Are you prepared for the new year? As 2019 is in the rearview mirror and we begin a new decade, we need to have all of the accounts paid, the books balanced, and the things of the past completed so that we can keep our focus on the new things ahead without being distracted by unfinished business of the past. Many dream of the day when the last mortgage payment has been paid, the credit card balance is zero, and our “income” no longer equals our “outgo.” Those goals may not yet be a reality for you, but there is one part of your life that can be “debt-free.”
The portion of scripture usually referred to as the Sermon on the Mount talks about being debt-free. Not a debt of dollars but of sin. We all have been in the place where our debt of sin far exceeds our ability to pay. We are spiritually bankrupt, but because of the redemptive work of Jesus, the debt of our sin was paid in full when Jesus hung on the cross.
We have been released from the judgment of our sin by the courts of heaven as Jesus “paid in full” everything we owed. But we have another obligation regarding the debt of sin. We are to forgive those who are in debt or who have sinned against us.
Matthew’s gospel uses the word “debts” while Luke’s account uses the word “sin” (Mt. 6:12; Lk. 11:4). The Greek word in Matthew’s account is translated debt, meaning, “that which is owed” or metaphorically, “offense or sin”, while Luke uses the most commonly translated word for offense or sin. I believe the usage of these two words is significant in that to forgive someone is an obligation; it is that which we owe or is due to someone else. They may be the offender, the source of our trouble or pain, yet forgiveness is what we owe them. It is not optional. Until we pay our debt of forgiveness to the one who has hurt, wounded, or offended us, we are under the judgment of the courts of heaven and cannot be cleared of our debt until we fulfill that obligation.
Those who have never experienced the forgiveness of God cannot understand how an offender has any right to receive forgiveness from the one they offended. It does not make sense to the natural mind. But, to those who have experienced God’s forgiveness, this truth demonstrates what they have experienced. God has forgiven man, who stands guilty before him but is forgiven anyway. This forgiveness is not based on man’s works to right his wrongs, but only on God’s mercy and personal sacrifice that carried our sins to the cross and forgave all who put him there. Christ’s persecutors were not only the Roman soldiers who drove the nails into his body, but every man, woman, and child who has ever sinned. No one is exempt from this guilt, but all are forgiven. It is what is owed to us because the price was paid in full. Therefore, we must forgive those who have sinned against us.
Many of us can be easily confused when it comes to numbers and calculations regarding accounting practices, but God’s way is easy to understand. Although it may feel uncomfortable to do, God has given us the grace or ability to pay our debt of forgiveness even to the worst offenders. The price paid for our forgiveness is beyond our ability to understand. We truly will never know the cost to place our sin upon the cross, but the blood of Jesus is our receipt of that debt paid in full. So if we refuse to forgive another then we are saying, “The cost was not enough, I require more.” So we choose to forgive every offense not only when we feel like it, but even when we don’t think we can. We forgive because we must and we do it by faith not because we “feel” love for the offender. Forgiving another is not justifying their bad behavior, but recognizing the power of the cross. “I forgive _______________” is one of the most powerful statements you will ever make.
Let’s begin this new decade with a clean slate, a zero balance and a focus on the wonderful new adventures ahead. Let not the shame or sin of the past get in the way of your future. God has a wonderful plan for you and it is totally debt-free!
Dr. Dan Coflin and his wife Dianne co-pastor River of Life Church at 410 E. Chapman Rd. in Lutz, FL. 33549, (813) 949-9931, www.roltampa.org. We would love to invite you to visit River of Life Church.
Our lively worship begins at 10:30am on Sunday. We are a non-denominational, spirit-filled ministry. Please honor us with your visit. We would love to have you!