Can God really forgive my past?
Do all the bad things you’ve done bother you? All the hurt and pain you’ve caused others through your thoughtless words and careless actions. And all the hidden sins that only you know about. It can feel like you’re carrying the whole world on your shoulders.
Now close your eyes and think for a moment that God forgave you, for every single thing you’ve ever done wrong. Wouldn’t that lift an enormous weight off your mind? A fresh start! Wouldn’t that suddenly make life become much better? It sounds too good to be true, but is that really how it can be? Maybe you’re sitting there and thinking: Can God really forgive my past?
God is not human
As human beings we can easily become bitter. We are easily offended and like to remember things certain people have said or done towards us. As this is how we are by nature, it is not strange that it feels impossible for us to understand God’s amazing willingness to forgive. Forgiving others that have done something wrong towards us seems very far away, not even possible! That would be like pretending things never happened, letting people get unpunished!
“But they don’t deserve…” What was that? Stop right there for a minute and think of your own past again. Are you really in a position to decide what other people deserve? Are any of us?
Both the Old and New Testaments say very clearly what it is that we, as sinners, really deserve. The Apostle Paul puts it this way: “For if you live under the control of your sinful nature, you're going to die.” Romans 8:13 (FBV). God is righteous and His Word stands forever. Clearly, we all deserve to die.
Jesus Christ – a payment for everyone to be free
Yes, this is what the end would have been for all of us; we would have died in our sins if it weren’t for the wonderful love shown by God Himself: “There is only one God, and there is only one way that people can reach God. That way is through Christ Jesus, who as a man gave himself to pay for everyone to be free.” 1 Timothy 2:5-6 (ERV).
Jesus Christ gave Himself as a payment for us. He came down to earth of His own free will and paid exactly what God asked, in full. Jesus died as an innocent man, just for you! He died for all of us, paying for our sins with His own precious blood and by doing this, He opened up a way for us to come back to God.
Paul writes about the greatness of this sacrifice in Romans 5:7-8 (ERV). “Very few people will die to save the life of someone else, even if it is for a good person. Someone might be willing to die for an especially good person. But Christ died for us while we were still sinners, and by this God showed how much he loves us.”
The conditions of forgiveness
But it also says in Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV): “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” This makes it clear that forgiving others is not just a favour or something that God is asking us in return. No, it is a condition, which means that it is something we must do in order to receive this forgiveness, and if we don’t do this, we will not receive forgiveness for our own sins.
The second condition is given in Acts 3:19 (NLT): “Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.” To repent means that you turn from the old ways to the new. It is not simply a feeling of shame because you have sinned, but a wholehearted desire to never sin again!
There are two very important questions to ask yourself: How quick am I to forgive others? And have I really repented and turned away from my sins?
We didn’t get what we deserve—we have received forgiveness!
This should wake all of us up to a deep, lifelong thankfulness and burning love for Jesus Christ who paid this sacrifice for us. He took upon Himself flesh and blood so He could be like those whom He came to save, to help them. He wants people to live as He did; He wants them to overcome sin and glorify God in their bodies, just like He did. That is also the reason He wants to forgive our sins: after we are forgiven, we can start this new life and show our love and thankfulness by following Him. Then He is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters. (Hebrews 2:9-18.)
When you think about this, think of the love Jesus had when He died for you—the righteous one for the unrighteous ones—and never forget that your old sins have been washed away. For where would any of us be if we had gotten what we truly deserved?
“He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:10-12 (NLT).