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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

May 6, 2016

Can we forgive ourselves?

Filed under Sabbath Thoughts

The spring festival reminds us of God's wonderful gift of forgiveness through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. At baptism God no longer associates us with our old sins, so should we put the past behind us.

With our old sins now buried in the grave, as pictured by baptism, we should not go back and dig them up. Considering the symbolism involved, this would be akin to grave robbing.

Thankfully, God does not keep a scorecard after our baptism with good deeds on one side and bad ones on the other. Our slate is wiped clean of every sin if we confess and repent of our sins and ask for His forgiveness. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). As earlier pointed out, no good deeds, no physical effort of our own, can ever repay God for the precious gifts of forgiveness and the cleansing of our guilt.

For some, such grave robbery in the form of continuing to fret about past sins may seem like repentance. But it’s more a way of punishing oneself. We need to understand that God wants repentance, not penance. He does not want us to throw old sins back into His face by continuing to be consumed with thinking about them. He expects us to trust Him and His desire to completely forgive and forget.

It is normal for us to feel guilty when we sin, and the pain of penalties for past mistakes often lingers. Guilt, however, need not remain as a debilitating weight dragging us down. Guilt can spawn needless feelings of inferiority and bitterness. After we repent, God totally forgives our sins, and there remains no reason to feel guilty unless we sin again. Even then, we should immediately repent, ask God to forgive us and put the guilt behind us. God, in His infinite mercy, applies Christ’s sacrifice to cover and remove our sin and guilt.

We need to learn from our mistakes; but once we have done so, we need to leave them buried in the past. We are to "walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4). An individual who does this, in God’s eyes, becomes a new person, someone completely forgiven as though he or she had never sinned.

It is important that we see ourselves from this perspective and focus on the future. Paul expressed the concept this way in Philippians 3:13-14: "One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

With these thoughts I wish everyone a rewarding Sabbath!

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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