Should We Pray Daily for Forgiveness?
Should We Pray Daily for Forgiveness?
From Ray, via Facebook –
Ray begins with lots of kind words about my book Standing in Grace, and then also mentions some wonderful friends we have in common. Then, on to his question:
The Bible teaches that we are completely saved the moment we’re born again. And it is completely by God’s grace through our simple acceptance of the Gospel reality. And God’s grace is how he feels about us and deals with us as His children. I love all of that and agree.
My question is: what are your thoughts on Jesus’ teaching for us to pray for daily forgiveness? This is something I’ve been confused about in the past, but haven’t gone too far into reconciling. Just on the surface: Why pray for forgiveness when I’ve been totally and utterly forgiven? Now that I’m really trying to soak in God’s dealing with me by Grace alone, this passage makes me a little nervous. I know it’s required of God’s children to forgive others in light of how much He has forgiven us. And I know that it’s assumed we will forgive, and if we don’t, then there’s reason to doubt whether you’ve been truly born again (“if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will my Father in heaven forgive yours”). I just really am enjoying this Biblical teaching of Grace in a fresh way, and don’t want to continue to fall prey to an “earn and deserve” relationship with God. So I figured I’d reach out to you and see what your thoughts are.
The reference to Jesus teaching us pray daily for forgiveness, Matthew 6:11-12:
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
That isn’t exactly a prayer that says, “daily forgive my sins,” but it’s pretty close. The general idea is there.
So, if we have been forgiven once and for all by what Jesus did at the cross, why do we have to continue to ask for forgiveness?
The answer is not found in the idea of salvation, but in the idea of fellowship. For the believer – the one who is born again by God’s Spirit, adopted into God’s family, made righteous because at the cross Jesus took their sins and gave them His righteousness – their sins are forgiven in the past, present, and future. It was truly finished at the cross.
So, we don’t lose our salvation when we sin. A lifestyle of sin may demonstrate that someone isn’t really saved at all, but you didn’t earn your salvation by not sinning, and you can’t lose it by continued sinning.
Think of what it could be like if someone was constantly gaining and losing their salvation. That is a life of no assurance or certainty.
Yet, salvation is not the only issue in view here – there is also the matter of fellowship. Sin that may not lose my salvation can certainly interrupt my fellowship with God, my shared experience of His life, His joy, His peace, His power, His presence in me.
1 John 1:6
If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
- If we say that we have fellowship with Him: John first deals with a false claim to fellowship. Based upon this, we understand that it is possible for some to claim a relationship with God that they do not have. We can also say that it is possible for someone to think they have a relationship with God that they do not have.
- Many Christians are not aware of their true condition. They know they are saved, and have experienced conversion and have repented at some time in their life. Yet they do not live in true fellowship with God.
- And walk in darkness: John speaks of a walk in darkness, indicating a pattern of living. This does not speak of an occasional lapse, but of a lifestyle of darkness.
- We lie and do not practice the truth: God has no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). Therefore, if one claims to be in fellowshipwith God (a relationship of common relation, interest, and sharing), yet does walk in darkness, it is not a truthful claim.
- The issue here is fellowship, not salvation. The Christian who temporarily walks in darkness is still saved, but not in fellowship with God.
- If John said “That is a lie,” it means he thinks in terms of things being true or being lies. John sees things much more clearly than our sophisticated age does, which doesn’t want to see anything in black or white, but everything in a pale shade of gray.
1 John 1:7
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
- But if we walk in the light: This means to walk in a generally obedient life, without harboring known sin or resisting the conviction of the Holy Spirit on a particular point.
- John’s message here means that a walk in the light is possible. We know that on this side of eternity, sinless perfection is not possible. Yet we can still walk in the light, so John does mean perfect obedience.
- The Christian life is described as walking, which implies activity. Christian life feeds upon contemplation, but it displays itself in action. “Walking” implies action, continuity, and progress. Since God is active and walking, if you have fellowship with Him, you will also be active and walking.
- We have fellowship with one another: We would have expected John to say, “We have fellowship with God.” That is true, but already in the idea of walking together with God in the light. John wants to make it clear that fellow Christians who walk in the light enjoy fellowship with each other.
