Thursday, 10 February 2011

'Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us'

To be honest I never use the word trespasses here,instead I would use the word sins which has the same meaning.Having already spoken to God as Father,worshipped him as Lord of all,asked that his kingdom and will would be done on earth and requested that he would provide for our needs, we now can, on the authority of Jesus who told us to pray this prayer, ask him that our sins be forgiven.Once we have asked we can be assured that he will forgive us. What a joy that is! The richest or most famous person on earth for all their glory, without Christ can not know the joy of knowing their sins forgiven.How much do you think they would have to pay to know that? In fact no amount of money could pay the price for our sins,as the children's hymn makes clear:

'There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin, he ( Christ) only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in.'

But does God also forget- or does He always remember our sins so when we go to pray we still feel guilty and ashamed? Psalm 103 declares: 'As far as the East lies from the West so far has he removed our transgressions form us.' That's pretty far! God again says in Isaiah 44:'I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist' and the prophet Micah also states:'He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea.'

Before I could drive a car I used to love sitting in the passenger's seat and look out at the sea as we would travel along a coast road. It brought a real sense of calm to my heart and I could then visualise all my sins in the depths of the Irish Sea or the Atlantic Ocean - never to be brought up again.I was forgiven by God and he wasn't going to bring them out to haunt me.It you don't live near the sea you might like to click on the photo above to make it larger then imagine your sins being cast by God into the depths of the sea.

There is an apocryphal story of a woman who lived in the south of Ireland who claimed to have had visions of Jesus. The Bishop got to hear of this and told her that the next time she had a vision of Jesus she was to ask him to tell her what sins the Bishop had confessed at his last Confession.Sure enough she had another vision and she requested that the Bishop come round to her house. He then asked her to tell him what Jesus had said when she asked him what sins the Bishop had last confessed. She replied: 'He said:"I don't remember".' So it is, as this story makes clear, God both forgives and forgets.

The Rev. William Still of Aberdeen was always concerned that many sincere Christians became too preoccupied with their past sins instead of focusing on their new life in Christ.In exposing the folly of this he gave the example of the a man who would normally keep himself clean and tidy but while gardening got his hands covered in muck. When he went inside he went straight to the tap and with soap and water washed the muck away.Did he then become preoccupied with the dirt on his hands and bemoan the fact his hands had been dirty? Of course not! And neither should we once we have asked for forgiveness: our sins like the dirt have been washed way and should be forgotten.

Having been forgiven so much it is our obligation then to forgive the sins of others as he has forgiven us.Stephen,like his Master before him, forgave those who stoned him to death, and from that Saul was later to become the great apostle Paul.


Professor Luther said...

We ask in this prayer that our heavenly Father would not regard our sins nor deny these petitions on their account, for we are worthy of nothing for which we ask, nor have we earned it. Instead we ask that God would give us all things by grace, for we daily sin much and indeed deserve only the consequences of our sin. So, on the other hand, we, too, truly want to forgive heartily and to do good gladly to those who sin against us”

John Chrysostom said...

Do you see surpassing mercy? After taking away so great evils, and after the unspeakable greatness of His gift, if men sin again, He counts them such as may be forgiven.

For that this prayer belongs to believers, is taught us both by the laws of the church, and by the beginning of the prayer. For the uninitiated could not call God Father.

If then the prayer belongs to believers, and they pray, entreating that sins may be forgiven them, it is clear that not even after the washing is the profit of repentance taken away.

[...] Now He who both brings sins to remembrance, and bids us ask forgiveness, and teaches how we may obtain remission and so makes the way easy…introduced this rule of supplication, as knowing, and signifying, that it is possible even after the font to wash ourselves from our offenses.

He reminds us of our sins, persuades us to be modest, commands us to forgive others, and sets us free from all revengeful passion.

And promising…to pardon us also, He holds out good hopes, and instructs us to have high concerning the unspeakable mercy of God toward man.

[...] Meaning to signify how earnest He is in the matter, He sets it down also in particular, and after the prayer, He makes mention of no other commandment than this, saying thus:

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you” (Matt. 6:14).

So that the beginning is of us, and we ourselves have control over the judgment that is to be passed upon us.

[...] God might indeed, even without this, forgive thee all your offenses; but He wills you hereby also to receive a benefit; affording you on all sides innumerable occasions of gentleness and love to man, casting out what is brutish in you, and quenching wrath.

[...] And even before the forgiveness, you have received no small gift, in being taught to have a human soul, and in being trained to all gentleness.

And herewith a great reward shall also be laid up for you elsewhere, even to be called to account for none of your offenses.

What sort of punishment then do we not deserve, when after having received the privilege, we betray our salvation?

