We first have to come to the realization that we need help to remove the stain of sin from our heart. We need the cleansing of our soul, which can only be done by the Blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.
Psalm 32:5... I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.
1John 1:9... If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
No matter how good you think you are, there is still sin in your life. We'll never make it on our own, for we are lacking righteousness. Man needs a mediator to have fellowship with God, the Father. This Mediator is Jesus Christ. So, this is where the forgiving of our sins comes in and with this, the beginning of a new life in Christ.
Psalm 103:12... As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us. Once we have become His children, we have to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.
Once having been washed by the Blood of the Lamb we are acceptable to God, and righteous in His eyes. But, we live and move and have our being in a world of sin. We wrestle against sin, the flesh, and Satan. Our feet, as it were, will still get dirty with the dust from this world. And as we work out our salvation day to day our feet MUST be washed. This does not mean that we lose our salvation, but we become marked with the dirty streaks of sin and need to be cleansed. This cleansing is needed for our sanctification, peace of mind, and communion with God.
We don't need to be saved over and over again. But, we need to be cleansed on a daily basis, as we still err and are imperfect. This is what Jesus meant by the "footwashing" in John 13:1-18 . Peter didn't understand what Jesus was doing and Jesus replied to him in verse 7, "What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter." And now we do know it; forgiveness through cleansing by His Blood. First the cleansing of the whole body, then our feet washed by Him, and also the washing of each others feet.
1John 2:1,2... My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
Forgiveness is for the asking. We must repent of our sins and come to Him with a contrite spirit. Nowhere in the Bible do we read that Jesus questioned those who came to Him for forgiveness. He didn't say: "Now, my friend, why did you do that, you should have known better." He did not even ask the woman at the well about her five husbands. I am almost sure that most of us would inquire about all her divorces and her reputation, before we would give her "the living water." I can just see the eyes of Jesus looking straight at the woman, full of compassion, no condemnation.
Psalm 86:5...For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon Thee.
As God in Christ forgave you, so you must forgive also. Once you begin to receive and understand the forgiveness granted to you, only then does it become a privilege to forgive others; a service to your fellow believer. Your heart should ache for the sin your brother has done against you, rather than thinking how to take revenge. Neither should you wait until your brother comes to you and asks for forgiveness. No! The Bible teaches that we have to go to that brother and forgive him, even if he is at fault. Boy, that goes right against the old "flesh", doesn't it? However, we need to keep that flesh down and buried, remember? We are supposed to be sad, instead of mad, when a brother sins against us.
Matthew 5:23,24... Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
Proverbs 24:29... Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.
We must not forget how God in Christ forgave us. That is why we partake at the Lord's Supper, in remembrance of His Sacrifice for our sins, as we have received forgiveness by God in Christ. He reached out to you, even before you called upon Him. Don't you remember that? He forgave you even before you repented. He gave His Son for He does not want anyone to perish. His forgiveness for you was already there.
Luke 15:21... And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
The parable of the Prodigal Son reflects God's love and forgiveness. The father's heart was aching for the lost son. He was waiting for any opportunity to get a glimpse of him, looking out for his return. The father's heart of forgiveness was anxiously waiting to receive the prodigal son. And the moment he saw him from a far distance, he rushed over toward him, embraced him and kissed him. Wow !! What a father. He didn't even point his finger, instead he had a feast prepared. For he that was lost, is now found. This is godly forgiveness. It is soothing and healing, a balm for the wounds. It brings a new beginning. Glory to God!
Romans 5:5...And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
God, the Father will not keep on reminding us of our sins. Although we shall never forget them, He has put our sins in the sea of forgetfulness. Peter was never able to forget that he had denied his acquaintance with Jesus Christ. However, after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit he became a changed man. Peter had also learned not to brood upon the past and he spoke with boldness to the crowd about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, in Acts Chapters 2 and 3. Now this is the power of being forgiven, it gives New Hope and new aspirations.
Could you just transfer this knowledge of forgiveness to your personal life? And could you start to practise this as well?
Matthew 6:12,14,15... And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors... 14: For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Jesus clearly speaks of the consequences of unforgiveness, and He does not suggest any exceptions. Jesus even said to Simon Peter, to continuously forgive them that trespass against us. Well, this goes far beyond our human judgement. Yes, that is correct. But the Bible does not say to be filled with the Holy Spirit for nothing, for it is only through Him that we can fulfill this command.
Matthew 18:22... Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
Jesus is saying here not to put any limits on forgiving, but to continue to forgive. It is not a matter how often we are supposed to forgive, but how often we "need" to forgive.
Read also Matthew 18:23-35, the parable of The Unmerciful Servant. This parable shows you what man is like; greedy and merciless. Let our hearts be far from this.
Matthew 18:35... So likewise shall My heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
Ephesians 4:32... And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
You don't have to come to the Lord with all kinds of excuses, such as: "You have no idea how she has hurt my feelings." Or even worse: " I will forgive him, but I will never talk to him again." Forgiveness comes through the love of Christ , not through your own heart. You have no real love of yourselves, but mainly emotions. And they often will run high. Godly love forgives! Love is willing to overlook.
Colossians 3:13... Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
James 5:16... Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
To be able to forgive others comes from the knowledge of having received God's forgiveness from sin, through Jesus Christ. Those who are willing to forgive possess a godly character, for they have been forgiven themselves. Forgiving others provides the benefit of blessing the heart and soul of the follower of Christ. Obtaining and giving forgiveness brings peace and tranquillity to the mind, and a peaceful sleep at night. As I mentioned before, forgiveness brings healing to body, soul and spirit, to the giver and the receiver. In contrast, unforgiveness, bitterness toward and hatred of the brethren invites ailments and the discipline of the Lord. Refusing to forgive the trespasses of our brother is sin, and God cannot hear our prayers.
Psalms 66:18... If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord WILL NOT HEAR ME.
2 Chronicles 7:14... If My people, which are called by My Name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven , and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
We "can" forgive, and we have to. We can do it through the love of God in us. We can say with Paul: "Through Him I can do all things." You have to start believing what God's word says and then walk in it. Once you make your first step in that direction, the Father is right there to make the impossible, POSSIBLE. God stands behind His word. He will not command anything of you that you cannot do.
1John 4:8... He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
1John 3:14... We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
By forgiving our brethren, we provide them with the opportunity to become that which God wants them to be. It presents an opportunity for a change for the better. Forgiveness sets them free from their bond of sin and circumstances and encourages them to act in a different manner. Forgiveness is an agent of change for both the one forgiven and the person who forgives. Leave room for the Lord to deal with the one you have forgiven.
Romans 12:21... Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
1 Peter 3:8,9 ... Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
So, where do you start when forgiving does not come easy? Go to the "source"; the love of God. Willingly surrender your life to God and allow God's love to permeate your whole being. As your sins are forgiven, so will you forgive others also.
Matthew 5:7... Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Psalm 32:1... Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
John 13:34,35... A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.