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Pulling Together In A World Tearing Apart

To Love Again

Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer | November 22, 1992

Selected highlights from this sermon

Lost friends, broken relationships, and vicious betrayals—all of these lead to hurt, and that list is incomplete. People who’ve been wounded have a hard time loving anyone. But Christ can help them heal because He, too, was wounded. In Him, we can find forgiveness, love, and even thankfulness for our pasts. And through Him we can learn to love and help others who are wounded. 

Let’s pray together.

Our Father, our only hope is in the cross. In a world of brokenness and the world that is tearing apart we pray today, Father, that you will unify us at the cross. May husbands and wives be unified. May children and their parents be unified. We pray, Father, you might take the brokenness of all those who are listening in this congregation and by radio, and today heal your people. We pray that you might do what no man can do. We pray these words, however imperfectly given, might be an arrow that strikes to the very core of the soul, and because we have prayed, we expect people to be changed forever, in the blessed name of Jesus, Amen.

I’m going to begin today by reading a letter from Larry. Some of you know who he is. We disciplined him here at The Moody Church eleven years ago for adultery, and he wrote me a letter a couple weeks ago and asked I share it with the elders and with the church family whom he hurt because of his sin. 

Just listen. 

Eleven years ago, I walked out on my wife of 14 years and our six-month old son. You and the elders counseled me concerning my actions. You did so with love, truth, and honest obedience to Scriptural principles. I chose to harden my heart against your counsel. I think you know in some part how hard it was for me to turn my back on you because my relationship with my Christian family at Moody was extremely important. But I accepted the correctness of you action in removing me from fellowship with the Body of Christ according to 1 Corinthians, chapter 5.

I believed at the time that my happiness and fulfillment as a man was dependent on an intimate, exclusive, and totally committed relationship with the right woman. Against the advice of my Christians friends, my family, counselors, and school president, I dropped out of Bible school just months prior to graduation to marry someone who I thought was the right woman. I had it all figured out and I followed my plan.

Well, as you know, my plans fell apart. I lost hope that our marriage would ever give me the kind of relationship I wanted, and I became more vulnerable to the thoughts of finding the really right woman who would answer to my needs and desires.

Well, you know what happened. Such a woman found me at the hospital where I worked. She really wanted and needed me just like I was. She thought I was wonderful, and my ego went through the roof. Suddenly I was special. I saw her as the woman I had always dreamed of. Still my commitment to my marriage and my knowledge of the Word kept me from adultery. But I fantasized about her and because Jesus said to lust is to commit adultery I thought since I’m guilty I might as well go ahead. I had a way now to rationalize the breaking of a sacred covenant with the wife of my youth. I believed a lie. 

The pleasure of my new relationship and what I believed was our total mutual commitment to each other, and that gave me the strength to accept the loss of my son, and my excommunication from Moody. My life was more totally focused on my true love. Two years later when our divorces were final, we married. I was trying to lead to her Christ, but she was very independent. But she loved me totally and said she had learned through a very hard life— Later she said she really didn’t need me, God, or anybody, but I poured my being into the relationship.

Now, get this.

I believed that with total love, commitment, patience, kindness—all the qualities of a Christian husband—I would eventually heal her of the wounds of her past. Well, some Christian that I was.

In 1984 my wife’s son committed suicide. She was absolutely devastated. She wanted to die herself. The shock of his death broke through her wall of independence and self-reliance. She finally was able to acknowledge she needed God and she accepted Christ as her Savior. And she’s received some emotional healing since then.

In 1985 God blessed us with two beautiful healthy twin daughters, and we moved to another state. I went to the pastor of our church, and I confessed everything, and I did not get involved because I thought my sinfulness would contaminate the congregation. But I was basically happy with my new wife and totally delighted with our daughters, but oh how I needed God. I longed for forgiveness and the healing from my sin and the guilt of my past. I wanted the same close relationship I had with God years ago when I decided to go to Bible School.

Well, the pastor explained God would forgive me and restore me. As much as I could I chose to confess and repent of my adultery and breaking the covenant with my first wife, but I struggled. I couldn’t deny the love for my new wife and our girls. How could I wish that they had never happened? My entire life was wrapped up in my family, but oh, how I wanted God to heal me.

