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Watch 2022 online sermons » Dr. Tony Evans » Tony Evans - The Pardon Of Prayer

Tony Evans - The Pardon Of Prayer

Tony Evans - The Pardon Of Prayer
Tony Evans - The Pardon Of Prayer
TOPICS: The Lord's Prayer, Prayer, Forgiveness

Unforgiveness functions as a chain to hold us hostage to what happened yesterday that is destroying us today and ruining our tomorrow. There is nothing like unforgiveness that can keep you and hold you hostage day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year. Many relationships here and everywhere are in crisis because one party was unable or unwilling to forgive the other person. There are other families that are afraid because parents haven't forgiven children, children haven't forgiven parents, or other relatives structures have broken down. The racial crisis in America continues to plague us because of this issue of forgiveness.

At this point in the Lord's Prayer, he says, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors". After talking about hallowing his name, submitting to his kingdom, and yielding to his will, and having gotten the provisions of God, he says, "Now forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors". So the question that we have to ask is, what does the word forgive mean? Because a false definition will lead you to a false conclusion. First of all, let me make this inextricably clear. Forgiveness is first and foremost a decision because it is not first and foremost an emotion. Forgiveness is not first and foremost how you feel. While it does not ignore how you feel, it is not the definition of forgiveness. You decide to forgive or not forgive.

Your emotions have to catch up with that decision, but if you define forgiveness as an emotion, then it will be determined by how you are emoting at a particular moment in time to determine whether you have forgiven. And since emotions are fluid and fluctuating all the time, you can be forgiving one moment, unforgiving the next moment about the same issue because it's tied to on what place on the Richter scale do your emotions happen to be at any given moment. So let's establish the fact that forgiveness, at its foundation, is a decision. What kind of decision is it? It is a decision to relieve a person from an obligation or a debt incurred by a sin or an infraction against you. Forgiveness is the decision to relieve a person from an obligation or a debt incurred because of an infraction or a sin against you.

When you decide to do that, regardless of where your emotions may be at a certain given time, you're operating on the biblical definition of, A, of forgiveness. In the prayer, it said, "Forgive us our debt," why? Because sin rings up a bill. The word debt is the word for incurring a bill. When you go to the store and buy something, you get a bill. There is a charge, a charge you are expected to pay for the bill that you incurred for the thing that you bought. When we sin against God, we incur a bill. That bill must be paid. It either must be paid by you or somebody who pays the bill for you, but sin, infractions against God, incurs a bill. That's why he says, "Forgive us our debt," because you incur a debt to God when you sin. So the first part of the prayer says, "Forgive us our debt," or "Cancel our bill, the bill that I have accrued because I have disobeyed you, rebelled against you, sinned against you. I want you to clear my record, to push the delete button for my failure, to let me off of the hook".

Now, let me clarify, forgiveness does not mean excusing, ignoring, justifying, or pretending that the thing didn't happen. It does not mean that I just dismiss reality and pretend what did happen didn't happen so I can feel better about what happened, 'cause that's not being honest. In fact, you can't forgive unless you're willing to acknowledge the truth of what occurred. Forgiveness deals in the reality, not the dismissing of the reality, but it deals with having a debt paid for an infraction committed. Now, at this point we need to clarify the kind of forgiveness we're talking about. There are two types of forgiveness when it comes to our relationship with God, 'cause the first part of the prayer is "Forgive us our debts," 'cause you're praying to God.

The first kind is legal forgiveness. The biblical word for legal forgiveness is justification. Justification means to be declared righteous. It's a courtroom term where the judge declares you not guilty for a particular crime. When the Bible says we are justified, God in heaven declares us legally not guilty for the infractions against him, but the reason he declares us legally not guilty when we get saved, when we accept Jesus Christ, is because God credits the righteousness of Christ to our account. Jesus on the cross paid your bill. Jesus on the cross paid my bill, which allows God the Father to credit us as not guilty, not because we're not guilty, we are guilty, but because the debt that was incurred by being guilty was picked up by the death of Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, who paid the penalty for our sin.

So that's legal forgiveness. That's what every person gets when they accept Jesus as your personal sacrifice, as your personal sin-bearer. You get a credit on your account which declares you to be innocent legally. That's an eternal issue settled when you come to Christ for salvation, but that's not what he's talking about here. He's not talking about legal forgiveness because he's now dealing with your relationship with your Father, "Our Father, who art in heaven". So you're already a child. You're already a son or daughter of God. So he's dealing with another kind of forgiveness. He's dealing with relational forgiveness. Legal forgiveness is settled forever when you come to Christ, but relational forgiveness is conditional. Legal forgiveness is, "Have I accepted Christ"? Relational forgiveness is, "Am I in fellowship with my Father"?

