Friday, January 25, 2008

Forgiveness, abortion, and other sins

Craig said this in a recent post:
But what if you've had an abortion? You've done a terrible thing. But healing and restoration can be found in Christ. Don't justify your own actions, look to Christ for justification.
I agree, and think it merits a word of expansion.

God forgives the sins of repentant believers.

It was God who said this:
He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion
(Proverbs 28:13)
And this:
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace
(Ephesians 1:7)
And this:
...and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem
(Luke 24:47)
God forgives sins, there is forgiveness for sins; it is sinners who are declared righteous in and because of Christ.

God doesn't forgive mistakes, errors in judgment, bad choices, regrettable decisions, regrets. Genuine confession of sin doesn't include a "but" or "if" or "because" — as in "I did this, but I had no choice," or "if that was wrong, I'm sorry," or "I did that because my lover / partner / parent...."

Confession of sin is specific and unqualified. If it was a sin, you didn't have to do it. If it was a sin, you shouldn't have done it. If it was a sin, there is no excuse for it. If it was a sin, you would not do it again, offered the opportunity, God helping you.

If you imagine that you had to do it, that there was an excuse for it, that it wasn't really all that bad, then you don't see it as God sees it yet.

If your sin leaves you with a wrong that you should right, but you are unwilling to right it, then you don't see it as God sees it yet.

In those cases, your action isn't really a sin, to you. It is, at worst, an "oops." But Christ died for sins, not "oopses," since "oopses" don't really require forgiveness.

And the truth is, you don't really think it was even an "oops," do you? You still think you had a good reason to do it. It wasn't really bad, like what bad people do. You just have this guilt-feeling, and you'd like it to go away. So you run to the "forgiveness" button.

Or worse still, some Christian is talking to you, and trying to bring you to see it God's way (which is really a very loving thing to do), and you want him to stop bugging you about it.

So you tell him you're forgiven and he should forgive you too. That should shut him up.

Yet you really aren't forgiven.

Because you don't think you've really sinned.

And God only forgives the sins of repentant believers.

27 comments:

Clemntine said...

Very clearly put. This touches exactly on an ongoing conversation I'm having with our 16-year-old. We'll read and discuss this today. Thanks for the help.

DJP said...

Praise God. I'd be so grateful if this proves useful to you. Thanks for sharing that.

Ricky Rickard said...

Dan,

The only thing I can say is Amen.

Ricky Rickard, Jr.

Kim said...

I'll add another amen.

Jay said...

And I'll add another.

I have one question, though. Does true repentance of sins require that you be able to completely remember and recall all sins? I've asked this question of several Bible study leaders and other friends, and they either honestly say they don't know or dance around the subject.

I certainly agree that sin is sin and nothing excuses it. At the same time, our nature is so depraved that every thought is marked my sin. Logically, do we even have the mental ability to recollect, understand, and repent of every particular sin? Sins of thought mostly come to mind, because it's hard to remember every moment I wanted to yell at someone, or was tempted to lie, etc.

Yet I do know those things are part of my depraved nature and I repent of them. And once again, this comment is way longer than it should be. Hope your'e well!

Stefan said...

Jay: You could ask God to forgive you for the sins you can't recall!

"You know my sins, Lord, even if I can't remember them. Thank you for what your Son did on Calvary's cross. Thank you that He shed His blood to cover my iniquities. Please forgive me for my sins, and through the Holy Spirit, please continue to sanctify me, so that I can be more perfectly Your servant, for Your sake and for Your glory."

But this brings up a question of my own: I do pray to God to forgive me for my sins (not often enough!), but technically, because of what Christ has already done, it's redundant, isn't it? Nevertheless, I feel a strong compulsion—both from Scripture and from within my heart—to pray for forgiveness, so there appears to be more to it than that.

Justin said...

Yes, DJP!

Prior, of course, to pleading for forgiveness by the merits of Christ's death and resurrection, there is only one response to the temptation to sin:

Don't.

(For God cannot be mocked.)

