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“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:12-15
Forgiveness should be a top priority in our prayer life. When we first come to Christ, we do so with a penitent heart in order to be set free from the life of sin that has consumed us.
But as we continue to grow in Christ we should also be asking forgiveness in prayer because none of us is perfect. Even saved we regularly commit sins. Hopefully these are either unwitting or at least not premeditated. Many will be left over habits that we will need the Holy Spirit to help us conquer. But our desire should to be overcome the sinful nature, to become less and less like sin and more and more like Christ with each passing day.
God never tempts us to commit these sins, they are the result of our own evil desires at work within us [James 1:13-15].
Now, many people today refuse to think of themselves as evil. Understandably. In the scheme of history, we have seen overwhelming evil in the world and we’re not anywhere near that bad.
But remember, evil in scripture is anything contrary to the perfect and holy goodness of God.
Our desire to be our own god, to choose right and wrong for ourselves–patterned after Satan’s lie in the Garden–is itself evil [Genesis 3:5]. And we ask God in His wisdom, never to lead us into paths where the desire to live contrary to His will can take root. Moreover, we ask Him to completely deliver us from Satan–the progenitor of evil. To deliver, literally means to liberate or to set free from. We pray so that God can completely set us free from the enemy whose only desire is to steal, kill and destroy us [John 10:10].
It’s interesting that Jesus notes temptation and evil in conjunction with forgiving others. When we refuse to forgive others, we are giving in to the temptation of our own evil–contrary to God–desires. We are living as though we were captives of the evil one rather than liberated by Christ.
When we refuse to forgive others, we are setting ourselves up as finite gods, taking matters into our own hands. And we have the free will to choose to do it too. But the result is not good. When we withhold forgiveness, we deny God’s image in us, we deny God’s sovereignty and trample the mercy He so freely gave us [Matthew 18:21-35; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13].
If we can’t forgive, then we can’t be forgiven [Mark 11:25-26].
Do you have something against someone else? Does someone have something against you? Both are your responsibility to resolve. In the case of the other person’s bad feelings, as far as it depends on you restore the peace [Romans 12:18]. Forgive them and love them and wait for the time their heart is ready to reconcile.
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:1-4
Jesus’ brother, James, tells us that pure and faultless religion in God’s eyes is, looking after widows and orphans in their distress [James 1:27]. In other words, giving to the needy is an act of righteousness.
But let’s look at the idea of religion first. Religion is either belief in God [one or many] or it is a system of practices that stems from this belief. And the two do not necessarily go hand in hand. Many people believe there is a God and do nothing to demonstrate this belief. While many others doubt or don’t fully understand their own beliefs and yet religiously do many habitual activities in honor of their half-hearted faith.
To be religious is not the same as being righteous in God’s eyes by any means. It’s not even equivalent to being Christian or Godly. To this end, the world often views the church as hypocritical. If we say we believe in God, then we should live like we believe in God. End of story. Otherwise, hypocrites.
But with sinful human beings, even saved ones, it’s not always that easy.
Here Jesus addresses the religious leaders of His earthly day. They kept the Law. Taught the Law. Disciplined and punished others who broke the Law. But their commitment to the Law was only skin deep. All was for show, so that people would consider them religious, or maybe even righteous.
But God looks on the heart [1 Samuel 16:7]. And He saw the Jewish religious leaders as whitewashed tombs [Matthew 23:27-28]–pristinely manicured in appearance, but rotting spiritual corpses at heart. One of the reasons for this comment was the fact that they only gave to the needy if it garnered them some attention.
Announcing with trumpets in the streets then would be like posting our good deeds all over social media now–Hey, look what I just did everybody! Aren’t I wonderful? Jesus is very clear. This type of worldly attention seeking is empty, meaningless. How many people today post things to social media just to feel rejected because they didn’t get a like [or a million likes]? The world’s attention, the fame in this life, none of it can satisfy because it only lasts a nano-moment in the scheme of eternity.
But doing things for Christ will last [1 Corinthians 3:11-15; Colossians 3:23-24]. And that means doing things out of a sincere heart to help others and not for the temporary recognition from other human beings.
Are you religious or righteous–living God’s way purely out of love for God?
“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” Matthew 5:29-30
Jesus is still talking here about the command not to commit adultery. But He hyperbolizes the practical application of it.
In Biblical culture, anything on the right side of the body was considered honored [Mark 16:19; Acts 7:55-56; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1]. While the left hand was typically considered dishonored because of its hygienic function. So if the eye–which is the lamp that lets light into our whole body [Matthew 6:22]–and the honorable eye at that, gazes lustfully at others, we’re guilty of the sin of adultery.
