Category Archives: Forgiveness

4 Things Before Saying Sorry (The Lord’s Prayer)

Was thinking this morning about The Lord’s prayer – I love how God designed such a simple framework for us to be able to come to him.

“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘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.
And forgive us our [sins],
as we also have forgiven those who [sin against us].
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one. ’
– Matthew 6:9-13

Yet for so many of us – as soon as we think about God or come to pray, we become immediately conscious of our unworthiness and the various ways that we have failed God and others. Yes, sin is a thing and it does have the effect of isolating us from God and people. We need God’s forgiveness and cleansing to be healed and made righteous for sure.

But what struck me this morning was how much there is in the Lord’s Prayer before you get to the lines ‘Forgive us our sins…’.

Think about it.

The Lord’s Prayer doesn’t start with ‘Forgive me Father for I have sinned…’ does it?

In fact there’s actually 4 things that we pray before we get to asking God for forgiveness. Interesting eh. I don’t believe this is a mistake on God’s part or that He overlooked something here.

The Lord’s Prayer wasn’t designed to be prayed by perfect Christians who’ve already got everything sorted out. No, it’s a way that anyone can approach the Father, no matter where they come from or what they’ve done.

Embedded in the opening lines of this prayer is a wonderful demonstration of God’s love and commitment to us as a good Father!

1) “Our Father…”

Regardless of where you feel like your life is at, these two words show us two things:

‘Our’ tells us that we belong to a group of people. I’m not a perfect husband, father, son or brother – but my status as a member of a family doesn’t change depending on my righteousness. Starting with ‘our’ reminds me that I always remain part of a group of people who call on the Name of God – regardless of what my life might look like right now.

‘Father’ tells us that His relationship to us doesn’t change. We don’t start with ‘Lord’ or ‘Master’ and then finally say ‘Father’ once we’ve gotten cleaned up through prayer. We start with Father. He is always ‘our Father’. It doesn’t change.

2) “Hallowed Be Your Name…”

This shows me that I can still give God glory and worship from an imperfect life. The idea that we have to get our lives perfect before we can come to God is a religious lie. It’s THROUGH prayer and worship that we become righteous.

I’m not condoning sin or saying it doesn’t matter – but just pointing out that Jesus deliberately put ‘Hallowed be thy name’ in the prayer ahead of ‘Forgive us our sins…’.

God has made a way for us to give Him glory even before our lives get sorted out and often it’s as we start to worship Him that we move into a place where He can deal with our sin.

3) “Your kingdom come, your will be done…”

This reminds me that about God’s overall mission on earth. This line gives me the WHY of my life… why I’m here, why God has given me the gifts and talents he has. It’s because He’s extending His kingdom.

I’m not just asking for forgiveness so I can stop being a ‘bad person’. My being cleansed and made righteous means that I can move and work in His kingdom more effectively.

4) “Give us today our daily bread…”

In natural human relationships, we don’t tend to do kind things for people who’ve upset us… at least until they’ve apologised to us!

But again God shows us just how different He is to us. Whether or not my kids behave doesn’t change my fatherly desire to make sure they’ve got what they need to survive.

God is a good Father! We can just ask Him for stuff. It’s not a matter of rooting out every little thing we might have done wrong before we can ask our heavenly Father for what we need.

Finally…

Obviously I’m not downplaying the need for us to ask for forgiveness and repent of our sin. It’s vitally important and one of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to convict us and show us areas of our lives where things are out of alignment with Him.

I’m also not saying that living righteously doesn’t help us see our Father more clearly, worship more powerfully, understand His mission more readily or ask Him for our needs more effectively! Purity and holiness in our lives enable us to move in a closer way to God’s heartbeat and see things that we’d be blind to otherwise.

But I do believe this… that God has much more for our lives than just a constant cycle of ‘sin-repent-sin-repent’! Jesus died on the cross to cleanse us from sin so that we can get on with the real business of His kingdom and His plans!

So the next time you think about God or come to prayer, put your fears and unworthiness to one side for a moment and remind yourself that He’s STILL your Father, you can STILL worship Him, you’re STILL part of His mission and you can STILL ask Him for things.

