Thursday, 5 April 2012

Can We Forgive Ourselves?


There's something wrong with us. We can pretend there's not. We can invent therapies or rituals to deal with it that almost seem to work. And yet, all these approaches assume that we are the solution to our own problem. What we all want is to have our guilt and shame cleansed away through being truly forgiven. But how?
1John 2:12 ¶ I am writing to you, little children,
because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake.
There are many painful stories in our church Sunday by Sunday. People who have stolen and never told a soul. People who have cheated on their spouse and hope he never finds out. People who have a private problem with alcohol and other addictions. People who have an anger problem that violently and verbally hurts those around them. People with a gambling problem that has put their personal and family finances in jeopardy. People who have an uncontrollable obsession with pornography. People who have murdered. People who have told a big lie. All of these people ache. Some do so more than others. Some are OK most of the time but then there are sights, songs, smells, anniversaries, or places that remind them of their deep ache and cause them to feel unforgiven.
How do we find forgiveness? The only way anyone can find forgiveness for our sins is to have them atoned for.
Heb. 9:22 ¶ Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
When Christ died, He atoned for our sins and made possible the only means to be forgiven of our sins. Yet all too often we do not feel forgiven. We reason this unwelcome sensation away with statements like, "I know God has forgiven me, but I just can't forgive myself." I wonder, since I hear this so often, that this is an unfair view of God's forgiveness versus self-forgiveness?
1John 1:9 ¶ If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness..
Sin not only brings guilt, it brings pain. Pain from sinful activity is an unavoidable consequence. Rather than learning to forgive ourselves, perhaps we might benefit from understanding the important distinction between guilt and remorse (emotional pain). Forgiveness through the Atonement of our sins is transacted when we confess our sins to our Crucified Saviour and He takes our sins upon Himself and bears our guilt and shame. But how is the pain of the past removed?

I wonder if those of us who battle with the pain of mistakes, failures, sins, emotional hurts, have a sufficient appreciation for the value of God's forgiveness? That is, the fact that God says He has forgiven us...does this outweigh any other's feelings about the matter...including our own?
Luke 7:47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little."
Being forgiven by God drove one woman to tears of gratitude. This same woman, whose: sins were many, poured very expensive perfume over the feet of Christ in sheer relief and elation at having her sins forgiven. Like anyone who has sinned wantonly, she almost certainly would have discovered that her forgiven sins still left the scar of consequences. All those who have committed the sin of cliff jumping will understand what I am about to say: If you jump off a dangerously high cliff-top with suicidal intent and then half way down realise that was wrong - and repent before God - your sins will be forgiven - but the fall will still have consequences! It seems that some people have assumed that God's forgiveness actually undoes the sin from ever being done. Not so. God may heal the affect of some consequences, He may even allow others to bear the full weight of their sin's consequences, but He always redeems the consequences of those whose sins are forgiven. Even though we hurt because of what we've done, God can use what we've done for His glory and our best good!
Rom. 4:7 ¶ "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
We've all sinned. Therefore, we all hurt. For those of us who have confessed our sins and asked God for His forgiveness we have the confidence that we have been cleansed of our guilt and shame because of what Christ has done for us on the Cross. While we still feel the pain or remorse for what we have done we can rest assured that the God of all hope will use even our sins to ultimately bring glory to Him. And a closing thought about being in a community of forgiven sinners-turned-saints ... we can sometimes take an older brother attitude toward others and their sins by feeling that we're actually not that bad compared to them. Rather than providing a safe place for confession, transparency, and honesty, such an attitude may promote denial, secrecy, and even dishonesty. If there is one place in society where someone should be able to find forgiveness, surely it should be the church - even if the one needing forgiveness is the pastor.

Ps. Andrew

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