It should not be too difficult to convince people that they need forgiveness. Perhaps there are a few self-decieved souls who believe they haven’t done anything bad enough to warrant forgiveness.
Most people, I assume, would need very little persuasion. We all provide more than sufficient evidence to confirm our sinfulness (see: Jeremiah 17:9;Romans 3:10;5:12; Galatians 2:21;3:22; I John 1:8,10) and our need to be forgiven.
We sin by doing things we should not do and failing to do the things we should do. It is possible to sin in our thoughts, words, actions and attitudes.
If we only sinned 3 times each day, it would amount to 1000 sins per year. If we lived to be 80 years old, we finish life on earth with 80,000 sins on our record. We clearly need forgiveness! But is there forgiveness with God? Is the God– to whom we owe our existence and against whom we have sinned— a forgiving God?
On the testimony of the entire Bible, we can unhesitatingly say that there is forgiveness with God.
God described himself to Moses as, “… compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7).
The Psalmist prayed and said, “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness.” (Psalm 131:3-4)
In his prayer for the exiled nation of Israel, the prophet Daniel said “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him” (Daniel 9:9).
Through the prophet Isaiah, this is what God says, “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for my own sake; and I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25)
Reflecting on the greatness of God’s forgiveness, the prophet Micah exclaimed, “Who is a God like Thee, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love. He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:18-19)
It was through Jeremiah the prophet that God gave the promise: “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).
The required sacrifice for forgiveness
Further evidence of forgiveness as our greatest need is found in the profound sacrifice made to accomplish it. Jesus said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” It required that God become man and lay down His life satisfy the just demands of the law regarding my sin (Matthew 26:28). The apostle Peter said of Jesus that, “… through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:43). The apostle Paul wrote about Jesus, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7)
An Unforgivable sin:
In Matthew 12, there is a text that has both perplexed and tormented people because it speaks of an unforgivable sin. “And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven” (Matthew 12:31).
People focus so much on the second part of this verse, that they miss the amazing promise in the first part. Think about the first part of this verse: “And so I tell you (or “therefore I say to you”) every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men.” Amazing! When you stop and think about all the different types of sin and blasphemy, this is a comprehensive promise! The only exception Jesus admits to this promise is “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.”
Some say this sin could only occur under the public ministry of Jesus. Whatever else this sin involved, it included an ultimate hardening of one’s heart against the person and ministry of Jesus.
Therefore, a definite sign that you have not committed this sin is a deep concern that you may have committed it. Apart from this sin, we return to the opening promise: “Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven…”
Do you understand why the apostle John wrote, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9)?
Do we need to forgive ourselves?
Some people suggest that there are times when we need to forgive ourselves. Yet from a Christian perspective, it is best to speak of our need to fully accept forgiveness and to let go of illegitimate and destructive guilt. Before exploring possible causes behind refusal to accept forgiveness, it would help most people if they had a better understanding of guilt.