2000-05-24 - Forgiveness
The Forgiveness Series, Part 2
Psalm 32:1-2 (LB) What happiness for those whose guilt has been forgiven! What joys when sins are covered over! What relief for those who have confessed their sins and God has cleared their record.
Last week we looked at forgiving others. It is very difficult to forgive others. As I read your letters this week it seems to me that many of us find it difficult to distinguish between righteous anger toward another and the sin of our unwillingness to forgive. Anger can be good or it can be harmful, just as nuclear fusions can be good by providing power to a town or they can be harmful when used as a bomb to destroy that same city. Anger turned inward (at yourself) can lead to serious problems. Of course anger toward another person can also produce regretful situations.
I am my own worse critic and struggle with forgiving myself whenever I sin. Although the Bible gives us assurance of God's forgiveness, I still have trouble understanding God's unconditional forgiveness and love. It is even more difficult to comprehend His forgetting of the sins, once they are forgiven.
Isaiah 43:25 I, yes, I alone am he who blots away your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.
One of the building blocks of my faith is the "realness" of the people in the Bible. Paul admits to being the "chief of sinners." He persecuted and killed Christians for sport, yet God forgave him and used Paul for much good. David committed adultery, then had Bathsheba's husband killed in order to cover up his sin, yet God forgave David and used him for good. If God could forgive these people and they must have forgiven themselves, why can't we forgive ourselves?
I enjoy playing golf. I am amazed at how I used to talk to myself on the golf course. I would hit a slice into the woods and immediately my "self-talk" became, "you are terrible; you can't hit the side of a barn! Why do you even play this game?" One day I was playing and it occurred to me that I treat myself worse than my playing partners. I would never dream of telling a golf buddy, "gee that was a terrible shot; you are an awful golfer!" Why in the world do we talk to ourselves more unfairly than we talk to others?
You drive by the adult bookstore, the topless bar, or that motel where an old, yet forgiven sin took place. You drive by the home where you grew up, and your mind is tormented by the memory that you failed to tell your mother you loved her, before she died. You gnash your teeth and the pit of your stomach twists with guilt. God has forgiven you, but you have not. You talk to yourself like I used to talk to myself on the golf course. Where does it come from?
The inability to forgive ourselves is certainly not from God. In the first place, it comes from our allowing the evil one to plant in us a lack of trust and faith in God to forgive us. In the second place, it comes from him doing his best to make us feel unworthy of God's forgiveness. For me, it is similar to when he says, "Did God really forgive you? Are you sure, David? Are you worthy enough to even claim Christ as your Savior?"
When you start to doubt that you are forgiven for something for which you have repented, read passages and verses that remind you of God's forgiveness. In fact, I recommend that you commit the following passage, which is known as "the Christian's bar of soap," to memory.
1 John 1:9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. (NLT)
And say to yourself, "No, I'm not going to let the evil one create this doubt that God forgives me. I have been forgiven." Let's stop not forgiving ourselves, and let's stop letting the evil one wedge a shred of doubt into our minds.
Ephesians 4:31-32 Stop being mean, bad-tempered, and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ.
Just as the above verse urges us to be kind and tenderhearted, let's be kind to ourselves by having trust and faith in God's forgiveness. Is that a deal?
Father-Help those of us who constantly beat ourselves up over our past. Help us to really grasp the meaning of Your unconditional forgiveness. Remind us over and over that You are a God Who loves to make promises and Who always keeps those promises. Remind us of Your promise to blot out our sins and remember them no more. In Christ's name, Amen.