And how shall we claim to be heard in the rest of our matters, if we will not, in those which depend on us, spare our own selves?

J.W. said...

And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors - Give us, O Lord, redemption in thy blood, even the forgiveness of sins: as thou enablest us freely and fully to forgive every man, so do thou forgive all our trespasses.

Thomas Aquinas said...

It must be known that from this petition we can draw two things that are necessary for us in this life. One is that we be ever in a state of salutary fear and humility. There have been some, indeed, so presumptuous as to say that man could live in this world and by his own unaided strength avoid sin. But this condition has been given to no one except Christ, who had the Spirit beyond all measure, and to the Blessed Virgin, who was full of grace and in whom there was no sin. "And concerning whom," that is, the Virgin, "when it is a question of sin I wish to make no mention," says St. Augustine.[5] But for all the other

Saints, it was never granted them that they should not incur at least venial sin: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us."[6] And, moreover, this very petition proves this; for it is evident that all Saints and all men say the "Our Father" in which is contained "Forgive us our trespasses." Hence, all admit and confess that they are sinners or trespassers. If, therefore, you are a sinner, you ought to fear and humble yourself.

Another reason for this petition is that we should ever live in hope. Although we be sinners, nevertheless we must not give up hope, lest our despair drive us into greater and different kinds of sins. As the Apostle says: "Who despairing, have given themselves up to lasciviousness, unto the working of all uncleanness."[7] It is, therefore, of great help that we be ever hopeful; for in the measure that man is a sinner, he ought to hope that God will forgive him if he be perfectly sorry for sin and be converted. This hope is strengthened in us when we say: "Forgive us our trespasses."

Thomas Watson said...

What is forgiveness of sin?

It is God’s passing by sin, wiping off the score and giving us a discharge. Micah 7: 18.

[1] The nature of forgiveness will more clearly appear, by opening some Scripture phrases; and by laying down some propositions.

(1) To forgive sin, is to take away iniquity. ‘Why dost thou not take away mine iniquity?’ Job 7: 21. Hebrew, lift off. It is a metaphor taken from a man that carries a heavy burden which is ready to sink him, and another comes, and lifts it off, so when the heavy burden of sin is on us, God in pardoning, lifts it off from the conscience, and lays it upon Christ. ‘He has laid on him the iniquity of us all.’ Isa 53: 6.

(2) To forgive sin, is to cover it. ‘Thou hast covered all their sin.’ Psa 85: 2. This was typified by the mercy-seat covering the ark, to show God’s covering of sin through Christ. God does not cover sin in the Antinomian sense, so as he sees it not, but he so covers it, that he will not impute it.

(3) To forgive sin, is to blot it out. ‘I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions.’ Isa 43: 25. The Hebrew word, to blot out, alludes to a creditor who, when his debtor has paid him, blots out the debt, and gives him an acquittance; so when God forgives sin, he blots out the debt, he draws the red lines of Christ’s blood over it, and so crosses the debt-book.

(4) To forgive sin is for God to scatter our sins as a cloud. ‘I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions.’ Isa 44: 22. Sin is the cloud, an interposing cloud, which disperses, that the light of his countenance may break forth.

(5) To forgive sin, is for God to cast our sins into the depths of the sea, which implies burying them out of sight, that they shall not rise up in judgement against us. ‘Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.’ Micah 7: 19. God will throw them in, not as cork that rises again, but as lead that sinks to the bottom.

[2] The nature of forgiveness will further appear by laying down some propositions respecting it.

(1) Every sin deserves death, and therefore needs forgiveness. The Papists distinguish between mortal sins and venial sins. Some are ex surreptione [surreptitious], they creep unawares into the mind, as vain thoughts, sudden motions of anger and revenge, which Bellarmine says, are in their own nature venial. It is true that the greatest sins are in one sense venial, that is, God is able to forgive them; but the least sin is not in its own nature venial, but deserves damnation. We read of the lusts of the flesh, and the works of the flesh. Rom 13: 14; Gal 5: 19. The lusts of the flesh are sinful, as well as the works of the flesh. That which is a transgression of the law merits damnation; but the first stirrings of corruption are a breach of the royal law, and therefore merit damnation. Rom 7: 7, Prov 24: 9. So that the least sin is mortal, and needs forgiveness.

(2) It is God only that forgives sin. To pardon sin is one of the jura regalia [royal prerogatives], the flowers of God’s crown. ‘Who can forgive sins but God only?’ Mark 2: 7. It is most proper for God to pardon sin; only the creditor can remit the debt. Sin is an infinite offence, and no finite power can discharge an infinite offence. No man can take away sin, unless he is able to infuse grace; for, as Aquinas says, with forgiveness is always infusion of grace; but no man can infuse grace, therefore no man can forgive sin. He only can forgive sin, who can remit the penalty, but it is God’s prerogative only to forgive sin.