- The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin: As we walk in the light we also enjoy the continual cleansing of Jesus. This is another indication that John does not mean sinless perfection by the phrase walk in the light; otherwise, there would be no sin to cleanse in this ongoing sense.
- We need a continual cleansing because the Bible says we continually sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Even though Christians have been cleansed in an important general sense, our “feet” need cleaning (John 13:10).
- The blood of Jesus Christ: This continual cleansing is ours by the blood of Jesus. This points back to the crucifixion of Jesus, His literal death in our place and the literal wrath of the Father He endured on our behalf. The blood of Jesus Christpaid the penalty for all our sins – past, present, and future.
- The work of Jesus on the cross doesn’t only deal with the guilt of sin that might send us to hell. It also deals with the stain of sin which hinders our continual relationship with God. We need to come to God often with the simple plea, “cleanse me with the blood of Jesus.” Not because we haven’t been cleansed before, but because we need to be continually cleansed to enjoy continual relationship.
- Sin is the hindrance to fellowship and the blood of Jesus, received by faith as the payment for our sin, solves the problem of sin and opens the way to fellowship with God.
- You can’t come to fellowship with God through philosophical speculation. You can’t come to fellowship with God through intellectual education.
- You can’t come to fellowship with God through drugs or entertainment.
- You can’t come to fellowship with God through scientific investigation.
- You can only come to fellowship with God by dealing with your sin problem through the blood of Jesus.
- We might say that the only sin that cannot be cleansed by the blood of Jesus is the sin of continuing to reject that blood as payment for sin.
So, should we daily pray for forgiveness? Yes, we should – but not out of sense of “if I don’t I might lose my salvation.” We pray daily for forgiveness because we want to stay in close fellowship with God, with nothing hindering our ongoing relationship with Him.
Must the children of Israel at least partially return to the land of Israel before they repent?
Must the children of Israel at least partially return to the land of Israel before they repent? If so, then what texts would you use to prove that?
I think you’re asking a great question here, because it puts something into perspective that I think is often neglected in our study of the covenants. I’m very big on the idea of God’s plan of the ages unfolding through the covenants. Specifically, I would give the most attention to the Abrahamic Covenant, which is the covenant that God made with Abraham; the Mosaic Covenant, or Old Covenant, which is the covenant God made with Israel at Mount Sinai, governing national Israel; the covenant that God made with David, the Davidic covenant, which specifically described that the Messiah would come from his royal line and genetics; and finally, and most importantly, the New Covenant.
When you look through the Old Testament passages relevant to the New Covenant, especially included in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, they include the gathering of Israel and the restoration to the land. I see this very rarely talked about, but it’s right there. Those New Covenant passages include the restoration of Israel – and not only their restoration to salvation in the sense that Paul would later speak about in Romans, that as part of God’s ultimate plan of the ages Israel will come to faith in their Messiah – but their restoration to the land.
We don’t see anything in the Scriptures that requires that a Jewish person must be in Israel before they’re brought to faith. No, not at all. But we do see it as part of the package, so to speak, of the New Covenant. There is a sense in which the New Covenant is not yet completely fulfilled. Now, it’s completely established; there’s no doubt about it. Jesus did that by His death on the cross. But it’s not completely fulfilled. All the promises of the New Covenant are not yet fulfilled, because they include the salvation of national Israel, as Paul elaborated in the book of Romans.
So, I would not say that they must return before they repent. But it’s all bound up together: the restoration of Israel to the land, their national repentance and coming to trust in Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah. Those things are all bound up together, as promises connected with the New Covenant that was established by Jesus Christ.
Is it wrong for a person to preface a word of prophecy with, “Thus declares the Lord”?
Is it bad when a person who has the gift of prophecy gives a word and says, “Thus declares the Lord”? A sister gave me the answer to something that I had asked God that morning, and no one knew it, and I have doubts about those words.
I think you’re asking a very relevant question. Our viewers come from a lot of different backgrounds, so first I want to clarify that I am a continuationist when it comes to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I believe that the Holy Spirit intends that the gifts, including the miraculous gifts, of the Holy Spirit continue on to the present day, and that God never withdrew them from the Church. I think that the Church has neglected them and has even abused them and misused them in many circumstances, but God never withdrew those gifts from the Church.
