now, what is forgiveness?  Very simply, forgiveness is the willingness to give up your resentment towards someone who has wronged you, regardless of how serious or painful that wrong might have been. Instead of desiring to get even you forgive!  Yes, it is not always easy but it is what we need to do, it is what God wants us to do!

            I am sure if I took the time to go around this room and ask you to tell us if you have ever been hurt by someone, I bet every single one of you would say, “YES!”  I don’t want to upset you, but that really is not the issue. You see, you will be hurt, people will do things that are wrong towards you, it will be unfair, there is no question about that. The real issue is this, have you or can you forgive that person?  You see, it is not that you can’t forgive; it is that you just choose not to forgive! Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a decision that we must make!

            Listen to this story and if what has happened to you is worse than what happened here, you still don’t have the right to be unforgiving. Sorry about that!  We are told:

"The man I ate dinner with tonight killed my brother." The words, spoken by a stylish woman at a PF banquet in Seattle, amazed me. She told how John H. had murdered her brother during a robbery, served 18 years at Walla Walla, then settled into life on a dairy farm, where she had met him in 1983, 20 years after his crime. Compelled by Christ's command to forgive, Ruth Youngsman had gone to her enemy and pronounced forgiveness. Then she had taken him to her father's deathbed, prompting reconciliation.

Some wouldn't call this a success story: John didn't dedicate his life to Christ. But at that PF banquet last fall, his voice cracked as he said, "Christians are the only people I know that you can kill their son, and they'll make you a part of their family. I don't know the Man Upstairs, but He sure is hounding me."

John's story is unfinished; he hasn't yet accepted Christ. But just as Christ died for us regardless of our actions or acceptance, so Ruth forgave him without qualification. Even more so, she became his friend.

    - Albert H. Quie, President of Prison Fellowship Ministries, Jubilee, p. 5

            From a human perspective, she has every right to be unforgiving but she knew what God desired and she submitted to His will and look at the witness not only to the man who murdered her brother, but to those who where at the banquet in Seattle that night!

            I realize that some of you may not think this is important, but I believe it is very important, not only for our physical well being, but also for our spiritual well being!  In regards to our physical well being, we are told, “Researchers even agree that unforgiveness is linked to a variety of health issues. There have been studies conducted to measure heart rates, sweat rates, and other responses of volunteers who were asked to remember the wrongs that they have experienced. According to Professor Charlotte Van Oyen of Hope College in Michigan where the study was done; the subject’s blood pressure and heart rates increased, as well as muscle tension was shown to be higher. This demonstrates that stress levels are higher when an individual is walking in unforgiveness as appose to forgiveness. Stress leads to a host of other illnesses that lands people in the hospitals daily. Dr. Don Colbert, M.D. says, ‘One of the secret causes of stress plaguing millions of people is unforgiveness.’”

            Not only does it affect our physical health but it also affects our spiritual health.  You see, unforgiveness will lead to a dry spiritual life because you are not submitting to the Holy Spirit.  It will affect your prayer life if you are unforgiving. It will also affect your worship and I am not just talking about the songs we sing, but how we live out our Christian faith. And here is the reality, if you are unforgiving towards others, you will be angry, bitter and if you let this grow it will choke out every godly trait!

            And who are you really angry with?  Think about it, you are angry with God! “No I’m not, I am angry at so-and-so for what they did to me!” Does God know what is going to happen before it happens? Of course He does. Then maybe He is allowing this for a reason like He did in the life of Joseph. You see, if you don’t forgive, you will be saying, “God, how could you put that person in my life?”  “God, how could you allow that to happen to me?” And the list can go on-and-on but because you can’t take it out on God, you take it out on the people and granted they may deserve it, but it still does not give us a license to give it to them! Again, God allowed Joseph to be in these situations, didn’t He?  Of course He did and God used them to grow Joseph for the ministry He had for him. God does the same in our own lives folks!

            A few months back, maybe longer now, I had a computer virus and what a mess it was.  It was attacking files, making my computer do things I didn’t want it to do. It slowed my computer down. And folks, if this happens do not throw holy water on it. It doesn’t work!  And if that virus was not removed from my computer it would eventually destroy it, shut it down, if I didn’t throw it out the window first!

            I truly see unforgiveness as a deadly virus in our lives and it will destroy us if we don’t deal with it.  We must confess that sin before God and we must forgive!  Paul, in Ephesians 4:30-31 tells us, And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.  The Amplified Bible puts these verses like this, And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [do not offend or vex or sadden Him], by Whom you were sealed (marked, branded as God's own, secured) for the day of redemption (of final deliverance through Christ from evil and the consequences of sin). Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind).

            How do we grieve the Holy Spirit? By sinning and Paul tells us what they are all about- bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, and malice! You see, Each of these, Paul tells us, must be put away or removed from our lives. We must decide to do it for if we refuse we can and will grieve the Holy Spirit.  A child of God should not have these as fruits in his life because they are not fruit! And did you notice how they are all linked together. You start with a resentful spirit (bitterness) which leads to a quick burst of emotion (wrath) which leads to a long standing continual feeling of anger that grows inside of you (anger) that results in a public outburst of what you feel (clamor) then into the tearing down of another person (evil speaking) and ends with a continual hateful disposition (malice).  Don’t hold onto this garbage, but let it go!