If you've accepted Jesus Christ, you are in permanent legal relationship, but when you sin, you've interrupted personal fellowship. That's why the Bible says in 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He's faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness". So a lot of Christians live a long time out of fellowship with God because they are on their way to heaven, but they are refusing to deal with the mess in their lives and get forgiven for God's intimate fellowship with them on earth. How do you know when forgiveness has occurred? If it's not a feeling, then if you look into your feelings, forgiveness may be here today, but it may not be here tomorrow 'cause I don't forgive, "I don't feel like forgiving you," but since forgiveness is a decision, you can always measure whether forgiveness has occurred because forgiveness occurs when no retaliation is being sought.

Let me say that again. Forgiveness occurs when you're not seeking to retaliate against the person who offended you. As long as you reach back into history to bring it up today, even though it has nothing to do with what's happening today, the only reason you're bringin' it up is to cause pain today even though it happened yesterday. It means you have not forgiven yet because you're using it as a tool to bring pain because you haven't forgiven. Even though you may still feel it, it is the act of retaliation that demonstrates whether you've forgiven or not because you know whether you're retaliating or not or using that thing from yesterday to bring about an act of judgment today. So forgiveness is the decision that "I am not going to credit this to your account. I'm not gon' put a charge on your bill".

What the Bible means by forgetting is not forgetting the information. It's forgetting the pain that was caused by the information. It's not forgetting that it happened. It's no longer allowing what happened to have the impact now that it had when it happened. In other words, when Joseph, Joseph, when his brothers sinned against him, he says in Genesis 41, verse 51, he says these words. He says, "God has helped me to forget what you did to me". But, in chapter 50, he brings it up again. "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good". So he never forgot what happened 'cause he brings it up in 50, but he forgot the impact that it had on him. So it didn't have the same impact. So even though you may remember when you see that person or see that situation what happened five years ago, when you forgive, it no longer destroys your day, destroys your week, destroys your life because you made a decision to forgive.

One of the reasons it stays destructive is we've kept forgiveness as an emotion and not as a decision. Once you make a decision and it's no longer an emotion, then emotions don't decide about whether forgiveness has occurred. The decision has made that for you. So forgiveness is the cancellation of a debt whether or not you remember what happened or remember the details. It is the cancellation of a debt for a sin, an infraction, that was committed against you. "Forgive us our debts". An infraction incurred because of what was done to you or me or us or, as I'll say in a moment, what you've even done to yourself.

I wanna first talk to you about two categories. First is unilateral forgiveness. Unilateral forgiveness is forgiveness that you grant even when the person hasn't asked for it, okay? Why would you give unilateral forgiveness? Nobody said, "I'm sorry". Nobody's repented, and you forgive anyway. Unilateral. You just do it on your own. Unilateral forgiveness is given, one, because the issue is so small. In other words, it didn't matter. They did wrong, but you don't care 'cause it didn't hurt you that much, and it's somethin' you can forget, so you don't even care if they say, "I'm sorry," if they repent, so that's unilateral 'cause it's so small.

Another reason you would do unilateral forgiveness is the person refuses to say, "I'm sorry," refuses to confess, refuses to repent. They say, "I ain't gon' repent, no, no. I'm kind of glad I hurt you. I'm glad I did it". So they're refusing. Another one is they can't repent because they've died. They hurt you years ago. They've since passed on, so they can't make amends even if they wanted to. They can't 'cause they're not here, or maybe you don't even know where they are anymore, so even though you're still hurting for it, they've moved away. They've gone somewhere, so they can't repent. Okay, if you don't do unilateral forgiveness, then you'll stay hostage to something that can never be fixed 'cause they've died, they're gone, or they're never gonna say, "I'm sorry".

Unilateral forgiveness is to set you free. It's to forgive what happened even when the person is not sorry about what happened because you don't wanna be held hostage by what happened, so it sets you free. Once you unilaterally forgive, then "'Vengeance is Mine,' saith the Lord, 'and I will repay,'" okay? The second kind of forgiveness when it comes to the categories is transactional forgiveness. Unilateral is where you forgive even if there is no opportunity for apologies and confession and repentance. Transactional forgiveness is different. This is where a person repents of what they did to you. They come, and they confess it first. "I'm sorry for what I did". That's confession. Confession is "I agree that I did you wrong". Repentance takes confession to the next step. Repentance is the decision to make it right, okay?

So I confess, "What you said I did, I did, and it was wrong". Then repentance is, "I want to turn from doing it, and I want to make restitution. I want to make it right. Whenever kind of right is possible to be made, I wanna do it". The Bible calls that "Fruit of repentance". In other words, how do you know if a person's truly repented? 'Cause their words don't mean anything. They can say, "I'm sorry," and not mean it. How do you know that the confession was real? You know the confession was real when there are visible acts of repentance, that is, trying to make it right at whatever level is possible to correct it. The reason for transactional repentance or transactional forgiveness is because that opens the door for a restoration of the relationship.

