Monthly Archives: September 2016
Readings: Colossians 3:12-14; Matthew 6:9-12
When people ask me for forgiveness if they have done something wrong, my standard response is simple. I usually quip: “it’s just as well. I’m in the forgiveness business.”
If last week’s message was about daily bread, this one is about a bread and butter issue. Forgiveness. God forgives us through Christ, and we forgive others. They belong together.
That’s why both versions of the prayer involve the partnership between God and us:
Mat 6:12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Luk 11:4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
Debts was a way in which people understood what we owe against God’s accounts book. It represented sins in Jewish teaching. There was a word in Aramaic (Jesus’ mother tongue) that covered debts and sins as a single concept.
Trespasses which we use in the traditional prayer is the word in Matthew 6:15 and means transgressions or offences, or sins again.
Story: Of course the classic case of figuring this out is seen in the notice on the abbey put up by the nuns reading: “Trespassers will be prosecuted”. A tagger wrote on the wall: “what happened to forgive us our trespasses?”
Forgiveness has to be in this pattern for prayer because it is part of the Christian’s DNA. We are forgiven on the cross – not just the Romans and the Jewish authorities who put him there.
- And the Father in this rescue mission is seen in the story of the prodigal son – running to meet us in a most reckless inappropriate manner driven by love.
- God so loves the world that he gives Jesus John 3:16). God sends Jesus into the world not to condemn the world (John 3:17) but to rescue us.
We are forgiven – we forgive. It’s not either or – it’s both and.
It plays out beautifully in two stories.
One for Peter – who needs heaps of forgiveness when he denies Jesus. Matthew 18 is the context if you would like to turn to it now. It starts with the story of the lost sheep. That’s God’s heart reaching out as He does to the Prodigal son. And then the chapter deals with church discipline – trying to get people restored so they can start again.
Not surprising Peter has a question then about forgiveness. Have a listen:
Mat 18:21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Mat 18:22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Peter is feeling magnanimous. Probably please with himself as he is going the extra mile with this up to seven times story.
Jesus pushes him further – 77 or 70 times 7 (a deliberately ambiguous option).
The story rams it home. It’s a kingdom of heaven story in v23 – remember “Thy Kingdom Come” as the tone of the prayer?
Grace upon grace is extended to this man – his debt is forgiven.
But he sends his mate to jail for not paying a paltry amount in comparison.
The King writes off a debt that would take about 200 000 working day’s wages to pay. The forgiven servant throws his friend into prison for the wages of 100 days. The extremes speak volumes.
Who gets offended? The other servants – because injustice is clearly seen and recognised as out of sync with what was happening. They are greatly distressed (v31). When grace is received it is too powerful not to be extended to others.
The man who received grace and did not extend it ends up being tortured.
And the story ends – especially for Peter as leader I suspect – not with a discussion on writing of debts, or even that when people are good to us we should pass it on. It ends with Jesus’ declaration on forgiveness -just for Peter but also for us of course:
Mat 18:35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
Does that mean we should set up torture chambers?
No not at all.
- We are meant to extend grace.
- How can we not forgive others when we ourselves have been forgiven?
If God judges anyone based on this story it is not the unbelievers who are in the firing line – but the ones who have been forgiven – that’s us.
Judgement begins with the household of God. (1 Peter 4:17)
We are not to judge the world now (perhaps later we will). We are to hold each other accountable.
Like children we can say to each other – it’s okay to share the sweetness of the lolly jar – look how much you have been given – there’s plenty to go around. Grace has to be extended to others. We forgive.
And note verse 35 – it’s from the heart. It’s not superficial – or given begrudgingly. Like children who roll their eyes and say under instruction to a sibling “I’m sorry”.
It takes time for us to allow our hearts to be softened and changed.
The second story about grace that I want us to consider is the woman in Simon’s house in Luke 7 – Simon the Pharisee that is. Let’s look at it. You might as well read the whole story:
Luk 7:36 Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. Luk 7:37 When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, Luk 7:38 and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
Luk 7:39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
Luk 7:40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. Luk 7:41 “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Luk 7:42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Luk 7:43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. Luk 7:44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. Luk 7:45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. Luk 7:46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.
Luk 7:47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Luk 7:48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Luk 7:49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Luk 7:50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace
Powerful isn’t it.
The more mess you have cleaned up and forgiven – the more you love Him.
And He loves us long before we understand how bad our sins are. Yes the prodigal son came to his senses and went home. But he only understood grace when he received the welcome and the blessing. The ring, the robe, the fattened calf, the party, the welcome and acceptance again to the family.
United Pursuit has this song “Hidden”.
I’ve given you the words so you can follow them.
It spoke to me because it could be my testimony. I was drawn to God in bereavement at 12 years old. Well follow the song. So often people say repentance leads to grace and faith. In my experience grace came first. It lead to repentance. Read the words then I want to play for you. It captures for me the powerful grace and love of God which draws us closer and gives us a desire to become purer.
There was One when I was young
Who knew my heart, He knew my sorrow
He held my hand
And He led me to trust Him
Now I am hidden, in the safety of Your love
I trust Your heart, and Your intentions
Trust You completely, I’m listening intently
You’ll guide me through these many shadows
As I grow and as I change
May I love You more deeply
I will lean upon Your grace
I will lean because Your goodness is unending
You are my vision, my reason for living
Your kindness leads me to repentance
I can’t explain it, this sweet assurance
But I’ve never known this kind of friend
I can’t explain it, this sweet assurance
But I’ve never known this kind of friend
The sun, moon and stars
Shout Your name, they give you reverence
And I, will do the same
With all my heart I give You glory
I want to seek You first
I want to love You more
I want to give You the honour You deserve
So I’ll bow before You, I am overcome
By the beauty of this perfect love
Have a listen:
I love that a new generation of young people is serving him like these guys.