            But how can we do this? What should we do? Paul goes on to say in Ephesians 4:32,And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. And once again The Amplified Bible puts this verse like this, And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.

            You see, be kind to people, be tenderhearted towards them and forgive them!  “I can’t!”  No, it is not that you can’t, you just won’t! Please put this into perspective here. God is not only kind towards us, He is not only tenderhearted towards us, but He has forgiven us of all our sins and He wants us to have that same nature flow from our lives.  I was reading an article on forgiveness that was saying if we can’t forgive we are not saved.  That truly does put our salvation back on us and off of Christ and the way this person put this really troubled me. They said that Christ died for our past sins! If that were the case we are all in trouble! Listen to what Daniel 9:8-9 tells us and yes, this is in the Old Testament. We are told, O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him. The forgiveness of God towards us when we don’t deserve it and God wants us to forgive like that!

            Once again, if your situation is worse than what this man went through, you still need to forgive! We are told:

Bruce Goodrich was being initiated into the cadet corps at Texas A & M University. One night, Bruce was forced to run until he dropped -- but he never got up. Bruce Goodrich died before he even entered college.

A short time after the tragedy, Bruce's father wrote this letter to the administration, faculty, student body, and the corps of cadets: "I would like to take this opportunity to express the appreciation of my family for the great outpouring of concern and sympathy from Texas A & M University and the college community over the loss of our son Bruce. We were deeply touched by the tribute paid to him in the battalion. We were particularly pleased to note that his Christian witness did not go unnoticed during his brief time on campus."

Mr. Goodrich went on: "I hope it will be some comfort to know that we harbor no ill will in the matter. We know our God makes no mistakes. Bruce had an appointment with his Lord and is now secure in his celestial home. When the question is asked, 'Why did this happen?' perhaps one answer will be, 'So that many will consider where they will spend eternity.'"

- Our Daily Bread, March 22, 1994

            You see, it is the new man, the new life we have in Christ. Paul spoke of this in Colossians 3:12-17, Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.  It is being Christ-centered and Spirit led instead of self-centered and led by the flesh nature!

            Let’s look at the two sons of Joseph and their names because I believe it gives us some insight into where Joseph was at in this difficult situation.

1.  MANASSEH – GENESIS 41:51 - FORGETFULNESS

            Joseph names his firstborn Manasseh, which means “forgetfulness.” Why would he name his firstborn Manasseh? Because Joseph did not let the situations he faced these past 13 years cause him to be angry, to be bitter, to be hateful and-so-on. He did not hold onto the past or should I say he did not let the past hold onto him!  I wonder how many Christians have allowed the past to hold onto them and they refuse to break free because they refuse to forget and forgive!  Joseph forgot those things and he focused on the Lord and thus, he names his firstborn Manasseh!

            In his book. Lee: The Last Years, Charles Bracelen Flood reports that after the Civil War, Robert E. Lee visited a Kentucky lady who took him to the remains of a grand old tree in front of her house. There she bitterly cried that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Federal artillery fire. She looked to Lee for a word condemning the North or at least sympathizing with her loss. After a brief silence, Lee said, "Cut it down, my dear Madam, and forget it." It is better to forgive the injustices of the past than to allow them to remain, let bitterness take root and poison the rest of our life.

- Michael Williams

            Isn’t it amazing the things we do remember about people and the things that we don’t! We tend to hold onto the hurt, the pain and forget the good things they have done. And yes, for some you have to look hard, but for the most part, they are there. There are always those exceptions, but that should not stop us from forgetting and forgiving! Can you imagine if God was like that, never forgetting our sins against Him?  “Joe, remember 20 years ago when you did that . . .” You see, God would never do that, thus, why do we do that with others? Because we refuse to let go and we will live in the sin of unforgiveness because we refuse to forget!

            How many marriages are in shambles, relationships destroyed because of this issue! Always bringing up the past hurts, the past failures, throwing them at each other.  And when people come to me and wonder what they should do because this person is doing this and doing that the answer is simple. Repent and get right with God. You see, counseling sessions should not be that long, the reason they are most of the time is because people don’t want to obey what the Lord is saying and if that is the case, I don’t have much else to offer you. I think God knows better than I do and thus, I will give you what He says and then it is up to you! You see, it is really a heart issue that needs to be dealt with.  Manasseh, forgetfulness, may we be able to do that!

2.  EPHRAIM – GENESIS 41:52 – FRUITFULNESS

            Joseph’s second born son is named Ephraim, which means “fruitfulness.” Here, away from home, in difficult situations to say the least, God was still able to make Joseph fruitful. As a slave, as a prisoner, as second in command over all of Egypt, God was working because Joseph was walking with the Lord.  And in that God blessed. Joseph was fruitful!  Thus, his second son is named Ephraim!

