Lecture 5: As We Forgive Our Debtors. Lead Us Not Into a Time of Trial
Course: Basics of Spiritual Growth
I. Help us to forgive others.
As the prayer progresses, it is not only “forgive us” of this immense, impossible debt of our trespasses – I think “debt” is the more accurate word – of our debt. Not only forgive us. Don’t you wish it would just stop right there? Don’t you wish Jesus wouldn’t have slipped in the next part of the Lord’s Prayer. No, it is also, “Lord, help us to forgive others as well.” Ooh, ooh, ooh.
A. Baseball analogy.
When I teach these preachers, who are in seminary, and pastors, I will often use a baseball illustration about what they are going to experience when they get out in ministry. By that I mean, any time you step up to the plate to hit in the game of baseball, just as sure as I am standing here, you are going to get hit by a pitch. Sometimes those pitches are unintentional, and they hurt, they hurt a lot when you get hit with a wild pitch. Other times, those pitches are very intentional. In other words, people actually really do intend to hurt you as a leader in God’s church.
Oh no, it’s not just with pastors. Anyone who steps out for our Lord, anyone who seeks to be about the business of doing good for the Kingdom, you are going to get hit with both wild pitches and intentional pitches. People are going to injure you when they have grievances against you, they are going to take up the spirit of offense with you. Sometimes, maybe it is a little bit deserved; many times, there is nothing deserved about it at all. But even that is not the point of this prayer right here.
Jesus knew all of this was going to happen when he gave us the prayer to pray. He knew that we were going to get hit. He knew that people were going to accumulate debt that they owe us. They have injured us. They have taken something from us. They have harmed us in some way. He knew we would sustain bruises in life. He knew that in his short ministry; did he ever know that in his short ministry!
Nevertheless, I think he wanted his children to be filled with joy and not to be shackled down with hatred and this resentment that we could not let go of. He loves us enough, in fact, to destroy the destructive chains that would literally choke God’s life out of us.
B. The slave refused to acknowledge the gift of God forgiving him.
Jesus’ parable about the slave – remember from the last session, who had the impossible debt – actually contained a really tragic, tragic element as the second major point in that parable. Remember, even though the king forgave the debt, this proud, arrogant, foolish slave refused to acknowledge the gift. This is where his problems first started. He refused to acknowledge the gift of God forgiving him.
I’m telling you, in our Christian walk, this is a word we need to hear. If a man, woman or child turns to God and asks for forgiveness, then the assurance of the Gospel is that, okay, Christ did pay the penalty for that sin. You don’t have to bear it. You don’t have to bear the guilt of that. He settled the account with God on our behalf, you don’t have to pay that off. You couldn’t anyway. Therefore, he gives you the gift. See, what Augustine was saying all of those years ago was this, “You are, we are, what we receive.” The Gospel is about what we receive primarily. We are what we receive, so we just need to allow this deep healing that comes into our lives of forgiveness. The Lord Jesus died.
I am not called to hang on the tree for that sin; and to make my life miserable and to hurt myself for that sin. I am definitely not called to hang it on somebody else and try to make somebody else’s life miserable. Why? Because the Lord Jesus has already carried it in his person. He has already atoned for that gift.
But this guy couldn’t get hold of that because he was too proud. He had absolute pride in his life to acknowledge that somebody was actually giving him something. He couldn’t receive it. He insisted on living in the massive illusion of self-sufficiency. In his twisted mind, he just could not hear the word, forgive. He couldn’t receive it, he could not hear the word, “forgive.” So he rises up from his knees, what? Determined to make amends. He is going to do it. He is going to pull it off. He is going to show his master he has what it takes. He just needed a little more time, just a little more time.
Then in the very next scene, the One who was forgiven an impossible debt, I mean totally impossible debt, what does he do? He goes and seizes the fellow slave who owed him a mere three night’s worth of wages, a small debt, very small debt; and what does he do? He throws him in the debtors’ prison. The one guy has been forgiven everything. The other guy just owes him a little bit; and he throws him in prison.
C. Jesus’ response about the slave that didn’t forgive.
Jesus’s response was really firm here. This is where we see that Jesus is not a tame lion at all, back to C. S. Lewis’ imagery. “You wicked slave” Jesus said. “I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?” The parable concludes with this chilling warning. The unforgiving slave was handed over to the tormentors and placed in jail. Wow. And Jesus says this; this is a direct word to me, this is a direct word to you. Listen to it, it is right there in the parable: “So my heavenly Father will also give to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or your sister from your heart.” Wow.
D. We are called to receive mercy and forgiveness from God and extend mercy and forgiveness to others.
Here is the deal. The prayer of our Lord gives us and affirms within us the reality that everyone, everyone, all of us, we all owe our existence to the compassion of the Father. If the Father extends mercy to humanity that failed – all of us are fallen, no-one is exempt here – he requires that when we receive his mercy and his forgiveness, we are called to extend mercy and forgiveness to others.
The great nature of the embracing reality of heaven is that we are enabled to take on the very character of the Son. Just as the Son forgave us on the cross of that impossible debt, of our violation; so, too, are we empowered by the Holy Spirit to forgive others.
E. If you forgive others, God will forgive you (Matthew 6:14-15)
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus placed a really important conditional clause after the Lord’s Prayer. He said this: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your father forgive your trespasses.” Forgiveness – hear the Word – forgiveness becomes a condition for the more-than of grace to come flooding in our lives. It is a condition Jesus Himself sets up here. This is not a condition of man, this is a condition that Jesus Himself sets up.
The further we walk in the way of Christ, the more we are able to lay down our grasping drive to become debt collectors. We lay down this crazy thing of getting inflamed about people who we don’t like or who we think have maligned us in any way; that terrible, bitter spirit of offense. That should not be marked in the Christian church. It should not be a part of the Christian church. It should not go from lay persons to their pastor; and it most certainly should not go from the pastor to the lay people.
F. We are called to pray life into people (1 John 5:14).
We are not called to be offended. What are we called to do? We are called to pray life into people. We are called to have the mind of Christ about this and praying life into the lives of people. Just come with me to 1 John 5 right now, v.14.” And this is the boldness we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he will hear us; and if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the request made of him.” Of course, you have to have the mind of Christ here. Verse 16: “If you see your brother or your sister…” If you see your brother or your sister here, “committing what is not a mortal sin, you will ask and God will give life to such a one.”
This is what we want. We want in our stance toward others who have offended us, who have debts against us, the way of freedom to ask the Lord to give them life. I can’t be responsible for whether they run with it, or not. I can’t be responsible for whether they respond, or not. All I can carry now at this point is my obedience. Sometimes, even in praying for life for others, I may have to pray for many, many decades. I don’t carry the chains. I don’t carry the chains in that.
Forgiveness is a huge, huge issue.
II. Do not bring us to the time of trial.
Then in the next part of the prayer Jesus says in Matthew 6:13 - it can be translated “trial” or “temptation.” This petition from the first half of that verse can really say, “And do not bring us to the time of trial.” What is this? It is a plea. We are saying, “Lord, don’t let this thing flood in on us. Don’t let it overwhelm us. Don’t let it be a massive thing that just takes my life out. Lord, help me. I’m trusting in your goodness. I’m trusting you to help me.”
Jesus doesn’t want his followers to wilt or to lose heart or to become faithless during difficult times. He does not want us to be taken out, particularly by the evil one.
A. Image of being sifted like wheat (Luke 22:31).
Sometimes at the end of a class when I’m teaching a class at the seminary, I will take some wheat that is grown right by my house in Texas, stalks of wheat. What is really funny is, occasionally I will have students comment afterwards and say, “Oh, I didn’t know that is where bread came from.” Anyway, it’s funny to show the kids that grew up in the big city, where their loaf of bread came from. I will take some stalks of the wheat and I’ll get a metal plate or a metal pan or something under me, and I’ll rub the stalks of wheat together, and what happens when you do that is that the chaff, or the lightweight husks around the grains of wheat, kind of becomes loose and you can just blow and the chaff just flies away. I will let the little grains of wheat drop down and ping in the metal pan. That is the grain, that is the good stuff. The chaff flies, the flimsy stuff flies away.
Do you have that image? Jesus told Simon Peter at the Last Supper, Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, listen, listen to me. Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat.” Get the image? In other words, Satan wants to take you and he just wants to tear you to pieces, that is what he is saying. “But I prayed for you” Jesus said, “that your own faith may not fail.” See, what is happening here is, Satan wanted to rub the disciples in his cruel hands and blow them away into faithlessness.
But Jesus instead wants us to remain secure and faithful in the Father’s protective hands, despite the winds of malice that are going to howl around us. So, this aspect of the prayer is necessary. I mean, it is a necessary admission that we are going to need help in the everyday issues of fidelity to God, as well as sometimes in the immense and overwhelming crises that come into the lives of those who follow Jesus. We are going to need help.
Once again, we often find ourselves praying the prayer, “Be pleased, O God, to deliver us, O Lord. Make haste to help us” from Psalm 70, when the winds howl and the storms rage.
B. What we are praying not to be led into
What is it that we are praying not to be led into? What is this issue, then, of “rescue from the evil one, from the demonic power”? For the answer, let’s consider Matthew 4:1 where Jesus himself, remember, was led out into the wilderness. The spirit led him out into the wilderness. Why? To be tested by Satan, to be tried. We have to be very clear in our thinking here. God is not the author of evil, according to James 1:13. What does James 1:13 say? He himself tempts no-one. Jesus was led into the wilderness to do battle with the evil one. Why? To prepare himself for the ministry that was ahead. Remember, the time is going to come when he is going to break the very back of the evil one. He is going to triumph over the evil one. That is going to happen. This is an initial skirmish here. This is an initial testing here. For 40 days, he is out in the wilderness; and for 40 days he overcame the evil one.
C. Jesus experienced temptation and is able to help you when you are tempted.
Hebrews 2:18 helps open our hearts to the strength of Jesus, especially when you have to go through times of testing. And you will have to go through times of testing. Don’t let any system tell you that just because you are tested, something is wrong with you. If Jesus was tested, why should I expect not to be tested?
Hebrews 2:18 says this: “Because He himself (Jesus) was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” This is good news. Maybe it led to one of the great outcomes of the battle that Jesus waged against sin and death in the atonement. What is it? The hold of Satan over the world is broken. That is the outcome. The hold of Satan over my life is broken. The hold of Satan over the events of my life is broken. It is flat broken.
D. Romans 5.
Fly with me if you can to Romans 5. We got an “Amen” on Romans 5. I have had to do a little memory trick in my mind about remembering Romans 5. Look at it. What do we boast in? We boast in sharing the glory of God. Verse 3: “Not only that, but we also boast in our suffering.” There are really not two ways of looking at it here. Either Paul was crazy, or he knew a reality that most of us just haven’t experienced yet in that, he knew that the power of God was going to be shown in and through the sufferings he had to go through. So, “We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” Remember now, when he is using hope, this is from confidence that God is the victor here. And hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
E. Holy Week.
The hold of Satan is gone. Listen to what happened during Holy Week. Listen to what happened in John’s Gospel. “Then a voice came from heaven. I have glorified it and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to Him.’” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world. Now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from earth, will draw all people to myself.”
What is our confidence? Deliver us from the evil one. Our confidence is, Lord, I am trusting that you are going to take me through this. In fact, I have absolute confidence that you are going to take me through this. I don’t have to be taken out by this. I thank you, Lord, that you are going to hold my life together. In Psalm16:1. You are going to hold my life together.
On the cross, when Jesus drew all of humanity unto himself in atoning sacrifice, he accomplished the effective defeat of the evil one and the powers of darkness. Then he demonstrated it when he descended into the lower parts of the earth to preach the Gospel and the dead were raised and the back of Satan was completely broken. We acknowledge that the evil one still thrashes around. We know that. He wields influence. He holds systems in his grip. But it is only temporary. The judgment that was rendered and established by Jesus as the risen Ruler in whom all authority and on earth has been given, literally seals Satan’s fate. It is a done deal. It is a done deal.
The cross, the Resurrection, the ascension, dealt a mortal blow to the ancient serpent; and when Messiah returns, his influence is gone. It is gone.
Listen, Church, in the meantime, when God’s people are being matured and prepared for the new heaven and the new earth to come, we will go through some times of testing. We will go through some suffering. You cannot look at Scripture and draw other conclusions. God’s people will have their faith tested. This is part of it. Because, why? A disciple is not above his or her master. That is just not going to happen. Matthew 10:24, even John 13:16: We are not above going through the things that our Lord Himself had to go through.
F. When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on earth?
The primary issue becomes this: According to Luke 18: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” That is what we are asking. What we are praying, therefore, is for the Lord to lend us his aid during any time of trial or suffering, to lend us his aid. Help me, Lord. Please, come alongside me for temptation. If we are quite honest with ourselves, we acknowledge that we will not make it through these times without the help of the Lord. We know this because trials, what do they do? They open up our divided hearts; they show us our fears; they show us where we have fallen. Really, they can be open doors for the grace of God to come into our lives.
I love how John Wesley prayed this part of the prayer. Here is what Wesley said: “Let no man say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted of God’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man; but every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust or desire. Drawn out of God, in whom he alone is safe, and enticed, caught like a fish with the bait.” There it is. Lord, I don’t want to be caught like a fish with the bait. That is the whole thing of the deadly sins and the passions that we have to continually guard against, passion being a negative thing from the early church standpoint. I know it can be used as a positive thing today. Passion is any kind of deadly sin where I say something nice and juicy and enticing and lo and behold, all it is going to do is drag me away from the presence of God and put me in chains.
With David in Psalm 16:1, we pray: “Protect me, O God” or hold me together, or preserve me, O God, “for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord, I have no good apart from you’”. Hold me together, Jesus, hold me together. We fully acknowledge, Heavenly Father, we need your assistance. Lord, help us. Lord, help us. Help us, we pray. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Transcribed by Shirley Taylor.