Today we continue our sermon series in Luke 11 on the subject of Prayer. We have learned that prayer is communication with God and that it is an act of worship in which a person communicates with God the Father, through the access provided by God the Son, and by the prompting of God the Spirit.
In response to one of His disciples asking to be taught how to pray, Jesus replied:
When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” (Luke 11:2-4)
In the next section of Jesus’ prayer, He tells His disciples to pray “and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us”. In this prayer Jesus teaches them about Prayers of Confession and the need to be forgiven and to forgive. Let’s take a closer look at this prayer.
Forgive Us Our Sins
In order to properly understand the confession of this prayer we need to define two terms: Justification and Sanctification.
Justification occurs when an unbeliever confesses their sin and receives the grace of God through faith in Jesus (see Eph 2:8). The unbeliever, who has sin deserving of death (Rom 6:23), becomes a believer, who has been “justified by [God’s] grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24).
When a sinner is justified he is declared righteous by God. This righteousness is not his own, but the righteousness of Christ which is freely given. A Christian is righteous in God’s sight because he now has a right standing before Him and is no longer in rebellion. Romans 8:1 says of those who are justified, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” Justification by faith is very important because it is the heart of the gospel.
Sanctification is the ongoing process in which a justified person becomes more and more like Jesus Christ. Justification is a onetime event that happens upon faith in Jesus and sanctification is an ongoing event after one has been justified. Justification says you are God’s son and sanctification is the process in which you become more like God’s Son, Jesus.
Jesus’ prayer in Luke 11:4 instructs us that an important part of sanctification is the habitual confession of one’s sins. It is through the confession of our sins that we draw closer to God and He corrects and adjusts us to be more like Christ. David prayed in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” An old Puritan prayer says:
Lord Jesus, give me a deeper repentance, a horror of sin, a dread of its approach. Help me chastely to flee it and jealously to resolve that my heart shall be Thine alone.
Confession is important because it keeps us close to Christ and helps us not be “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb 3:13). We are in a battle and tragically we often battle against ourselves. If anyone tells you to follow your heart, tell them Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Christians must regularly confess their sins to God.
For We Forgive Everyone Indebted to Us
Jesus not only instructs His followers to pray for God to forgive their sins but to forgive the sins of others. He said, “for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” Jesus is saying that our forgiveness of others is a sign that we have been forgiven by God because how we treat one another is a strong indication of our relationship (or lack thereof) with God.
A Christian is a “new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17). A Christian must put away “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk” (Col 3:8). Christians should be “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive” (Col 3:13).
How do Christians forgive those who are indebted to them? If the one who sins against you is an unbeliever, the Christian must forgive and pray for the unbeliever to know Jesus Christ. If the one who sins against you is a fellow believer, Jesus provides a four step process in Matthew 18:15-20.
Step 1: Determine if it can be overlooked
A lot of times offenses can simply be overlooked and forgiven. But if you cannot overlook the offense and keep thinking about it, you must proceed to step 2 for reconciliation.
Step 2: Go to the person who sinned against you
Steps 2 calls us to seek reconciliation with the offending person. You are instructed to talk to the offender, not about the offender. Most offences are resolved on this step, but if not proceed to step 3.
Step 3: Bring in one or two others to help.
The presence of other people will either confirm the offense and seek reconciliation or encourage you to overlook the offense. If he refuses to listen to them, proceed to step 4.
Step 4: Tell it to the Church
Let the church work to help bring reconciliation. If the person refuses to listen to the church, the church is instructed to treat the offender as a non-believer (e.g., Gentile and a tax collector. Matt 18:17) and pray for his salvation because the offending party is not demonstrating saving faith in their lack of repentance.
There is a direct connection between being forgiven by God and forgiving others. Let all of us as Christians strive for forgiveness, peace, and unity as we demonstrate our love for God and love for others.