February 15, 2015
Intro – If you have flown lately, you are familiar with this phrase – baggage fees apply. Southwest may be the only airline that gives you a bag free. Well, as we come to this part of Jesus’ model prayer He’s going to teach us that baggage fees apply in life as well. We are urged to avoid them at all cost.
I. Needs Related to God – Jesus’ model prayer is simple – yet profound. It consists of 5 simple petitions. Petitions 1 & 2 relate to the Father. They teach Prayer is about aligning me with God’s will, not Him with mine.
II. Needs Related to Us
A. Give Us Each Day Our Daily Bread – We said this petition relates to physical necessities. We’re not praying for dessert. We’re on a mission, and need to frame our petitions to wartime conditions, not ease and comfort. Now -- 2 requests dealing with spiritual issues.
B. Forgive Us Our Sins
“But aren’t my sins already forgiven? Why ask forgiveness for something that’s already forgiven?” Good question. Some say a believer should never ask forgiveness. Shows we don’t believe we already have it. Thus one writer illustrates by saying suppose a person asks forgiveness for a loss of temper. Shortly he loses his temper again and confesses saying, “Oh, Lord, there I went and did it again,” only to hear a booming voice say, “Did what?” Is that right? Should we never ask forgiveness? This is a critical issue. Listen closely.
Every true child of God is forgiven from the penalty of sin – every sin – past, present and future. Rom 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We have been justified – declared righteous (aor tense – one time, permanent action). When? When we accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. We were once for all time declared righteous, judicially cleared of every sin – past, present and future. And the result is we have peace with God. Not we had, but we have. Present tense, ongoing action. Justified once – at peace with God judicially forever.
Rom 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” When is there no condemnation? Now – a continuous, forever NOW. Another judicial term. No death sentence. The death sentence we were born under is gone the moment we invite Christ in and become “in Christ.” John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has [pres tense – now and forever has] eternal life. He does not come [pres tense permanently excluded] into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” “Has passed” from death – perf tense. Past action with continuing results now. This is great news. Believers are forever exempt from judgment for sin. This is good as it gets! We’re a new person, with new status, new position, new life and new standing at God’s court of justice.
So, why “Forgive us our sins”? Because though we are new creations in Christ, we keep on sinning. The principle of sin (flesh) still indwells us while we are in this life. We still sin – not as frequently, not as egregiously, and not as freely as we once did, but it happens. Paul, says in Rom 7:18, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” A war between the Spirit and the flesh rages inside every believer. Sometimes, flesh wins.
Now, when Paul sins as a believer, is the sin forgiven judicially? Absolutely. He’s told us so in Rom 5:1 and 8:1. So no need to ask forgiveness, right? Not so. I John 1:7, “If we say we have no sin (as a believer), we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. . . . 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” So our sins are all forgiven, yet we are to confess them? Why? Because while our sins are covered judicially freeing us from the penalty of sin, sin damages the family relationship which is restored by confession. Do you see? For us, sin is no longer a judicial issue, but it’s an ongoing family issue. Sin causes us to hide from the Father, to live in defeat, to suffer physical and emotional trauma, to be subject to God’s discipline that’s relieved by asking forgiveness.
We had rules on our farm. One rule was, don’t play on the haystacks. Another was, don’t ride the calves. You could hurt them. But one day when my evil cousins were over, we had a great day, jumping on haystacks and playing rodeo with a couple of poor little calves. Dad found out. Was not amused. Now, did I cease to be my father’s son at that point? No. Bad as I had been I was still part of the family. Did Dad cease to love me at that point? Not at all. He still had my best interests at heart. And so, he was willing to absorb the pain of punishing me to turn my heart back to a place of obedience and a place where I would seek and receive his forgiveness – not judicially – but as a straying family member. And that’s why believers ask forgiveness. To restore the joy of the family relationship that never went away.
David’s a perfect example. Sinned horribly. Did he cease to be a child of God? No. But did he have any joy in the relationship? No, indeed. He said when he kept silent his “bones wasted away” and his “strength dried up” (Psa 32:3-4). His life was a nightmare until what? Until he confessed and repented his sin. Then and only then could the joy be restored. He was a believer who needed to ask forgiveness.
