Summary: God forgives you when you confess your sins. Learn to live in the freedom that comes from knowing god’s forgiveness.

Summary: God forgives you when you confess your sins. Learn to live in the freedom that comes from knowing god’s forgiveness.

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Receive and Accept God's Forgiveness

Practical steps to knowing and experiencing God’s forgiveness

 

 

 

Doug Britton, MFT
www.dougbrittonbooks.com

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Part one of a two-part series on “Overcoming Guilt and Shame”

Introduction

Do you struggle with guilt over things you have said or done? Do you live with shame and think you must be a bad (or evil) person?

If you feel guilt or shame, you aren’t alone. Most people experience these crippling emotions at different times throughout their life. Some people never escape these feelings.

David, a man who wrote much of the Bible, knew the impact of guilt first-hand. Some time after he committed adultery and arranged to have the woman’s husband killed, he faced the awful truth of what he had done. In this short verse, you can see how his sin impacted him:

My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. (Psalm 38:4)

The good news is that David eventually repented of his actions and found relief (and joy) in God’s forgiveness. In this study, you will discover how you too can break free from guilt and shame.

But before you read the rest of this study, I’d like to ask you an important question:

Do you know Jesus?

Have you entered into a relationship with Jesus? I ask because it is through belief in him that we can begin to find freedom from guilt and shame. Let me invite you to accept him as your Savior and Lord. Make this your personal prayer:

Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God, and I need your help. I confess I have sinned and failed you in many ways. I invite you to be my Savior and Lord, and I ask you to help me follow you the rest of my life. Thank you for loving me, forgiving me, and accepting me as your child.

If you prayed this prayer, you have been “born again” (John 3:3). Welcome to the family of God. God has plans for you—to transform your life. You have an exciting time ahead of you!

Related: How to be “born again”

God forgives sins you committed before you were born again

God forgave all your sins when you became a believer. The slate was wiped clean. Don’t waste time being overwhelmed with regrets over your past life. Deal with the consequences of your past sins, yet remember that God has forgiven you.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. (Ephesians 1:7)

I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. (Isaiah 43:25)

As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)

What do you think?

1. What do you think Psalm 103:12 means?

God forgives sins you committed after you were born again

When you were “born again” (became a believer), you became a spiritual baby (John 3:3) and began a growth process. As Paul wrote, we “are being transformed into his likeness” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Our “new self … is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:10).

As you grow in the Lord, it is inevitable you will stumble. Even the most sincere Christians sin from time to time in their thoughts, words, or deeds.

James wrote, “We all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2). John made the same point when he wrote If we claim to be without sin, “we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if any-body does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 1:8-2:2)

Because he was human, Jesus understands what it’s like to be human. He sympathizes with our weaknesses.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

When we are born again, we are very imperfect. If God were to show us everything wrong with us right away, it would overwhelm us. As we grow, he periodically helps us become aware of new things to work on. To use a word Christians sometimes use, God “convicts” us of sin.

When God shows us our imperfections, he’s not trying to beat us down. Instead, he is showing us attitudes or actions that need changing so we can grow in love and maturity. When this happens, don’t beat yourself up for being imperfect. Instead, ask for and accept his forgiveness, then focus on growing closer to him.

When you sin for whatever reason, God’s forgiveness is available. Seek to walk in holiness, but don’t give up if you sin.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

What do you think?

2. What does it mean to be forgiven?

3. Can you count on God to forgive you when you confess your sins? Why or why not?

4. What does “purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:19) mean?

Three steps to enjoying God’s forgiveness

Finding God’s forgiveness isn’t a complex process. Read the following three steps with an open heart. God wants you to escape guilt and enjoy his forgiveness.

1. Confess your sin to God.

Some people treat sin casually, choosing to disobey God’s word and acting as if God doesn’t care about in. God does care. When you sin, you need to be honest with God and confess your sin.

He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:5)

2. Ask God to forgive you.

A parent likes to hear his or her child say, “Please forgive me.” So does God. Asking for forgiveness can show a humble and repentant heart.