He talks about the fact that he had difficulty in employment and then he says:

It seemed as if everything was falling apart. My wife had begun remembering things that happened to her as a child. Now along with the periods of depression from her son’s suicide came periods of rage at men who had hurt her. I was unemployed and couldn’t find a job anywhere and had no hope for the future. I was no longer providing the security she needed, and I reminded her of a man who had abused her. Two days before Christmas in 1991 she told me she wanted a divorce, and literally threw me out of the house.

I can’t begin to describe the agony, the emptiness, the absolute despair I have experienced this past year. Now I understand why some people commit suicide. I don’t know what to do. Except for times when I can focus on Jesus and God’s love I am in constant emotional pain. The pleasure of sin lasted for a season, but the fruit of my sin has ripened into agony and loss. Everything I tried to gain has been taken from me. I am empty and alone.

You know, I have learned much through this pain. 

And get this now, folks.

My downfall did not start with adultery. It started with idolatry. I believed the key to happiness was the right woman, and a mutually committed passionate marriage. When my first marriage didn’t provide the joy I sought, I turned to another woman, the (quote) “right one.” I held nothing back from her, but she wasn’t capable of receiving that love, and I now know that no woman really is. In effect I had made her and our marriage like God to me. My devotion was misplaced. I had all of my self-esteem, my self-worth. It was all tied up with pleasing and being affirmed by a woman. I had given and sought from a woman which only God can provide.

I love my wife and still hope for restoration. I do repent of my adultery and the divorce from my first wife. Please carry this message to the elders of the church and the church family whom I harmed by my sin. I am truly sorry. Please forgive me.

I believe that it was your hand of judgment that God used to bring me back, and I am grateful beyond measure. I have shamed Him, and I deserve to be crushed, but please pray God will purify and heal.

When I was younger in the ministry, I used to talk about loving one another, and I used to tell couples to love each other. The Bible says, “Love your enemies.” Begin there. I’m a little older now. Some would say a lot older. And I don’t preach that message anymore very often because I’ve learned something, and that is there are some people who cannot love because they are wounded people. Unless the wound is in the process of healing, no matter whom they marry, no matter what right person they pursue, they will never be able to really love.

You’ve just heard a letter from someone who loved once, tried to love again. His wife loved once, tried to love again. Trying it again. The same problems beginning to surface because of wounds that are not healed. 

What kind of people have wounds that make loving very difficult? Let me list three very quickly. First of all, people who themselves have not felt loved. People who themselves have not felt loved find it difficult to give and receive love.

Secondly, the painful memories of broken relationships. People who have these memories of broken relationships because, you see, the more promiscuous you are, what happens is you become attached to all the people with whom you have a sexual relationship, and you feel you belong to all of them. I have to tell you that I think the most important series of messages I’ve ever preached in this church was on sexual redemption. And those two messages are on a cassette tape, and also there’s booklet that grew out of those messages that are available, and I urge you to purchase them and give them to friends. That is the message this nation needs.

But you know, many of you women who are listening to me right now have had abortions, and you belong to that group of people, that sisterhood in the quietness of your soul, and you know the emptiness, the despair, the loneliness, the regret. I’ve counseled Christian women who have had abortions who say the greatest thing that they face is going to heaven and then seeing the little child the aborted who is there and having to be reconciled and to explain why Mommy killed her baby. 

Thankfully many Christian women have come to grips with that and they are no longer plagued by it, but you know the despair and the emptiness in your soul, and because of what you have done, you will find it difficult to love and to love again.

Then there’s another category and that is those of you who have experienced the sword, the powerful sword of misplaced promises. The powerful sword of betrayal. Oh, he promised he would love you. In fact, he said, “Of course we’re going to be married.” And then after you got pregnant, he left you, and he decided he would leave you in your need, or with your sexually transmitted disease.

I was on a plane recently and reading an article in which it said every five minutes in the United States a woman is assaulted. Think of what it is she takes into her relationships and how is she going to love again?

