“Bless the Lord, O my soul … who forgives all your iniquities” (vv. 1–3a). - Psalm 103:1-5
The Scriptures declare that the only real solution to our real, objective guilt is a real, objective forgiveness. We must look to God to forgive our sins and to cleanse us of our unrighteousness. That involves confessing the sin to Him and asking His forgiveness on the basis of the work of Christ, in whom we place our faith. If we will do these things, God promises us that He will forgive us. We will experience the renewal that only He can provide.
Just as there is a difference between guilt and feelings of guilt, so there is a separation between forgiveness and feelings of forgiveness. Forgiveness is objective, as is guilt. However, we may have real forgiveness and not feel forgiven (or we may feel forgiven when we are not).
This is why it is not at all uncommon to find a Christian repeatedly seeking God in great earnestness, begging that He will forgive some sin for which the person has asked forgiveness many times before. To his credit, the believer understands that what he did was a serious violation of God’s law, a real offense to his Creator and Lord; he is truly repentant for what he did; and he wants to be rid of the guilt of his deed. But what he fails to see is that he has faithfully done what 1 John 1:9 commands.
Therefore, the fact that he does not feel forgiven is unimportant. For the believer to order his behavior according to the feelings of guilt that remain after he has made confession is to trust his feelings above the truth of God’s Word. The Biblical promise is that if we truly repent of our sin and confess it to God, He will forgive it. It is not arrogant to then rise from our knees and go forward as if we had not sinned. Rather, it is arrogant to return to prayer in order to confess the same sin again simply because we do not feel forgiven.
In simple terms, we must take God at His word. We must live by His truth, not by our feelings, for His Word is objective and our feelings are subjective. If He says “I forgive you,” we are forgiven, no matter how we may feel. Our enemy, Satan, loves to accuse the children of God, to remind them of their violations of God’s law in order to take away their joy. But the Bible tells us that if we resist him, he will flee from us, and we resist him by the Word of God. In all things, we must cling to this truth: God will not lower His standards, but through Christ He will forgive all those who ask Him to do so.
Do you struggle to believe that God has forgiven you of particular sins? If so, you have another sin to confess—unbelief. Go to God in prayer right now, asking Him to forgive you for failing to trust His Word. Ask that He would help you rest in His forgiveness and that He would cleanse your conscience of the troubling memory of past sins.
Passages for Further Study
- Psalm 130:4
- Daniel 9:9
- Ephesians 1:7
- Colossians 2:13
- James 5:15