The Lord's Prayer, Part 3Freedom from Condemnation
Leslie Basham: Sin and condemnation will make you feel so far from the God you love. Nancy Leigh DeMoss explains there is a way back.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You know what? There same way you come to Christ for salvation, realizing it’s His blood, His sacrifice, His payment that enables you to get forgiveness of sin, that’s how you go back to Him.
That’s how you can pray the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our debts.”
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, November 9.
This week, we’ve been analyzing the phrase, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Nancy’s in a series called, The Lord’s Prayer, Part 3.
Nancy: I don’t know that there’s any subject anywhere that is more important than the subject of forgiveness, as it relates to our eternal destiny. I want us to look at two passages today, one in the Old Testament and one in the New that give us understanding and insight into the thinking of God, the heart of God as it relates to forgiveness.
Let me ask you first to turn in your Bible to the book of Leviticus, chapter 4. Leviticus: that’s the part of your Bible maybe where the pages still stick together! You may not have read it recently. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus.
In Leviticus 4, we find the first use of the primary root word for forgiveness in the Old Testament. The first time this word appears is found in Leviticus chapter 4. That word that’s translated forgive or forgiveness has to do with pardon, with being washed.
It has to do with having our sins washed away. Now in Leviticus chapters four through seven, there’s a whole series of laws that are given related to sin offerings and guilt offerings. These laws were given to God’s people, the Israelites.
There are different categories and different situations and details, so in part of this longer section here, it speaks to priests who have sinned, and then another section speaks to leaders who have sinned.
Then it speaks to the entire congregation when there is corporate sin. Let me ask you to turn to verse 27 of Leviticus four, and we’re going to look at just a few verses where it’s talking about common people who sin.
That would be people like us, and actually, all these sections are very similar, but we’re picking up the one beginning in verse 27. If you’re in the habit of marking in your Bible, as I do in mine, there’s some words you may want to underline or circle that kind of give you the thrust—the movement—of this passage.
So let’s begin at verse 27 of Leviticus chapter 4. “If any one of the common people sins,” now you may want to mark that word sins because we’re looking at the issue of how we deal with sin.
“If any one of the common people sins, unintentionally in doing any one of the things that by the Lord’s commandment ought not to be done . . .” Now when it’s talking about unintentional here, that probably means it’s not a sin that you committed presumptuously, as in, you said willfully, "I will commit this sin.”
We all know those sins need to be dealt with. But he’s talking here about how in the course of everyday life you violate one of God’s commandments. How many hours in our lives go by without that happening? It happens regularly. It happens frequently.
So he says, “When you sin, you’ve done something that by the Lord’s commandments should not be done.” That gives us at least a partial definition of sin. It’s sin compared to the standard of God’s law—we have violated God’s law.
Then it says, “He realizes his guilt.” You might want to highlight that word guilt. He sins; he’s violated God’s commandment; He realizes his guilt. Now go down to verse 32. Here’s the prescription for these Old Testament believers. Here’s what you need to do.
You’ve sinned; you know you’re guilty. Verse 32: “If he brings a lamb as his offering for a sin offering . . .” Now, I would highlight there two words: lamb and offering. “If he brings a lamb as his offering for a sin offering, he shall bring a female without blemish and lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and kill it.”
Highlight that phrase kill it. You bring the lamb as an offering, and you kill it. You put it to death. You kill this lamb for a sin offering in the place where they give the burnt offering.
Then verse 34, “The priest,” highlight that word priest. There’s someone involved here. You can’t just do this yourself, and we’re going to see as we get to the New Testament that Christ is the one who fulfills these Old Testament pictures.
He is the lamb. He is the priest, and it is His blood that is shed. “And then the priest shall take some of the blood.” Highlight that word. “Shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the alter of burnt offering and pour out all the rest of its blood at the base of the alter.”
Then into verse 35, “And the priest shall make atonement for him.” Highlight that word. “Atonement for the sin which he has committed, and he shall be,” what’s that next word, “forgiven.” Be sure you highlight that word.
Don’t you love that word? So the context here is that someone has sinned. We all sin. They’re guilty, and so what do they need to do in order to deal with their guilt? There has to be a sacrifice.
In the Old Testament, forgiveness is always linked with sacrifice. The Old Testament sacrificial system was instituted to deal with sins, and God’s way of reconciling guilty sinners to Himself and ultimately to others is by means of sacrifice.
The only way that guilty sinners could be pardoned and reconciled to God was by means of a sacrifice. So when the people sinned against the law of God, they trespassed the law of God.
In order to be forgiven, God required that a blameless animal be offered up as a substitute in the guilty sinner’s place. It’s the sinner who deserved to die, but God said, “I will accept a substitute.”
So the sinner, as we’ve just read in Leviticus four, would put his hand on the head of the innocent animal, and as he did, he was identifying himself with the animal.
The animal was killed in the sinner’s place, and the animal’s blood, in place of the sinner’s blood, was sprinkled on the altar. At that point, the sinner would be pardoned and forgiven, released from his guilt.
