Scriptures and Thoughts on Guilt

“What does guilt mean?”

Hebrew:

Awon – sin, wickedness, iniquity, often with a focus on the guilt or liability incurred, and the punishment that follows.

Rasa – “denotes behavior that is disruptive and destructive of harmony in the community and serves as a more generalized for evil understood as the opposite of what is morally good.”

Asam – guilt – “moral or legal culpability, so it has an objective dimension. Guilt designates the condition or state of a person who has acted wrongfully; it stands between the act of wrong and the punishment.”

Greek:

Aitia – “reason, cause, accusation, charge, guilt, wrong.”

Hamartia – “one of more than thirty words in the New Testament that conveys some notion of sin.”

 How does guilt differ from shame?

 Guilt, in its objective sense, is a status of someone who has done wrong, regardless of how they feel. Shame, on the other hand, is a feeling, or at least a status imposed on people subjectively by others.

No one can put more or less guilt on you than what you actually have, in proportion to the wrong you have done. The amount of shame you have or feel, though, can very greatly based on how you and others feel about the situation.

What is the right way to deal with my own guilt?

 (Luke 15:17-19) “But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! 18‘I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’

(James 5:16) Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

What is the wrong way to deal with feelings of guilt?

(Genesis 3:8-13) 8They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORDGod among the trees of the garden. 9Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” 11And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” 13Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

(Genesis 4:9-15) 9Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. 11“Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12“When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.” 13Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is too great to bear! 14“Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15So the LORD said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And the LORD appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him.

In what ways can feeling guilt be healthy or unhealthy?

(2 Corinthians 7:8-11) For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while— 9I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. 10For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.11For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.

(Psalm 32:3-5) When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long.
4For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.
5I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I did not hide;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”;
And You forgave the guilt of my sin.

How can we let go of unhealthy guilt?

 (Romans 8:31-34) 31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.

(Genesis 50:15-21) 15When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him!” 16So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father charged before he died, saying, 17‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, “Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place?20“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. 21“So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

(Romans 3:21-26) But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Am I guilty even if I sin in ignorance?

(Romans 1:18-20): “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

(James 3:1) “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.”

(James 4:17) “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

(John 9:40-41) “Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”

(Acts 17:29-31) Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. 30“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

(1 Timothy 1:12-14) 12I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, 13even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 14and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.

(Leviticus 4:1-3) Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘If a person sins unintentionally in any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, and commits any of them, if the anointed priest sins so as to bring guilt on the people, then let him offer to the Lord a bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed.

(Leviticus 4:12-15) ‘Now if the whole congregation of Israel commits error and the matter escapes the notice of the assembly, and they commit any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, and they become guilty;14 when the sin which they have committed becomes known, then the assembly shall offer a bull of the herd for a sin offering and bring it before the tent of meeting.15 Then the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands on the head of the bull before the Lord, and the bull shall be slain before the Lord.

(2 Thessalonians 1:6-9) For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,

How can someone be motivated to recognize their own guilt?

(2 Samuel 12:5-9) Then David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.” Nathan then said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul.I also gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your care, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these! Why have you despised the word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon.

(Matthew 12:33-37) 33“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. 34“You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. 35“The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. 36“But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. 37“For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

(Matthew 18:15-18) 15“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16“But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. 17“If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.18“Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

When is it appropriate to confess guilt to the whole church?

See Matthew 18 above for ideas.

(James 5:16) Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

What should I do when I am falsely accused of wrongdoing?

(Matthew 5:11) “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.

(1 Peter 2:21-24) 21For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 23and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

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Can Shame be a Good Thing?

Ephesians 4:32 says “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

I have always liked this verse. It reminds us that no one will be saved except by the grace of God, and that if God is willing to forgive those who repent, surely we also should be willing to forgive each other. Grace is a wonderful topic, and one that I enjoy talking about.

Shame on the other hand… not so much. Is shame even something that we need to talk about? Did Jesus not do away with the concept of shame once and for all when He died on the cross for us?

Apparently not, because twice in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul rebuked those who would hear his letter and followed his rebuke with the words: “I say this to your shame” (1 Corinthians 6:5, 15:34). The “God’s Word” translation says, “You should be ashamed of yourselves!” The NIV says “I say this to shame you.”

This week while I listened to a well-known and loved gospel preacher, he used a similar phrase: “Shame, shame, shame, God knows your name,” in order to shame those who were guilty of a certain sin that he was speaking about.

