Thursday, October 25, 2012

Believing Christ's Forgiveness

As of late I have received a couple of requests to address the issue of forgiveness; specifically the issue of forgiving yourself once you know that God has forgiven you through Jesus Christ.  I contemplated a sermon on the subject but felt that this might be the best medium so that the information can be ever at your fingertips.

At the core, we struggle with letting go of our sins of the past.  Some of us struggle more than others.  Oh we mentally acknowledge that we’ve been forgiven of course, but it is hard to actually forgive ourselves because deep down we feel we have to earn God’s forgiveness.  The real battle with forgiving ourselves does not come from the heinous nature of our various sins; it comes in believing that God is really a God who will forgive sinners FREELY with no works or merits on their part.  When we cry out in despair and struggle with forgiving ourselves what we are really doing is forgetting the Gospel; we are doubting God.  I don’t at all mean that to sound harsh so please do not take it that way, but that is what is happening.

Anytime I fret over my past and decide not to forgive myself because of the transgressions on my account I am forgetting the Gospel of Grace which declares that Christ’s blood was and is so powerful that it cleanses me from ALL unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).  Let that sink in for a moment.  Let all of your past sins run through your mind for a moment and now understand that if you are in Christ they have ALL, every single one, been declared FORGIVEN.

If you were to open up your case file with God and check to see on what grounds all the charges against you were dismissed you would find one answer and one answer only.  It is solely on the grounds of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ alone that we can be forgiven and not only forgiven but justified!  Freed from ever being in debt over our sin again!

When we deny ourselves something basic, and by that I mean some non-sinful basic human need and we do it on the grounds of still feeling guilty, what we are really doing is trying to punish ourselves so that we feel forgiven. 

But that is just opposite of what the Gospel tells us.  The Gospel says that He, meaning Christ, was bruised for my iniquities.  He took the punishment for my sin.  1 John 1:9 reminds us that God is faithful and just.  Faithful and just!  We need to be careful not to doubt our forgiven position in Christ lest we drift into the dangerous waters of doubting God’s Holy character.

We struggle with forgiving ourselves because we know that we are going to sin again in some way.  We struggle with it because we break our promises and have a hard time believing a God who won’t break His.  But our Father is not like us.  He has promised and He alone cannot break His promise.  It is His steadfastness, not our worthiness, that guarantees our forgiveness.

It is true that we are sinners who do not deserve His mercy but He is faithful and loving and it is by His faithfulness to uphold His promise of forgiveness that we can begin to forgive ourselves and move past the hurt we’ve caused in the past by our sin.  We never forget the things we’ve done to sin against God and others, but we stand in awe of Him because He has (Psalm 103:12).

Spend some time pondering the Gospel today.  Spend some time dwelling on the fact that we are not only promised forgiveness of our sin but also cleansing.  It is Satan’s desire to keep you locked in a state of doubting God so that he can keep you ineffective for the kingdom.

Jesus did not forgive you before you sinned against Him nor did He wait for you to stop sinning before He saved you.  He has said to you as He did the woman caught in adultery

If you believe that God sent Christ to forgive you of all your sin then live like you believe it.  You may think ‘this is too easy, give me some self-forgiveness steps Pastor’, but that is the flesh desiring to do works for forgiveness again.  The key isn’t in some do it yourself process; the key is in believing the Gospel.  Daily as you rise, go about your tasks, and lay your head down at night, REMEMBER THE GOSPEL!  The Gospel was not merely a one-time message you needed to be saved, it is the ever present reminder of the hope you need and the grace God has provided every single day!

The byproduct of forgiveness and justification is peace.  Jesus said He came to bring us peace, not as the world defines peace, but a peace that is beyond all comprehension John 14:27)!  That peace guards our hearts (Philippians 4:7).

Because of Christ we now have peace between us and our own souls (Hebrews 9:14). “O the precious peace of a clear conscience. So many people labor under the misery of a guilty conscience. I’ve heard many say, “I cannot forgive myself.”, but that’s what Good Friday is for!  The forgiving of sinners and the removal of a guilty conscience!

Peace with yourself doesn’t mean that you start seeing past sins as appropriate nor does it mean excusing the wrong you’ve done. Peace doesn’t mean that past sins cease to be painful. It means they cease to be paralyzing. The pain may not be taken away immediately, but the penalty is taken away immediately through Christ. And that makes it possible to heal and move forward in our pursuit of Christ-likeness. 

The only remaining option beyond what has been said above is that you cannot experience forgiveness of yourself because you've never received forgiveness from God.  Jesus Christ has died and been raised and has taken the punishment for your sin.  He commands you, and I am pleading with you, repent and trust in Jesus Christ and God will forgive you!  Not because of your merits because you have none but rather because of Christ's merits!  He is good and He is perfect and He is kind!  Flee to him because He has been kind enough to provide for you a Savior!  If you should turn away from His offer of salvation then know this, the guilt you feel now over the sins you've committed in your life, as painful as they are to you now, is nothing compared to what awaits you after you die.  When you stand before God and all your sins are laid bare before Him and you finally see your sin as not just bad things you've done against others but as rebellious strikes against God Himself.

Seek Him now and KNOW Him as Savior, seek Him later and you'll only know Him as Judge.