Monday, 17 February 2014 10:39

Forgive Us Our Debts

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Dear friends, if right now you are looking to hear one of the greatest prayer requests that ever could be made, and if you hunger and thirst for the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I am sure with this message you won’t be disappointed. We have before us now, continuing with our study of the Lord’s Prayer, the fifth petition that Jesus taught His followers to pray. In Matthew 6:12 we read: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” And Luke 11:4 says: “And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone that is indebted to us.” Is this a prayer that you make request for before God too, even on a daily basis? The prayer to be forgiven and to be forgiving is our focus now. “The forgiveness petition” is our theme and there are three main points we will follow. 1. What an amazingly possible request in Jesus’ Name 2. What an amazingly powerful request for Jesus’ sake 3. What an amazingly peaceful request in Jesus’ Name. This fifth petition is an amazingly possible request in Jesus’ Name. To get at the wonder of this, we need to think about the words forgive and sin and debt. The word ‘forgive’ means literally to let go, to release, to pardon, to exempt, to not count against us anymore something that is owed by us or wrongly done by us. A penalty is let go, a debt is released, and all is forgiven and no longer counted as against us or even as a part of us anymore. In the fifth petition we pray that the infinitely holy righteous God, the only true God and the one Who made us and before Whom we each one day will have to give full account to, will forgive us our sins, our debts! “Forgive, that is, O God, don’t let them be seen as part of us anymore but clear us from them totally, we pray.” Forgive doesn’t just mean, ‘Lord, don’t think about them anymore, please close Your eyes to all that we have ever done wrong’ but it means, ‘Lord, remove those sins altogether away from us.’ Indeed, as the Bible-based Heidelberg Catechism explains: “don’t impute [or reckon to our account any longer] to us poor sinners our transgressions.” Forgive is not just, ‘Lord, forget about all our wrongs, but seeing it, and knowing it full well, blot it all out, we pray. Let it count as really being no longer there at all, indeed, as if it never even existed at all.’ When we pray God in truth to forgive us our sins, we are asking for Him to pardon all our sins and to forgive our sinful hearts from where all our sins originate, and to see us instead as without sin and not sinful at all. Forgive us Lord, that is, “impute not to us poor sinners our transgressions, nor that depravity which always cleaves to us.” Do you agree asking God so to forgive us is asking a whole, whole lot? Especially also asking God to so forgive you? Yes, if you think too about that word ‘debts’ and the word ‘sins’. These are but two words of several, all telling of the various angles of wrongdoing and wickedness you and I can be and are guilty of before God, left to ourselves. The Bible speaks of sins, debts, iniquities, transgressions, trespasses, wickedness, rebellion, evil, disobedience, and lawlessness all as different words describing our guilt in wrongdoing before God the Holy One. God made us in the beginning good and holy, perfectly able not to sin. But after the fall of Adam and Eve we all are conceived and born in sin, and fall short of the glory of God. All our lives each one of us is full of sins and debts before God in countless ways in our thoughts, words, and deeds. Do you know and confess this with sorrow of heart and repentance of heart? We, you and I, owe God and are obligated to Him to live perfectly holy and sinless lives but not one of us now is ever capable of it. Rather, daily we increase our debts and add to our sins. Take notice that Jesus teaches in the fifth petition: “Forgive us our sins, or our debts”, both words being in the plural. Jesus knows our sins, yours and mine too, are not just a few wrong things here and there once in a while on our part. But “iniquities prevail against me” as the psalmist confesses in Psalm 65:3a and that just hasn’t been the case for a time long ago but it is over and over, daily so. Thus also the psalmist of Psalm 130 confesses: “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” Have you thought about this before? If our sins were each like a drop of water how they could in number be comparable to an ocean of water in depth and breadth and width, so vast as the waters of the Atlantic or Pacific oceans, or both combined even and more yet? And shall we ask God to forgive all that evil against Him? In the fifth petition Jesus teaches us so to pray, doesn’t He? He teaches it as an amazingly possible request. A request to pray, which is indeed all the more amazing when you think too of how inexcusable and how offensive and all too often how wickedly purposeful all our sins are. Your and my sins and debts before God are always a result of you and me being willfully wrong before God, and intentionally evil and ungodly. Not one of you can ever truthfully say, ‘I sinned but it wasn’t actually my fault!’ So can we ask God to forgive us debts we purposefully have made against Him? ‘Yes,’ Jesus says, ‘we may truly pray for this.’ What is still more amazing about this request? It is that Jesus teaches us not to come to God with something of ourselves for this gift of forgiveness but simply to ask for it, in Jesus’ Name, and in view of His precious blood shed on sinners’ behalf. We may ask for forgiveness of all our sins and debts to be freely and fully granted us, not for any reasons in or about ourselves but only all for reasons taken from out of God Himself and His saving work in and through Jesus Christ the Saviour. It is only and always because of Christ’s shed blood in atonement for sin that we may plead for and trust in the forgiveness of sin. Oh, all the false religions of the world and every idea of spirituality from the natural man fail to understand this gracious and glorious fifth petition. So much religion is simply out to appease the gods, to make them maybe somehow favorable to us, being merciful to us perhaps because of some good deed we tried to do, or have done, or might yet do. Countless millions of people live with an empty hope and on this frustrating basis of perhaps getting forgiveness of sins finally and ultimately because of something in or from ourselves. Always such hope is indeed forever vain, and without basis, and with no promise. People can give all kinds of sacrifices or give all kinds of gifts or do all kinds of so called good works. But never ever can anything that sinful man does bring the least forgiveness of any single sin even before the one only true and holy God. But hear the good news of the gospel now! God, Who created us good and saw man fall, stated even the day of man’s fall that He Himself would bring about a way of true forgiveness. A way that gives sure hope of forgiveness even for the most sinful person on earth and everlasting hope for every sinner on earth, no matter how high their mountain of sins and debts might be, when repentant of sin and looking to the Saviour of sinners to forgive your sins. Jesus was on the way to the cross when He also taught His followers the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus knew for His Name’s sake it was an amazingly possible request that we may make before God: “and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Jesus’ own perfect life lived on sinners’ behalf, and His shed blood poured out as a righteous sacrifice and punishment for sin on sinners’ behalf would open the way for all the forgiveness of all the sins for all His people, even for as many who will honestly pray this fifth petition. Truly, as Paul says in Romans 5, astonishingly so even, “Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound.” This is the unchanging ever reliable gospel of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners. Do you hear and treasure it with all your heart and soul and mind? Do you need this gospel as your lifeline and one escape from eternal condemnation and everlasting punishment in hell otherwise? Yes, speaking of sins and debts and your sinful nature and natural depravity of heart as fallen sons and daughters of Adam, are you bothered by it all? Does it plague and haunt you? Do you take this as seriously as you need to? Apart from the grace of God in your life and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit you too will mostly shrug off your sins and sinfulness and at best be a bit religious to soothe your conscience. But the Bible says you and I must repent and be converted if we are to be saved. That is, we need to receive the forgiveness of sins freely offered in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Are you doing that? Does God know you as one repentant before Him, praying this fifth petition in spirit and truth? We can say the Lord’s Prayer in public with others, and that is good, but have you prayed it before God concerning yourself? Are there sins that especially trouble you and temptations you are so prone to fall for? Do you have hidden sin, bosom sins, sins of the past, sins in your thoughts, words and deeds that keep resurfacing even in your memory? Are there sins forgiven that still you can’t forget? Oh, whatever it is with sin and debts before God in your and my life, and with our whole sinful self still by nature even as redeemed children of God, listen to the good news of the gospel. We may bring all our sins and our debts, known and unknown, past, present, and future praying as Jesus taught: “and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” It is so amazing that this sure promise and hope of forgiveness may be there for people like us. If we understand what we are asking for in the fifth petition and what it would cost Jesus for us even really to pray this with the promise of receiving it for His sake, it should just so overwhelm us in amazement! What a mercy and wonder that this is a prayer we may make before God with the promise also of receiving what we request. Are you amazed and overwhelmingly astonished at the gospel truth of the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ? The fifth petition is an amazingly possible request for Jesus’ sake is our first point. Come in worship of God the Saviour to our second point, thinking about how the fifth petition is also an amazingly powerful request for Jesus’ sake. It is amazingly powerful if you think about the truth of the gospel that through Jesus’ Person and work forgiveness of sin is something God is able to do justly and freely. On account of Jesus’ once for all sacrifice, God never ever has to withhold His justice or diminish His holiness in the