You are forgivable! You can forgive yourself How to forgive yourself.
Forgiving Yourself Made Easy
Wondrous Peace for the Guilt-Ridden Conscience
No matter how serious your offenses, there is as much hope for you as if your guilt were only imaginary. To grasp the implications let’s, for three paragraphs, explore false guilt.
A constant stream of people contact me because they are burdened with guilt over “sins” they have not even committed. Some feel needless guilt over having been seduced when they were too young to understand, or because they were forced when older. Others feel guilty simply because they suffer horrific temptation or evil thoughts that originate not from them but from the Tempter. It is painfully hard for such people to realize that they are innocent of the things that torment them. When – often after torturous years of condemnation – it finally hits them that they were not at fault, their relief is indescribable. Nevertheless, the truth is far more thrilling than even they realize.
On the other hand, there are innocent people who want to believe they are guilty. They may not be conscious of it, but these people think themselves stuck in an horrendous no-win situation: to blame themselves for a tragedy they had no control over is torturous, and yet to not blame themselves seems even worse. To admit to themselves that awful things can befall them that they cannot prevent, forces upon them the terrifying conclusion that a tragedy as bad, or even worse, as what they suffered before could (theoretically) happen again.
(For a little more about this, see Tragedies & Blame.)
Nevertheless, even if people want to cling to the belief that their sin caused the tragedy, they can still find enormous relief by reading the following, since it explains how Christ totally absolves them of all past sin, regardless of how much they had been responsible. By taking all guilt and blame upon himself, Christ frees us all to let ourselves feel as guiltless as we would if we had been totally innocent, even if we had been totally in the wrong.
The basis of God’s love for any of us is not that what happened to us was not our fault or that our sins are excusable. God love is not based on what you have or haven’t done. He loves you because he loves you. You are loved so much that even if every wicked thing touching you had been your doing, God still longs to make you the purest of virgins, the most innocent of innocents, in his eyes.
It is easy for the Omnipotent Lord, for whom nothing is impossible, to transform you, making you radiant with holy perfection and unsurpassable purity, honored and admired throughout the universe for your uniqueness and breathtaking magnificence. Carefully think about that sentence. Can the God of infinite ability really do that for you?
This is no idle dream. The Lord of all has not just power beyond our wildest dreams, but equally incomprehensible love. That means the Almighty not only has all it takes to make you unimaginably glorious, he has an almost overwhelming yearning to do it for you. He is a sculptor who delights in displaying his skill by taking hunks of rock everyone else has dismissed as useless, and turning them into exquisite works of art. You are his jewel, his treasure, his joy, and when he finally completes his masterpiece the entire universe will see what he has always seen in you, and gasp in awe. In Christ, you are unique, irreplaceable, the perfection of divine artistry. You make God proud. In you, God’s glory is displayed for all eternity.
All that is needed is to admit to yourself and to God that – along with everyone on this planet – you need Jesus’ cleansing. Then, like a bride decked in an exquisite, literally out-of-this-world gown, you are adorned with the flawless perfection of the Lord Jesus, irrespective of how good or unpleasant your past.
Regardless of whether you think yourself forgivable, the holy Lord sees you as forgivable. The Judge of all humanity sees you as worthy of forgiveness because Jesus, the Innocent One, willingly took all the blame upon himself for everything involving you – not just awful experiences you recall, but everything that has slipped your mind, right down to the tiniest, mundane moral slips. On the cross, the exalted, holy Lord swapped places with you so that you could be granted the highest honor of having his innocence bestowed on you.
The flawless Son of God took upon himself all of your filth down to the very last speck and placed on you all of his purity, making you like a beacon of pure light, irresistibly attractive to the Holy One. On the cross, Jesus cried out that God had forsaken him. As surely as your imperfections drove the Father in revulsion from the Son, so Jesus’ perfection impels the Father to rush to you like a bee to honey.
