A Prayer For Forgiveness
And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.
Good afternoon church. This is a continuation from last weeks message about forgiveness. If you remember the last verse that we read in Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
After all…that is what this prayer is about. We are asking our Heavenly Father for forgiveness for our sins, while at the same time…praying to forgive those that had sinned against us.
“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”. This is the only petition with a human response and the only one that Jesus actually elaborates on. The first part of this verse is incredible news. The second part is terrifying.
Before we begin, let me point out something that you will notice immediately. Some of your translations use the word “debt” and some of them use the word “trespasses.” Which word is correct? In verse 12, Matthew uses the Greek word for debt. In verse 14-15, he uses the Greek word for trespasses. They both are conveying the same idea, but “debts” is more true to the Greek.
14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
When we ask for forgiveness, we are acknowledging that we owe a debt to God. It’s not accidental. Our sin is active rebellion again a holy and righteous God. God’s standard is perfection and we cannot jump high enough for His holiness. We fall short. We miss the mark. We need forgiveness. We need to seek it daily.
But, wait, aren’t we forgiven of our sin when we become a Christian? Yes. When you place your full faith and trust in Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross in your place to pay the sin debt you owe, you are justified. That means you are declared “not guilty” but, even more than that, Jesus trades His righteousness for your sin.
2 Corinthians 5:21
21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Jesus paid it all/ all to Him I owe / sin had left a crimson stain / He washed it white as snow.
But…even after we have become Christians, we still sin. We still fall short. We still miss the mark. There are some churches that teach that after your conversion you don’t sin anymore.
Even after we are born again, we still sin because our sin nature is still with us until we experience glorification in heaven. We don’t become sinless, but because of the Holy Spirit’s work in our new heart, we will sin less.
Jesus directs us to pray daily for the forgiveness of our sins. And John gave us this absolutely amazing promise wedged in-between the two verses in I John:
1 John 1:9
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Confession means to agree with Him/Jesus, that sin is sin. God says that He will forgive you your sins not based on anything you have done because Jesus paid it all. He not only will forgive you, but He will cleanse you. He will make you clean and restore the broken bridge of relationship. Jesus calls us to confess our sins and repent, which simple means a change of mind that leads to a change in direction.
This is not good news but great news! But there is another part of this verse that is terrifying. “Forgive us our debts/sins as we forgive our debtors/sin against us.”
The way we forgive others will be the standard that God applies to our requests for forgiveness.
In Matthew 18, Jesus told his disciples to help them understand forgiveness. Jesus was teaching on forgiveness and Peter asked a question that was probably on everyone’s mind.
21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
Peter was looking for a loophole. How many times do I have to forgive? When it reaches eight can I then punch them in the throat?
Jesus told Peter that he was looking at forgiveness entirely wrong. When He/Jesus said 70X7, Jesus didn’t mean literally 490 times. That expression basically means infinity. We are to live in a posture of heart that radiates forgiveness. “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:15)
Jesus tells them a parable to help them understand:
23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
In the Roman Empire, most prisoners were executed quickly so they didn’t stay in prison long. But there were a lot of prisons filled with people who couldn’t pay their debts.
The king calls one of his debtors before him. He owed something like $10 million dollars. Did he make a bad investment deal? Did he have a gambling problem? We aren’t told. We are simply told that he owed more money than he could ever pay back in twenty lifetimes. The king ordered that all he had, including his wife and children, be sold to repay the debt. This wouldn’t come close to paying off this debt, but it was the King’s decision.
The man was overwhelmed by the verdict and fell on his knees and begged the king for mercy and time to pay back the debt. The king was moved with compassion and extended mercy to him. He cancelled the debt and set him free. So far, so good?
We owed a debt far greater than ten million dollars. We were rebels against a holy God. We couldn’t pay for our sin debt. It takes perfect blood to pay that debt. We fall short. We miss the mark. We were completely hopeless and helpless and headed to hell.
So, like the man in the parable, we fall on our knees and beg for mercy. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. We all have fallen short of the glory of God and deserve hell. We deserved to die for our sins but, instead, out of pure mercy, grace, and love, Jesus died in our place. He lived a perfect life, never sinned, and was the only human ever, who was good enough to go to heaven. He went to the cross in our place to pay the penalty of our sins. God the Father turned His back on God the Son on the cross and all of His wrath for our sins was poured out on Jesus.
