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Receiving and Granting Forgiveness

You’ve probably heard people pray like this: …And Lord, we ask You to forgive us for all our sins. But hold it. We tell the lost–and correctly so–that they can be forgiven of all their sins through Christ. That being true, why do forgiven Christians ask God’s forgiveness? Some Christians sporting the bumper sticker, "Christians Are Not Perfect, Just Forgiven," will ask thousands of times during their earth walk for God to do what their sticker claims He has already done. If they believe they’re forgiven, then why do they ask for it repeatedly? Their prayers reveal unbelief.

We’d consider a man who has $98.00 in savings needlessly insecure if he went by the bank daily and asked to see it. We’d say, "You need to have faith in your bank, man. You must be persuaded that [it] is able to keep that which you have committed unto it against that day when you make a withdrawal." This is God’s attitude toward the Christian who keeps asking for forgiveness. Hebrews 5:12 says, "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food" (emphasis added). To paraphrase: "You need to repeat the course on forgiveness. We covered that, but somehow you missed it. It’s a done deal. Now let’s get it settled so we can move on toward maturity."

We get off on the wrong track concerning God’s forgiveness by forming our belief according to human logic. You see, men require that an offender ask to be forgiven for each offense. In addition, men do not hold another guilty until an evil deed is committed. But, we must not apply such human customs to our forgiveness from God. We must search the Bible and see that His way differs.

Adopting God’s method for forgiveness is crucial to experiencing "the peace which passes [human] understanding." How frequently do you hear someone pray, "And, Lord, I thank You that I stand before You a completely forgiven man. Thank You that I am as spotless as the driven snow"? Those words are rare, but they thrill the heart of God because they demonstrate faith that the man believes God who says we are forgiven in Christ. (Eph. 4:32). There is no way you are going to cozy up to God if you feel He is increasingly upset with you. To feel secure, you must believe that He does not hold one single sin against you. Here is a bold statement: It is impossible for a Christian to ask God’s forgiveness for a besetting sin the umpteenth time, then snuggle up to Him. He will feel like God’s patience is being stretched to the limit. (Note: I do not address the carnal person here who is mocking God’s patience by licentiousness, but the true Believer who seeks God with a sincere heart.)

Here are a few verses where God states that we are totally forgiven of ALL our sins: (Ps. 103:12; Isa. 38:17; 43:25; 44:22; Jer. 31:34; Mic. 7:19; Acts 26:18; Rom. 5:9; 8:1,31-34; 1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 4:32; Col. 1:14,22; 2:13-14; Heb. 10:1-14, 17; 1 Jn. 2:12; Rev. 1:5). Admittedly, there are verses which can foster insecurity about your forgiveness. But the overwhelming majority of such verses are prior to Jesus’ solving your problem at the cross. And remember, this includes the vast majority of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The cross came at the end of those books. Did you get that? Some Christians base their "forgiveness doctrine" on pre-cross verses, many times from the pre-cross portion of these four books. Instructed Christians, on the other hand, primarily base their "forgiveness doctrine" on what God’s Word says about us after the cross.

Since our Heavenly Father is omniscient (all-knowing), He sees all our sins, past, present and future. Therefore, His method of forgiving has to differ from that of time-dimensional humans. In order to obliterate the barrier between us and Himself, He must forgive us of all our sins, past, present and future. Had He not done so, He’d still see us with egg on our faces! To clarify this, the horizontal line in the diagram represents your lifeline, with the letter B representing your birth and D your death. Assuming you are born again, the letter S represents your salvation. Now imagine thousands of small s’s (representing the sins you committed before salvation) printed between birth and salvation. You accepted by faith (and accurately so) that they were instantly forgiven by the blood of Jesus when you got saved.

Now imagine thousands of small s’s representing your future sins on the line between salvation and death. Watch it now; here is where we get tripped up by human, time dimension-bound logic. We must understand that since God created the time dimension, He’s not limited by it. God is supratime. He views your entire lifeline as if He were hovering over it in a helicopter, so He had to deal with your sins from birth to death all at once! Christ solved God’s problem with all your sins. The question is, have you solved your problem with all your sins rather than one at a time?

The thought comes: Wrong. Can’t be right. God can’t forgive my future sins. Well, this agrees with human logic, but let’s see if it agrees with biblical revelation. Tell me, how many of your sins did Jesus bear on the cross 2,000 years ago? Answer: All of them. Question: how many of your sins had you committed 2,000 years ago? Answer: None of them. My sins were all future sins. Right. From the helicopter there are no yesterdays, todays, nor tomorrows. There is only now. There is no such thing as "future" sins to God. That’s how all of them were placed on the lovely, innocent Jesus 2,000 years ago. God dealt with your future sins while every one of your sins were future sins! (I suggest you reread that.) The view from the helicopter makes the fact of forgiveness revelation.

There are no verses after the cross that command Christians to ask for God’s forgiveness. Many cite 1 John 1:9 as an exception: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Folks, we are not unrighteous; we are righteous in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). We’ve already been cleansed. If we haven’t, we’re in trouble because there is no other Savior who can do the job for us. I believe you will see by a careful study of verses 6-9 that John is addressing the unsaved here. Even if you disagree with me on that, the word confess does not mean "ask for God’s forgiveness," it means "agree with God" (about the evil of your sins). A Christian’s asking for God’s forgiveness is an affront to Him. It’s unbelief, inferring that Christ didn’t satisfy God’s demands. If you are not forgiven of all your sins, how can you be "seated in the heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 2:6)? Sins can’t be present in heaven. We are to base our doctrine of forgiveness upon passages like Col. 2: 13-14: "…He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross."

So, what are you to do when the Holy Spirit convicts you that you have sinned? Respond quickly and own up to it, "Lord, I sinned (confess). I’m truly sorry. I don’t want to live like that (godly sorrow). I wish I could be more consistent in my obedience (godly desire). Thank You that based upon Your Word (not upon how I feel) that I am a forgiven saint, that You’re not mad at me, and that You took out all of Your anger on Jesus (faith and gratitude). Once again, Lord Jesus, I "present myself to You as a living and holy sacrifice" so You can live Your Life through me" (service). Then get off the dime and act like the forgiven saint you are (obedience).

About the Author

Bill founded Lifetime Guarantee Ministries to encourage people to experience the reality of Christ as life. His transparent, humorous, down-to-earth style and sense of humor made him one of the most effective teachers of his time. He communicated with great clarity the full extent of what God accomplished in Christ and what that means for the Christian identity. Although Bill passed away in June 2011, his messages are timeless and will continue to impact generations to come.