If you keep committing the same sins, you may feel like a hypocrite and think God won’t forgive you. But look at what Jesus told his disciples:

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22)

Since Jesus asked his followers to forgive continuously, we know that it is in his character to forgive again and again. Knowing this, we are encouraged not to give up if we keep committing the same sin. Instead, we keep coming to him, asking for forgiveness, and asking for help to do better.

Make it personal

5. If you don’t feel forgiven, does that mean God hasn’t forgiven you? Why or why not?

6. If you don’t feel forgiven, what should you do?

3. Thank God for his forgiveness.

Imagine you were the parent of a four-year old child and that you disciplined him or her for doing something wrong. Now imagine that the next day you saw your child sitting on a chair, looking depressed, and you asked what was wrong. Your child responded, “I’m a bad person.”

You would reassure your child, wouldn’t you? You might say something such as, “No you’re not, honey. I’ve forgiven you. Now go out and play.”

What would you think if this scene was repeated many times over the next few weeks? It probably would break your heart. You would want your child to experience your forgiveness and enjoy life.

Likewise, once we confess our sins, God wants us to experience his forgiveness and move beyond feeling guilty.

When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions. (Psalm 65:3)

I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. (Isaiah 43:25)

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18-19)

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)

God doesn’t want you to wallow in your past sins, continuing to feel awful. He loves to answer when you pray, “I’m sorry, God. Please forgive me.” His answer is, “I forgive you.” Some people think you need to “forgive yourself,” but that misses the point of God’s forgiveness. When God forgives us, we are forgiven. We can walk in peace and joy because he has forgiven us.

Here are some more encouraging verses about God’s forgiveness: 1 Kings 8:33-34, Psalm 85:2-3, Psalm 103:11-13, Psalm 130:4, Isaiah 1:18, Isaiah 55:6-7, Ezekiel 33:14-16, and James 5:15-16.

Make it personal

7. After God forgives you, do you need to “forgive yourself”? Explain your answer.

Deal with the consequences of your sins

Although God forgives you, there may be consequences for your actions. They may be “natural consequences” (such as contracting a sexually transmitted disease). Or they may be other people’s reactions (such as friends who don’t trust you because you lied). Or there may be legal consequences. This might include getting fired, being separated from your spouse, or going to court.

Make restitution to others if needed. Take care of any physical or legal consequences. If you wounded others, take as much time as necessary to earn their trust.

In addition, God sometimes disciplines us, just as parents sometimes discipline their children for disobedience. When God chastises us, he is helping us learn from our sins. He does this with love.

And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” (Hebrews 12:5-6)

Make it personal

8. After God forgives you, do you still need to deal with the consequences of sin? Why or why not?

9. How well do you practice the previous four steps to forgiveness? Explain your answer.

10. How will you remind yourself to take these steps the next time you sin?

Related: When you are tempted — Stop, Think, Pray

Digging deeper

Read and discuss 1 Kings 8:33-34; Psalms 38:4, 65:3, 85:2-3, 103:11-13, and 130:4; Isaiah 1:17-20 and 55:6-7; Ezekiel 33:14-16; James 5:15-16 and 1 John 2:1-2.

Memory verse

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Personal application

1. Read Leviticus 19:2, Matthew 5:48, and 2 Corinthians 13:11. Do these verses, which tell us to live holy lives, mean we should give up when we sin? Why or why not?

2. Write out one passage in the Bible that encourages you about God’s forgiveness. Why is this passage encouraging to you? How can you remind yourself of it?

3. Why is it important to ask God for forgiveness when we sin?

4. Read Ezekiel 33:14-16. What is the message God wants to convey in this passage?

5. John 1:9 says God will purify us from all unrighteousness if we confess our sins. What does “purify us from all unrighteousness” mean?

6. What does Proverbs 28:13 say about concealing sins?

7. What are the three steps to enjoying God’s forgiveness?

8. How will you put these steps into practice?

9. Have you concealed any sins? Say a prayer asking God to forgive you for them.

Doug Britton, MFT

Doug Britton, MFT

Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)

Copyright © 2019 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.

Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com for practical, biblical, cross-cultural books, Bible studies, and ebooks.

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