Can God Forgive My Sin?
By Dr. Charles Stanley
Have you ever done something you considered unforgivable? Maybe you thought, I know God forgives me, but I can't forgive myself. Or, maybe you're convinced you've committed a particular sin too many times to be forgiven.
A. Why do we resist God's forgiveness?
Four common problems keep us in bondage to guilt.
1. Belief in performance-based forgiveness.
Our whole lives are based on performance. Ever since we were children, we learned that whatever we achieve or receive is a result of our own actions.
The Bible says God accepts us on the basis of what He did, not on the basis of what we try to do. We can't "pay" for God's forgiveness by working harder or serving more fervently.
- What does Romans 6:23 say about the cost of God's forgiveness?
As believers, we are forgiven children of God, no matter what we do. Our difficulty is not one of being unforgiven. It is one of feeling unforgiven.
2. Disappointment in self.
It can be difficult to forgive ourselves for not living up to our own expectations. When we mess up, we are so disappointed in ourselves that we believe God is disappointed, too.
- Disappoint can mean to fail to satisfy the expectation of another or to frustrate or thwart. According to this definition, why is it impossible to disappoint God? (See Isaiah 42:9)
3. Adjustment and surrender to guilt
Sometimes guilt becomes a comfortable part of our thinking and even our identity. The idea of being free from guilt can become threatening.
- Read Romans 8:1. Why are you free from guilt if you are in Christ?
We might think, I know what the Bible says, but… We need to realize that every time we include a "but," we put one more bar into our prison of guilt. We have to desire to be free from guilt. If not, receiving God's forgiveness will be difficult.
4. Expectation of Repeated Sin
We might think, I know God has forgiven me. But I don't forgive myself, because I know I'm going to repeat that sin.
- When Christ died for your sins, how many of your sins (including the ones you commit over and over) were in the future?
- For how many of your sins did Christ die?
- Jesus told Peter to forgive his brother 70 times seven, in other words, an uncounted number of times. (Matthew 18:21-22) What can we learn about God's forgiveness from Jesus' command to Peter?
We may still face consequences, but God doesn't ask us to withhold forgiveness from ourselves because we may sin again.
B. How Can We Forgive Ourselves?
Regardless of how long we have been in bondage, we can be free if we follow four basic steps.
1. Recognize the problem.
Father, I realize I haven't forgiven myself and am in bondage because of it.
2. Repent of sin.
Father, I repent of not forgiving myself, although You have forgiven me. I thank You, Lord, for forgiving me for holding myself in bondage, for keeping myself from You and for limiting Your use of me. In Jesus' name, amen.
3. Surrender control.
Don't be afraid to admit your inability to overcome sin through your own power. Agree with God that His power is perfected in your weakness, and trust Him to provide a way out every time you are tempted. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10; 1 Corinthians 10:13)
4. Reaffirm trust.
We must reaffirm our trust in the testimony of Scripture: "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12).
5. Confess freedom and choose to receive it.
Lord Jesus, on the basis of Your Word, by an act of my will, in faith, I forgive myself here and now because You have already forgiven me and I accept my forgiveness. I choose from this moment to be freed of everything I have held against myself. Please confirm my freedom by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus' name, amen.
Talking about grace isn't enough. We must live by grace. Our sovereign, holy, righteous God has seen fit to declare us not guilty. We are free!
Adapted from The Gift of Forgiveness, by Charles Stanley. 1987.