The Almighty’s standards are so exacting that for God to accept even the most saintly of us, would take no greater miracle than accepting the most depraved of us. When it comes to God delighting in any of us, the critical factor could never be what we have done; it must always be what the holy Son of God has done. He has absorbed all your shame in his own being and given you all his glory.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
The crucified Christ took all of our sins so we might gain all of his sinlessness. He volunteered for God to treat him as the vilest sinner, so that God could treat us as the perfection of holiness. As surely the Eternal Son got what you deserve, you will get what the Eternal Son deserves.
Our Past Doesn’t Matter?
Our most common misunderstanding about interacting with God is to suppose that the Exalted One’s feelings for us are based on how good we have been. In reality, our past behavior has no bearing on how God treats us. The King of kings accepts people not because of the smallness of their sins but because of the greatness of Christ’s sacrifice. Christ suffered so that our failures could be wiped out in a flash. All that matters is that we complete God’s joy by letting him do this. At indescribable cost to himself, our Lord has made it so easy for us that we stumble over it seeming too good to be true. But God is good! We keep wondering if we are dreaming because our version of reality is the nightmare of living with humans, all of whom are defiled by selfish, impure motives and treat each other accordingly. The Almighty is mind-bogglingly superior to us, not just in raw power but in every other aspect of moral perfection. That means his generosity, unselfishness, kindness, forgiveness, and the like, is staggeringly superior to anything we have ever before encountered.
So, at no cost to us, God longs to wipe from our heavenly record every moral slip. All he needs is our permission to shower upon us all the staggering blessings of Christ’s sacrifice. He requires our permission because he chooses not to act like some fearsome tyrant, but as someone who honors our wishes. All that we need do is agree with God that we need our moral failings removed from heaven’s records and that Jesus achieved this by suffering the full penalty our sins deserve.
A man was offered a presidential pardon, but on the condition that he admit his guilt. That’s the ironical situation we find ourselves in. When we admit our guilt, God pronounces us innocent. If, on the other hand, we keep trying to convince ourselves that we are innocent, we will be tried for our every sin. This is something Jesus taught over and over. Here is a powerful example:
Luke 18:10-14 “Two men went up into the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself like this: ‘God, I thank you, that I am not like the rest of men, extortionists, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get.’
But the tax collector, standing far away, wouldn’t even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’
I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Do you see it? The only people with a smidgeon of morality are those appalled by their own sinfulness. Everyone else is so deluded as to be beyond hope, unless they, too, eventually become devastated by an awareness of their own depravity.
Using the Pharisee to illustrate his point, Jesus reveals that some people are unforgivable. (That is not to say they could never change and hence become forgivable, but for as long as they act like the Pharisee they cannot be forgiven.) What renders them unforgivable is not the atrociousness of their sin – everyone would say the Pharisee was much less sinful than the tax collector. They miss out on forgiveness simply because they think they have no need of forgiveness and so do not bother to ask for it.
What, for example, makes blaspheming the Holy Spirit unforgivable is not the magnitude of the sin, but the fact that it is believing that Jesus, the only Person who offers divine forgiveness, is in league not with the Spirit of God but with the devil. No one believing that Jesus is of the devil would dream of seeking God’s forgiveness through Jesus.
Whoever asks with faith in Jesus, receives. The Pharisee could never be forgiven in this life or the next while he never bothered to ask for forgiveness. No matter how close to sinless a person is, he cannot be forgiven if he does not ask for forgiveness. No matter how many and how disgusting a person’s sins – including blaspheming the Holy Spirit – anyone can be forgiven if that person sincerely asks for it with faith in Jesus. Anyone doing this is no longer blaspheming the Spirit. (His faith in Jesus shows that he now believes Jesus is one with the Spirit of God). This change of heart means that he is no longer unforgivable.
Our past is irrelevant. Although Jesus chose the most likely characters for his story, the roles could have been reversed, with the good-living Pharisee devastated by his sinfulness, and the cheating, money-grubbing tax collector filled with excuses and self-righteousness. What matters is not our past, but our awareness that regardless of how good or bad we seem when compared with other people, relative to God each of us has been atrociously wicked.
We have all been despicably evil, but only a few of us realize it, and the more we realize it, the more God longs to exalt us.
The Amplified Bible puts it this way:
Psalm 34:18 The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves those who have a crushed spirit. . . .
