Forgiveness: A Second Look

March 24, 2017

“And He said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:48)

…Jesus taught this same truth in a similar parable recorded in the Gospel of Luke. (Luke 7:36-50)

As Jesus was dining with a Pharisee, a woman who was a sinner and had experienced salvation through Jesus began washing His feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. The Pharisee had not washed the feet of Jesus. In that culture, not washing the feet of an invited guest was like refusing to shake hands. To this woman, this mean that the Pharisee had not even extended common hospitality to her Lord and Savior, whom she loved so very much.

While the Pharisee was thinking lurid thoughts about this gesture on the part of the woman, Jesus told him a parable about two men who owed debts to the same wealthy lord. To paraphrase, one owed him $500, and the other $5,000. The wealthy man forgave both debts. After telling this story, Jesus asked the Pharisee which man would have loved their benefactor most? The Pharisee answered, “the one who owed him the greater debt.”

Jesus then asked the Pharisee, “Do you see this woman?” The question was actually, How do you see this woman?” Jesus challenged the Pharisee to think about how he saw the sin of that woman relative to how he saw his own sin. He obviously saw her sin as the great debt and his own as the small debt. Jesus then applied His parable for the Pharisee by announcing, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, the same loves little.”

Jesus then said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you.” These words of Jesus clearly affirmed the Gospel reality that she was not saved because she loved much. She loved much because she had saving faith. The real sinner at the luncheon in that Pharisee’s house was not the forgiven sinner who loved much, but the self-righteous Pharisee named Simon.

This parable focuses the reality that we cannot isolate our own forgiveness of sin from our attitude toward the sins of others. That is why Jesus wrapped His petition for the forgiveness of our sins in the same package with our forgiveness of those who have sinned against us.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Prayer


Forgiveness: Debts and Debtors

March 21, 2017

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…”  Matthew 6:12

This second personal petition is for forgiveness. The next two petitions are for guidance and deliverance. Forgiveness, guidance and deliverance are spiritual needs we have every day. The principle of that first personal petition for daily bread, one day at a time, should be applied to these spiritual needs. “Give us this day our daily bread, including our need for forgiveness, guidance and deliverance, one day at a time.”

…In Matthew 18, Jesus told the story of a man who owed a great debt. In those days, if you owed a large debt you couldn’t pay, you were sent to prison and your wife and children were sold into slavery until your debt was paid in full. Since you couldn’t generate any income from prison, you likely would die in prison and your family would be slaves the rest of their lives.

Relative to our currency, the debt in this story of Jesus was a multi-million-dollar debt. Summoned to court, the man who owed this great debt begged for mercy. Miraculously, the one to whom he was indebted, out of compassion completely forgave the debt.

On the way home from this extraordinary day in court, this man met a man who owed him twenty dollars and could not pay. He grabbed this poor man by the throat and shouted, “You pay me every cent you owe or I will slam you in prison and sell your family into slavery.”

People who observed both these happenings reported what they witnessed to the man who had forgiven the multi-million-dollar debt. When he heard, he summoned the ungrateful, forgiven man to another court hearing and reversed his compassionate decision.

Having told that story, Jesus pronounced, “Even so my heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matthew 18:35)

The essential truth Jesus teaches here it that if we see our salvation and forgiveness as the cancellation of a multi-million-dollar debt, we will be forgiving because we have been forgiven so very much. If we are not forgiving, we do not really believe that we have been forgiven.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Prayer


Unforgiveness vs. Inner Healing

February 4, 2017

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”  (Matthew 6:12)

The greatest obstacle to inner healing is unforgiveness. Those who work in ministries of healing claim that the lack of forgiveness on the part of a victim can retard their own inner healing.

Can you see why Jesus instructed His disciples to pray every day: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors?”  The original language has it, “As we have already forgiven our debtors.” Do you think Jesus knew how important it is to our inner healing that we should forgive those who sin against us?

Some are bothered by the way Jesus offers commentary on this petition in the Disciple’s Prayer.  He commented that if we do not forgive we are not forgiven. It almost sounds as if we are forgiven because we forgive. He defuses their confusion with a parable that is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 18.  A man is forgiven a very large debt in the millions of dollars, saving him from debtor’s prison and having his family sold into slavery.

But on the way home he meets a man who owes him twenty dollars. He grabs him by the throat and orders him to pay him every cent or he will have him put into debtor’s prison. Both events are observed and shared with the one who forgave him the large debt. He is recalled and his forgiveness is revoked. Jesus comments on that story, that if we from our hearts do not forgive, we are not forgiven.

The point is that if we are a forgiven person we will be a forgiving person.  If we are not a forgiving person we are not really a forgiven person.

Dick Woodward, 09 January 2013


Confession and the Blessings of Salvation

October 29, 2016

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”   (1John 1:9)

In the original Greek language, what we translate as confess is a compound Greek word: to say and the word for sameness.  It literally means to say the same thing God says or to agree with God.  If you know the Word of God and are in the Spirit enough to be convicted by the Holy Spirit, you can know what God says and how He feels about what you have done.

