Forgive them

“.. as we forgive those who sin against us.”
(Matthew 6:12)

 

Reflection:
Suddenly, and for the first time, a condition appears. Where God’s love is unconditional, and where salvation cannot be earned but can only be accepted and lived, it appears that now something more is required of us. It is so important that Jesus went on, after teaching His disciples the prayer, to enlarge upon it,

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

 Both here, and in others teachings of Jesus, the message is quite clear. If we are to carry on receiving the unmerited and complete forgiveness of God we must not then presume to continue to hold anything against somebody else. If God is prepared to forgive us all and everything then we must be prepared to pass that love and forgiveness on to others, and in the same spirit.

 Peter asked Jesus,

“Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”  (Matthew 18:21-22)

 That is, without limit.

 There are a couple of important points to highlight:

  • We sin – therefore we need to be fully forgiven by God – every day!
  • Others sin – and need to be fully forgiven by God – every day.
  • If we want God’s forgiveness then we have to forgive – or at least work towards forgiving – those who have hurt or offended us. Sometimes it is not easy and takes much prayer and perseverance. Remember, as you battle to forgive someone, that someone else may be battling to forgive you! (Hullo!!!) That means me too!
  • Not to forgive others creates a hardness in our hearts that stands between us and God as much as it does between us and others. Jesus, who came to reconcile us to God, seeks to reconcile us to others as well.
  • We are not entitled to withhold forgiveness until the other person comes and grovels before us! Jesus is our great example.

“When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals–one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:33-34)

 Finally, we are so incomparably rich in the love, grace and forgiveness of God – why should we then act as if we were impoverished frowns? It might mean that we haven’t yet appreciated the great love of God – for love and forgiveness travel hand in hand.

Response:
Examine yourself for people against whom you hold a grudge. Ask God to help you. Say your forgiveness of them aloud and ask God to bless them.

Prayer:

Father Your great heart longs to forgive me – please help me to open myself to You by forgiving others, in Jesus name. Amen.

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Forgive me

“Forgive us our sins”
(Matthew 6:12)

Reflection:
The problem that men and women have faced from the Fall has been that of sin. Sin came into the world through the action of the first humans and has not left. The consequence of sin, both that of Adam and Eve and that of each one of us, is that it separates us from God – as well as causing us to fall short of who we could be with Him! There is nothing that we can do to erase it or to bridge the divide that it causes. All sin is essentially sin against God and only He can do anything about it.

“Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4)

 It was because of sin that Jesus came into the world,

  • “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,” (Luke 1:76-77)
  • “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
  • “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
  • “He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46-47)

 When Jesus died upon the cross he took our sins, our guilt and our punishment upon Himself. He died in our place. However, He did not die only for the sins of the past, He died for the sins of the present and of the future – for everyone who had lived, was living and was still to be born. Without His death there would have been no forgiveness, no liberation, and we would all have nothing to look ahead to except the final judgement and eternal separation from God, whatever that might mean.

 When Jesus teaches us to pray for the forgiveness of our sins He is recognising that, no matter how committed to Him we might be, we will still sin today, tomorrow and the next day. In fact no day will go by in which we will not sin again and again. Having died for these sins He has opened the way for us to ask God for direct and immediate forgiveness and absolution.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”  (1 John 1:7-2:2)

 That does not mean that we can be casual about sin, and treat it as mere naughtiness. Sin is a horror and a rejection of God. Only in Jesus is there the forgiveness of sins and the gift of new life – today and every day. It is however vital that we understand that sin does not cast the true believer – who has entered into a new relationship with God through belief in Jesus and who has received the Holy Spirit – back into the outer darkness of separation from God. Although it may bring great grief and shame, cloud our relationship with God, and still cause us to fall short of our true potential, it no longer has the power to separate us from Him. Once we have received the adoption as His sons and daughters, then nothing

“in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39)

 Every day should see us approach the Father Almighty in honest acknowledgement of our sin, and in humble appreciation of His great love and grace.

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12)

Response:
Acknowledge sin as a reality – examine your life and conscience regularly.

Prayer:

Father, thank You so much for Your great and wonderful love and salvation. Please forgive us our sins in Jesus name and help us to trust You and accept it. Amen.

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Food please

“Give us today our daily bread”
(Matthew 6:11)

 

Reflection:
The focus of the Lord’s Prayer now changes from God to us, and in a very practical way. Having acknowledged as of prime importance the reality, glory and power of God we ask Him to provide for us – His dependent creation. Note that the prayer is not for ‘me’ but for ‘us’.  As a member of the Body of Christ – the family of believers – our prayer includes other believers, especially those who will also pray this prayer. We ask for them as well as for ourselves, not wishing that any one of them be left out.

