Monday, February 04, 2008

Expand Your prayer life (5): The Path to Joy

by Mark Altrogge @

Last week one of my sons didn't clean up his room. So I kicked him out of the family.

"Get out, and don't come back!" I shouted as I slammed the door. "That's the last time you'll skip your chores around here!" I fumed.

Just kidding. Please don't call the authorities and have me arrested.

When my children fail in some way or sin against me, I don't eject them from the family. That will never happen. But their offenses can strain our fellowship until they ask forgiveness. That's why Jesus taught us in "The Lord's Prayer" that we should pray: "And forgive us our sins..."(Luke 11:4).

But didn't Christ pay for all believers' sins on the cross? Yes, but he still tells us we should regularly ask our Father to forgive us.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

God has adopted us who come to Him through Christ into his family and will never cast us out. But sin mars our fellowship with him. When we confess our sins, God cleanses us afresh by the blood of Christ and removes all unrighteousness, thus restoring our fellowship. Sin is like bugs and dirt on our windshield – it hinders our vision. When we confess our sins, God wipes the windshield clean and we can see him more clearly.

Not only did Jesus instruct us to ask our Father to forgive us, he commands that we forgive others as well: "And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us" (Luke 11:4).

Have you ever been offended at anyone? You know how it is when someone insults you or treats you unjustly. Sometimes you can't stop your mind from churning and rehearsing and replaying the event. "I should have said this. I should have done that. I'm going to buy a book of insulting comebacks. I'm going to study Winston Churchill's witty put downs. Next time I see them I'll say, "Oh yeah? In your face!"

But Jesus said, "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15). Forgiving others, even our enemies, is not an option.

Why? Because God has forgiven us our sins against him, which are worse than anyone's sins against us. He's forgiven us a million dollar debt, so we should forgive the one who owes us $5. If we don’t have a heart to forgive others, why should we expect God to forgive us?

But what if someone commits an enormous sin against me?

What helps me is to remember that I murdered Christ. I spit in the face of the infinitely Holy God. I rejected my loving Creator. For my sins to be forgiven it required God's Son to be bloodied and beaten. My sins brought God's wrath upon Jesus' head. No one’s sins against me are that bad.
I deserve to be sinned against, then go to hell for eternity. No matter what anyone does to me, I’ve done worse to God.

So when you are praying and you remember someone has sinned against you, forgive them. You may need to ask God for grace to do this. But you have no other option. Though that person's crime against you returns every 5 minutes like a deer fly buzzing around your head, affirm your forgiveness. Pray again, "Father, in Jesus' name I forgive them! " Even if you have forgive 50 times a day, keep forgiving.

Has someone offended you? Do you need to forgive someone? Ask God to forgive them right now. It's the path to Christ's joy.

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