Remember that God is transcendent. As humans, we tend to see good and bad, right and wrong in spectrums. We qualify things as kind-of-good and not-so-bad. But God does no such thing. Either it’s of God or it’s sin. Lustful eyes are symptomatic of a sinful heart.
So again, if the most honorable light source in our life fixates on sinful passions, we would be better off living this finite life half-blind, so that we don’t miss out on eternal life.
Now obviously, the struggle with lust can’t be associated with only one eye. We use both to look. So both are the offenders. Just like a person isn’t likely to commit sins of theft or adultery with one arm tied behind their back. But even if one did, the whole person would still be guilty of theft. By using a hyperbole–an exaggerated statement or claim not meant to be taken literally–Jesus emphasizes His point. It is the sin that needs to be cut out of our lives by whatever means necessary.
God made a covenant of circumcision with the patriarch Abraham and His chosen people, Israel [Genesis 17:1-25]. After the Exodus and throughout the New Testament, God let the people know that true circumcision needed to be of the heart [Deuteronomy 10:16 & 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4; Romans 2:25-29].
You see, circumcision is physically removing some unnecessary flesh that could create health problems. But we need to cut the love-of-this-world-flesh off of our whole heart–intellect, will and emotion–because it only leads to spiritual health problems. Jesus’ command to gouge out an offending eye or to cut of an offending hand has the same meaning.
Does God really want people to go around maiming themselves? Not at all! But He does want us to understand the seriousness of sin, to repent of it and to flee from it [Isaiah 59:2; Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 6:18]. In the end, it’s better for us to miss out on the emptiness of this finite life than to spend the rest of eternity regretting our lack of self-control.
We all struggle with a particular sin or another [Romans 3:23]. But we can ask the Holy Spirit to empower us to flee from it or to miraculously heal us and cut it out of our life. What sin are you in? Will you willingly give it to God? Or eternally regret it?
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” Matthew 5:25-26
And Jesus is still talking here about the command not to murder. Though we should keep short accounts with everyone, this time the subject is our dealings with non-believers.
Whatever the spiritual difference we may have with others, God’s grace does not exonerate us from misdealings with the world. Whether business or personal affairs, all should be done as unto the Lord [Colossians 3:23; Ephesians 6:7]. In so doing, we bring glory and honor to God and may win some to His saving grace [1 Peter 2:12].
So first of all, we should do everything in our power not to end up in a legal situation. Obey policies and procedures of our workplace. Don’t slander, gossip, lie, steal, accept bribes or otherwise act corruptly [Exodus 20:15-16 & 23:8; Leviticus 19:11; Deuteronomy 4:16; Proverbs 17:23 & 26:20; Romans 1:29; 2 Corinthians 12:20; Colossians 3:9; James 4:11]. Pay back our monetary debts and give people the things that belong to them [Romans 13:8].
But if we do find ourselves in a situation where we have wronged an unbeliever, we need to do everything we can to settle the matter without court arbitration. It is our responsibility to take responsibility for our actions–whether knowingly or unknowingly wrong–and make restitutions for them. When we can be honest, act in integrity and swallow our pride. We can submit ourselves to whatever consequences befit the situation.
But if we try to distort honesty, if we pervert integrity and act pridefully, then we will surely have to stand trial in the world’s courts. Then, the consequences for our actions will be so much worse.
Whether we choose to settle the issue out of court or in court, we will still have to make our wrong right. But settling in court may mean that we are subject to more severe penalties than just correcting the misdeed.
Do you already have a job? Do you do your job with honesty and integrity that brings glory to God? Do you keep short accounts with everyone, but especially your unbelieving coworkers?
“This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:9-10
God’s goodwill toward us is infinite. Even while we were still sinners [Romans 5:8]–therefore rebellious enemies standing in opposition to everything that He is [Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21]–He willed our eternal good, faithfully extending His mercy and graciously sending His Son Jesus to die for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. So that we could be redeemed from death to life [Galatians 3:13].
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down his life for his friend [John 15:13]. Truly we are God’s friends and God the Son, Jesus Christ, loved us with the greatest love that there is in this life.
God is the pattern of love, the greatest commandment that He commanded us to fulfill with our whole life. Love the Lord your God with every facet of who you are [Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-28]. We show our love to God when, while we are still sinners, we will to lay down our lives to follow Him, to be remade in His image in heart and mind and soul and strength [Matthew 10:38 & 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23 & 14:27; Romans 12:2; Galatians 5:22-26].
Love your neighbor as your self [Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-28]. Why self? Because self is the one that we sinful-naturally most care about. We’re always looking out for our own heart, mind, strength and soul regardless of how our hording of advantages affects anyone and everyone around us. Self is the one that we have promoted to the status of God, thanks to Satan’s lie in the Garden [Genesis 3:5].
