GROWTH AND SUCCESS IN LIFE – Lessons Learned at the Feet of Jesus – Sermon on Mount (Part 25)

The High and True Standard of God and His Kingdom is now developed by Jesus.  Rather than listening to the phony teachers of the Law, the guardians of the Law who twisted Truth for their selfish interests, Jesus now lays out what standards are in harmony with a correct understanding of the Old Testament.  The greatest sequel to this instruction is that Jesus in all he was and was to do came not to set aside or annual the Law but to fulfill it. In this following section of six antitheses, Jesus places his own authority over the misinterpretations of the religious norm of His Day…’It is said, but I say…’ (Matthew 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38 and 43).  Separating the counterfeit from the Real – today for the disciple who is instructed as to the necessity of forgiveness. 
The gauntlet is down, and the standard is set now threefold:  First, righteousness must be greater than the religious leaders (5:20); Second, a life of perfection which is like God the Father (5:48), and now, third, righteous acts not to be seen by men (6:1).
Jesus now instructs His followers in how we should pray.  Not as babbling empty words to impress others but privately and behind closed doors.  Now to the substance of HOW to PRAY.  Matthew 6:9a.   Today, the subject of forgiveness becomes central to our prayer life.  If we don’t forgive, our prayers are ineffective!  Not less effective, of no effect!
Matthew 6:9-15 9“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11Give us today our daily bread. 12And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ 14For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
1.  Forgiveness – One to Another.  Remembering this is instruction to the disciples, to those following Jesus, the challenge goes out.  As we are forgiven, so we are to forgive others.  Forgiveness is a subject that is quite private, and many wrongly believe, a grudge or grievance that can be held close, cultivated, and for which we remain angry and offended, if we [think we] never act on it or verbalize it.  But these are internal and spiritual standards of the spiritual pilgrim.  What is in the heart is the measure of the person.  Murder, adultery, divorce, loving our enemies (Matt 5) all emanate from the heart, from our core being, and are reflections and disclosures of our relationship with God.  So too is forgiveness.  We are instructed without exception to forgive others as we have been forgiven.  NOTE: Forgiveness does not mean forgetting.  At times there is harm we suffer from others that cannot be physically forgotten.  The point here is that we are committed to forgiving, to not harboring anger and grudges toward others, because God has forgiven us.

2.  Forgiveness – In a Spiritual Battle.  Jesus reminds his followers that there are temptations and designs of the evil One – Satan – on us.  He instructs Peter that Satan desires to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. (Luke 22:31).  Our spiritual walk is never separate from or immune from our spiritual warfare.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  Ephesians 6:11.

3.  Forgiveness – A Promise with a Warning.  But if you do not forgive their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.  The bible has two themes overall – salvation and discipleship.  Salvation is the vertical dimension in life and comes to us as we believe in Jesus who died for us.  Discipleship becomes the horizontal walk with God, for which its quality is measure by obedience to the instructions from Christ.  For a disciple, it is about a living relationship with God, such as a parent with a child.  The relationship is established – we are redeemed, and saved, and promised eternal life based on our faith in Jesus who died for us, paying the penalty of sin on our behalf.  Even so, children can affect the qualify of their relationship with their parents by their behavior – better or worse.  The point here is our spiritual walk has to be measured by a commitment to forgiving others, reflecting the grace we have realized in God, and daily reaffirming our gratitude and favor from God by how we offer forgiveness to others.  

It has been said that old age is not for the faint of heart.  Actually, the spiritual walk is also not for the timid as well.  The quality of our ongoing relationship with God is measured in part by our acts of obedience.  No other way to say it.   It is only with this spiritual practice that our prayers are even heard by God.  A high and necessary standard for the disciple.  Next week, private spiritual conduct that honors God. 

— John Moore

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