The Lord's Prayer, Part 3Debt Free
Leslie Basham: Here's Nancy Leigh DeMoss with amazing news.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Our debt was paid as the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, gave Himself at Calvary. Those who trust in Christ—not themselves, not their religious works, not their efforts, not their penance, not their confession but those who trust in Christ as their guilt-bearer, their substitute—are pronounced debt free. Debt free before a holy God. The debt is written off—it’s forgiven.
Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, November 12.
You can be totally free from debt, guilt, and condemnation. Nancy will explain continuing in a series called, The Lord’s Prayer, Part 3.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I had a conversation not too long ago with a friend who was sharing how often he struggles to receive God’s forgiveness. He’s a big guy, and while we were talking about this his eyes started welling up with tears. He said, “So often I confess the same thing over and over again. Then, I keep going back. I get to the point where I’m just ashamed to ask God to forgive me again.”
He had really been wrestling with this. He shared it with another friend—another man who said to him, “When your son comes and asks you for forgiveness, do you forgive him?” He’s a dad, and he said, “Of course. If my son wants to be forgiven, I will forgive him.”
Then the person who was talking to my friend said, “If you as a dad—an imperfect human dad—would forgive your son, how much more do you think that your heavenly Father is willing to forgive you?” It was an “ah-ha,” moment for my friend. Because he’s a dad, he understands something of a dad’s heart.
As we are talking about this issue of forgiveness and our sins being forgiven, it’s important that we remember that the context of the Lord’s Prayer starts out by saying “Our Father.” As we ask for forgiveness, as we say, “Forgive us our debts,” who are we asking? Our Father. We’re going to a father.
I think that so many of us have these moments where we feel, “How could I ever go back and ask God to forgive me again for that same sin or for that sin that was so huge? I just can’t imagine going to Him.”
Remember that our plea for forgiveness is in the context of a family relationship: a Father who loves His children; a Father who has made it possible for us through the death of Christ to be His children and to be in a family relationship; a Father who delights to extend mercy and forgiveness.
Now, we’ve been looking at this request: “Forgive us our debts.” We said that some people tend to minimize sin and think, “It’s not that bad,” or “I’m not that bad,” and basically think of ourselves as good people.
If we were comparing ourselves to God, we could never come to that conclusion. But we tend to compare ourselves to other people. By comparison with murderers, we’re pretty good. We have the tendency to minimize our sin—to think it’s not that serious.
Then the other tendency that some have is to minimize the grace of God; to say, “My sin is so great. I am such a sinner that God could not forgive me.” I just want to remind us today that the solution for both of those wrong perspectives is found at the cross. It’s when we look at the cross that we have a hard time taking sin lightly.
When we realize what my sin—not someone else’s sin, but what my sin—cost God, what it cost Christ, then we realize it’s no little deal. It is a big deal. It is a huge deal. It required the shedding of the blood of the Lamb of God—Christ, the sinless Lamb of God.
The cross shows us in the starkest possible terms what God thinks, not just about somebody else’s sin but about our sin. It reveals the incredible cost that He paid to redeem us from those weaknesses that we trivialize in our minds or those things we just gloss over or those things we don’t think we need to mention when we’re confessing our sins.
As we pray, “Forgive us our debts,” we’re acknowledging in the light of the cross that those debts are serious debts, that we are great offenders against God. The cross shows us that. But the cross also speaks to those who tend to minimize the grace of God. It shows in brilliant Technicolor the love and the mercy of God for even the chief of sinners.
When I was young, we used to sing a gospel song in church. If you’ve been around the church for a while, it will be familiar to you. But I remember those words; they’re so rich:
Years I spent in vanity and pride,
Caring not my Lord was crucified,
Knowing not it was for me He died at Calvary.
By God’s Word at last my sin I'd learned;
Then I trembled at the law I’d spurned,
'Til my guilty soul imploring turned to Calvary.
What did I find at Calvary? We used to sing that chorus.
Mercy there was great and grace was free.
Pardon there was multiplied to me.