But it required the shedding of blood. As we learn in Hebrews chapter 9, "without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins" (v. 22). God takes sin very seriously, because God is holy.
If we want to have a clear conscience, we can’t just white-wash our sin. We need to be washed white. We need to have that sin dealt with, and it requires the shedding of blood. Now, let me ask you to turn in the New Testament to a parallel passage in the book of Hebrews, Hebrews chapter 10.
The book of Hebrews really parallels the Old Testament book of Leviticus. So if you want to get light on the book of Leviticus, if you want help understanding the book of Leviticus, read it in the light of the book of Hebrews.
Hebrews tells us about the fulfillment of these Old Testament types that we read about in books like Leviticus. We see in Hebrews 10 that these Old Testament animal sacrifices did not have any intrinsic power to cleanse the guilty conscience of the sinner or to obtain his pardon from God or to help him be reconciled to God.
Look at verse 1 of Hebrews chapter 10. “For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true realities, it can never by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year make perfect those who draw near.”
Those who want to come near to God cannot be made perfect by the blood of these animal sacrifices.
He says in verse 2, “Otherwise, would those sacrifices not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed would no longer have any consciousness of sin.”
If those Old Testament animal sacrifices were sufficient to cleanse our guilty conscience, then they would just need to be offered once. People would be cleansed and we wouldn’t need to have these continual animal sacrifices.
Can you imagine, by the way, being a priest in the Old Testament? It was a bloody job. Day after day after day, you’re killing these animals, taking the blood, sprinkling it on the alter. In one case, in the case of Moses, we read in Exodus, actually sprinkling it on the people.
I mean, sacrifice after sacrifice, animal after animal, day after day, guilty sinner after guilty sinner, again and again and again.
And he says they didn’t even have the power to forgive sins. They were just a picture of something that was to come—Someone who was to come.
So he says, verse 3, “In these sacrifices, there is a reminder of sin every year.” Every year on the Day of Atonement, the priest would kill that animal and would have a special ceremony, would purchase atonement for the people.
But he said they had to do it every year and again the next year, and again the next year. Each time it was a reminder that you’ve sinned, and ultimately the people did not have their consciences cleared.
“For,” verse 4, “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” The blood of the bulls and the goats, those sin offerings, those sacrifices, were a type, a picture of a complete and perfect sin offering which would one day be made.
Those sacrifices anticipated the ultimate sacrifice of God’s own Son, the sinless Lamb of God. He was the One whose death would permanently, completely, wholly atone for sin.
“So,” verse 5, “consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired.’”
Now, can you imagine these New Testament readers reading this passage after they had lived for hundreds of years in that Old Testament system, the old covenant where God said chapter after chapter after chapter, “You need to make sacrifices, you need to kill animals, you need to shed their blood.”
And now Christ comes into the world and says, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired.” That’s not what God was looking for.
They were temporary. They were incomplete. They were just to point us to something in the future. Jesus said, “It’s not sacrifices and offerings God wanted.” What is it? It’s a sacrificial Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world.
Christ said, “A body You have prepared for Me. What You want, God, is Me. You want Me to lay down My life for the sin of the world.”
Then he said in verse 7, and aren’t you thankful Christ said, “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God.”
He willingly, in obedience to the Father, said, “I will be the Lamb. I will be the sacrifice. I will let My blood be shed so that the human race can experience forgiveness and sinners can be reconciled to God.”
And then look at verse 10, “And by that will,” the will of God, “whereby it pleased God to put His own Son to death . . .” It pleased God to crush Him, Isaiah tells us. “By that will, we have been sanctified.”
We have been cleansed. We’ve been made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
So where does cleansing come from? Where does forgiveness come from? How can a holy God forgive filthy, unholy sinners? By the offering of the body of Jesus Christ. The sacrifice, the perfect sacrifice, the complete sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice.
Verse 11, “And every priest stands daily at His service offering repeatedly the same sacrifices which can never take away sins, but when Christ . . .” Now earlier in the passage, Christ was the Lamb. Now He’s the Priest.
“When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God.” Why did He sit down? Because it was finished. He didn’t need to keep standing up at that altar and keep offering sins day after day, year after year.
When Christ, our heavenly Priest had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God. You see, the Old Testament sinners could never be pardoned apart from the shedding of blood that anticipated the Cross, anticipated Christ.
Now, we under the new covenant, look back to the Cross apart from which we cannot be pardoned. Christ died as our substitute. He died in our place.
And let me say, for some of you, this is old stuff. I also realize there are a lot of people who listen to Revive Our Hearts who have never understood this. They may have been in church all their lives; they may have been going through certain religious exercises or programs or classes or actions or activities all their life, but they’ve never realized that the only way to have pardon for sin is through the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.
For some of those listeners, they’re going to hear today and maybe God will help them understand for the first time today this is the gospel. This is good news. This is how we can pray, “Forgive us our debts.”