You can see how much deeper our love for him grows when we continue to receive grace and kindness we don’t deserve.
Forgiveness comes naturally when we understand how much we are forgiven.
And we need to model this love and forgiveness as we share this greater story of what Jesus has done with others.
No matter how bad it gets – grace is real and possible. Jesus shared it by being friends with the worst of sinners. They repented later when overwhelmed by his love.
He loves you fully and completely too. Are you hidden in the safety of His love?
Do you trust Him completely? You can – and then you can take the risk of forgiving people.
Are you listening to Him intently?
READINGS: Proverbs 30:7-9; Phil 4:10-13; Matthew 6:9-11
I was reading about an army chaplain who had a question from one of his soldiers about those army rations – we used to call them “rat packs”.
The trooper asked: Padre, should this pack get “grace” or the “last rites”?
Great question. Ex-soldiers would understand the sentiment.
I have a habit at the end of our elders’ meetings when someone says “let’s say the grace together” to begin “for what we are about to receive…” I really have to concentrate as the night grows longer. And perhaps we should call our closing prayer the benediction and not “the grace”.
We need to say grace before meals. And usually we have food on the table to give thanks for. When you think about it, though, there are few of us who when praying “give us this day our daily bread” really don’t know where our next meal is coming from.
There’s a huge chunk of the world who do have that problem. Their prayer for “daily bread” is literal.
Either way it’s the first part of the prayer that focuses on our needs.
So what do we learn from this part of the prayer?
Lesson 1 – watch how you pray!
The first thing to learn from this line in the prayer is where it is. It’s not at the beginning.
Too many of our prayer go straight into what we call “petitions” or “supplication” – or asking prayers. Like little children we go bounding in to our Father’s presence with requests, without greeting or address. (Of course children as they grow into their teenage years learn to be more respectful in their approach – before they ask for their latest need, or want, or in time ask to borrow the car!)
If the Lord’s prayer is a model – a framework – a template – then quite a large prelude to asking is what we talked about in the first four messages in this series.
We should always begin with God – praise, adoration, thanksgiving – because it puts into perspective, apart from many other things, who we are praying too. This generous heavenly Father. This Holy yet loving God. This powerful creator and provider. Our first request is for His Kingdom to come and that means His will to be done in our midst.
Let’s watch how we pray. Don’t leap into requests too soon. Our needs are a couple of lines down in the prayer template.
Lesson 2 – pray regularly – daily!
It’s the regularity that counts. Whether it’s “each day” or “this day” it’s every day. (Remember the differences between Matthew and Luke’s record of this prayer. Luk 11:3 Give us each day our daily bread. Mat 6:11 Give us today our daily bread.)
There are days that fly buy in our lives where we are too busy and too self-sufficient to think about God’s provision.
In our last hymn today we will sing the chorus “all good gifts around us are sent from heaven above…”
I suspect it originates in James 1:17: Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
And probably also Matthew 7:11: If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
This prayer pattern recognises that every day is good for us – to ask – and to be thankful. It’s good for our perspective. Self-sufficiency only works while you have a job and an income. Usually we pray less during those times.
When you’ve been unemployed – if you know how that feels – it’s amazing how your prayer life gets busier!
How’s your daily prayer life coming on? He wants us to depend on Him each day.
Lesson 3 – be content with the basics. (It’s bread!)
We are to ask for daily bread. It’s bread. Not caviar or a lavish dinner out. That means being content with the basics.
From the temptations of Jesus – where he could have turned stones into bread – to the last supper – where bread takes on a new significance – we can’t escape bread in the Bible. Even “Bethlehem” where Jesus was born means “house of bread”.
It involves the basics. It’s a staple food. People feel satisfied when they eat their staple food, whether it be bread, rice, or some other sustaining food form.
It involves contentment. And contentment with daily bread as a desired state of being is found early on in scripture – as we heard in the prayer in Proverbs 30:
Pro 30:7 “Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die:
Pro 30:8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
Pro 30:9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God.
I wonder if the American dream has messed us all up? Listen to these famous words from the declaration of independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ——
That pursuit of happiness causes heaps of trouble – people need more and more in the pursuit – but they’re often never really content.
Contrast that with Paul writing to Timothy:
1Ti 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
1Ti 6:7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
1Ti 6:8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
1Ti 6:9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.
1Ti 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Or the passage from Philippians which is often misquoted:
Php 4:12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
Php 4:13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
It certainly puts that last verse into perspective. It’s clearly NOT about being a great achiever or conquering the world. Context in Bible reading is everything.
Daily bread it is then. Bread is a essential staple food for many. It also represents basic needs – which include food, heath, shelter, clothing, some kind of income, safety, friends, family.
It doesn’t have to be bigger and better – with endless upgrades.
Contentment is the key. Remember this verse in John 6?
Joh 6:35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
Just as Jesus is the bread of life – who meets every spiritual need we have – so too this prayer is a check and balance to us – to focus on the basics physically as well. To ask for daily bread every day.
In the context of the prayer as a whole – it’s the Kingdom coming in our midst, and his will being done that matters more.
Daily bread will give us what we need to do His work.
May we learn anew to be content. Each day. With enough for the day. “One day at a time, sweet Jesus” is what Chris Kristofferson used to sing. (his 6th no 1 hit).
Matthew 6 ends with this – quite logically:
Mat 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
May you be content, and fruitful, in the Kingdom of God.
Peace be with you.