It is important to notice that Paul, and luckily the preacher that I was hearing as well, were not shaming people about things that they had done in the distant past and had already repented of. Instead, we see this concept of “shame on you” appearing in scripture when people need to come to their senses about a sin that they are currently engaged in. It is as if Paul is saying “You are better than this! You should be ashamed of this behavior, and because of this I am trying to wake you up to the shamefulness of what you are doing, so that you will repent.”

Yes, God’s grace covers our sins. Yes, he paid it all on Calvary. But that does not give us permission to become like the sinners in Jeremiah 6:15, “Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not even ashamed at all; They did not even know how to blush.” We must not make peace with our sin, or cease to realize how shameful it is to be called a child of God and yet to live in sin.

If you are not living the way you should, shame on you. Not the kind of shame that is meant to make you feel terrible about yourself, but the kind of shame that calls you to live in the holy way that God will help you to live if you will only follow. Not the kind of shame that leads to despair or self-loathing, but the kind of shame that reminds us to “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.”
(Ephesians 4:1)

Not the kind of shame that strangers or even loved ones might continue to heap on us for our mistakes long after we have repented and moved on.

Rather, the kind of shame that can cause you to wake up to the reality of your current situation and motivate you to make it right.

Justification and Sanctification

Two fancy sounding words that get thrown around a lot in theological discussions are “justification” and “sanctification.” Both of these words appear in scripture and they work together to paint a beautiful picture of the Christian life.

“Justification” is a legal term that conveys the idea of being judged to be righteous. To be justified before God means that we are acquitted of the crimes of which we are accused. Our relationship with Him is restored and we do not have to bear the punishment that fits our crime. In fact, as far as the imputing of guilt is concerned, it is like we never committed the crime at all! A good part of the Bible to read in order to learn more about justification would be Romans, chapters 3 through 5.

“Sanctification” means being made holy. While justification takes full effect the moment we put on Christ in baptism, sanctification is a process that we grow in day by day. It is the process of being conformed to the image of God’s Son, and this process is taking place in us as long as we live on this earth. Our sanctification’s completion will only become evident when Jesus returns at the last day. A good place to read about sanctification would be Romans, chapters 6 through 8.

Both of these elements are present in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Notice that when we walk in the light, God does two things for us: He forgives our sings (justification) and He cleanses us from all unrighteousness (sanctification).   The word here translated as “cleanse” is where we get the English word “catharsis,” and it indicates a purging or removal of that which does not belong.

John makes sanctification sound pretty easy. All we have to do is walk in the light and God will sanctify us completely! But John does acknowledge that we will not always be perfect as we go through this process. In the following verses he states: “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

John talks about justification, then sanctification, and then he goes right back to justification again, reminding us that while our path in life is one of pursuing purity, it is only because of the forgiveness that we have received – and that we continue to receive with each passing day – that this process is even possible.

Understanding these two concepts and how they relate to each other allows us to see the gospel for the simple and beautiful truth that it is.

Many in our world are so eager to emphasize the free gift of justification that they are uncomfortable with emphasizing the truth that God’s children cannot live in sin. They miss out on the fact that salvation does not just mean forgiveness, it also means transformation.

Others fail to grasp the fact that our justification truly is a free gift that covers our sins, and as a result they try to earn their own salvation apart from God’s grace through a system of guilt- and shame-based sanctification projects.

What do you think about these two concepts? Do you see how they both fit together into one cohesive and fantastic gospel? If you want to see these concepts play out in scripture or learn more about what they truly mean, then be like the Bereans who were “examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”

Scriptures and Thoughts on “Humility”

What is humility?
Hebrew:
anawah – meekness, denoting the spirit produced under circumstances of suffering, oppression, and affliction. Sometimes translated “poor,” “humble,” or “lowly”.

Greek:
tapeinophrosune – the state of gratitude where one understands the reception of gifts are by the grace of God—and as such—undeserved by human accomplishment.

Consider that God is referred to as having “anawah” in (2 Samuel 22:36) “And Thou givest to me the shield of Thy salvation, And Thy lowliness maketh me great. [YLT]”

And Jesus is described as humbling Himself in places like (Philippians 2): He “emptied Himself” and “humbled Himself” by becoming a man and dying on the cross.

Likewise in (Matthew 11:29-30) “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

In the case of God condescending to our level, or of us realizing our spiritual poverty, there is a downward movement.

(Romans 12:3) reinforces this: “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”

Likewise (Romans 12:16) “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”

(Philippians 2:13) likewise illustrates using position: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”

How does humility differ from self-loathing?

