If there is a singular symbol of Christianity, it would be the cross. Once a Roman image of excruciating pain and death, now a sign of forgiveness. “For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross” (Col. 1:19,20). “In Him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:14). “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22).
It has been said that most of the mental institutions would be half empty if the patients knew they were fully forgiven. Most of the people that I have had the privilege to help have felt condemned, and question whether they are truly forgiven. There are three primary reasons for that. First, there is the possibility of faulty theology and therefore errant faith. Christians are forgiven, because Christ paid the penalty for their sins. That is appropriated by faith the moment we are born again. “Therefore, since we have been justified (forgiven) by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). Also, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Believers sins are forgiven, past, present, and future.
Some wonder, “I know the sins I have already committed are forgiven, but what about the sins I commit in the future?” When Christ died once for all our sins (Rom. 6:10), how many of your sins were future? All of them were! That is not a license to sin, but a gracious means not to sin as the Apostle Paul explains in Romans chapter six. Others struggle understanding 1 Jn. 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” A superficial reading could result in wrong thinking, “What if I go to sleep tonight and haven’t confessed all my sins and then died in my sleep. Would I be forgiven? Would I still go to heaven?” That would be a terrible way to live, and would inflict a lot of false guilt. We are forgiven because Christ died on the cross for our sins, not because we have confessed every little (or big) sin. We can’t even perfectly know when we have sinned. Good intentions can be accomplished in the flesh, and that would be sin. Confession literally means agreeing with God, which is essentially the same as walking in the light (1 Jn. 1:7).
We should all live in continuous moral agreement with God. When we become aware that we are sinning, we should know that we are forgiven, and that we are being cleansed by the very process of agreeing with God. There is also psychological guilt and the accusations of the evil one, which I will discuss next.
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