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07 November, 2014

Christ Declares Whom God Will Forgive-Matthew 6:14, 15

Matthew 6:14, 15. Christ declares whom God will forgive.

Jesus here gives some instructions concerning the frame of mind in which prayer must be made. In the Lord's prayer we are directed to say, "Forgive us our debts, or trespasses, as we forgive our debtors, or those who have sinned against us." This petition seems like asking God not to forgive us if we do not forgive others. Some people might have been induced to wish that some part of the sentence was omitted, and that they were instructed simply to ask God to forgive them, whether they forgave others or not. But it would be of no use to make such a prayer; for God is determined not to forgive us unless we forgive others.

It is therefore necessary that we should inquire whether we really forgive them; for our hearts are so deceitful that we are apt to imagine we forgive, when we still harbor a grudge against an offending brother. What then are the signs of having really forgiven an offender? When we have heartily forgiven him, we cease to indulge the thought of his offence, and we take no pleasure in speaking of it. When we have heartily forgiven him, we neither wish evil to befall him, nor feel glad if it do befall him; but, on the contrary, wish all manner of good to happen to him. 

When we have heartily forgiven him, we neither speak bitterly of him ourselves, nor do we feel gratified if we hear others speak harshly of him. This last, perhaps, is the best test of our state of feeling; for some who would not dare to speak harshly of an enemy themselves, would be glad to hear others do so. These should be our feelings even towards one who has not asked our forgiveness; but if our offending brother ask us to forgive him, we ought to restore him to friendship and endearment, and our heart ought to be towards him as before—and thus we ought to continue to act, in spite of repeated offences.

Is it an easy thing thus to forgive? No! it is impossible to nature, and can only be done through the Holy Spirit working in our hearts a sense of our own unworthiness, filling us with love to God for his mercy towards us, and then with love to our fellow-creatures.Though thousands offer this prayer of our Lord every day, it is only accepted from those whose hearts are renewed by grace. Before our prayers are accepted, we ourselves must be accepted. Cain's sacrifice was not accepted by God, because he himself was not accepted. Abel's sacrifice was accepted, because he himself was accepted. 

Would we, therefore, offer acceptable prayers, we must first give our own selves to the Lord; we must come in the name of Jesus, and on account of his sacrifice that he offered on the cross, God will accept us, renew our hearts by his grace, and answer our prayers. God will not be mocked. Man would gladly put God off with formal, heartless prayers; but He will not receive them. He spurns the offering, and says, "Who has required this at your hands—to tread my courts? When you spread forth your hands I will hide my eyes from you. Yes, when you make many prayers I will not hear." (Is. 50:12-15.)

But let no penitent sinner be discouraged by these declarations. We may come with our sins to Christ, if they are a grief and a burden to us, for it is He alone who can forgive them, and it is He alone who can subdue them. His Holy Spirit will make us hate our sins, help us to strive against them, and enable us to overcome them+