“And forgives us of our sins… (Matthew 6:12a)”
Our meditation today is on the second petition that deals with Man’s needs. And it is a great need indeed – the forgiveness of sin! To be sure, the Lord’s prayer is a prayer by Christians, those who already belong to Christ. Only God’s children are allowed to call Him “Our Father….”, so it’s unmistakable that Our Lord Jesus meant for this prayer to be prayed by His disciples and not non-Christians. That’s why the Lord’s prayer has also been often referred to as The Disciple’s Prayer. But hasn’t God already forgiven us of ALL our sins through the sacrificial death of our Lord Jesus on the Cross? Why is it that God still requires us to continually confess our sins to Him and to forgive those who sin against us?
Before we answer this question and it’s an important one, let’s first take a look (or relook) at the nature of sin and the seriousness of its consequences. If we are honest, most of us would think of ourselves as pretty good people. Certainly, when we speak to many of our non-Christian friends, they would probably feel the same way. After all, we don’t commit the big ones as listed in Romans 1:29-32 “unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness…etc etc”. As long as we keep to the white lies and a few minor indiscretions, we think it should be ok. Even the worse offenders and hard core criminals will tend to excuse themselves, blaming others and their circumstances for their offences. But there’s just a couple of problems with that kind of thinking. First, sin is a big deal to our perfectly righteous and Holy God. Sin assaults God’s holy character. When we sin, we ultimately sin against God because every sin tarnishes the image of God which we were originally made to conform. Sin is us operating outside of God’s moral laws and not in keeping with His original design. In other words sin is practicing lawlessness (1 John 3:4). The Bible also describes sin as fallen short of God’ perfect standard or “missing the mark” (Romans 3:23).
Secondly, sin has a seductive effect on us. It can be subtle as it sometimes creeps in almost undetected into the human heart. Just when we think we have the better of it, we succumb to the sin of pride! Recall the Psalm 1:1 which describes the blessed one as “…. the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers”. Sin starts off with walking, then standing and finally sitting, taking root in our hearts. Our recent study of Genesis saw Lot follow a similar pattern in Genesis 13, first seeing the fertile plains of Jordon, moving to live in the cities of Jordon and pitching his tent just outside of Sodom. By the time we reached Genesis 19, Lot was already firmly planted inside Sodom, the godless city which God later brought judgement upon. It brings to mind a famous quote by Ravi Zacharias who said ““Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”
Lastly, the consequences of sin is devastating! Sin robs us of the joy of living. Listen to what David said after he committed adultery and murder, “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” (Psalm 32:3-4). We reap what we sow and more often than not, sin either feed our pride or harms the relationships we have with others and come back to hurt us. But ultimately, the result of sin is death, both physical and spiritual. More importantly, as Christians, we know that sin resulted in the innocent death of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s our sins that He bore on the cross so that we may die to sin and live to Him (Romans 6:10-11).
So why is it that God still requires us to continually confess our sins to Him? To be sure, ALL our sins (past, present and future) have already been forgiven. Colossians 2:13 says we “….who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses”. Hebrews 9:26 tells us that Jesus “has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself”. Hebrews 10:14 again emphasised that “For by a single offering he (Jesus) has perfected for all timethose who are being sanctified. Jesus’ work on the cross is finished and His forgiveness is total and complete! Our position (or status or standing) in God’s eyes is we are completely righteous on account of Jesus’ righteousness.
However, even though sin no longer shackles us like before, we continue to sin and struggle to fight it as Paul describes in Romans 7. And although our consciences should be more sensitive to sin after our conversion, it’s possible that they can become dull when we continue to sin wilfully! We continue to pray to God for forgiveness because the act of confession:
- Marks us out as being serious about putting sin to death in our lives. Confessing is simply the admission that we have sinned and doing something about it! It is one of the traits that prove we are Christians and truly born again. Paul tells us in Col 3:5 to “Put to death therefore whatever belongs to your earthly nature…”.and in Romans 8:13 to put to death the deeds of the body..” We have to confess in order to make war on sin.
- Renews our fellowship and joy in Christ. When we sin, our fellowship with God is affected and we no longer feel that deep intimacy with our Heavenly Father. Unconfessed sins as we have seen in David’s example robs us of our joy in meaningful fellowship with God. That’s why we read in David’s confession in Psalm 51:8-10, that apart from asking God to cleanse him, David asked God to “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice” and “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit”.
- Continues to remind us of the price Jesus paid for our sins which demonstrates His infinite love for us. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13). It also reminds us that God is a forgiving God. 1 John 1:9 says, ”If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
- Gives us the right perspective of life and the correct posture for lament which we studied recently. Jesus began His sermon on the mount with the phrase “Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God”. Being poor in Spirit doesn’t mean we have to hang our heads down and live a life devoid of joy. On the contrary, a proper perspective of sin and amplifies our view of God’s goodness and propels us to cling on to the hope and joy we have in our Lord Jesus! That means we are to be humble and rid ourselves of any sense of self-sufficiency, especially if we think we might in anyway save ourselves from our sins! Think about this: Every pain, injustice, suffering, disease, hurt, war, anything bad or evil is the result of sin and humanity’s fallenness. Sin is the biggest problem Man have to face. God’s forgiveness and all that it implies is the greatest gift Man can have.
“Lord, Thank you for the finished work of our Lord Jesus for our sins and for Your faithfulness in forgiving us whenever we stray. Help us to be serious about sin and its devastating effects on our lives and the people around us. Help us to live in Your Spirit and thus put to death our sinful desires. Amen!”
(This article is adapted from a series of sharing on the subject of Prayer by Yew Lum to his Lifegroup members.)