3Sometimes we struggle to forgive. When someone sins against us, we can have trouble forgiving. Especially when we have been really badly hurt, we feel that the offending party doesn’t deserve forgiveness from us. Even when we try to forgive, every so often we still remember their sin against us. Years later, we can still get angry when we think of how we were hurt by others, even if we have forgiven them.
On the other side, sometimes we have hurt someone else by sinning against them. Perhaps we sinned against our parents, spouse, or children. They have spoken their forgiveness to us, but we remember our sin. We know that our relationship will never again be what it was before our sin. Especially when we have hurt someone badly, even years later, our sin against them arises in our heads and we think that surely they must be thinking about our sin, too. Sin leaves a wedge between people because it is still remembered, even if it is forgiven. Forgiveness between mankind is never perfect.
It can be easy to project this kind of imperfect forgiveness onto God. When we struggle with a particular sin and fall into it yet again, we think surely God is getting tired of forgiving us. Surely He’s counting up the times we have fallen into sin and soon, if not now, we will have crossed the line. Surely soon, if not now, God will say, “Enough! No more forgiveness for you!”
These thoughts are not from God; they are from your sinful flesh and the devil. The devil wants nothing more than convince you that God will no longer forgive you and that He’s run out of patience with you. Your sinful flesh wants nothing more than convince you that there is no more forgiveness for you so that you will stop fighting against sinful desires and just give in and remain in them.
This is not what God’s forgiveness is like. God actually forgets your sins even if your neighbor cannot forget and you cannot forget. God says, “I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Is. 43:25). He says, “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:34; cited also Heb. 10:17).
What this means is that each time God forgives you your sin, it is like the first time that He forgives you. He is not counting up your sins on a tablet throughout your life. Every time you are absolved, your sins are wiped clean and removed from you as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12). Every time you receive the true body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins God treads your sins underfoot and throws them into the depths of the sea (Mi. 7:19). Your sins are washed away and God remembers them no more.
God’s forgiveness is perfect. It is complete. Jesus’ death was the perfect and complete sacrifice for all sin and all sinners, so no sin remains for those who are in Christ.
Don’t get hung up on deserving forgiveness, either. Forgiveness can never be deserved. Forgiveness is given freely by grace. If it was deserved, then grace would no longer be grace (Rom. 11:6), but forgiveness would be one’s due (Rom. 4:4).
God’s forgiveness also comes with the Holy Spirit who strengthens you in your fight against sin. The Holy Spirit gives you a new heart (Ezek. 36:26); He gives you a new will and new desires (Rom. 7:22). The Holy Spirit causes you to walk in His statutes and makes you careful to obey His rules (Ezek. 36:27). The Holy Spirit enables you to put to death the sinful deeds of the body (Rom. 8:13).
Each time God forgives you is like the first time He forgives you, but He doesn’t leave you wallowing in your sins. By His Holy Spirit, He lifts you out of your sins and strengthens you in your fight against sin. He will not remember your sin but He will remind you to turn away from sin. He does not tabulate your sins but He will discipline you for your own good so that you are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin and thus fall away from Him (Heb. 3:12-13; 12:3-17).
So do not grow weary or fainthearted. The Lord disciplines the one He loves, but it is so that you will share His holiness (Heb. 12:6, 10). God continues to remove your sins from you as far as the east is from the west, trample them underfoot and throw them into the depths of the sea. God continues to forgive your sins and remember them no more. God continues to forgive you and strengthen you in your fight with sin.