Forgiving Yourself

This is the contents of the "Forgiving Yourself" section of the "Developing Great Relationships"

Forgiving Yourself

Forgiving yourself

When we sin, we can hurt ourselves in various ways.

  1. We can do penance by punishing ourselves for our sins.

  2. We can bear a grudge against ourselves, “I know that God forgave me, but I can’t forgive myself.”

  3. We can avoid church or Christians because we feel unworthy.

There are 3 things that we need to overcome in order to forgive ourselves:

  1. Our conscience.

We feel that we can’t get off easily.

We must suffer something for our sins.

We can’t just let Jesus do it all on the cross.

Hebrews 9:14, “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

What is the purpose of guilt?

It is to bring us to God so that He can do what? —Forgive us.

The purpose of guilt is not to make us feel bad or to make us miserable.

These are the means of guilt.

The purpose of guilt is to bring us to a place where God can wash us clean from all of our sin.

Guilt is like a street sign that points the way to God’s forgiveness.

But too often, instead of going to where that sign points, we pull it out of the ground and beat ourselves with it.

When you sin, don’t beat yourself; let God bathe you.

God wants your thoughts to be free and not burdened.

Let Him cleanse your conscience.

  1. Other people.

We may feel that we need to prove the sincerity of our remorse or repentance by suffering--by showing others that our sin does make us squirm.

In this case we are more concerned about how others will perceive us than what God wants us to believe.

Matthew 6:1, "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”

Is repentance a righteous act? Indeed.

But don’t turn your repentance into a drama.

It is good to let others know that you have repented, but don’t make a show of it.

And don’t put off repentance and forgiveness until you feel that you have convinced others that you are now worthy of it.

The second that you sin, you have met every qualification necessary for God’s cleansing.

Yes, it is good for people to know that you have repented so that they too can be fearful of sin and its consequences.

But you don’t have to prove your repentance to them.

Now, Matthew 3:8 says, “"Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance;” and Acts 26:20 says, “that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.”

But in both of these cases the fruit and deeds flowed out of the repentance and were, in fact, evidence of the repentance.

But the validity of your repentance is not determined by other people but only by God.

  1. Self-pity or self-contempt.

You know what?

These provide a certain sense of security.

If you think of yourself as a total failure then you can anticipate criticism.

Seeing yourself as a complete failure is actually seductive.

It enables you to continue to sin, “I’m just such a loser that I can’t do anything right.” Or, “There I go again; what is wrong with me?”

It also enables you to avoid responsibility before others; “I’m hopeless.” Or, “Don’t give it to me because I mess everything up.”

  • This is not humility.

  • This is not what God wants.

  • This is actually self-centeredness and a not-so-sly way of avoiding responsibility before God, before yourself and before others.

2 Corinthians 12:9, “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

Sin does not give you an excuse to be helpless.

Sin gives you a reason to fall before God and to let Him lift you up and to let Him pour His power into you.

God doesn’t want us to be like a fish flopping out of the water and acting helpless.

God wants us to be empowered by Him so that He can use us in other people’s lives.


Oftentimes, when we can’t forgive ourselves it is because we are dealing with shame.

We have fallen short of our ideal.

We can have a circle of permissible sins.

These are sins that a) we do so often that we can have an almost glib response of, “Oh, I did it again.”

And b) sins that we don’t commit very often or even at all but which we don’t take very seriously.

Our response to this sin might be an, “Oh, well.”

However, when we sin outside of this circle we can be shocked.

We can be overwhelmed by our own disgust. “I can’t believe that I did that! That’s what other people do.”

We step outside of our own perimeter of respectability.

But we need to realize how weak our flesh is.

Then we aren’t destroyed by our own failure.

We don’t stand before God like the inflated selves that we put on our resume.

We stand before Him vulnerable and naked.

In God’s eyes there are no circles of sin where inside the circle those sins are expected and somewhat OK, but those sins outside of the circle are terrible and punishable.

But do you know what?

We are valuable because God values us; not because we have reached some ideal.

In the story of the prodigal son the father does not allow any self-pity.

The son says, “I am no longer worthy to be your son.”

The father, instead, puts on the robe.

If you want to experience the pains of remorse and self-pity then you will close in on yourself.

But the solution to forgiving yourself is to draw near to God.

Remove your self-contempt and put it onto Christ.

Nothing can cover and heal the contempt and shame of the wound of sin than Jesus Christ Himself.

When we see ourselves as dirty and sinful and unworthy and then stay in that mindset, we are not being humble.

Quite the opposite, we are being proud because our focus is on ourselves and not on the cleansing work of Jesus Christ.

Pride says, “I am a such a sinner that even God cannot lift me to my feet.”

Humility says, “I am a sinner, God have mercy on me.”

Let’s look at one verse in depth.

1 John 1:9-10

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

We are going to look at some of the words in this verse so please keep it in mind as we go through this.

To confess is to admit to God the wrong that we have done.

It is not to hide the sin or to deny it.

