March 20, 2002
The 5th Petition
“And Forgive Us Our Trespasses”
Introduction: What does it mean when we pray for forgiveness? How do I know that my heart is in the right place? Is there a process I must go through before forgiveness becomes a reality? Let’s see what Luther would say to us in the Catechism as we pray “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us"
I. When we pray this petition
A. We ask that our Father in heaven would not look upon our sins. This is what Peter asked when confronted with his sins. He cried: “Depart from me for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8) The point is clear. The nearer one comes to God, the more he feels his own sinfulness and unworthiness.
Such was the case of Abraham when he pleaded for the city of Sodom. “Not that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord though I am nothing but dust and ash” (Genesis 27:1) Job cried: “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6) Isaiah replied “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the king, the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5) No wonder Peter went out and wept bitterly when he denied even knowing the Lord Jesus. (Luke 22:62)
B. We pray that our heavenly Father would graciously, for Christ’s sake, forgive our sin. We follow the example of the tax collector, standing at a distance “He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said “God have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13) He did not plead his own good works, but the mercy of God in forgiving his sin. Thus the church prays: “Lord have mercy upon us, Christ have mercy upon us, Lord have mercy upon us…Kyrie Eleison! Lord, remember me when You enter into Your kingdom!” (Luke 22:42)
II. There is a reason why we should ask for forgiveness.
A. We are worthy of none of the things for which we pray, neither have we deserved them. Thy hymnal is ripe with verses that describe this reality. “Not the labors of my hands, could fulfill Thy Law’s demands; could my zeal no respite know, could my tears forever flow. All for sin could not atone; Thou must save and Thou alone. (TLH #376 stanza 2)
B. The point is clear. For we daily sin much and indeed deserve nothing but punishment. Jacob prayed; “I am unworthy of all of the kindness and faithfulness You have shown to Your servant” (Genesis 32:10) Thus the prodigal son pleaded to his Father: “Father I have sinned against heaven and against You. I am no longer worthy to be called Your son” (Luke 15:21)
III. Forgiveness comes at a price – the price of god’s own Son. Thus we must promise that we will also heartily forgive and readily do good to those who sin against us.
A. In the Gospel of Matthew we hear these words: “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, now many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? Jesus answered, I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” 70 x 7. The point is clear. We forgive with time without numbers!
B. Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers, abandoned and left for dead, did not hold his brother’s sin against them rather, he forgave them. God had used the brother’s act, out of personal animosity toward their brothers Joseph to save lives. Mark his words closely: “But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:19-20)
IV. Why must we forgive?
A. We must forgive because he who would not forgive his brother will not obtain forgiveness from God. Forgiveness runs in two directions. Forgiveness is a two way street. If we refuse to forgive we will in this petition call down upon ourselves the anger of God
B. Jesus tells us in Mark 11 “And when you stand praying, if you ho9ld anything against anyone, forgive him, so Your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (v.25)
Conclusion: This in this petition we are called to forgive. Graciously you have been forgiven – graciously you are to forgive. Be compassionate, as God has had compassion on you.