“I know that God has forgiven me, but I just can’t forgive myself,” someone recently said to me after describing a recent period of time in his life when he had made the choice to repeatedly commit the same sin again and again. As Christians always do, he had finally reached the place where he couldn’t stand the thought of living like that for the rest of this life. So he cried out to his Deliverer and the cycle of sin was broken.
The foolish behavior was now a thing of the past, but he couldn’t disconnect from it mentally and emotionally. A sense of guilt and self-condemnation was draining him of his energy, enthusiasm and joy. He wasn’t still committing the sin, but was as miserable as he had been when he was.
“So you do believe that God has forgiven you?” I asked.
“Yes,” he answered, “but I can’t forgive myself for what I’ve done. I’ve been a Christian long enough to know better.”
After we had talked awhile and nothing I said seemed to be sinking in, I finally asked him, “Do you think you’re better than God?”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“I mean that if the blood of Christ is sufficient for God to look at you and say, ‘Forgiven,” what will it take for you to forgive yourself? If the death of Jesus Christ on the cross for this sin you committed isn’t enough for you, what will it take? You’ve set a standard for yourself that is obviously higher than the one God has set.”
“I guess that’s true,” he mumbled.
But I could tell he wasn’t buying it. He almost seemed to want to hang on to his guilt. Have you ever been at that place in your life? I have – and though it might sound strange, that kind of attitude is a serious insult to the finished work of Christ. In fact, I’m not so sure it doesn’t border on blasphemy.
When Jesus declared from the cross, “It is finished,” the score card on your sins was torn up. From that point forward, God stopped keeping records on your sins anymore because they’ve all been dealt with – past, present and future sins – the account has been closed. “He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross” (Colossians 2:14, NLT).
Either the cross was enough to deal with your sins or else Christianity is a sham. When we hold on to our sins and nurture ourselves with self-loathing, we’re actually indicating that the blood of Christ isn’t enough. We, in essence, are saying, “Yes, Jesus. I know you died for me, but I have to do my part in this too.”
In reality, the only part you have is to receive and believe (and even that part comes from His divine enablement). So do it already. Come outside the prison of self-condemnation and join the party initiated at the empty tomb. Throw down your pride and forgive yourself. Don’t wait another hour.