When overwhelmed by the gravity of our offenses, we may fear that God has left us, but he is actually closer than ever to us. While in this state we can feel sure that God is angry with us when in reality he is brimming with tender compassion towards us. Like the lost sheep in Jesus’ parable, the Lord feels even more for anyone hurting over his or her sin than over countless “saints” who, though special to him, are not hurting.
God can indeed be angry when we are in defiant rebellion against him, and yet even this is a manifestation of how important we are to him. As suggested in the book of Job, look up at the stars: are they moved from their place when you sin (Job 35:5-6)? It is only because he loves us that our sin affects God.
The Lord may have been upset, but the instant we move from defiance to sorrow over our sin, his heart melts.
A child has run away from home. His mother is beside herself with worry. Before long he’s seen the error of his ways and desperately wants to return home but he stays in hiding, terrified of his mother’s anger. He is the joy of her life but he is too young to grasp the implications. He’s expecting the worst imaginable punishment; unable to understand that upon return he would get the biggest hug he has ever known.
That’s like you and God. While you are hiding, fearing God’s wrath, he’s wanting to smother you with kisses. Return to him and you will light up his life. You suppose his face will be black with disappointment, when actually he will be thrilled beyond words, grinning from ear to ear, to have you in his life.
The tragedy is that we find that hard to believe. This is why the critical thing about salvation is not works, but faith. It’s not our lack of good works that keeps us from fully enjoying God; it’s our lack of faith in the magnitude of God’s forgiveness.
We humans develop our own corrupt moral standards that allow us to label certain sins as “minor” and “excusable.” If we were drinking glasses, each of us would leak. Some of us might be in worse condition than others, but what difference does that make? Who would give a king a cracked glass? Nothing imperfect reaches God’s minimum standard. It’s an insult to God to suppose that even the most saintly person is good enough for God. In reality, earth has just two types of people: hopeless moral failures who cling to humanity’s only Savior, and hopeless moral failures who try to face eternity on their own. To abandon faith in oneself and put all one’s faith in Christ’s goodness is like stepping into a spacecraft. For even the nicest people to trust their own goodness is like them hoping they can reach the heavens by jumping high.
Isaiah 64:6 For we have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteousness is like a polluted garment.
Carve that into the cortex of your brain. “All of us” – “all of us” – have become so defiled that even the greatest attempts of the most saintly person to do good is as repulsive as bodily filth.
So offensive to God are our highest moral attainments that, in the original Hebrew, Scripture resorts to an offensive expression to convey this shocking truth. Quite literally, without the slightest exaggeration, Isaiah is saying that even the noblest human attempts at morality are as soiled menstrual rags. To hold up to God, as if it made me worthy, my lifetime of sacrificial service or list of sins I have avoided, is as disgusting as proudly displaying my bodily filth.
The nicest non-Christian you’ll ever meet is of the devil, deceived, evil, and God’s enemy. Everyone not in spiritual union with Christ is dead to God. All of us have been in this terrifying predicament. If you’re dead, you’re dead. To argue that one corpse is in better condition or closer to being alive than another is ridiculous. Would you dare drag a corpse into a king’s presence? Would you say, “I think you should meet this man. You’ll get on well together. He’s such a good person. His corpse hardly smells at all”?
A person’s kindness, goodness and sacrificial love might be so astounding as to put to shame most Christians, but that person has still sinned and the wages of sin – one sin – one tiny infringement – is death.
Spiritually, we’ve all missed the boat. We are all in the same desperate situation, no matter whether we missed the lifeboat by thirty seconds, thirty minutes, thirty days, or thirty years.
Imagine a dozen murderers on death row, each despising each other and thinking themselves more moral than the others. That’s a picture of all of us until we come to our senses. Who of us has not, in a flash of anger or self-righteousness, wished someone were dead? That, revealed Jesus, makes us murderers. We need murder only once in our entire lives to be a murderer. With the thought being as evil as the deed, all of us are rapists, adulterers, sadists or murderers in the eyes of the Judge who will determine where we spend eternity. Whether we or everyone on this planet finds our offense excusable is irrelevant. Whether we like it or not, our Judge is divine. He does not judge by human standards. As the stars tower high above the earth, so are his standards, and the sooner we start thinking like he does, the better.
