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Forgive Us

Have you ever wished you could erase a past mistake? In this podcast, we dive deep into the background of forgiveness. We explore the power of forgiveness to liberate us from the shadows of our past. Also, discover how forgiveness is not just a divine gift, but a call to action, challenging us to extend the same grace to others. Using Jesus’ model prayer as the backdrop, we'll examine the weight of our debts to God, the transformative sacrifice of Jesus, and the liberating force of forgiveness in our lives.

Have you ever wished you could go back in time and correct a mistake? That’s a common desire. But unfortunately, we can't turn back time. Our past mistakes often linger. They can cast a shadow over our lives, like a dark cloud. They follow us wherever we go. They remind us of how inadequate we are, affecting our self-esteem and even how we treat other people. But what if there was a way to clear that dark cloud? To move forward without the burden of our mistakes? That's where forgiveness comes in. Forgiveness can set us free from the shackles of our shortcomings. It can allow us to heal, clearing the path for a second chance.


On our past few podcasts, we’ve been discussing Jesus’ model prayer in Luke chapter 11. There Jesus’ disciples asked him how to pray. One of the things Jesus said to pray to the Father is this,

“Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us (11:4, NET)”

In another account in Matthew chapter 6, Jesus said it this way,

“And forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors… For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins (6:12–15).”

So, what is Jesus referring to here? What is the forgiveness of sins, and why is it so important that we pray for it? Hang in there with me, and you’ll see what the forgiveness of sins has to do with that dark cloud hanging over our heads. On top of that, we’ll see how this prayer can revolutionize your own self-esteem, and your attitude toward other people.


We owe a debt that cannot be paid

When we make mistakes, the guilt we feel depends on whom we've offended. Disappointing ourselves is one thing, but offending another person, or breaking a law is more serious. But the most severe offense of all is defying the great God Almighty. Such an offense carries the heaviest of consequences. When we disrespect and rebel against our perfect and loving Father of heaven, we deserve nothing short of death.


In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, He created human beings in His image, and he placed them in this amazing paradise to rule over all His creation. He only had one very simple prohibition. You may eat of all these trees, but you may not eat of this tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For in the day you eat of it you will most certainly die! That was the consequence for disobedience — plain and simple. Obey God, and you’ll live forever. Disobey God, and you’ll die. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve faltered, and they ate of the fruit God commanded them not to eat. But, what happens next? God doesn’t immediately pay out the judgment they deserve for their mistake. They didn’t die, at least not right away. They would go on to live. Adam lived for over a hundred years. Even though they were removed from the garden, God still extended them patience and mercy. Still, humanity was left with a sense of obligation to God. For example, we see right away that Adam and Eve’s sons, Cain and Abel, they’re making sacrifices to Yahweh God. They understood that a life debt was owed to their Creator.


Whenever we disobey our Lord and God, even one time, we’re worthy of death. Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death. Ezekiel 18:4 says,

“Indeed! All lives are mine—the life of the father as well as the life of the son is mine. The one who sins will die.”

Romans 5:12 says,

“So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned.”


What this means is that we all owe a debt to God that we can’t pay — that’s a debt we don’t want to pay. We owe our lives to God. And that can potentially be a burden that’s too difficult for us to bear. Unfortunately, some people do choose to bear this burden anyway, and they harden their hearts. But they’re not escaping the penalty, they’re only deceiving themselves. Others, on the other hand, they rightly look to God for a way to be free from this debt, and from the burden of guilt. Fortunately, God does offer us a pathway to have this debt forgiven.


The way that God forgives us

We first need to realize that our Almighty God is patient and merciful. He could call payment on our debt at any time He wanted. But He doesn’t do that. He gives us time to repent, and to change our minds about our mistakes (See 2 Peter 3:9). The reason is because he wants everyone to choose eternal life, not death. Ezekiel 33:11 says this,

“‘As I live!’ declares Lord Yahweh, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die?” (LSB).


On top of being patient with us, God is also naturally forgiving by default. An essential part of His character is to forgive. Exodus 34:6–7 says this,

“Yahweh God [is] compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; [He] keeps lovingkindness for thousands, [He] forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.”

I want us to appreciate how amazing and unique this is. Here we are presented with a description of God that is unlike any other ancient deity. It may even be different than your own view of God. Did you imagine a God, perhaps, who is just anxious to strike you down by lightning, or consume you with fire at your first mistake? Or maybe you pictured a God whose wrath needs to be immediately appeased the moment we sin, and if we don’t soothe His anger right away, we’re threatened with eternal punishment. It’s true that God is holy and just, and He does become angry toward disobedience. However, His nature is also to be compassionate, patient, loving, and forgiving.


In ancient times, God called for animal sacrifices from His people as a way for them to make payment for their debt of sin, in lieu of their lives. The Bible says in Leviticus 17:11,

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.”

Atonement means that the animal blood on the altar was a way for God to look past their mistakes. It was a life for a life. The life of the animal instead of the life of the sinner. While this system provided an avenue for God’s people to be right before Him and to be forgiven of their sins, it wasn’t entirely adequate by itself. The life of an animal isn’t equivalent to the life of a human. That sacrificial system was only a foreshadowing of a better sacrifice that would come later.


The sacrifice that would come later and replace the need for animal sacrifices, was the sacrifice of God’s one and only Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life, and then He was handed over by the will of God to be sacrificed on the cross. The Bible says in Hebrews 10:10–18,

“For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. There he waits until his enemies are humbled and made a footstool under his feet. For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy. And the Holy Spirit also testifies that this is so. For he says, “This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he says, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.” And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices” (NLT).