At some point, I think I should make some videos that spell out the facts of the case for the continuance of the gifts of the Spirit based on the Bible and history. However, although I believe in the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit, I believe that there’s a tremendous amount of nonsense, and foolishness, and harmful stuff that happens in the name of the Holy Spirit, that can’t be attributed to Him at all. I think that a lot of Christians are just not helpful in their understanding or exercise of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
For myself, I don’t like referring to people as having the gift of prophecy, even though I believe in the gift of prophecy, and I believe that it can be exercised today. I look at it, as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians, as being a manifestation of the Spirit rather than an office. I know people may differ with me; I’m just giving my own perspective. I’m allergic to giving people the title of “apostle” or “prophet” in the world today. I think it just makes stuff weird. I see a lot of weirdness under those things.
I do believe that God speaks to His people today through the gift of prophecy. However, the Bible says very clearly in 1 Corinthians that prophecy should be tested. So, you are right in not just simply taking a purported word of prophecy, something that someone claims to be prophecy or that comes from somebody who claims to be a prophet. You are wise by not just taking that at face value and saying, “Well, the prophet said it, so it must be true.” No. We must test prophecy.
First, we test it by the measure of God’s eternal, never-changing Word. I often tell people, “Listen, if you want to hear from God, don’t seek out a prophet. Read your Bible.” I don’t think we should be seeking out after prophets, though God may bring a word of prophecy to us. I know; I’ve had it happen in my own life. I could give some pretty dramatic stories about that. But that’s for another time altogether.
You’re wise in testing it by the Scriptures, and then also by simple discernment. Discernment would be the sense that the Holy Spirit gives to you as a believer gifted with discernment, or to trusted, mature, godly believers in your life, to whom you might say, “Hey, so-and-so said that they had a word from the Lord for me, and this was it; do you think that might be what God is saying to me?” And take it from that.
Biblically speaking, prophecy must be tested. You’re wise and being cautious about this, in wanting to say, “I’m going to test this. I’m going to see whether or not it’s from God. And then I’m going to seek to apply it in a way that is wise, and godly, and according to God’s Word.” We should not do radical things, or even simple things, just because someone says so. That’s why I don’t like it when people are overly confident in their claim to hear the Lord. I don’t like it when I hear people display this strange overconfidence in their ability to hear from God say, “The Lord told me this; the Lord told me that; the Lord told me the other thing.”
I’m much more pleased if somebody would say, “I think God may have been telling me this.” It’s got to be tested. As I’ve said before, if you want to hear from God, go to the Scriptures. This is reliable. This is the Word that never changes. And may God bring a spontaneous word through a word of prophecy? I believe He may, but that’s nothing compared to His confirmed, enduring, revealed Word in the Scriptures. I hope that’s been helpful for you. I think you’re wise in in being a little bit hesitant on this issue.
Why did God judge the younger prophet but not the older prophet in 1 Kings 13?
In the story in 1 Kings 13, it’s always bothered me that the old prophet deceived the young prophet and yet didn’t get judged by God, but the younger prophet did. Can you explain?
For a longer answer, please refer to my commentary on 1 Kings 13. The basic question is, “Why didn’t the old prophet get judged by God, yet the young prophet did?”
First, let me remind myself and all of us that when God exercises His judgments, He knows things that we don’t know. There may be many factors involved which the biblical record doesn’t tell us about, yet are nevertheless very relevant to the situation, and God judges on the basis of those things.
It’s easy for us to look at something in the Bible or just in daily life and wonder, “Why did God do that?” or “Why didn’t God did that?” I don’t think it’s sinful to ask those questions, but somewhere along the way, we must return to the fact that God knows more about the situation than we do. There may be all kinds of factors involved that maybe the biblical record doesn’t tell us about, or within our current life situation that we don’t see and can’t perceive, which are nevertheless true and compelling.