You might feel more defiled than other people, but that’s not how God sees it. His standards shatter all distinctions.
For a surgeon about to operate, usual standards of cleanliness are hopelessly inadequate. You might be filthy and someone else walks off the street looking spotless, but by the standards the surgeon must maintain, both of you are equally untouchable. It can make no difference if the person approaching him is the love of his life or the most important or popular or respectable person in the world. Regardless of how special someone is or how clean by normal standards, a surgeon must not lower his standards. So it is with God. We might distinguish between sinners, but God cannot.
For a glimpse of how differently God thinks, consider all the catastrophic consequences of Adam’s sin. What did he do? Murder Eve? Destroy the entire Garden of Eden? He simply ate a piece of fruit.
It is not to put anyone down that I expound the truth of everyone’s depravity. On the contrary, I do it because it is God’s longing that everyone reading this will be exalted, just as the tax collector humbly faced the seriousness of his sin and was divinely exalted above the highly respected Pharisee. I dare confront you with this truth because I want you exalted not merely in your own estimation but exalted by the Lord of all.
So let’s plunge into this icy truth that turns out to be the most exquisite warm spa.
God’s chosen priests, Nadab and Abihu, made an offering to God in a manner similar, but not exactly identical, to how the Lord had prescribed. They were not turning away from the Lord. They were not even ignoring him. They were worshipping him. And yet God struck them dead for making that offering (Leviticus 10:1-2).
Uzzah, seeing the Ark of God in danger of falling and being damaged, reached out in an instinctive, unpremeditated act to protect the Ark. God struck him dead for daring to touch the Holy Ark (2 Samuel 6:6-7).
Ananias and Sapphira sold their own property and generously gave not just a tithe of this considerable sum, nor even several times the value of a tithe, but such a huge percentage that they fully expected everyone to presume that it was the total amount. They, too, were struck dead (Acts 5:1-11).
Of course, many others have been slain by God, but I have focused on examples of particularly godly people. They were serving God. In fact, they were in the forefront of what God was doing and not even that saved them. Whether by the grace of God any of these ended up in heaven is not for me to speculate. What is certain, however, is that not only did God slay them, he made a permanent record of the severity of his judgment. Clearly, the Judge of all humanity knows that the whole world needs to realize the blood-curdling gravity of what we are tempted to dismiss as trivial, excusable slips.
Instances like this show not the harshness of God, but his astounding patience towards every one of us who is still breathing. We must get it into our heads that it is not just “big” sins that are terrifyingly serious. Our consciences are so callous that even much of what we think acceptable is actually defiled. Even things we think are acts of devotion to God are enough to send us to hell.
Like the disciples, we gasp, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus’ answer rings through the centuries, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:25-26).
If there is anyone on this planet that God can make so pure and holy that he would enthrone himself in that person’s very body – and, of course, there is – he can do it to you.
A person overwhelmed by guilt typically feels painfully alone, but the truth is that we are all floundering in the same spiritually catastrophic dilemma. No one but Jesus has ever reached God’s minimum standard for divine acceptance. For you to reach God’s standard is no more humanly impossible – and divinely possible – than for anyone else. Your sin is no more damning than anyone else’s sin. Your path to forgiveness is the same as anyone else’s.
God has powerfully used famous Christian leaders year after year while they were secretly conducting adulterous affairs until their sin was finally exposed. Nearly all of us are shocked when first hearing this. Our reaction exposes our spiritual blindness. The astounding thing is not merely that the Lord has used people regularly committing adultery; what is astounding is that he uses any of us. Probably, the most saintly Christians alive do things several times each day for which the Lord would be fully justified in striking them dead. All Christians are daily dependent upon the grace of God, even though most are as close to being as blasé about it as the Pharisee. Some of us struggle with addictions that horrify Christians. The rest of us struggle with sins that Christians excuse but horrify God. We must not judge anyone because all that does is prove our hypocrisy. We dare not abuse the grace of God. We must truly mourn our sins and fight them and crave total obedience to God.