forgiveness of any sinner with any sin. God is so pleased to forgive sins for Jesus’ sake. Indeed the Bible says in Micah 7:18, He “delights in mercy”, and even, we read in Psalm 86:5, God stands “ready to forgive,” and in Nehemiah 9:17, “ready to pardon.” Nothing can give God more pleasure than forgiving sinners their sins even as we confess them before Him pleading His mercy for Jesus’ sake. You have a wrong idea of God if you think of Him as only grudgingly granting forgiveness to anyone who asks. No, rather, as preacher C.H. Spurgeon also once put it so well: “Jesus is a greater Saviour than you think Him to be when your thoughts are the greatest. My Lord is more ready to pardon than you to sin, more able to forgive than you to transgress. My Master is more willing to supply your wants than you are to confess them. Never tolerate low thoughts of my Lord Jesus.” Is that true, you ask? Jesus is more ready to pardon than I to sin, and more able to forgive than I to transgress, more willing to supply my needs than I to confess them, even? Yes, it is the gospel truth! The Lord’s forgiveness for sinners is powerful not only thinking of God’s sure willingness to forgive sinners for Jesus’ sake but think of the immeasurableness of God’s forgiveness for Jesus’ sake. By immeasurable I mean the Bible tells us a person can never sin more than God can forgive. Not all the sins of all mankind in all the world over all history can measure up to the grace of God as revealed in Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of all our sins and sinfulness that may be found in and with Him. If you are worried about any sin, even if you think it might be the sin against the Holy Spirit that you committed, go to God with it, confessing it and asking His forgiveness and I guarantee to you, in Jesus’ Name, you will receive pardon from Him rich and free. But not going to Him to ask forgiveness and continuing that way, you are always then just a breath away from eternal hell itself. The good news of the gospel now yet is that God never gets tired of a repentant sinner coming to Him for forgiveness. And forgiveness is always found with Him for Jesus’ sake, though you come repeatedly and so often even perhaps, with the same sins again and again. The devil loves to have us fall into sin and then convince us: “Okay, now you have gone too far. You have sinned once too often and it is hopeless to come back to God for forgiveness and mercy.” No, come as you are, a poor sinner, a depraved sinner, a sinner who time and again, as a saved person even, experiences that the good you would you do not but the evil you would not, that you still do all too often. Oh, ask for pardon, cleansing, and renewal for Jesus’ sake and God will grant it according to His promise in and through Jesus Christ. Are you someone maybe not yet convinced of this gospel truth and not knowing the comfort of God’s forgiveness on account thereof because you just can’t believe it may be there for such a sinner as you? Oh, instead of focusing on the vileness of your sins, see the blood of Jesus shed on sinners’ behalf. For every one look to self, take ten looks to Him! Jesus’ blood was not shed for partially good sinners or not so hopelessly bad and shameful and vile sinners. It was shed for wicked and vile guilty sinners, sinful from head to toe and corrupt and wicked through and through! If with God there is forgiveness for sinners like Adam and Eve, Jacob, Rahab, David, Manasseh, and for sinners like Peter and Paul, there may be forgiveness found for you too, you can be sure. Did John the Baptist not declare concerning Jesus: “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” [John 1:29]? Did Jesus not say in Matthew 11:28: “Come unto me all ye who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” meaning also bring your burden of sin and guilt to Him and find forgiveness with Him, yes, for His Name’s sake. What is so amazingly powerful about this request is not only how God is pleased to forgive us for Jesus’ sake and the immeasurableness of His forgiveness for us for Jesus’ sake but think too of the extensiveness of His forgiveness towards us for Jesus’ sake. It is not forgiveness only for a time but forever, and it is not a forgiveness that is partial but complete. When the Lord forgives us our sins, even for as many as ask for this mercy for Jesus’ sake, He forgives in the sense that He remembers them no more. “I, even I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” [Isaiah 43:25]he In His eyes they are out of sight, out of mind, and out of reach, and that forevermore in and through Jesus Christ the Saviour. What a Saviour of sinners Jesus is! Look what He accomplished for the salvation of guilty vile sinners. How great Jesus Christ is and how forever blessed the redeemed are through His precious blood. But how justly and woefully condemned forever are all those who will not hear His voice and confess and forsake their sins in this life, refusing to call on Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. The gospel truth is when God forgives us our sins for Jesus’ sake, He no longer sees our sins or that we are sinners. No, He sees us in Christ, washed in His blood, clothed in His righteousness. The Lord imputes or reckons to our account Jesus’ perfect Person and righteousness instead of all our sins and sinfulness so that as forgiven sinners we may be and are reconciled with God as His