The relationship can now be restored because repentance has been requested, and forgiveness has been granted, opening up the opportunity for reconciliation. In unilateral forgiveness, you can forgive, but there is no reconciliation. With transactional forgiveness, you forgive, and the goal is to try to reconcile, and you heal the breach that caused the problem. Forgiveness, canceling a debt, it's legal when you accept Christ. It's relational when you confess your sin to Jesus Christ and repent of your wrong direction and get back in fellowship with God. Now, why does this matter? Okay, you don't wanna miss this 'cause everything I have said is contingent on or determined by what I'm getting ready to say. Let's reread the verse, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors".

Let me read chapter 6, verses 14 and 15, "For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father," 'cause you're already a Christian, "Your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father," 'cause you're already a Christian, "will not forgive your transgressions". Well, wait a minute. He can't be talkin' about heaven, 'cause I'm already forgiven for all my transgressions when it comes to my legal relationship, but he's talkin' about his relationship with you on earth. So now let's read the verse, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors". Let me read it another way, "Forgive us our debts to the same degree that we forgive our debtors". To put it another way, a refusal to forgive the bill that somebody owes you will cause God not to forgive the bill you owe him, and the bill you owe him is probably bigger than the bill somebody else owes you.

Maybe somebody hurt you once, twice, three times. We hurt God every single day. We hurt him with the thoughts we think, the things we do, the places we go, we hurt God. God weeps over us every day, but every time we come to him, he's cancelin', cancelin', cancelin', cancelin'. He says now, "Don't come to Me and ask Me to cancel for you what you are unwilling to cancel for somebody else". Mark chapter 11. Mark chapter 11. In Mark chapter 11, Jesus is telling the story, and he says, he says in verse 20 through 26, he says, "Have faith in God, and when you have faith in God," he says, "you can move mountains". A mountain in the Bible is an un-overcomeable situation. Situation you can't fix is called a mountain in the Bible. He says, "You can say to this mountainous situation in your life, 'Be moved,' and it will be cast into the sea".

Stay with me here. So you got a problem in your life you can't fix. You got an addiction you can't get over. You're living in fear. Maybe you're afraid person all the time. Maybe you're controlled by anger. Maybe the marriage can never get right. Maybe you're living as a defeated single. Whatever the mountain is, you tried to get rid of it. You went to counseling to get rid of it. It's a mountain. And God says, "You can speak to the mountain, and it'll go into the sea if you have faith in God," but what a lot of people don't do is read the whole passage, 'cause after he says, "You can remove mountains," the only way God will help you move a mountain, he says, is "if I see you forgiving". If you don't forgive, you won't be able to get rid of your mountain, get rid of that addiction, heal that relationship, solve that emotional problem, because you're living in unforgiveness. Unforgiveness will block God's miracles in your life.

So if you need a miracle in your life, forgiveness is a condition of that miracle. Proverbs chapter 19, verse 11, says, "It is to a man's glory to overlook a fault," that, when a man overlooks a fault, that God is able to shine his glory on that man. Unforgiveness traps you in your own prison. Some of the forgiveness we need is not toward another person, it's toward ourselves. "If I hadn't done that," "If I hadn't gone there," "If I hadn't been with them," "If I hadn't," and "If I hadn't," and you know because you live a life of regret. "If I hadn't," "If I hadn't," "If I hadn't". No, Jesus says in Matthew 22, he says, "What I want you to do is I want you to love your neighbor like you love yourself, okay"? That's what he said.

Okay, when it comes to forgiveness, the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:5, "Love keeps no record," okay? Love doesn't keep a record. So, if he wants you to love your neighbor, that means you don't keep a record when you forgive him. Like you love yourself, which God doesn't even want you keepin' a record on you. Learn from what you did, but he does not want you continually going back there in your mind, in your thoughts, and in your lifestyle, "Oh, if I hadn't," "If I hadn't", okay, ya did, ya did. That's a reality.

Now you must decide, "Yes, I'm not gon' go back there anymore. God, I've repented for You. You've canceled it". So how can I be bigger than God, holdin' on to somethin' he canceled? He says, "If you repented, I canceled it, then you must let it go by a decision". And every time the devil brings it up to your mind, you must inform him that that has already been dealt with on the cross. "I've learned from it, but I'm not going back there".

The question on the floor is how long are you gon' let the past hold you hostage? How long are you gon' let the devil hold you hostage? You are to be set free, but in a righteous way by acknowledging to God, "Forgive me my debts on a regular basis to the degree that I let others off the hook either unilaterally or transactionally. Lord, I'm going to move forward with my life because I'm tired of blocking Your grace and Your mercy from me through my unforgiveness even if it's my unforgiveness of myself".

Forgiveness is a key element in communicating with a perfect God. Because God is totally separated from sin, a cleansing must take place if we're going to be in relational contact with him, and he has made that provision through forgiveness. Forgiveness is release of an obligation due to an infraction, and God wants to give to others what we ourselves are expecting from him. If we want God to forgive us, then we must be forgivers in our own right. This is the one part of the Lord's Prayer that gets repeated again because it's so critical to making contact with a holy and righteous God. So let's not let our sin or our refusal to grant others what we ourselves need through forgiveness block our own communication with God.
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