Jesus taught this to Peter in Jn 13. He had stripped down to the garments of a slave, got the bowl of water and began washing feet. But when He got to Peter, He got flack. There’s a surprise, right? V. 8, “Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” Do you see the point? They were judicially clean, but they needed restoration of the joy of fellowship.
Now, the next phrase is convicting – “for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” So God doesn’t forgive us unless we forgive others! Is that what Jesus means? Of course, it cannot mean that in the absolute sense. That would be contrary to the rest of Scripture. Forgiveness is always a matter of grace – freely given in response to faith. Frankly, if our forgiveness depended on our ability to forgive, we might as well throw in the towel now, right? Even at our best we push the “Revenge” button way too often and too hard.
So what does the phrase mean? It simply teaches what is taught throughout the Bible. True faith is not produced by works, but it results in works. In this case, a heart which genuinely seeks forgiveness will also readily extend it. Failure to extend forgiveness to others, even if not deserved, shows our own repentance to be a sham, a charade, a fraud, a self-deception.
That’s Jesus point in Matt 18:23 ff. A king wanted to settle accounts and found one who owed $10M. When the servant could not pay, the king was about to sell him and his family into slavery, but the servant begged for mercy. “And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt” (Mt 18:25). What grace! But that servant turned around to someone who owed him $100 and beat him for payment. When that debtor begged for mercy, “He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt” (18:30). The end result is in v. 32: “Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Jesus point is not that God first forgives and then withdraws the forgiveness. The point is that a heart which will not forgive others is not truly repentant in the first place. It falls into the category of Jas 2:14, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” James is not saying that faith results from works but that true faith results in works. Luther, the great champion of justification by faith alone, said, “We are saved by faith alone, but not by faith that remains alone.” That is Jesus point in this prayer. The genuineness of our own repentance is shown by our willingness to forgive others. His aim is to eliminate self-deception.
Paul says in Eph 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” We always think others worse than us. But truth is we will never forgive anyone a fraction of what God has forgiven us. Bitterness against others shows we’ve never truly repented ourselves. Spurgeon commented on this passage, “Unless you have forgiven others, you read your own death-warrant when you repeat the Lord’s Prayer.” Pretty strong language. So is Jesus’ statement. We must ask are we burying ourselves in hypocrisy every time we repeat the prayer?
Someone tells his wife, “My love, I have sinned against God and against you. I have been unfaithful. But I love you with all my heart and I beg your forgiveness.” Heavy, right? A few days later she responds: “I love you too. I forgive you. Let’s start fresh. But I, too, must confess something. I overspent our clothing budget last month on a dress that I just could not resist. Will you forgive me?” Could he refuse? Only if his heart was never right. We cannot ask for something in great measure that we will not give in small measure. And so, we cannot ask God’s forgiveness while withholding forgiveness from others. Wonder why your Christian life is going nowhere? You haven’t paid the baggage fees! You’re holding out on forgiving others!
The Puritan John Owen said: “Our forgiving of others will not procure forgiveness for ourselves; but our not forgiving others proves that we ourselves are not forgiven.” Don’t go through life with that baggage. Don’t read your own death-warrant every time you say this prayer. Travel light.
C. Lead Us Not Into Temptation
We’ve just prayed for forgiveness, right? Thank God it’s available. But now the prayer goes a level deeper. How can I avoid the need for forgiveness – or at least minimize it. By not sinning, right? So now I pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” No temptation, no sin. That’s the idea.
But the request is strangely framed. “Lead us not into temptation.” So, are we in danger of God leading us into some temptation that will take us down? Might He arrange our downfall unless we ask Him not to? Well, we know that’s not the case, right? Not only would it be inconsistent with His nature and desire for our holiness, but He promises in Jas 1:13, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” That’s a promise. You have God’s Word on it. So this cannot be a request that God not deep-six us in some way.
