Summary: As God has forgiven us, we must forgive, if we would pray God's way.
April 19, 2009
16 bucks. It’s the cost of a new CD—I’m sure the one pictured is in each of your libraries. Or, it’ll buy you and your spouse a combo lunch at Quizno’s Subs. It’s the cost of a shirt on markdown at JC Penney. Question: would you have someone thrown into prison for the “crime” of owing you…sixteen bucks? Don’t be too quick to answer that question! (Scripture/prayer).
Sometimes, it’s good to be below average. The average American family has 13 payment cards, including credit, debit, and store charge cards. The average American household with at least one credit card carries, from month to month, nearly over $10,000 in credit card debt alone. 96% of Americans (the average) will retire financially dependent upon the government, family, or charity. Sometimes, it’s good to be below average.
We are a nation of debtors. In addition to the mountain of personal debt carried by most Americans, mostly because of our unbridled materialism and undisciplined lives, we each carry an additional debt: as of Monday morning, your share of this debt was a little over $36,500—and that’s not for your household: that’s for each member of your household. I’m talking, of course, about the national debt, well over $11 trillion by now, and it increases by just under $4 billion per day. You’ll further be encouraged by the fact that, when I preached a similar message in 1999, and referred then to the national debt, it stood at a mere $5.6 trillion and change, and your share was only about $21,000, and that when I gave this same message a little over 3 years ago, the debt stood at under $8 trillion, was increasing by less than $3 billion/daily, and your share of the debt was “only” $27,500. If you’re not furious, you’re probably not paying attention. We’re a nation of debtors.
The Bible has a lot to say about debt, but it isn’t always talking about money. Right in the middle of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, right in the middle of the “Lord’s Prayer” (which as we saw earlier is not meant by Jesus as a generic prayer to be prayed by anyone/everyone, but only by those of whom it is true that God is their Father) we find this little item (Matthew 6:12): Jesus says that we should pray, “Father, forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” When he says, “debt”, Jesus is talking about
I. An Awful Debt
There are 5 words used in the New Testament that are translated in our English Bibles by the word “sin”. The most common is the word hamartia, which means “missing the mark”. Other words used include the ideas of “trespassing”, of “slipping and falling”, of “stepping across the line”, in this case the appropriate limits on conduct set by a loving God; “lawlessness” is another term that one of the words for sin connotes, the flagrant and intentional rebellion against God. This word, opheiilema, shows us sin as a moral and spiritual debt owed to God. That debt is staggering.
Jesus, in Matthew 18, tells a story of a man who owes a staggering debt to a king; some commentators suggest that, in 2009 dollars, the figure of $12 million might be about right. Whatever amount translates best, the figure Jesus used amounted to many times the annual domestic product of the region. It was an awful debt…similar to the debt we owe God due to our sin.
Sin is the great separator, separating us from God and from one another. Sin is our biggest problem as human beings; we will not solve the world’s problems until we solve heart issues. I referred earlier to the fact that the Average American household carries $10,000 in credit card debt; it wouldn’t be too hard to make the case that the vast amount of that involves sin. Sin infects us all. Sin dominates the minds and hearts of men. Sin is the common denominator for all misery. Sin is endemic; ever since Adam and Eve tasted the forbidden fruit in the Garden, we’re all natural born sinners. Sin is degenerative; it leads to disease and death, to evil and unhappiness, to problems mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual; sin harms us in the here and now and, absent the forgiveness of God, will doom us to an eternal hell.
You say, “but pastor, doesn’t Romans 8 teach us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ”? And the answer is “yes!” We stand before God justified, if we have saving faith in Christ. And yet, we all still sin, even as children of God. John tells us that if we say we have no sin, we are deluding ourselves. Jeremiah tells us that we don’t even know our own hearts, and that they are by nature desperately wicked. As a sinner, I owe an awful debt to God. But notice