Is Forgiving Yourself Biblical?
I can't forgive myself.

“I know God forgave me. I just can’t forgive myself.”

Perhaps you’ve said those words. Maybe you heard someone else say them. But is forgiving yourself a biblical concept?

Christians know faith in Christ as Savior and Lord provides freedom from the eternal penalty of sin at the end of our earthly life, as well as freedom from the power of sin now. We understand we are no longer slaves to sin, as Romans 6:17 tells us. We have the power to say no to temptation.

But that doesn’t mean we always make right choices. While we don’t have to give in to sin, there are times we do it anyway. If not in actions, then in words or thoughts. There’s truth in the adage, “Old habits die hard.”

When that happens, the Bible tells us to confess our sin, knowing God is faithful to forgive and cleanse us (I John 1:9). And because we have been much forgiven by God, we are to extend the same forgiveness to others. Jesus included this truth in the pattern of prayer He taught His disciples: “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

We ask forgiveness from God because our sin if first and foremost against Him. King David understood this when he wrote in Psalm 51:4, “Against You and You only have I sinned.” When David committed adultery and then compounded it with murder, he wasn’t saying he didn’t offend or harm other people. He was saying the primary offense was against God, because sin is ultimately rebellion against God Himself.

So when we sin, whose forgiveness should we seek?

First, we turn from our wrongdoing and ask God’s forgiveness. God promises this forgiveness for every Christian who trusts Jesus because of the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ for us. And, as we’ve already noted, God promises to forgive.

We also ask for the forgiveness of the person we have wronged (Matthew 5:23-24). Unfortunately, while the Bible calls us to forgive each other (Colossians 3:13), this doesn’t always happen. A recent Barna study revealed that almost “one in four practicing Christians (23%) has a person in their life who “they just can’t forgive.” While we cannot force someone to forgive us, we can live in a way that shows them the authenticity of our request.

But what about forgiving ourselves? Where does the Bible say we are to forgive ourselves? It actually doesn’t. And that’s where Christians can take a wrong turn.

The issue is not whether we forgive ourselves. The issue is whether we truly believe God has forgiven us. Do we take Him at His Word? Because if we did, the matter would be settled. We become presumptuous when we think forgiving ourselves is also required.

So why do we struggle with accepting God’s forgiveness? I can think of several reasons, including:

  • We simply don’t believe God does what He said He will do. Do you really believe there’s no condemnation for those in Christ (Romans 8:1)? We would never call God a liar, yet our supposed inability to forgive ourselves is actually unbelief—a failure to take God at His word.
  • We’re stuck in a performance perspective – we think we have to earn God’s forgiveness, much as we often expect others to earn our forgiveness. But by definition, God’s grace is unearned and undeserved.
  • We beat up ourselves for failing. Somewhere along the line, we’ve established an expectation of perfection. And in the process, we refuse to accept God’s offer of forgiveness because we’ve failed our own standard. But this isn’t an issue of forgiving ourselves, it’s about understanding the reality of our relationship to God in Christ. He knows we will fail, but He forgives us anyway (Psalm 103:11-14).
  • We’ve failed to train our thought life. The Bible tells us to “take our thoughts captive” (II Corinthians 10:5). Philippians 4:8 tells us to focus on thinking about things that are noble, right, pure, and lovely, but the first item in that verse is to think about things that are true. So if we don’t feel forgiven, we’re dwelling on an untruth. But to take control of our thoughts requires help—and there’s no better Helper than the Holy Spirit (John 15:26).
  • Finally, by not acting as though God’s forgiveness is enough, we’re voluntarily placing ourselves back under the enemy’s kingdom, even though the Bible tells us God rescued us from the domain of Satan and placed us in the kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13).

So the next time you’re struggling to forgive yourself for something God has already forgiven, ask yourself why. You just might discover your forgiveness is irrelevant…and unbiblical.


Forgiveness : What Are We Really Forgiving?

Forgiveness

What’s one of the most common reasons we give for not forgiving others?

If you’re like many people, you might have answered that our forgiveness implies approval or tolerance of the behavior.

We read about it, talk about it, and teach it. Yet for most of us, forgiving others is one of the most difficult things we can do.

A recent conversation with a friend reminded me that one reason we may find it difficult to forgive is because we misunderstand what it is that we’re forgiving.

What if I told you we are not forgiving the sin?

Remember what David wrote in the Psalms? “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (Psalm 51:4 ESV).

Even the Pharisees of Jesus’ day understood that God alone can forgive sin. That’s why they pitched a fit when Jesus proclaimed the forgiveness of sins. In Luke 5:18-25 (ESV), we read:

And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus.

And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”

And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God.

Yes, only God can forgive the actual sin. And since Jesus is God, He demonstrated that He also has the authority to forgive sin.

Perhaps that’s one reason we struggle with forgiveness. We’re trying—and failing—to forgive something that we don’t have the right to forgive. We justify our failure to forgive by saying we don’t want to communicate a tolerance for the sin. Or that it’s not right for the other person to “get away with” what they’ve done.

So where does that leave you and me? If we’re not forgiving the sin, then what are we forgiving?

Consider that we are forgiving the offense. The offense against our rights. Against our values. Or our family. Against whatever it is that we hold dear.

Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV) tells us, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

By forgiving the offender, I’m saying that my rights are less important than freedom from bitterness and resentment. I’m saying that my job is not to forgive actual sin, but the offense against me. The offense that has trespassed my rights.

Could it be that the act of forgiveness is the ultimate act of admitting that I am not God? That in giving up my right to be angry and resentful, I am submitting to the authority God has to forgive sins?

