How do I Know That I’m Forgiven?
Perhaps you’re asking about forgiveness because of something in your past you’re not proud of or an ongoing struggle that you have not been able to overcome. This may have left you questioning whether God can forgive you.
Or maybe you confessed your sin, but you still doubt whether God has truly forgiven you because it seems your actions were too terrible.
This question may seem ominous and daunting. Knowing you’re forgiven is a big part in finding freedom in Christianity. But how can you know for sure?
The good news is that when we slip up—even big slip-ups— nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:35).
But why is that?
The short answer: Jesus paid for every sin when He died on the cross. But sometimes it’s easy to become numb to that understanding. Or maybe we didn’t fully understand in the first place. Either way, God’s plan of forgiveness is complex yet simple if we look at the parts of God’s Plan of Salvation—which is the point of the Bible.
Jesus WANTS us to be forgiven—He doesn’t want to lose us to any sin, no matter what it is.
When Christ was alive on Earth, He chose to spend most of His time with “sinners.” Regular people. Imperfect people. Even the kind of people that could make a concerned parent or friend pull you aside to say, “should you really be hanging around them?”
There were many people in Jesus’ day who did not understand the beauty of forgiveness, especially one group in particular—the Pharisees, legalistic religious and political leaders. Not only did this group of people not understand the concept of forgiveness, but they were outraged when Jesus said He forgave sinners (Luke 5:21).
To the Pharisees, spending time with sinners was bad enough, but saying He forgave them was an atrocity.
In the minds of the Pharisees, the sinners Jesus associated with were the lowest of the low. Completely unforgivable. They were tax collectors, prostitutes, drunkards, adulterers. They were incapable of being forgiven—at least in the eyes of the Pharisees (Matthew 9:11; John 8:1-11).
But not in Jesus’ eyes. He saw them how God saw them. Like how parents see their child’s marker drawing on the wall, yet continue to love the child. Or how dog owners still forgive and love their dogs even after the rug becomes a toilet again. The relationship trumps the record. And Jesus saw those sinners as children of God who, yes, messed up, but were still worthy of forgiveness and love (Micah 7:18-19; Daniel 9:9).
This shows the major difference in how humans view sin and how God views sin.
How does God view sins?
God, of course, has a big-picture view of us and our lives, which can be hard to fathom at times. Here’s one way to look at it:
Humans on Earth view sins from the side. The sins stack up. One person can have a higher stack than another, and the one with a smaller stack is less of a sinner—at least in mortal eyes. However, God views from above. He has a perfect vantage point, so He sees it all. He doesn’t see stacks, He just sees spots—sin spots. And we all are marked.
He sees us marked with sin, none greater or less than another. The “height” of the “stack” is irrelevant. There is no “sin hierarchy” to God. And that is what the Pharisees failed to understand.
Understanding the difference between how humans view sin and how God views sin is the first part in understanding the freedom in forgiveness.
Jesus Sees What We Don’t See
While passing through Samaria, Jesus met a woman at the well. She went there at noon, during the heat of the day, to escape the looks and the fingers that have been pointed her way (John 4). To add even more fuel to the whispers, she had given up on marriage and was living with someone she was not married to. She was just the type of woman who would’ve been condemned by the Pharisees.
Yet remarkably, Jesus saw potential in her when everyone else saw failure.
Instead of condemning her, He spoke with her and told her of the water of life He offers. She was so eager to know more and spread the word that she left behind her water pot to bring a multitude back to Jesus. She wanted to share Him with her town, and they wanted to discover His healing, forgiveness, and amazing grace she spoke of.
This Biblical story shows a Savior who loved a sinner and showed how He wants to forgive those who are willing to be forgiven. In the presence of God she felt “no condemnation” (Romans 8:1).
But can we experience this kind of grace for ourselves? Through God’s plan, of course!
The Forgiveness Plan
The Pharisees, those same people who hated Jesus and the sinners He spent time with, gathered others to conspire against Jesus and have Him killed on the cross. And though tragic, His death was part of a bigger plan.
From the birth of sin, consequences have followed. The consequence (wages) of sin is death. And that consequence is inescapable, except through one loophole.
When Jesus died, He took responsibility for all the world’s sin. For everyone who has ever lived and ever will live. He paid the consequence of sin through death so we wouldn’t have to (Romans 5:9).
With Jesus’ death He made the forgiveness route quite simple for His people. Instead of facing eternal death, we need only to draw close to God, through Jesus, and confess our sins and admit our failures and shortcomings. Then by accepting God’s forgiveness, we are forgiven.
Simple as that.
The good news of the Gospel is that God delights in mercy and forgiveness. He is waiting for us to come to Him, so He can forgive every sin we have ever committed. God delights to forgive!
Am I Good Enough?
We may struggle with believing we are forgiven because we are all too familiar with our own unworthiness, like the woman at the well. It is much easier to see how God may delight to forgive others, but more difficult to see how God can forgive us. However, if that’s our struggle, maybe we have been trying to earn forgiveness through our own efforts instead of through His grace.
In other words, when our behavior is good, we may feel better about ourselves and our relationship with God. But on the other side, we may feel that our behavior makes us unworthy. However, since our track records have many failures, we know we can never be “good enough” to earn heaven.
And that is a major reason why many of us struggle with believing we are forgiven, which can leave us wondering, “Will I ever be good enough?” And that’s a slippery slope.
But there is good news!
It’s not about us.
It’s not about trying to earn heaven or being good enough. It’s not about us going to church faithfully or not. It’s not about us reading the Bible every day or not. What matters is Jesus and that we accept His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 11:6).
When we read His story and the whole story of the plan of forgiveness and salvation, we see it’s all about Jesus. He did all the work for us. We just need to acknowledge His saving power and grace, confess our sins, and believe He will forgive us. The rest of it is faith.
Faith is trusting what we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1). After we confess, we must keep the faith that God will do as He said. And He said over and over that He will forgive you because He loves you and has a plan for you.
“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).
By: Les Derfler
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