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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.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteousness. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48
Do apple trees grow lemons or thistles in drought conditions? Of course not! Then neither should we, as Christians, grow cantankerous with those who hate us or mistreat us. It’s the same principal.
Only, unlike the apple tree, we have free will.
We get to choose whether we will do what God created us to do–love everyone like ourselves, no matter what–or not.
The command to, Love your neighbor, should be easily recognizable as the second greatest commandment in scripture [Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-28]. But the saying, hate your enemy? Where did that come from?
Scripture cross references cite Deuteronomy 23:6. This passage specifies who may and may not enter into the assembly of God’s people back in the Hebrew desert wanderings and into the Promised Land. Interestingly, the Ammonites and Moabites are specifically excluded and the Israelites are told not to seek peace with them or fortune from them. Apparently, this translates as hating enemies because these two nations were notorious foes to God’s people and refusing to seek peace is hateful.
But again, God had a purpose for the original order to stay separate from the Ammonites and Moabites. It wasn’t so that people could decide for themselves who to treat hostilely. It was so that ungodly ideas and practices would be kept out of the sphere of influence.
So Jesus brings the command back to its original intent. Love people. All people. Don’t become like your enemies by living alongside them, but do treat them with the love of God and do pray for them. By this, they will recognize us as God’s children. And God will receive the glory and the honor for our loving response in hard times.
You see, God’s love doesn’t distinguish between believers and unbelievers. He offers it freely and equally to all. Not everyone recognizes or accepts it, but that doesn’t change the fact that God gives it. And it’s the same with His mercy, His creation, et al.
We too, having been made in God’s image, shouldn’t distinguish between people who are nice to us and those who aren’t. As Christians, we should respond generously with love and mercy to all.
But what on earth does this have to do with perfection? Perfect simply means, complete. While we can never attain to God’s complete knowledge, love, mercy, et al in this life, we can be made complete in Him. We can let His love and mercy flow through us to everyone around us.
Are you a conduit of God’s love and mercy? Or do you dispense in favoritism?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28
Ten commandment number two in the Sermon on the Mount: Do not commit adultery [Exodus 20:14]. Again Jesus cautions against the seed sin–lust.
Adultery is what we would call an affair in our culture. When someone who is married is intimately involved with someone other than their own spouse. And the Bible forbids it.
But Jesus recognizes that the practice of adultery starts long before the physical action. Adultery roots in our hearts when we look at someone with strong desire or attraction. And our American culture likes to exploit this human weakness in advertisement and other media for their own financial gain.
Meaning, commercials sell attraction and promote the development of lustful eyes. So does TV, movies, social media, magazines and the like. From a young age, we are bombarded with seductive images of people that we are not married to, that we are supposed to desire to either be like or to be with.
Everywhere we look, our society is offering us the seed sin of adultery.
And these images lodge themselves in our minds. They replay themselves in our idle moments. And eventually, we might find that we replay the thoughts on purpose, deepening our imaginary love for or fantasizing about a relationship with these people that we have never even met. And the Bible forbids it.
So how can we combat this social perversion that literally surrounds us?
- We become aware of what the Bible says about lust, pornography and the immorality that it leads to.
- We avoid inappropriate images and written descriptions whenever possible. Turn the channel, filter web searches, x out of search pages that bring up unbiblical results, don’t buy the magazine or book, stop reading, research movie ratings and reasons before choosing to go watch them, listen to Christian music instead of worldly music, etc.
- We take captive every thought in our mind and bring it under obedience to Jesus Christ [2 Corinthians 10:5], rather than lingering and reveling in empty, lustful imaginations.
And why does it matter when we are not married if we look at an attractive person with desire?
The Bible tells us that the heart of a wayward person is a deep pit rooted in the grave and leading to death [Proverbs 5:1-23 & 23:27]. The habits of the eyes and mind that we develop in our youth are the habits that will be deeply rooted in our hearts and driving our adult pursuits.
It’s not easy to turn off lustful eyes. If you start the habit as a young person, it will continue with you into adulthood, and it won’t limit itself to your spouse. It’s not easy to turn off a fantasizing mind. If you start indulging in pleasurable imaginations now, they will continue to seduce you in adulthood.
