by Erin Bird
If you're reading this on Thursday, Jan 20, today is Day 20 of our 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting. If you've been journeying with us through the Sermon on the Mount, I hope it has been simultaneously encouraging and challenging as you've heard the teaching of Jesus these past three weeks.
To complement the 21 Days, we've been looking at the Lord's Prayer as found in the book of Luke. Today, we come to the last verse (verse 4), which says...
"...and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation."
(Luke 11:4, ESV)
As you approach the end of the 21 Days, I want to take a few moments to draw three things out of this final phrase in the Lord's Prayer:
First, Jesus instructs us to ask God to forgive our sins.
This shouldn't surprise anyone with a minimal awareness of the Gospel story. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. With the penalty paid, our sins are forgiven, and we are "saved" from separation from God. In fact, the very meaning of Jesus' name means, "God saves."
So it makes sense Jesus would teach us to confess our sins when we pray.
But then He teaches us something very interesting.
After telling us to confess our sins, Jesus ties God's forgiveness of our sins to our willingness to forgive the sins of others against us.
Is this some sort of "scratch my back" type of situation, that God won't forgive our sins until we forgive others? Well... sort of.
As I talked about in my sermon "Down is Up" on Jan 2, it is unfathomable to Jesus that we would expect a perfect, Holy God to forgive us of our sins, and yet we wouldn't forgive the sins of a fellow sinful human.
That sounds harsh considering some of the evil things humans have done against others: rape, abuse, murder, theft, slander, and more. But if that bothers you, it reveals you don't understand just how horrific your sins truly are. A sin you might consider "minor" (compared to the horrible things others have done against you) is a capital offense against the Divine. The penalty is death.
Yet God the Father, through the cross of Jesus, forgave you of your sins by sending His Son to pay our death penalty. So Jesus instructs us to also express in prayer our desire to forgive others of their sin.
Keep in mind, forgiving others doesn't excuse the things they have done. But to forgive your fellow humans allows God to take His rightful place as Judge.
Lastly, Jesus teaches us to pray, "lead us not into temptation." You've already asked God to forgive you of your sins, and through Christ's cross, He has. But because He has shown you such amazing grace, you shouldn't then continue to sin. So Jesus instructs us to ask God for help to not be tempted to sin and abuse God's grace.
So let's apply what we've just learned from Jesus.
Thank you so much for your grace, shown to me through the willing sacrifice of Jesus. I am grateful you have forgiven me of my sin! Empower me to not give in to the temptation to wander from you and return to my sin. Likewise, empower me to forgive those who have deeply hurt me, because you have forgiven me for all the ways I have hurt You.
In Jesus' name, I pray,
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