December 17 - LD 51, Day 1: Necessary to Pray for Forgiveness
by Rev. Martyn McGeown
I John 1:9 - “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
The fifth petition concerns forgiveness of sins. It is sometimes disputed. If Christians are already forgiven, so the argument goes, why do we need to pray for the forgiveness of our sins? Such objectors contend that we need only to ask God for forgiveness once—at the point of our conversion—and we never need to pray for forgiveness again.
But this is a mistake. The saints of God have always felt the need to utter this petition, and we understand our need also. This is not because we fear that God will not forgive or because we doubt that God has forgiven us. Rather, we pray because we are confident of God’s forgiveness—God is our Father, and, as we shall see, we have good grounds for our prayer—and because we desire to have the joyous experience of forgiveness in our hearts and lives.
It is not enough that we be forgiven. When we utter this petition, we desire to know that we are forgiven. We desire, as the publican, to go down to our houses justified (Luke 18:14). We desire to be conscious of our justification.
Besides that, while it is true that all of our sins are forgiven finally and completely, we keep falling into sin; we keep incurring guilt; and we daily increase our debt. Jesus likens our situation to a man freshly washed who, while walking in this world, gets his feet dirty. He requires a regular foot bath (John 13:10). The life of the Christian is one of daily turning from sin in repentance and daily turning to God in Christ in faith. Thus the Christian is one who is a sinner, yet forgiven; forgiven, yet sinning.
So far is it the case that a daily forgiveness of sins is necessary, that a daily forgiveness of sins is more necessary and more urgent than daily bread. That the petition for daily bread precedes the petition for the remission of debts does not mean that forgiveness is less important. Better to be a starving beggar than to be deprived of the forgiveness of sins! Remember poor Lazarus: he longed for the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table, but he had something which the rich man, who fared sumptuously every day, did not have. Lazarus had the forgiveness of sins (Luke 16: 19-26).
In the way of uttering this petition, “Forgive us our debts,” we receive that blessing also. What a necessary petition this is! Without the forgiveness of sins, the holy God is a terror to us. Without the forgiveness of sins, we are barred from the kingdom of God. Without the forgiveness of sins, we cannot even begin to fulfill God’s will. Without the forgiveness of sins, our daily bread is a curse to us.
How miserable to be without the forgiveness of sins! How blessed to know that God forgives our sins, even ours!
- Date: December 17
Rev. Martyn McGeown
Pastorates: Missionary-pastor in Limerick, Ireland for the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Northern Ireland - 2010.Website: www.limerickreformed.com/
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