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Summary: A sermon focusing on Forgive Us Our Debts

Forgive Us Our Debts

Matthew 6

Barbara Reynolds, former columnist for USA TODAY, wrote about an adult relative who had abused her sexually when she was a child. She described how one day, as an adult, she faced that man and confronted him with the facts of the incest, recounting to him every bit of pain he had caused. Her tears flowed freely. Yet amazingly, he didn’t identify with my pain. He did not break down and beg for my forgiveness. He simply looked at me with vacant, bored eyes and said, "It’s the way I am." So what could I do? Shoot him? Sue him? Shun him? He didn’t understand then. He probably never would. So I did the only two things I could do. First, I left, never to speak to him again. And secondly, I forgave him." And then she said, after years of psychiatrists and group counseling sessions, forgiveness was the best therapy of all! I think that’s why Jesus encourages us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In this prayer, Jesus teaches us that we need forgiveness so we must ask for it. So why do we need forgiveness?

Five reasons. First, The primary act of faith is forgiving. Robert Hoyer writes, “(Forgiveness) is the characteristic act of God, (in) Jesus Christ. If we follow him in faith, it is the first thing we do in our following. It is the one thing we do in faith which we would not do if we had no faith. Forgiving is what we do if we want to put meaning and purpose back into our lives.” Second, it impacts your prayer life. Prayer is based on our relationship with God. If there is unforgiven or unrepentant sin in our life, it distances us from God, and becomes an obstacle between us and God. And that impacts our prayer life. Isaiah 59:2 “But your iniquities (that is your sins) have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” Our sin harms our prayer life because it harms our relationship with God. God is more responsive to those who confess their sin and seek God’s forgiveness. James 5:16b "The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective." Why? Because they are right with God. To be righteous has nothing to do with all the good things you do. In Scripture righteousness is a status which God gives to those who have humbled themselves, confessed and repented of their sin and received God’s grace and forgiveness through Jesus Christ and are living for Him.

Third, we need forgiveness for our health. Forgiveness can lead to less stress and hostility, Lower blood pressure, fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety and chronic pain, lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse. Fourth, we need forgiveness for our mind. When we are consumed by the need and desire for revenge, it’s difficult to think of other things. We come to the place that not only do we have a one track mind but the train’s been derailed as well. Fifth, we need forgiveness for our soul. Jesus is very clear on this point, If you do not forgive, you will not be forgiven and the price for not being forgiven is to lose your soul. And the only way we can ever forgive is if we have received forgiveness.

So what is Jesus trying to teach us? First, we need to ask for forgiveness. Jesus was a master storyteller and his stories centered on the kingdom of God. He told his stories in parables which are meant to relate an essential spiritual truth. So when you come to a parable, you need to ask what’s the point of the story and why did Jesus tell it in this place? Jesus tells this story related to us in Luke 18: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Here’s the Tim translation. Two men went up to worship, one stood up and prayed a beautifully written, theologically sound and poetically perfect prayer. And when he finished his prayer, he went back and sat down in his chair and thought to himself, “Wow! I knocked the ball right out of the park with that prayer.” Meanwhile an unchurched man came in late and sat in the back row and he knew that his life was completely falling apart. He didn’t know when to stand or when to sit in the service or what to say. Those who were sitting with him could still smell the Hurricanes from Pat O’s on him. But in his tears and confusion, he mutters the only words which come to his mind, “God, if you’re out there, please forgive me and help me.” Of the two, only the latter went home with a right relationship with God. So why did Jesus tell this story? To let us know that God forgives the sins of anyone who confesses their sin and asks for forgiveness. People enter churches for worship every Sunday all across this land but some leave forgiven and some leave just the same as when they arrived. The difference is what’s going on inside your heart and mine. Nobody sees but God and He forgives the sins of those who ask.

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