Forgive Yourself and Begin a New Life in Christ (Philippians 3:13)
A lot of people struggle daily because of something in their past, something embarrassing or even shameful. Worse yet, some so deeply regret the sins of their past they cannot forgive themselves. It is not much of a stretch to claim that most people have something buried in their past that they would just as soon stay buried. We are a fallen people living in a fallen world. To make matters worse, wisdom rarely visits the young. As a result, we often make rash decisions in our early years and do things that on more mature reflection, we regret. If this rule of thumb applies to you, don’t despair. Join the crowd; there are a lot of us. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that if you are a believer, you don’t have to let your past hold you back. With Christ, every day can be a new day. Because of God’s grace and mercy, you can start your life over any day with a clean slate. The process is simple. First, you place your sins at the feet of Christ, repent, and ask for His forgiveness. If you ask in a spirit of contriteness, Christ will forgive you. This done, the next step is to forgive yourself. If you struggle with this step, look in a mirror and ask, “Who are you to refuse to forgive yourself when Christ- your Lord and Savior—has forgiven you?” It is a sin to refuse to forgive yourself once Christ has forgiven you.
Christ expects His children to look to the future, not the past. His infinite mercy and grace make it possible for you to do so. This is the message in Philippians 3:13-14: “…But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Once you have put your sins from the past behind you, it’s a new day and you are a new person.
At this point, God expects you to grow in Christ every day. Here are some things that will help you grow in Christ while, at the same time, moving beyond the sins that once caused you such anguish and regret:
You were justified the minute you gave your heart and life to Christ. Justification is God’s declaration that you—a sinner—are now righteous and have begun down the path of sanctification.
You are being sanctified as you grow in Christ every day. Sanctification means God is transforming every aspect of your being through the work of the Holy Spirit. Sanctification is a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient with yourself as God is patient with you. There will be good days and bad, ups and downs. Perfection in Christ doesn’t happen this side of the grave. When you trip up, get up. Repent, ask for forgiveness, and continue to grow in Christ.
Switch your focus from what the world thinks of you to what God thinks of you. The approval of peers is conditional, fleeting, and based on their own self-interests. The approval of God is unconditional, permanent, and based on your best interests.
Practice thanking God for your manifest blessings not just when things are going your way, but especially when they are not. God uses the rough spots in our lives to bring us closer to Him. For this we can always be thankful and should be.
Let your faith in Christ help you set an example for others of being calm in the midst of the storms of life. Because you now have Christ at your side in the form of the Holy Spirit, you know your story ultimately ends well. Knowing this can give you a better perspective for dealing with the everyday struggles of life.
When you pray, remember that God always answers prayers, but sometimes He says “no.” God knows what we need better than we do. Consequently, there are times when “no” is the right answer to your prayer no matter how badly you wanted “yes.”
No matter what might be lurking in your past, forgiveness is available to you and a forgiven person is a new person. If you struggle with sins in your past, ask God to forgive you. Then, forgive yourself, and start building a new life in Christ.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Veteran’s Lament: Is This the America We Fought For? and Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press.