Forgive us our Debts, as we forgive our debtors”
February 24th & 25th, 2008
Tonight/This morning we continue our sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer. This model prayer has much to teach us about the God who answer our prayer.
1. God first wants us to know that he is merciful, which is why we pray “Our Father”.
2. Yet, this merciful God is in no way a weak God, he is one who is powerful “Who art in heaven”.
3. Unlike so many false gods, this God is personal, in that he reveals to us and gives us his name. “Hallowed be thy name”. It is into that name the Christians is baptized “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”.
4. We pray they kingdom come, both so that we can recognize his gracious rule in the world, in the church through the gospel, and his ultimate rule in heaven.
5. We have learned that while much of his ways are unknown, his will, his gracious will to rescue and save humanity including you and me is sure and certain.
Last week we made a big switch, from who God is and what he is doing, to our needs. Those three greatest needs are “Our Daily Bread (every day sustenance), the forgiveness of sins (Received from God, and freely given to our neighbor), and protection from the temptation of the evil one”(a colossal enemy we are to weak in ourselves to confront).
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Luther has a marvelous quote in the Large catechism on this petition. He writes “In the presence of God everyone must duck his head and come into the joy of forgiveness through the low door of humility….In short , unless God keeps forgiving us, we are lost”. (comment on humility)
Chuck Colson was a government official in the Nixon administration. At one point he went to prison for his wrong doings, and in the process became strengthened in his Christian faith. He was once asked “What is the one message you would give to our culture”? He writes, we have lost our concept of sin. Without an understanding of sin, the Gospel has no meaning. It simply becomes one of life’s helpful tools, rather than a cure the most fundamental and I might add “deadly” diseases of humanity.”
Everyone understands that human beings are not perfect, that we make mistakes. Yet the biblical viewpoint on this problem runs so much deeper, than merely a few mistakes in an otherwise pretty decent life. At its core, sin in the bible is about running away from the God who made us in his image. Sin is saying with Adam and Eve, “Lord let me take the fruit, because when I take this fruit I can be my own god. I can be my own decider of what is right and wrong.
Sin is more than a slight goof. It is a running as hard as we can away from the one who can give us life. As the sinner runs from the giver of all that is good, he thinks he has gained freedom. In reality the bible says he is running toward his own destruction. The wages of sin is death, and folks that’s eternal death. You see, forgiveness isn’t just a nice characteristics to add to an otherwise decent life, rather it is the only shot the rebellious runner has to make it to the end of the race alive. The bible says we are conceived and born into this rebellious sprint in the wrong direction. Psalm 51:5. “In sin my mother conceived me” To a culture that says we are basically good, with a few human flaws, God says this in (Romans 3:10-12). “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” Oh, and another thing, there is no way on his own the runner can turn himself around. 2 Corinthians 3:4 says that we are blind in sin “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers”. Ephesians 2 says “we are dead in our transgressions and sins”, and Romans 5:10 says we “were enemies of God”. Blind, dead, and enemies of God does not paint a pretty picture. Sin is obviously more than an occasional mistake.
Yet, it was never and is not God’s intention to leave us in our sin; to let us wallow in our rebellious state. Our Epistle reading today, states something absolutely phenomenal. “For while we were still weak, Christ died for the ungodly….that God shows his love for us in this that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Picture this, while we were running toward death with fists clenched, Christ took on himself our rebellious nature, our sin, and replaced it with his forgiveness. Someone once said “there is never someone so alone, as someone alone in there sin.” Jesus comes along, lifts us up, and turns us around on the track. He gives us new clothing, the clothing of righteousness, and his forgiveness. He then places us in a community. This community is called the church. He seems to want us to live with other cleansed sinners. The bible says that without God’s cleansing his people simply cannot stand. Psalm 103:12 “As far as the east is from the west so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Jesus says from the cross to all those sprinters going the wrong way “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. For us and all humanity Jesus cried out it is finished on Calvary’s cross, an here all the work of turning us around was completed. As Romans 3:25 says God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.” Through faith in that blood, the runaway sinner is brought back. Sin is real, it is rebellion, it is destructive. Yet Jesus forgiveness is more real, and his life giving power far outshines any rebellion and destruction humanity brings to the table.
While the wages of sin, and the effect of sin is taken away on the cross. Sin remains with us, and so we pray over and over again for this forgiveness. Luther writes this in the Large catechism says “not that He does not forgive sins without our prayer or before we ask. In fact, before we pray for it or even thought about it. He gave us the Gospel., in which there is nothing but forgiveness. But here the point is that we should recognize and accept this forgiveness”. In other words God forgave humanities sin even before we asked for it or even felt sorry for sins, “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us”. Faith in his forgiveness love means that we are forgiven. Repentance is the result of faith, and doesn’t happen before faith. In other words we pray for forgiveness so that we might recognize God’s forgiving work already in our lives. Sin remains part of our life, and to live in Christ means to live as a forgiven person. We plead with God in this prayer to give us what we already have, and to not let up. Now that this forgiveness is taken care of, we can now move on to our neighbor.
The second part of the prayer has to do with forgiving others, and it is not an option for God’s Creatures. Forgive as you have been forgiven. We say things like or maybe heard things like “I’ll forgive, but I won’t forget”. Thanks be to God he doesn’t act this way.
Sometimes we are surprised when sin crops up in the church, and amongst godly people. Unrepentant, hardened sin is a problem and has unbelief written all over it. However, the mere recognition of sin in the church, in our families, among our friends, gives us another opportunity for God’s forgiving hand to work through us. Think about that, the forgiveness of sin gives us a chance to glorify this God.
The bible speaks about our forgiving others over and over again. Jesus will even say “If your brother sins, against you seven times a day, and seven times come back to you and says, “I repent”, forgive him. We can’t forgive, unless we have first been forgiven, really set free by Jesus. Jesus doesn’t give us anything to do that he hasn’t first given and done for his children. May our lives, by the grace of God, be awash in forgiveness from God and toward others. Not ignoring sin, not turning a blind eye toward sin, but facing it head on, and forgiving it. This is the way Jesus is toward us, may we be the same toward others.