At the very core of the plan of redemption is the need for forgiveness. Christ came, suffered and died in our place, for our sins. This cleansing is offered freely, but we must first learn to accept it. Seems simple, right? And it should be, so let’s break it down.
To forgive, by it’s very definition, means to excuse for a fault or an offense; pardon. But we often fail to realize that the offering of forgiveness takes two…one to excuse the offense and one to accept the pardon. If a man is sitting on death row awaiting his execution and a judge overturns the conviction releasing him, the man has received a pardon. However, if he refuses to accept it and insists on remaining imprisoned, he has denied the judge’s free offer. So it is with us when we have confessed our sins and have been offered the atoning blood of the Lamb, yet fail to believe He means we’re truly forgiven. He attempts to release us from our shackles, only to have us fight against him insisting we remain captive to our guilt.
Have you been there? I know I have. So let’s start at the beginning and be sure we have reconciled our hearts to His. Certainly He has done nothing requiring forgiveness, but our human nature sometimes forgets that. It’s easy to harbor bitterness deep within because God allowed certain circumstances to play out. And so all the while we profess Him, we secretly kick against Him not for what He did, but for what He didn’t prevent.
Go ahead and give that chip perched ever so comfortably upon your shoulder a good shove…it needs to be laid aside before you’ll be able to see the bigger picture. Now, let’s take a look at who God really is and what Christ has really done.
“He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalms 103:10-12
“I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified.” Isaiah 43:25-26
“Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger forever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” Micah 7:18-19
Did you catch the “delight” in that last text? He “delighteth” in mercy It sounds to me like He wants nothing more than to robe us in the righteousness of His precious Son.
“Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the Kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14
“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” Ephesians 1:6-7
“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” Hebrews 10:16-17
- Record a few observations from the above texts which describe the character of God. Make note of how those observations work together to paint the picture of Him that you hold in your heart. (Perhaps even, you’ll find your picture changing!)
- How can you ask God to allow the above observations to be applied practically in your life?
Ever feel that you’ve wandered too far? Or that you’re a lost cause? Israel had wandered about as far from God you can imagine, but they remained His chosen people. Take heart and seek hope in this text…
“To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him; Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. Yea, all Isreal have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him.” Daniel 9:9-11
In Daniel 9 we hear the plea of a desperate man. People had grown increasingly wicked. Daniel knew the promise of deliverance for Israel, but he wasn’t content to stand by and do nothing. He sought God with his whole heart, pleading for mercy and trusting in the power of a promised Savior. With fasting and prayer he came humbly before the Lord and confessed his sins and those of the people. Daniel should be an example to us as we seek His redeeming grace and intercede on behalf of our families. And of course, Christ willingly came to stand in our place of eternal separation. Let us not deny this ultimate sacrifice of love by insisting on wearing chains that have been loosed by His blood…
“For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Matthew 26:28
- Search your heart for things you may be holding against God. Look deep…some things could go back years and be chipping away without you even realizing it.
- Write out your prayer asking God to reconcile your heart to His. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you more fully with each passing day and to light a fire in you to get into His Word.
Now that we see clearly the free gift offered to us, we must come to terms with the disappointment in ourselves, our shortcomings and our sins. The chapters of our lives don’t read as nicely as we’d like and we have to accept that we cannot change where we’ve been. Once we’ve absolved our anger toward God and resentment for the “bad” that has come creeping in, it is extremely common to heap that burden of guilt upon ourselves. But once again, we must take it to the feet of Jesus.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” John 1:8-9
So clearly it is vital that we recognize our sins. But wallowing in them does no saving good. We need to then confess them, claiming and believing his promise of forgiveness and cleansing.
“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” Acts 3:19
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18
Check out this power-packed message from Paul. There is no way to deny that the plan of salvation didn’t end at the cross…that was only the beginning.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made righteousness of God in him.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
- Record several observations from the verses above.
- Write out a few ways you can allow God to apply these observations practically in your life.
- Are there people you need to extend true forgiveness to? Maybe people you hadn’t even realized you were harboring ill feelings toward?
- Write out your prayer asking God to help you truly forgive. Ask Him for a clean heart and a forgiving spirit.
We now have a grasp on the true nature of God and understand the need to allow Him to release us from the bondage of guilt. But we can’t stop there. Scripture admonishes us over and over to forgive our brethren who sin against us. Big wrongs, little wrongs and everything in between. And this is not the same thing as stuffing down our anger and resentment. We have to deal with it head on and then drop it at the foot of the cross.
“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14-15
“And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Mark 11:25-26
God doesn’t leave us guessing. We never have to wonder if we should forgive. There is no question that regardless of the offense we are to surrender our hurt, anger, bitterness and resentment. When Christ instructed the people how to pray, he included this foundational concept of forgiveness…
“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” Matthew 6:9-13
- Record a few observations that really stood out to you from the verses above.
- Write down several ways you might work with God to practically apply those observations in your life to bring about spiritual transformation.
- Are there areas in which you struggle with forgiving yourself? What keeps you clinging to the guilt?
- Write out your prayer asking God to free you from the bondage of guilt. Ask Him to give you peace in the assurance of His redeeming grace.
You may be shaking your head right about now thinking you already knew all this. And likely you did. But head knowledge doesn’t equal heart knowledge. Examine yourself carefully. Ask the Lord to show you hidden grievances that you are holding against him. Plead with Him to reveal to you areas where you have not forgiven yourself for life choices and the consequences they have brought. And search your innermost heart for bitterness against your brethren that you have bottled deep within. Be reconciled to God, yourself and your neighbor. Forgiveness and reconciliation are at the very heart of redemption. And it is my prayer that we will all continue our journey toward His redeeming arms.
Compiled by Kasey Norton