Last week, we looked at the idea of forgiving others. While forgiving those who wronged you can be quite difficult at times, if you are anything like me, you find it harder to forgive yourself of your past sins.
So let me start with good news: If you are a follower of Jesus, your past sins are forgiven through the willing sacrificial death of Jesus.
Jesus Himself, when observing His last Passover meal with his disciples, passed around a cup of wine, saying, "Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28) Did you hear that? Jesus’ blood was shed not just because he lived under a cruel Roman empire, nor because he wanted to be an inspiring example. His blood was poured out for the forgiveness of your sin! This is why the Apostle Paul told the Jesus-followers in the city of Ephesus that "In [Jesus], we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” (Ephesians 1:7)
But perhaps as you hear "your sins are forgiven," you are internally responding, “But you don’t know what I’ve done!"
You’re right, I don’t. What I do know is that in the Scripture, God forgave tons of people who did some horrible things, like...
So I know beyond a shadow of doubt, there is NOTHING you have done that can’t be covered by the blood of Jesus and forgiven by a loving heavenly Father.
Which means, if you follow Jesus, you need to forgive yourself! To not forgive yourself says God isn’t a perfect judge, or He isn't powerful enough to forgive it all, or that Jesus’ death wasn’t effective enough, and therefore you have to pay off the sin somehow yourself.
Therefore, to not forgive yourself is to essentially devolve into a works-righteousness mentality (where you think you need to do something to pay off your sin) or settle into heresy believing you are unforgivable. But Ephesians 2:8 makes it abundantly clear that it is not by works someone can be saved from their sin; it is only by the work of Jesus through the cross and empty tomb.
So if you are a fellow Jesus-follower who struggles to forgive yourself of your past misdeeds, you have to forgive yourself and trust in the gospel to completely wipe away your sin.
One way to remind yourself your sin is forgiven through Jesus and Jesus alone is by changing how you pray.
For years, after I realized I had sinned, I used to pray, “God, please forgive me.” But as I prayed it, I realized I felt like a failure, and would therefore inevitably beat myself up.
But over time, I've been learning to pray differently. Rather than plead for forgiveness, I thank God for the forgiveness I already have in Christ. I still confess the sin to God (like I did previously), but rather than pray with an attitude of “Sorry I'm a failure; I’ll try better,” I pray with an attitude of thankfulness that my sin is already forgiven. You might be tempted to think this would lead me to want to abuse God's grace and sin all the more. But I’ve noticed this posture in prayer actually makes me less likely to want to sin. I find my gratefulness for God's grace leads me to not want to rebel against His loving kindness.
So confess your sin to God, but truly allow the forgiveness of the perfect Judge of Heaven to be enough. Forgive yourself for the wrongs you have done, and thank God that His grace is powerful enough to wash you of your sin.
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