Forgive us our sins. Each word of this phrase is so full of meaning, so critical.
Forgive. What is it? Per Dictonary.com, forgive is defined as:
- To grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve.
- To give up all claim on account of; remit (a debt, obligation, etc.).
- To grant pardon to (a person).
- To cease to feel resentment against: to forgive one’s enemies.
- To cancel an indebtedness or liability of: to forgive the interest owed on a loan.
Forgiveness LETS GO of whatever is owed. It cancels the debt.
Us and Our. I think Jesus put this part before forgiving others for good reason. It is much easier to deal with how people have sinned against us after we have looked at our own sins first. It helps us to approach others with humility and compassion instead of self-righteous arrogance.
Sins. What exactly is it? Some of the definitions in the Merriam-Webster dictionary are
- An offense against religious or moral law
- A transgression of the law of God
I am reminded of an incident from when I was a new believer. My sister was getting married and we were at the wedding rehearsal. The wedding was to be held in the Catholic Church where I grew up. After the rehearsal, the priest announced that he would hear confessions for anyone interested. At the time I hadn’t yet switched churches… so I went to confession. When I got there, I wasn’t sure what to confess. I told the priest I couldn’t remember any sins… and I ran through the 10 Commandments. I wasn’t praying to any other gods… didn’t swear using God’s name … went to church on Sunday… didn’t have to obey my parents anymore… hadn’t killed anyone… and so on. The priest asked me one question – “What about sins against the law of love?” Ouch! He had me there. I had a very narrow idea of what constituted sin.
Basically, sin is defined as something done wrong. So, if we don’t want to sin, we try to control what we do… or don’t do. That seems difficult enough, but maybe attainable… someday. But to make matters worse, the Baltimore catechism defines sin as “any thought, word or deed that violates the laws of God.” That covers a lot of ground. We can understand that our words can be sinful, like lying, gossip, or even just hurtful words. But can our thoughts be sinful? Let’s look at what Jesus said in Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28 …
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ (an Aramaic term of contempt) is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (This makes me watch my mouth while driving in traffic.)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Later in Matthew 12:36-37 Jesus tells us …
“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Just looking at these few verses should be enough to convince anyone that we have all sinned. We must agree with the scripture in Romans 3:10 …
“As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one.’” We all need forgiveness from God.
Through Jesus’ death on the cross, He forgave all our sins. No sin – no matter how horrible – is stronger than the Blood of Jesus. I am so thankful for that. Every sinful thought, word, or action that we’ve done is gone! Not just hidden, but gone… cleansed.
Psalm 103:12 (NLT) tells us
“He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.”
When God created Adam and Eve, and put them in the Garden of Eden; everything was perfect. They had everything they needed AND close fellowship with God. They KNEW Him. They KNEW God was GOOD. They KNEW they were loved. They had everything they needed and MORE. God had given them over 2,000 different kinds of fruit to eat, but they wanted more. They decided God was holding out on them.
God had told Adam and Eve that if they ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would die. But they lived a long time – Adam lived over 900 years! So, was God wrong? Did He lie? Was it an idle threat? Nope!
To better understand this, we have to realize that we are a three-fold person. We are much more than what we see.
- We are a spirit (the part of us that can have relationship with a spirit God) …
- that has a soul (mind, will and emotions)…
- and we live in a body.
Their bodies didn’t die – their spirits died! They were no longer in God’s kingdom, and were subject to Sin, Satan, and Death. And if that weren’t bad enough, they now had a dead spirit, ruled by sin – and they passed this sinful, fallen nature to all their descendants – and that includes every one of us! Adam and Eve could no longer have an intimate relationship with God, and neither can we – without Jesus. That is why we must be “born again.” Our spirit man must be born again – given life. But how? Listen to what the Word of God says:
Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
I Peter 1:3
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,”
I Peter 1:23
… for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.
Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, comes to live inside us. We are now a “new creation”. Our sinful nature is dead. God isn’t trying to fix our “old man.” It was too far gone. He killed it. So, not only were our sins forgiven by the shed Blood of Jesus, but our old sinful natures were “crucified with Christ” on that cross.
Galatians 2:20 (NLT) tells us:
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
II Corinthians (NLT)
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! The ESV version says Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
But what about now, after salvation, after Jesus cleansed us from sin? Are we immediately perfect? No, we still sin! We still want our own way. We forget – or ignore – that “Father Knows Best” and rebel. What do we do? Do we just throw up our hands in desperation and give up? Or worse, just excuse ourselves with “Everyone does it!” or “No one is perfect!” Or do we just try harder?
Paul wrote in Romans 7:16-26 (NLT)…
“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
Can you identify with Paul in this? I know I can! Is it hopeless? Yes — without Jesus.
So, what do we do when we sin NOW?
Jesus cancelled our debt. He paid the price with His Blood. He has forgiven us our sins… for things we’ve done… for things we didn’t do, but should have! And He has thrown our sins into the “Sea of Forgetfulness.” What has been forgiven is gone. God has chosen to forget, and He will never throw it back in your face. Satan will, but God won’t!
Once we have admitted that we need Jesus’ forgiveness and received Him into our hearts as our Savior, we are forgiven. Completely. All of our sins are washed away – past, present, and future – and our “old, dead spirit man” was nailed to the cross with Jesus. Our spirit is INSTANTLY reborn.
But, you say, “I keep sinning! “ Yes, we all still have sin habits. That doesn’t change whether we are forgiven or not. Hebrews 7:25 tells us
“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”
When we fail, we confess our sins to God. Not to get forgiven (we are already forgiven.) We confess – acknowledge – that what we did was wrong. It “fell short of the glory of God.” And we ask for help. We need to learn to act according to the kingdom of God. We need to learn to love with His love, speak words full of His truth, and walk like He walked. That is the ongoing Christian walk. Choosing to be a Christ-follower is not a one-time event. It is an on-going, daily choice. That is why God sent His Holy Spirit, to be our Helper. And we all need His help! Remember that we are a three-fold being. We are a spirit; we have a soul; and we live in a body. When we are born again, our spirit is instantly reborn… OUR SOUL AND OUR BODY ARE NOT. If we have pimples when we receive Jesus, most likely they will still be there in the morning. If we have been rejected, abandoned, betrayed – those hurts don’t go away immediately. Our minds need to be renewed by being “washed” when we read and meditate on His Word and spend time in worship and prayer. Our souls, our emotions, our wills all need to be healed. Everyone has wounds – some more visible than others. If we are wounded in our emotions, full of shame, believing lies like
- I’m unlovable
- I’m unworthy
- I’ll never amount to anything
- I can’t do anything right
- I’ve been used and abused and no one will ever want me
- I’m unwanted
- I’m a mistake…
These are healed by the Word of God and the healing love of God and His people. This takes time. We are all a work in progress.
Thank you for taking the punishment for my sins. You didn’t deserve to die. I did. But You chose to take all of God’s anger… that I deserve… onto yourself on the cross. My debt has been cancelled…. PAID IN FULL. I choose to follow you today, and forever. I know that You will never leave me or give up on me… and you ALWAYS keep your promises.
Thank you that I am a new creation. My spirit can now have a close, intimate relationship with You… You said that I can come right into your courts (throne room) with thanksgiving and praise. You live inside me and you are changing me from the inside out. Help me to walk and talk everyday like your daughter (or son). Thank you that I am Yours, and that “there is now no condemnation” because I am in Christ Jesus.” Lord, your Word says you see me and You know me. I thank you that you have good plans for me, and that you will work out everything – even my past – for my good, as I follow and serve You. You are amazing, God, and I love you.
In Jesus Precious Name,