Exposing the extreme sinfulness of all of us might be the last thing you would expect in a webpage devoted to helping people forgive themselves, but I dare not present less than the full truth of God. It is the truth, not half-lies, that has set me free and will set you free.
Yes, full forgiveness is available, but the praying, temple-attending Pharisee went home unforgiven because he never bothered to seek forgiveness. Blinded by his own smugness, he had no conception of what we are discussing, even though his Bible knowledge must have been immensely superior to the tax collector’s.
If a building’s foundations have crumbled, it is no achievement to acknowledge that there are cracks in the wall and then start patching them. The entire building must be razed and rebuilt from scratch. Some people might think their effort to redecorate the building proves their high standards, when it merely proves their foolishness. So many people who think themselves Christians are like those who think that the building that will soon collapse is basically okay and just needs a bit of redecorating. Like that Pharisee, they are dangerously ignorant of how corrupt every one of us is.
All of us – not just those blessed with a tender conscience – are in the same chronic need of God’s forgiveness.
In the words of Jesus:
Luke 13:1-3 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all perish in the same way. . . .”
A cold-blooded murderer’s spiritual need is no greater than mine. If, however, that murderer is more aware of his sins that I am of my own, then I am the one in the more terrifying predicament.
If you are still only mildly convinced that by God’s standards no one is less sinful nor more sinful than you have been, I’ll have one last shot at opening your eyes, but please go beyond my attempts and pray for a divine revelation.
“No one is perfect,” we glibly say. How serious would you rate the sin of sadistically devoting hour after hour after hour to torturing to death an innocent person? It was because I’m not perfect that the eternal King of kings, the darling of God’s heart, was tortured to death. My lack of perfection stripped him naked and publicly humiliated him. I flayed his flesh, mercilessly whipping the Innocent One, through whom the stars and flowers were made. My imperfection callously drove nails through the hands and feet of the One who has given me every good thing I have ever enjoyed. My sin did that. Dare I call it a minor sin? In the words of Peter, “You killed the author of life” (Acts 3:15). Oops! The Lord of lords is the indescribably majestic Being who alone keeps the entire universe from disintegrating (Hebrews 1:3). And my “insignificant slips” killed this stupendous Being on whom everything in existence teeters! It is quite literally a miracle that the catastrophic event my sin instigated did not precipitate the annihilation of the entire universe. Dare I rate that as anything less than equal to the most atrocious offense in the universe?
Each of us has been monstrously evil. Self-righteous people despise this truth, but what offends the proud, comforts those who are overwhelmed by their own sin. This truth initially seems so devastating that most people spend their entire lives running from it. Those who dare face the truth head-on, however, eventually discover that it is actually one of the most exciting of truths.
The truth that every one of us deserves hell is the great leveler. That of itself is a great relief to the humble.
Most gossip and slander is an attempt to pull someone down to our own level. But anyone understanding the truth we have been exploring, realizes that without Christ, all of us are already on the same level. When the full implications hit, the pressure to slander, gossip and resent people vanishes, just as being given multiplied trillions of dollars would evaporate every temptation to steal or covet anyone’s money. But after leveling us, the Almighty exalts us far beyond our highest dreams until we are sharing God’s very throne. From there, all itching to put anyone down disappears. It is only insecure people haunted by feelings of inferiority who feel the “need” to convince themselves that they are superior to at least some people.
It is a failure to comprehend that we are all equally defiled that keeps millions of people blackmailed into keeping guilty secrets – often from those who love them the most. They end up staggering through life feeling sickeningly alone and unloved and terrified that if ever their dirty secret were discovered they would be rejected and despised. Like a gangrenous wound slowly killing someone because he is too riddled with shame even to admit he needs medical help, so is a guilty past until we make the liberating discovery that we have nothing to hide from each other because we are all equally defiled.