You know in our broken society you know what is happening when people get married? Of course, during the marriage ceremony we are all sitting there, and you know what we’re waiting for? The bride, because God makes every bride beautiful, at least on her wedding day. And we’re there, and we want to get a glimpse of the bride, and the wedding march is being played. As the wedding march is being played, our eyes are on the bride. But do you know what is really happening? One of those partners is probably saying to the other, or both of them are saying to each other, “Uh, I am a wounded person, and I’m marrying you to heal my wound. Please heal my wound. I expect unlimited love. I expect unlimited forgiveness. I expect unlimited patience. Please heal me. Whatever you do, in the process of healing my wound, whatever you do, do not touch my wound. Because if you ever touch my wound, I will make life miserable for you, so heal me without touching my wound.” What they’re really saying is, “Please do for me something that only God can do. Aren’t I nice?” That’s what’s going on.

So sometimes you have two wounded people who are trying to heal each other. And the fact of the matter is even those of us who didn’t experience abuse in our background have, in the words of one person, a part of us whom we really feel is both unloved and unlovable. And that’s what we protect from others and that’s the thing that guards our wound, you see. And we can’t articulate what our need is. These people who are marrying, they don’t know what their need is. And even when it surfaces, they don’t know how to handle it. But we hope to God they will live forever, or at least happily after.

Well, I want you to know today I’m going to be speaking this morning to wounded people. And I’ve got some good news for you that I just heard recently put so beautifully. Did you know Christianity is the only religion in the world that has a God who is wounded? Christianity is the only religion in the world who has a God who is wounded. So what I want to talk today about is the wounds of Jesus, and in the process of talking about Christ’s woundedness, hopefully shed some insight as to how you can be healed from your woundedness—and really the woundedness of us all. My text is Isaiah 53.

Someone said the prophet Isaiah wrote the 53rd chapter as if he were sitting at the foot of the cross. It’s a message of prediction regarding the sufferings of Christ. It is a message that actually is written in the past tense because it is as if it has already happened. It is so certain. So, we pick up the passage in verse 1.

“Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed, for he grew up before him like a tender shoot, like a shoot out of parched ground? He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon him. No appearance that we should be attracted to him.”

You know when Jesus was buffeted and whipped 39 times you did not want to look at him. It says in the previous chapter that his visage, his form, was so marred you wouldn’t have known who he was.

“He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, like one from whom men hide their face. He was despised and we did not esteem him. Surely our griefs he himself bore and our sorrows he carried, yet we ourselves esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted, but he was wounded for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The chastening hand of our well-being fell upon him, and by his scourging we are healed.”

Five facts this morning regarding the wounds of Christ. You can jot them down. Don’t use the offering envelope. It should be used for other purposes. [laughter] Five facts.

Number one, Christ’s wounds were inflicted by others. His wounds were inflicted by others. Some people are self-wounded. Christ was wounded because of the injustices of others. Specifically, His enemies. They wounded Him because they hated Him because of jealousy. Oh, how they wanted to do Him in, and how good they felt when He was on the cross because it gave them a feeling of power that they had triumphed. Wounded by enemies but also wounded by a friend, Judas, “mine own familiar friend whom I loved and trusted.” Actually, Jesus didn’t trust Judas. There is a passage in the Old Testament that is quoted regarding this, and it leaves out that word trust in the New Testament. But Jesus said, “My own familiar friend, Judas, he has lifted up his heal against me.”

Why did Judas give Christ wounds? It was because of money. You realize, of course, sin always wounds. Sin always wounds. You can see it all over the place. You can see it in our lives. You can see it in culture. Sin always wounds, and you can particularly see it in families.

So, Jesus was wounded by others, but do you know there is something else in the text that may be a little difficult for you to grasp? But just hang on. Did you know He was also wounded by God? He was wounded by God. Notice it says in the last part of verse 4, “We ourselves esteemed him stricken, smitten of God.” Glance down to verse 10, “But the Lord was pleased to crush him.” You say, “Jesus Christ put on the cross by God?” God didn’t do the evil to be sure, but the plans of evil men and the purposes of God converged. It says in the book of Acts that Jesus was offered by the pre-determined counsel of God. God did not do what wicked men did, but what they did was part of God’s plan. He was smitten of God so that He could be a sacrifice for us. His wounds were inflicted by others just like some of you. Some are self-wounded but there are others of you who have been wounded by other people.

