Can God Forgive Me?
By Kyle Pope
When the Lord called the
prophet Isaiah, in wonder and fear he said, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I
dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5a, NKJV). Isaiah was neither the first nor the last to
feel as if his past failures made him unworthy of God’s attention. Simon Peter went so far as to ask Jesus to leave
him. Recognizing the awesome power of Jesus
to cause the nets to overflow with such a large catch of fish, he said to Him,
“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8).
It is easy to feel that the sins of our past are just too
much for God to forgive. We have hurt
others and ourselves. We have lied. We have cheated. We have broken vows to God and man. We have stolen what belonged to someone
else. We have said things we should not
have said. We have used our bodies in
ways that we should not have used them.
We have put into our bodies things we should not. We have thought and done things we wish we
could take back. And yet, as Shakespeare
said, “What’s done cannot be undone” (Macbeth
Act 5, Scene 1.62) or as the Chinese proverb puts it, “A word once spoken
cannot be called back even by a team of four horses.”
The Apostle Paul at times must certainly have had such
feelings. This man could look back to a
time when he had violently opposed faith in Jesus. He was with those who stoned the first
Christian martyr Stephen (Acts 7:58; 8:1).
He dragged Christians out of their homes and into prison (Acts
8:3). Scripture tells us he breathed
“threats and murder” against believers in Jesus (Acts 9:1). And yet, this hard cruel man was brought to
his knees when the Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:2-9). He was taught the gospel by a Christian named
Annanias (Acts 9:10-19) put his faith in Jesus and was baptized washing away
his sins (Acts 22:16). Years later he
reflected on the wonderful mercy God had shown to him. He wrote, “This is a faithful saying and
worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save
sinners, of whom I am chief” (I Timothy 1:15).
As human beings we find this hard to accept. When we are wronged we hold a grudge. We get even!
While certain things might “roll off” our back, if a line is crossed,
that’s it. The relationship is
ended. With God, it is not that He is
any less offended by wrongs done to Him, but rather he is much more
patient. He extends every opportunity
for repentance and eagerly awaits our return to Him. His very act of sending Jesus to die for our
sins demonstrated both how serious sin is but how much He was willing to do
that we might be reconciled to Him.
After describing himself as the chief of all sinners Paul
went on to write, “for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus
Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to
believe on Him for everlasting life” (I Timothy 1:15-16). If we should ever say to ourselves, “I am
just too far gone--Jesus can’t forgive me!”
Paul tells us, look at me! If
Jesus was willing to forgive a man like Paul He can forgive anyone—even you and
The challenge is that we must not allow God’s merciful
nature to lead us to forget how serious it is to disobey what God
commands. Every bruise that Jesus
endured, every thorn that pierced His forehead, every nail that ripped through
his hands and feet was because of my sin and yours! While Paul recognized that nothing he could
ever do could make up for his past, he also realized that the way to show
gratitude for the Lord’s forgiveness was through complete and whole-hearted
obedience to Him. If we would seek God’s
mercy we must fully obey Him as well.