Thanks for this post.

Jay said...

Good points, Stefan, and I really like that prayer. Mind if I borrow it? ;-)

The Doulos said...

Dan, well put. This brings out the dangers of our tendency in some evanglistic pleas to "ask God to forgive you for all the bad things in your life" or some similar terms. Until we see those "bad things" as He does - odious and intentional offenses against a perfectly holy God - then we really can't appreciate and receive the forgiveness He provides in Christ.

Luke S. said...

Nah, DJP you vastly overstate your case and make God not very forgiving at all.

You create a huge hurdle that very, very few people would pass.

You have turned God's act of forgiveness into the ability of the believer to be perfectly aware of, and perfectly repentant of every sin they ever commit, otherwise NO FORGIVENESS FOR YOU!

This is a religion for good people who occasionally do bad things, but are so good they can be perfectly aware of and repentant of each one. It sounds almost Pharisaic. Not a religion for a lowly sinner like me.

Stefan said...

Jay: Feel free to use it, or adapt as the Spirit moves you. ;)

Carlo said...

Jay,

Your question is a great question. And I think the one suggestion that was offered was great. You could also refer to Psalm 19 where David asks for forgiveness of his secret faults - and that I think would include sins you aren't aware of.

I think part of the problem is that we forget how comprehensive sin is. It's not just the BIG sins.

Take for example docrinal error (and I'm just including doctrinal error that is not heresy - i.e. leading away from Christ). So, e.g., baptism, eschatology, etc. Is doctrinal error sin? Well of course it is, because God is truth and perfect and any missing of that mark of truth is sin. That's what sin is, missing the mark. But a mentor of mine really clarified this for me...is doctrinal error a sin in the same sense that adultery is a sin? Probably not. Because there is indwelling sin in us, e.g., we bring sin into our imperfect worship, imperfect devotions, imperfect prayer life, imperfect Bible reading - and what I mean, bring in, is as we do all of these things regularly and consistently, we still do them in an imperfect way. etc. etc. etc. So, I think your secret or unknown sins fall into that same category. We're not talking about sins you have repressed or ignored, but we're talking about a believer, with a biblically informed conscience that loves the Lord, and hates his own sins and frequently confesses his sins, but he will miss many of those unknown ones.

That's my two cents.

LeeC said...

Are you sure you read the right post Luke?

Kristine said...

DJP...this post is right on. I don't even know how many times well-meaning people kept telling me that God had already forgiven me for my abortion, and that I needed to forgive myself too. The problem was, I wasn't yet a Christian, and though my sense of guilt was beyond words, I had still not approached a Holy God with a repentant heart. I just wanted the guilt to go away.

In God's great mercy, and by His amazing grace, He granted me the repentance and faith my soul desperately needed....but it was only after I genuinely repented that He graciously gave the peace that can only come from His genuine forgiveness.

Everything had to be on His terms.

...sorry I took up so much room...I liked the post, and just wanted you to know :)

Carlo said...

Great story Kristine. John Owen said we must fill our conscience with the guilt of sin, which is the opposite of what society tells us. Your friends telling you needed to forgive yourself without any embrace of Jesus and repentance makes about as much sense as a person who is lonely patting himself on the back saying, "there, there."

DJP said...

Thank you very much, Kristine. Very poignant, and apropos.

Craig Bennett said...

One more point I would add to this about being repentant is that often we have to forgive ourselves before we can truly accept the forgiveness of the Lord.

Thats not to say that the Lords forgiveness is not true, if it has been been truly sought after by sinner.

Abortion is a terrible sin, so is pride or false humility, self righteousness, deception and so the list goes on. What we need to ensure is that our response to sinners in sharing the gospel message is one of speaking the truth in love.

4given said...

Genuine question: Where in Scripture does it say that we are supposed to forgive ourselves?

4given said...

Kristine,
Thank you for sharing. I, too, had an abortion when I was young. It is... unforgettable but not unforgivable.

I love what you wrote: He granted me the repentance and faith my soul desperately needed

Craig Bennett said...