If we knew everything God knows, His judgments would make a lot more sense to us. But let’s face it, we don’t know, and we will never know, everything God knows. We need to be careful about passing judgment on God’s judgment. I’m not saying that you’re doing this; you’re just asking question. I think it’s an appropriate question. I’m thinking more about atheists and unbelievers when I say that. I will occasionally read or hear from atheists or unbelievers, who feel perfectly free to criticize God’s judgment. “Why did God judge this person? Why did God do this?” I repeatedly find the common thread that they feel it’s wrong for God to judge anybody, or at least to only judge the people they themselves would judge. But they don’t have any problem judging God at all. Friends, it just doesn’t work like that. God is the great Judge of all the universe, and you and I are not. God’s judgments are in some way beyond our full comprehension.
If it’s the Holy Spirit who teaches us, why are there so many doctrinal differences and denominations?
I’m constantly impressed by the quality of the questions that come from our viewers. Let me tell you, the problem is not with the Holy Spirit. The problem is with us. Sometimes our understanding is just weak; it’s not good, and it’s not strong. But then there are other times when, to be honest, our understanding is affected by our own sinful blind spots. So, it’s not that the Holy Spirit is teaching different things to different people. But it is our own weakness in how we receive it.
However, I believe that there may be times when the Holy Spirit gives a different emphasis to a church or a movement of churches. In any specific time and place, it may be that the Holy Spirit would speak to a church and say, “You all need to emphasize holiness, and obedience unto the Lord.” That’s a beautiful, powerful thing. But what we need to understand is that there may be another time when God the Holy Spirit says to His church, “I want to emphasize My grace, My love, My mercy to those people.” Those two things are not contradictory. They certainly go together, but there may be a season when the Holy Spirit wants to prioritize one, based on the condition of that church.
Think of the seven letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation. Jesus had something different to say to each one of His churches. None of it was contradictory, but there were different emphases. You could even imagine seven denominations from the seven letters to the seven churches; this would be an interesting teaching to do sometime. If we think of all these denominations that have these different emphases, it’s not like the Holy Spirit is contradicting Himself. But for certain people at certain places, He wants to emphasize something.
The place we can mess that up is when we think that, if the Holy Spirit is emphasizing something to us, it’s the only thing that He ever wants to emphasize to all the Church throughout all ages, Hallelujah, Amen. We fail to see the Church truly as a Body, which not only encompasses a congregation, but many congregations. It’s God’s work in the world, God’s work around the globe, and even God’s work throughout generations. We are a Body. So, we’re not all going to be the same. But we should all have that same DNA within us.
I think I want to do a teaching sometime, “Seven Denominations from Revelation 2-3,” because God has different things to say to different congregations. He deals with them according to their need and their circumstance.
Are any kinds of worship music styles/genres wrong?
Is there something wrong in listening to worship music in Spanish with rhythms such as salsa or merengue, and to kind of dance to it?
I have a pretty open mind when it comes to this. For me this is a kind of issue that, if it’s not forbidden by Scripture, I do not want to forbid it. So, I would say that you have liberty in the Lord to do such a thing. God does not prescribe any particular style of music. Different people find different styles of music more accommodating to their praise and worship. Since the Psalms give us an entire span of worship experience – sometimes very contrite, sometimes very melancholy, sometimes very joyful, sometimes very triumphant, sometimes very exuberant – I think that we can find room for even some salsa or merengue beats in the midst of our worship. And if you wanted to sway a little bit to it, then I think you have freedom in Christ to do so.
Now, it doesn’t sound to me like you’re among other believers in a worship service, but if you are, you just want to make sure that you’re not being a distraction to other people, because we need to love one another when we’re gathered together in our worship experience. But I think we have freedom in Christ for this. Thanks for such a great question.
Can we refer to Jesus’ brothers as His “stepbrothers”?
Can we refer to Jesus’ brothers as His stepbrothers? I think most of the time they’re referred to as His half-brothers, but can the term “stepbrother” be used also?
Perhaps. It all depends on how somebody wants to define “stepbrother.” If “stepbrother” in this case defines children of the same mother, who had different husbands, then, of course, you would not call Jesus’ siblings His stepbrothers. Mary conceived Jesus by a miracle of the Holy Spirit, without sexual relations, which is what we call the Virgin Birth, or more properly, the Virgin Conception. Though Jesus was conceived by a miracle without sexual relations, Mary had no prior husband.