There my burdened soul found [what?] liberty,
[And where?] at Calvary.
("At Calvary," William Newell, 1895)
Then there’s that great hymn "Hallelujah what a Savior." I remember that stanza,
Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah what a Savior!
(Philip P. Bliss, 1875)
It’s the cross that shows us magnified the grace, the love, and the mercy of God for sinners. The gospel—the good news is that Christ died to pay for my sin, no matter what the sin—big sins and “little sins.” I put little in quotes because as we’ve seen there is no such thing as a little sin.
Sins of omission, sins of commission; sins so “small” that we don’t feel like they need His forgiveness. We’re reminded that there is no sin that small. Then sins so “great” that we think, “How could He ever forgive that sin?”
Sometimes I hear women say, as a woman said to me after a conference just recently with emotion in her face and in her eyes and her voice. She said, “I just can’t forgive myself.” When people say that, I think what they’re really meaning to say is, “I’ve committed such a great sin.”
I think I’ve heard just all of it:
“I abandoned my children.”
“I abused my children.”
“I destroyed my marriage,” a woman said to me recently. I don’t hear that very often, but a woman whose husband had just left her. I said, “What’s the root issue in your marriage?” She said, “I am a controller, and I destroyed my marriage.” Great sin. She was feeling the weight of that sin.
“I was unfaithful to my husband.”
“I killed my pre-born baby.”
Some of these things can just eat people alive for years and years. They go on with their business. They go on with their work. They go on with life, but the weight, the burden of the guilt is so great. When they say, “I can’t forgive myself,” I think what they’re really saying is, “I’ve committed a sin that seems so great in my eyes that I can’t really believe that God could forgive me. I can’t believe that I could be forgiven. I don’t feel forgiven. I’m still carrying that load, that weight of guilt and shame for what I’ve done.”
Speaking of people carrying a load of great sin, think about the apostle Paul who considered himself the greatest sinner of all time. We think of Paul in his redeemed state, and we say, “Oh, how could he think that?” But when you think about how he tried and nearly succeeded to wipe out the entire church of Jesus Christ, you can imagine why he went to his death thinking, “I am the chief of sinners.”
Humanly speaking, Paul had the authority and the means to destroy the Church of Jesus Christ. He said, “I am a great, great sinner.” He’s a man who went to the cross and found the abounding mercy and love and pardon of Jesus Christ there.
There’s a man who has listened to Revive Our Hearts for a number of years who is serving multiple life sentences without possibility of parole in one of the highest security prisons in the country. He’s guilty of committing one of the most heinous crimes in the history of the United States. Here’s a man who will never see light of day. I don’t know the condition of his heart, but I know he’s been listening to Revive Our Hearts, and I know God has been speaking to that man’s heart.
I think of the apostle Paul. I think of that man. Can these be forgiven? Completely? Totally? Can you be forgiven for that thing in your past—in your present that seems so heavy? It weighs so heavy on you.
Let me tell you a story about a man who lived in the era of John Newton—John Newton was the former slave trader who was converted and then wrote “Amazing Grace.” One of his friends was a man named William Cowper. Not too long ago, I had a chance to visit England at the place where Cowper lived and the church where Newton preached.
Cowper was a gifted and prolific British writer and poet. He was a close friend of John Newton. Throughout his lifetime, Cowper struggled with recurring bouts of severe depression and mental and emotional instability.
At one point in a fit of anxiety and near madness, he attempted to take his own life. First he intended to throw himself in a river. Then he decided he would take a lethal dose of opium, and then tried to fall on a knife. He couldn’t succeed at any of these. Finally he decided to hang himself, but the garter with which he hung himself broke and he fell unconscious to the floor before finally being rescued.
I came across an article that was published some years after Cowper’s death that described the excruciating remorse and anguish that Cowper experienced after his suicide attempt. It said, “He felt for himself a contempt not to be expressed or imagined. He felt as if he had offended God so deeply that his guilt could never be forgiven. His whole heart was filled with tumultuous pangs of despair.” 1
There are perhaps some in this room who can relate to those deep, intense feelings of conviction. "How could I have done this, and how could I ever be forgiven?"