G'day Forgiven,

Scripture says not to withhold forgiveness to any one, that has to include ourselves.

Or think of it another way, if Christ no longer condemns us, why should we continue to do so.

Or if Christ forgives us, shouldn't we have the mind of Christ, and bring our own actions, thoughts etc in line with Christs?

Why should we withhold forgiveness to our selves, if we have asked Christ to do so?

DJP said...

Perhaps it's a matter of terminology. You should forgive the person you wronged. In sinning, we do not wrong ourselves: we always wrong God, we sometimes wrong other people. We should seek forgiveness of all we wronged.

But to "forgive ourselves" sounds a bit more like pop-psychology than Biblical talk.

Having said that, I think maybe what you mean is to accept and believe the forgiveness Christ promises. Which, if we've genuinely repented and sought that forgiveness through Christ, we should do. And which can be very difficult. I think perhaps what some people mean when they say they're having a tough time forgiving themselves, is that they're having a tough time believing that could actually forgive them.

I think actually it'd be more helpful to frame it that way, and address it as a matter of needing to deal with specific Scriptures, than with the (well-intentioned but) wrong-headed notion of forgiving ourselves.

Craig Bennett said...

I agree that we always wrong God with SIN. Yet we can sin against ourselves,just as we can wrong others. As our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, abortion causes us to sin against God, against another life that God granted us to nurture as well as harming our selves.

Jesus says that we can't be forgiven until we forgive those who have sinned against us...

I would say that it is Scriptural to tell someone who wants Christ to forgive them, that they must ensure they are not witholding it from themselves, nor withholding it from others

Craig Bennett said...

I had another thought about your take that forgiving our selves is pop psychology.

Take a situation where a person did something that they have not forgiven themselves for!

In what form would their repentance take shape? How would they repent of it? For them to truly repent of not loving themselves as Christ has; they would have to forgive themselves for effective repentance to take place.

Carlo said...

Craig,

There's nothing in the Bible about forgiving "ourselves." A person doesn't have to forgive themselves before they go to the Lord for forgiveness. What they have to realize is that it's a great sin even to contemplate that their sin is too great for God's rich mercy and the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

Absolutely nothing but the blood of Jesus will make a person as white as snow, not even forgiving "ourselves."

Craig Bennett said...

Hi Carlos,

You are right that someone does not need to forgive themselves before going to Christ. I totally agree and believe it myself.

Yet what do you do if a persons sin is that they do not forgive themselves for something that has happened. Take for example a driver of a car who has an accident and all their passengers are killed and makes the statement, "I can never forgive myself" And in making that statement lives a life of never doing so.

What happens if that person wants to become a Christian, believes the promises of Christ and will repent of their sins...what will the repentance look like for the person who has said they will not forgive themselves?...

For them to truly repent, don't they need to forgive themselves?...after all hasn't this thread been all about repenting of EVERY sin?

Carlo said...

Craig,

Carlo, by the way, not Carlos. If the person wants to become a Christian, the starting point is of course with God. You seem to be saying that one of the starting points is with the person forgiving themselves. But that is not the starting point. The starting point is with God reaching out to the unbeliever, and effectually reaching out to him saying, that they need to ask for forgiveness from God, not forgiving themselves.

Craig Bennett said...

Sorry Carlo for getting your name wrong.

I don't think you are understanding what I'm saying here, and if I have done a clumsy job of it I'm sorry.

I'm talking about repenting of our sins.

If a person wants to become a Christian and is an adulterer, what will their repentance look like?

Won't they have to stop committing adultry?

If a person is a liar, don't they have to stop lying for true repentance to happen?

In the same way, if a person holds unforgiveness towards themselves, will not true repentance take shape when they stop witholding it from themselves?

An adulterer can accept Christs forgiveness, yet have they really done so if they continue committing adultery?

The same can be said of a person who withholds forgiveness towards themselves...can they truly have accepted Christs forgiveness if they do not repent and forgive themselves?