            I believe Joseph was fruitful because he was faithful to the Lord and Joseph was faithful to the Lord because he was able to forgive. It is hard to serve the Lord when you are unforgiving, angry, bitter, and-so-on.  But when you let it go, when you trust in the Lord no matter how dark, no matter how difficult the situation may be, you will bear fruit in your life!

            Jesus makes that point very clear in John 15:4-14 as He tells us, Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 

“What do you mean I can’t do anything meaningful, fruitful outside of Christ?  I can do whatever I want and I have done good things no matter what you say!”  In other words, some would protest these words of Jesus.  As true as that may be outside of Christ, that you can do whatever you want, even good things, they will not be accepted by Him no matter how good they are outside of Him. Thus, we are to abide in Him or Christ should be at home in our lives.  You see, a branch that is cut off from the vine will die. It won’t produce fruit!

What is the fruit that Jesus is speaking of here?  In Romans 1:13 Paul tells us that fruit is seeing people saved.  In Romans 6:22 Paul tells us that fruit is holiness.  In Romans 15:28 Paul speaks of our giving being fruit.  In Colossians 1:6-8 Paul speaks of fruit being the help we bring to others.  In Hebrews 13:15 we see that the praise of our lips is fruit. And lastly, in Galatians 5:22 the fruit of the spirit is love!  What about joy, peace, longsuffering and-so-on?  Notice that it is the fruit of the spirit not fruits.  These others are descriptions of love, what it produces in our lives, how that love is seen in our lives. Thus, outside of Christ we can do nothing that He will accept as fruit unto Him!

God wants us to obey Him and as we do we will naturally bear fruit because we are abiding in Him! But outside of Him, when you are living in sin, you will not bear fruit because you are not abiding in Him!

And like Joseph, we can be in a cold, dark, difficult situation for a long period of time and we can still bear fruit if we abide in Him.  Listen carefully to this story and you will see what I mean. We are told:

Here in Alberta we are experiencing very cold weather. But there is one spot in our province where in spite of the frigid cold weather, the grass is always green. In 1919 an underground fire in the coal mine of Cadomin broke out.  The fire has never been extinguished, and to this day it continues to burn.  In the coldest days of winter the grass above the fire remains summer green.

- Prairie Overcomer

I like that because I truly believe that is what the Lord does. As His fire is burning in us, if we are faithful to Him, not perfect, but faithful, we will bear fruit in the coldest places, the darkest places! The key here is forgetting, forgiving and fruit will be produced!

            Remember my computer virus I spoke of earlier. There is antivirus software that is out there to protect your computer from these viruses. The problem is that it must be updated and it must be turned on to work if your computer is going to be protected. The same is true in our lives. We have antivirus software you might say, it is the Word of God. The problem comes when we turn off God’s Word, we refuse to listen to the Spirit’s guiding and we do our own thing.  It is then we unleash the virus and the only way to get rid of it is to turn on the antivirus software, the Word of God and apply it to your life! You must also update the software and what I mean by that is you must be in God’s Word; you need to read it and apply it to your life. But you do have a choice, to listen and obey or to ignore and disobey the Lord. You can let it go and forgive or you can hold onto it and not forgive and it will eventually eat you up!

            As I begin to close this morning, let me share with you this story. We are told:

            Once upon a time two brothers shared adjoining farms. For over 40 years they worked side-by-side, sharing equipment and helping each other out whenever needed. Then one day a rift developed. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by months of angry silence.

One day the eldest brother, Pete, was out in his fields when a car pulled up. Out jumped a man who approached Pete carrying a carpenter's toolbox. "I’m looking for a few days work" he said. "Perhaps you would have a few small jobs I could do for you?"

"Well, yes I do," said Peter. "See that creek down there, it's the border between my brother's farm and mine. Me brother keeps it nice and deep to stop me from setting one foot on his beloved farm. Well I'll oblige him. I want you to take that timber over there by the barn and build me a new fence, a real tall one, so I don't have to look over at my stinkin’ brother and his farm no more." 

The carpenter was glad to have the work, "No worries mate. I understand. Just point me to your post-hole digger and I’ll get the job done."

So the carpenter set about working. Meanwhile farmer Pete drove into town to the local cattle auction. When he returned at sunset he was shocked to see what the carpenter had done.

There was no fence. Instead the carpenter had built a bridge and walking across it was Pete's younger brother. He held out his hand and spoke to his brother, "Mate after all I've done to you these past few weeks I can't believe you'd still reach out to me. You're right. It's time to bury the hatchet.

The two brothers met at the middle of the bridge and embraced. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox on his shoulder. "No, wait! Stay a few days. I’ve a lot of other projects for you," said farmer Pete. "I’d love to stay on," the carpenter said, "but I have more bridges to build."

                                    - Source: Scott Higgins, rewritten from a story of unknown source

            May you allow Jesus to restore relationships, to bring about forgiveness, for Jesus said, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.  John 13:34-35.  In other words, they will know we are Christians by our love!  What are they seeing? What are we showing them?  Forgiveness and fruitfulness – REMEMBER TO FORGET!

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