In my younger days I felt that I had to forgive myself. But in reality when we obey all of God’s commands as revealed to us in the Scripture we are forgiven. God reveals to us the point at which we are saved – Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3: 20-22. Paul in Acts 22 was relating his life-changing event on the road to Damascus and relates what Ananias told him to do: Acts 22:16 (ESV) 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’
As we review the life of Paul in Scripture. Paul never felt like he was unforgiven or related that it was necessary for him to forgive himself. He had been forgiven by God as he relates in Acts 22:16. Paul did have regrets about what he had done many times in Scripture. 1 Corinthians 15:9 (ESV) 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. There is a difference between regrets and forgiveness as Paul demonstrates in this verse. I am also sure that Paul whose name was changed from Saul also regretted condoning and supporting those that were stoning Stephen. Acts 7:58 (ESV) 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.
I feel sure that Paul remembered those powerful words Stephen cried out on that afternoon as they were stoning him to death. I feel sure that as Paul later became more aware of who Christ really was, as he learned of the things Jesus had said while dying on the cross, he thought back to those familiar words of Stephen: Acts 7:59–60 (ESV) 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Stephen had put both pieces together. What he had received from Christ, he explained to his murderers through Christ. He had made the connection with forgiveness that we receive through the sacrifice that was accomplished on Calvary.
The apostle Paul was always very stern and direct with those he confronted who wouldn’t accept the Gospel. He never insisted on adding to their conditions and their requirements. We have been forgiven in Christ. God has forgiven us, that is enough. It has been paid in full.
When we try to forgive ourselves we are attempting to add to God’s Word. Unforgiveness of others is a sure way to distract ourselves. Instead we must think that we are forgiven sinners, having received the full grace of God. It then becomes our responsibility to go out into the world telling those others of the good news of what God has done for us. We can then confidently assert, “He can forgive you; He can cleanse you; He can set you free.”
We have established a relationship with others, who work next to us at the office, or have made friends with them in our daily activities. They know the way we talk, and they know our character. We can then influence them for God’s glory. Our message about the gospel of Christ has more influence upon them. When the very one who claims to be forgiven by Him, refuses many times to forgive others, there is no evidence to the world that the gospel we proclaim.
When you meet someone on the street what do they see? Do they see Christ living in you?