Remember that God is said in some sense to be “humble” and Jesus is said to have “humbled” Himself. God and Jesus surely do not think little of themselves or loathe themselves. Rather, they are willing to do what is “beneath them” for the sake of those they love.

It has been said that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.

(1 Corinthians 4”:3-4) “to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.” Paul did not base his commendableness on what others thought of him, or even what he though of himself. He just left that judgment to God and did his best.

In (Luke 18:13) the tax collector will not even lift his eyes to heaven, but he is yet bold enough to ask God for mercy and to walk away justified. That his, he does not refuse God’s forgiveness thinking he is too worthless to receive it.

David said “I am a worm and not a man.” Is that a healthy state of mind?

It is sometimes appropriate to be bitterly downcast by the realization of sin.

(James 4:9-10)“Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”

However, it would seem that there is such a thing as an unhealthy level of grief over sin. (2 Corinthians 2) “For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.”

A prolonging of excessive feelings of guilt goes beyond the proper duration goes beyond humility and turns into a self-loathing.

(Psalm 30:5) “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning.”

 How would I know if I was or was not humble?

There is such a thing as a false humility
(Colossians 2:18-23) warns about men who “delight in self-abasement,” but whoa re really “inflated without cause by his fleshly mind…” they have “the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”

In (Luke 18:12) the Pharisee brags about fasting and giving… acts that would perhaps be humble if he did not do them so that he could brag.

“Boasting” is done by those who are not humble.

(Proverbs 27:2) “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips.”

(1 Corinthians 1:26-29) “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.”

(Jeremiah 9:23-24) “Thus says the LORD, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the LORD.”

(Matthew 6:2) “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

Even the term “arrogant” comes from the verb “arrogate,” to make an unjustified claim, to attribute a certain success to one’s own merits.

(Luke 14:8-11) do not assume that you are going to receive the highest honor, as though you deserved it. Do not take the highest seat for yourself at the banquet.

 How can someone be proud of their accomplishments without sacrificing their humility?

God is not against the bestowing of honors:

(Romans 13:7) “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.”
(1 Timothy 5:17) “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.”

 Remember though, (James 1:17) every good thing comes from God, (Acts 17:28) only in Him do we even have our being. (1 Corinthians 15:10) Even our hard work is attributable to God.

 Does the Bible say that Jesus was the humblest man? If so, what does that mean?

(Philippians 2) does hold Him up as an example of humility for us to follow.

(James 4:10) says humble yourself and God will life you up. Jesus was willing to be made so low, and was then rewarded. He was given the name above every name (Philippians 2:9).

(John 13:15) “I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” Jesus condescended to the point of being our servant. None of us can condescend so far because none of us start so high.
(Mark 9:35) the one who wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.

 What does it mean that “God opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the humble?” How does that work?

This phrase is in (James 4). The context indicates that prideful individuals are full of plagued by conflicts and murders. The context indicates that those who humbles themselves and weep over there sins find grace from God. The phrase may simply indicate that those who are humble are the only ones able to receive what God offers.

(Proverbs 16:18) famously says pride goes before a fall. Could this simply be a natural consequence of the way the world is structured?

(Proverbs 11:12) “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”

(Proverbs 29:23) “Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.”

(1 Peter 5:6) “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”

(Luke 5:4-5) “When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered and said, ‘Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.’”

If Peter did not accept fishing advice from the carpenter’s son, but insisted he knew better as a professional fisherman, he would not have been blessed in this way.

What does it mean to be poor in spirit?

Remember that the Hebrew word for humble can also be translated as poor.

Humility can be a recognition of our personal spiritual poverty, a recognition that the source outside of us (James 1:17)

Accept God’s charity: (Ephesians 2:8) “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God”

 How can I work on being humble?

Humility is commanded in scripture.
(Ephesians 4:2) (Philippians 2:3) (Colossians 3:12) (1 Peter 3:8) (1 Peter 5:6) (James 3:13) (James 4:10)

Make a point of being humble during personal prayer.
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) The story of the two men praying in (Luke 18), the instructions to humble ourselves in (James 4) all deal with confession and with prayer.

Since (Romans 13:7) says to give honor where it is due, we can be humble by acknowledging the help we have received from others and from God in each of our own accomplishments. Practice acknowledging the contributions of others.

