"As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Psalm 103:12
My mother and I did not always have a good relationship. Growing up, there were times I was mean and just not a good daughter; having had teenagers now, myself, I understand that what I was going through was somewhat normal teen behavior but still unacceptable.
I was home-schooled for one year in the mid-1980s. One thing I remember learning about was the space shuttle and that is mainly because the morning I was studying about it in the science unit, the space shuttle Challenger exploded. The second thing I learned about took years to process. My mother couldn't pronounce some words and this was embarrassing to me at the time. One of mom's friends came over (the lady who was mentoring us on our homeschool journey) and, because I was mad about some silly thing, I asked my Mom, in front of the friend, to pronounce a word that was in my history unit. I knew how to pronounce it, but in a streak of teenage hormonal meanness, asked my sweet mother to pronounce "the Peloponnesian war." She struggled with it, her lips moving, as the friend looked on... as I saw a tear form and cascade down my mom's cheek, I was suddenly racked with guilt. I asked, "Is it 'Peloponnesian'?" Mom said yes and quickly wiped the tear off.
I have never, ever forgotten that moment. I am filled with shame and guilt even writing this. I say this took years to process because often, forgiving ourselves takes longer than having the one we hurt forgive us and move on. Years ago, after I rededicated my life to Christ and His service, I talked with Mom about this. She had no memory of it. It was like, for her, it didn't happen. But I remembered. I asked forgiveness, which she readily gave with a hug.
When we confess our sins, Scripture says in 1 John 1:9, Jesus "is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." Confession is a crucial part of accepting the gift of grace Christ freely gave us on the cross. This is salvation.
This is also redemption. Christ, upon our asking, rescues us from the past sins and mistakes, judgement errors and ill thoughts. He redeems us from the darkness in which we were living and brings us into His light. Colossians 1:13-14 states, "For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
We are forgiven by Christ. We have redemption in Him. We can have neither without Jesus. You have a chalkboard and take chalk and mark all over it. There is not one square inch that isn't covered in chalk. Forgiveness is when Jesus takes the eraser (which is His own body and blood, broken and poured out on the cross) and erases every.single.chalkmark off that board. Redemption is when Christ seals the chalkboard with His righteousness. No more sins can be written upon them. We are redeemed, righteous -- only by Christ. It is up to us, though, to never touch that chalkboard with the chalk again.
The devil, satan, wants to defeat us, though. He wants us to think that we are not worthy of Christ, that whatever we have done or will do is too much for Christ's forgiveness. He wants us to wallow in shame and guilt. Instead of listening to satan [I never give satan the authority that a capital 's' on his name signifies], we need to remember this:
In God's Holy Power, when we confess our sins and Christ forgives them, God chooses to not remember our sins. "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more," [Isaiah 43:25].
God delights to show mercy. He delights to have people come to know Him. He desires to forgive sins and shatter shame from His people. Micah 7:18-19 states this incredible truth: "Who is a God like you, who pardons sins and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea."
satan tells us that God won't do this, that we are too far gone for Christ. Lies! satan whispers in our ears that Christ may forgive us but how can we forgive ourselves? Forgiving ourselves is often so much more difficult because we believe satan's lies more than the truth of Christ's forgiveness. We say to pastors or friends, "Oh you don't know what I've done." We pray, "God, You can't possibly forgive me, I've done this-or-that."
This attitude is like rewriting John 3:16 to this: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever [except Terrie, because she made her mother try to pronounce 'Peloponnesian'] believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
How arrogant is that. Are we really our own little gods, to think the GOD of the universe, Who promises us "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us," [Psalm 103:12]. If GOD through His Son Jesus Christ can not only forgive our sins but also forget them, should we not also forgive ourselves?
To accept Christ's eternal forgiveness then not forgive ourselves is not believing in Christ's ability to rescue, forgive and redeem us. John 3:18 states, "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." The only way we stand condemned is when we do not believe in Jesus; when we believe in Jesus for the remission of sins, we stand forgiven and free. We are not condemned!
To not forgive ourselves, and wallow around in self-pity, is denying one of the most precious gifts Christ has promised us: to be a new creation, in Him. "Therefore," Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!"
Sometimes, we need to make amends not with Christ -- but ourselves. How can we do this? Some suggestions:
~ Write a letter to yourself. Get it all out. Write, in ink, that you forgive yourself. It's up to you to keep this letter, shred it or burn it.
~ Make amends with the people you have injured. If they are no longer alive, do it graveside. Know that although they cannot speak or forgive, Christ can. Sometimes we have to hear ourselves say the words.
~ Repent - do not go back to the sinful lifestyle you were in.
~ Acknowledge and accept Christ's forgiveness.
~ Seek and receive professional, Christian counseling.
Know this: Christ loves you. He extended forgiveness to you before you sinned, even as He extended His precious arms on the cross. Just as He has lifted the yoke of the bondage of sin from you, He does not want you to put it back on.
Scripture says that we love because Christ first loved us. Likewise, we can also forgive ourselves because Christ first forgave us.
Terrie Bentley McKee
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