His heart towards you and promises for you don’t change!

Advertisements

Strength Through Softness

Romans 15:1 – Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

Sometimes it doesn’t massively please us to have to put up with other people’s weaknesses!  We’d rather they just sort it out, or we don’t have to deal with them. 

But I prove myself as a mature believer, and display the strength that I claim to have, by loving others and helping them in their weakness. Not by cutting and running, but by helping and building.  While it may be easier to do what pleases me – it’s not helpful for the building up of the body. 

So if we claim to be strong, mature believers – this will be tested and evidenced by how we deal with the weaknesses of other people.  It takes huge commitment and strength to continue to show mercy and love when it’s taking a toll on us. 

But this is what Jesus demonstrated and continues to demonstrate to us!

Justified

Acts 13:39 – and by him everyone who believes is justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.

There’s a few words that the Bible uses that aren’t usually a part of our everyday language – words like sanctified, justified, redeemed etc.  But when we understand what these words mean it can really help us grasp what God has done for us.

In this verse we read that by Christ, everyone who believes is JUSTIFIED from all things, and that we could not be JUSTIFIED by the law of Moses.  What does it mean to be justified?

imageMost word processing programs like Microsoft Word have a series of buttons that let you align the text.  You can centre it, or push it left or right.  But there’s one button which is called ‘justified’.  When you click, it pushes out the edges of your text to the margins, giving a nice even flow down the page. 

It’s not a bad illustration of what it’s like when God justifies us.  The page margins are like perfection, and the words we type are like our thoughts and deeds.  They don’t measure up to perfection, often falling short.  But when God justifies us, it’s like He makes up the missing difference to make us perfect. 

The law of Moses can only point out our sin, showing us where we fall short.  It has no power to make us righteous or to clean us up.  But through His sacrifice on the cross, Christ now JUSTIFIES us – and even if we fall short – by His grace and mercy HE makes up for it and presents us before God the Father as perfect. 

God’s Goodness & Grace

Luke 15:17 (NIV)
17 "When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!
i

In the story of the Prodigal Son, the son has an awakening moment when his money has run out and he’s eating pig’s food!  Even the servants in his father’s house have it better than this!

The son is motivated by his own need. He now ponders returning to his father but not because he is motivated to set things right at home, or for restoring relationships or anything. He’s motivated by his hunger. He has nothing to eat – and even the least of the servants have more than enough bread in his father’s house.

This shows us two things:

1) It’s vitally important that we have ‘bread in the house’. Jesus refers to healing as ‘the children’s bread’. When healing and life is prevalent in the house of God, it will make what the prodigals are eating in the world seem very, very second rate.

2) When prodigals return, their motives may be less than noble. They may come back simply because they’re starving. But it’s here that the goodness of God is shown – he doesn’t judge the son, but instead he lavishes even more on him!  Our response needs to be the same.  It’s his kindness that leads us to repentance!

A Better Voice

Hebrews 12:24 – to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better than that of Abel.

When Cain killed his brother Abel in Genesis 4, Abel’s blood cried out to the Lord from the ground.  The brutal murder required justice, and so Abel’s blood cried out for vengeance.

In contrast, the blood of Christ cries out to the Lord for mercy.  On the cross, Jesus said ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’.

In this way, Christ’s blood ‘speaks’ better than the blood of Abel.

Getting A Bad Reputation

Proverbs 25:9-10 – Debate your case with your neighbor, and don’t betray the confidence of another; lest one who hears it put you to shame, and your bad reputation never depart.

We are instructed in this verse to debate our case with our neighbour – to take up issues we have with others directly. 

It can be tempting to moan about the issues we have with someone to a third party.  But the Bible tells us ‘Don’t betray their confidence’.   Don’t talk about a person’s issues with other people. 

Why? 

If we talk widely about problems we have with a person – then someone who hears it might put to us to shame.  We will become known as a gossip – and that reputation will be difficult to break. 

Keep it simple.  Deal directly with people causing you problems – don’t spread it around.