Jesus and His sacrifice are the ultimate demonstration of God’s desire to forgive us of our sins and to not punish us. Through the perfect sacrifice of God’s only son, all of humanity may have complete forgiveness of sins. That is, if they choose to approach God through faith in Jesus Christ. And of course, devotion to Jesus involves a change of heart as well. You can’t ask for forgiveness from God with the intent of living the same way. The only pathway God has offered to forgiveness, is that we turn our lives over to Him, that we have faith in the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, and that we demonstrate that loyalty through public confession and baptism. No one can ever be forgiven by God in any other way. It must be through Jesus Christ.


So, returning to the model prayer in Luke 11:4, when Jesus told His disciples to pray, “Forgive us our sins,” Jesus was reminding His disciples about God’s willingness and desire to forgive. Of course, Jesus hadn’t been sacrificed at that point. But once He had been, His followers would come to realize that was God’s plan all along. Today, as we go about our daily lives, and we make many mistakes, one thing we should always keep in mind in our prayers to God, is that we need His forgiveness. He wants to forgive us. He has given us a path to forgiveness through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. And when we’re forgiven of our sins, they’re wiped completely away in God’s eyes, as if they’ve never happened. We’re no longer in debt. We no longer have the obligation or the burden. Now that doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences of our mistakes. We’re still faced with cause and effect. If I hurt someone, even if I’m immediately sorry and God forgives me, there’s the very real possibility that person is going to hurt me back. And I have to live with that. However, what I don’t have to live with is the guilt of my mistake. A mistake that is forgiven and forgotten in the eyes of God should be forgiven and forgotten in my own heart as well. That means that our mistakes don’t have to weigh us down, that is, if we’re forgiven by God, we don’t have to have that dark cloud hanging over us.


We must forgive others the same way we want God to forgive us

But there’s another aspect of Jesus’ prayer that we need to keep in mind as well.  We are asking God to forgive us, in the same way that we have forgiven others who have sinned against us. There’s a moral component to this prayer. This prayer reflects what our attitude should be like toward others who do us wrong. Is it reasonable for us to expect complete and total forgiveness from God, if we’re not willing to extend that same forgiveness toward other people? Jesus didn’t think so.


He told this parable in Matthew chapter 18,

“For this reason, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. As he began settling his accounts, a man who owed ten thousand talents was brought to him. Because he was not able to repay it, the lord ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, children, and whatever he possessed, and repayment to be made. Then the slave threw himself to the ground before him, saying, ‘Be patient with me, and I will repay you everything.’ The lord had compassion on that slave and released him, and forgave him the debt. After he went out, that same slave found one of his fellow slaves who owed him one hundred silver coins. So he grabbed him by the throat and started to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ Then his fellow slave threw himself down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will repay you.’ But he refused. Instead, he went out and threw him in prison until he repaid the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were very upset and went and told their lord everything that had taken place. Then his lord called the first slave and said to him, ‘Evil slave! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me! Should you not have shown mercy to your fellow slave, just as I showed it to you?’ And in anger his lord turned him over to the prison guards to torture him until he repaid all he owed. So also my heavenly Father will do to you, if each of you does not forgive your brother from your heart” (23–35, NET).


Here in this parable, Jesus is telling His disciples the importance of living out the forgiveness they receive from God. Forgiveness is something that everybody wants. But it’s also one of the hardest things to give to others. How do you want God to forgive you? Do you want Him to forgive you, but to still hold your mistakes over your head and never let you live them down? Do you want Him to bring up those mistakes whenever you make another mistake, or to remind us of our mistakes whenever He’s in a bad mood? Of course not, no one wants God to forgive them in that kind of way! We want God to forgive and completely forget. So, that’s the same way that we should forgive other people who sin against us.


Summary and Conclusion

Jesus told His disciples to pray, “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” Jesus' instruction to pray for forgiveness reminds us of the significance of forgiveness in our lives. He doesn't want us burdened by past mistakes. Through His sacrifice, we can be fully forgiven and free from the debt of death. Additionally, this prayer reminds us of our duty to forgive others as we seek God's forgiveness. Embracing forgiveness can transform our lives, freeing us from guilt and resentment, and enabling us to move forward with hope.


As we reflect on the power of forgiveness, let's read, Psalm 32:1–6,

“How blessed is the one whose rebellious acts are forgiven, whose sin is pardoned! How blessed is the one whose wrongdoing the Lord does not punish, in whose spirit there is no deceit. When I refused to confess my sin, my whole body wasted away, while I groaned in pain all day long. For day and night you tormented me; you tried to destroy me in the intense heat of summer. Then I confessed my sin; I no longer covered up my wrongdoing. I said, ‘I will confess my rebellious acts to the Lord.’ And then you forgave my sins. For this reason every one of your faithful followers should pray to you while there is a window of opportunity.”


How about you? You have a window of opportunity to pray to the Lord for His forgiveness. If you struggle with seeking forgiveness from God or forgiving others, you’re not alone. But there is hope and healing in this teaching of Jesus. If you have any further questions about this topic, or any topic from the Bible, reach out, and we’ll do our best to address them. But in the meantime, be on the look out for our next lesson from Jesus’ model prayer, “Do not lead us into temptation.” See you then!

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