And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Luke 11:4, NKJV)
Would you be forgiven of your sins if God forgave you the way you forgive others? Do you ask God to forgive you because you forgive everyone who sins against you? That is how Jesus said to pray to our heavenly Father about our forgiveness (see Matthew 6:12). God considers whether or not we forgive others when we ask Him to forgive us. Therefore, we need to examine our forgiveness of others. Forgiving those who sin against us is an action of faith which is necessary to be forgiven by the Father (Matthew 6:14; Luke 17:4-5). It is futile to expect God to forgive us when we will not forgive others. Jesus said, “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15). The devil tempts us not to forgive others. He entices us to withhold from others the very things we need from God – mercy, compassion and forgiveness. We will lose our souls if we give in to his temptation. We are delivered from the temptation to withhold forgiveness by our own need for God’s forgiveness. Remember, it is the merciful who obtain mercy (Matthew 5:7).
38 But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them. Yes, many a time He turned His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath; 39 For He remembered that they were but flesh, a breath that passes away and does not come again. (Psalm 78:38–39, NKJV)
God shows repeated kindness and mercy to us. With reoccurring compassion, God did not fully destroy His people when Israel sinned against Him over and over. Psalm 78 rehearses the sad history of Israel’s rebellion against God. He gave Israel great and marvelous blessings by delivering His people from Egyptian slavery and sustaining them through the wilderness on the way to the promised land. Yet, Israel continually rebelled against God and provoked His wrath. He punished them, but He also had compassion on them by not pouring out His full wrath upon them. God shows “mercy to thousands, to those who love (Him) and keep (His) commandments” (Exodus 20:6). While He is “slow to anger and great in power,” He “will not at all acquit the wicked” (Nahum 1:3). God’s forgiveness is abundant. He is ready and able to forgive. But we must not tempt God by refusing His will, thinking His mercy gives us freedom to sin. Like Israel, we must turn away from our sins, love Him and keep His commands (Luke 13:3, 5; 1 John 1:9). God knows our failures and sins. He is full of compassion and forgiveness. Turn to Him for mercy to escape His wrath.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8–10, NKJV)
It is notable that the apostle John addresses Christians in this passage – those who “walk in the light” are warned not to deny their sins (1 John 1:5-7). Yes, Christians can sin, and Christians can yield to the temptation of denying their sin. But, to do so is a futile exercise of self-righteous deception. Denying one’s sin is a failure to take personal responsibility for sin. The truth is not in the person who denies his own sin. On the other hand, God is faithful to forgive and cleanse our unrighteousness when we freely and fully acknowledge our sins to Him. When you are tempted to deny your sin, remember that to do so makes you a liar. Furthermore, you also make God a liar, because God’s word says we all have sinned and fall short of His glory (Romans 3:23). Christians refuse to be controlled and ruled by sin (Romans 6:6-14). When you sin, do not become a liar by denying it. Confess your sins to God. Repent and pray, and God will forgive you (Acts 8:22). What joyous release! What wonderful mercy we have in Christ.
31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31–32, NKJV)
Bitterness is like acid eating through one’s heart. There is no room for compassion, kindness and merciful forgiveness in the bitter heart. The companions of bitterness are angry, resentful responses, evil words and ill will. Christians must put away all these things from their hearts. This can be done by recalling the kindness of God toward us in Christ. God could have been bitter toward us because of our sins against Him. But, His kind love forgives us in Jesus. There can be no room in our hearts for bitter resentment. Be kind. Be merciful. Forgive. That’s how God has treated you in His Son, Jesus Christ.
10 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices. (2 Corinthians 2:10–11, NKJV)
Satan has devices, and we must understand them. If we fail to do so, he will take advantage of us, and lead us into sin. The word “devices” speaks more to the thinking, plans and purposes of the devil, than to the methods or tactics he uses to accomplish those plans (concerning his methods, see Ephesians 6:11). One of his purposes is to undermine peace and unity among Christians. Here, Paul identifies this device of Satan as an unwillingness to forgive a fellow Christian who has repented of his sins. The devil’s purpose is served when Christians are unwilling to reaffirm their love for a fallen Christian who is restored to Christ (2 Corinthians 2:8). When a fallen Christian is disciplined by the church, and brought to repentance, the devil will attempt to use this wonderful blessing to execute his disruptive plan. He tempts Christians to harbor ill will, bitterness and doubt toward the sinner to such an extent that, instead of confirming our love for him, some take a “hands off,” “wait and see” attitude before forgiving him. Such an approach prevents genuine forgiveness. It is not how Christ forgave us (Ephesians 5:31-32). It is a device of Satan; it is sin. We know how he thinks. Do not let him take advantage of you. He seeks your destruction.
1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Psalm 32:1–2, NKJV)
Sin is real. So is God’s forgiveness. Sadly, many refuse God’s forgiveness because they refuse to acknowledge their sin and its spiritual impact on them. And so, they continue in sin’s sorrow. It need not be so. In today’s passage, the Spirit of God gave David three Hebrew words to use in contemplation of the blessedness of divine mercy: transgression, sin and iniquity. “Transgression” is a revolt or rebellion against God and His will. “Sin,” as used here, is an offense against God. “Iniquity” is perversity, moral evil, lawlessness. There is no blessing when we live in rebellion against God, offending His will with our evil attitude and actions. Sin causes eternal death, but God’s gift is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). “By grace, through faith,” God will forgive your sins in the Son (Ephesians 2:8). Jesus “gave Himself for our sins,” “the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (Galatians 1:4; 1 Peter 3:18). Admit your sins. Come to Jesus Christ in faith, do His will, and you will have the blessedness of God’s forgiveness (read Acts 2:37-41).
17 But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” (Luke 15:17–19, NKJV)
Pride prevents repentance and salvation from sin. It is only when we realize the depth of our sin against our Father in heaven, that we become willing to entertain the thought of returning to Him in search of His compassionate forgiveness. God is always ready to give it. Just as a father whose child has wandered far away from him, wasting the blessings of the father’s love, God is always ready to receive and forgive the sinner who repents and abandons sin with a servant heart. There is no doubt that God compassionately forgives repentant sinners. The real question is, when we sin, will you and I humble ourselves before God, repent, and come to Him and cast ourselves upon His mercy?