Hello dear friend, This post was one of the most difficult to write. Rewrite. And write again. I wrestled with it for weeks! Maybe you can tell me why. Blessings.
“Excuse me; Ma’am, is this yours?”
I ignored the voice behind me and started walking. There’s NO WAY she could be talking to me. Ma’am?!? I’m way too young for that moniker.
I had just spent some quality time writing in a coffee shop. And as I packed my bag to leave, I uncharacteristically placed my phone on the chair beside me rather than on the table or in my handbag. And…
I forgot it.
I was halfway to my car when the sweet teenage girl caught up to me, shouting, “Ma’am! Ma’am!” phone in hand.
I took a few more steps, obstinately pushing away any thought she could be talking to me or about me. My pride battled with my logic. My insecurity with my knowledge. I knew she was being polite—but I didn’t want to be old. So I held my head a little higher and back a little straighter. I pushed my chest out determined to do all I could to appear young and sophisticated. Successful and confident.
But as I took my next step, the Spirit pricked my vanity—humbling me in an instant.
Yeah, I guess that is me.
And as I turned around—I recognized the phone in her hand.
I felt like a fool. I’d almost lost something valuable because of my vanity and pride. Because I didn’t want to be old. Because I wanted to appear to have it all together. Because I refused to receive the selfless grace of someone else.
Have you had a similar experience?
(Almost) Left something valuable behind because of pride?
When it comes to forgiveness, there are times we (Christians) tend to leave it behind, at the Throne of Grace.
Don’t get me wrong; we come to God genuinely broken and repentant. We confess our sins with a contrite heart. We ask God for forgiveness, which He faithfully gives. But then we leave it there—at the foot of the Cross.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me,[___your name here___] you are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Baby, Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NLT, emphasis and personalization mine.)
I can’t help but wonder why we don’t receive God’s forgiveness. Why we don’t take Jesus up on His offer to give Him our heavy burdens and take His lighter one instead. Why instead of abandoning our troubles at Christ’s feet, we gather up our “Stuff” when we get up to leave like it’s still ours to carry. Why instead of enjoying the rest and freedom His forgiveness offers, we allow our hearts to be full of unnecessary guilt and shame.
Beloved, we know we’re sinners. Most of are familiar with this truth:
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. 1 John 1:8-10, NLT
But acknowledging our depravity and confessing our sins aren’t the problems though, are they?
Maybe you’re like I was: First, I knew I couldn’t out-sin God’s desire and ability to forgive. I had full confidence in His faithfulness to forgive me and wash me clean. (1 John 1:9; Isaiah 1:18) I rejoiced in His authority and might to separate me from my sin as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12)
What I most struggled with was how an all-knowing, all-powerful God could forget my sins and no longer remember them? (Isiah 43:25).
I’m human, and a forgetful human at that. But even I don’t forget my sins. So it was impossible for me to comprehend how and why our all-knowing God would or even could.
But then Mr. Merriam-Webster shed some much-needed light in the murky waters.
When we think of forgetting we tend to lean toward the definition: to lose the remembrance of, be unable to think of or recall. This is like forgetting an appointment or a name—or why you walked into a room.
However, there are a few other definitions of the word “forget” that we tend to forget:
To treat with inattention or disregard
To disregard intentionally, overlook
To cease remembering or noticing
God isn’t absent-minded. He doesn’t forget as we do. But He does choose to disregard our sin BECAUSE of what Jesus did on the Cross. He overlooks our sin and ceases to notice it because Christ’s blood covers it and makes it white as snow. He intentionally disregards it because through Jesus’ death and resurrection and our decision to believe Him and follow Him; we bear his righteousness. We are spotless. Pure. Pardoned.
The other reason I struggled with appropriating God’s forgiveness was that I still had to wrestle with the consequences.
It’s not that I didn’t take responsibility for my actions. Nor did I expect the consequences to evaporate because of my confession and forgiveness. It’s that whenever I felt those consequences, experienced them anew, I felt an overwhelming amount of guilt and shame for what I’d done.
I felt like my sin was on center stage, and my forgiveness was only an illusion.
But then God reminded me that He absolved my guilt and shame when He forgave me. And I believed Him. So where in the world was this fresh wave of guilt and shame coming from!?
Frustrated, I began digging into the Scriptures. The Spirit led me various passages to learn more about who Satan is, how he messes with us, and how to defeat him and be wise to his schemes.
And then it hit me!
I was allowing Satan to make me feel false guilt and shame. To question God’s ability to forgive and forget. To doubt the completeness of my forgiveness.
Beloved, Satan is
- The father of lies (John 8:44c)
- A ravenous lion prowling around waiting to devour us (1 Peter 5:8-9)
- He disguises himself as an angel of light, full of righteousness, but he’s not (2 Corinthians 11:14)
- A murderer, hell-bent on destroying you (John 8:44b)
- A thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10)
- Crafty, designing ways to ensnare you (2 Corinthians 2:11)
So it stands to reason that he would sneak in when our guard is down (Genesis 2:15) to cast seeds of doubt into our hearts to stunt our faith’s growth and productivity. To choke it out. To rob us of life-giving nutrients. To keep us from thriving. To diminish our strength. (Matthew 13:24-29).
Any guess as to why doubt over our forgiveness is so beneficial to him?
Doubt makes us question our salvation. Our faith. Our calling.
- Keeps us from
- Experiencing God’s freedom and grace
- Sharing the gospel with the lost
- Discipling new believers
- Encouraging and edifying mature believers
- Reaching our potential
- Hardens our heart
- Makes us despise ourselves and others
- Create a judgemental spirit inside of us
Doubt can stop us in our tracks!
Dear One, doubt is not a sin. But it can be a precursor to sin if we turn our back on our faith. If we walk away from our purpose and calling. If we bury the gifts, talents, and resources God entrusted to us instead of investing and multiplying them for the advancement of His Kingdom here on earth.
However, doubt can also enrich our relationship with Christ when we immediately take it to God, seek godly counsel, and dig into the Scriptures.
Beloved, guard your heart. Don’t let Satan sow seeds of doubt. But if he already has and is cultivating guilt and shame, if he is causing you to question the validity of your forgiveness—tell him to go to hell. Stand with confidence on the promises of God, including that Satan has already been defeated. Then when he reminds you of your past, remind him whose blood washed you clean—and watch him tremble (James 2:19). And then not-so-subtly, remind him of his future (Revelation 20:10).
Remember, if you are in Christ, YOU ARE FORGIVEN. You don’t have to feel it to know it’s true.