The L.A.F.F. Principle
So if you have been following my recent… tho sporadic posts you will see that we chatted about being Loved so we can love, and Accepted so we can accept. God’s love and acceptance of us is unconditional. There is nothing we have to do to earn it, it is a gift of God, our if we receive it by faith. What about Forgiveness? Many would argue that it too is a gift, and I will agree that God gives it liberally but, Forgiveness is not without strings.
First of all – to receive God’s forgiveness we first must confess our sins 1 John 1: 9 says If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We need to ask for it, our sin isn’t covered unless we acknowledge our need for atonement – which Jesus paid on the cross, and gladly extends to all who confess their sins and ask for his forgiveness. There is a second string to this one however, and often it is one we overlook. This second “string” is also the cause of why many of us do not live in the freedom we could be living in. The bible clearly says in Luke 11, where Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray, to pray this “forgive us our sins as we also forgive those who sin against us”. In Matthew 18 Jesus tells the parable of the unforgiving servant – a man who was forgiven a huge debt by the king, turned to one of his own servants who owed him just a small amount and had him thrown into prison because he couldn’t pay.
In order for us to walk in forgiveness we must be humble – quickly admitting our need for it and repenting AND we must extend that same grace to those who wrong us! Simply put we are forgiven so that we can forgive.
I want to add a point to this however, because sometimes we can get to a point where we finally allow God to forgive us for our long laundry list of failures and sins but often we do not forgive ourselves. Somewhere in our mind we still seem to think that suffering and punishment must take place as penance for our misdeeds – but we forget that Jesus, in his love has already taken that punishment for us. HIS death and resurrection not only mark our ability to be forgiven, but our freedom to forgive ourselves. His grace gives us the chance to try again, to get up from falling and keep going. When we accept God’s forgiveness, we should also accept his grace as permission for us to “go and sin no more”. Unforgiveness towards others, and towards ourselves holds grave consequences and can enslave us and prevent forgiveness of our sins. Is there someone that you need to release forgiveness to today? Don’t push it off till tomorrow, set yourself free today by releasing forgiveness.. and repenting and receiving forgiveness for yourself!
HOW TO TEACH THIS TO KIDS:
There are several layers to this teaching, and to teach it well it should be taught in layers, for example:
1) Define Sin & explain we are all sinners – Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God – This needs to be understood by the kids – we all need forgiving (especially us pious lifer christians who think we follow the rules so well).
2) Define Repentance – It’s not just about saying sorry, but TURNING from our current direction – 180 change! I would use 1 John 1: 9 as a memory verse for this week. Emphasize the need to confess/ask for forgiveness.
3) Define Forgiveness – Every Sin can be forgiven, everytime, again and again if necessary! – God’s forgiveness is plentiful – but I would challenge the kids to seek God’s help in improving and working out the sin in their lives – You can show the trap of “habitual” sin – like the hamster in his wheel!
– 1 John 1:7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
4) Forgiving ourselves – I would dedicate a whole lesson to this understanding as it can be a significant handicap for many christians. I love to use the analogy of a “child” carrying a very heavy knapsack of “sins” struggling under the weight and praying for forgiveness, God removes the knapsack, but the “child” doesn’t believe he is forgiven, so he fills up his own knapsack of “condemnation” and carries it around feeling sorry for himself.
– Romans 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
5) Forgiving others – This is most important, because if we do not forgive others, we ourselves cannot be forgiven. God’s promises are IF… THEN promises. IF we do something.. THEN.. God will do something. Using the parable of the unforgiving servant is a great story for this lesson – from Matthew 18.