No matter how long we have been believers, sometimes it is just plain hard to really believe down deep in our toes that God has forgiven all of our sin – past, present, and future. Our guilt and shame threaten to overtake us, our embarrassment is all we can think about, and we cringe at what others may think of us and our seemingly poor witness.
As we approach this topic of our sinful pasts and God’s grand forgiveness, there are two areas which are important to address: the fact that God does forgive us completely and the fact that we may nevertheless still bare the earthly consequences of our sin.
God’s Forgiveness is Thorough and Complete
No matter what precise sin is in your past or how guilty you may feel, Paul reminds us in Romans 8:1 that “therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” Not a little bit of condemnation, not just a small amount of condemnation, no! There is now no condemnation at all for the believer in Christ!
What is so powerful about this statement is that it comes directly on the heels of Paul’s lament at the end of Romans 7 where he writes about what an awful, sinful man he still is. Even now, as a believer in Christ, he still struggles. He still sometimes does those things he knows he shouldn’t do, while he also doesn’t do those things he knows he should. And yet, because he knows the glorious good news of the gospel, he also knows that, because he has been washed in the blood of Christ, there is no condemnation, guilt, or shame remaining on him. It has all been taken away.
The Psalmist points to this fact in one of my favorite psalms, Psalm 103. In verse 12 he says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” This, friend, is why you no longer have to bear a heavy weight of guilt or shame. Your sin is gone!
Another thing to keep in mind as you fight the lies in your mind about your sin and guilt, the lies that seek to pull you down and wrongfully tell you that you are a shameful, condemned person, is this: Christ came for you just as you were! In Mark 2:17, Jesus proclaimed this: “It is not those who are well who need a doctor, but those who are sick. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.” As you think back on your sinful past, don’t cringe and despair over the person you used to be. Delight in the God Who loves you so much that He came to save you and make you new!
This brings us to the second point,
2. We May Still Bear Certain Consequences of Our Sin
While we can truthfully say that our sin has been separated from us as far as the east is from the west, that we are fully forgiven and made new through Christ, and that we possess His righteousness now as our own, it is also true that some sinful actions bring about some particularly awful consequences. While any eternal consequences of our sin have been done away with thanks to Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, we may still experience some earthly consequences in the here and now. We may perhaps experience bodily injury and lack of health, broken relationships, lost financial security, or a soiled reputation as a result of our past choices, and these are consequences we will have to face while still in this life. But even here there is good news!
Proverbs 3:12 tells us, “for the Lord disciplines the one he loves, just as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights.” Not all the consequences you may bear as a result of your sin may be awful things directly resulting from one sinful action or another. They could simply be the result of God’s disciplining you so that He might change, grow, and work in you to sanctify you and make you ever more into His image.
As painful as discipline and consequences of sin are, Romans 8:28 provides us with hope and some much-needed good news – “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” It’s not just some things that God causes to work together for the good of His children. It isn’t just those things which were instances of our living the upright, good, and holy life. No, this passage makes it clear that all things work together for the good of believers – including those awful sins we have committed. If that isn’t amazing, sovereign, abundant grace, I don’t know what is!
While all sin is awful and it often results in us having to suffer the earthly consequences of it, even that reality can be turned around by God for our good as He sanctifies, forms, and fashions us ever more into His image. So, have hope, dear sister! Your sin has been forgiven. It has been separated from you forevermore. And while you may bare some of the consequences of it on this side of heaven, even those can be turned around by God for your good! Look to Him. Keep your eyes fixed on Him. That will make all the difference towards your being made free from the sinking, cringing feelings you used to always have when viewing your past. View it now through the lens of the gospel and what God can do with it instead!