Your confession is to agree with Him. Our responsibility is to agree with Him.  God does all the rest.

God knows when we are lost.  Because God loves us He very much wants us to agree with Him that He might recover us and lead us into green pastures and still waters that flow to a table of provision and a full cup that never empties.  That’s why God wants us to confess our sins and start climbing in the right direction spiritually.

God is not a divine policeman with a huge club just waiting to crack us over the head when we step out of line.  The ministry of Jesus is summed up in the Gospel of Luke this way: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)  That Gospel shows us in beautiful ways the blessings that come into the lives of lost people because Jesus finds them and leads them to the blessings of salvation.

Dick Woodward, 02 October 2012


Forgetting What God Forgets

February 24, 2015

For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sins I will remember no more.”  (Jeremiah 31:34)

When we sin, we need to look up and believe the first fact of the Gospel, which is the Good News that God forgives our sins because Jesus died for our sins. Then we need to look around, forgive those who have sinned against us and seek forgiveness of those against whom we’ve sinned.  We also need to look in and forgive ourselves.

When we place our trust in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, we need to forget what God forgets and remember what God remembers.  In the New Testament we are promised that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (I John 1:9)

However, God remembers that we are sinners.  We forget we are sinners. (That is one reason we fall into sin again & again.)  After we confess our sins, we show our faith in God’s promise is flawed when we remember our sins as guilt baggage long after God has forgiven and forgotten our sins.

A Catholic Monsignor in Paris was told about a nun who talked to Jesus every night. When the nun was summoned to meet the Monsignor, he asked her, “The next time you talk with Jesus, ask Him this question:  What sins did the Monsignor commit in Paris before he became a priest?”  He instructed the nun to report back after she asked Jesus his question.

Several days later when the nun requested an appointment with the Monsignor, he asked her, “Did you speak with Jesus again, my child?”  She replied, “Yes, your Reverence.” He then asked, “Did you ask Jesus my question?”  The nun said that she had indeed asked Jesus his question. “And what did Jesus say?”  The nun replied, “Jesus told me to tell you He doesn’t remember.”

If we believe what the Bible teaches about the forgiveness of our sins, that is the answer we should expect to hear.

As we receive by faith the inner healing of salvation, we simply must discipline ourselves to remember what God remembers and forget what God forgets.

Dick Woodward, from In Step with Eternal Values


Letting Go … to Let God

January 23, 2015

“… but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. ” (Philippians 3:13-14)

As we move forward into this new year and consider our priorities many of us could say, “These forty/eleven things I dabble in.”  But spiritual heavyweights like Paul write: “One thing I do.” They can write that they have their priorities sifted down to one thing because they forget those things that are behind.

We all have things we need to let go of so we can press toward the goal of what God wants us to do now and in the future.

There’s a story of a man who fell over a cliff but managed to grab hold of a little bush that was growing out of a cliff about forty feet from the top.  He frantically shouted, “Help!” several times but his voice simply echoed back to him.  Desperately he yelled, “Anybody up there?  A subterranean voice answered, “Yes!” He then yelled again “Help!” Then the voice said. “Let go!” After a brief pause the man shouted, “Anybody else up there?”

Sometimes it takes a lot of faith to let go.  It may be that we need to let go of things that we cannot do and only God can do.  It may be we need to let go of things we cannot control.  And, sometimes we need to let go of hurts that people have inflicted on us and we cannot forgive them and just let it go.

Do you need to let go and let God so you can unload baggage and move forward with God?

Dick Woodward, 11 January 2013


Will the real sinner please stand up?

August 26, 2014

…When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?”  (Luke 7:42)

It is true that some of the greatest Christians were once the greatest sinners. As we read the seventh chapter of Luke (verses 36-50), we cannot help but think of The Confessions of Saint Augustine.  It is not necessary to sin much to love God – we should be careful not to give that impression.  There is really nothing good about sin… It it true, however, that the truly repentant contrite sinner can love much because he (or she) has been forgiven much.  This was a driving force in the lives of King David, the Apostle Paul and Saint Augustine.

At issue here are the condescending thoughts of this Pharisee toward the woman (who is washing Jesus’ feet.)  As he compares himself, the Pharisee is self-righteous.  Like his colleague in Luke 18, he is looking upon this woman with an attitude, “I thank God I am not as other people are – sinners!”  The question of Jesus focuses this for him and for us.  The Pharisee was the man who had been forgiven the smaller debt, which means he saw his sin as a very small thing. This teaching also focuses that the way we perceive ourselves has a profound effect upon how we perceive others.  Positively and negatively our self-image is a strong force in our horizontal, interpersonal relationships.

The subtle message of Jesus to this Pharisee is that the real sinner at that luncheon was not the woman whose sin was obvious and known to everybody.  His message to her was the good news, that, because of her faith, her sins were forgiven.  When the real sinner stood up at that luncheon, however, he was a sinner named, “Simon, the Pharisee.”

Dick Woodward, MBC New Testament Handbook (p.137)

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on us sinners.”