But God wants to heal our vain notions of self and our desire to increase self while we debase others. God wants us to understand the leveled playing field of His transcendence. He wants us to realize that His love for us is not greater or less than His love for every other person in the history of the planet.
Only when we realize that the truth of who we and the rest of Creation are in God’s love can we learn to discern good, love mercy, act justly and walk humbly with God [Micah 6:8]. Only when we learn to defer self for the good of all–which includes self–do we truly learn to love as God has commanded. Only when we lay down the finite understanding in our heart, mind, strength and soul and take on the mind of Christ can we truly see the pattern of God’s love for this world [1 Corinthians 2:16].
Are you patterning your heart and mind after God’s love through prayer, praise and Bible study? Have you dedicated your strength and soul to extending God’s love to a lost and dying world?
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24
Gospel simply means good news. In the light of eternity, the good news is that though we are all sinners [Romans 3:23], by grace, God settled our sin-debt through Jesus’ shed blood [Hebrews 9:22] and reconciled us to Himself.
Yes, we are all appointed to die once [Hebrews 9:27], but we don’t have to die the second death of our sins [Revelation 20:14 & 21:8]. By grace through faith, we can live an eternal life instead [John 3:16]. And we can enjoy abundant life in this world [John 10:10].
This is not an earthly prosperity gospel, meaning, God doesn’t promise a life of ease and wealth. In fact just the opposite is true! Jesus said, In this world you will have trouble [John 16:33] and that, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven [Matthew 19:24].
But it is a heavenly prosperity gospel, meaning, if we store up our treasures in heaven–if we fill our heart with God’s Word and the desire for our heavenly home–no one can steal that away from us [Psalm 119:11; Matthew 6:19-21]!
God’s forgiveness is a priceless treasure. It means that we can stand before Him and not be shamed by our sinful past or fearful of our eternal punishment. It means we can be confident in His love for us [1 John 2:28]. In this life, it is the joy that strengthens our feeble hands and weak knees [Nehemiah 8:10; Isaiah 35:3; Hebrews 12:12]. It is the peace of trusting God that renews our strength [Isaiah 40:31]. It is the thankfulness in our hearts that overflows as kindness and mercy to everyone else in life [Colossians 3:15].
Once we have experienced God’s grace for ourselves, we should be so overwhelmed, so overjoyed that we can’t help but share the good news. With everyone. All the time. The want to praise the name of Jesus, giving Him all glory and honor before this world, should burn like a fire shut up in our bones [Jeremiah 20:9]. It should spur us on to love and good deeds for the sake of others and for the glory and honor of God alone [Hebrews 10:24].
Is the gospel of grace alive in your heart? Is it fresh on your lips, welling from the fount of eternal life in your soul?
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
Mercy is God’s compassion–His loving desire to free us from the bondage of sin and to lighten the burden of the sinful world on our lives.
But grace goes beyond mercy, granting us life though the wages of our sin is death [John 3:16; Romans 6:23]. Granting us adoption as God’s very own children though we were once His enemy [Romans 5:10; Ephesians 1:5; Colossians 1:21]. Giving us a glorious inheritance, though we crucified His one and only Son, Jesus [John 3:16; Galatians 3:29; 1 Peter 2:24].
Grace is rewarding us when–not only haven’t we earned the reward–we actually deserve to be punished instead. And then, the reward isn’t just a participation trophy or a thanks for playing memo. By God’s grace, through our faith, He richly lavishes on us the reward of the victorious.
Though we fall short of His glory and don’t deserve heaven, by God’s grace, Jesus Himself–the one we crucified with our sin–is preparing a room for each one of us who believe on Him [John 3:16 & 14:2-3; Romans 3:23].
Right from the beginning, God determined by His grace that when sin entered the world He would not leave or forsake mankind, the apple of His eye, made in His image and for His good pleasure [Genesis 1:26-27; Deuteronomy 31:6; Zechariah 2:8; Ephesians 1:3-10; Hebrews 13:5]. By God’s grace, He made a way to redeem us from the prince of this world [John 14:30].
Though sin burned more rampant than wildfire through the hearts of generation after generation, He preserved a remnant [Genesis 6:5-8], called a people to be His own [Genesis 18:18-19], and brought forth a God-man-Son to atone for the sin that we chose over Him to begin with [John 3:16; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17].
God’s grace is inconceivable by human terms. It is undeserved yet also immeasurable. Most importantly, it is attained by faith alone. There is no good thing that we can do to earn it. No way to work our way into heaven.
By God’s grace, salvation comes through faith alone.
Are you trying to work your way into heaven? Do you stand on the merit of your own goodness or God’s? Will you accept God’s grace through faith–being absolutely sure of who He is and what He promised, though invisible to the naked eye [Hebrews 11:1]?