The Bible does not command us to forgive ourselves. Instead, we are told to seek God's forgiveness. First John 1:9 teaches, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Psalm 25:18 says, "Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins."
God's forgiveness is really all we need; when He forgives us, we can forgive ourselves. Jeremiah 31:34 talks about God remembering sin no more; when He forgives, He chooses not to bring our sin up to Himself or anyone else. When people struggle to forgive themselves, it is often a struggle with lingering feelings of guilt or with shame. We are embarrassed by our past behavior, or perhaps angry with ourselves for behaving in a way that has led to difficult consequences. But in Christ, we know that all our sin is forgiven. We have been redeemed and God can even use the negative consequences of our sin for His glory. Rather than wallow in shame and guilt, we can rejoice in the forgiveness that is ours in Christ. David rejoiced, "Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered" (Psalm 32:1). In Psalm 103:2-3 he declared, "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity."
Instead of agonizing over past sins, any memory of them should lead us to recognize the great forgiveness of God. Paul wrote, "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost" (1 Timothy 1:15). It appears to be a sign of Christian maturity to recognize how bad our sins were while also rejoicing in the great forgiveness we have received from God. God's forgiveness becomes a testimony of praise, rather than a story of our guilt.
When we remember our own sins and that we have received forgiveness from God, it also becomes easier to forgive others. In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus taught His followers to pray, "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12). When Peter asked Jesus how many times he was to forgive another person, Jesus answered, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times" (Matthew 18:22). The focus was not on the number of times to forgive, but to repeatedly forgive those who sin against us.
So how can we deal with forgiving ourselves from past sins? Accept God's forgiveness. Remind yourself of verses that speak to His faithfulness and the truth of His forgiveness. Remind yourself that He does not hold your sin against you (Psalm 103:12; Romans 5:8-11; Romans 7—8) and that you have been made new in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Accept the truth of God's forgiveness and move forward with a fresh start. Philippians 3:13-15 teaches, "Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way." Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." Focus on Christ, not on the sins for which you have already been forgiven.
When the apostle Paul spoke of his life before faith in Christ, he used it as a way to show how God had changed him from a great sinner into a person whose heart had been changed. Our goal should be the same. When we look at our past, we are to contrast it with the forgiveness God has granted and focus on the new life we have in Christ. This focus will allow us to continue to grow and help us to impact others we need to forgive and help to grow in Christ.
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