Secondly— Fact number one, His wounds were inflicted by others. Number two, His wounds blessed others. Notice what it says again in Isaiah 53:5. “He was pierced, or wounded, for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The chastening for our well-being fell upon him, and his scourging heals us.” 

What does the text of Scripture say? First of all, that Jesus Christ died for our transgressions, and because He offered Himself and His wounds became the means by which salvation would come to fallen humanity. He died so we could be forgiven, and He died that we might be healed. You say, “Well, is this physical healing? Is it spiritual healing?” It is all kinds of healing. Jesus died for us body, soul, and spirit. He died for the whole man, total complete redemption by a perfect, total, complete cross with all of its wounds and blood and smells.

You say, “Well, does that mean we can be healed physically whenever we want to be?” No, it doesn’t, just like we can’t be delivered from sin completely like we want to be. Even in this life we never become sinless, and we never become—if I may be so bold as to invent a word—we never become sickless. But what it does mean is God now begins the healing process in the human heart, and it is from those wounds of Calvary, the blood of Jesus Christ, that redemption comes. 

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’re such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown? 

How much do the wounds of Jesus even mean to us today? Are they still applicable? Well, you remember the words of Charles Wesley.

Five bleeding wounds He bears, 
Received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers,
They constantly pray for me. 
“Forgive Him, O, forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!” 

And the wounds of Jesus in heaven are wounds representing us to God, the Father. A reminder of the grace and the love and the forgiveness that flowed from painful wounds inflicted by others.
Let me simply say, God can use your wounds, too, to bless others. Oftentimes when God heals people, He uses people who have been experiencing the very same affliction. Sometimes the best healers are those who themselves have been healed. And by the way, did you know God can begin to use you even if your wound has not yet been closed up. You don’t have to wait until you are perfect before God begins to use you to help others become healed.

Fact number one, His wounds were inflicted by others. Number 2, His wounds blessed others. Number three, His wounds identify Him. They are His mark. They identify Him. 

We won’t take time to turn to this passage, but Zechariah said in the Old Testament, chapter 12, verse 10. It says God is going to send forth the spirit of grace and supplication upon the land of Israel, and the land of Israel will yet—this is a prophecy—turn to Christ and recognize Him as Messiah. And how are they going to know He is the Messiah? How are they going to know the man who comes to the Mount of Olives is the very same man who was crucified two thousand years before? What does the text say? It says they shall look upon Him whom they have pierced. And they’ll say, “It’s Jesus because we see the nail prints in His hands, and we see the wound in His side. This is Messiah. This is King. We know Him because of His wounds.”

You know your wounds can become means of identification. The Apostle Paul says, “I bear in my body the wounds of Christ.” He was speaking of the physical wounds because of the beatings He endured, but there are many different ways to carry wounds that become your mark of identification, and even your mark of ministry.

In history there have been those who have been blind and that has become their wound. Handicapped, emotional pain. Some of you were adopted, and that is your wound because you don’t know who our daddy was, you don’t know who your mother was, and that is the wound, but in God’s sight that is the wound that identifies you. It is the wound, the badge of your usefulness and blessing.

Number four, His wounds have become scars. They’re not wounds anymore. They are scars. Scars mean a wound has been healed, the bleeding has stopped, the pain has subsided. Take your Bibles and turn with me to the fifth chapter of the book of Revelation. Revelation, chapter 5, and what a beautiful story this is of heaven. We notice it says John was weeping greatly because no one seemed to be found worthy to open this book. It says in Revelation 5:5, “And one of the elders said to me, ‘Stop weeping. Behold the lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the root of David has overcome to open the book and its seven seals.’ And I saw between the throne, between the four living creatures, and the elders, a lamb standing as if slain, having seven horns, and seven eyes which are the seven spirits of God, sent to all the earth.” It was as if he had been slain.

