Closing the Gap – Week 27 Notes

INTRO – Debtor’ Prison

In 1833 the US officially abolished the debtor’s prison.

The debtor’s prison was a place you were sent if you could not pay off your creditors.

Your imprisonment was often used as a shake down. You would be imprisoned until you handed over the other funds that you had stored away that no one knew about.

You would be imprisoned until your families paid off your debt or you worked off your debt.

Debtor’s prison would have been a common means of financial Justice in Jesus’ day.

Sometimes the result of debtor’s prison would be a life of bondage as a slave and life in which you were cut off from your family.

Unpayable debts would sever relationships.

Jesus’ uses the word debt as a word picture to illustrate the effect that sin has on us and our relationships. Our sin debt hinders our relationship with God and others.

This week we are continuing our look at closing the gap on our conversational relationship with God by working to apply Jesus’ model prayer to our prayer life.

Our emphasis today is “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

Let’s read this prayer together.

“Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”

Our application today will be simple.

Ask for forgiveness from God.

Offer and Ask for forgiveness from others.

And since we are in a prayer practicum and not doing a study on prayer at the close of the message I will give you time to practice the model prayer that Jesus gave to us.

Before we get to practicing our application let’s make sure that we understand what we are practicing and why we must practice this prayer of forgiveness.

Our outline for understanding our practice of forgiveness looks like this.

  1. Asking God for forgiveness
  2. The Aim – Restored relationship
  3. The Condition – Repentance
  4. His Response – YES
  5. Offering forgiveness to others.
  6. Fruit of a forgiven life
  7. Prerequisite for Worship
  8. Be Generous

Asking God for forgiveness

  1. The Aim – Restored Relationship with God.

The cost of our sin is broken fellowship with God and in asking him to forgive us we are asking God to restore our fellowship with Him

Basically we are asking him – “Would you cancel OUR debt?”

“God, I deserve to be in the debtors prison but would you let me out and not keep me there?”

Our prayer of forgiveness is a one time prayer and an on-going prayer.

One time prayer – Justification.

On going prayer – Sanctification.

Justification – we are freed from the debtors prison.

Sanctification – we learn to live as free men and women. Sons and daughters of God.

After justification, we are free, but we are still drawn to that debtors prison. In our nature we are debtors, we are sinners.

The justification prayer of forgiveness is “God set me free from this debtors prison. I can see now that I cannot pay my sin debt. Jesus paid my debt on the cross. Please forgive my debt.”

The sanctification prayer of forgiveness is “God I spent a night in the prison last night. I know it is not my home anymore. My home is with you, but I went back there again. Would you forgive me?”

We all must pray the justifying prayer and the sanctifying prayer because, we have all sinned and we all continue to sin.

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
1 John 1:8

Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature.

Act – The things that we do

Attitude – Our way of thinking or feeling towards something or someone.

Nature – Part of our being or essence.

Even though we are sinners by nature as we join God in the process of sanctification our natural desire for sin diminishes.

If you read Matthew 5, just before the Lord’s prayer you get a fuller picture of sin.

You have heard it said do not murder (act), but I say if anyone of you is angry (attitude) with his brother, then he is subject to judgement. Matt 5:21-22

You have heard it said do not commit adultery (act) but I say if you look at a woman lustfully (attitude) you have already committed adultery. Matt 5:27-28

Our sinful attitudes and actions do carry consequences, they put a wedge between us and God.

In asking for forgiveness we are asking God to remove the wedge and restore our fellowship with him.

 If we have been justified, the wedge that sin introduces does not completely separate us from God. When we sin we are not locked again in the debtors prison.

What can separate us from the love of God? – Nothing

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35, 38, 39

What can separate us from fellowship with God? – Sin 

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.

But your iniquities have separated you from your God your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:1-2

Sin separates us from God relationally. When we sin in act or attitude we choose to turn away from the will and ways of God.

God graciously comes to us and says. “Son you did not come home last night. Where were you? Did you spend the night in your prison cell again? Don’t you remember I set you free from that prison?”

He says, “You lingered with your eyes looking at that women lustfully. Is that what you really want?”

“You spoke in anger towards your kids. Is that who you want to be?”

If we have been justified, the Holy Spirit’s words of correction are not condemning us. He is inviting us to experience forgiveness so that our relationship can be restored.

He is inviting us to turn to him in repentance and say.

“Yes I spoke in anger. That is not who I want to be. Will you forgive me?” Then he calls us to go to the person we have offended and seek forgiveness from them.

When we confess and repent, the one condition of our forgiveness is met.

  1. The condition – Repentance.

As you read scripture you will see that repentance is linked with forgiveness.

Repentance literally means a change of mind.

Outside of repentance we cannot experience forgiveness. Actually without repentance we do not really want what forgiveness brings, which is restored relationship with God.

