The Truth About God's Forgiveness
What Satan Doesn't Want You To Know
I recently had a conversation with another believer about a past sin, and how God had
finally broken through the lies of the enemy, after 20 years of guilt, and made it clear that
He had been ready to forgive and forget this sin since it first happened. What a relief is
was in the life of this Christian!
In fact, this subject has become a pretty common theme in the emails I have received regarding www.middletree.net. Satan has invested lots of effort into fooling God's people about God's forgiveness, letting them carry around some guilt and shame that never was destined for their shoulders.
Consider 3 things:
1. Recently, when my daughter was a toddler, she began behaving in a way that I consider unacceptable. She began placing her feet up on the kitchen table while we eat. What's more, she has been enjoying the reaction she has been getting out of me, and has, from time to time, put her feet back up on the table immediately, mainly to see me stop what I am doing and go over to her and correct her. My wife and I tried to explain to her that having one's feet on the table is rude, but of course, there is only so much that a child of this age can understand. When Abby has repeatedly put her feet on the table in direct defiance of us, we have been known to take corrective action that is non-verbal in nature.
What I have caught myself doing occasionally is deciding at the outset that I will tolerate a certain number of times, usually 4, before getting tough. So when Abby has been verbally corrected 3 times, I have sat there, anticipating her next act of rebellion. I've been wanting her to go ahead and do it, so I could punish her and, in essence, "win."
Hold that thought for a minute as I tell you something else about myself. This is a bit of a change in gears, but stay with me.
2. Like most people, I have had hurts in my life. Some of this hurt has come directly as a result of treatment I have received from certain individuals: former teachers, former classmates, and in adult life, former employers, even friends and family members. In many cases, I have forgiven the offenders. Why? Because that's what the bible says to do. Even the Lord's prayer directs us to ask God for forgiveness as we are to forgive others. However, I have found that in many cases, I have not truly let go. I have held a grudge, I have been less than friendly when talking to that person, I have driven by an old workplace and still felt a twinge of anger, even to the point of fantasizing what it would be like to go back to my old boss and tell him how unfair he was to me. While I truly felt that I had forgiven these people, I didn't forget.
And for the final gear shift:
3. I have a much younger brother who has needed to borrow money from time to time, and in many cases, his "bad luck" was really the natural consequences of his own actions, although he rarely accepts blame. In 2002, he called me up crying, and needed several hundred dollars. I took it out of savings, and gave it to him, and listened to him tell me how he was going to pay me back; I knew I would never see that money again, and I have not. I have since decided that that was the last time I would bail him out. Next time, he's on his own.
Now, let's tie these 3 thoughts together.
1. As a parent, I have waited for my child to commit an inevitable sin, so that I could administer punishment.
2. As a man, I have forgiven, but not forgotten.
3. I have put a cap on the "mercy well" that I am willing to extend to my brother.
At this point, I want to bring us back to the original thought of this piece: that there are times when we have committed a sin and felt a certain measure of guilt, a bad feeling that God isn't especially pleased with us. Guilt we can't seem to get rid of.
This is the time to point out that:
1. God's style of parenting is not like mine; and
2. God's style of forgiving is not like mine.
3. God's mercy is not limited like mine.
It is very common for Christians to believe that God is (1) waiting for us to do something wrong so He can punish us; (2) God says he forgives, but He really never will look at us the same once we have committed some grave sin; and (3) His is only willing to bail us out so many times.
It is these kinds of false thoughts that leads us into despair. It leads some into the mindset that our walk with God will never be the same. It leads to a feeling of a dark cloud hanging over us, that our prayers never get past the ceiling.
To shed the truth on these lies, I am going to simply let God's word speak for itself. The facts are these:
1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Jeremiah 31:34b"saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more"
Psalm 139:17-18"How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! [If] I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee."
Think about that. God loves you so much that His thoughts are as many as the grains of sand. Have you ever been to the beach? Think of how many grains of sand were at that one beach you went to, then imagine all the sand on the beach at Waikiki, which would be plenty by itself, but now add all the other beaches in Hawaii, and then all the beaches in Florida, Spain, Australia, Jamaica, and California, and then realize that you aren't even half done yet. And that doesn't equal God's thoughts toward you; His thoughts are more than that. And the verse says that these thoughts are precious. He adores you more than any human parent ever could love their own child. He is not out to get you. His mercy is not limited. If you come out of this with nothing else, make sure you understand that the depth of His love for you is very deep indeed.
It is true that the first verse listed does have a condition. God's love for us is not conditional. If it were, His word would say so. He is God, and He doesn't have to sugarcoat anything. His forgiveness does have a requirement, but it's really an easy thing. To confess simply means to agree with God about your sin. If you do that, then you have no reason to carry any guilt around.
Some time ago, my church's pastor led us through an exercise to help us walk in this truth. During a message, he had everyone in attendance write any sin that came to mind on a piece of paper, and then write "1 John 1:9" across it in big letters, and wad up the paper and throw it away. That's what God does when we confess our sin. We could just as easily have written Jeremiah 31:34.
Please take note that these verses apply to you. There is nobody, anywhere, that God refuses to forgive, if they confess. Don't let the enemy tell you any different.
If you find that a particular study has been helpful, I'd love to hear from you. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.