I sometimes hear or read of the notion of forgiving yourself: “You need to forgive yourself.” “I need to forgive myself.” And it rattles me – shakes my core, unsettles my spirit. I kept wondering why it bothered me so. I searched Scripture, and found my answer.
The words, the concept, the idea of forgiving yourself is not in Scripture. It is nowhere mentioned in God’s Word that we should or need to forgive ourselves.
God’s Word is our guide. If it’s not in there, there’s good reason. In Revelation 22.18, 19, John admonishes us not to add to or take away from God’s Word.
God’s Word carries power; human words do not.
God’s Way works, ours does not. He will not give resources to do that which is not His will. If God does not tell us to do something, He will not provide the strength, the time, the peace, the joy, the comfort, the venue, or the closure to do it.
Forgiving yourself – where does this come from? Do people mean to forgive themselves as they forgive others? Again, God did not direct us to do this. Forgiving others is crucial: we do not forgive their sin (only God can do that), we simply acknowledge that their sin (against us or against someone else) is between them and God, and God will handle consequences. We are to give that over to God and recognize that we are in the same boat as the sinner; but it is not our sin, and doesn’t belong to us.
Maybe it’s just verbiage. Maybe folks, when they talk about forgiving oneself, really mean accepting God’s forgiveness. Maybe I’m being a stickler about what God says: I want to be clear to myself and others, and speak only what God says. If I am to speak to others about God and His ways, I want to be sure to use His Words.
Forgiving yourself: it concerns me that there’s a subtle connotation that forgiveness from God isn’t enough – that we need to complete it somehow. It scares me to think that people might believe that they need to do anything else than what God has done for them; that we need to improve what God said; that there’s a way they can talk themselves into being okay.
We’re not okay. We are all sinners. We do awful things. Really awful.
Do not expect that you can live a clean life – you can’t. You will sin
- Psalms 14.3 They are all gone aside, they are alltogether become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
- Romans 3.23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.
- 1 John 1.8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
We need to take each sin before God and confess and repent. Then God forgives. (1John 1.9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.)
Look up those great men who have sinned and bowed themselves before God, and received pardon – none have any mention of “forgiving themselves.”
- Moses – murder, disobedience to God’s command
- Aaron – building the golden calf
- David – adultery, murder, disobedience to God’s command
- Peter – denied Jesus
- Paul (who was good at debasing himself, but only telling it like it is: Phil 3.13, 14; 2Cor 12.2-4; Eph 3.8) – stood by at the murder of Stephen, rounded up Christians for persecution
- Isaiah 6.5 Then I said: “Woe is me, for I am ruined, because I am a man of unclean lips dwelling among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of Hosts.”
All received forgiveness from God, and exulted in His peace.
Before God, they all recognized their human, fleshly sinfulness, as they ought to have done. It’s who we are, and it is right for us to acknowledge our faults.
The whole idea of forgiveness (God forgiving you) is finding peace with God.
Important note: Jesus is our peace. Finding peace with God can only be done through Jesus Christ. Have you claimed Jesus as your Savior?
So I gossiped. Does that make me a bad person? Yes. Yes, it does.
James 2.10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all
Murder? Matthew 5.21, 22 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
Adultery? Matthew 5.28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
Stealing? – a pencil, money, someone’s reputation or moment or joy or virtue?
Maybe you try to excuse your sin. Or maybe you think it was so bad you can never be forgiven. “Oh, but what I did was awful. It was worse than anyone ever did. I’m a horrible person.” First, yes, you’re a horrible person. I’m a horrible person. Everyone is. You are no different than others. Romans 7.18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. No good thing in my flesh refers to all people.
Sin is not something that we compare to other people. None of us can say that we did anything worse than anyone else. That’s human thinking. God is our plumb line, and it is against His law, His morality, His purity, His holiness, that we sin.
You have sinned. Anyone who is reading this: you have sinned.
Romans 3.10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.
It was your sin that put Jesus up on the cross, it was for you He died.
Think you can’t get over your sin? You’re not supposed to. You can’t handle this by yourself. Only God can forgive sin (In Mark 2.7, The Pharisees knew that only God can forgive sin: “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus replied (v 10), But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...”)
Receive the gifts God offers so abundantly. He offers forgiveness, and you can live a joyous, loving life through the power of His Holy Spirit.
Steps to being cleansed from all unrighteousness, and to living in joyous freedom:
- Own your sin
- Confess that you sinned.
- Specifically name your sin (I stole ____. I murdered ____. I fell in love with a married man, and we had an affair. I gossiped about someone, and ruined a reputation.)