Bleeding? No, the blood has stopped. In pain? No, the pain has stopped. But scars, reminders of the fact He was indeed slain. You know that’s what God wants to do in your life? It’s not going to take the entire past that you have had away. But what He’s going to do is to take those gaping, painful wounds that mean you can’t give or receive love. Those wounds that are so sore if you did get married somebody would find it very difficult to live with you because they’d soon find they were poking themselves into sores you thought nobody should ever touch. But intimate relationships always touch those sores.

What God is asking us to understand is that there is healing. I think, for example, of Dorie Van Stone, abused sexually. First of all, conceived illegitimately, abused sexually, abused physically in those foster homes, and God using her today to heal and to bless thousands and thousands of people that are hearing her testimony and are reading her books. You see, she says always, “I still have scars but the wounds have closed.”

Number five, His wounds are proof of triumph. Notice what it says in Revelation 5:9, “And they sang a new song, ‘Worthy art Thou to take the book and to break its seals, for thou was slain.” Well, how do they know He was slain? Well, if they need it there’s a big old representation of Christ slaying. Someone has said the wounds of Jesus may be the only scars of sin allowed into heaven.

“But thou was slain and did purchase for God with thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” And those wounds are a sign of Christ’s ultimate triumph and the purposes of God, and the purposes of redemption. And the wounds you have that are turned into scars show the absolute triumph of God over human need.

You know recently here at the church we have been confronted by situations where there has been such ugly, awful, terrible abuse. Even in those situations we may say to ourselves, “Why would God ever allow it? I mean, how could His purpose ever be fulfilled?” If we have the grace to understand it, perhaps God is trying to prove to angels, to demons, and to men there is no wound that is so deep but the mercy and the grace and the lovingkindness of God is deeper still. And even in the midst of brokenness and wounds there can be triumph. There can be triumph.

Well, enough of that. Let me ask you a question. So, what do we say to Larry who wrote the letter? What do we say to a man and his wife who say, “We can’t get along any more because the pain is so severe, and because the wounds in both of our hearts are so sore, so sensitive, so painful?” What do we say? Well, what I’d like to do is to say three words and that’s the whole answer. Isn’t that wonderful that we as pastors have such gifts at being able to summarize things, and to wave our hands, and find that in the process of doing that all problems disappear? [laughter]

Here are the three words but listen to them carefully because they can be the means of healing of your heart and the heart of others.

Number one, forgiveness. But oh my, how that word forgiveness needs to be understood in its different relationships. What do I mean? First of all, the forgiveness of God. They need to understand God is able to cleanse and to forgive and to put behind them every bit of self-hate. Every bit of self-condemnation which is always going to lead them back into the pit of despair. That’s why Jesus died. You remember the words of Martin Luther? “He died for damnable sinners.” I mean real hard-boiled sinners, and we need to understand that. But they need to also ask the forgiveness of all those whom they have hurt, and so far, as I know they’ve done that. Writing this letter was a part of that process. How important that is because every person who is right with God wants to be right with man. There is no such thing as somebody who says, “I have a grudge against this brother and hate him, but I still walk with God.” It says in 1 John that the person who hates his brother and says he loves God lies.

But there’s another kind of forgiveness people need, and this gets a little tougher even. They need to be able to forgive those who gave them their wounds. They need to be able to forgive those who gave them their wounds.

Let me ask you a question. When did Jesus Christ’s wounds start to be healed? Do you know when? It’s when He was there on the cross when the wounds were still fresh and the blood was dripping to the ground, and the pain was shooting through His body. It was then He looked out on those who had treated Him so unjustly, and said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” And that was the beginning of the healing of His wounds.

Now, mind you, forgiving people for the past does not mean healing has occurred. That does not heal the wound. It only gets rid of the poison because you can have a clean wound and it still is fresh and painful and hurtful, but the poison has to be lanced. So, forgiveness for those who inflicted the wound. That’s the first word. It’s a word of forgiveness.