If there had not been a cross, if Christ had not laid down His life and not shed His blood for us at Calvary, we couldn’t pray, “Forgive us our debts,” and expect to have that prayer answered.
Continuing in Hebrews 10, verse 15, “The Holy Spirit also bears witness to us,” and what does He say? Look at verse 17, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
Amen! He says, “I’ll put it behind Me. I won’t hold it against you again. I will clear your record. Yes, you were guilty. Yes, you have sinned. Yes, you deserve to die, but you put your hand on that sacrificial Lamb. You identify yourself. You realize that Lamb is your substitute, that Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus, died in your place, and you realize His blood was shed so yours wouldn’t have to be shed. Your sins have been put on Him. His righteousness has been put on you.”
And God says, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” No more. Record cleared. And so this request for forgiveness, “Forgive us our debts,” it implies there’s a debt that cannot be paid by the guilty one.
We could never pay what we owe Him. We can’t work it off. There’s nothing we can do to eliminate or to erase our obligation to Him, no matter hard we try.
We realize He has done something. It’s not what we can do to be debt free, it’s what He has done so that we can be debt free. At the cross, He paid our debt in full.
He forgave our debt. There’s an old hymn that was written by Charles Wesley in the 1700s. The language is kind of quaint, so you don’t hear it a lot today, but I love the way he expresses how we can be freed from our guilt, our conscience can be cleared because of the sacrifice Christ has made by the shedding of His blood.
Let me read several stanzas from Wesley’s hymn, which I think summarizes so beautifully what we’ve just been talking about.
Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne [the throne of God] my surety stands.
Now, I looked up that word surety last night, because I wanted to make sure I understand it. Surety is a person who is legally responsible for the debt of another. He assumes another’s debt, assumes that legal obligation. That’s what Christ has done for us.
Before the throne my surety [Christ] stands,
My name is written on His hands.
He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
His all redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead:
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.
Five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
"Forgive him, O forgive," those wounds cry,
"Nor let that ransomed sinner die!"
The Father hears Him pray, His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away, the presence of His Son;
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.
My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear:
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And "Father, Abba, Father," cry.
Do you have that assurance in your heart? Do you approach God with that confidence that your sins are forgiven? It’s possible that you have never, ever placed your faith in Jesus Christ as the acceptable, permanent, complete sacrifice payment for your sin.
If you haven’t, God has let you hear this message today so you can place your faith in Jesus Christ. I want to encourage you right here in this room or perhaps listening through the Internet or in your car or in your home or in your workplace, wherever you may be hearing the sound of my voice, say, “O God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Thank You for sending Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for my sin. You’ve opened my eyes to see what He has done, and right now, by faith, I receive that payment for my sin. Make me Your child. Come into my life.”
And as you pray that prayer and express that heart to God, He’s promised He will forgive. He will cleanse, not because you’ve done anything to deserve it, but because He has paid the price. His grace, His cross, His blood is sufficient to pay for your sins, no matter what they are, no matter what you’ve done.
Through His blood you can be reconciled to God. I know that most listening as we’ve been talking about this today do have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. You have come to Him by faith, and He has forgiven your sins.
But perhaps there are some sins that have marred your fellowship with God. You’ve been struggling, striving, trying so hard to get back into His good graces, to get back into His favor, to be so you can look in His eyes again.
Your conscience has been guilty, and you think, “Oh, how did I do that? I know what I did. I can’t believe I did it. I feel so guilty.” You know what, the same way you come to Christ for salvation, realizing it’s His blood, His sacrifice, His payment that enables you to get forgiveness of sin, that’s how you go back to Him.
That’s how you can pray the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our debts.” It’s not because you’ve done something to try and earn your way back into God’s favor. It’s not because you’ve done penance or because you’ve gone to confession or you’ve demonstrated that you’re going to turn over a new leaf.
It’s because you’ve gone back to the cross and said, “O God, I don’t deserve Your forgiveness, but You have offered it to me through Christ, and through Christ, I receive that my sins have been paid for, my sins have been atoned, and I can be right with you by faith in Jesus Christ.”
Leslie: If you’ve never asked God to forgive your sins, I know the words of Nancy Leigh DeMoss have provided a lot of hope.
If you want to know what it means to be right with God, we’d like to send you some material that shows what it means to be completely forgiven in Christ. There’s no charge. Call us at 1-800-569-5959.
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Maybe you know you’ve been forgiven, but do you ever struggle to feel forgiven? Nancy will continue this important topic Monday. I hope you’ll join us then.
Now, let’s pray. Here’s Nancy.
Nancy: Father, how I pray that You would make these truths real in our hearts, and I feel like my words are so feeble, so fumbling when it comes to trying to explain the riches of Your grace. But I pray that Your Spirit would translate these words to our hearts and would show sinners Christ, that we might not look so much on our sins as lift our eyes up and see Christ crucified, buried, and raised so that we could be pardoned.
Thank You, Lord, and may today be a day of salvation and cleansing and release as we approach Your throne through the name of Jesus, amen.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.