Forgive Us Our Sins, As We Forgive Those Who Sin Against Us, Part 2

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Forgive Us Our Sins, As We Forgive Those Who Sin Against Us, Part 2

[A]nd forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation.  

Luke 11:4

In yesterday’s reflection, I considered how praying regularly for divine forgiveness reminds us of several crucial truths, including: the reality of our sin; our inability to forgive ourselves; and the wideness of God’s mercy in Christ. Today, I want to reflect further on the implications of Jesus’ teaching in Luke 11:4.

“If we are already forgiven for our sins through faith in Christ, why do you ask God to forgive you?” Every so often, somebody will send me an email, asking this question. Usually, it comes as a response to one of my Daily Reflection prayers in which I ask God to forgive me for some specific sinful behavior. It’s a good question, deserving a careful, biblical answer.

That answer begins with Luke 11:4. Jesus teaches his disciples to ask God to forgive them. There is no hint given that this prayer was only to be used before Jesus’ saving work on the cross and through the resurrection. The example of the early church confirms the conclusion that Jesus meant for all of his disciples, including you and me, to pray regularly for forgiveness. So, we ask God to forgive us on a regular basis because that’s what Jesus taught.

This observation is supported by a passage from the first letter of John: “f we confess our sins to [God], he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9). John does not mean that we are forgiven only for the particular sins we specifically confess. Rather, his point is that when we confess our sins, not only do we acknowledge the fact of our sinfulness, but we also open ourselves to experiencing the forgiveness that is ours. Confession makes real in our lives the gift of forgiveness that we have in Christ.

There is also something powerful about an open admission of specific sin. If, for example, I have been indulging in gossip around the office, when I ask the Lord to forgive me for gossiping, I am identifying the wrongness of my behavior. I am saying to God, “This is sin!” Implicitly, I am also asking for God’s help to refrain from gossiping in the future and I am promising to turn from this behavior. Thus, specific confession both enables me to experience divine forgiveness for past sin and empowers me to choose not to sin in the future.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Can you think of other benefits that come from specific confession of sin? Are there sins in your life that you have a hard time admitting to God? Why? What might happen if you were to confess these openly? When in your life have you known God’s forgiveness in a deep and transformational way?

PRAYER: Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

Forgive me, Heavenly Father, for all the ways I sin against you. Forgive me for the sins I actively commit and for the times I sin by failing to act. In particular, today, I confess the following sins...

Gracious and merciful God, thank you for the promise that if I confess my sins, you will forgive and cleanse me. May I experience today the miracle of your forgiveness. May I know that I am made clean by your grace through Christ. And may I be empowered through your forgiveness to turn away from sin so that I might turn more fully to you.

I pray in the name of Jesus, whose death has brought me life. Amen.