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forgiveness
FORGIVENESS Related Topics:
GOSPEL, GRACE, SALVATION

How can we experience God's forgiveness?
Scripture Reading: Psalm 51:1-19
Key Verse(s): For I recognize my shameful deeds--they haunt me day and night. (Psalm 51:3)
Experiencing God's forgiveness comes through confession and repentance.
This psalm was David's written confession to God after a particularly sinful episode in his life. David was truly sorry for his adultery with Bathsheba and for murdering her husband to cover it up. He knew that his actions had hurt many people. But because David repented of those sins, God mercifully forgave him. No sin is too great to be forgiven! Do you feel that you could never come close to God because you have done something terrible? God can and will forgive you of any sin. While God forgives us, however, he does not always erase the natural consequences of our sin--David's life and family were never the same as a result of what he had done (see 2 Samuel 12:1-23).

Scripture Reading: John 20:19-31
Key Verse(s): If you forgive anyone's sins, they are forgiven. If you refuse to forgive them, they are unforgiven. (John 20:23)


We can be confident that our sins have been forgiven in Christ.
Jesus was giving the disciples their Spirit-powered and Spirit-guided mission--to preach the Good News about Jesus so people's sins might be forgiven. The disciples did not have the power to forgive sins (only God can forgive sins), but Jesus gave them the privilege of telling new believers that their sins have been forgiven because they have accepted Jesus' message. All believers have this same privilege. We can announce the forgiveness of sin with certainty when we find repentance and faith.

Scripture Reading: John 13:31-38
Key Verse(s): Now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. (John 13:34)


God consistently forgives us each time we ask in repentance.
John describes these few moments in clear detail. We can see that Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen. He knew about Judas and about Peter, but he did not change the course of events, nor did he stop loving them. In the same way, Jesus knows exactly what you will do to hurt him. Yet he still loves you unconditionally and will forgive you whenever you ask for it. Judas couldn't understand this, and his life ended tragically. Peter understood, and despite his shortcomings, his life ended triumphantly because he never let go of his faith in the one who loved him.

Scripture Reading: 1 John 1:1-10
Key Verse(s): If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. (1 John 1:9)


Forgiveness is complete even when confession isn't.
Confession is supposed to free us to enjoy fellowship with Christ. It should ease our consciences and lighten our cares. But some Christians do not understand how it works. They feel so guilty that they confess the same sins over and over; then they wonder if they might have forgotten something. Other Christians believe that God forgives them when they confess, but if they died with unconfessed sins, they would be forever lost. These Christians do not understand that God wants to forgive us. He allowed his beloved Son to die just so he could pardon us. When we come to Christ, he forgives all the sins we have committed or will ever commit. We don't need to confess the sins of the past all over again, and we don't need to fear that God will reject us if we don't keep our slate perfectly clean. Of course we should continue to confess our sins, but not because failure to do so will make us lose our salvation. Our relationship with Christ is secure. Instead, we should confess our sins so that we can enjoy maximum fellowship and joy with him.


Honest confession includes turning away from sin.
True confession also involves a commitment not to continue in sin. We wouldn't be genuinely confessing our sins to God if we planned to commit them again and just wanted temporary forgiveness. We should also pray for strength to defeat temptation the next time we face it.


Confession reestablishes relationship with God.
If God has forgiven us for our sins because of Christ's death, why must we confess our sins? In admitting our sins and receiving Christ's cleansing, we are: (1) agreeing with God that our sin truly was sin and that we are willing to turn from it, (2) ensuring that we don't conceal our sins from him and consequently, from ourself, and (3) recognizing our tendency to sin and relying on his power to overcome it. Why should we forgive one another and how can we do it?
Scripture Reading: Genesis 45:1-28
Key Verse(s): Don't be angry with yourselves that you did this to me, for God did it. He sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. (Genesis 45:5)
Joseph is a model of genuine forgiveness.
Joseph was rejected, kidnapped, enslaved, and imprisoned. Although his brothers had been unfaithful to him, he graciously forgave them and shared his prosperity. Joseph demonstrated how God forgives us and showers us with goodness even though we have sinned against him. The same forgiveness and blessings are ours if we ask for them.

Scripture Reading: Romans 12:1-21
Key Verse(s): Don't let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good. (Romans 12:21)


Forgiveness is a mark of the Christian life.
Verses 17-21 summarize the real core of Christian living. If we love someone the way Christ loves us, we will be willing to forgive. If we have experienced God's grace, we will want to pass it on to others. And remember, grace is undeserved favor. By giving an enemy a drink, we're not excusing his misdeeds. We're recognizing him, forgiving him, and loving him in spite of his sins--just as Christ did for us.


Forgiveness is contrary to the pattern of the world.
In this day of constant lawsuits and incessant demands for legal rights, Paul's command sounds almost impossible. When someone hurts you deeply, instead of giving him what he deserves, Paul says to befriend him. Why does Paul tell us to forgive our enemies? (1) Forgiveness may break a cycle of retaliation and lead to mutual reconciliation. (2) It may make the enemy feel ashamed and change his or her ways. (3) By contrast, returning evil for evil hurts you just as much as it hurts your enemy. Even if your enemy never repents, forgiving him or her will free you of a heavy load of bitterness.


Forgiveness is an act of the will.
Forgiveness involves both attitudes and actions. If you find it difficult to feel forgiving of those who have hurt you, try responding with kind actions. If appropriate, tell such people that you would like to heal your relationships. Give them a helping hand. Send them a gift. Smile at them. Many times you will discover that right actions lead to right feelings.

Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:5-15
Key Verse(s): If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15)


If we expect to be forgiven, we need to practice forgiveness.
Jesus gives a startling warning about forgiveness: if we refuse to forgive others, God will also refuse to forgive us. Why? Because when we don't forgive others, we are denying our common ground as sinners in need of God's forgiveness. God's forgiveness of sin is not the direct result of our forgiving others, but it is based on our realizing what forgiveness means (see Ephesians 4:32). It is easy to ask God for forgiveness, but difficult to grant it to others. Whenever we ask God to forgive us for sin, we should ask ourselves, Have I forgiven the people who have wronged me?

Scripture Reading: Matthew 18:21-35
Key Verse(s): Peter came to him and asked, "Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?" (Matthew 18:21)


Real forgiveness does not keep track of offenses.
The rabbis taught that people should forgive those who offend them--but only three times. Peter, trying to be especially generous, asked Jesus if seven (the "perfect" number) was enough times to forgive someone. But Jesus answered, "Seventy times seven," meaning that we shouldn't even keep track of how many times we forgive someone. We should always forgive those who are truly repentant, no matter how many times they ask.

Real forgiveness follows God's pattern.
Because God has forgiven all our sins, we should not withhold forgiveness from others. Realizing how completely Christ has forgiven us should produce a free and generous attitude of forgiveness toward others. When we don't forgive others, we are setting ourselves outside and above Christ's law of love.

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“The NLT second edition was put together by a dream team of scholars and linguists and gives us a Bible that is thoroughly reliable and eminently readable. It allows the Scriptures to speak with fresh vitality.”

John Ortberg
Menlo Park Presbyterian
Menlo Park, California

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