Spiritually, people aware of the hideousness of their sins are light years ahead of everyone else. Those who think themselves good are so deluded by their own pride that they are to be pitied. The humble know they have been abominably wicked, but if they accept Bible truth they know they are not alone. Everyone on this planet is in the same appalling predicament, and for each Christ offers the same glorious solution.
Humanity’s depravity throws the holy Lord into an horrific dilemma. The darlings of his heart – that’s you and me – are utterly unacceptable and should be eternally trashed. The Almighty has resolved this seeming impossibility by devising a way in which each of us can be re-made, thus completely undoing the effects of our sin and making us perfect.
Surprisingly many people feel they are more evil than other people. Some even take this to the extreme of concluding that they are unforgivable. The fact that any sin, not just “big” sins, will send a person to eternal damnation should reassure such people that we are all in this together. Nevertheless, the Bible truth that we are all in the same appalling predicament is a two-edged sword, cutting not only those who pride themselves in their “clean” living but many of those who are devastated over some of their sins.
If “small” sins can condemn us to hell, then our eternity teeters on our willingness to repent not only of the sins we find inexcusable, but also on us repenting of sins we think excusable. For an example of a damnable sin we try to excuse, consider a refusal to pray God’s blessing upon those who have shamefully treated us. The despicable brutes who have hurt us are as worthy of hell as we are. (Remember, our sins tortured to death the Innocent Son of God.)
For forgiveness, we must act like the tax collector, in mourning our sins. But since “small” sins are just as deadly as the ones that disturb us, for us to escape hell all our sins must be forgiven. It is therefore essential that we regret not only the sins we loathe but the sins we love.
The Lord freely pours his innocence upon all who want it. To want God’s innocence we must want God to deliver us – to rip from our lives – all sin. We must want to be rid forever from all sinful pleasure.
Suppose the Pharisee had been rushing to the temple. He turns a corner and does not see a toddler in the middle of the street before his donkey tramples the little girl to death. He enters the temple as hardened as ever over his sins but riddled with guilt over the death of the toddler. Do you expect him to be forgiven all the sins he is oblivious to, just because he is filled with remorse over an accident? In fact, he might focus so much on the accident that he is even less aware of his other sins. Only if the incident caused him to review his entire life and he repented of his self-righteousness would there be hope for him.
Distinguishing between “big” sins and “small” sins is largely a human invention devised by guilt-ridden sinners desperate to feel superior to certain other sinners. The same Jesus who was so gentle with those who regretted their sin was furious with hypocrites. To expect God’s forgiveness while we refuse to forgive someone is to tell God, “Do what I say, not what I do.” What could be more hypocritical? Despite all our protests, anyone we refuse to forgive is actually no more worthy of hell, and no less forgivable, than we are.
One sin we must want to be freed from is the sin of refusing to be as forgiving of others as we want God to be forgiving of us.
Matthew 6:15 But if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Luke 6:36-38 “Therefore be merciful, even as your Father is also merciful. Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn,and you won’t be condemned. Set free, and you will be set free. “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be given to you. For with the same measure you measure it will be measured back to you.”
The generosity or the miserliness of the measure we use to pour forgiveness on those who have hurt us is the measure God will use to forgive us. Like spitting into the wind, the way we treat others lands on our own head. If we treat others as unforgivable, that is how God will treat us.
Grace is not license to sin; it is license not to sin. It is freedom not just from the penalty of sin but from bondage to sin.
If it is an insult to God’s holiness to think anything substandard is good enough for God, it is an insult to his omnipotence to think that for God anything is beyond repair. Either God can restore you to holy perfection, or he isn’t God. And either he longs to make you as holy and perfect as he is, or he isn’t love. There are several stages to this process:
1. God waiting for you to reach the point where you entrust your moral restoration into his care. Those infatuated by their own “righteousness” remain stuck here forever. They might piously talk about Jesus but their faith is really in their own efforts to please God. Blessed indeed are they who are repulsed by their own sin and know that nothing less than the divine miracle achieved on the cross could save them from eternal damnation.
2. You letting God forgive you and become one with you; letting him treat you as if you were the perfection of holiness, even though you still make moral mistakes.
3. God training you in godly living.
This involves not just acting like God but thinking like God.
