Updated: Nov 22, 2018
Forgiveness is a vital element for salvation (1 John 1:9) – for without it we would surely perish (Ezekiel 18:32).
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
Our eternal salvation lies in the gracious willingness of the Lord in choosing to forgive our sins in order to bring us into His glorious Kingdom. When we display godly sorrow that leads to true repentance, our God is quick to forgive us and receive us as His adopted children (Ephesians 1:5). What an extraordinarily profound thing it is to fathom the forgiveness of almighty God.
2 Corinthians 7:10
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
Thankfully for mankind, our Creator, the One true God, is full of mercy and compassion, so all who repent will be completely forgiven and received by Him. We are given this opportunity because of the sacrifice Christ made for us. God is patiently allowing people time to repent and turn from their wicked ways because He doesn’t want them to perish (2 Peter 3:9).
Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
Now it’s important to realise that there’s a huge difference between ‘an apology’ and ‘true repentance’.
The word ‘apology’ comes from the Greek ‘apologia’ which means ‘a defence of one’s opinions or conduct’. Therefore an apology is more of a form of self-defence for our actions, e g: ‘I’m sorry but…’
The word ‘repentance’ means to realise and admit wrongdoing, turn away from it and sincerely ask for forgiveness, e g: ‘I was wrong in what I did. I regret my actions and ask that you please forgive me?’
An apology comes with prideful justification and excuses – repentance comes with humble admission, godly sorrow and a change of behaviour.
2 Chronicles 7:14
…if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Once we’ve repented to the Lord, we shouldn’t keep beating ourselves up over past iniquities. If we've genuinely repented and turned away from our sins, God tells us in His Word that He has forgiven us. We mustn’t condemn ourselves.
…as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
East and west are in totally opposite directions and can never join up. This symbolic description paints a beautiful picture of the extent of God’s forgiveness – separating the sin from us and choosing to never remember it again.
I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.
We should never wallow in the past, for a repentant heart is no longer stuck in the mud of their sins. If the Lord has chosen to forgive and forget, then so should we. Not just for ourselves, but also for others. In knowing that our slate has been wiped clean by God, and He is our model of which we follow, we must also not only forgive another of their sin, but also let it go – choosing to forget it by no longer dwelling on the offence. This is true and genuine forgiveness.
We must remember that if we cannot or will not forgive a person of their sin, we are choosing to hold onto anger, hatred and pain. And in doing so, we are placing ourselves in an area that separates us from our Lord because He requires us to forgive and let go – not accuse and hold grudges (Leviticus 19:18). If we decide not to forgive, then we are endangering our walk with God – a walk that is of highest priority for our spiritual lives. You see friend, if we choose to hold un-forgiveness in our hearts, we are putting ourselves in a precarious situation because even though God is willing to forgive, we are not. This heart attitude brings with it strife, chaos and destruction – for Jesus teaches that if we don’t forgive others, He will not forgive us.
…if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
A simple way to let go of an offence you may be holding against someone is to honestly turn the critical magnifying glass of scrutiny away from the person, and onto yourself, remembering all that God has forgiven you of. If we think we haven’t sinned much or that our sin isn’t as bad as other people’s, we are only fooling ourselves and aren’t realising the real depth of our wretchedness, therefore we will have a very small, restricted and limited love for others. But when we know that we’ve been forgiven of much, we will love others in a much greater capacity – having a free, unconditional and abounding love for others.
Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.
Even after multiple offences, the offender should be eagerly forgiven because we must remember that we have all offended the Lord many times over, yet He chooses to forgive us – therefore what right do we have to hold any bitterness towards anyone else? Moreover, holding onto bitterness is like purposely drinking poison.
Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Even if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times returns to say, 'I repent,' you must forgive him.
The only time one should be cautious, is when the offender is intentionally walking in habitual sin, feeling no guilt and showing no true remorse. Deliberate repeat offences should make one wary that any repentance could very well be artificial (Luke 17:3-4).
Godly repentance will spring forth righteous works!
Godly deeds will begin to flow as a demonstration of true repentance. For when one has admitted their sin, repented and turned away from it, he will no longer remain in that sinful state. He will now walk uprightly in ways of godliness – because to turn from evil is to turn to God!
I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.
Full biblical repentance means: a change of mind which results in a change of action.
Let’s examine our hearts and ask the Lord to help us to forgive not only ourselves, but also others, letting go of any underlying grudges, hurts or resentments – knowing that these mannerisms produce nothing but damage and ruin – but a heart of sincere forgiveness is quick to pardon, release the hurt and love as Jesus loves. May we see the offender through the eyes of Christ – as one who was created by God in His image and is deeply valued.
Praise God that He is a loving God who is more than willing to forgive all who humbly come to Him in genuine repentance.
Bear with each other and forgive any complaint you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
-- By Jenny Ayling
This article was written to form part of the series, 'Imitate'. Containing 45 sessions, this thorough series intends to reveal the characteristics found in a disciple of Jesus. The original article, 'Imitate', would be the best place to begin your journey in discovering the qualities of a follower of the Messiah of Israel.