Thursday, January 28, 2021
This is going to be long, but it is heavy on my heart.
It seems like every day we are confronted with things that can cause us to doubt the faithfulness of God. Political turmoil can bring questions about God’s sovereignty. Financial crisis may make us doubt God’s promise of sufficient provisions for everyday life. Relationship issues might bring God’s love into question. Emotional distress certainly makes us long for real peace.
But one of the most tragic doubts of God’s faithfulness is found in our misunderstanding of God’s forgiveness. Before I give you specific examples of how severe this problem is, please read God’s own statement on forgiveness.
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.”
God is faithful to forgive us all our sins. I’m not sure we really believe that. Here’s why:
Sam Smith, a modern secular musician, wrote a song entitled “Forgive Myself.” It was written right after a breakup with a girlfriend. The main lyric line goes like this:
“And I can’t love anyonе else
‘Til I forgive myself”
The songwriter wrote this about the song:
“It doesn’t get sadder … than this song. This was the freshest one after my breakup. Two people can’t collide into one, they have to grow alongside each other. ‘Forgive Myself’ was the beginning of me understanding that and saying, ‘Okay, for me to feel better, I’m going to have to forgive myself for all the things I’ve done in that relationship, and for all the things that I’ve ever done in relationships that were bad. And I need to work on myself to feel better.’”
The world does not understand forgiveness. Yet somehow this false notion of forgiving ourselves has worked its way into the church as well. Gospel music group Three Bridges sings a song with a not-so-subtle contradiction. See if you can discern a problem.
Every one of my mistakes has been buried by the waves
In the sea of God’s forgetfulness, He washed them all away
He looks beyond all I have done to the heart of who I am
And the One who saw me fall so hard gives me strength to stand
It’s time to forgive and forget
Mercy has no memory, grace has no regret
God took those sins and carried them far as the east is from the west
And if Jesus can forgive me, then it’s time to forgive myself
Here’s another example from a brand new song from Micah Tyler that is very popular on Christian radio stations.
If Your love is here to lift me
And Your blood says You forgive me
Show me how I can forgive myself
‘Cause Your mercies are new today
What a dichotomy of truth in these songs. There are powerful declarations of God’s forgiveness, and sad confessions of unbelief in its application to our life. It may be semantics to some, but to me it’s a significant issue. There is nothing to be found in the Bible about forgiving ourselves. God forgives the sin and its guilt.
Psalm 32:5 “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”
Do we need to learn to let go of guilt? Yes. But that is not to be confused with forgiveness. Instead, we are to receive, accept, and apply the forgiveness of God and live in it. I know for some that’s how you define forgiving yourself, but that’s not the term to use. It isn’t Biblical. If you do not receive, accept, and apply God’s forgiveness, then in essence you do not trust His faithfulness to forgive. Instead of saying we need to forgive ourselves, we should speak the truth and say that we don’t fully trust that God has forgiven us. We must become discerning about how this false doctrine is infiltrating our lives and our churches through false teaching, articles, books, and music.
My friends, there is great freedom in trusting the faithfulness of God to forgive you. Maybe it’s time you do that. Then you can move on, not based on what you do for yourself, but rather on what God is faithful to do for you.