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God… Forgiveness

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            As we begin the fifth part to the six-part series on the Lord’s Prayer we are going to be skipping over verse 11 which is, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  The reason for skipping it is because I talked about God’s provision and anxiety  at length a few weeks ago in my message entitled, “Birds, Beauty and Breakfast”.  This sermon, based on of Matthew 6:25 – 34, looked at how anxiety and trusting in the Lord cannot co-exist.  Through worry or anxiety we cannot add one more day to our lives nor will it help in God’s faithfulness in providing our daily needs.  This does not mean, however that we are not to ask God for our needs to be met or not bring our worries before Him.  In fact the opposite is true as the 11th verse of Matthew 6 states we should bring all of our daily needs (even worries) before the Father and trust that He will give us all that we NEED (not necessarily WANT) to survive.  I don’t want to re-preach the message so if you need to be refreshed on this sermon I would encourage you to listen to it online at the church website or you can borrow the CD from the sound booth in the back.

            As we move ahead for today’s message we are going to look at verse 12 in Matthew 6 which reads, “and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”  Depending on which denomination you grew up (or which version of the Bible you have), the wording of this prayer differs.  Some individuals have memorized this as, “forgive us our trespasses…”  Others have adopted the translation, “forgive us our sins…”  No matter which “version” of the Lord’s Prayer you are familiar with or prefer there is one common factor in this verse and it is forgiveness.  Therefore, forgiveness is the topic of today’s message and I know this message will relate to all of us in some manner or another.  I can say with 100% confidence that everyone in this room has had some sort of experience with forgiveness whether it has been seeking or giving it to an individual.  We have all sought at one point or forgiveness from someone and in the same manner we have all had to offer forgiveness to someone(s). 

            Giving and receiving forgiveness comes easy to some and for others they have great difficulty.  This should be no shock then for us to note that giving and receiving forgiveness go hand in hand.  For example, if someone has difficulty showing forgiveness to others he/she is most likely going to have a hard time receiving forgiveness as well and vice versa.  But I think I can safely say that seeking forgiveness sometimes comes a lot easier than giving it.  So my goal for today to not only help each of us have a better understanding of the importance of forgiveness but also for us to see the biblical importance and perspective of it that should forever effect the way we ask for and receive forgiveness.

            Forgiveness is the fifth petition in the Lord’s Prayer and is something that we are required to seek and give.  The Greek word for forgiveness is aphiemi (a fee ah mee) and means “to let go” or “to leave”.  The forgiveness denoted (in the Lord’s Prayer) is almost always that of God.  This is mostly a forgiveness to which man is continually referred and which he can receive on request so long as he is ready to forgive others [1]  I must note the forgiveness spoken of here in this prayer is not type of forgiveness that is the result and necessary for an individual to be justified unto salvation but is “rather a prayer for the restoration of personal fellowship with God when fellowship has been hindered by sin.  Those who have received such forgiveness are so moved with gratitude toward God that they are eager to forgive those who have (wronged them).[2]  The truth is there is a forgiveness that individuals need to seek from God which is a confessing or acknowledging sinfulness and the need of a savior where one seeks to be justified or pardoned from sins in order to become a follower of Christ.  This forgiveness is not based upon any conditions other than acknowledging oneself a sinner.   As noted a moment ago this is not the type of forgiveness referred to in this prayer. 

            The kind of forgiveness we are going to talk about today is more conditional and is found in verses 14& 15 of Matthew 6.  As we look at this passage I believe we can get a better understanding of how the biblical process of forgiveness works.  "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."  As we see here forgiveness in this sense is a conditional response.  As Christians we have received the ultimate pardon of sin through faith in Christ yet as human beings we remain sinful people.  There are sins that can and will sever our fellowship with God temporarily.  This severing does not cause us to lose our salvation, it does however affect our relationship and fellowship with God which ultimately leads to being out of God’s will (as I talked about last week).  There is a saying in regards to believers that goes like this, “Christians are not perfect… they are forgiven.”  Since we are imperfect the end result is we can and do commit sin against God and we do hurt those around us.  Unfortunately as imperfect believers we still have the capability of hurting the ones we love (with our words and even sometimes our actions), we have “falling outs” with others, and we have the nature to do and say things that can bring discord with others.  In addition we also have the same potential to “fall out of fellowship” with our God which ultimately leads to sinning against Him thus making it necessary to seek his forgiveness.  1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  According to the Bible Reader’s Companion, “Confessing sins is not “saying you’re sorry.” It is agreeing with God that a particular act is sin—and thus taking sides with Him and against yourself. What happens if we confess our sins? Then God forgives our sins and continues the process of purification from unrighteousness the Spirit has begun in us. What happens if we make excuses, or refuse to acknowledge a particular act was sin? We put up a barrier between ourselves and God.”[3]   So it is necessary for us to confess our sins to God in order to be forgiven and fully cleansed of all unrighteousness.  This is the petition we are to make to God.  We are to ask God for forgiveness but not only are we asking for Him to forgive us we are asking Him to forgive as we forgive those who sin against us.

