Following the post from yesterday about the challenges of forgiving others, today I explore another aspect: forgiving myself. I don’t find much written about that, except quietly in passing comments.
Is forgiving myself helpful/necessary? That might seem like an odd question, but how often have I looked back on a sin I have committed, confessed it as sin, and tried to move forward? But the nagging sin/guilt/shame still remains. This is exactly where Satan finds an open door to create further havoc. He would like nothing more than for Christians to wallow in defeat, discouragement, helplessness regarding forgiven sin.
But God has not left that aspect forgotten. One specific passage related to sin, confession, forgiveness, claims that baptism provides comfort and hope.
And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the body but the guarantee of a good conscience before God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He went to heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.1 Peter 3:21–22 EHV
Two major points:
1) “baptism saves.” Many people want to relegate baptism to a secondary, non-effective symbol, ignoring that “baptism saves”… It is one of God’s means for bringing the benefits of Christ, forgiving and saving, to us. In addition to baptism saving, it “guarantees a good conscience before God.” When we struggle with sin that is already forgiven, we can believe what God has done for us in our baptism, and our conscience has been cleansed.
2) “Lord’s Supper also gives forgiveness.” God offers another avenue for helping us move beyond the struggle of forgiveness, namely the Lord’s Supper.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples. He said, “Take, eat, this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it all of you, for this is my blood of the new testament, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.Matthew 26:26–28 EHV
In receiving the Lord’s Supper we receive the body and blood of Jesus (not just symbols) for the forgiveness of sins. One of the deep, long lasting privileges of having the Lord’s Supper often (we celebrate every Sunday, every service) is that forgiveness of sins is upper most in the Lord’s Supper. That is what we need to hear, receive, believe so that forgiveness is declared “often” in a tangible way.
God has another means of reassuring us about forgiveness, namely through confession and absolution. As Lutherans we also have the office of the keys in worship (along with baptism and the Lord’s Supper). We begin worship with the invocation: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” —the One who baptized us is acknowledged and confessed in the very first part of worship. When we confess our sins, we then hear the words of forgiveness (again!), when the pastor announces: “Therefore in the name of Jesus Christ I forgive you your sins.” Once again God’s delivery means (spoken) of that forgiveness becomes part of our defense against sin, scarred conscience, unforgiveness for ourselves, etc.
When Jeremiah wrote about the new covenant promise (Jeremiah 31:31-34) at the end he concludes with these words:
for I will forgive their guilt,Jeremiah 31:34 EHV
and I will remember their sins no more.
“I will remember their sins no more!” So God does not remember the sin. But we are called to remember that He does not remember! And there is great comfort!
I don’t know about you but these multiple ways of hearing/receiving forgiveness and the assurance that it is a done deal with God is comforting, hopeful. Important, because sometimes in the business of life and activity, I forget these essential truths.
May we all live in the comfort, hope, strength, and the promise of God’s continuing forgiveness through Baptism, confession/absolution, and Lord’s Supper.