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If God forgives sexual sin, why do I not feel forgiven?

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If God forgives sexual sin, why do I not feel forgiven?
Posted on February 25, 2020  - By B Abraham Samuel

If God forgives sexual sin, why do I not feel forgiven? I want to wipe the slate clean, but I can’t. What can I do to make things right again and make the guilt go away? I know that this type of sin in particular has consequences I cannot get away from, but how does one move on if we’re truly sorry?

There are two distinct but related questions you have asked here. One has to do with what forgiveness is, and the other has to do with how you should respond to guilt (from sin).

Let’s address the first question by first clarifying a misconception.

Feelings do not determine truth

Sometimes we believe in the rightness of a doctrine depending on our feelings. But our feelings can deceive us. Our feelings do not determine whether a biblical teaching is right or wrong.

For example, it is possible that sometimes we don’t feel loved by God. But the Bible teaches us that love is not a feeling — it is a commitment (Romans 8:32, Philippians 1:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:24). Whether we “feel” loved or not, God loves us in Christ (Romans 5). I can be sure that God loves me even when I don’t feel it because the Bible (God) says so. Similarly, I can be sure of God’s forgiveness because the Bible says that “If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). God’s forgiveness means He “covers” our sins and does not “count them against us” (Psalm 32:1-2). He does not count them against us because He put our sins on Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21) and punished Him. And since Jesus was punished for your (sexual) sin, you will be forgiven when you look to God for mercy (Ephesians 1:7).

The Bible teaches us that love is not a feeling — it is a commitment. We can be sure that God loves us even when we don’t feel it because the Bible says so

Because of Jesus, you will have a clean slate before God. In Jesus, God sees you as righteous. So, here’s the good news: if you have looked to God for mercy, you are forgiven — whether you feel it or not.

How to redeem our guilt

But having said that, can we still feel the guilt of our sin? That is the second part of your question. Guilt is a terrible thing. We are reminded of what we did and such reminders fill us with regrets and “if onlys”. All of us have experienced guilt. Guilt hurts us, and we don’t like it.

But guilt is a good thing. It is God’s way of reminding us that we have a problem in us and the problem is sin. It is God’s way of caring for us. The uncomfortable feeling is God’s way of helping us see that our thoughts and actions have been against God. Therefore, guilt is not our enemy. The problem is that we don’t know how to process guilt.

So, how do you deal with guilt? In his book, Freedom from Guilt, Timothy Lane writes, “There are many wrong ways to deal with your guilt.” He cites a few:

  1. Try to be a better person: We make resolutions to stop doing that wrong behaviour. We keep them for a while, but then we break our own resolutions. And our guilty feelings return.
  2. Compare yourself to others: Sometimes, we pacify ourselves by telling ourselves that there are worse people than us. In our self-righteousness, we tell ourselves that we are far better than others. But even this attitude does not rid us of our nagging feeling that we have failed to measure up.
  3. Become obsessed with your guilt: We become so occupied with our sins that they seem bigger than our Saviour. Guilt manipulates us into thinking our sins are so great that God cannot forgive them. We ask ourselves, “Will God ever forgive me?” or “How will God ever forgive me?” or even, “Has God forgiven me at all?” This kind of guilt is a soul-crusher.

Have you noticed that none of the ways mentioned above end in God? They are all self-focused. God does not want guilt to manipulate us, but to motivate us. Guilt is God’s way of motivating us to come to Him. And that is the right way to deal with guilt — to approach God in faith.

Guilt is not our enemy. The problem is that we don’t know how to process guilt

The answer to our guilt is not in our plans or our works; it is in Jesus Christ. Because Jesus died in our (the guilty ones) place, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). Jesus’ death alone frees us from guilt before God. The right way is to approach God’s throne of grace (not judgment) with confidence (not doubt or fear), so that we may receive mercy and find grace (not rejection or condemnation) to help us (Hebrews 4:16). The gospel is God’s answer to your guilt.

Search your heart

What I’d like to do is offer you a few questions that may be of help to you in your fight against guilt:

  • Have you genuinely confessed your sin? I ask that because genuine confession is an owning of sin before God and those sinned against. It is not defensive. It does not accuse. It makes no excuse. It is genuine, in that it does not hide.
  • Why did you confess? This is a healthy question to ask because, sometimes, people confess from fear of shame or being exposed. Such confession is not genuine because it comes from a heart that is more concerned about what people think or say about us. It stems from self-love.
  • When you confessed, what did you believe? I ask this because it is possible to confess without believing in the promises of God. Assurance of pardon is a fruit of faith in the promises of God for us in Christ.
  • What is God’s expression toward you now? Do you see God as an angry Father? When you pray, do you pray because you are scared of what God will do to you? Or, do you see a Father (Luke 15:20b-24) who delights in you and whose love for you has not diminished one bit? Do you see a Father who smiles at you?
  • Who is speaking the truth to you? Sin loves secrecy. Reach out (expose your sin) to a mature Christian who will help you. Having someone walk with you is your way of acknowledging you need help and you are willing to receive help from the community God has put around you (the church). That too is an expression of your faith!

Sin loves secrecy. Reach out (expose your sin) to a mature Christian who will help you

I hope these questions will help you.

Consequences that work for good

You also asked about the consequences of our sin. There can be many consequences to our sin (something that sin does not tell us when it lures us). What we need to accept is that we have no control over the consequences of our sin. And God does not call us to control those consequences. God calls us to trust Him (Psalm 32:10b). However, these consequences are helpful for the repentant Christian in three ways:

  1. They remind us of the evil that sin brings.
  2. They humble us in the present.
  3. They protect us from future foolishness.

So, how will you move on? There are two options — either trust in your own efforts, or trust in God. The first option is a foolish option. David will tell you that (Psalm 32). The second option is what God commends (Luke 18:9-14). To trust in God means you believe Christ was punished for you and you therefore need not work yourself toward God. It also means that you wait on God. As your Father, let His faithful love surround you, no matter what path lies ahead of you.



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