But if we would refer to stepbrothers or stepsisters is anybody that had the same mother, but a different father, then I suppose that could work. I wouldn’t have a problem if somebody did that. It would just get down to how technical somebody wanted to be in the description. But I’m not offended by somebody referring to Jesus’ brothers and sisters as stepbrothers or stepsisters.
“Stepbrother” or “stepsister” doesn’t exactly say, but it implies a blended family. And we can say this about Jesus and His family: it was not a blended family. When Mary conceived Jesus within her womb by a miracle of the Holy Spirit, she was engaged to Joseph. And when He was born, she was married to Joseph. So, we’re not talking about a blended family, strictly speaking. That would be taking the picture a little bit too broadly.
Who else are Christians supposed to help, besides widows and orphans?
Widows and orphans are specifically mentioned the Scripture as those that people in the family of God should help. We are also given the idea that we should help prisoners. Do you remember that verse in Hebrews 13, where it says specifically that we should remember those who are in prison? So, prisoners are another group of people that the Bible specifically says we should help, and towards whom we should have a heart of ministry.
We can specifically think of widows, orphans, and prisoners, but also simply anyone in need that the Holy Spirit would lead us to. Now, it can get a little overwhelming, especially in a modern age, when we consider that the needs are endless and overwhelming. Because those needs are endless and overwhelming, we can’t put upon ourselves the responsibility to fix everything. But we should, especially as led by the Holy Spirit, do whatever good that we can. And I know that your heart. God bless you guys. Widows, orphans, prisoners, and whoever the Holy Spirit puts in your path and gives you the freedom and opportunity to help, those are people who believers should be helping.
Can I be a Christian without water baptism?
I would put it this way: you can be a Christian without water baptism, but you can’t be an obedient Christian without water baptism. I don’t think water baptism is a question of salvation. But that does not mean it’s not important. It’s very important. Because if Jesus Christ is our Lord, we should do the things He told us to do, and He told His followers that they should be baptized. There is something spiritually powerful and real in baptism. It’s not just an empty ceremony. It’s something whereby God illustrates and sort of preaches out the work that He’s already done in us. And it should be enough for us to say that it’s a matter of obedience.
I think Christians can often get into the trap of feeling that they must reach some status of worthiness before they can be baptized. I don’t think that we should think like that. We have the example of people in the New Testament being baptized immediately upon expressing their faith in Jesus Christ. We see that on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. We see that with the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8.
So again, I would say that a person can be a Christian and not be baptized, but they cannot be an obedient Christian, and not be baptized. And look, shouldn’t we all want to be obedient Christians? Isn’t that just what we should do? Those words “disobedient Christian” should not go together, because Jesus Christ is our Lord.
Did Ananias and Sapphira go to hell?
I would say we don’t know. I kind of think that perhaps they did not go to hell, and that they were actually saved, because of what God did in bringing them home. Now, I don’t think that the Scriptures tell us enough to be certain either way. But we have examples in the New Testament, in 1 Corinthians and in 1 John, of the Scriptures presenting the concept of God disciplining believers by bringing them home to heaven. The idea would be that a believer has outlived their usefulness for the furtherance of God’s kingdom on earth. So, God just says, “Come on home.”
That may have been the case with Ananias and Sapphira. I don’t want to presume so. It may be that they were just plain false believers, and that they were never truly converted. That’s a possibility. But I don’t think the Scriptures give us enough clarity to say that with any kind of certainty. We don’t know for sure. But it may very well be that it was an act of discipline, severe discipline, of course, where God brought them home to heaven.
What happens to a true believer that struggles with a specific sin that has an addictive nature like pornography for decades and until death?
Your question is, “Does that person go to heaven?” You say that the person is a true believer, but that they strugglewith a specific sin. The two key phrases you used are “true believer” and “struggle.” “True believer” would indicate to me that that person’s faith is secure and in the right place.