Lust that leads to adultery is the only sin that we commit in our own body [1 Corinthians 6:18]. But it is also a sin against our spouse–whether present or future–against the person we lust after and against God.
Is there a person or people that you fantasize romantically about? Whether as seemingly innocent as hand-holding or a first kiss, don’t give the devil a foothold in your heart and mind. Are you attracted to internet and magazine images? Flee the temptations. Get an accountability partner and ask God to replace this lust with a growing love and respect for Him and for your future spouse.
Image: By Japanexperterna.se from Japan – Person looking at smartphone in the dark, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47395025
“Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:19-20
There are so many questions concerning sin and the ten commandments and salvation through faith in Christ alone. Like–is breaking one of the ten commandments a sin today? Does the Old Testament really matter if we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus? If we are saved by God’s grace, and our sins are forgiven, is it ok if we still sin unknowingly? What about knowingly? Can’t we just ask forgiveness for our new sins? And many others.
When we accept Christ as Lord of our lives, it’s true that grace is ours. We are no longer under the Law which brought condemnation. So when we sin–whether knowingly or unknowingly–we have forgiveness in Christ. But that’s not license to keep on sinning [Romans 6:1]. Our old selves have been made new [2 Corinthians 5:17], so that we can hold the new wine of Jesus’ power in our lives [Matthew 9:17].
Jesus tells us that forgiven lawbreakers will be in heaven. But those who continue to disobey God’s commands and teach others to do it too, those people will be known as the least in heaven. While those who keep and teach God’s commands will be considered great in heaven.
While God is completely transcendent–above and outside of any such continuum–heavenly rewards will vary depending on the lives that we live [1 Kings 8:32; Matthew 5:12 & 6:19-24; Luke 6:23].
So yes, breaking a ten commandment–and any of God’s other commands–is still a sin today. Because disobeying God is sin. Yes, the Old Testament absolutely still matters because Jesus came to fulfill all that was written in the Old Testament, not to expunge it. Through the Old Testament we understand the heart of the greatest commandments and recognize our sinful state. Yes, if we are under grace our sins are forgiven whether continually committed knowingly or unknowingly. But no, we should not be ok with willfully continuing to sin.
We should daily be taking up our cross and wearing Christ like a robe, so that as we are being renewed in the renovation of our minds, we can be salt and light to this world.
The Pharisees and the teachers of the law knew and kept the law to the letter, but they missed the point. Their hearts didn’t grow closer to God but more full of themselves. They didn’t love their fellow human being but instead despised them as unholy and unworthy.
If God’s Word doesn’t change us anymore than it did the religious leaders of His day, Jesus warns us that we will not enter heaven [Matthew 5:20].
What reward will you receive for the life you live? Are you pressing on in faith to attain the prize? Or are you habitually going through religious motions without letting the truth penetrate your heart and make you new?
“Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”” Matthew 4:5-7
Jerusalem, the holy city, was the focal point of all Israel’s worship. And the highest point of the temple was the place from which the priests sounded the trumpet to draw Jerusalem’s attention to important events.
Satan is goading Jesus to reveal himself as the Messiah. Like reverse psychology? Go ahead Jesus, you know you want to. We both know who you are anyway. Satan even cites scripture himself this time so that maybe Jesus won’t dismiss him so easily. Or maybe so that he will. Or whichever will trip him up.
But Jesus doesn’t want to reveal himself. Not in this place. And not at this time.
He wills to act in time with God’s good will. Jesus’ divine perfection is so rock solid that Satan can’t pester or bully him into doing anything to the contrary.
Instead, God’s Son responds with wisdom. He knows that Satan is misquoting scripture, twisting God’s words to entice him to flaunt his own godhood. In Jerusalem. On the pinnacle of the temple. For all the religious leaders and devout Jews to see the fulfillment of their long awaited Messiah. The angel guard was meant to protect Jesus whilstsoever he faces harm before his appointed time.
And this is not it.