But we don’t just get mercy, we get amazing grace – which means getting something you don’t deserve. And by that sacrificial, substitutionary death on the cross, Jesus opened the way to heaven and a relationship with God. On the cross, as He took has last breath, Jesus yelled, “It is finished!” The Greek work literally pays a debt that has been paid in full.
So far, the parable is pretty straightforward. Jesus continues…
28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done.
As he is leaving, he runs into a fellow servant who owed him about $10. He became violent with him, attacking him physically and demanded that he pay him back immediately. This fellow servant did exactly what he had done and fell to his knees and begged for mercy.
But there was no mercy given to the fellow servant. He had the man thrown into prison until he could pay off his debt. By the way, this kind of a way of holding the person for ransom because the family would have to come up with the money to get them out.
This didn’t happen in a vacuum. There were people watching this and they were mortified. Why? Because of the unbelievable hypocrisy of the man who had been forgiven so much. It bothered them to the point that they went to the King and told him what happened.
32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
The king was in rage. He had extended amazing grace to the man who, in turn, refused to extend that same grace to someone who owed him far less. He then was handed over to the jailers to be tortured until he could pay the impossible debt back.
Jesus ends with these haunting words…
35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Is God’s Love Conditional? You may be thinking to yourself…does that mean that our forgiveness is conditional? Is Jesus really saying that if we refuse to forgive others we will not be forgiven? In a word – Yes!
But we need to make sure we understand what He is teaching here. It’s so important that it is the only part of the prayer that we elaborates on… “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
Jesus is saying that if you refuse to forgive someone else after you have been forgiven of much more, you are proving that you don’t understand the depths of your sin and that you are not yet a believer and are in danger of being handed over the torturers…which is hell.
The Apostle Paul had this to say…
32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
God has forgiven a debt so huge that we could have never paid it off. But if we turn around and refuse to extend that same mercy and grace to others, there is something deeply sick about our faith. Those that have been forgiven much will love much. Anyone convicted yet? Forgiven Much? Do you truly understand the depth of our sin? Do you see ourselves as spiritually bankrupt? Do we understand that the only thing we are entitled to is hell?
But let’s just be honest…for you and I, forgiveness isn’t always easy. What if they really hurt you? What if they aren’t sorry? Isn’t there a loophole? Nope. 70X7. That’s the command!
First, forgiveness is a one-time decision of the will. You choose to forgive. You choose not to hold it over their heads. Then, God will take you on the journey of forgiveness that may take years. What are the consequences of an unforgiving spirit?
* Fellowship with the Father is blocked.
* Your prayers will not be answered.
* The devil gets a foothold through your bitterness.
* You waste time nursing a grudge.
* You become enslaved to the people you hate – they live rent free inside your head.
It’s been said that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.
“Forgive us of our sins AS we forgive those that sin against us”. Do we feel the weight of that little word “as”, God will forgive you and I, based on our willingness to forgive others.
Let me ask you some questions and yes…this was of me as well!
Are you up to date on your forgiveness? Are you keeping short accounts? Are you holding a grudge against anyone? Let it go… Do you harbor bitterness against anyone? Let it go.
Are you talking too much about what others have done to you? (Remember, from Matthew 18, if someone hurts you, you go directly to him or her) Let it go.
Are we living out Romans 12:18?
18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you aspire to reflect the kindness of God and to stand ready to forgive. Let me end with this short story:
On May 11, 2002, Megan Napier and her friend Lisa, both 20 years old, were coming back from a day at the beach when they were t-boned by a drunk driver named Eric Smallridge. They both died in the wreck. Eric was sentenced to 22 years in prison, 11 years for each girl.
Megan’s mom knew she had a decision to make. She could live in hate and bitterness the rest of her life or she could choose to forgive Eric. Eleven members of the family petitioned the court to reduce his sentence in half. The judge couldn’t believe it and Eric didn’t understand it. Through this experience, he committed his life to Christ. Then Renee asked the court if he could have several leaves from the prison so he could come and tell his story with her, which to everyone’s amazing, they granted.
Eric would travel from the prison in cuffs and speak with her and then go back to his cell that night. After nine and half years, he was released and Eric and Renee have spoken in every county in Florida.
Renee is a big fan of the Christian music artist Matthew West. She wrote him a letter detailing this story. He was so moved by the email that he printed it out and kept it in his guitar case for two years. He finally pulled it out and wrote a song “Forgiveness” about their story.
Show me how to love the unlovable? / Show me how to reach the unreachable / ?Help me now to do the impossible? / Forgiveness, forgiveness / ?Help me now to do the impossible? / Forgiveness.
Pastor Richard Santos
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