It wasn’t until after he recovered physically from the ordeal that Cowper came to realize that no sin can create a stain too great for God to erase. Out of that torturous experience he was moved to write those words that have pointed millions of guilt-ridden sinners to the cross ever since, the cross that is the only source of true relief and release no matter what our sin.
Do you know the hymn I’m talking about?
There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins,
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.
How many? All. They are sinners, but they’re plunged beneath the flood, the flow of Christ’s blood, and they lose all their guilty stains. He went on to say,
The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain [the blood of Christ being shed] in his day,
[That dying thief who was convicted criminal.
And there may I—where? At the cross.]
And there may I though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away.
("There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood," 1772)
- Where did the apostle Paul find forgiveness, release, relief from his guilt for trying to exterminate the Church of Jesus Christ? At the cross of Christ.
- Where can that man sitting in prison serving those multiple life sentences, where can he find relief, freedom, forgiveness for his sins? At the cross of Jesus Christ.
- Where did Cowper find relief, release, pardon, forgiveness for his sins? At the cross of Jesus Christ.
- Where can you find relief, pardon, release from your sins? Whatever is on your list, where can you find pardon? At the cross of Jesus Christ.
"Fully forgiven." Cowper said, “They lose all their guilty stains.” I can wash all my sins away.
Fully forgiven. Is that your experience? Let me just remind us that God could not just write off our debt and be just. The debt had to be paid. He could have held out eternally for payment, and He would have been just in doing so. Instead, God devised a plan so the debt could be paid, and we could be reconciled to Him. How did He do it? He sent to earth His holy Son who had no debt of His own, to assume our debt.
Our debt—all that we owed, was transferred to Him. As those Old Testament worshipers we talked about in an earlier session—as they placed their hands on the heads of that sacrificial lambs and transferred their guilt to those innocent substitutes, so our debt was paid as the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, gave His life at Calvary.
Those who trust in Christ—
- not themselves
- not their religious works
- not their efforts
- not their penance
- not their confession
but those who trust in Christ as their guilt bearer, their substitute—are pronounced debt free. Debt free before a holy God. The debt is written off; it’s forgiven.
I want to just remind us, and I know I’m belaboring this in this series because I think it’s something that we don’t hear often enough. We just gloss over it. We forget how crucial the cross and the blood of Christ are to our having a right relationship with God. I want to remind us that Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary is sufficient to forgive every sin that has ever been committed—even yours.
Forgiveness is not something you can give yourself. In fact, nowhere in the Bible do you find that concept of forgiving ourselves. God is the only one who can forgive sins. Forgiveness is something He has purchased for you and He offers it to you as a gift. So receive it. Receive it by faith.
Some of us would rather work and strive and struggle and do something to earn our forgiveness than by faith to accept that we don’t deserve it. But God offers it and we say, “Yes, I will take it. I will receive it. I will receive God’s forgiveness.”
If God says, “I have cleared your debt. I have forgiven your sins. The payment has been paid. The debt has been paid. It’s been written off. You can go free.” Who are we to say, “I don’t know if I can be forgiven? I can’t forgive myself." I’m saying, “God can forgive me, but I can’t?”
I mean, really—if you think about it, we put ourselves in the place of God when we say that. God has said, “I can. I will forgive. I want to forgive. I’m abundant in mercy. I want to pardon. Will you receive it by faith?”
Do you know why it’s hard? Because there’s nothing we can do. There’s no way we can earn it. There’s nothing we can do to strive for it. It takes faith to say, “I will accept what Christ has done as sufficient payment for my sin.” Every time we sin as children of God, we’ve got to get back to the cross, back to Christ.
As a four-year-old child, I first trusted Christ as my Savior and I didn’t know enough theology to fill a thimble-full probably at that point. But I just knew the simplest understanding of the gospel, and it was enough to save me. I knew I couldn’t save myself. I knew Jesus could. I knew He had died for my sin. I just simply, as a child, placed my faith in Jesus Christ, May 14, 1963.
