There is great news for those in the rut of fictitious self-forgiveness.
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God has provided the Solution to our guilt. His Son, Jesus Christ, exited heaven and became a man. He lived the perfect, sinless life that we never could; never needing forgiveness; never incurring guilt. Then, he went to the cross to do something extraordinary; serve the sentence for our sin. That is what happened when he suffered and died on the cross. Since the punishment for our sin is served, then the corresponding guilt is cancelled by God! When Christ resurrected bodily from the dead, he demonstrated that his life was sinless, thus, our guilt before God erased, and forgiveness provided.
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7).
“And you, when you were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:13-14).
So, the solution to fictitious self-forgiveness is the sinless life, substitutionary death, and vindicating resurrection of Jesus Christ. We must flee any and every notion that we need to forgive ourselves, and instead look outside of self and to the risen Christ.
Perhaps at the root is disbelief that God, the one Judge, will forgive our sin. This scenario is a dreadful one. The reasons for the disbelief could be an innocent battle with doubt or a wretched rebellion against truth. In either case, confess it to the Judge of all the Earth. And look to his gracious provision of his Son whose death alone removes our guilt and provides forgiveness.
Over 300 years ago, Puritan John Bunyan wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress, in which the main character, Christian, would have been diagnosed by many today as someone struggling to forgive themselves. Christian carried around an enormous pack on his back called his “burden.” A portion of the story deals with the dilemma of removing his burden. He attempts various self-focused, self-actualizing techniques. He tries to sleep it off. That doesn’t work. He meets a precarious fellow named, “Mr. Worldly Wiseman.” He counsels Christian to consult two individuals, Legality and Civility who supposedly have skill in helping men out of their wits with their burden. Their methods involve doing good for oneself. However, Legality and Civility are shams who propose destructive man-made solutions. Eventually, he enters through the narrow gate and proceeds down the path called Salvation. He comes to a small hill upon which stood a cross, with an empty tomb at the bottom. Simply by looking at the cross, it finally happens: Christian’s burden falls from his back, and quite easily. And it not only falls, but tumbles into the empty tomb, never to be seen again.
For additional reading, see Robert Jones, Forgiveness: I Just Can’t Forgive Myself.
This article originally appeared on TheCripplegate.com. Used with permission. To read the text-only version please click here.
Eric Davis is the pastor of Cornerstone Church in Jackson Hole, WY. He and his team planted the church in 2008. Leslie is his wife of 14 years and mother of their 3 children.
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