Going Deeper with the Message:
Forgive: Starting with Yourself
by: Ben Biles
Of all the people most difficult to forgive, we often struggle with forgiving the person staring back at us in the mirror. While other people might have forgotten, we remember all of our own mistakes. We have a mental list of the hurts we’ve caused. We know we’ve done a lot of wrong and, for that reason, we are burdened by our past. We lie awake at night shuddering at the things we’ve done and wish we could go back in time to change them. And yet, we can’t go back and change them. We live with the knowledge of our failings everyday. Often, when we’re with people we love, we wonder, “What would they think if they knew the real me?”
Thankfully, God offers freedom from those burdens through the forgiveness found in Jesus Christ. On Sunday, Tim said that “God’s forgiveness makes self-forgiveness possible.” Forgiving yourself begins by accepting that your heavenly Father has already forgiven you. He has cleared you of all sins—those committed against Him and those committed against others. If God has already forgiven you, then you need to forgive yourself as well. It’s time to let go of the past and live free from the burden of past sin. Self-forgiveness is necessary if you want to grow in your relationship with God and others.
By continuing to be burdened by your past, you not only fail to realize the complete forgiveness you have in God, but you also are unable to love people effectively. Not being able to forgive ourselves is a reflection of how we value ourselves. When we think of ourselves as failures who are unworthy of love, we don’t reach out to others in love. When we imagine that no one will accept us for what we’ve done, we shut off relationships before they get too deep. We cover up our vulnerabilities and keep people at an arm’s distance. When we devalue ourselves, we undervalue the impact we can have for Christ in this world. If we want a deeper relationship with God and others, we need to forgive ourselves first.
Living out your forgiveness in Christ isn’t about being a perfect person. You’re still going to mess up. A lot. Instead of trying to be perfect, you should recognize that your identity is found and based in Christ Jesus, the perfect Son of God. He is our righteousness. He gives us the ability to live free from sin and use that freedom to love others. “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).
Living out the Message:
Freedom in Christ
By Ben Biles
Self-forgiveness starts with the reality that you have done things in the past which you regret. You feel shame, guilt, maybe even embarrassment. As much as we’d like to, we can’t change the past. But Jesus could and did. When He died for the sins of the world, He changed the past, present, and future by forgiving all sins for all time. That’s why the words of Colossians, written 2000 years ago, still apply to us today: “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13–14).
The two big things to realize from these verses are that 1) God made you alive together with him and 2) your record of debt has been canceled. So, if you have no record of debt, you now have a responsibility to live free from those feelings of shame and guilt associated with those past mistakes. If we truly believe in the totality of God’s forgiveness, why should we continue to live in the shame? Instead, our life with God should be characterized by the intense joy and peace flowing from the knowledge of our forgiveness we have in Christ. When others see us, they should see a broken vessel pulsating with the light and rhythm of God’s life-changing presence.
Later in Colossians, Paul then helps direct the believers to think in terms of their forgiveness. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1–3). Those of us that struggle with self-forgiveness should also realize that we aren’t focusing on the right things, for we have set our minds on our own mistakes. We let our sin become our focus even though Christ has paid the price for them. Instead, we should set our minds on the things of God, focused on a relationship with Him and the many blessings that flow from Him. Not only is this the correct way of thinking, it also releases you from the relentless guilt over things done in the past. Freedom in Christ means freeing yourself from the guilt and shame you’ve trapped yourself in for so long for God has already forgiven you.