Jesus taught His disciples that they should pray to God for forgiveness for things they had done wrong, and He made it clear that receiving forgiveness was dependent on them forgiving others. They were to pray like this, “God, forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” You can read the entire prayer in Matthew 6.
Remorse and acknowledgement
When your conscience is troubled, it is God who is working, and you realize that it is necessary for you to pray for forgiveness. Perhaps you discover that you have chosen the wrong path at one of life’s crossroads, and you wish you could do it over again. You understand that what you did was wrong. The apostle Peter once told people who realized they had done wrong, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” Acts 3:19. When you are genuinely remorseful, you sense a need for forgiveness from God and from people. According to the Bible, “He who covers his sins will not prosper.” Proverbs 28:13. When you hide your sin and are not willing to acknowledge it, you cannot be forgiven. Then you do not have joy. The apostle John writes, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. You will not experience this joy until you confess your sins!
The basis for forgiveness
Before Jesus lived on earth, the High Priest offered a sacrifice once a year for all the sins of the people. People received forgiveness; however, those sacrifices were not able to help people keep a clear conscience. Although the sacrifice gave people forgiveness, it didn’t have the power to take away the evil that is in human nature. That evil is what caused them to sin. Therefore, the sacrifice had to be placed on the altar again and again, year after year.
Jesus died for the people; He gave His life as a sacrifice once and for all. In the letter to the Hebrews chapters 9 and 10 you can read more about the foundation for forgiveness. After Jesus arose from the dead, receiving forgiveness took on a whole new meaning! It is possible for you to cast off those things which burden your conscience. When you go to God and ask for forgiveness, you are released from guilt because Jesus took the blame upon himself. Therefore you can confidently ask for forgiveness for the sins you have committed, and you will experience that God “will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea,” as it is written in the Bible. (Micah 7:19)
Why is the forgiveness of sins so important?
God wants to show His love toward you by giving you the opportunity to forget everything in the past and start with a clean slate. By offering His life as a sacrifice, Jesus opened a way which hadn’t been accessible before. You can walk on this way! You can also offer your life as a sacrifice. You do that by fighting the evil—sin—which dwells in your human nature, and denying yourself through the power of the Holy Spirit. The forgiveness of sins is the starting point, and as you continue on the way, you can receive help to live with a clear conscience by following Jesus’ example to “take up your cross daily.” (Luke 9:23)
The new life
As you walk on this new and living way, you become more and more thankful. You start thinking differently! No longer do you blame others for your difficulties. If you were unrighteous in the past, you now desire to be righteous. You want to do God’s will. You want to do what is best for others. This is because you have received a new mind. The joy that results from receiving this new mind starts to characterize you. Something is developing within you, and God opens your mind to this new life so that you can become “a new creation!”
A branch on the vine
Receiving the forgiveness of sins is saying “yes” to being grafted in as a branch on the vine which is Jesus. Jesus says, “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit.” John 15:5. Jesus wants you to bear fruit. In a tree, sap flows from the vine to the branches.
When you become a branch on the vine of Jesus Christ, you receive power in your life. Then your life will become meaningful and interesting!