Confession, Repentance, and
1 John 1:9
2 Corinthians 2:7-9
Let me share an analogy with you that helped me with the concept of forgiveness. Let us assume that forgiveness is analogous to a checking account. There has been a check written in my name since God existed (the check is His forgiving character/forgiveness). That check was signed when Jesus died on the Cross and paid the penalty for my sin. That check is deposited in my account when I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior and accept His perfect sinless life in exchange for my sinful one. Jesus then uses that “money” in my account to turn me around and make me a new creation in Him (repentance) with His robe of white (righteousness) covering me.
God forgives because He is forgiving. It is His nature to forgive. Our sin only gives Him an opportunity to forgive. He does not have to be persuaded or convinced to forgive. His forgiveness, however, does me no good unless I deposit it in my account and use the currency to become like Him. His forgiveness, then, is a tool that restores my relationship with Him, bridging the gap (made by my sin) between He and I, and giving me the desire to cooperate with Him once again in developing His character within me.
Let me put this into the context of a husband/wife relationship. My wife is forgiving by nature, and my offenses against her only give her the opportunity to exercise that forgiveness. Her forgiveness restores our relationship so that there is no longer a wedge between us. It affords me the opportunity of continuing to pursue a relationship with her.
If I have an affair and it becomes evident, my wife has to choose whether she is going to forgive me. Because she loves me and wants to continue pursuing a relationship with me, she chooses to forgive me. This allows me to enter back into a growing, unhindered relationship with her. Her forgiveness does not, however, force me back into a relationship with her. I have a choice to make. I can choose to accept her forgiveness, leave the affair, and continue pursuing a relationship with my wife, or I can choose to spurn my wife’s forgiveness and leave with the other woman. In the latter case, I may be offered forgiveness, but it does me no good, because I have chosen to not accept and use that forgiveness. In order for her forgiveness to do me any good, I have to choose to accept it (accept her and confess my wrongs) and leave the other woman (repent). Because I am forgiven and my wife is forgiving, this does not give me the freedom to enter into other affairs, knowing that she will forgive me. She may forgive me, but with each continued affair, I have a greater and greater tendency to spurn my wife’s forgiveness and leave her.
This is similar to the function of God’s forgiveness. It does not predestine me to be saved or stay in a relationship with Him. It is there to allow me to enter into relationship with Him, but I have to make that choice. That choice involves accepting Him as my Savior (to accept His life in exchange for my own so I can have His reward instead of my curse) and Lord (to allow Him to rule in my life so that I do/think/say what He wants me to and not what I want to; thus I become like Him). He is forgiving by nature, but if I choose to continue to sin over and over, I become insensitive to His Spirit and will eventually choose my own way over His, and I will be lost. His forgiveness does not give me the freedom to sin, it gives me the power, IN Him, to overcome sin and be made righteous.
There is one final aspect of forgiveness that is mentioned in Scripture. It is found in Matthew 6:14,15, and states, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” There are two things I get out of this passage. First of all, if I am forgiven by God (I have accepted his forgiveness, entered into relationship with Him and am being changed into His likeness), it changes me so that I become forgiving of others. Secondly, if I believe that I have been forgiven by God, but I do not have forgiveness for others (I hold grudges and harbor bitterness in my heart towards others), it indicates that I have not applied God’s forgiveness to my life (I am holding the check in my hand but have not deposited or cashed it), and therefore I am still in my sin. My being unforgiving of others is an indicator to me that I have not truly accepted God’s forgiveness for me, because when I do, I will be changed and will become forgiving, as He is.