Scriptures and Thoughts on “Forgiveness”

What does forgiveness actually mean? What does it look like?
Old Testament –
Celiychah (noun) – abundant forgiveness – NEVER does this word in any of its forms refer to people forgiving each other.
Calach (verb) – to forgive/pardon. The only Old Testament verb with “to forgive” as its primary meaning. Used ONLY of God.
Nasa’ – to lift, to raise, to bear, to carry – refers to both divine and human forgiveness.
Kaphar – to cover, to purge, to make an atonement, to make reconciliation, to cover over with pitch. Kacah – to cove, can also mean “to conceal, hide”

New Testament –
Aphesis (noun) – the act of freeing and liberating from something that confines; release, or the act of freeing from an obligation, guilt, or punishment; pardon, cancellation… “The forgiveness denoted is almost always that of God. It is constantly needed, and is granted when requested so long as there is a readiness to forgive others. Its basis is the saving act of Christ.”
Aphiemi (verb) – to dismiss, release, let go, send away… used for the cancelling of sins and debts.
Charidzomai (verb) – to show one’s self gracious by forgiving wrongdoing; forgive, pardon.”
Apoluo (verb) – to grant acquittal, set free, release, or pardon.

In this case, the Old Testament words really help us in our theology! They strongly delineate God’s forgiveness and our own.

So what would this look like, acted out?

How God illustrates forgiveness:
Isaiah 1:18 – like red wool becoming white again – a miracle!
Psalm 103:12 – as far as the east is from the west
Micah 7:19 – You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

When God forgives, does He actually forget?
Isaiah 43:25 – “I will remember your sins no more.”
Hebrews 10:17 – “I will remember their sins and lawless deeds no more.”

But remember that the true meaning of “remember” is to call to mind. The terminology allows God to be omniscient, but not to call to mind, emphasize, or “remember” our sins.

But what do you think, does He literally forget them?

Surely He knows that we are sinners, for He planned from the foundation of the world to send Jesus – 1 Peter 1:20, and the cross, which we say is beautiful and worth commemorating, and which is commemorated by the Lord’s Supper – Luke 22:19-20, and Jesus said we will eat the meal with Him in the kingdom!

So it seems that God will not forget that we are or have been sinners, but that He will not call to mind, or put on display, or take into consideration, our sins.

Will God ultimately forgive everyone of their sins?
Matthew 6:15 – “if you do not forgive others…”
Hebrews 10:26-31 – “there no longer remains a sacrifice”
Matthew 7:23 – “I never knew you, depart from me you evildoers”
Matthew 25:41 – “depart from me into the eternal fire.”

How can I get God’s forgiveness?
Acts 2:38 – repent and be baptized!
1 John 1:7,9 – walk in the light, confess your sins

Is there a difference between God’s forgiveness and man’s forgiveness?
See notes in Hebrews words for forgiveness. There is a kind of forgiveness that only God can do.
Psalm 51:4 – “against you only have I sinned” – David’s guilt was ultimately before God.
Mark 2:5-11 – “only God can forgive sins” – only God can actually clear guilt!

Romans 12:19 – humans are never to take vengeance – meaning that humans are never to try and “get even” by making someone suffer in proportion to the suffering they have caused. So human forgiveness then is not simply letting someone off the hook when it comes to divine justice, for we are never the arbiters of that in an ultimate sense.

So what is human forgiveness then? As the Hebrew words indicate, it is a removal of debt, or a covering of error. It could also be an acknowledgement in some sense that we are not the final judge of the person.

Is it ever appropriate to withhold forgiveness?
1 Timothy 1:13 – “Because I acted in ignorance”
Luke 23:34 – “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”
Acts 17:30 – “In previous times God overlooked such ignorance, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.”
Romans 1:18-20 – God’s wrath is against them, they are without excuse because of their knowledge.
James 3:1 – teachers are held to a stricter judgment

Are we forgiven/not forgiven by God based on our knowledge? Think about it. Forgiveness is always offered by God while we are on this earth, but it is not offered unconditionally!
Hebrews 10:26-31 – forgiveness is NOT extended to belligerent, intentional sinners.

But also notice, that as we have said, God’s forgiveness and man’s forgiveness differ. Man can always extend forgiveness (and is required to do so, Matthew 6:15). Whether the individual is actually released from their guilt by God is not our concern.

But what about this idea of human forgiveness being a releasing from debt or a covering of error, surely we are not always obligated to do this? While forgiving a debt can be a powerful way to show someone godly mercy, perhaps the heart of forgiveness is in not standing in moral judgment over someone, as only God can do this.

