Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The only way you can forgive yourself

Ephesians 2:12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

The Christian is primarily a product of Christ's finished work, not their past
Have you ever met anyone who had trouble forgiving themselves?  Perhaps you reading this post today fit into this category.  What does it mean to forgive?  Biblically speaking to forgive is to release or let go of the grounds and authority to condemn someone who has hurt you.  Colossians 3:13 tells us - "forgive as the Lord forgive you".  As author and counselor Niel T. Anderson notes: "whenever anyone has believed on Jesus Christ, they are not longer a product of their past, since everything in their lives is now defined by what Christ has accomplished on their behalf." 

What if I'm not a Christian
The ability to forgive others is based upon what Christ has done on the cross.  If you have received by faith the forgivness of sins through Jesus Christ, then you have every provision available to forgive anyone.  If you have not yet  believed on Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord and treasure, I urge you do as the scriptures states in Romans 10:8-10 "But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."  

Why the past needs to be regarded as the past, rather than the present - exploring the meaning of "forgiving yourself"
Living with guilt and remorse from the past can paralyze you if you are convinced that who you are is defined by what you did or who you were at the time you did what you did.  But what about forgiving yourself?  What does it mean to forgive yourself? Lets consider some thoughts from Ephesians 2 on how it is you can forgive yourself.

1. Recognize your past identity and life to be dead
To "forgive yourself" in the Christian sense can only be done when you receive God the father's testimony of your new found identity in Jesus Christ.  Note this: there is no command in scripture that speaks about forgiving yourself, however there are tons of scriptures that speaks of God forgiving and accepting the believer in Christ.  "Forgiving yourself" is another way of really saying: "I accept by faith what God the Father declared about me as a believer in the scripture".  Who you were and whose you were is replaced by now affirming who you are and whose you are.  Paul in this chapter labors to demonstrate that who the Ephesians were no longer applies nor has grounds to accuse who they are in Christ.  Note what he says:

Who I was and whose I was
-"And you were dead in your tresspasses and sins" 2:1
-"in which you formerly walked" 2:2
-"according to the prince of the power of the air" 2:2
-"among them we formerly lived" in the lusts of our flesh 2:3
-(we were) indulging the desires of the flesh 2:3
-we were by nature children of wrath 2:3
-Therefore remember that formerly.... (see, this is who you were) 2:11
-remember at that time you were hope...without God...2:12

Before you received Christ by grace through faith, who were you? Dead, bound in lust and desire, children of wrath, without hope and without God.  Before you received Christ by grace through faith, whose were you? You were under the tyranny of Satan.  You were enslaved by your desires.  You were a product of your past, your family, your habits, your old identity in fallen Adam. 

Do you accept God's testimony in His word that this is who you were?  that it is past tense? that you are no more that person? If so, you are well on your way to "forgiving yourself".  But notice what else Ephesians 2 has to say.

2. Choose to receive what God in Christ has said about you instead
To forgive yourself in Christ is to receive and accept what God has already said about your past.  In Christ, the power of the past to influence who you are is broken and is no more. (2 Corinthians 5:17)  Ephesians 2 is a fine example of demonstrating what God has to say about the Christian's new identity:

Who I am and whose I am
-"But God being rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loved us" - Ephesians 2:4 Hence you are loved by God believer.
-"even when we were dead....He made us alive together with Christ Ephesians 2:5
-"raised us up with Him" Ephesians 2:6
-"seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" Ephesians 2:6
-"So that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness towards us in Christ" Ephesians 2:7
-"But now in Christ Jesus you who were formerly far off have been brought near"  Ephesians 2:13
-"For He Himself is our peace.... Ephesians 2:14
-"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and are of God's household" Ephesians 2:19

So in Christ, by faith, who are you? You are loved, accepted and a new creature in Christ.  You have peace with God, a new position and newly given ability to live out whom God has declared you to be.  Whose are you? You are owned by Christ, in association with Him. 

Do you accept God's testimony about who you are and whose you are? Do you receive instead your new identity in Christ? If you do, then forgiving yourself will be no problem, since in Christ Jesus, the past is the past.  So when you regard your former identity to be dead, and choose to receive what God has said about you instead....

3. Only then can you move on ahead
Forgiving yourself is receiving the fact that God has accepted you in Christ.  Now of course you may ask: what about the consequences?  Certainly when we forgive others or "ourselves", we still may very well have to deal with the consequences of our past.  However, in Christ, when you come to terms with what you did to bring about those consequences, living with them will take on a whole new meaning. 

Only one thing can cleanse the conscience
Forgiveness can only be done in conjunction with the cross, since only at the cross is the past offenses erased and the declaration of innocence made by God over the believer. (Colossians 3:13)  Beating yourself up and condemning yourself is not honoring to God nor effective in washing the past away.  Nothing you and I can do can atone or appease the decisions we rendered in the past.  However, what Christ accomplished, when received by faith, alone appeases and atones for the things of not only the past, but also the future. 

Colossians 2:18a states - "Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement. . . "  Only the blood of Jesus Christ, applied to you at the moment of saving faith, can cleanse your sins. (Isaiah 53:4-6)  Furthermore, only the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse away the guilt of your conscience not only at your conversion, but also in your walk of faith following your conversion. (Hebrews 9:14; 1 John 1:9)  Can the accusations and memories of your conscience be silenced? Yes! Through the blood of Christ. 

Forgiving yourself means accepting God's forgiveness of you in Christ
In sum, we have discovered the only way you can forgive yourself:
1. Recognize your past identity and life to be dead
2. Chose to receive what God in Christ has said about you instead
3. Only then can you move ahead