dear children. And that we may have everlasting righteousness before Him in and through Christ and may also know the promise and gift of eternal life. John writes thus in I John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Oh, so great and grand is God’s forgiveness of sins for Jesus’ sake. Yes, when praying the fifth petition in faith for Jesus’ sake, so powerful is this request also when you just consider the effectiveness and impact of God’s forgiveness towards us by His grace and Spirit. This Jesus brings out clearly with the wording of the petition being: “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”. With that second phrase Jesus isn’t saying “forgive us, Lord, on the condition that we forgive those who sin against us or to the measure that we forgive those who sin against us or wrong us in any way.” No, but Jesus is saying when truly praying for the forgiveness of sin and coming to know God’s forgiveness of our sins the effect and impact always will be, and must be, that you will in turn be forgiving towards all others in reference to yourself. The gospel truth is, when the Spirit works in a person the genuine prayer, “Lord forgive me my sins”, at the same time there will be the gracious humble attitude, “even as I will forgive those who have sinned or do sin against me.” If you will be and remain unforgiving towards someone who has wronged you, not only does that mean you can’t know God’s forgiveness of your own sins but also you simply have not genuinely asked for forgiveness of your sins either. If you truly have asked for forgiveness from God you can’t but be also forgiving towards all others. Praying the fifth petition genuinely doesn’t mean you never will have struggles in forgiving the wrongs others have done to you. Neither does it mean that you will never remember other peoples’ wrongs towards you at times. But it does mean you won’t harbor or feed on bitterness and ill-feelings. It is a fact of grace and experiencing grace when we sometimes struggle with being forgiving towards others that looking to Jesus helps us, nevertheless, be forgiving. A look at the cross of Jesus and God’s forgiveness of our sins in and through Him gives reasons and strength to be forgiving even towards the most hurtful against us for it just never can compare to what evils we have done and do before our God and Saviour. Doesn’t every true Christian identify with this reality in his or her own Christian experience? How true what a certain preacher said: “One could as well speak of a round square, or an empty fullness, as speak of an unforgiving Christian. There may be, and probably are, many who are unforgiving and yet called Christians. But there are no real Christians who are unforgiving, because the same God Who grants us forgiveness as a free gift also grants us the free gift of His Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts, renewing the heart, it is not possible for us to remain unforgiving. Indeed, this is one of the ways that we can test ourselves to know whether or not we have grounds for assurance.” Isn’t that just so true? I come yet to our last point which I need only be brief about, but which is so good to mention yet. This fifth petition is an amazingly possible request for Jesus’ sake, and an amazingly powerful request for Jesus’ sake, and third, it is an amazingly peaceful request for Jesus’ sake. Those who pray this fifth petition, looking to Jesus, just think what peace with God we may have, and what peace with others. Praying this petition, though of ourselves our sins rise up against us, yet they can be cleared all away and we can go to bed each night with a conscience void of offense before God and man. We can start each day, each week, each month, each year with a clean slate over and over again. And who can measure the worth of this blessing even for body and soul? How many live with a nagging conscience, and loaded with guilt for sins known and unknown. But the Christian may have peace with God, not only finding justification with Him but daily forgiveness of all their sins too. The gospel truth, which God’s people also know from experience by the grace of God, is that the person praying also the fifth petition in Jesus’ Name may have peace with God and peace with others, peace with life and peace for the future. When you know the forgiveness of sins and daily live out of that, also in the way of the fifth petition prayed to God regularly, then you may live and die in peace and you have the promise of eternal peace to come. Nothing can compare in value to the forgiveness of our sins and sinfulness, in the way Jesus all meant that with this fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Will there be any of you who just refuse to bring this prayer request before the LORD as Jesus taught us to pray it? Oh, I pray all will pray this prayer in spirit and truth, initially and continually, for certainly as David realized, “How blest is he whose trespass has freely been forgiven.” It is the gospel message still today. No one can afford to live and die without being forgiven of God for Jesus’ sake alone. Will you now then pray: “God be merciful to me On thy grace I rest my plea; Plenteous in compassion thou, Blot out my transgressions now; Wash me, make me pure within, Cleanse, O cleanse me from my sin.” For Jesus’ sake alone! Amen. Hans Overduin, Radio Pastor
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