Trying to bypass repentance to get to forgiveness is more like wanting a
“get out of jail free card”

With a “get out of jail free card” we are looking to avoid punishment rather than having restored relationship.

Without repentance, we are saying,
“Hey God, I think what I did was maybe wrong, but it happens all the time. Can we just pretend like that never happened and move on?”

Repentance requires that we take the blame for our wrongs.

Forgiveness can only be experienced if someone takes the blame.

We can go on pretending like our sin never happened but there can be no restoration of relationship without forgiveness and there can be no forgiveness without repentance.

Love for God and a desire to be near Him is what motives our repentance rather than a fear of punishment.

Repentance is THE SINGLE condition for forgiveness.

If we are repentant and desire restored relationship with God what is His response?

  1. His response – YES!! — Always YES!!

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Our action – If we confess

His character – He is faithful and just.

Faithful – You don’t have to wonder what mood will God be in today? Will he be in a forgiving mood?

He is faithful. He is constant. He does not change.

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.
Micah 7:18

He is just. He is perfectly just.

His forgiveness is not a get out of jail free card. Just payment was required for our sins. That just payment has been met in Jesus’ death on the cross.

Each time we take communion we remember God’s justice and forgiveness. When Jesus’ instituted the Lord’s supper what we sometimes call communion he said, 

Matthew 26:28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

His response – He will forgive us.

How thoroughly will he forgive us? – He will purify us from all unrighteousness.

Isaiah 43:25 “I even I am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

God’s memory is perfect. When scripture says, “remembers no more” it is telling us that God is able to see the “present us” without seeing the “past us” because he sees us through the window Jesus’ death

God’s justice is satisfied and he will not bring that sin back into his memory.

Psalm 103:10-12 “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

His response to our request is Yes and he completely separates our sin from us.

In the Old Testament on the Day of atonement when a lamb was sacrificed for the sins of the people, a lamb was also sent out into the wilderness.

The priest would lay his hands on the lamb and “place the sins of the people on the animal.” The lamb was then sent out, never to be seen again.

When God forgives us he separates us from our sin.

Today if you have trusted in the blood of Jesus to cancel your sin debt, God wants you to hear that you are forgiven.

He is done with your sin. He is keeping no past record of your wrongs. He is not going to bring it up again.

You are forgiven. Completely forgiven.

We cannot forgive as completely as God can forgive.

Even though we cannot forgive perfectly and completely as God does we are called to offer forgiveness and we are called to offer forgiveness in increasing measure.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13

Forgive us our Debts as we also have Forgiven our Debtors.

  1. Offering forgiveness to others.
  2. The Fruit of the Forgiven Life

If you read further in Matthew it seems like forgiving others is a condition for receiving God’s forgiveness.

verse, 14 “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

The message of the gospel is clear forgiveness can only be given and never earned.

Jesus’ model prayer is both an assumption and a confidence.

Confidence – God will forgive you.

Assumption – by experiencing God’s forgiveness you will forgive others. 

In Luke 7 Jesus tells the story of a woman who was said to have lived a sinful life.

As we mentioned before, everyone sins so it is likely that this women “sinned for a living”

She came to Jesus repentant and weeping. She wet his feet with her tears and she anointed his feet with perfume.

Those standing around Jesus thought… “Man if Jesus knew what this woman had done he would not let her be anywhere near him much less let her touch him.”

Then Jesus told this story.

He told the story of two men who both had debts what were forgiven. One debt was larger than the other.

Jesus asked “Which one would love more?”

The answer – the one who had the bigger debt.

Jesus said – I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.

Jesus’ instruction on forgiveness assumes that those who move towards God looking for grace would also move towards others with grace.

If we could imagine the magnitude of our sin, like this woman did, we would only begin to imagine the enormous measure of God’s forgiveness. As we treasure the amazing forgiveness that God gives we will become people who more readily forgive one another.

Forgiving one another is not a method to earn forgiveness but it is a the fruit of a forgiven life.

We must close the gap on forgiving one another because God has forgiven us and because forgiving others is a prerequisite for our worship of God.

  1. Prerequisite for Worship

Matthew 5:23-24 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

First go to your brother.

Then come and offer your gift.

“I’m not getting much out of small group…”

“Youth group is not really connecting with me…”

“My quiet times have been blah..”

“Worship seems flat on Sunday morning… couldn’t Rodney pick some different songs!!”

Maybe the issue is not your bible reading plan, or the songs, maybe you need to be reconciled to your brother.

Changing your devotional life or re-tooling your small group could be good.

Our worship in life is not a performance we engage in until we reach a spiritual or devotional high.

Our worship is practice (re-orientation) so that we can live more fully, “Your Kingdom Come, Your Will be done.”

Before you try to change the “practice of worship” make sure you have the prerequisite in place – “Go and be reconciled to your brother.”

