Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Problem of Forgiveness

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

It may seem strange to speak of a “problem” of forgiveness. After all, as Christians don’t we rejoice in our forgiveness, freely given to us in and by Jesus Christ our Savior? Certainly we do. Yet all of us from time to time have problems with this free forgiveness.

One problem we have is that we don’t clearly focus on the difference between objective forgiveness and feelings of forgiveness. Yesterday we saw that there is a difference between true moral guilt and guilt feelings. Similarly, there is a difference between objective forgiveness and feelings of forgiveness.

Sometimes people feel forgiven when in fact they are not forgiven because they have not confessed their sin to God. For the Christian the reverse is often the problem. We want to feel a certain way—to have an experience of release from guilt feelings—before we will accept the fact that we are objectively forgiven. In fact, though, if we have confessed our sin, God has forgiven us, and that is true whether we feel it or not.

The second problem Christians have with forgiveness can be illustrated by a story. A man once told me that he had confessed a sin to God over and over again, and yet he did not feel forgiven. I told him that he needed to confess a different sin: the sin of arrogance. He needed to confess the fact that he had arrogantly refused to accept God’s objective forgiveness, which God had already given him. All of us are proud, and so there is a part of us that does not want to receive a completely free forgiveness. It is humbling to have to admit that there is absolutely nothing I can do about my own sin.

If we worry that maybe God has not forgiven us after we have confessed our sin, that worry can turn into a second sin of disbelief. Does today’s lesson describe any area in your life? If so, go to your knees now and tell God that you believe His Word despite nagging feelings to the contrary, and that you accept His forgiveness. If doubts come to your mind during the day, argue with yourself from 1 John 1:9. God’s Word is true; our hearts are often liars.