It is not to make excuses or to blame someone else.

All that God asks from us is that we be honest.

I have sinned.”

He is faithful and just.

In the scriptures, God’s faithfulness is tied to His promises.

He will always do that which He has said.

2 Cor. 1:20, “For as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes; wherefore also by Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.”

Hebrews 10:17, “and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

The word “just” is interesting.

We associate justice with punishment; not with forgiveness.

So how does justice play into this?

It is because Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the entire sum of the penalty for our sins.

And then God raised Him from the dead.

Do you know what the significance is of the resurrection?

Because God raised His Son from the dead, it showed that He fully accepted Jesus’ payment for sins.

The risen Christ is proof that God will, indeed, forgive us of our sins.

So when we confess our sins, God must forgive us or He won’t be just.

So He is faithful to forgive because He has promised to do so, and He is just to forgive us because Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again.

It is interesting to note that the word “our” in “to forgive us our sins” is not in the Greek.

And so this really sets up a subtle contrast between this expression and the “all unrighteousness.”

The verse may be paraphrased, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive the sins we confess and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

The idea is that when we confess the sins that we are aware of, God will cleanse us completely and thoroughly from all unrighteousness.

We don’t need to agonize over sins that we can’t remember.

God takes care of that Himself.

The word “cleanse” means to wash clean.

In the Hebrew culture it meant to take a dirty pot and to make it shiny.

So we can paraphrase this entire verse as, “If we acknowledge our sins to God, He will be faithful to His promises and remember that His Son, Jesus Christ, paid for those sins and He will remove the guilt of those sins and wash away all of the dirt from all of the wrongs that we have committed and we will shine like new creation”

Let’s take a brief look at one man in the Bible


Mark 14: 29-31, “But Peter said to Him, ‘Even though all may fall away, yet I will not.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, that you yourself this very night, before a cock crows twice, shall three times deny Me.’ But Peter kept saying insistently, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’"

The scene is that Peter was with the rest of the Apostles and they had just eaten and had communion.

John 21:14-15, “This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead. So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Tend My lambs.’"

In both incidences all of the disciples were present and both conversations happened shortly after they had eaten.

Very similar scenarios.

And I’m guessing that when Jesus said in John 21, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” everyone thought back to the time only about a month earlier when Peter thumped his chest and proclaimed how he was so much more faithful than the others.

But this time, Peter was not so petulant.

In the first passage in Mark, Peter was saying that he was more faithful than the other Apostles were.

But he ultimately failed.

And he failed publicly.

And he failed in front of Jesus.

And he failed not is some small way like forgetting to do something; he failed big time.

He denied Jesus.

In John, Jesus is asking Peter if he loved Him more than the other Apostles.

There are three types of love in the Greek language:

  • Agape

  • Phileo

  • Eros

Agape is the highest form of love.

It is an unconditional love that flows from the heart of the one who loves.

It is a love whose essence is that of self-sacrifice for the benefit of the one who is loved.

It is a love that comes from deep within every part of us.

It is a complete love.

It is the love that is used in John 3:16.

This is the love that God wants us to have for Him and for others.

Phileo is the second highest form of love.

It is an affectionate type of love.

It depends not only on the quality of the one who loves but also on the quality of one who is being loved.

It is a love that responses to the pleasure or joy that the other person gives to us.

It is usually used in the NT as a general attraction towards a relative or a good friend.

The third type of love is Eros.

This is the basest type of love and is a love that desires to have or take possession.

It tends to emphasize longing, craving, and desire.

Oftentimes in culture it is tied mostly to physical desire.

So in this situation in John Jesus is asking Peter if he agapes Him more than the others in the room.

And Peter, possibly remembering that similar situation in Mark, drops his eyes and says quietly, “Yes, Lord; You know that I phileo You.”

Peter was humbled in front of his friends and in front of Jesus.

He had blown it before and in a way that was known to everyone.

Now let’s look at a passage that Peter wrote later on in his life. It is 1 Peter 1:3-5.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Peter, who blew it more times than any other Apostle; perhaps even more than all of the other Apostles combined was able to speak such words of power.

Notice that he didn’t say condescending things like, “Even though I am but a worm,” or “despite my many failures God still…”

Instead he used dynamic phrases such as, “blessed be,” “great mercy,” “living hope,” imperishable,” “undefiled,” and “protected by the power of God.”

By the time he wrote this he had learned that his strength, his confidence, his security is in God no matter how many times he might mess up.

He learned that his life is best not when he is focusing on himself and on his failures but when he is focusing on God and His power and grace.

Proverbs 24:16, “For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, but the wicked stumble in time of calamity.”

The wicked person allows no room for failure.

But the righteous person knows that he will fall.

But, also, that he will, by the power of God, rise up again.

God doesn’t like when we sin.

But He gives us the room to sin.

And when we do, He is always compassionate, always forgiving.

And if God forgives us then who are we to not forgive others or ourselves?


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Copyright Bob La Forge 2011        email: