Week of July 25, 2011 firstname.lastname@example.org
Luke 11:4 - “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
Matthew 6:12 - “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
I WILL NOT FORGIVE!
They do not deserve it. Never, never, never! Have you ever heard this statement? Ever said it yourself? Could it be that you are still harboring unforgiveness at this very moment toward someone? Or maybe someone is holding unforgiveness over your relationship. If so, I pray that today you will be willing to listen to what God has to say about this subject. I will tell you from personal experience; breaking free from unforgiveness is not for the other person, it is for you. Stay with me and grow.
There has been much debate from both conservative theologians and religious liberals concerning the wording differences you find between Matthew and Luke’s account of the Lord’s Prayer. It is just my personal opinion, but I imagine there are slight differences because people tend to retain wording differently. Matthew and Mark were both human men writing their accounts at very different times in history. For the purpose of this devotion, I want us to understand this Scripture from God’s point of view.
Life’s Application Commentary:
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he made forgiveness the cornerstone of their relationship with God. God has forgiven our sins; we must now forgive those who have wronged us. To remain unforgiving shows we have not understood that we ourselves deeply need to be forgiven.
Luke 11:4 and Matthew 6:12 are Scripture that is probably quite familiar to you especially if you are accustomed to reciting “The Lord’s Prayer.” I can vividly remember when God challenged me with this Scripture. You see like many of you, I was accustomed to reciting this religiously on Sunday mornings. I knew it like the back of my own hand. However, when I was finally willing to listen to God’s rendition, He began to show me that I was missing a very important element of this teaching.
Friends we have to be very careful to understand that when God says something, He means it. Not only does He mean it, He also intends it for our good. Let’s drop down a few verses in Matthew 6.
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Let me refer again to the Life’s Application Commentary because I believe it to be right on in its interpretation of these verses.
“Jesus gives a startling warning about forgiveness: If we refuse to forgive others, God will also refuse to forgive us. Why? Because when we don’t forgive others, we are denying our common ground as sinners in need of God’s forgiveness. God’s forgiveness of sin is not the direct result of our forgiving others, but it is based on our realizing what forgiveness means (see Ephesians 4:32). It is easy to ask God for forgiveness but difficult to grant it to others. Whenever we ask God to forgive us for sin, we should ask, have I forgiven the people who have wronged me?”
Now I get that this subject of forgiveness is a touchy subject for some. It was something I struggled with for a very long time in my life. I had a very painful offense in my life that I was convinced God would never ask me to forgive despite the fact that I was reciting that prayer. However, in the end that is exactly what He expected and I now understand that it was to set me free. Once I decided to take God at His Word, freedom was on the horizon. We can argue this subject until we’re blue in the face. We can give all kinds of excuses for why we can’t or won’t forgive someone, but in the end we’re only hurting ourselves.
A child of God is someone who is being transformed into the likeness of Christ. We halt this progress when we allow bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness to remain in our hearts. Nancy Leigh DeMoss in her book Choosing Forgiveness reminds us “there are no magic words or secret formulas for forgiveness. When we begin to put God’s grace and mercy into practice in our own personal circumstances, we can experience a change of heart.” Listen to her definition of unforgiveness: “It’s like drinking poison and hoping someone else would die. That’s a powerful word picture for what unforgiveness is like in the human heart. Though it may feel right, though it may seem justified, though it may appear to be the only option available to us, it is destructive and deadly to the one who drinks it. The weapon we use to inflict pain on our offender becomes a sword turned inward on ourselves, doing far more damage to us – and to those who love us – than to those who have hurt us.”
I encourage you to think how this powerful emotion of unforgiveness might affect your relationship with your Heavenly Father. Should a child of God allow someone else to cause a division in their relationship with God? When we remain in sin, refusing to do what God commands (Matt. 6:14-16) we do not experience the full blessings of the Father. If you are holding onto bitterness or carrying a burden of unresolved conflict you will not have the blessing of true peace. I encourage you to pray earnestly. Ask God to give you the power and strength to move past unforgiveness. When we are willing to let go of resentment the healing can begin. Dr. Charles Stanley teaches, “Forgiveness just might save your job, your marriage, or another important relationship. One thing is for certain: Letting go of anger will keep you from self destruction.”
God has personally revealed to me that anger grieves Him. And, my hostility does not reflect my status of believer. This has been one of the hardest challenges of my faith walk so far, but I can tell you it has brought about the greatest benefits. Today I work hard not to allow bitterness to linger in my heart for too long. Why? Because when I do, I assist Satan in his attempts to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10) the good that God intended for those who love Him. Friends, nothing is worth that, nothing! Let’s give it a try. I’ll pray for you and you can pray for me too.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the ability to obey Your Word. Although there are many benefits to obedience, may we understand they are secondary to bringing glory and honor to You. Help us become examples of grace and mercy to others. May we learn to turn our focus onto You when we’re hurt. Free us from anything that keeps us in bondage to sin. May we desire to please you above all things. God help us to understand that because we have been forgiven much, we have no right to keep records of wrongs. Change our position, change our heart, and help us become a part of something eternal. In Jesus Name we pray. Amen.
Resource: Choosing Forgiveness by Nancy Leigh DeMoss