Oh, what a glorious thing to be forgiven! To no longer carry the guilt of your sins!
God’s willingness to forgive all who come to Him in true humility and repentance is an amazing thing. But I have found that the forgiveness of God is often misunderstood.
On the one hand, there is nothing you or I can do to earn forgiveness from God. We receive God’s forgiveness based on what Jesus did on our behalf to atone for our sins, not on the basis of what we have or have not done (Acts 10:43). There is no sin so great that it cannot be forgiven since the price that was paid to purchase our redemption was the priceless blood of the very Son of God Himself! Jesus paid the costly debt of sin with His own precious blood so that all who come to Him with a sincere and contrite heart might be forgiven fully, completely, and without limitation (1Pet. 1:17-19).
On the other hand, just because the price has been paid does not mean that forgiveness is poured out indiscriminately. It would be contrary to the nature of God, who is just and holy, to simply wink at sin and ignore it. Forgiveness is not cheap. It cost the precious blood of the Savior. It is given freely, but it is not spread about like fertilizer to be trampled underfoot by those who are indifferent to it.
Forgiveness is God’s response to true repentance. King David understood the nature of God. Although he lived nearly a thousand years before Christ, he recognized that God was not pleased by sacrifice, that is, by the sacrifice itself, but by the humble and repentant heart of the one who brought it in obedience to Him. David wrote,
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God. (Psalm 51:17 NLT)
It is never too late to repent, but repentance is more than confession. Repentance is also more than being sorry for your sins. Repentance includes honestly taking responsibility for your fault and determining to change, to no longer continue in the path of sin. When we truly repent and confess our sins to God, God forgives us and cleanses us from our sin (1John 1:9). Then, He stands ready to provide grace to help, because, to be honest, there is not one of us who can turn from sin and walk in righteousness without His help (Psalm 86:5, Heb. 4:16, Psalm 23:2-3).
Because forgiveness is so intimately connected to salvation, sometimes we forget that forgiveness and salvation are not one and the same thing. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and at the moment we are saved, we are fully forgiven (Eph. 2:8-9, Col. 2:13-14). But because we live our mortal lives day by day, moment by moment, we often need to experience forgiveness afresh. When temptation comes, we can lean into the Holy Spirit and resist by His grace (Eph. 4:13, James 4:7, 1Pet. 5:8-9). But if we do give in to sin, we experience a disruption in our fellowship with God. John the Apostle writes,
This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1John 1:5-9)
When we repent and confess our sins, we experience afresh the forgiveness of God and the restoration of sweet fellowship with Him.
When God forgives, He does not simply cover up or ignore our sins, He removes them far from us. Psalm 103:12 states, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” And the prophet Micah proclaims, “You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18-19). Even more, through the prophet Jeremiah, God declares, “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jer. 31:34).
We often have difficulty forgiving others, not to mention forgiving ourselves. But when we humbly come before God with an honest and contrite heart,
You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You. (Psa. 86:5)
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