************ Catechism Sermon on Lord's Day 51 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on January 13, 2019

Lord's Day 51
Isaiah 53:3-7
"The Fifth Petition - Praying for Forgiveness"

I God Forgives us our Debts
A "Forgive us our debts." This petition about debts is easily understood in our land. I say that because we are a nation of debtors. The national debt is approaching $22 trillion. California's debt is well over $151 billion. The average household is no better than our governments with the following debt:
Credit cards - $6,929
Mortgage - $184,417
Auto loans - $28,033
Student loans - $47,671
I repeat, we are a nation of debtors. Therefore, the language of the Lord's Prayer is easy for Americans to understand and appreciate.

B "Forgive us our debts." This is our petition on this Lord's Supper Sunday. We declare and we admit that each one of us is a debtor to God. We do not owe God silver or gold or money. Rather, what we owe God is our love. What we owe God is our heart, soul, mind, and strength. What we owe God is thanks. What we owe God is a perfect obedience in which we keep all of His commandments without ever sinning. What we owe God is satisfaction for every time we fail to give Him what we owe.

C "Forgive us our debts." People respond in various ways to this idea of debt with God. First, some live in denial. They refuse to admit they have any debt with God. They deny they owe God anything. Atheists are this way. If they can't admit the existence of God they certainly cannot admit they owe Him anything either. Self-righteous people -- like the Pharisees -- think they give God what is owed Him. And, those who deny original sin and total depravity don't think they do anything bad for which they must make restitution.

"Forgive us our debts." A second response to this idea of debt with God is fear. Like Adam & Eve in the Garden, those with this response try to hide from God. Or, they are like the unbelieving pictured in Revelation 6:
(Rev 6:16-17) They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! (17) For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?"

"Forgive us our debts." Third, some try to bargain their way out of debt. This is the religious response: go to church more, pray more, do more good deeds, put more money in the offering plate.

"Forgive us our debts." The fourth response, the Biblical response, is to pray for forgiveness. But realize, realize, this says something about you. This says:
-you are unable to pay
-you are unwilling to pay
-your debt is actually increasing every single day

D I've mentioned man's response to our debt with God; but what is God's response? God responds in two different ways. First, God can respond with what I call "debtors' prison."
From the late 1600s to the early 1800s, many cities and states operated "debtors’ prisons," brick-and-mortar facilities for jailing those borrowers who failed to pay their debt -- some of whom owed no more than 60 cents.
Imprisonment for unpaid debt was commonplace. Two signatories of the Declaration of Independence, James Wilson, an associate justice of the Supreme Court, and Robert Morris, a close friend of George Washington, spent time in jail because of unpaid debt.
God does have a debtors' prison. It is called hell. That's where people go, that's where people are thrown, when they do not give God what they owe God, when they do not pay their debt to God.

Second, God can respond with forgiveness. Forgiveness of debt. Which means the debt is written off the books. Which means that in God's ledger it is marked as "paid, paid in full." Which means the debt is no longer held against us. According to the sound doctrine of the Catechism this means
[God does] not hold against us,
poor sinners that we are,
any of the sins we do
or the evil that constantly clings to us.

We Christian believers know God can respond either with hell or with forgiveness. We know this. So we pray, we ask, "Forgive us our debts." What a bold prayer! What a daring petition! Imagine saying this to the bank that holds your mortgage or car loan or student loan or credit card debt. Yet, we come to God and we dare to say this. "Forgive my debt." "Cancel my debt." "Mark my debt as paid, paid in full." "Do not treat me as a debtor."

"Forgive us our debts." This is our prayer on this Lord's Supper Sunday. This is our bold prayer. And we believe, we actually believe, that God hears and answers this prayer. We believe God speaks to each one of us and says, "My son, my daughter, I have forgiven, I do forgive, and I will forgive."

II God Forgives Because of Christ's Blood
A "Forgive us our debts." Why can we pray this? How can we pray this? Why does God listen to this prayer? Why does God forgive? Here is the answer on this Lord's Supper Sunday: "because of Christ's blood."
Because of Christ's blood,
do not hold against us,
poor sinners that we are,
any of the sins we do
or the evil that constantly clings to us.
What this means is that Christ pays the debt for us.

We see this in our Bible reading from Isaiah 53 which teaches the substitutionary atonement of Christ. Notice the repeated use of the words "our" and "us":
(Isa 53:4-5) Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows ... (5) But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Christ took our place, says Isaiah. He was punished for us.

In our place, Christ loves God. In our place, Christ gives God His heart and soul and mind and strength. In our place, Christ offers perfect obedience to the Law. In our place, Christ is thankful. In our place, Christ makes satisfaction for our sins and our failures. God still gets what He is owed. But He gets it in Christ and from Christ and through Christ. The work of Christ as Mediator is applied to us. The obedience and righteousness of Christ is applied to us. The suffering and punishment of Christ is applied to us.

God says to you and me, "Pay Me what you owe Me." And Jesus paid in our place by living a perfect life. God says to you and me, "Make satisfaction for your sins." And Jesus paid in our place by going to the cross. Jesus paid and our debt is gone.
Even though my conscience accuses me
of having grievously sinned
against all God's commandments
and of never having kept any of them,
and even though I am still inclined
toward all evil,
without my deserving it at all,
out of sheer grace,
God grants and credits to me
the perfect satisfaction, righteousness,
and holiness of Christ,
as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner,
as if I had been as perfectly obedient
as Christ was obedient for me.
(Q & A 60)
Isn't this wonderful to hear and to know on this Lord's Supper Sunday?

III We Forgive Others
A "Forgive us our debts," says the fifth petition. But there is more to this petition, isn't there? "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."

Some wrongly understand this to be a conditional statement. That is, they think their forgiveness by God is dependent upon their forgiveness of others. But this denies salvation by grace. This makes salvation dependent upon us and our actions. This turns forgiveness into an act of works-righteousness.

B "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." This implies our neighbor is in debt to us. This implies our neighbor owes us something. What does our neighbor owe us? Our neighbor owes us love:
(Rom 13:8) Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
And, we owe our neighbor love.

However, in this broken and sin-filled world we end up hurting one another -- sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident. In this broken and sin-filled world we don't always show love to one another.

C What are we to do? The same thing God does: we are to forgive. We are to wipe the slate clean. Our neighbor doesn't show us love -- forgive him or her. Our neighbor says something mean and cruel -- forgive him or her. Our neighbor attacks us -- forgive him or her. Our neighbor spreads gossip -- forgive him or her.

When we forgive one another, do you know what this shows? This is evidence of God's forgiving grace in us.

On this Lord's Supper Sunday we celebrate forgiveness. On this Lord's Supper Sunday we pray, "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."
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