Father Origen said...

When Luke says Forgive us our Sins he means the same as Matthew, since sins are constituted when we owe and do not pay, though he does not appear to lend support to him who would forgive only penitent debtors when he says that it is enacted by the Savior that we ought in prayer to add: for we ourselves also forgive everyone in debt to us. And it would seem that we have all authority to forgive the sins that have been committed against us as is clear from both clauses: as we also have forgiven our debtors; and for we ourselves also forgive everyone in debt to us. But it is when a man is inspired by Jesus as were the apostles, when he can be known from his fruits to have received the Spirit that is Holy and to have become spiritual through being led by the Spirit after the manner of a Son of God unto every reasonable duty, that he forgives whatsoever God has forgiven and holds those sins that are irremediable, and as the prophets served God in speaking not their own message but that of the divine Will, so he too serves the God who alone has authority to forgive.

In the Gospel according to John the language referring to the forgiveness exercised by the apostles runs thus: Receive the Holy Spirit: whosoever’s sins you forgive, they are forgiven unto them: whosoever’s you hold, they are held. Anyone taking these words without discrimination might blame the apostles for not forgiving all men in order that all might be forgiven but holding the sins of some so that they are held with God also on their account.

It is helpful to take an example from the Law with a view to understand God’s forgiveness of sins through men. Legal priests are prohibited from offering sacrifice for certain sins in order that the persons for whom the sacrifices are made may have their misdeeds forgiven; and though the priest has authority to make offerings for certain involuntary or willful misdeeds, he of course does not presume to offer a sacrifice for sin in cases of adultery or willful murder or any other more serious offence.

So, too, the apostles, and those who have become like apostles, being priests according to the Great High Priest and having received knowledge of the service of God, know under the Spirit’s teaching for which sins, and when, and how they ought to offer sacrifices, and recognize for which they ought not to do so. Thus Eli the priest, knowing that his sons Hophni and Phineahas are sinners, with a sense of his inability to cooperate with them for forgiveness of sins, confesses his despair of such a result in his words:

If a man sins against a man, then shall they pray for him, but if he sin against the Lord, who shall pray for him? I know not how it is, but there are some who have taken upon themselves what is beyond priestly dignity, perhaps through utter lack of accurate priestly knowledge, and are proud of their ability to pardon even acts of idolatry and to forgive acts of adultery and fornication, claiming that even sin unto death is absolved through their prayer for those who have dared to commit such.

They do not read the words: There is sin unto death; not for it do I say that a man should ask. Nor should we omit to mention the resolute Job’s offering of sacrifice for his sons, with the words: Perhaps my sons have had evil thoughts in their minds toward God. Though the sinful thoughts are doubtful and at worst have not reached the lips, he offers his sacrifice for them.

Dr Packer said...

The life of holiness is one of downward growth all the time. When Peter writes, "Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18), and when Paul speaks of growing into Christ (Ephesians 4:15) and rejoices that the Thessalonians' faith is growing (2 Thessalonians 1:3), what they have in view is a progress into personal smallness that allows the greatness of Christ's grace to appear. The sign of this sort of progress is that they increasingly feel and say that in themselves they are nothing and God in Christ has become everything for their ongoing life. It is into this framework, this continual shrinkage of carnal self, as we may call it, that the thesis of the present chapter fits.

A life of habitual repentance
What I intend to argue is that Christians are called to a life of habitual repentance, as a discipline integral to healthy holy living. The first of Luther's ninety-five theses, nailed to the Wittenberg church door in 1517, declared: ''When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, 'Repent' [Matthew 4:17], he willed that the whole life of believers should be one of repentance." Philip Henry, a Puritan who died in 1696, met the suggestion that he made too much of repentance by affirming that he hoped to carry his own repentance up to the gate of heaven itself. These two quotations indicate the wavelength we are now tuning into.
In my part of British Columbia, where rainfall is heavy, roads on which the drains fail soon, get flooded, and become unserviceable. Repentance, as we shall see, is the drainage routine on the highway of holiness on which God calls us all to travel. It is the way we get beyond what has proved to be dirt, rubbish, and stagnant floodwater in our lives. This routine is a vital need, for where real repentance fails, real spiritual advance ceases, and real spiritual growth stops short.

Dr Packer 2 said...

