A while back, I received this email from a visitor to I Lift My Eyes Web Ministries:
I am in a mainline denomination and I've asked forgiveness for my sins many times but I don't feel that I can forgive myself, or that God has forgiven me, How do I know I am forgiven?
I wrote in answer:
First of all, thank you for writing. You ask a good question. How do we know we are forgiven? Do we have to prove to God how sorry we are before we are forgiven? Here is some freedom for you. You don't have to prove yourself to God; you only have to confess to Him.
Confess: To take complete ownership of specific thoughts, actions, words and behaviors; to admit to God and perhaps admit to others as need be that these specific actions, thoughts, behaviors and patterns have harmed ourselves and others and have offended God.
2 Chronicles 7:14
As we repent by resolving to abandon our sins through a conscious choice to turn away from those specific sinful thoughts, attitudes, behaviours and actions, we can embrace deep and lasting freedom through God's forgiveness and empowering grace in our lives.
The good news is God's forgiveness is instant! Through Jesus' death on the cross and through his resurrection, He earned our forgiveness. Our slate is wiped clean. When God looks over our 'criminal record' there is no mention of the sins we previously confessed on our rap sheet. If we stumble and fall back into that specific sin, God's offer of forgiveness is still valid, we only need to return to him once again. There is no limitation on God's offer.
Before we can experience forgiveness, we first need to come to a realization of just what we need forgiveness from. Many people generalize their confessions to God, painting themselves with the harsh broad stroke of condemnation. "I am a terrible, terrible person. You must hate me God." When we come to God with such a blanket statement of self-loathing, it is difficult for us to feel God's forgiveness. God, in his mercy and wisdom, convicts us of specific sins. He is a masterful surgeon, using his sharp two-edged sword (his Word) to go right to the meat of the matter. (Hebrews 4:12). In modern terms, God's conviction is more accurate and exact than the most advanced surgical laser. He pinpoints very specific sins in our lives in the hope that we will come to him for forgiveness and walk with him into freedom from the bondage of those specific sins.
Unfortunately, while God completely frees us from any eternal consequence of our sin upon our confession to him, we are often left with the earthly consequences of our sin. For example, those who have made poor food choices, those who have smoked heavily or have drunk to excess for decades may have health difficulties as a result of these abuses to their bodies. The good news is God can and does heal today. With his help and our determination to submit ourselves to the help he provides, whether that be through medical, spiritual or emotional counsel and peer support, we can walk in freedom.
We sometimes find those who we have sinned against choose not to forgive us even though we have taken full responsibility for our actions against them. At that point, all we can do is to go as far as we can in restitution, by making right what wrongs we have done as much as that individual feels comfortable to allow. Restitution could require paying for the damage we have caused others. It could mean legal ramifications in the court system. It is important to note that such consequences have nothing to do with the fact we are forgiven by God. These earthly consequences and costs are not a sign of God's long-term judgment and punishment over us. Jesus paid our debt and in the eyes of God, there is nothing between us and his loving arms. At the very instant of our confession, we are given the opportunity to walk in the complete freedom provided to us through Christ's sacrifice. God never refuses a repentant heart.
Psalm 51:16-17 (NRSV)
When we don't forgive ourselves, we hold ourselves in chains that keep dragging us down, back into the very sin we ant to avoid. As we embrace God's forgiveness, however, and as we forgive ourselves, we give God the permission to snap that heavy chain, releasing us from the overbearing weight of guilt and self-loathing.
Forgiveness is not an emotion, it is a legal transaction. God knows you are guilty of your sin, and He knows the only way for you to find forgiveness of sin was through the death of His Son. Jesus stands with you in the court of Law, (1 Jn 2:1-2, Hebrews 7:24), and says. "I have taken the punishment for this sin on the cross and I rose from the dead so this one can be set free." Jesus took our punishment. We do not need to wait for a warm fuzzy feeling to know we are forgiven. We only have to look to the Cross, a stark reminder of the price God pain in order than he could pronounce forgiveness over his beloved children. Jesus paid the price; he took our place, and took our punishment.
It is said in your denominational tradition. "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world." You are part of that world and as a result, you have been given an invitation to live in that forgiveness. You have full access to that forgiveness, every day, every hour.
I hope you will find the following resources from our ministry site on the subject of forgiveness to be a help :
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