Sermon from February 25th, 2018

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“Lord, Teach Us to Pray #7: Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”

Ephesians 4:29-32; Matthew 6:9-15

By Pastor John Bent

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Sermon Text
Good morning and welcome to those joining us by radio.  We are in a sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer and our focus today is forgiveness.

The 5th petition of the Lord’s Prayer goes like this “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  The Gospel of Matthew uses the word “debts”. Luke uses the word “sins”. The earliest hymn book in the English language “The Book of Common Prayer” uses “trespasses” and that’s how we got it. So which one is right? They’re all correct.
To sin is to trespass against God’s holy law and the rights of others. Sin incurs a debt against God and against our neighbor. The fruit of sin is guilt, shame, bitterness, anger and resentment and these are deadly to our physical, relational, emotional, spiritual health.

Karl Menninger, a brilliant Christian psychiatrist, said 75% of the patients in mental hospitals could walk out the next day if they could be convinced they were truly forgiven. Sigmund Freud was not a Christian. He refused to give or receive forgiveness. He wrote in 1918. “I have found little that is good about human beings on the whole. In my experience most of them are trash whether they publicly subscribe to this or that ethical doctrine or to none at all.”

Freud died bitter, friendless, alone, estranged from his family, his students, and his peers.  The difference between Menninger and Freud was their understanding of forgiveness.

Art Simon in Rediscovering the Lord’s Prayer gives the following example of forgiveness.  “Deborah and her 11 children survived the genocide of Rwanda. Her husband did not. One evening, soldiers came to her house asking for her oldest son. They said they wanted to question him. Her son never returned.
A few weeks later the soldiers came back. Deborah’s first thought was that they had come to kill her. Then one of the men, whom she recognized as having taken her son, led her into another room and closed the door. “Pray for me”, he said, “I killed your son. Will you forgive me? If not, I am prepared to die for what I have done because I know it was against the law.”

Deborah was stunned and began to pray for direction from the Lord. Her response would become part of Rwanda’s healing. She told the young man she would forgive him, but there would be a cost. “You must take the place of my son. And I will feed you at my table the food I would have given to him.”

Some of you are old enough to remember Rodney King who was brutally and wrongfully beaten by members of the Los Angeles Police Dept in 1991. During the race riots that followed that event, a black gang pulled a white truck driver named Reginald Denny from his truck and beat him almost to death. After his recovery, Denny met with his attackers. He shook hands with them and forgave them. A newspaper reporter wrote, “Reginald Denny must have been brain damaged in the attack.  That’s why he forgave the men who beat him.

So what do you think? Is forgiveness crazy? Or is it as much as source of life for us as the daily bread Jesus taught us to pray for?  This is the only petition in the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus explains. He says, “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins.” Mt 6:14

There is a critical connection between receiving forgiveness and passing it on to others. We don’t forgive others so that God will forgive us!  We forgive because God has forgiven us. Hell will be filled with people who would rather give up their salvation than give up a grudge!

A few months after Jesus taught this prayer to the disciples, Peter asked him. “Master, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”  Peter probably had someone in mind - someone he held a grudge against. Jesus answered him, “Not 7 times, but 70 times 7!”  In other words, without limit! Then Jesus told the disciples this parable.

“A king wanted to settle accounts with his servants. One of them owed him millions – an unpayable sum.  It was obvious the man had been criminally negligent in his duties and so the king ordered that he and his family be sold as slaves to recoup some of the debt.

But the wicked servant begged for mercy. “Be patient and I’ll pay everything back”.  Even though repayment was impossible, the master relented. He forgave the man and cancelled his debt. He stamped “Paid in full” on it and dismissed it forever.  (Since the accounts have to be balanced the master paid the bill himself!)

But on his way home, the forgiven servant found another servant who owed him ten bucks. He grabbed the man and choked him screaming for everyone to hear, “Pay me what you owe me!”  “Be patient”, the man begged, “And I’ll pay back everything.”  But the wicked servant had him thrown in prison.

When the other servants saw what happened, they reported it to the king. The king called the wicked servant before him. “I cancelled your entire debt because you begged me to do so. Shouldn’t you have had the same mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?”  And he turned the wicked servant over to the jailer to be tortured until he paid back all he owed.”

Never take God’s forgiveness for granted. The cost of our forgiveness is beyond our comprehension.  God gave the life of his One and Only Son on a Roman cross to pay the debt of our sin and the sin of the whole world. In the cross the love of God triumphed over hate, violence, fear, and revenge that infect our hearts. He did this for you!

Isaiah wrote, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they can be as white as snow” Isa 1:18.   John wrote, “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  1 Jn 1:9   The picture is to make virgin again. Just like the first day of creation. Brand new, fresh, unblemished, unstained – only God can do this. And he has! He did it through the cross.

Listen closely! Forgiving our brother or sister will never excuses the wickedness of their sin but it buts judgment where it belongs, in God’s hands. Only God is a fair and righteous judge.

The cost of bearing a grudge and refusing to forgive will poison your life, your future, your family, your children, your grandchildren, your relationship with God. It will keep you out of heaven. If you are bearing a grudge today, confess it as sin because that is what it is!
Place the one who hurt you in God’s hands and pray for them. Ask God to forgive them. Jesus told us to forgive our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Ask God to help you let go of their sin as he has let go of yours.
The Greek word for forgiveness comes for a word that means “to let go.” Forgiveness is a release, a letting go of destructive feelings like resentment, bitterness, and desire for revenge. Let me give you an example…

Pastor Richard Wurmbrand was tortured and imprisoned by the Communists in Romania. One night he was lying in a prison cell reserved for those who were dying. In the cot beside him was a pastor who had been beaten so badly he was about to die. Beside him was the man who had beaten him, a guard who had been betrayed and tortured by his comrades.

Suddenly the former communist guard woke up from a nightmare and cried out, “Pastor, pray for me. I have committed such crimes and I am afraid to die.” The dying pastor rolled out of his cot and crawled to the bedside of the man who had so savagely beaten him.

As Wurmbrand watched, the dying pastor caressed the hair of the man who had tortured him. He said. “I have forgiven you with all my heart and I love you. If I who am only a sinner can love and forgive you, so much more can Jesus who is the son of God love and forgive you. Return to Him. He wants to forgive you much more than you want to be forgiven. Confess your sins and repent.”

There in the darkness and cold of that prison cell the brutal guard confessed his murders and tortures. When he finished, the two men prayed together, embraced. Then the pastor crawled back to his cot and both men died later that night.

That Romanian pastor learned how to forgive from Jesus who first forgave him so that he could forgive others.  God’s forgiveness is like our daily bread – day by day by day by day.

If you have an unpaid debt, sins you need to confess, things you need to make right with God or someone else, things you’ve been putting off, will you stand and pray with me…

“Heavenly Father, give me the courage to be honest with myself, with you and with those I have sinned against. Forgive me and help me reconcile with those I have offended. I ask in Jesus name.”

If you’ve been holding on to resentments and grudges; if you’ve been un-willing or unable to forgive as you have been forgiven will you stand and pray with me…

“Heavenly Father, I confess my resentments, my grudges, my un-forgiveness. I ask you to forgive me. I pray for those who have wronged me. I ask you to forgive them. Cleanse my heart and fill me with your mercy, love and joy. I ask in Jesus name.”

If you need help forgiving yourself or someone else, come see Pastor Ralph or myself. Be reconciled to God and to each other, day by day by day. Let’s close by all standing together and praying as Jesus taught us…

Heavenly Father, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.


Christ Lutheran Church • 5150 River Lakes Parkway, Whitefish, MT 59937 • 406-862-2615

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