The second word I need to give is the word of love. The word of love, because if forgiveness lances the boil and gets rid of the poison, it is love that becomes the salve that helps the healing process, and that love has two aspects. First of all, the love of the people of God. Yes, the love of a man’s wife, the love of others, and I hope Moody Church is a place where wounded people can be healed. That isn’t the only purpose why we exist, but that should be one of them, where there is a caring community where they know that it’s okay to be wounded and you can be in the process of being healed. How important that is.

But I want you to know today there is also another aspect to love, and that is the love and the grace and the mercy of God. If you remember a few moments ago when I read this letter, Larry said he had to repent of the idolatry of putting a woman ahead of God and thinking she could meet needs in his life only God can really meet. You see, there is a sense in which people with all of their love, and compassion, and help—which we so desperately need—can ultimately only take us so far. There comes a place when you and God must take over. When you open your life to God and let Him love you back to healing, and to believe God even loves that core part of your personality that you think is unloved and unlovable, God even loves you there. That becomes the salve.

There’s a third word I’d like to share, and it’s the shocker. Some of you won’t accept it immediately, but give me some time, and it is the word thanksgiving. You actually have to be able to thank God for your wounds. Now, let me understand this clearly. I’m not saying you should give thanks for evil. You know, the Bible says, “Give thanks in everything.” It doesn’t necessarily say “Give thanks for everything.” So, I’m not saying you should thank God for all the injustices that have been done upon you as if to say that evil somehow is something we should prize or exalt. But you can give thanks to God for the wounds you bear because they can become that means of blessing we have talked about this morning. In the process of giving thanks to God for those wounds, you entirely will be able to change your perspective, and you will begin to see God can become a part of some awful, terrible wounds.

Recently somebody said, “You know I was born out of wedlock. You know you always have this question in the back of your mind with that kind of a background. Can God really bless me; I mean really bless me? I mean not just save me, but how can I be special when strictly speaking I shouldn’t be here?” I want you to know today that some of the people whom God has used the most mightily were conceived out of wedlock.

You’ve heard me tell many times from this pulpit the story of Felix Manz. How he was drowned in the Lamot River, and how we were this fall, and we had the privilege of standing right where the drowning took place. I gave an exposition as to how this godly man was shoved out into the water and drowned because he believed he should be rebaptized. Felix Manz was the illegitimate child of a priest, a great hero of mine.

Never sell God short on His ability to take deep wounds and scars and make them beautiful. Psalm 147:3, “He takes the brokenhearted and he binds up their wounds.” Blessed are those who can see God even in the midst of painful wounds and hurts.

There was a man who was the son of a prostitute, born into conditions that were so dehumanizing. Growing up with bitterness towards his mother for the situation in which he found himself, and all the hostility and the rejection and the anger and the wound which seemed beyond healing. But he left this area, and he got on a train and he went all the way to Pennsylvania. Where he stood at the grave of his mother, and stood there for the better part of an afternoon. To let all the bitterness, all the venom, all the hurt, all the pain. He let it out.

I told you earlier that doesn’t mean he is just thereby healed. The healing now becomes possible because the healing can’t take until the poison is out, and after the poison is out there has to be the salve of love, and then there has to be the bandages of thanksgiving, and it becomes a part of a process for wounds to become scars. But will you remember today, those of you who cannot receive love and seemingly can’t give it either, will you remember today Christianity is the only religion whose God was wounded and today has scars?

Let’s pray.

Now Father, we pray that your blessed Holy Spirit would work in the lives and hearts of all those who have listened. May the grace of Christ, may the love of Christ, may the compassion of God reach even that part of us we think is unloved and unlovable. Let us remember that “He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities, and the chastisement of our peace was upon him. With his stripes we are healed.” Thank you we come today to a Savior who looks as if He’d been slain. 

We pray today, Father, that you might just mightily speak to those who are present. Give couples the freedom to get right with each other and right with you. Give young people, with all of the baggage of the past, the freedom to be healed. That they might be able to love again. Father, thank you.

Before I close this prayer why don’t you pray now? You tell God whatever you need to tell Him. If you need to cry, please do that. That’s why God gave you tear ducts. Let God love you. Let God heal you by His grace and strength, would you? Talk to Him.

Father, thank you for your grace and love. We pray today for open hearts and responsive spirits, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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