Our Greatest Need
November 11, 2012, 2:58 am
Filed under: Searching for our Savior in His book | Tags: , ,

In this study, I have observed that though we call this the “Lord’s Prayer” it is actually the “Disciples’ Prayer”.  Jesus is teaching His disciples to pray.  We are now at the section that states “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”.  I noticed that after the prayer closed, Jesus makes two additional comments, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” and “if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  Evidently, the topic of forgiveness, especially by His disciples toward others is important to Jesus.  We have prayed that His will be done, so forgiveness becomes a priority for us.  Many of us are conscious of our need for daily bread, but are utterly unconscious of our need for daily forgiveness

In reading this, I noticed that this part starts with the word “and” which connects it to the part before.  Prior to this, we were told to pray, “give us this day our daily bread”.  In examining this, we discovered that we are to pray for God our Father to meet our daily needs.  Evidently, in Jesus’ mind, our greatest need is to be forgiven and to have the ability to forgive others. 

Why would forgiveness be so important to our Savior?  In answering this question, let’s look at Biblical forgiveness by reading a story involving Jesus and His disciples, featuring Peter in a prominent role.  In John 13 Jesus walks into a room where His disciples are arguing who is the most important among them.  Within the group, there was political maneuvering and backstabbing as each attempted by his own efforts and good works to get Jesus’ approval and move into a position of importance.  Jesus had taught about the attitudes necessary to follow Him, but now He moves to demonstrate the attitude.  Jesus, takes off His outer garment, picks up a towel and a basin of water and approaches the first arguing disciple.  Instead of rightfully demanding that the disciple wash His feet, Jesus begins to wash the disciples stinking feet.  The other disciples take notice and as Jesus continues, until He reaches Peter.  At this point Peter, rebukes the Lord, partly because of his love for the Lord and perhaps partly to gain favor.  He objects, telling Jesus He will never wash his feet.  Jesus then tells him that in order to maintain fellowship with him, Peter’s feet need to be washed.  Peter, over-reacts, and asks for a complete bath.  Jesus tells him that he has already had a bath, and now needs only a foot washing if his feet get dirty.  We understand this to mean that we need to be washed completely of our sins once by the blood of Christ in order to enter into a life-changing relationship with Him.  On the cross, Jesus “washed us” clean of sin by His sacrificial death.  We are given the opportunity to enter into a life changing relationship with God and will forever remain in this relationship.  But we choose at times to sin.  Since we daily struggle with committing individual sins, we need daily cleansing in order to maintain intimacy with Him in our relationship.  Our feet need washing.  Our relationship is secure in Him, but our intimacy can be hurt by the barriers we build through sin.  One of the key things to remember in studying this passage is that this is a prayer for disciples to pray.  These followers of Jesus asked Jesus to teach them to pray.  Jesus starts the prayer “Father” indicating that the relationship between God and the disciples had been established through belief in Jesus Christ and the grace of God.  So we aren’t praying for God to forgive our sin nature and the collective sins we have and will commit that separated us from God, but for our individual sins that we commit after salvation.  We can only have this when we are first forgiven by God at salvation and stay in fellowship with Him through cleansing.

The statement- ” and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” uses a unique Greek word, for debt.  It is used here and in Romans 4 as a noun.  It occurs in its verb form 30 times in the New Testament.  Five times the word indicates a money debt and twenty-five times it is used of a moral debt.  When we sin, we owe God a debt that is the consequence for our sin because we have violated His holiness.  Since we are saved, our debt is taken care of in this life.  We experience the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the chastening or correction of the Lord.  Remember, children are corrected by fathers, so we, as God’s children are corrected when we sin by our Heavenly Father.  We have forgiveness of our sin, but what about our daily sins?  Each day of our lives, we are confronted with the opportunity to choose sin rather than obedience to God.  We are given the indwelling Holy Spirit Who gives the power to choose obedience to God rather than sin.  Far too often we choose sin.  When we, as His saved disciples, sin, we are to seek forgiveness.  We do this because we have prayed for His will to be done and His will for us is to walk in the Spirit.  What is the fruit of a Spirit-controlled life?   The evidence that we are controlled by the Spirit is a life in which love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control are characteristics of our attitudes and conduct.  One of the greatest tests to a Spirit-controlled life is whether we respond to those who have wronged us and hurt us by their words and actions.  Look at how one listed the fruit of the Spirit by defining each part.  We should show an affection for others, excitement about life, calmness. We develop willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness fills things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely as a result of surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and a yielding of ourselves to the Holy Spirit.  Any attempt on our part to achieve this is completely worthless because our good works, produced by our effort, are viewed by God as filthy rags.  It is only when the Spirit controls us that God produces these good works within us that flows from the inside out.  Notice how many of these are a part of the attitudes necessary for us to have a forgiving spirit.  We bring our debt of sin to the Lord by confessing or agreeing with God that we are guilty before Him and seek to restore our intimacy by repenting or turning from this act of disobedience and rebellion, to once again walk with Him.