Jesus applies God’s word properly. He understands that stepping out of God’s will has detrimental consequences and would possibly even revoke the promise. And he also understands that all scripture is to be taken together. God didn’t promise the angel guard so that Jesus could go around throwing his physical self into harm’s way to show off. Just as God doesn’t extend us grace so that we can squander our life in sin.
Do you apply God’s Word with wisdom and understanding? Or do you let the world goad you with misquoted or out of context passages?
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then John consented.” Matthew 3:13-15
Jesus was fully God, but He was also fully man. He had to travel from Galilee to the Jordan the same way everyone did. It was a hot and dusty walk for him just as it was for all the others.
Jesus came to have his physical body baptized in water, but he had no sin to confess. Did the crowds murmur at his lack of confession? Or did they whisper the stories of Jesus’ birth and childhood, trying to understand the truth of him?
John knew full well who Jesus was. He tried to defer to Jesus’ spiritual authority, but Jesus is not so self-important that he can’t be ministered to by a human being. On the contrary, Jesus was blessed by John’s ministry just as John was blessed to minister to him.
The deeper significance of this moment was not lost on Jesus. He is the fulfillment–the completion bringing to reality–of all of the prophecies and the generations of waiting for the woman’s seed who will crush Satan’s head [Genesis 3:15], the promised inheritance of Abraham, the living law of Moses and the eternal culmination of the line of King David. By faith in the Christ who was to come, each of these were credited with righteousness, that is, they were considered morally right or justified in God’s eyes.
When Jesus was baptized by human hands in an earthly river, his physical body was cleansed like a high priest washing before offering the temple sacrifices [Hebrews 4:14-16]. Spiritually, Jesus was preparing to give himself as the spotless sacrifice–without a sin to confess but bearing all of our sins on the cross–to impart his righteousness to each of us who accept his sacrifice by faith.
John baptized the Son of God Almighty, but that didn’t bring his ministry to an end. He didn’t reach the top in a big showy fanfare and then retire. Instead, Jesus’ baptism reaffirmed John’s commission. Whatever we do to our fellow human being, so we do to our Lord [Matthew 25:40]. Each time John honored his call to baptize repentant sinners, he was ministering to Jesus all over again.
We have also been commissioned to baptize the nations [Matthew 28:19-20]. When we obey our call to make disciples, we minister to–that is, attend to–Jesus.
And John consented. Jesus wasn’t going to override John’s freewill, forcing him to do it Jesus’ way. God always honors our right to choose.
What would you choose if Jesus showed up and asked you to minister to him? The answer is as easy as how you treat the people you see everyday. Because as you do to them, you do to Jesus. Are you faithfully fulfilling your commission?
“Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, ‘Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.'” Nehemiah 4:13-14
Throughout the sinful history of the world, wars and rumors of wars have threatened human life and national security [Matthew 24:6]. War is not God’s desire. But it is a natural consequence of sin in the world.
Certainly, God’s people defended themselves against foreign nations. And God Himself intervened in miraculous ways during many of the major battles.
God calls us to defend the cause of the widows and the fatherless [Deuteronomy 10:18], the oppressed and the afflicted [Psalm 10:18 & 72:4] and the rights of the poor and needy [Proverbs 31:9]. Through Nehemiah, God called the nation of Israel to defend their families–not just their physical lives, but the spiritual, emotional and mental wholeness of their families. Their soundness built on the Word of God.
And He called them not to be afraid. The awesome, Almighty God was with them.
America was built on these same biblical principals. Godly men and women founded our nation with the intention to preserve sound Bible teaching and strong family relationships. They desired to see families empowered by the Word of God and defending the nation from the poor, the oppressed, the afflicted and right on up to the top.
Each Memorial Day, we remember the brave men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who have given their lives to protect and defend the freedoms that we often take for granted. Without their sacrifice, we would not be free. Rather, we ourselves would be the oppressed and afflicted, possibly the widows and the fatherless in need of a righteous defender.
Just like the soldiers who died to help make and keep America a free nation, Jesus died to eternally free us from sin and the fear of death. So today, honor those who have selflessly served our nation and recognize that image of God in yourself to live as a righteous defender of His truth in all your ways [Proverbs 3:6].
How is God calling you to defend others? What can you do to honor His righteous image in you?