Forgiveness for Recurring Sin?
Question: “Will God continue to forgive you if you commit the same sin over and over again?”
Answer: To best answer this question, we’re going to look at two powerful passages of Scripture. The first is found in the book of Psalms: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). One of the most effective tricks Satan plays on Christians is to convince us that our sins aren’t really forgiven, despite the promise of God’s Word. If we’ve truly received Jesus as Savior by faith, and still have that uneasy feeling wondering whether or not there is true forgiveness, that may be coming from demonic influences. Demons hate it when people are delivered from their grasp, and they try to plant seeds of doubt in our minds about the reality of our salvation. In his vast arsenal of tricks, one of Satan’s biggest tools is to constantly remind us of our past transgressions, and he uses those to prove that God couldn’t possibly forgive or restore us. The devil’s attacks make it a real challenge for us to simply rest in the promises of God and trust His love.
But this psalm also tells us that God not only forgives our sins, but removes them completely from His presence. This is a profound thing! Without question, this is a very difficult concept for humans to grasp, which is why it’s so easy for us to worry and wonder about forgiveness instead of just accepting it. The key lies in simply giving up our doubts and our feelings of guilt and resting in His promises of forgiveness.
Another passage is 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” What an incredible promise! God forgives His children when they sin if only they come to Him and in an attitude of repentance and ask to be forgiven. God’s grace is so great that it can cleanse the sinner from his sin so that he becomes a child of God, and, correspondingly, it is so great that even when we stumble, we can be forgiven still.
In Matthew 18:21-22, we read, “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” Peter was probably thinking that he was being generous. Rather than repay a person who had committed a sin against him with equal retribution, Peter suggested giving the brother some leeway, say, up to seven times. But the eighth time, forgiveness and grace would run out. But Christ challenged the rules of Peter’s suggested economy of grace by saying that forgiveness is infinite for those who are truly seeking it. This is only possible because of the infinite grace of God which is made possible through the shed blood of Christ on the cross. Because of Christ’s forgiving power, we can always be made clean after we sin if we humbly seek it.
At the same time, it must be noted that it is not biblical for a person to sin habitually and continually as a lifestyle and still be a believer (1 John 3:8-9). This is why Paul admonishes us to “examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5). As Christians, we do stumble, but we do not live a lifestyle of continual, unrepentant sin. All of us have weaknesses and can fall into sin, even if we don’t want to. Even the apostle Paul did what he didn’t want to do because of the sin at work in his body (Romans 7:15). Like Paul, the response of the believer is to hate the sin, repent of it and ask for divine grace to overcome it (Romans 7:24-25). Although we need not fall because of God’s sufficient grace, sometimes we do because we rely upon our insufficient strength. When our faith grows weak and like Peter, we deny our Lord in word or in life, even then there is still a chance to repent and be forgiven of our sin.
Another one of Satan’s tricks is to get us into thinking that there is no hope, that there is no possibility that we can be forgiven, healed, and restored. He will try to get us to feel consumed and trapped by guilt so that we do not feel worthy of God’s forgiveness any longer. But since when were we ever worthy of God’s grace? God loved us, forgave us and chose us to be in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-6), not because of anything we did, but “in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:12). We must always keep in mind that there is no place we can go that God’s grace cannot reach, and there is no depth to which we can sink that God is no longer able to pull us out. His grace is greater than all of our sin. Whether we are just starting to wander off course or we are already sinking and drowning in our sin, grace can be received.
Grace is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8). When we sin, the Spirit will convict us of sin such that a godly sorrow will result (2 Corinthians 7:10-11). He will not condemn our souls as if there is no hope, for there is no longer any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). The Spirit’s conviction within us is a movement of love and grace. Grace is not an excuse to sin (Romans 6:1-2), and it dare not be abused, meaning that sin must be called sin, and it cannot be treated as if it is harmless or inoffensive. Unrepentant believers need to be lovingly confronted and guided to freedom, and unbelievers need to be told that they need to repent. Yet let us also emphasize the remedy, for we have been given grace upon grace (John 1:16). It is how we live, how we are saved, how we are sanctified, and how we will be kept and glorified. Let us receive grace when we sin by repenting and confessing our sin to God. Why live a soiled life when Christ offers to make us clean and whole and right in the eyes of God?