One of the saddest things in marriage is when a man sees his wife as stunningly beautiful and is so in love with her that he can hardly contain himself but she shrinks from him because she sees herself as fat and unattractive. This is not just painful for the wife and ever so frustrating for the man who tingles with love for her, it is particularly sad because it is so unnecessary. He’s blessed with a wife he thinks is gorgeous and she is blessed with a husband who feels this way about her and neither get to enjoy this heaven-on-earth because she is too self-absorbed to delight in how exquisite she is in his eyes. Ideally, when she is alone with her beloved, all that should matter to her is his opinion of her, not how she fears others view her or how she sees herself. I know it is sometimes a difficult struggle for a woman to do this, but if only she could let go of her view of herself and see herself through her husband’s eyes, reveling in the fact that he sees her as beautiful, both of them could soar to unimagined heights of fulfillment and ecstasy.
Likewise, much in this stage of our spiritual life is devoted to learning to take our eyes off ourselves and centering them on God and his enjoyment of us. It is not easy. We tend to keep slipping back into looking at ourselves, rather than continually looking into God’s eyes. If we discipline ourselves to keep our focus on God, then if ever we see ourselves it is as we are, reflected in his loving eyes.
At the same time, this stage is characterized by growing more and more like the One we are focusing on. Gradually we learn to overcome what we used to regard as major besetting sins. Victories themselves then become a critical test because looking at ourselves, instead of producing shame, can start producing pride, which is even more shameful. We must continue to focus on Jesus and as we do we will begin to cooperate with God in removing other imperfections in our lives that we had hardly noticed before.
4. The final stage occurs in the next life. It is you being as blameless as the sinless Lamb of God, not just by the Judge overlooking your failings, but by God actually making you sinlessly perfect in your every thought and deed for all eternity.
Now that we know where this process is headed, let’s briefly re-visit stage one. God’s mind-boggling love for us moves him to give us great dignity by not treating us as objects. God can give us that dignity only by refusing to make us perfect in his eyes unless we want it.
But note the progression from stage one to stage four. God treats people as if they were now sinless, only because it is a foregone conclusion that they will become sinless. We can become sinless only by God taking from us not just the sins that disgust us but also by taking from us the sins that delight us. And since God respects our wishes, he will not violate our will. He will not treat us as sinless now if we do not want to be sinless now.
We are saved not by our works but by a divine miracle. The tax collector went home forgiven before he had a chance to physically do anything. He received the divine miracle of forgiveness, and the Pharisee missed out, not because of what they did but because of their heart attitude. Jesus gave sick people the divine miracle of healing only because they wanted it. You will recall that he often questioned the sick to confirm that healing was what they really wanted. Likewise, God will treat us as sinless – in other words, forgive us – only if we decide that we want to be sinless.
If we had cancer, a big part of us might not want to be operated on but our reluctance is not the critical issue. All that matters is whether, despite our misgivings, we sign over to a surgeon permission to do whatever he considers necessary to remove every trace of cancer and we agree to follow that up by taking whatever medication he prescribes afterwards. Likewise, a big part of us might love our sin and not want to be sinless but our reluctance will not stymie God as long as we muster our will to decide to give God permission to make us sinless and to devote the rest of our lives to cooperating with him in this process.
If you were a thousand times more evil than your worst fears, it would not stop Jesus from making you blameless. However, if you were the most saintly person alive and you died thinking you did not need Jesus’ cleansing, you would rot for eternity in the stench of sins in your life that you were too reprobate to even notice.
Without exception, all of us are evildoers, but what infuriates God are evildoers who think they are better than other evildoers. Those who think they are good enough just because they seem to be in a bit better condition than some others are unlikely to see the absolute necessity of Jesus perfecting them. This is the most terrifying blindness because it has eternal implications.
When people see no great need of the purification that only Jesus can give, the Lord has no choice but to withdraw and leave them to try to work their own way out of hell into heaven, which of course is impossible. Their one hope is to come to their senses and admit that they are as worthy of hell as any and every person on this planet. If only they would humble themselves that way, the Lord would rush to exalt them.
