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What if it’s true . . . that you are forgiven

You may know these words better than you care to admit: “I know God forgives me, but I’m not sure I can ever forgive myself.”

What if it's true Bible study time boxThose words cut deep. They speak to a deep-seated hurt. They dig just a little deeper than the “Say sorry to your sister. . . . Forgive your brother” exchange that was engrained in us as children. They speak to the hurt that is all too familiar, the hurt that keeps you up in the middle of the night as you stare at the glaring light of your digital clock. These words can make your stomach hurt, give you headaches, and suck all your energy. They’re the kind of words you think to yourself during those sleepless nights. King David felt it too when he wrote, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer” (Psalm 32:3,4).

Can you think of a time when you thought those words? Perhaps you are thinking them right now!

Forgiveness: A tricky thing

Forgiveness is a tricky thing, isn’t it? Sometimes people tell us just to “forgive and forget,” as if our minds can just “unremember” things on command. Someone might tell us that forgiving others (or yourself) is admitting that what they did (or what you did) is okay, like it never even happened or was no big deal. Well, if it was no big deal, then what would there be to forgive?

Forgiveness is a tricky thing because we know there are things that need forgiving: things we’ve done, things we’ve left undone, and things that have been done to us.

But did you notice the title of this article? “What if it’s true that you are forgiven?” What if the very thing you are wrestling with is already done?

The apostle Paul certainly wrestled with his own sins. Take a look at Romans chapters 6–8. See how Paul used Baptism as the foundation of the Christian life in Romans chapter 6. Everything should be fine, right? But then you keep reading: “I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18,19). And again: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:24). Paul knew what it was like to beat himself up over his own sin.

So should he have kept beating himself up? Should he have kept wallowing in the self-pity of thinking that his sin was too great to be dealt with? Where should he have turned?

Forgiveness: A solid truth in Christ

In the middle of all that, Romans 8:1 thundered through the storm of Paul’s mind and broke down the self-loathing with this assurance: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Did you hear that? No condemnation! None. It is done. You are forgiven. Christ has accomplished that for you as only he could. Your sin is great, yes, but Christ is greater. Your sin is deadly, yes, but Christ gives life. Your sin leads you to feel guilt, yes, but Christ felt that sting for you and the whole world so that you might experience peace.

Think about it. What if it’s true that you are forgiven? Then your sleepless nights are given to Christ and his cross, and he will give you rest.

And if the memories continue to plague you? Then the knowledge of Christ’s “It is finished” (John 19:30) floods your thinking. What if you don’t think you’re forgivable? Then Christ has another word for you: forgiven. What if you have to face earthly consequences for your actions? You may have to. But in faith, you accept the consequences knowing that Christ has an eternal word of grace for you when you meet him face to face.

What if it’s true that you are forgiven? Dear Christian friend, it is true. May that truth interrupt your sleepless nights with this peace that passes all understanding.

What is forgiveness?

In his book Prepared to Answer, Prof. Mark Paustian writes the following about forgiveness:

Forgiveness means pulling down the zipper on the judge’s robe, slipping it off, hanging it up, leaving the matter of exacting justice to whom it properly belongs, God. Forgiveness is an act of the will, not of the emotions. It is a decision you can make even when you’re still feeling bad about what was done to you. Even if someone devastated you, even in they’re not sorry, you can still give the whole matter over to you God, who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.” Leave it to him (p. 90).

While these thoughts are about forgiving others, they also can apply to you when you struggle to forgive yourself.

This We Believe

What do we believe about justification and the free gift of forgiveness? These statements of belief are from This We Believe, a public summary of the main teachings of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

IV. Justification by grace through faith

1. We believe that God has justified all sinners, that is, he has declared them righteous for the sake of Christ. This is the central message of Scripture upon which the very existence of the church depends. It is a message relevant to people of all times and places, of all races and social levels, for “the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men” (Romans 5:18). All need forgiveness of sins before God, and Scripture proclaims that all have been justified, for “the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men” (Romans 5:18).

2. We believe that individuals receive this free gift of forgiveness not on the basis of their own works, but only through faith (Ephesians 2:8,9).


Learn more by registering for “What if it’s true. . .”, a virtual Forward in Christ Bible study led by Pastor Lyon. More information is available at

Author: Gregory Lyon
Volume 111, Number 4
Issue: April 2024

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This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series What if it's true . . .

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