- If you can, name the root of your sin. (I was greedy. I was selfish. I wanted power. I was prideful. I was jealous. I was playing God.)
- Own that you are responsible for your sin. No one else controls your thoughts, your actions, your emotions, your speech, your will. You always have a choice. You chose sin. Take responsibility.
- It will help if you can find a Bible verse that specifies your sin. The Ten Commandments, found in Exodus Chapter 20 and Deuteronomy Chapter 5, are a good place to start.
- Confess that you are unrighteous before a righteous God.
- Humble yourself.
- Acknowledge that you can do nothing to cover up or erase or justify your sin. You stand naked before an all-seeing God. (Hebrews 4.13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give)
- Acknowledge that your sin is deserving of death. Acknowledge that your sin, indeed, is already killing you.
- Acknowledge your need for God Almighty. Bow before Him.
- It often helps to place yourself in a position of subservience (physically bow, kneel, or prostrate yourself on the ground), evidence to yourself that you are humbling your heart and baring your soul to God. (Revelation 1.17 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. But He placed His right hand on me and said, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last)
- Cry to God for mercy through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.
- Claim God’s promise: He sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Yes, for YOUR sins. You are no different, no exception to anyone else.
- Acknowledge that you are eligible for redemption.
- 1 John 4.14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.
- John 3.16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
- Romans 3.25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
- 1 John 2.2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
- 1 John 4.10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
- Psalms 130. 3, 4 If You, O LORD, kept track of iniquities, then who, O Lord, could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, so that You may be feared.
- Romans 3.22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference
- Receive God’s forgiveness
- Do not fall into unbelief: do not think that it can’t be true, that you are an exception. Really, truly, this is God’s unadulterated, pure promise to you. You are allowed, encouraged, to receive this gift.
- Isaiah 44.22 I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud, and your sins like a mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.
- Zephaniah 3.17 The LORD your God is among you; He is mighty to save. He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you with His love; He will rejoice over you with singing.
- Base your condition of forgiveness on God’s Word, not on your feelings.
- This is a big one: DO NOT BASE YOUR FORGIVENESS ON HOW YOU FEEL. Base your forgiveness on the truth of God’s Word. If your feelings tell you that you are not forgiven, then your feelings are lies that you must rebuke.
- Jeremiah 17.9 The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
- If doubts assail you, return to the truth of God’s Word. He will never let you down, He will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31.8 And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.
- Don’t beat yourself up.
- Don’t pick it back up. If God removed your sin as far as the east is from the west, you have no business going after it. King David knew how to sin. He also knew how to access and live in the peace that God offered him through forgiveness.
- Psalm 103.8-16: The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.
He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.
For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.
As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.
For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.
(See also Psalm 51.)
2.Do you mourn over your sin? Absolutely! We have regrets. Mourning over consequences of our sin is not the same as continuing to live in it. When we sin, something died. We grieve. Mourning washes over us, strongly at first. But we do not live in mourning for a lifetime. Psalm 30.5, 11, 12 For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. …Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.
3. Do you need to make restitution? If you have stolen something, pay it back. If you have offended someone, ask for their forgiveness. If you lied, confess the truth. If opportunity to make restitution is passed, and no longer available, make your peace with God. All things occur within His timing.
4. When your sin comes back to haunt you, and this is more than mourning, take it to God. Receive His comfort. Read His Words. 1 John 3.20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
5. Romans 8.15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery that returns you to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
6. Psalms 69.32 The humble shall see this, and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God.
7. If Jesus is Lord of your life, make Him Lord: live and believe like He is your Lord. Embrace His truth and walk in His freedom, peace, and joy.
- Don’t let Satan pick on you.
- In yourself, you have no power over Satan. He is your enemy, and he seeks to destroy you or weaken you.
- God has already defeated Satan. God will always be more powerful than you or Satan.
- Claim your position as a child of God.
- Call upon God to intervene for you. Let Satan know he has nothing on you.
- John 10.10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
- Revelation 12.10, 11 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
- 1 Peter 5.8, 9 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
- Walk in peace, and share God’s peace with the world.
- 1 John 5.4, 5 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
- 1 Corinthians 15.55-58 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
- Philippians 1.6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.
- Walk in the freedom that God created for you.
- John 8.34-36 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
If you feel resistance to repentance because you feel you don’t deserve forgiveness, confess that sin right away! That is the sin of unbelief. Go back and read the verses listed above. And there are a whole bunch more promises God made for YOU in the Bible. Read them!
My prayer for you:
Ephesians 3.14-19 ..I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I ask that out of the riches of His glory He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. Then you, being rooted and grounded in love, will have power, together with all the saints, to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of His love, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.