Our prayer for food has a couple of levels to it. Firstly we ask for the food that we need to keep us alive and strengthen us for the day that lies ahead. Note that the prayer is for bread and not for cake. We pray that God will ensure that we have what we need – although this does not imply that God will not be generous. Anything further is an additional blessing through which we may also be able to help others. And because God has made it possible for us to produce food or to earn the wages with which to buy what we need the implication is that God will help us to do just that. Those who are unable to do so will pray that God will still look after and provide for them as He did the Israelites during the forty years in the desert – but this time through the care and generosity of others.

 Secondly we remember that Jesus said ‘man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ We have other daily needs as well – mental, spiritual and emotional. Every day we will be faced with challenges, responsibilities, relationships and dangers that need a response from us – and one that is different and healthier than the ways of the world around us. We need God to teach us, prepare us, strengthen and guide us. So the prayer is also a petition to our Father to supply us with everything that we need to enable us to live, work and minister in His name at all times and in all that we do. From encouragement to wisdom, strength to relationships, love to rest, and in many other areas as well, we have great needs and only the Lord can supply them all and to the extent that is required.

 We should remind ourselves that this request is a part of the prayer that Jesus taught us. That means it is a valid and needed prayer, and one which the Father will want to answer for His children.

Response:
Feed yourself on healthy food, daily Scripture, daily prayer, and daily relationships. Give encouragement, love and support to others whenever you can.

Prayer:

Father – give us today our daily bread; and through us give to others as well. Amen.

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Your Will

“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
(Matthew 6:10)

Reflection:
God has a plan and a purpose for the world, and God has a plan and a purpose for each one of us.

  • “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” (Isaiah 46:10)
  • “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

From His commission to Adam and Eve, to Noah, in Jesus teaching, in the Great Commission to the disciples and all who follow Jesus, and as picked up by Paul, comes the message that God is working towards a definite end which He will accomplish. Our privilege is to be a part of that purpose and to be those through whom He works to achieve His end.

The will of God and the glory of God are connected. He is best glorified by His people when He is obeyed. It is an indication that we acknowledge and submit to His sovereign power and authority, and that we trust His love for us – the extent of which is revealed in the life, death and resurrection of His Son.

Jesus also submitted Himself completely to the will of His Father.

  • “the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” (John 14:31)
  • “He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:41-44)

 The alternative to God’s will being done on earth is that the will of fallen man will be done instead. We can see around us the fruit of that option – which should make us pray even more fervently for God’s will – His good, pleasing and perfect will – to be done instead and starting in us. And, of course, if I pray the prayer then I must seek to find out more about the will of God and allow the Holy Spirit to mould my life to it in thought, word and deed.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  (Romans 12:2)

And His will for us above all is this – to really and fully live our belief in the Lord Jesus.

“Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)

Response:

I believe – Lord help my unbelief.

Prayer:

Father – Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven – starting in me. Amen.

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Your Kingdom

“Your Kingdom Come”
(Matthew 6:10)

 

Reflection:
In His important Sermon on the Mount Jesus identified some of the things that are naturally the focus of our attention, and then gave us this directive,

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

 It is important, both for God and for us, that His kingdom does come right here where we are. In fact these three prayer requests are all about bringing change on the earth.

  •     Hallowed be Your Name
  •     Your Kingdom Come
  •     Your Will be Done

and may all these happen ‘on earth as it is in heaven’

 These conditions already exist in heaven, but they are yet to be fully implemented on earth. Other names, kingdoms and wills try to rule down here. However, if God’s glory is to spread throughout the world then the starting point has to be with the ones who pray this prayer – you and me. In praying for these things we are identifying the need in our own lives, as well as in the world around us, and committing ourselves to being the first areas in which God works.

 It is important to realise that this initial work of God will take place within us, for that is where the need is greatest. Once the inner transformation is taking place it will, of itself, begin to affect the world in which we live. The Kingdom of God had first to become established within the people of God,

“because the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)

 Until the Second Coming Jesus will seek to reign in and through His people. As His people we have to accept that the battle between good and evil starts within, which is where the first victories need to be won and the glory of God revealed. We are not alone in these battles, God the Holy Spirit is within us and with us. If we allow it He will guide, empower, heal and establish us. The greater freedom that He has within our lives the greater will be the result, for He is God’s ‘conscious presence and enabling grace.’ Through Him we are “clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24

 To pray this prayer with integrity we must want God to be glorified in and through and around us, we must want His Kingdom to come fully in the world in which we live, and we must be prepared to be changed and to become agents of change as the Holy Spirit responds. God is not going to make the world a better place so that we can sin more comfortably.

Response:
Ask God to help you to truly want His kingdom to come, within you and around you.

Prayer:

Father – Your Kingdom come – on earth (and in me) as it is in heaven.