From verse 12, we get four principles about forgiveness.  Notice the “us” and “our” in “forgive us our debts”.  We are acknowledging that we all have the same debt.  Forgiveness is available because of the death of Jesus Christ.  Forgiveness is God wiping out the debt we owe Him because of Jesus paying the penalty in our place.  The debt was very costly.  Here are the four principles:

  1.  Sin makes man guilty and brings judgment.
  2.  Forgiveness is offered by God on the ground of Christ’s death.
  3. Confession of sin is necessary to receive that forgiveness from God.
  4. Forgiving one another is essential in receiving the type of forgiveness we receive ourselves.


I think that one of the reasons this is such an important need is because we can’t receive true forgiveness from God when we are out of His will.  We also can’t be used.  We become insensitive to His will, fail to be intimate with Him on a daily basis, and grieve the Holy Spirit, quenching His conviction in our lives.  We distance ourselves from God and proceed to live our lives in our energy, frustrating the grace of God.  No longer can we say that the “life which I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God” because we refuse to yield to the control of the Holy Spirit.    We are His children and need to maintain our fellowship with Him.  The relationship that we have will never go away, but our intimacy with Him is at issue.  Each day we are confronted with temptations to sin.  God enables us to say no, but at times we listen to our new nature and sin.  This idea in verses 14 and 15 is found in the Greek word for trespass.  It means to slip or fall due to our helpless nature.  We “slip” because instead of using the power within us to avoid sin, we use our old nature which is helpless and we fall to sin.  This damages our intimacy with God.  Now we must go to God and confess our sins, seeking to be cleansed.

Look at the petition again.  “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”.   Notice that our forgiveness of others sets the standard of forgiveness we receive for our daily sins.  Back in the day, preachers taught that God used the least painful method of correction first and continued to correct until we confessed and asked to have our intimacy restored.  The closer we are to Christ, and the more sensitive to violations of His will, the quicker we are back in an intimate relationship.  Remember, God sought Adam in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned.  God knew of their sin, but He wanted the intimacy because it was best for Adam and Eve.  Christ sought out Peter after Peter denied Him because He knew intimacy in their relationship was essential to Peter.

So what is a standard for whether we are close to the Lord and are yielded to the Holy Spirit?  The measuring stick is our forgiveness of others.   If we aren’t controlled by the Spirit, we will not have a forgiving spirit toward those who will hurt us.  We will bring agony upon ourselves as we continually rehash the events surrounding our hurt and we will divert our focus from God to our circumstance or toward the one we won’t forgive.  As our pastor reminded us Wednesday, The Lord knows that we will go in the direction in which our attention is focused.  He wants you going in His direction!  Today, is the direction your life focused on the Lord or on the one who wronged you?

Please understand that you will be hurt by others in your life.  With any type of relationship comes the potential that someone will hurt you.  So whether it be a boyfriend-girlfriend, friend to friend, husband-wife, parent-child, employer-employee, or church friend-church friend you can be potentially hurt or betrayed by someone.  It may be a parent, a child, a boss, a husband or wife, a co-worker, friend or perhaps the worst of all, a trusted, intimate Christian who is also one of these things.    Jesus told His disciples that they would be hated and persecuted because they were His disciples.  When you examine His life and experiences, you will see hurt by His half-brothers, who made fun of His miracles, betrayal by one of His close friends whose feet He washed and denial by one who swore nothing would break his allegiance to Christ.  In His toughest hour, all left Him.  If Jesus experienced this type of treatment, realize that we will as well.