The second thing you’d say is that they struggle with their sin. The real danger point for a believer is when they no longer struggle with their sin. In some way or another, we are going to struggle with sin until the day we die. I don’t say that as an excuse to say, “Well, then who cares; we’ll just struggle away.” No. We don’t want to surrender to sin. We don’t want to make a peace treaty with sin. We want to resist it and struggle against it. The believer should be frightened when they no longer struggle with sin, and they just surrender to it. The struggle is over, and they just give in. That could be a sign of a seared conscience, of someone who really doesn’t care at all about the things of God. They are in that very dangerous place of a seared conscience.
I believe God expects us to continue on in the struggle which we may feel constantly against sin, and to not surrender to it. Rather, we must hold the posture of saying, “Lord, I’m going to battle with this, and keep battling, until the ultimate victory is won in and through my resurrection.” I think it’s good to think about it in those terms.
It’s true that certain sins have an addictive nature. This addictive nature is stumbling for us, isn’t it? We as believers should take great care to not ever get entrapped or enmeshed in sin, especially in these addictive sins. Christians who deal with addictive substances, such as alcohol, need to be careful. Do you have liberty in Christ? Perhaps so but be careful. Of course, with any kind of drug, whether it’s legal or illegal, whether it’s prescribed or not prescribed, you’ve got to be careful with it. The same goes for things like pornography which, according to what I’ve read, causes certain addictive patterns even in brain chemistry. You’ve got to be careful even with things like social media and other things; you’ve got to be careful with anything. We want to maintain our true liberty in Jesus Christ, and not yield that to anything else.
Is it a repeated Biblical concept for believers to belong to a fellowship or church?
A friend dismissed attending church as “one verse in the Bible!” Doesn’t the whole New Testament point to belonging to a fellowship as a key to a believer’s life?
Absolutely, positively. You’re absolutely right on this. This person is probably thinking of Hebrews 10:25, which says,“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
But let me just say, there’s something a little bit messed up with somebody who says, “The Bible clearly commands something, but it only commands it in one place, so I don’t have to worry about it.” What are we even talking about? If the Bible clearly commands it, then that’s enough. We don’t have to go any further with that. It doesn’t matter if it commands it in one place, or many places. Now, if the Bible speaks to an issue in several places, we want to get the whole counsel of God on it. There’s no doubt about that. God forbid we would just say, “Well, God only told me once, so I guess I don’t have to listen.”
The idea of God’s kingdom being a community, and the community of kingdom people, is very important to us. You could say that it’s woven within the fabric of the New Testament. The New Testament does not even comprehend someone with an isolated Christianity. If there is such a presentation of a person, it’s a strange one-off situation, such as the Ethiopian eunuch that we mentioned before. No, no. Christianity in its normal expression is intended to be lived in community. Now listen, we understand that some people, for particular reasons, are not able to be a part of a church community. Well, we understand that there’s the ideal, and then there’s the actual. But we can say there’s no doubt that the Christian ideal for us is to be part of a good strong congregation.
So, I think you’re correct on that. The New Testament does point to belonging to a fellowship as an important part of a believer’s life. As much as Christians are able to do so, they absolutely should.
How do we know when God disciplines us as mentioned in Hebrews 12?
In some sense, the answer to your question can only be understood by discernment. James 1:2-8 encourages believers who fall into various trials to rejoice, because God is using those trials to train us, and using them for our good. Immediately following, James talks to the believer about praying for wisdom. I think there’s a real connection there.
When we’re in the midst of a trial of some kind of difficulty, we should pray to God that He would give us discernment to know what it is. Is this an attack from the enemy that should be resisted and rejected? Is this the discipline of God in my life that I should submit to and learn from? Is it something else for which I need wisdom or discernment from God?
I think that we need to pray for wisdom, because there’s no one set of criteria, or one set of rules, that can give us the proper answer in every circumstance. But I do think it’s important for us to get this discernment. And that’s why in James, he first talks about the profitability of trials and testings in our life, and then immediately begins speaking about our need to pray for wisdom. We need wisdom and discernment in trials. Because I want to know, “Lord, is this something You want to give me victory out of, or escape from? Or do You want to give me victory in the midst of it? Maybe You’re not going to deliver me from the situation, but You’re going to deliver me in the situation.” I think that’s a good way to see it.