Apr 24, 2012
What does it feel like to be completely forgiven by God?
George Whitefield was an evangelist in England in the 1700’s.
Here’s what he experienced —
But oh! With what joy — joy unspeakable — even joy that was full of and big with glory, was my soul filled when the weight of sin went off, and an abiding sense of the pardoning love of God broke in upon my disconsolate soul. (George Whitefield’s Journals, p.58 n.1)
How can that happen?
In the book “Pilgrim’s Progress” a man sets out on a journey with a burden of guilt on his back (see picture).
He visits many different places, but it’s not until he comes to the Cross, and looks by faith upon the Cross, that he is forgiven by God and the burden of guilt falls from his back.
This is something we all can experience — no matter what sin we have committed.
Why? Because the God who created us loves to forgive us (Jer 33:8).
To do this He sent His own Son, Jesus, to die on the Cross for our sins. On the Cross, God put the guilt of all our sin on Jesus, and punished Jesus in our place for our sin (Isa 53:5).
So when we turn from our sin and trust Jesus as Savior, Lord, and heart-satisfying Treasure — everything changes. All our guilt is punished in Jesus, and all Jesus’ perfect goodness is credited to us.
So even though we are not free from sin, God sees us as covered with Jesus’ perfect moral goodness — and God pours His forgiving love into our hearts and our guilt disappears. The result is joy like George Whitefield experienced.
But there’s a problem. When we again commit sin, we can lose that feeling of God’s love — and instead feel guilty before God.
So how can we once again be assured that we are forgiven by God? How can we move back to feeling God’s pardoning love so we no longer feel guilty? Here’s what helps me —
Turn to Jesus just as you are, and trust Him.
Satan will feed you every lie he’s got to keep you from turning to Jesus — “you’ve got to do something good first,” “you need to feel more spiritual first”.
Don’t fall for it. Turn directly to Jesus just as you are and trust Him to welcome you, help you, forgive you.
Humble yourself before God as someone who needs undeserved mercy.
This is crucial. If we try to come to God on the basis of some good we think we have — God will not welcome us.
Because in ourselves, all we deserve from God is punishment for our sins (Luke 18:13-14).
But if we will come to God humbly, as unworthy sinners needing undeserved mercy, He welcomes us with loving compassion.
Confess your sin to God as something that dishonors His infinite goodness.
Don’t just feel bad that you did something shameful, that people know what you did, or that there will be painful consequences.
Join David, who after adultery and murder felt bad that he had sinned against God — “Against you only have I sinned” (Psa 51:4).
Think about how your sin has dishonored the Infinite Glory of the universe (Jer 2:12-13). Ask God to help you feel some of the horror of what you have done.
Don’t wallow in it. But feel genuine sorrow for your sin, and tell Him this is how you feel.
Ask God to forgive you through Christ.
How can a just God forgive your sin? There’s only one way — by punishing it in Jesus on the Cross (Isa 53:6).
Every sin will be punished, either in Jesus’ suffering on the Cross, or in the sinner’s suffering in Hell.
So thank Jesus for His death on the Cross, and ask God to forgive you. If you are genuinely humbled and trusting Jesus, He will forgive you — running to you with arms wide open (Luke 15:20).
Trust God’s promise of forgiveness in Christ until you feel His pardoning love.
You can be forgiven by God without feeling His pardoning love. But much joy comes when we feel it (Psa 51:7-8).
So pray passionately over Scriptures that describes the Cross — such as Matt 26:27-28; Matt 27:54; John 1:29; John 19:30; Gal 2:20; 1Pe 3:18.
Ask God to strengthen your faith (Mark 9:24), to reveal Christ’s work on the Cross to you (2Cor 4:6), and give you full assurance of forgiveness (Rom 4:7-8).
Maybe pray over these things with a trusted brother or sister in Christ (James 5:16).
This may take some time. You may need to leave off prayer and go to work, or take your kids to soccer.
But as soon as you can, return to praying and trusting God’s Word until you once again feel God’s pardoning love in Jesus Christ.
Don’t be surprised if guilt returns.
After all, Satan is our accuser. He loves to weigh us down with guilt so God’s love is squeezed out of our hearts — like toothpaste out of a tube.
But Satan can be conquered by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony (Rev 12:11).
So immediately turn back to Jesus. Call upon Him for help.
Humble yourself as one who needs undeserved mercy. Confess your sin afresh. Trust Jesus’ work on the Cross.
By faith alone in Christ alone you are completely forgiven by God.
And as you pray over God’s Word, trusting His promises, He will once again pour His love into your heart and assure you that you are forgiven.
Before you go …
Do you know someone who needs to be forgiven by God? Email this to them using the “share” button below.
Do you have comments, feedback, or questions? I’d love to hear them — use the box below. Thanks.
Would you like to receive a Saturday email summarizing the week’s posts? Subscribe here.
And here’s some related posts you might find helpful —
What are the Promises of God?
How to Live the Christian Life
What is Faith?
If Faith Can Change Me -- Why Isn't It Working?
(Picture is from Wikipedia Commons.)