The most costly and essential thing God ever did was to provide us with the forgiveness of sin. This part of the Lord’s Prayer focuses on meeting on of the most critical needs we face. Before we get into the meat of the request, it is helpful to understand sin and the affect it was on our lives.
God is holy and has established himself as the standard of perfection by which our lives are to be measured (1 Peter 1:14-16). At the same time, sin is a reality in the life of every believer (Romans 7:14-20).
Sin creates distance in our relationship with God. Though we experience relational distance, God pursues us so that we will return to him (John 16:8-11; 1 John 2:1-2; 1 John 4:21). God pursues us through conviction by the Holy Spirit.
Our appropriate response to God’s invitation to return is to confess and forsake our sin. To confess means to “agree with” God about our sin (Proverbs 28:13). When we confess our sin, God promises to “forgive” and to “cleanse” (1 John 1:9). God deals with both the root and the fruit of each sin we confess.
Forgiveness is a financial term that means “to release a debt.” When God forgives a sin, he no longer holds the offense against us (Psalm 103:11-12).
We will never be fully effective in our prayer lives until we become willing to confess our sins to God and embrace his forgiveness. The all knowing, all seeing God is clearly aware of the sins we commit and wants us to come closer to him by confessing them and receiving his forgiveness.
While we may experience no greater feeling than the feeling that comes in knowing we have been forgiven, the request assumes that we in turn become forgiving persons. While many excellent books have been written on the topic of forgiving those who have wronged us, here are two simple thoughts for you to consider related to forgiving others.
First, forgiving others follows the example of Christ (Ephesians 4:32). He has not asked us to do something that he himself has not already done. Immersing yourself in the passion narrative of Christ will remind you that forgiving others always comes at a deep and personal sacrifice.
Second, forgiving others broadens and deepens our relationship with Christ. Forgiving others is a characteristic of God, and when we forgive we demonstrate the depth of our walk with him. It has been said that we are never more like God than when we give and forgive. (Matthew 5:23-34; Colossians 3:12-17)
What about those moments when we doubt whether or not God has forgiven us? What do with do with those feelings? We accept God’s forgiveness, like anything else, by faith. In order to be free from guilty feelings that pop up from time to time we have to take God at his Word (Psalm 32:1-2). If God has promised to forgive, he has. Period.