Those Who Miss Out
We are all like people with cancer that will kill us unless we seek medical attention. Life’s most dangerous act is to live in denial of “sin cancer.” When you are terminally ill, there is no comfort in saying, “His cancer looks worse than mine.” Only after admitting to ourselves that we have this “cancer” will we seek life-saving treatment. So although this admission might initially seem depressing it is actually our passport to life and joy. Ultimately, it is denial that is scary and depressing. We must face the bad news – that we are terminally sin-sick – in order to enjoy the glorious news that we can be cured and overflow with vibrant health beyond our wildest hopes.
If ever the saying, “No pain, no gain” applied to anything, it applies to this.
This is why Jesus said blessed are they who mourn now (Luke 6:21,23). Everyone will mourn over his or her moral condition. The only difference between people is timing. Mourn now over your sin and you will find what Jesus offers and burst into purity and endless joy. Mourn too late, and you’ll mourn forever.
Ezekiel 6:6-9 In all your dwelling places the cities shall be laid waste, . . . The slain shall fall among you, and you shall know that I am the Lord. Yet will I leave a remnant, in that you shall have some that escape the sword among the nations, when you shall be scattered through the countries. Those of you that escape shall remember me among the nations where they shall be carried captive, . . . they shall loathe themselves in their own sight for the evils which they have committed in all their abominations. (Emphasis mine)
The ones to be envied are those who mourn while the joy of forgiveness is still on offer. Their mourning will turn into dancing; their sorrow into never-ending joy.
When you stand before your Judge he will not be interested in even hearing the charges. All that his penetrating eyes will see is whether you have clothed yourself with the righteousness of Christ – whether you are trusting Jesus’ purity for your approval, or whether you have the audacity to try to go it alone.
The only people who miss out – and tragically there are many – are those too arrogant to admit that they need Jesus’ purification or who refuse to believe he is powerful enough to make them pristine in God’s eyes.
Let’s try a parable. There was once a tiny nation in which everyone not in the king’s palace contracted food poisoning. They discovered that whenever people with this condition prepared food, they unavoidably contaminated it and spread the epidemic. Being unable to keep down contaminated food, and unable to prepare food without contaminating it, they were in a desperate predicament.
Alarmed by this, the king prepared from his own supplies a magnificent, endless feast to which everyone was invited. Protocol, however, demanded that no one could attend a royal feast without presenting the king with a highly prized delicacy that he would sample and then add to the banquet. Knowing that none of the invitees could provide uncontaminated food, the king himself, at great expense, provided everyone with food fit for a king that they could then give back to the king as their own gift.
Some despised the king’s free entry gift. Being too proud to accept it, they determined to pay their own way. So they prepared contaminated food and offered it to the king. You can imagine how the king felt about that!
Others were more noble in that they would not dare risk giving the king food poisoning but, having a low opinion of the king, they could not believe his generosity. They decided it was too good to be true that the king would accept the gift he himself had provided. So they refused to attend the feast and resigned themselves to starving to death. How do you think that made the king feel?
But some accepted the king’s generosity and, as the king had always intended, they gratefully gave his own gift back to him. Upon receipt of the gift, the king welcomed them into the feast where they were not only saved from starvation but enjoyed festivities beyond anything they had ever known.
To which group do you belong? Those offending the King of kings by offering him their contaminated good works? Those condemning themselves to dying of spiritual starvation and insulting the Lord of Glory by refusing to believe that by his sacrifice the Lamb of God has paid the entry price? Or those with the humility to accept Jesus’ payment and enter God’s magnificent feast?
Please keep reading.
How can I forgive myself?
Not to be sold. © Copyright, 2005, Grantley Morris. Not
to be copied in whole or in part without citing this entire paragraph.
Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings
by Grantley Morris available free at the following internet site
www.net-burst.net Freely you have received,
Not to be sold. © Copyright, 2005, Grantley Morris. Not to be copied in whole or in part without citing this entire paragraph. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings by Grantley Morris available free at the following internet site www.net-burst.net Freely you have received, freely give.
Bible Versions Used
King James Version
King James Version