Forgiveness is one aspect of God’s character I struggle with constantly. In this post, I talk about the shame and guilt that usually follows sin.
It’s like this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach – feeling like what I just did was so terrible that I now have no way back to God. Sometimes it gets so bad that I’ll go days without reading my bible, praying or spending time with the Lord because I feel like I don’t know how to go back.
It’s usually worse when I do something I’ve asked forgiveness for multiple times in the past. And yet somehow, I find myself sliding back into old habits.
But what I realized recently is that I’ve been measuring God with a human yardstick. Thinking that I have to go through elaborate steps, or even separation to get back in His good grace.
I realized that the bible is actually very specific about ways to access God’s forgiveness, and nowhere have I seen the words hard work, or spending time away from God.
And I wonder if you’ve ever felt this way. Maybe felt the shame and guilt that comes with sin and wondered how God could ever forgive you. Or how He could ever love and accept you again. Well first, let me say this before moving on – He never stops loving you. Don’t believe this? See Romans 8:35-39.
Now on to today’s message.
5 Ways to Access God’s Forgiveness
#1 Accept Jesus Christ and His Sacrifice
“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Hebrews 9:22)
Right before this verse, the author of Hebrews was talking about how things were done under the old covenant and the importance of blood. He goes over how every year, the high priest had to go into the holiest of holy with blood as an offering for the sin of the people.
But then Jesus Christ came and dies for us – His blood was shed to wash us clean and replaces the need for sacrifices. My pastor once said something that really stuck with me – He said that trying to work for God’s forgiveness is like a slap in Jesus’ face. Like we’re saying His sacrifice wasn’t good enough and we have to add on to it with our works in order to be forgiven.
Accepting Jesus and the sacrifice of His blood is the most important thing that must occur before we can access God’s forgiveness.
#2 Confess Your Sin
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
Friend, this one is hard. Very hard. But did you know that the word confess actually means to agree with someone/to say the same thing as them? So when we confess to God, we should be saying the same things that God would say about our sin.
I was recently struggling with shame after committing a sin, and I had no idea how to talk to God. Then I remembered this verse and I realized I just had to say it. I couldn’t expect to just find a way back to God if I didn’t first admit that what I had done was wrong.
And even though I knew what I had done, how I felt about it and how I assumed God felt about it, getting the words out was hard.
But here’s the thing, once I sat down and was straight up with God, I felt so relieved and unburdened. I knew immediately that I was forgiven and could almost literally feel His love again.
I share this to say that confession is still a hard one for me, but I realize how important it is and I want you too also. Heavenly Father knows all, which means He knows when we’ve sinned. So it’s not like we can hide from Him or anything like that. Yet we try.
But this bible verse is very clear, first comes confession, then comes forgiveness. Here’s another one – “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)
#3 Forgive Other People
I don’t think I need to explain this one or add my own commentary because Jesus was pretty clear about it – multiple times:
“But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15).
“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25)
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37)
#4 Serve God and no Other Idols
“Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations… When such a person hears the words of this oath and they invoke a blessing on themselves, thinking, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way,” they will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. The Lord will never be willing to forgive them; His wrath and zeal will burn against them…” (Deuteronomy 29:18-20)
What we see here is Moses talking to the people of Israel when they were renewing their covenant with God in Moab. And here Moses is essentially saying – If you put anything in your life above God, He will not forgive you.
Does that sound harsh? Probably.
But our God is a jealous God, He makes no bones about letting us know He wants everything we have. And back in the day, their idols may have been statues made of gold and silver, but those things have morphed in today’s world.
What are the idols in your life? Technology? Work? Your social life? Your business? Your relationships? It doesn’t matter what it is. If you’re placing it above God, you’re blocking your access to forgiveness (See Joshua 24:19-20).
Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” First comes God, then comes everything else.
The last point actually has four parts that are all in one verse, so they’ve been combined into one point.
#5 Humility, Prayer and Repentance
These last few ways to access God’s forgiveness were given to Solomon when God spoke to him after a series of prayers and sacrifices from solomon.
“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)
God tells Solomon four things that have to happen before the people will be forgiven – humble themselves, pray, seek His face (which I talked about in #4) and turn away from their wicked way.
Prayer is such an essential part of our relationship with God. It’s how we talk to Him and hear from Him. It’s ultimately how we should be asking for forgiveness. We can’t just confess our sins and then sit and wait. It needs to be followed up with a prayer for forgiveness – a time where we’re specific an intentional in not only asking to be forgiven, but also asking for the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit for the future.
The bible talks often about the importance of humility and Jesus set a pretty good example for us. Without humility, I don’t think we would be able to come to God on our knees and confess that what we’ve done is wrong and that we need His forgiveness to move on.
I mean, think about a time when you’ve had a fight with someone and you refused to apologize. It’s usually that pride of “not being the one who says sorry first” that keeps us from fixing a rift and moving forward. Well, what we see here is that won’t fly with God. If you want His forgiveness, you have to set your pride aside and come with a humble heart that truly yearns to be forgiven.
Turn from Wicked Ways
This final one is, I think, probably up there with accepting Jesus’ sacrifice as one of the ways to access God’s forgiveness. It’s not enough to just pray, confess and ask for forgiveness. Repentance is a necessary part of this process. Paul said it best in Romans 6:1-3: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”
There has to be a conscious effort on our path to pursue holiness and that’s not something that happens within our own power. It’s the grace of God that gives us the power to turn from those wicked ways that prevent us from living out God’s purpose for our lives.
I don’t think these 5 ways to access God’s forgiveness are mutually exclusive – that is, they can and probably should all occur when we’re going to God for forgiveness. And I’m sure that as you spend more time in the word of God, you’ll come up with more ways, but for now, these 5 ways to access God’s forgiveness are a good place to start.