So how can we forgive others the way we want to be forgiven?  One way is to examine why we are to forgive?

  1.  We are to forgive one another because such is the character of saints.
  2. We are to forgive one another because it follows the example of Christ
  3. We are to forgive one another because it expresses the highest virtue of man.
  4. We are to forgive one another because it frees the conscience from guilt.
  5. We are to forgive one another because it keeps us from being corrected by God.
  6. We are to forgive one another because if we don’t we don’t get forgiven.

For some, they are now ready to forgive.  Others listened and agree with all these, but still won’t forgive.  Let me give you a second reason by looking at a story told by Jesus in Matthew 18, beginning with verse 21which give perspective to our debt before God in comparison to other’s debts toward us. 

In this parable, God is the gracious king.  We are the servant who owes an insane debt.  A talent was worth about six thousand days’ work, so a man would work thirteen years to pay off one talent.  This servant owed TEN THOUSAND TALENTS!  After 130,000 years the debt would be paid off!  You get the point that we owed a debt that couldn’t be paid.  But notice the king had compassion and FORGAVE the debt.  That’s GRACE!  We owe God a debt that we can’t pay.  God forgave our debt because of the payment Jesus Christ paid.  We’re forgiven.  This forgiveness is God our judge taking away our sin, covering our sin, blotting out our sin, and forgetting our sin.  This is judicial forgiveness.  Our righteous Judge forgives us and declares that on the basis of Christ’s death He forgives all our sins, past, present, and future totally, completely and forever forgiven. That shows us the magnitude of the forgiveness we have experienced by the grace of God.  God deals with us in grace because our sin has a two-fold effect: it condemns men forever to be separated from God in a place of torments and it also robs us of an abundant life while on earth.  God’s will for us is that neither be true of our lives.  He wants us to experience fellowship with Him as well as experiencing an abundant life through being controlled by Him.  Salvation produces the relationship and our daily walk determines our intimacy in the relationship and living the abundant life. We are saved so we avoid Hell and then given the Holy Spirit so we can have an abundant life.  All we have to do to be controlled by the Holy Spirit is to yield or submit to His control while dying to our old nature.  The forgiveness mentioned in verse 12 is what might be called “parental forgiveness”, the forgiveness of a loving Father toward His child.  When we sin as Christians, we don’t lose our relationship but we damage the intimacy of our relationship.  If a child disobeys his or her father, there is a certain forgiveness that is automatic because they are family.  But the intimacy or fellowship of the relationship suffers.  When the child comes and says, “Dad, I’m sorry”, the intimacy is restored.  This is not the prayer of an unbeliever seeking judicial forgiveness.  It is the prayer of a child seeking to restore intimacy.  In Psalm 51, David is not praying for forgiveness that will return salvation to him.  He is praying for forgiveness that will restore the intimacy he has lost due to sin.

But in this same passage, this man who has been forgiven so much now runs into someone who owes him a debt.  He could pay it back within three months.  He asks for mercy and the time to get the money.  The man who was forgiven so much, goes off on the other guy.  Not only does he grab the man, he is choking him.  He takes the man, his wife, and children and throws them into a debtors prison where the man will never have the opportunity to pay him back.  All this legal and justice has been served.  There is no mercy or grace, but there is justice.  When the king hears of this justice, he has the forgiven man brought to him and forgives this act in the same way that justice had been served.  If you have been hurt, you know the struggle with forgiving others.  It isn’t easy.  We want justice and what we consider fair or right.  Surrendering to the Holy Spirit’s control of our life is an ongoing process.  Due to our old nature we struggle with forgiving others. When we consider the tremendous cost that enabled God the Father to forgive us, we can recognize that forgiveness costs.  We are happy for God’s forgiveness because we realize that without this forgiveness we will be condemned to an eternity in the torments of hell, apart from a loving God.  We also would be unable to have joy in this life because of the future we face.  Forgiveness is essential for us to be able to have both a relationship and fellowship with God the Father.  It is costly because it cost the Son of God His life on the cross.  How we deal with others who sin against us gives insight into our current relationship with God.  Look again at verse 12.  The verse could be translated, “Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven.”  If we are controlled by the Spirit, we quickly deal with our sin by seeking forgiveness.  If our old nature sits on the throne of our inner being, then we are less likely to forgive others.  When someone wrongs you and you struggle with forgiving them, re-read Matthew 18:21-35.  We are blown away for how much God has forgiven us, that we are ready to forgive others whose actions in comparison.  Before I can seek forgiveness from God in order to stay in intimate fellowship with Him, I have to forgive others.  When we fail to forgive others, we build a barrier between us and God.

