Receiving forgiveness from the Lord is one of the greatest gifts that He has given to the human race. The key word here, however, is ‘receiving’ this forgiveness which seems to be very difficult for many people to do. The problem that most people run into is accepting the fact that God’s forgiveness is free but it is not automatic.
There seems to be a disconnect or misunderstanding between the way the Bible teaches that we should receive forgiveness of sins and the way we, as human beings, perceive receiving forgiveness of sins from God. The Bible is clear that God’s forgiveness is received first based on His grace and second based on our simple acts of obedience (1 John 1:9, Acts 3:19, Ephesians 1:7, Mark 11:25). Whereas, most people hold one of two extreme positions on the topic of forgiveness: either we believe that we can earn God’s forgiveness by our perfect acts of righteousness; or we think that we are automatically forgiven regardless of what we say or do.
Let us allow the Word of God (from the King James version Bible) to address this issues of forgiveness for us. In 1 John 1:9 it says,
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
What is this verse telling us?
This verse is saying that in order for us to receive forgiveness for our sins we must admit that we have sinned in the first place. One preacher put it this way, “We must admit it and quit it.” We can plainly see from this verse that God responds to our simple act of becoming real with Him and admitting our sins. Then and only then, according to this verse, can we be forgiven and cleansed from ALL unrighteousness.
Next, there is another Bible verse that addresses the act of having our sins wiped away, or, in other words, being forgiven. In Acts 3:19 it says,
“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;”
Again, we find that there is a simple act of obedience that we must perform in order to have our sins “…blotted out…” or forgiven. This time we see that we must repent. ‘Repent’ just actually means to agree with God as to the wickedness of our sins and to denounce these sins in our hearts and minds. And, with the help of the Holy Spirit, stop these sinful acts altogether. The act of repentance also requires that we start by confessing the sin, as shown earlier in 1 John 1:9, in the first place. Then, the other important word “converted,” here means to accept the cross of Christ Jesus, by faith, as the only payment for our sins.
This leads us to the next valuable verse from the Bible on forgiveness. In Ephesians 1:7, we are shown where our forgiveness comes from; it says,
“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;”
Here we see that we are given forgiveness of sins through “…His blood..,” and the “whom” in the verse refers to none other than our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ Who is the Son of the Living God. His unselfish act of being cruelly crucified on the cross in our place, paid for our debt of sin.
Therefore, it is an offense against the cross for us to try to pay for our sins through our own personal acts of holiness. We just cannot do it; man has never been able to totally atone for his own sins, God accepts the blood that Jesus shed on the cross ONLY. And, through this way, we must accept God’s undeserved favor (also called His grace) in order to receive the forgiveness of sins.
Finally, in Mark 11:25, we are given a condition that we must meet in order to be able to receive God’s forgiveness. It says,
“And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
Keep in mind that this is Jesus speaking not someone else. The person giving this condition for forgiveness is the One Who actually made our forgiveness from God possible. He says when we go to ask God for forgiveness for our sins, we have to first forgive everyone that has wronged us, in some way, before we are eligible to receive forgiveness from God. Many Christians like to overlook this fact, but these words are still the eternal truths of God: forgive and you will be forgiven.
This truth is not taught enough in our churches. Yet, it is a fact of God. We can be forgiven for any sin that we commit (accept blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, Matthew 12:31) just by first deciding to forgive and then forgiving anybody who has sinned against us. Please, don’t let holding a grudge against somebody deter you from receiving your forgiveness!
It is just that simple, receiving God’s forgiveness does not mean that we have to get on a cross and suffer for our own sins, or that we have to do so many good acts of kindness or righteousness in order to be forgiven. Instead it means that we have to agree with God that what we have done is wrong and wicked and actually acknowledge this fact to God. Furthermore, accept and believe that Jesus paid the price for our sins, and as long as we are willing to allow the Holy Spirit to help us to forgive others, God will forgive us. That is it, enough said. A-men