Am I Really Forgiven?
Dear Dawson, I need your help. I became a Christian four years ago, and I've tried to live a Christian life. I've messed up a lot, but I've asked God to forgive me every time. And I know he has forgiven me. But lately, it seems like I'm constantly feeling guilty about things I'm not even sure I've done. I want the joy back that I experienced when I first became a Christian. Why do I feel guilty?
You're being honest about a difficult subject. Through weekend conferences and my radio show, I talk to thousands of students every year, and many of them feel the same way you do.
You understand what guilt is, but I don't believe you fully grasp the greatness of God's forgiveness. I want you to understand that when you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, God promised he would never stop forgiving you, no matter what you do wrong.
But you don't have to take my word for it. Here's what the Bible says: "If we walk in the light, as he is in the light … the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. … If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:7, 9).
That means God continues to purify us even while we are trying, as you are, to live the Christian life. He does that through the blood of Jesus Christ, the blood that saved you forever when you decided to follow him four years ago.
But you must also remember that while God wants you to know you are forgiven, Satan wants you to feel guilty. Satan, the prince of darkness, knows your feelings of guilt will make you feel like you're separated from God. But this is a lie, and a powerful one because Satan is a masterful liar.
The Bible calls Satan an "accuser" (Revelation 12:10) and the deceiver of the whole world (Revelation 13:14). But while Satan tries to accuse you and make you feel guilty, God declares that you are holy and righteous (Romans 3:22). God said we are completely forgiven because Jesus paid the penalty for our sins when he died on the cross. So when Satan tries to make you think you can never really be forgiven, remember this: Christ's death and resurrection was the ultimate victory over sin and death. Satan lost and God's people won. And that includes you.
"He has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith" (Colossians 1:22-23). You see, God has done a truly awesome thing. Because you believe in Christ and have accepted what he did for you, God sees you as completely pure and holy, without any faults.
And finally, I sense that a lot of what you believe about yourself and about God is based on your feelings. But we can't always rely on our feelings; they change all the time. The weather can affect our feelings. What we eat can change our feelings. But God is unchangeable; he's always the same, and his promises always stand, no matter how we're feeling.
So, when you have feelings of guilt when there's no basis for that guilt, go back to the facts. Those facts state that you are loved by God, made completely pure and holy through Jesus Christ, and cleansed by the Heavenly Father. I urge you to bank on those facts.
Dawson McAllister is a popular youth speaker. You can check out his site (http://www.thehopeline.com/).
1998 by the author or Christianity Today/Campus Life magazine. For reprint information call 630-260-6200.