In speaking of habitual repentance, I do not mean to imply that repentance can ever become automatic and mechanical, as our table manners and our driving habits are. It cannot. Every act of repentance is a separate act and a distinct moral effort, perhaps a major and costly one. Repenting is never a pleasure. Always, in more senses than one, it is a pain, and will continue so as long as life lasts. No, when I speak of habitual repentance, I have in mind the forming and retaining of a conscious habit of repenting as often as we need to–though that, of course, means (let us face it) every day of our lives. It is the wisdom of churches that use liturgies to provide prayers of penitence for use at all services. Such prayers are always words in season. In our private devotions, daily penitential prayer will always be needed too.

Little is said these days about the discipline of regular repentance. The writers on the spiritual disciplines have noticeably not dealt with it, and the standard Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, now published in the United States as the Westminster Dictionary, has no entry on the subject. Yet it is a basic lesson that has to be learned in Christ's school of holiness. The theme is a vital one for spiritual health, as has already been said. So let us try to understand it well.

DR Packer 3 said...

What is repentance?
What does it mean to repent? The term is a personal and relational one. It signifies going back on what one was doing before, and renouncing the misbehavior by which one's life or one's relationship was being harmed. In the Bible, repentance is a theological term, pointing to an abandonment of those courses of action in which one defied God by embracing what he dislikes and forbids. The Hebrew word for repenting signifies turning, or returning. The corresponding Greek word carries the sense of changing one's mind so that one changes one's ways too. Repentance means altering one's habits of thought, one's attitudes, outlook, policy, direction, and behavior, just as fully as is needed to get one's life out of the wrong shape and into the right one. Repentance is in truth a spiritual revolution. This, now, and nothing less than this, is the human reality that we are to explore.

.Repenting in the full sense of the word–actually changing in the way described–is only possible for Christians, believers who have been set free from sin's dominion and made alive to God. Repenting in this sense is a fruit of faith, and as such a gift of God (cf. Acts 11:18). The process can be alliteratively analyzed under the following headings:

1. Realistic recognition that one has disobeyed and failed God, doing wrong instead of doing right. This sounds easier than it actually is. T.S. Eliot spoke the truth when he observed: "Humankind cannot bear very much reality." There is nothing like a shadowy sense of guilt in the heart to make us passionately play the game of pretending something never happened or rationalizing to ourselves action that was morally flawed. So, after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and compounded it with murder, he evidently told himself that it was simply a matter of royal prerogative and, therefore nothing to do with his spiritual life. So he put it out of his mind, until Nathan's “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7) made him realize, at last, that he had offended God. This awareness was, and is, the seed bed where repentance grows. It does not grow elsewhere. True repentance only begins when one passes out of what the Bible sees as self-deception (cf. James 1:22, 26; 1John 1:8) and modern counselors call denial, into what the Bible calls conviction of sin (cf. John 16:8).

Dr Packer 4 said...

2. Regretful remorse at the dishonor one has done to the God one is learning to love and wanting to serve. This is the mark of the contrite heart (cf. Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 57:15). The Middle Ages drew a useful distinction between attrition and contrition (regret for sin prompted by fear for oneself and by love for God respectively; the latter leading to true repentance while the former fails to do so). The believer feels, not just attrition, but contrition, as did David (see Psalm 51:1-4, 15-17). Contrite remorse, springing from the sense of having outraged God's goodness and love, is pictured and modeled in Jesus' story of the prodigal's return to his father (Luke 15:17-20).

3. Reverent requesting of God's pardon, cleansing of conscience, and help to not lapse in the same way again. A classic example of such requesting appears in David's prayer of penitence (see Psalm 51:7-12). The repentance of believers always, and necessarily, includes the exercise of faith in God for these restorative blessings. Jesus himself teaches God's children to pray “forgive us our sins... and lead us not into temptation” (Luke 11:4).

4. Resolute renunciation of the sins in question, with deliberate thought as to how to keep clear of them and live right for the future. When John the Baptist told Israel's official religious elite: "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance" (Matthew 3:8), he was calling on them to change direction in this way.

5. Requisite restitution to any who have suffered material loss through one's wrongdoing. Restitution in these circumstances was required by the Old Testament law. When Zacchaeus, the renegade Jewish taxman, became Jesus' disciple, he committed himself to make fourfold retribution for each act of extortion, apparently on the model of Moses' requirement of four sheep for everyone stolen and disposed of (Exodus 22:1; Exodus 22:2-14; Leviticus 6:4; Numbers 5:7). An alternative alliteration (as if one were not enough!) would be:

discerning the perversity, folly, and guilt of what one has done;
desiring to find forgiveness, abandon the sin, and live a God-pleasing life from now on;
deciding to ask for forgiveness and power to change;
dealing with God accordingly;
demonstrating, whether by testimony and confession or by changed behavior or by both together, that one has left one's sin behind.
Such is the repentance – not just the initial repentance of the adult convert, but the recurring repentance of the adult disciple – that is our present theme

Anonymous said...

I love this piece and picture.