“He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19)
Carmen was distressed. Young, attractive, and intelligent, she had accumulated quite a load of sin. She had drugged and slept with people across Europe, searching for meaning. And there she found Christ and the incredible joy of sins forgiven. From then on, she testified, she never had another twinge of guilt. But after becoming a Christian, she had slipped, and now she didn’t feel God would forgive such a sin.
I spoke to Carmen about the certainty of God’s forgiveness, but she continued to struggle. Then one day she came to see me, radiant and filled with joy. She told me she had once again been reviewing her big failure and agonizing before God when He said to her, “What sin are you talking about?” It was on her mind but not His!
Does God forget our sins? Micah 7:19 gives this reassuring picture of God’s forgiveness. “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” Do you believe God has literally forgotten your sins?
The problem with taking this poetic expression to mean that our sins are literally obliterated from God’s mind is that such a view seems to contradict God’s omniscience. Does He literally forget some things? Perhaps, but maybe we’re safer in saying that He judicially forgets, declaring the debt paid on the basis of Jesus’ blood and no longer holding us accountable.
Does God relinquish His animosity? To say God feels no animosity raises the issue of love. God’s nature is love (see 1 John 4:8), and He loves us with an everlasting love (see Jer. 31:3). He cannot feel or act contrary to His nature. God loves not only those He has forgiven but also those He hasn’t forgiven. Nevertheless, the Bible tells us that God also gets angry; He was angry with Moses, David, and the children of Israel, for example. But unlike our anger, God’s anger is righteous—untainted by the flesh and therefore devoid of selfishness, ego, or pettiness. His intention is always redemptive in dealing with people. So when He gets angry, it’s because someone is harming herself and others by living contrary to His law and His will. God holds no hostility or bitterness toward anyone, forgiven or unforgiven. We can set aside the idea that God relinquishes His animosity when He forgives our sin. He never had any to begin with!
Does God cancel our debt of sin? Any hope we have of success in the Christian life is based on this solid foundation: God has canceled our debt; He no longer holds us accountable. Paul explained, “He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:14). Though God may at times discipline us (see Heb. 12:7; Rev. 3:19), we will never face any condemnation by the Judge at the final bar of justice. We are forgiven! Hallelujah!
The problem is, like Carmen, many of us find it difficult to forgive ourselves. And that can be almost as spiritually crippling as not accepting God’s forgiveness. In fact, it may boil down to the same thing, for in continuing to carry the guilt load, we defame Jesus’ sacrifice, treating the cross as if it were not a sufficient payment for our sin. Some people hobble through life with this dysfunctional sense of hope, never soaring free in the consciousness of sins forgiven.
Others, on the other hand, are cavalier about their sins, feeling no guilt or pain for sins against the Savior. How is it with you? Be very honest in your assessment because all future growth and victory depend on your response to God’s forgiveness. Embrace His forgiveness, and there is hope for a life of spiritual transformation and freedom.
Pray and express sorrow for any sins in your life and ask forgiveness. If God has already forgiven you, ask Him to help you forgive yourself. One of the many marvelous blessings of being a believer is experiencing God’s forgiveness of all our transgressions of the law.