Could it be that when we forgive others, we’re admitting an awareness that we are desperately in need of the same forgiveness? Because, let’s face it, it’s just about impossible to go through life without giving offense, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Sooner or later, we will need others to forgive our offenses against them.

Even so, forgiveness is not something we can even begin to do in our own strength. We need the prompting of the Holy Spirit to motivate us to surrender our rights (Galatians 2:20). And we need the power of the Holy Spirit to humble ourselves to actually forgive (John 14:15-17). Finally, we need the Holy Spirit’s comfort to know that God is a just judge (Genesis 18:25) and we can trust that He will make all things right in the end.

There’s a freedom in forgiving others. Freedom in knowing God is God and we are not. Most of all, freedom in offering what we, ourselves, need.

What are your thoughts?


Grudge Match

Betrayal.

The mere mention of the word causes my jaw to clench and the knot in my stomach to tighten. Memories flood back, unbidden. Resentment for things I’ve given to the Lord a hundred times begins to wrap its tentacles around my heart again.

Once more, I make a choice. I will not hold a grudge. I’ve forgiven that person. Life is fleeting—a mist that’s here one day and gone the next (James 4:14). I don’t want to waste even one minute in voluntary captivity to anger and bitterness that would permeate every area of my life if I let it.

Still, it’s easier to recognize this destructive tendency in others than it is to kick my own angry thoughts to the curb. Forgiving is hard. When the thoughts return—and they do—I have to make an intentional choice to forgive and move on. Every time. Again and again. No exceptions.

22 Forgiver

The world tells us we have a right to be angry. Sometimes even well-meaning Christians tell us abusive parents, backstabbing coworkers, and cheating spouses deserve to burn in hell and let’s give them a taste of that punishment right now.

But God says:

Let Me deal with that person.
Let Me heal your wounds.
If My Son was not spared the pain of betrayal, why should you be spared?

So I make a choice…again. I release the injustice, knowing I belong to a just Judge. I release the pain, knowing I belong to Yahweh Rapha, my Healer. I release it not because I want to, but because I have to.

For my own peace of mind and spiritual growth.

For the sake of my relationship with God and my relationships with others.

Most of all, I release it because of the great forgiveness God extends to me through the cross of Christ. No one will ever require as much forgiveness from me as I require from God.

My days are numbered. I don’t want to waste a single one carrying a grudge.

How about you?


Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me by Renee Fisher

Today I have the privilege of interviewing author Renee Fisher. Renee’s book, Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me was released by Harvest House Publishers this month.

What words/phrases would you use to describe yourself, other than writer or author?

I am an outgoing introvert. Home schooled. Worship leader. Passionate. Wife. Heart for God and His Word. I love spurring others forward (Hebrews 10:24).

Well, you certainly spur us all forward with your newest book! Where did you get the idea for Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me?

After I graduated high school, I decided to go on my first missions trip. I signed up for DTS or Discipleship Training School called Ambassadors For Christ in San Antonio, TX. After living there for only 5 months, I had to move back home because my eczema spread so quickly and took the skin off my hands. This was the second time that eczema had severely affected my skin and taken many years to heal. I wrote Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me with barely any skin on my hands, but I just knew that if I didn’t forgive myself and God for feeling like a failed missionary I knew I’d never be able to heal and move on. It was the most freeing moment of my life.

We don’t realize how much freedom is linked to forgiveness until we take that first step to forgive. What else should your readers discover and want to share after reading Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me?

FForgiving Others, Forgiving Meorgiveness is a personal choice. You can only take responsibility for yourself and your actions. Even if the other person wronged you, you only have control over your actions. Why live in a prison that you wanted someone else to live in? Come into the light and watch God set you free. I just want people to talk about the new found spiritual freedom after reading my book! I even inserted a 7-week Small Group Bible Study Questions at the back of the book for those who want and need to process in a group instead of alone. 

What a terrific resource to help readers grow spiritually! How does your own spiritual life influence your writing?

My spiritual life influences my writing 100%. I can’t help but share of God’s redemptive powers that I have seen and experienced. I truly pray for others who don’t know how to be set free and hope my writings encourage others who feel stuck.

It’s easy to get stuck in our own pity-parties, isn’t it? What else have you learned during the process of writing and publishing this book?

It took about 10 years, 2 publishers, and 4 re-writes for my book to finally be what it is today. I definitely don’t take any of my sufferings for granted–and if anything–I hope my story inspires others to truly trust God and let it go.

That’s a long process. What did you most enjoy about writing Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me?

That it finally got published. Talk about dream come true.

What do you tell people when they ask “and what do you do?”

I tell them that I’m an author even though I originally went to college to become a high school math teacher. That gets their attention and then I get to tell my God-story. I love it. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever believe I’d become a published author–even though I dreamed about it for many years.

You’re not just the author of Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me. How can readers learn more about you and your other books?

Please visit http://www.devotionaldiva.com to learn more about me, read some blogs, learn about my other books, or sign up for a free eBook. To purchase copies of Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me please visit my all new book website at www.forgivingme.com and enjoy the chapter videos as well!

 

Renee FisherRenee Fisher, the Devotional Diva®, is the spirited speaker and author of Faithbook of JesusNot Another Dating BookForgiving Others, Forgiving Me, and Loves Me Not. A graduate of Biola University, Renee’s mission in life is to “spur others forward” (Hebrews 10:24) using the lessons learned from her own trials to encourage others in their walk with God. She and her husband, Marc, live in California with their dog, Rock Star. Learn more about Renee at www.devotionaldiva.com and www.forgivingme.com.