Even after being baptized for the forgiveness of sins, a child of God still finds that sin can creep back into his life. Sometimes it’s the same sin, over and over. We try to avoid it, but we are not always as successful as we’d like. We feel sorrow, shame, guilt. We pray, confess and beg and beg for forgiveness. But, sometimes we wonder how God could keep forgiving us. And, we might even wonder if He does.
Sin is no small matter and should not be taken lightly. Yet, a child of God knows that God has not called us to live perfectly but faithfully (Rev. 2:10), striving (Luke 13:24) to walk at His side (1 John 1:7) and work heartily for Him (1 Cor. 15:58). But, what happens when I sin? When I keep sinning? How can I know that God forgives me?
First, remember that God wants to forgive you! The story of the prodigal son depicts a father (yeah, a Father), who was watching (and indeed waiting and hoping) for his (His) rebellious, wayward son to return home (Luke 15:20). Why? Because the father wanted to forgive his son and to joyfully welcome him back home. And so does our Father!
Second, remember that God can forgive you! There is not a single sin (for which you repent and ask forgiveness) that our Father cannot (and will not) forgive. “The Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save” (Isa. 59:1). “He is also able to save to the uttermost” (Heb. 7:25). His forgiving grace is “exceedingly abundant” (1 Tim. 1:14). Even for me!
Third, remember that God has forgiven all manner of sin! He forgave Peter, who had vehemently denied Jesus three times (Matt. 26:69-75; John 21:15-19; Acts 2:14-39; 1 Pet. 5:1-2). He forgave certain ones who had “crucified” His own Son (Acts 2:23, 38, 41). He forgave those who had come from a lifestyle of vile immorality and idolatry, putting their sins in the past tense (1 Cor. 6:9-11). He forgave the “chief” of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). His pardoning in the past ought to give me hope in my present!
Fourth, remember that God has promised to forgive! In Acts 8, there was a Christian who sinned, and he was promised complete forgiveness if he would “repent” and “pray” (8:22). Underscore this key verse in your Bible, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9; cf. 5:15). We can (and need to) have absolute confidence in this promise of God!
How can I know I’m forgiven? Read Psalm 51. Read Luke 15. Do your best to follow His Word (1 John 1:7) and put your trust in your Advocate (1 John 2:1-2). Then find comfort, assurance and joy in the love, mercy, promise and forgiveness of our awesome Father in heaven!