So, what does it mean – “Lead us not into temptation?” Here is what I believe. Remember when we studied the temptation of Christ in Luke 4 we found that the word “temptation” (πειροζω) has two meanings. It can mean to tempt, as Satan does, with the intent to bring someone down. Or it can mean to test with the intent that someone resist the temptation and thus grow in faith. God could never tempt in the first sense, but He constantly tests in the second sense. Thus Job 23:10: “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried (tested) me, I shall come out as gold.” There is testing, yes. Job was going thru it more than we ever will. But what was God’s intent? His failure? Of course not? God’s intent was his success. God’s intent was the removal of some dross, impurities, excess from his life to refine the pure gold of Godliness.
This was God’s intent in Gen 22:1, “After these things God tested Abraham.” He asked him to sacrifice his own son, which was not only a personal disaster, but this was the son of promise. His demise would mean the end of all God’s promises to Abe about seed and land and blessing. It was a huge test. Intended to bring Abe down? No – intended to refine his faith to the point that he would trust God with anything. Every temptation we every encounter is intended by Satan as a temptation to bring us down and by God as a test to grow, improve, strengthen us. What happens depends, of course, on our choice. Will we obey or rebel? These tests go on every day – some are merely daily pop quizzes – some are final exams that are huge tests of our faith.
So – with that background, what does it mean when we pray, “Lead us not into temptation?” First, the word translated “Lead” is εισφερω, “to carry or bear into.” It has 2 shades of meaning. It can mean “do not cause us to go into temptation” or it can mean “do not permit us to be brought into temptation.” In that sense, we would be recognizing that our faith journey is like a minefield. Danger is everywhere, and without God’s help, we would fail every test. Adam and Eve failed despite being in a perfect environment, with a perfect education and perfect fellowship. Yet they got focused on the one thing they were denied, and failed. When I look out at my environment, I see temptation around every corner. I am easily distract, constantly wanting what I don’t have instead of loving what I do have, so I pray, “Lord, keep me away from the buried mines. Don’t permit me to go where desire would take me On my own I’ll fail.” That’s what I’m praying: “And if I hit one, help me not succumb to a temptation that destroys me, but rather a test that grows me.” Do you see?
Jesus is asking us to pray His promises, essentially. Remember I Cor 10:31: “13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” That’s the idea. “Lead me not into temptation.” Don’t let me get in over my head!
Matt 6:13 helps us see this meaning with his added phrase: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil [literally, the Evil One].” It is a prayer that God will not permit the seductions of life to become temptations that take us down, but tests that build us up. It is a prayer for Him to rule our existence rather than Satan. I think it is also a prayer that the Lord would minimize life’s distractions so that we don’t get in over our head.
Middle-East scholar Kenneth Bailey has a wonderful illustration. He tells how taking a long camel trip thru the dessert there is equivalent to playing Russian roulette with your life. There are no permanent paths. Winds cause the landscape to change constantly, and your life is literally in the hands of your guide. So you must choose very carefully. He tells how he made a number of visits with friends to the Sahara in Egypt. They came to have great confidence in a guide they called “Uncle Zaki.” He was humble, but confident, dignified and utterly trustworthy. At trip’s beginning they would say, “Uncle Zaki, don’t get us lost!” It was not a statement of doubt, but of trust equivalent to saying, “We don’t know the way we are going in the trackless Sahara Desert. If you get us lost, we will all die. We have placed our total trust in your leadership.” That’s exactly what it means to ask God, “Do not permit us to go into temptation that will destroy us. Rather lead us safely through and deliver us from the Evil One.”
Conc – During WWII during an attack on Tokyo a B-29 lost two engines 1000 miles from home base. The commander said to the crew, "I have never believed in ditching a ship as long as it's flying. Let's try to make it home." The only way that might be remotely possible was by making the plane as light as possible. They began to throw over everything – ammunition, armor, equipment, food – anything to make it lighter. It was a tenuous few hours, but with the last of their fuel, they landed safely on Saipan. Beloved, if we are to make it safely home, we need to travel light. Baggage fees apply when we harbor grudges, bitterness and vengeance and temptation. Let’s get eyes on Christ and His forgiveness and help to avoid the fees. Let’s pray.