            Thus not only are we to seek forgiveness from God but also according to scripture we are commanded to forgive others who have wronged us.  I think I can safely say that everyone in this room has probably been betrayed, hurt, sinned against or wronged by someone (whether a loved one, co-worker, acquaintance etc.).  The Apostle Peter asked Jesus how many times one should forgive someone who wrongs you.  Jesus responds, "Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”   What?  Did I just hear you say we must be willing to forgive someone up to 490 times if they ask?  Yes, and no.  Jesus is saying that we should not keep account of how many times a person has wronged us and then turned around and asks for forgiveness.  What He is saying is when someone does you wrong you should confront him or her about what he/she has done to you.  If the person responds with repenting then it is your duty as a believer to forgive him or her no questions asked.  If this person does it repeatedly throughout the day or weekly, monthly or yearly we must forgive.  Is this easy?  No way!  There are some people who may have hurt you so bad that you feel there is no way in God’s green earth you will ever forgive them.  But I stand up here with the Bible as my authority; you must work on taking the road to forgiveness.  It may be a long, grueling and messy process but it is a road we are all required to take.  What helps me when I am having difficulty forgiving someone of the trespasses they have committed to me; I get a little biblical perspective.  I first think about what God has done for me in the realm of forgiveness.  The sins I have committed against my God and Savior pale in comparison to what anyone can and ever will do to me and yet He has, in His great mercy, forgiven me and continues to forgive me.  If God is willing to grant me pardon from my pleas of forgiveness then I need to do the same for my brother and sister in Christ who has wronged me.

            As I conclude today message I want to issue a challenge to you this very day.  Is there someone in your life that you need to seek forgiveness from?  Is there someone that has hurt you so badly that the scars run so deep and forgiveness is a hard if not seemingly impossible pill to swallow?  Would you consider this very day to commit to praying about beginning this healing and forgiving process?  I am not saying it is going to come easy or even naturally, it may take some time and it also may be a painful and emotional journey.  I would like to leave you with a story that was published on the NPR website and is an awesome example of people showing a great deal of forgiveness to someone who didn’t even ask and they forgave under a huge amount of distress.  I am sure you are all familiar with this story as the tragic events of October 2, 2006 when a deranged killer took the lives of three innocent Amish school girls and wounded seven more

            Charles Roberts wasn't Amish, but Amish families knew him as the milk truck driver who made deliveries. Last month, it was announced that the Amish community had donated money to the killer's widow and her three young children.
            It was one more gesture of forgiveness, gestures that began soon after the shooting.
Donald Kraybill, is a sociologist at nearby Elizabethtown College and co-author of
Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy.
            "I think the most powerful demonstration of the depth of Amish forgiveness was when members of the Amish community went to the killer's burial service at the cemetery," Kraybill says. "Several families, Amish families who had buried their own daughters just the day before were in attendance and they hugged the widow, and hugged other members of the killer's family."[4]
This is the kind of forgiveness that God himself showed to us and continues to show day after day.  The Amish model their lives with forgiveness because God model it to us through His son Jesus Christ.


[1]Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964-c1976. Vols. 5-9 edited by Gerhard Friedrich. Vol. 10 compiled by Ronald Pitkin. (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (1:511). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

[2] ESV Study Bible, Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL, 2008 p. 1832 (study notes vs. 12)

[3]Richards, L. O. (1991; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996). The Bible readers companion (electronic ed.) (892). Wheaton: Victor Books.


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