Pursuing the Simplicity of the Gospel: Part 3Thursday, July 05, 2012
The Forgiveness of Sins is the Simplest Foundation for our Prayer Life
Life as a first-world citizen complicates things. We are knowledge-based, intellectually oriented, and mentally rooted in a critical-scientific method of thinking.
We feel like we must have all things proven to us. There is often this deep-rooted feeling that we are owed all the pieces of the puzzle. We take it personal when there are any variables or unexplained elements. Largely too smart for our own good, there is an inherent pride about the fact that can discover and create just about anything, solve and resolve just about any problem, and mass produce just about any product we can dream up.
I have found in my own life, as well as the those whom I've discipled, that prayer is a spiritual discipline that has become the victim of complication. That inherent pride I just spoke of drives us to feel like we are owed an explanation about everything. Consequently, when we go to God in prayer, the Creator of the Universe who owes no man any explanation is largely silent in His sovereignty.
This in turns makes us uncomfortable in what is largely a cognitive dissonance about our obligation to submit to His sovereign ways. As a result, we pray less. Or in some cases, we pray "harder", making things more complicated than they need to be. When I read Jesus anywhere on the subject of prayer, He makes things simple. It is all about asking the Father. Period.
That's why I'm so thankful to God for Jesus' teaching on the forgiveness of sins. When connected with the subject of prayer we find an incredible simplicity which forms the foundation for a simple prayer life. We find such a connection in Luke 11:1-4, and here is a familiar though concise story as told in the New Living Translation:
1 Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of hisdisciples came to him and said, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples." 2 Jesus said, "This is how you should pray: "Father, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. 3 Give us each day the food we need, 4 and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And don't let us yield to temptation."If the forgiveness of sins was the sick man's friends's simplest foundation for faith, and if it was the prostitute's simplest foundation for worship, then it is aso the simplest foundation for the prayer life of a follower of Jesus.
Notice how simple that kind of prayer life gets. It's simply about asking that we keep God's name holy, that God would bring His kingdom to earth, that He'd feed us, forgive us, and not let us fall to temptation. Yet how complex and difficult do we make our prayer life?! We make things so hard, don't we?
I don't want you to miss two crucial truths here.
First, Jesus doesn't teach you to ask for forgiveness everyday because you've got to do this everyday in order to be saved. That would make our salvation and our relationship with Him based on merit. Jesus is not some priest sitting in a confessional to whom we must go in order to actually be forgiven of our sins. This is especially good news to those in denominations or theological circles where the teaching is put forth that a person can lose their salvation, or that they must "get saved" again after every sin committed.
If Luke's story of the prostitute worshiping Jesus showed us anything itwas that her sins were already forgiven as was evidenced in her worship. In the same way then, asking for forgiveness of the sins we commit daily is evidence that we recognize the absolute necessity of God's forgiveness, and the truth that we have already received forgiveness.
Second, Jesus is showing us the reflection of humility in His teaching on prayer. If anything, the simplicity of this kind of prayer life is simply about a recognition that we live every breath under the need of and protection in God's forgiveness of our sins. Again, this teaching of Jesus on prayer is not about humiliating us under God's wrathful hand of judgment for every sin we commit. No, it is about humbling us under God's gracious hand of mercy for the forgiveness we receive for every sin we commit.
Are you humbled by such simplicity? Does it humble you that Jesus' death on the cross for your sins is something applicable each and every time you sin against God? Or do you feel this inner awkwardness about what to do after you've sinned? Is there this strange sense of obligation you have, like you've got to do something to make up for it? Something like...praying more, or praying harder...or reading your Bible more...or going to church more...or giving more money to the church...or whatever? If so, this is the enemy's way of complicating the simple message of the forgiveness of your sins.
Don't let him get the upper hand any longer. Choose instead to pray to the Father like one who's simply been forgiven. Choose to worship like one whose sins are forgiven...forever. Choose to believe what God promises because your sins have simply been forgiven. This changes everything, doesn't it?
In the next post, we will discover the fourth text (Luke 24:47), and explore the forgiveness of sins as the simplest foundation for our life mission.
About the Author: Rob is a entrepreneur in Statesboro, GA, where he envisions and pursues missional-shaped business for the kingdom. He and his wife Sherri have been married for 18 years and together have three sons and a daughter. Rob believes the mission of the gospel is summed up in four simple phrases: know God, obey Jesus, make disciples, and plant churches. This is the pursuit of his life, as well as the point of his blog.