Yesterday at the close of the worship service, a woman I had never seen came to me and said, “You seem burdened for this church. I am going to pray for you. Maybe the Lord will do something.” I know what she mean’t. She, was trying not to presume on the Lord. I also know that had we been in a spiritually revived service that she would have spoken with more boldness. He will answer! (her confident heart would have proclaimed) The end of the Lord’s prayer gives us a reminder of our confidence. “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory”. The ground of our confidence is the very character of God. Nothing we ask is too difficult for Him. Our confidence digs deep down to the rock. The kingdom is His, the power is His, the glory is His. At the close of every prayer let us remember to whom we have spoken. He is all the assurance we need.
It is a great gift when we are convicted of sin. It is God’s love when we become conscious of the damage we have done to ourselves and to others by our deeds. It is a painful but necessary moment. Having found forgiveness, part of His gift is a holy horror of ever going back, a Spirit-given caution towards temptation. Sampson was arrogant with his powers. He did not fear temptation. He trifled with sin and the Holy Spirit left him. (Judges 16) We should fear lest this ever be said of us. Having known the power of God, we forfeit it by drifting back into sin. All of us will face temptation. All of us will be tested, but we should never choose it! We should move toward temptation only when it is the will of God for the battle to finally be faced. Then it will be an opportunity for victory, not for failure.
Spurgeon says that the Lord’s prayer is like a ladder. It starts at the top and moves downward. It begins at the highest human possibility ( “Our Father”-sonship) and ends at the lowest (“Lead us not into temptation”-a sinner in danger of becoming a greater sinner). The last petitions of the prayer are words from a humbled heart, conscious of past failure and fearful of it in the future. It is a fair fear. It is a wise prayer because sin is a very real danger. “Let him who thinks he stand take heed lest he fall” says the scripture. The burned child dreads the fire and wisely so. The Lord teaches us who have learned our own weakness to daily ask for His guidance so as to continue on the path. What wisdom is here! This may be the lowest prayer, but it rises from the most mature heart–one that can be honest about the continuing stuggle with sin.
Pardon is given without money and without price. All that is required is that we should ask for it. “Ask and you shall receive.” (John 16:24) The thief on the cross asked to be “remembered”. He received much more. All who come near with the same spirit receive the same grace. Why would you carry your burden any longer? Imagine hearing the Lord say, “Son, daughter, your sins are forgiven you. . .go in peace.” (Luke 7:48-50) Asking God is a great test of faith. It requires us to believe in Him rather than “pay our own way”. It is, however, the secret of all spiritual life. We cannot purchase this great gift. The only way we can have it by asking and receiving. “It is by grace we are saved, through faith, and this not of ourselves. It is the gift of God”
” Come let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18) Real forgiveness requires communication. God calls us to “come and reason” with Him. We have to talk. We have to be honest. We have to listen. I used to pray the Lord’s prayer as a blanket request. “Forgive me my sins(all of them). It was a magic bullet! I didn’t have to be specific. I didn’t have to regret or even admit my part in the mess that we humans have made of God’s world. I realize, now, my mistake. Jesus was teaching us to come into God’s presence for honest conversation re. our failures. In prayer, I am to lance the wound of my actions and attitudes and patterns and pride. When I do, His healing love flows in to wash it all away. Think about it. The cleansing power of the cross requires communication.
O God, my neighbor has offended me. I have been kind to him, but he has been ungrateful. I cannot overlook it. I remember every deed that shows how unfair he has been toward me. I know his heart, O God, his motives. I am certain of it. I am determined that he gets what he deserves. I cannot release him to your justice. I need to see for myself that he it truly sorry. I will be cordial around him, but wholehearted forgiveness? Never! Will you please deal with me as I dealing with him? Will you please apply this same standard to me, to my sins? Will you remember what I have done and use every proof to hold me hostage to my own unworthiness? It seems only fair. Hear me, Father, as I pray this prayer. (Augustus Hare)
Sometimes, we hear of people who find themselves in crushing debt and gather their creditors together and say, “If you will just give me time, I will repay everything.” Occasionally, we hear of honorable men who keep such a promise, even if it takes a lifetime. Can we make such a promise to God? No. God’s command is that we love Him with all of our heart! Even if we do so today there is no margin to apply to yesterday’s deficit. “We have only done what was required”. Even at 90% obedience, the crushing debt continues to grow. The ONLY thing that can ever be done with our debt is to ask God to forgive it. The wonder of the world is that the God whom we have sinned against is the One who will release us from the burden. God does not sell, He gives. Ask! and it shall be given to you.
The second mistake was worse than the first. Yesterday we studied Numbers 13. (We missed you if you were out of town–hope you worshipped the Lord wherever you were) First, the children of Israel disbelieved God’s promise and power. Second, they were arrogant re. his discipline. Tragic both times–same heart expressed two ways. We are to learn from their mistake when God disciplines us. We are to come with broken hearts before Him. We are to wait on His solution for the mess we have made. I wonder if many of us accurately see how our sins have marred and disfigured our years. I wonder how broken hearted we are at the debt to God we cannot pay. The ink on God’s book never fades by itself. Years do not remove the insult before a holy and eternal God. “a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17) is our only hope. What a great hope it is!
When Matthew writes the Lord’s prayer, he use the word “debt” to describe our sins. He sees every failure (whether we do what God forbids, or resist what He commands) as something that God legally, rightfully deserves from us. It is a debt. It is an unpaid bill. “Against Thee and Thee only have I sinned” said David in Psalm 51:4. Sin is a spiritual and eternal debt that we can NEVER pay. Even if we repented and walked perfectly from this day forward, we could never get back the days or opportunities of the past. Which brings us to a point of faith–to ask God to forgive us! Who could ever make such a request apart from the revelation of God’s heart of love? “He will abundantly pardon!” (Isaiah 55:7) Today, friend, as you prepare for worship (we will study Numbers 14) will you consider God’s great gift–His willingness to forgive?
When we pray for bread, we pray for physical life. When we pray for forgiveness, we pray for life worth living. On Sunday we will study Numbers 14. Joshua says that God’s “protection” has been taken away from the Caananites. Sounds almost like Paul in Romans 1. “He gave them over”. Life is not worth living in the absence of God’s smile. It is not worth having if God’s face is turned away. “Man does not live by bread alone”. His friendship is what we truly need, His instruction. So, after we pray for bread, we pray for something we need more than bread, for pardon, for the sweet assurance that our sins have been taken away. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” Two things are true, this morning as we come before God–we need forgiveness, and God is willing to give it. Hallelujah!