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Your Name

“Hallowed be Your name”

(Matthew 6:9)

 There is a story that a little boy, after having heard the Lord’s Prayer, was convinced that God’s name was Harold! That must have delighted God!

 After the acknowledgement of the opening words, we move on to the first petition, or request, in the Lord’s Prayer. However, it is not one focussed on us, but on God – honouring Him and the name that He has revealed to us. It is as if Jesus is slowing us down and reminding us that who God is, is more important than what He might do for us. We need to ‘focus on His face and not His hand!’

 Attached to a name are both identity and reputation. God’s name, the name that He disclosed to Moses, is unique and totally unlike any other name. “I AM WHO I AM.” (Yahweh means this – or “I will be who I will be.”) This name of God is so special that when He gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites they were told,

  • “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” (Exodus 20:7) (NIV)
  • “No using the name of GOD your God, in curses or silly banter; GOD won’t put up with the irreverant use of his name.” (Exodus 20:7)((MSG)

 Honouring the name of God at times became extremely important in the history of Israel.

  • “ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name. Bring an offering and come before him; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.” (1 Chronicles 16:29)
  • “I intend, therefore, to build a temple for the Name of the LORD my God, as the LORD told my father David, when he said, `Your son whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for my Name.”  (1 Kings 5:5)
  • “But now I have chosen Jerusalem for my Name to be there”  (2 Chronicles 6:6)

 The Psalmist proclaimed

  • “Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 115:1)
  • “Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.” (Psalm 34:3)

 However, we do not honour the Name of God only in our worship songs. We honour Him in our response to Him, that is, in the way we think and speak and live. Our lives and living become the clearest indication of the everyday value that we place upon Him. Every aspect of our lives should proclaim the silent but unmistakeable message –“Hallowed be Your Name!” Having prayed the prayer we have pledged ourselves to live the life that sees it fulfilled.

 There is also a far broader application of the prayer. We are joining sincere believers throughout the world in praying that God will see to it that His name is recognised and honoured everywhere and by everyone. In an age when the name of God, and of His Son, is being legislated out of the public arena it is more necessary than ever to pray the prayer that Jesus taught us, as we call upon the name of the Lord. We can do so with confidence because we know that,

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

And to pray this in each and every situation becomes also our great expression of faith.

Response:
Ask God to help you to pray and live to His honour and glory.

Prayer:

“Our Father in Heaven; hallowed be Your Name.”

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In Heaven

“Our Father in Heaven”

(Matthew 6:9)

Reflection:
There is a great truth that we need to bear in mind at all times – God is in heaven and we are on earth!

There is a difference both between heaven and earth and between God and ourselves.

  • “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”  (Ecclesiastes 5:2)
  • “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.” (Psalm 115:3)

 In heaven He is worshipped, honoured and obeyed as He should be – on earth He is not. In heaven Jesus is enthroned in glory at the right hand of the Father. On earth He was crucified, and is still ignored or rejected by so many today. The words ‘in heaven’ should remind us of the absolute holiness, power and glory of this Almighty God – His awesome and supreme Majesty. The words ‘our Father’ remind us of the wonderful intimacy that He has invited us to enjoy with Him. We should always try to keep the two in balance – majesty and intimacy.

 In addition, the words ‘in heaven’ tell us that God is totally independent of us. If He closed His eyes to the world it would cease to exist, and so would we. God however would continue. He was ‘in heaven’ before the creation of the world, which only came into existence because He willed it and created it through the breath-taking power of His word. He has the freedom and the ability to move between the two, whilst we are confined to the earth, and have only just managed to send a few people as far as the moon. The outer reaches of the Milky Way are totally beyond us, not to mention the far flung regions of space millions of light years away. God, on the other hand, is able to be everywhere at the same time.

God also has the power and ability to know every thought that we have, whilst we know only as much about Him as He has chosen to reveal to us,

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

 What is so wonderful about these first four words of the prayer is their order. Jesus chose to have us address God firstly as ‘our Father’. This is the relationship that is so important, and the one that God wants us to enjoy as a first priority. ‘In heaven’ then reminds us of just who our Father really is, so that we may have a better appreciation and understanding of both His majestic greatness and His incredible love for each one of us! We can also begin to taste the first fruits of understanding of the truth that in some wonderful way full of mystery and beauty we have already entered into the heavenlies. In Jesus Christ we are already in the presence of the Father. And in the Holy Spirit the wonder of God has already entered into and touched our spirits.

 God is not just ‘any old father’ – He is “our Father in heaven!”

Response:
Remind yourself of how special God is – and how amazing that He should be your Father.

Prayer:

Please help me Holy Spirit to grasp the wonder of these very special words, and to embrace them with joy and awe. Amen

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