How can I be and feel forgiven?
Can God really forgive me? Why doesn’t it always feel that way?
(Click to listen to an audio recording of this article: How can I be and feel forgiven?)
Guilt is not a feeling we can simply shake off. Many people turn to God in a need to attain some sense of forgiveness for their wrongs.
In many cases people are not truly sorry for the wrong they have done. They are simply looking to soothe their troubled conscience. There are, however, those who desperately desire to receive the forgiveness of sins and genuinely sorrow over their wrongdoing. They are truly interested in finding out how they can be forgiven, and know in their hearts that they are in fact forgiven, and that everything has been put right between themselves, God and their fellow man.
Isaiah 1:18 makes clear God’s attitude towards forgiveness “… Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.” What an incredible offer – God wants to forgive you!
How do I ask God for forgiveness?
But there are conditions for receiving forgiveness. Firstly, God must know you are also willing to forgive those who may have wronged you. Without this attitude of mind God will not let you off the hook. This is confirmed in Matthew 6:14-15: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Secondly, John explains the first step in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” You need to call the sin by its name and confess it to God, so what you want forgiveness for is clear: God knows all things, so this confession is more for yourself than for God, but He wants to know you see it the same way He does. Should you need to ask forgiveness from a person you wronged, then confessing your sin would include this too.
To receive God’s forgiveness you must have a longing neveragain. You have to mourn about your sin – a sorrow that you have acted against God’s will. Then God knows it is not merely a case of you wanting to soothe your conscience in the moment of guilt. Someone who asks God for forgiveness superficially will not be taken seriously and will certainly not be forgiven, but when He sees you want to turn from it with all your heart He will gladly forgive even the most terrible sin.
Biblical “sorrow” is in fact something very positive. In 2 Corinthians 7:10 we read. “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted …” This means that being truly sorry about your sin will cause you to run in the opposite direction, away from your sin and guilt into a life of freedom and peace.
But is being sorry all it takes?
You might be thinking “I do feel sorry, and have asked God to forgive me, but I still don’t feel it or even know if I am forgiven.” There can be a few reasons for this, but what does the Bible say about it?
You must guard your heart against any thoughts that want to rob you of what is written in God’s word concerning His forgiveness. Satan himself is behind this. We know his only aim is to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10), and he is a master at sowing doubt. But the Bible says that he is the father of lies, and we therefore never have to believe what he says.
On the other hand, we know that God is faithful to His promises and laws, and that He cannot lie. Therefore, if you have fulfilled the conditions, and were sincere when you asked God for forgiveness, then He has heard you and He has forgiven you. Hold tightly to what is written in 2 Corinthians 5:17. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” You may not always feel forgiven but we are not meant to live by our feelings. Rather, we need to trust in God’s Word!
That means that you must believe, regardless of how you feel, that you are forgiven and that He has cast your sins into the depths of the seas, as it is written in Micah 7:19.
Victory over sin!
We can receive forgiveness because Jesus died for us. If we fulfill the conditions we don’t have to die as we deserve. But it doesn’t end there. God not only wants to forgive you but also has a plan to ensure that the sin which has caused you so much sorrow never has power over you again. In order for this to take place you need to do everything necessary to draw nearer to Jesus. He not only died that you might receive forgiveness for your sins, but lived a life of victory over sin, making it possible for you to do the same. You must give up everything that would lead you back to doing what you have received forgiveness for. Your greatest desire should now be to hear His voice within your heart which will lead you into a completely new life of purpose and peace.
Don’t let Satan weigh you down with feelings of guilt. Stand up today, lay hold of forgiveness and begin living an entirely new life. A life of complete victory over sin.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.