In order to forgive, we have to confess our tendency to have an unforgiving spirit.  If we struggle to forgive, don’t pretend that you don’t have a problem, confess our sin. According to Proverbs 28:13 when we cover our sins, we won’t prosper.  Confession of sin is essential.  According to John Stott, “One of the surest antidotes to the process of moral hardening is the disciplined practice of uncovering our sins of thought and outlook as well as word and deed and the repentant forsaking of the same.” When we say “forgive us our debts” we are making sure that we keep short accounts with God concerning sin in our life.  If we don’t, although we are judicially forgiven and eternally secure, we will become hardened, unrepentant, in­sensitive to sin, and totally joyless because we no longer have intimate fellowship with our God.

Since we are forgiving by God our Judge and Father, what about forgiving others?  Forgiving others involves three practical steps.

  1.  Take your lack of forgiveness to God as a sin.  Confess and repent of your lack of forgiveness.
  2.  Go to the person, ask for their forgiveness.  Not for what they have done to you, but for your unforgiving spirit.
  3.  Begin to pray for God to bless them.

God tells us in Matthew 5:7 that blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.  Jesus reveals this principle of spiritual life.  Those in God’s kingdom are merciful.  In spite of the cruel treatment or ridicule we receive, we are to respond with compassion.  . If you regard iniquity in your heart, Psalm 66 says “The Lord will not,” what? “Hear you.” James says it, 2:13, “For he shall have judgment without mercy that has shown no mercy.” Don’t put yourself in a chastening position. The Lord will really unload His chastening  for your unforgiving spirit if you’re not merciful to others.

So the reasoning and method for forgiving others has been presented.  So why don’t you forgive?  There are three basic attitudes associated with the extending of forgiveness.

1. I Can’t Forgive
He did not tell the disciples that they could pray, “Lord, forgive me my trespasses and I will try to forgive those who have wronged me.” He told them that when they had forgiven others they could then claim their own forgiveness.   Sometimes we excuse our lack of forgiveness on the grounds that the one who has wronged us does not deserve our forgiveness. But the truth is; No one ever wrong you as you have wronged God. When God’s grace comes into our heart it makes us forgiving. We demonstrate whether we have been forgiven by whether or not we will forgive. The bottom line is, if you refuse to forgive, there can be only one reason that is that I have never received the grace of Christ. I am unforgiven.
2.  I Refuse to Forgive
When John Wesley served as a missionary to the American colonies; he had a difficult time with General James Oglethorpe. The general was known for his pride and harshness. One time Oglethorpe declared, “I never forgive. Wesley replied, “Then, Sir, I hope you never sin.”     Read verse 12 this way “Father forgive my sins only to the extent I am willing to forgive those who have sinned against me.”  Are you willing to live that way?  When we refuse to forgive others because of the hardness of our heart and rebellious nature, this part of the Lord’s prayer becomes a curse. We are asking the Lord to forgive me the way I am forgiving others.
3.  I Am Willing to Forgive
In The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom shares about her experience in extending forgiveness in her book.  She saw a man who had been a cruel S.S. guard during her experiences as a Jew in Germany during the second world war years after at a church service in Munich.  He came up to her at the end of a service in which she shared about her walk with God.  He told her of his salvation and extended his hand to shake hers.  All she could see was the hurt and her angry controlled her response as she kept her hand at her side.   Jesus Christ had died for this man yet she only remembered the pain.  She prayed a silent prayer, admitting her struggle to forgive and forget and asked for His forgiveness.  The Holy Spirit, now in control, filled her with love that overwhelmed her as she shook his hand and embraced her brother in Christ.  Healing from hurt is not based on me being able to forgive, but on His ability to forgive through a yielded and obedient life.  When Christ tells us to forgive and love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the forgiveness and love.


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