God promises things that seem impossible and undoable. He says that he can heal us, transform us, forgive us and even make us a new person. Those are truly outrageous promises! But then he backs up his outrageous rhetoric with outrageous results.
Here is an outrageous claim by God: he can help you forgive yourself. Most people find it difficult to forgive themselves over mistakes they have committed. Here are three reasons why people find it hard to forgive themselves. People can’t forgive themselves over:
Mistakes they should not have made in the first place
Some people have a kind of “zero tolerance policy” for themselves. These perfectionistic people experience a lot of guilt when they make mistakes they feel they should not have made in the first place. And because of that they can’t forgive themselves.
Mistakes they made in the past
These people have difficulty forgiving themselves over serious transgressions made in their past. Memories of mistakes made in the past are replayed over and over again in their minds on an endless loop of self-judgment.
Mistakes they made over missed opportunities
A lot of people live with tremendous regret and guilt over the missed opportunities they didn’t take advantage of in their lives. Distracted or workaholic parents experience tremendous guilt over missed opportunities when their kids were going up. Husbands lost their wives because they made work or money their mistress and missed opportunities to invest in their marriage.
There is no greater lesson of forgiveness in the Bible than that of the apostle Paul. Saul, who later became the apostle Paul was in need of tremendous forgiveness. Truth be told, Saul was the original religious terrorist. He made it his full time mission to wipe out as many Christians as possible and his used Mafia style tactics to make it happen (Acts 9:1-2; Acts 22:4-5).
How to forgive yourself
1. Be honest about your sin
Jesus went to great lengths to confront Saul/Paul of his mistakes. Saul was on his way to persecute another group of Christ followers when Jesus confronted him of his sin. Honesty is still the best policy if you want to learn how to receive forgiveness. God provided a safe place for you to be honest because of the cross.
2. Appreciate the price Jesus paid
The Bible tells us that a heavy price has to be paid to provide forgiveness. The price is so steep and so costly that only Jesus is qualified to pay the penalty. He is the pure and spotless Lamb and only he is qualified to pay the total penalty. But the good news is that he did pay the penalty and now our guilt is done away with.
Hebrews 10:11-18 (MSG) Every priest goes to work at the altar each day, offers the same old sacrifices year in, year out, and never makes a dent in the sin problem. As a priest, Christ made a single sacrifice for sins, and that was it! Then he sat down right beside God and waited for his enemies to cave in. It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some very imperfect people. By that single offering, he did everything that needed to be done for everyone who takes part in the purifying process.
“Sitting down”= In the Scriptures “sitting down” carried the idea that an action is finished, it is completed, it is done, and declared perfect. God is done with your guilt so you can be done with it.
3. Don’t look back
All of us have memories and regrets that can not only haunt us, but keep us from letting go of the past and experiencing the forgiveness Christ has for us.
Philippians 3:13-14 …but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
The apostle teaches us an important lesson about forgiveness- we can’t look back. No more living in the rearview mirror. Nor more looking back. Because Christ has forgiven us, we can forgive ourselves. Because he is done with our sin, we can be done with it also.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- Share some outrageous things you have heard people have done.
- What are some mistakes that people make that they feel bad about?
- Share some examples that you have made in the past that you wish you would not have made?
- Read Acts 9:1-2; Acts 22:4-5. Share why you think Jesus is so firm in the way he confronted Saul.
- The first step to forgiveness is to be honest. Why do you think it so difficult for us to admit our sin to God and one another?
- Read Hebrews 10:11-18. Describe the depth of suffering Jesus was willing to endure to purchase our forgiveness.
- Read Philippians 3:13-14. Why do you think Paul tells us to not look back in our lives?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.