But I tell you a lot of the struggle for me has been since—that when I sin, I want to somehow prove myself to God; somehow do something to earn His favor again. If you want to be forgiven you can only find it at the cross. We look back to the cross and we say, “Thank You that the penalty has been paid. Christ died in my place.”
“Plenteous grace with thee is found, grace to pardon all my sin,” Charles Wesley said (J"esus, Lover of my Soul," 1740). How much is plenteous grace? Do you think it’s enough? It sounds to me like it’s more than enough! “Plenteous grace with thee is found, grace to pardon all my sin.”
But I want to say that in order to appropriate that grace of God, we’ve got to be honest with God. We’ve got to be willing to come and acknowledge that we are sinners in need of forgiveness. That brings us back to the Lord’s Prayer. “Forgive us our debts.” (Matt. 6:12)We’re saying, “I am a sinner in need of forgiveness.” God will forgive all my sin, but I’ve got to acknowledge that it is sin.
It’s not, “God, just please help me to do better. Please help me to not to have so many weaknesses. Help me to be a better Christian.” Have you sinned? Then confess it as sin.
“Lord, I am a guilty sinner. Here is what I have done. Here is why I deserve to die for my sin. Here is why I deserve to be shut off and cut off from Your presence. I acknowledge I am sinful. I acknowledge I am a guilty sinner.”
Come into the light! Don’t stay in the darkness. Don’t try to cover it or excuse it or blame it or rationalize it or “it’s not so big.” Step out into the light; acknowledge it for what it is. Be willing to confess and forsake that sin.
Then we have that wonderful promise from Proverbs 28:13. “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”
Mercy. Mercy means you don’t deserve it. How do you get mercy? You confess your sin. What does it mean to confess? To agree with God. “I have sinned. Here’s what I did.” Confess it. Say it. Bring it into the light. God knows it, but you need to confess it to Him honestly, humbly.
Confess it. “Lord, I did this. I lied. I stole. I was jealous. I was selfish. I was proud. I mouthed-off. I violated my conscience. I didn’t have self-control. Yes, I spoke harshly to that person, or I treated my child this way, or I didn’t respect my husband the way I said that.” Be honest. Call it sin. Confess it, and then forsake it.
How do you forsake it? By the grace of God. “He who confesses and forsakes his sins will obtain mercy.”
Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back to pray. She’s been talking about the most important issue in life. All of us need to stop and remember the great news of the gospel, whether we’ve heard it a hundred times or for the first time.
If you want to grow in your understanding of sin, repentance, forgiveness, and freedom, I hope you’ll get a copy of this teaching on CD. The series is called The Lord’s Prayer, and we presented it in three installments on the air.
You can order our current installment, part three, or the entire series on CD or MP3 CD. This series would make a great topic for your personal Bible study time. Listen to the CDs, study along with Nancy, and then pray based on what you heard. To order The Lord’s Prayer visit ReviveOurHearts.com. You can also call 1-800-569-5959.
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What if God were to forgive you the same way you forgive everyone else? Does that thought make you nervous? Discover the power of forgiveness tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts. Now let’s join Nancy to wrap up the program.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Would you pray with me?
Mercy, there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary.
("At Calvary," William Newell, 1895)
Father, how we thank You, for Calvary. How we thank You, for the cross. How we thank You, for Jesus. How we thank You for the blood that was shed for our sins, for pardon, for peace, for reconciliation, for atonement, for redemption, for forgiveness full and free.
Oh Father, I pray that the message of the cross, the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ would grip our hearts, would ravish our hearts, that we’d be stunned, we’d be astonished, we’d be overjoyed, we’d be overcome with the wonder of what Christ has done for us. That the guilty sinners, as we all are, would find relief and release and freedom and pardon at the cross of Christ this day. Oh God, our Father, forgive us our debts in Jesus’ name, amen.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.
1North American Review , January, 1834, cited in http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/t/f/tfountfb.htm
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