2 Peter 3:9 – Just as God wants all to come to repentance, so should we!

What aspects of forgiveness are dependent on the recipient?
As indicated above, by the references above, forgiveness of our actual guilt by God is dependent upon our repentance, and that repentance means that we do not willfully sin where we have knowledge of right and wrong.

Consider also Luke 13:5 – unless you repent you will all likewise perish

As far as human forgiveness goes, that kind of forgiveness does not appear to be a release from divine guilt in the first place, but only a release from ultimate personal moral judgment, and potentially of debt or shame, etc. So it does not depend on the recipient at all. Matthew 6:15 is unqualified!

Does that mean that I do not allow them to be prosecuted in a court of law? No, for that is allowing a power ordained by God to act for the protection of society. But it does mean that I let go of my personal sense of authority to ultimately judge.

What if I am supposed to forgive, but I just cannot bring myself to do so?
Understand what forgiveness really is, see discussion of forgiveness of God vs. man.
Romans 12:19, 13:1-4 Hand the right to judge or take revenge over to God and the governing powers that He has established
Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13 – Remember that Jesus has offered forgiveness to YOU
Matthew 18:23-35 – Consider just how great the forgiveness is that God has offered you

How can I forgive myself?
(Page 52)
Luke 22:60-62 – Peter felt guilty about his sin
Matthew 27:3-10 – Judas felt guilty about his sin. Judas hanged himself.
John 21:15-19, Acts 1:15-2:40 – Peter went on to be a leader in the church

2 Corinthians 7:9-10 speaks of worldly sorrow which leads to death, and godly sorrow which leads to “repentance without regret” and salvation.

What do you think? How can one choose to have, or come to experience, godly sorrow rather than worldly sorrow?

Matthew 18:23-35 – understand that forgiveness is NOT about what people deserve. It is given freely, and we are expected to give it others as well.

Isaiah 43:25-26 – God forgives us for His own name’s sake, He has His own reasons for being pleased to do so!
John 19:30 – Jesus said “it is finished.” He has already paid the price. The gift of forgiveness is yours to accept or deny, but He has already paid for it either way.

Are you Growing?

One of our recent sermons was about “When I Mess Up.” And we all mess up sometimes. In fact, if you claim to be sinless, you are deceiving yourself, calling God a liar, and His word is not in you (1 John 1:8-10).

But that does not mean that we should make peace with our sin. It does not mean that our sin is no big deal since “I’m only human,” and “nobody is perfect.”

So how do we find the balance between a life of perfectionism that is filled with excessive guilt, shame, and fear of punishment, and a life of flippancy in which we tolerate moral decay because we think it does not matter?

Consider this passage: “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)

Notice, Paul does not tell the Corinthians “because you are behaving as men of flesh, it is clear that you have never been saved, and that you are eternally lost and hopeless.” Rather, because they are behaving as “men of flesh,” he calls them “infants in Christ.” Of course, this description was only appropriate because the Corinthians actually were young in Christ. They were a new church full of new converts who wanted to follow Christ, but lacked the spiritual maturity that someone older in the faith should have.

The concepts from this passage can help us to think about our sins in an appropriate way. The journey of a Christian is one of growth over time. Not all humans grow, either physically or emotionally, at the same rate. But we all should be growing.

Indeed, while we expect less from an infant than we do from a grown man or woman, we do expect even an infant to be working towards skills such as crawling, sitting up, standing, walking, speaking, etc. If an infant is not progressing over time, we become deeply worried. Likewise, we are deeply concerned when an adult behaves like a child, perhaps throwing a tantrum, refusing to share, or calling others by petty names.

In this respect, the spirit of a Christian is no different. There are two options that, like all living things, our spirits must choose between: growing or dying. Praise God that though our bodies are subject to death and decay, our spirits are free to grow and to soar for as long as we may live on the earth, and then into eternity with even greater glory.   “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

So let us assess ourselves. If I am young in the faith, what steps am I taking towards maturity? If am older in the faith, do I still behave as though I were a spiritual infant? If we are not growing, we are in grave danger of spiritual death, and it is right for us to be filled with a holy fear of the Lord.

What about you? Are you content with a one-time event of “being saved,” and unconcerned with spiritual growth over time? Are you still sinning in the same ways, with the same frequency, years after your conversion? Can you point to spiritual growth in the past year? What step should you be taking next in your spiritual life? Will you be willing to take the next step of faith towards being the image of Christ? Or, having come so far, will you sink back into eternal spiritual decay?