by Reverend Bill Hines, M.A., M.A.R.
(The following is adapted from the book Leaving Yesterday Behind by Bill Hines. Used by permission.)
People want to feel the freedom within themselves to take on life in a robust and optimistic way. So when we recognize that we have done wrong and that freedom is not realized, some believe God's forgiveness is not enough. Some say we must be able to forgive ourselves. But according to Scripture, freedom does not come from a personal declaration, freedom comes from the identity and forgiveness we are given by God.
If you and I committed a crime together and you felt bad about it, how would you feel if I told you, "I forgive you"? You would probably respond by telling me that it didn't help you any because I was guilty of the very same crime. You would be right. You need the forgiveness of the person or persons you wronged. The truth is that we cannot forgive ourselves because we are guilty. The guilty don't forgive, the innocent do! If I sin I cannot forgive myself, I can only lay myself at the mercy of the innocent and accept their forgiveness.
THE BASIS OF OUR FORGIVENESS
To receive forgiveness, we don't need to approve of what we have done or even "come to peace with it." It would be prideful to think that we could. The things we have done may indeed be detestable, but the basis of forgiveness is not feeling good about the sin or the sinner. The basis is the love of God, your love for Him and His love for you. God loves us and we must accept and live in His forgiveness. (Romans 5:8, 11; John 8:31-36).
We may have trouble receiving forgiveness because forgiveness means leaving condemnation behind and many of us are so accustomed to self condemnation, or what we perceive to be God's condemnation, that we would feel lost without it. To be forgiven is a change in our thinking. It means I must now live as forgiven. God wants us to humble ourselves and then walk in obedience to Him. One of those acts of obedience is to no longer entertain thought of self condemnation or the condemnation of God since He has declared us forgiven in Christ (Romans 8:1). If we're not to live in condemnation, what would He have us do? Perhaps the Prophet said it best: "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)
By breaking the stranglehold of sin, Jesus has secured for us the basis on which we are forgiven. We don't need to feel forgiven. We need to believe God (Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6-9).
If you would like to read more about forgiveness and the problems that keep us from pressing on in Christ, get Bill's new book Leaving Yesterday Behind
(Christian Focus Publication) at your local Christian bookstore or call the Covenant Ministries office @ (817) 738-2660. You may also email Reverend Hines at firstname.lastname@example.org