How can God forgive me when I can't?

Over the past month and a half, we have discussed how to forgive as Christians. One of the frequently asked questions that I have received is How can God forgive me when I can't? While there is no doubt that we are nowhere near where God wants us to be, we can find comfort in this one actual and unavoidable fact about our faith. God loves you and forgives you regardless of what you have done and who you might have been. 

Forgive Yourself written on a chalkboard

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Phases of Forgiveness

There are two phases to forgiveness: (1) Someone forgives; and (2) Someone Accepts. Most of us struggle with forgiveness because we do not accept God's forgiveness. The struggle is real, and it is one of the things that keep us from reaching a deeper relationship with Christ.

You are forgiven. Now you must accept that forgiveness. 

Scripture Reference
10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he wats for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. 15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: 16 "This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds." 17 Then he adds: "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." 18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary. (Heb 10:10-18)

What prevents us from Accepting God's Forgiveness?

  • Allowing Guilt and Condemnation to Dominate Our Lives (Proverbs 4:25)
    • One of my husband's best friends from law school cheated on his wife two times after she had their baby daughter. One day, for no reason, he confessed his transgressions, and she filed for divorce less than 24 hours after his confession. 
    •  As a result of these events, he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior and is trying to "move on" and help raise his daughter. 
    •  It has now been about a year and a half since then, and when I speak with him, the one thing that continually comes up is the endless amount of guilt he deals with from past actions. Unfortunately, that has become so powerful that it guides everything decision he makes in his life.
  • We define ourselves based on our mistakes and imperfections. Usually, when people look in the mirror, they see what they are not as opposed to what they are (Ex. Not skinny enough, not tall enough, not smart enough, etc.).
  • Often the pain ad regret of hurting someone can be higher than the pain of being hurt.
  • Many Christians confuse guilt and condemnation with conviction.

What is the difference between being convicted and being guilty?

  • Guilt and condemnation are emotions, and, like all emotions, they are motivated by our selfish desires. When we act to quell our guilt, we are operating based on selfish motives. So while you may not be doing something you want to do, you are doing it solely for your benefit.

  • Conviction is spiritual and manifests only from the Holy Spirit. Conviction is selfless and intended to ensure that God's will be done regardless of how it makes you or the other person feel.

  • Guilt is often a tool used by Satan to get you to act a certain way. Guilt breeds secrets that fester and corrupt our spirit. We hold on to things because we fear judgment or ridicule or some negative response.

How can God forgive me when I can't?

We must forgive ourselves for our past failures and sins as well as for the habits and hang-ups that led to that sin. We may have to forgive ourselves repeatedly, but God forgives instantly, because of His love for us.

True Love (Jeremiah 29:11)

By this point, most of us know what it means to Love someone truly; the problem is that many do not honestly believe in this type of love.

  • The world is opposed to the concept of receiving something for nothing. In other words, we do not believe that any person would do something for us solely for our benefit. We belong to a barter society.
  • We have to embrace real love and have faith in God that he loves us so much that he is willing to forgive us for our sins.

Why do I struggle to forgive myself?

Personal reliance instead of Spiritual reliance. Some of us cope with our sins differently:
  • We try to use religious activity and "doing the right thing" to deal with sins that trouble us.
  • We compare ourselves to other sinners and look down on those we perceive as worse sinners than us.
  • While we might acknowledge the need for God to assist us, we trust in our self-effort and hard work to get us near to God.
  • We cannot earn God's forgiveness. It is only through his grace that we are forgiven. We all need grace. When we try to do this must the Holy Spirit and, in doing so, deny our need for God's grace and hope that we can relieve the burden through our efforts.

How do we accept forgiveness from God?

  • Cast Away the Sins of Our Past (Romans 4:25)
    • God has forgiven us! What we need to do beyond that is life in that promise and allow ourselves to be forgiven. We need to lay our sins and burdens at the foot of the cross and walk lighter. 
    • We need to remove the weight from our rucksacks so we can win the race! And not just until we get to the back door; we need to allow them to be cast away without looking back; we need to enable them to sink to the bottom of the ocean without hanging on to them. We need to walk in the power and freedom that Jesus himself died to give us.
    • Paul was a murderer and the worst persecutor of Christians at his time. We are first introduced to him as someone who holds everyone else's coats while they stoned Stephen.
    • You can only imagine that Paul often felt the burden of past actions. The Christians were skeptical because he was a former persecutor, and the Pharisees and Sadducees were suspicious because he was a traitor.
    • Take the opportunity to once and for all drop that burden and leave it behind.

  • Wholehearted and honest confession to God (with faith). There should not be any secrets between you and God (Romans 10:9-11)
    • Confession is admitting to the specific sins in your life that keep us away from God.
    • Once you confess your faults, you are one step closer to being free from their hold over your heart.
    • Confession is a public expression, but that does not mean it cannot be done in private (belief is the personal side of confession)

  • Recognize that we must face the Consequence of Our Actions (Romans 6:23)
    • You may still have to face the consequences of your actions, but those previous mistakes will no longer control your life.
    • There are different types of wrath:
      • Eternal (heaven and hell)
      • Consequential (reap what you sow)
      • Cataclysmic (Sodom)
      •  Eschatological wrath (second coming of Jesus)
      • Abandonment (depraved mind)
    • Does God punish us?
      • No, God disciplines us. A lot of the consequences are, in fact, in reaction to our actions.
    • Many lose heart because they must face the consequences, but grace is not intended to spare us from all the consequences, just the eternal result.
  • Focus on God
    • Accepting God's forgiveness is part of receiving God. So, we must accept him to gain the full benefit of his forgiveness.

Be Blessed Friends,

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