Throughout history, men and women have committed sinful acts followed by the fearful thought: Will God forgive me? Whether or not God forgives is dependent upon a few factors clearly stated in the Bible. God has given us guidelines about seeking forgiveness from Him and says that, no matter what the sin, forgiveness is available to anyone willing to come to Him in the way He has provided.
Will God forgive me?
God will forgive me based on His goodness and His promise of salvation in Christ. Numerous Bible passages describe the Lord as compassionate, longsuffering, and forgiving (Numbers 14:18; Psalm 86:5; 99:8; Daniel 9:9). Since time began, God has shown mercy and grace to His human creations, and we know that "grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17).
God will forgive me if I believe in Christ and repent of my sin. When we repent, we turn from sin and toward Christ. Forgiveness is always contingent upon a repentant heart, and, if a person or nation rejects God's right to rule them, they cannot be forgiven. Proverbs 16:5 warns that "Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished." Pride keeps us from experiencing the Lord's forgiveness.
God will forgive me based on Christ's work on my behalf. God is loving and kind, but He is also just. Justice demands that sin against the Lord Almighty must be fairly punished. If God merely overlooked our sin, He would not be perfectly just. He can only forgive if that sin has been properly dealt with; otherwise, He would have to violate His own moral law of justice. The only way God can forgive us is if our sin debt against Him has been paid (Psalm 32:1–2). The Bible declares that Jesus Christ has paid our sin debt in full (Romans 3:24; Ephesians 1:7). Forgiveness is possible through the blood sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 10:3–10).
Jesus is the only reason a perfect God can forgive imperfect people. Before the foundation of the world, God knew humanity would defy His rule and had already set in motion His plan to redeem us (1 Peter 1:18–21; Hebrews 9:26). The Son of God left heaven and took on human flesh, walked among us, taught us about the Father, and then offered Himself in our place to take our punishment upon Himself (Isaiah 53:5–6; Philippians 2:5–8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 2:14). When God raised Jesus from the dead, He broke the stranglehold that sin had on us and offered new life to all who will bow to His lordship (Acts 2:24; Romans 4:25). When we come to faith in Christ, we accept that His death and resurrection are sufficient to cover all our sin and justify us before God (Acts 2:38; Romans 5:8–9).
God will forgive me when I come to Him in repentance and faith (Isaiah 1:18; 43:25; Psalm 51:7). Those who put their full trust in the work of Jesus Christ will be saved (John 3:15–18, 36). Isaiah 55:7 describes the results of repentance: "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."
When God forgives our sin, He casts it far from Him (Psalm 103:12). He gives us a new, clean start and reminds us that the condemnation we once faced is gone forever (Romans 8:1). He takes on the responsibility of conforming us to the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29), through the instruction in His Word (John 17:17), correction from fellow believers (1 Timothy 5:20; Titus 1:13), and discipline from Him (Hebrews 12:7–11).
God does not forgive us so that we can return to our wicked ways. Jesus' word to the sinful woman was, "Go now and leave your life of sin" (John 8:11, NIV). He forgives us so that we can have fellowship with Him. He longs to delight in our lives (Psalm 37:23; 2 Chronicles 16:9) and for us to discover the purpose for which He created us (Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 2:8–10). God already knows about every sin we've committed. He has made a way for us to be forgiven. When we accept the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf, He wipes our records clean and invites us to live free of guilt and shame as born-again children of God (John 3:3; 2 Chronicles 7:14; 1 John 4:18).
If you are struggling with guilt and shame over your sin, God invites you to accept His offer of forgiveness. You can begin your journey with God by praying something like this:
"Dear God, I believe that you sent your Son Jesus Christ to live a perfect life and then die on a cross as punishment for my sin. I believe that He rose from the dead, verifying that He is who He says He is and proclaiming victory over sin and death, so I could be forgiven. I confess my sin to you and ask you to forgive me, because of Jesus. Come into my life and change my heart so that I can love you more. I surrender myself to you and ask you to save me and make me your child. Thank you for loving me, for saving me, and for giving me eternal life with you. In Jesus' name, Amen."
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