Our Horizontal relationships and our Vertical relationships are bound together.

When there is discord horizontally our vertical fellowship is affected.

But how much forgiveness should we offer? We cannot forgive as much as God forgave. Certainly there is a limit to the amount of forgiveness we offer?

Yes there is a limit, but our work is to seek to increase that limit. As we recognize and repent of the sin that we have committed against a perfect Holy loving God, we should expect to increase the amount and the speed with which we forgive others.

In forgiving others we should seek to…

  1. Be Generous

Matthew 18 Peter came to Jesus and asked, how many times should I forgive my brother. Up to seven times?

Jesus no – seven times seventy.

Peter got it. He did not respond with “So 490 times, right?”

Peter knew that Jesus was saying be generous and be quick to forgive.

For us when we forgive others, the memory of that past sin committed against us can creep back into our minds.

When that memory creeps in, we must forgive, again, and again and again.

Luke 17 “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

Most of our forgiveness towards others is going to be “Garden Variety” wrongs.

Some of us may need to forgive people for great harm they have done in our lives.

If someone has committed great harm against you, or against someone you care about, then you should get counsel on how to deal with that specific situation.

In those isolated cases restored relationship may not be possible.

Even if restored relationship is not possible, you must work to forgive them from your heart.

Most of our debtors will be people who out of their sin nature act rude or unkind or they have selfish or uncaring attitudes.

These Garden Variety wrongs happens all the time in our homes, at work, at the grocery store, on the road.

They happen so often we are sometimes unaware of them.

I was rude and inconsiderate towards a friend a few weeks ago and when I went to ask for forgiveness, they said. “I didn’t even notice.”

Our unkindness towards others is such common place that it does not seem out of place.

Our commitment as people who pray “Your Kingdom Come” is to live reconciled and healthy relationships with one another even when our offenses seem like “No big deal.”

I was rude to my mom.

I spoke unkindly to my boss.

I was rude to the stranger in the grocery store.

I looked down on that friend because I so much smarter than them.

“What’s the big deal?”

The big deal is our worship and relationship with God is hindered.

Our unforgiven Garden Variety wrongs are creating a garden where weeds grow rather than the fruit of a kingdom life.

Jesus says be generous with your forgiveness. Be quick to repent and quick to forgive.

Through repentance, pull those garden variety weeds up so that the righteous life that God desires can flourish. Just because those around us are rude or selfish does not give us reason to act that way.

Jesus said – Be reconciled to your brother.

Paul said – Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you.

Let’s take a minute and practice this prayer of forgiveness. We practice this prayer not to escape punishment but so that our relationship with God and others can be restored. 

Ask God for forgiveness.

There is one time forgiveness – Justification. In justification, you accept Jesus’ death on the cross as the just payment for your sin debt.

If you have not trusted in the blood Jesus spilled on the cross to cancel your debt once and for all, then start there.

You cannot earn forgiveness, you can only ask for it through repentance.

Admit your sins and turn towards him. He will welcome you.

If you have trusted Christ but are living in ongoing sin. Repent and receive forgiveness. On-going forgiveness is part of our sanctification. Sanctification is us joining with God to become more like Christ.

He delights to forgive. Will you repent?

Jesus said on the cross – Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.

If we sin in action, attitude, and nature – then sometimes it is “natural” for me to sin.

It is not ideal, but I do it unaware. Since it is natural for me to sin, I need God to show me my sin. So I pray.

“God, show me my sin so I can repent.”
“God forgive me for the sin that I commit that I am unaware of.”

Our application this morning is to remember often our forgiveness. Remembering your forgiveness will nurture in us a heart of gratitude. This gratitude will move us to faithfully forgiving others.

Second application – Offer and Receive forgiveness from Others.

To receive forgiveness we must, recognize our wrongs, repent and ask forgiveness.

We cannot make excuses and act like nothing happened. You know the old adage “Time heals all wounds” I don’t buy it. Forgiveness and time makes healing possible.

When the bacteria of unforgiveness still lives in a wound, the band aid of time will not heal it. Repentance that leads to forgiveness is required.

One of our heart attitudes as a church is to “Gain and Maintain clear relationships.”

The gaining and maintaining both take work.

My challenge to you, to us is to do the work.

Right now the band is going to play and we will have our prayer slide up this week.

Ask God for forgiveness.

Have I received God’s one time justifying act of forgiveness?

Have I committed a sin in attitude or action that I need to repent and confess?

Ask God to forgive you for sins you don’t even know about.

Be grateful for forgiveness so that you can be more forgiving towards others.

Ask for and Offer forgiveness to others.

Is there someone I need to repent and ask for forgiveness?

Is there someone that I need to forgive?

Pray for those who have not received God’s justifying act of Forgiveness.

I am going to ask the Holy Spirit to help us and then we the band will play.

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