God Can and Will Forgive You

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God Can and Will Forgive You

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Peter, Jesus’ disciple and friend, knew the depths of God’s forgiveness. Vowing loyalty to His Master, Peter promised that He would never forsake Jesus in His time of trouble. Jesus knew Peter’s heart, however, and He knew Peter wasn’t ready to live up to that promise. He was still too weak and all too human.

Peter denied Jesus three times just before the crucifixion, leaving His friend and Master alone, just as Jesus said he would. Luke wrote that Peter saw his failure and left, weeping bitterly (Luke 22:62).

It’s easy to understand Peter’s despair. Could he ever be forgiven for his betrayal? Did he even deserve forgiveness?

Well, after Jesus was resurrected, He acknowledged Peter’s sincere and deep repentance and let Peter know that he was forgiven.

As a result, just a short time later, we find a very different Peter. Instead of being ruled by fear and doubt, he was bold and courageous. Instead of suffocating in shame and guilt, he triumphantly preached God’s forgiveness and mercy.

His statement recorded in Acts 2:38 is one of the most crucial passages in the Bible. Peter cut to the core of what God expects from us. He told his convicted listeners: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (New International Version).

Having the indwelling gift of God’s Spirit brings countless benefits. One precious benefit is that it enables us to much more easily forgive others who hurt us.

Peter set forth the vital truth: that our repentance and God’s merciful forgiveness are both necessary, complementary parts of the overall salvation process.

Since repentance has to occur before forgiveness, let’s look at repentance first.

The necessity of repentance

The book of Acts covers about 30 years of early Church history, reaching from Jerusalem to Rome. Paul, like Peter, continually preached the importance of repentance. He testified “to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).

True repentance has two components. First, there must be sincere “godly sorrow”—sorrow toward God for breaking His commandments—not just sadness that one is suffering a penalty (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). Second, there must be a turning around—turning from the way of sin to the way of obedience to God (Ezekiel 18:23; Ezekiel 18:30-32).

Paul emphasized that promising to turn away from sin isn’t enough. Repentance also needs to bring about obvious good works—the fruits of repentance. He stated that people “should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds” (Acts 26:20, NIV). Earlier John the Baptist had demanded “fruits worthy of repentance” from his listeners (Luke 3:8).

Paul and Barnabas urged the people of Lystra to “turn from these worthless things to the living God” (Acts 14:15, NIV). Those who are truly being called by God feel a strong sense of urgency to move forward toward forgiveness—taking the biblical steps of repentance our Creator requires.

Continuing in sin—unrepentance—has a way of leading us into a box canyon with no way out. There is only one way forward, and it’s toward God’s forgiveness by repenting of sin and allowing Him to change us.

David’s example of repentance leading to forgiveness

God does not view sin lightly, and neither should you. It’s a deadly serious topic, as it’s something that God hates. He hates it because it brings about death and removes us from Him. As our Father, He wants to have a close, intimate relationship with us, and sin left unrepented of keeps us from experiencing that level of closeness.

A poignant example of the relationship between repentance and forgiveness comes from the life of Israel’s King David. When he broke at least two of the Ten Commandments in murdering a soldier named Uriah after committing adultery with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba, God asked him through Nathan the prophet: “Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes?” (2 Samuel 12:9, NIV). The shaken king responded, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

But notice Nathan’s reply: “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die” (2 Samuel 12:13, NIV). David’s sincere, heartfelt repentance is expressed for us in Psalm 51. Every Christian should read it from time to time to recognize the kind of heart and attitude God wants to see in us. David’s repentance was from the heart, and it created change in him. It reestablished his relationship with God. As a result, God showered grace and forgiveness on him.

God has mercifully provided us a way out of sin—at great cost to Himself. Once we really grasp the greatness of God—and really begin to see ourselves in comparison to our Creator like Job did—we are well on our way to genuine, heartfelt repentance and His gracious forgiveness.

God’s merciful and compassionate forgiveness

King David praised God’s gracious nature in Psalm 103: “Praise the Lord, O my soul . . . and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases . . . The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love . . . He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:1-14, NIV).

Once you have truly repented of your sins, God’s forgiveness is absolute, total and complete. He applies the sacrificial blood of His Son Jesus Christ to you personally. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

God blots out our transgressions of His law through the sacrifice of Christ, “in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14).

Our new status with God

Repentance, water baptism and receiving God’s Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) begin a completely changed life for a Christian. Once this bridge has been crossed, forgiveness is sure. Salvation is always assured provided we keep repenting when we fall short, returning to the path of God’s law, mirrored by obedience to the Ten Commandments (1 John 1:9). As the psalmist wrote, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalms 119:105).

Jesus Christ said, “Truly, truly I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes in Him [the Father] who sent Me has eternal life and shall not come into condemnation, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24, Modern English Version).

The apostle John repeated this encouraging truth in 1 John 5:11-12: “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

After His resurrection, Jesus said of the Messiah, referring to Himself, that “repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” as a key component of the mission He gave His disciples (Luke 24:47, NIV). Now we can see how genuine repentance, followed by God’s merciful and compassionate forgiveness, converge to impart true conversion—putting us firmly on the road to eternal life!

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