Unlimited Forgiveness

I think all believers have times when they wonder if God can possibly forgive them yet again after messing up for the umpteenth time. Surely there must be a limit to His forgiveness and surely He must be tired of hearing the same confessions over and over again!

The truth is that there is no limit to God’s ability to forgive, cleans and restore. I cannot think of a single verse in the whole Bible that sets a limit on how many times God will forgive the sinner. It is simply not a question because His forgiveness and mercy are without boundaries. Just think of Israel and how many hundreds of times they sinned the worst kind of sins. Yet the Lord kept forgiving them and restoring them. In two thousand years from Abraham to Jesus, there were only a few isolated times when the Nation really served the Lord, yet He continued to stretch out His hands to them and plead with them to return to Him (Romans 10:21).

Sadly, the time came when He stopped striving with them and turned to the Gentiles but it was not because He had run out of forgiveness and grace, but because they would not turn to Him. And that’s just where the problem lies. We grow tired of asking for forgiveness long before He grows tired of giving forgiveness. And when we cease to turn to Him and confess our sins, He cannot continue to forgive. But as long as we ask, He will surely forgive.

So why do we stop asking? First we stop asking because we, like Israel, become so arrogant and so steeped in our sin, that we no longer see it, and no longer feel the need to repent and to ask for grace. Unfortunately there are far too many people who can no longer see the filth of their sin and feel no need to appeal to the Throne of Grace. And when they do, it is in a superficial and insincere “if I’ve done anything wrong” attitude. God is not interested in confessions like that, or in confessions that are more concerned with self-justification than confession.

The second reason we stop asking is because we feel ashamed of our constant and frequent failures and so come to a point where we just don’t feel we can ask for clemency any more. And that is exactly what the Devil wants – he wants us to feel the shame and to hide from God rather than turn to our Father and experience the grace and forgiveness He so freely dispenses.

If you feel that you cannot continue to ”bother” God, allow me to ask you three questions: How many times have you committed the same sin? Ten, a hundred, or a thousand times? Now the second question: How many times have you sinned since you last asked for forgiveness? Finally: Which of these two numbers does God know about? The only sins He is aware of are the ones you have not yet confessed! The rest are gone, forgiven, forgotten and the counter was reset to zero.

When we come to the Father and tell Him we feel so sorry because we have committed the same sin a thousand times, He responds that He does not know what we are talking about. Those sins have been forgiven and he says “their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Hebrews 8:12). The only ones who are keeping an account is you and the Accuser of the Brethren. So when we approach the throne of grace, the only sins that are of any consequence and the only sins that God remembers are the ones since the last time we came to Him. The rest are gone forever. So if you are keeping a short account with the Lord, there should only be one failure on record at any time and when you ask for forgiveness it is for that one only. The thousands of other times do not exist.

Not only are our sins wiped away and do we begin with a clean slate every time, but there is also a fresh supply of mercy every day – just like the manna in the wilderness. All you have to do is reach out and accept it. “Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). So there is a fresh supply of God’s grace every day and the supply will never run out. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence” (Ephesians 1:7-8). Notice the emphasis on “the riches of His grace” and that He made it “abound” toward us. That does not speak of a mean, stingy, sparingly applied bit of grace but an abundant, generous and superfluous amount of grace – much more than we will ever be able to use up.

I know many feel guilty because they are not getting victory over the same sin that entangles them over and over. Yes, we should be winning the battle and the sin should be losing but that has nothing to do with God’s ability and willingness to forgive. I do not believe that it is God’s will that we never get ahead and that the same sin ensnares us year after year. If you are not winning the battle, then maybe you need to ask for advice and ask someone who is able to give you good advice and council. You may also not be overcoming because you are being disobedient in another but related matter. For instance, maybe the Lord is speaking to you about your prayer life, Bible reading or church attendance and maybe your disobedience in those areas has a direct bearing on why you are vulnerable to temptation and sin. Maybe you are courting sin and not fleeing from it. There are many reasons why you are being defeated.

But that still does not take away from the fact that the Lord can, and wants to, forgive you much more than you want to ask for that forgiveness. You will never get the victory over sin until you learn to ask for, receive, and believe God’s forgiveness. The shame and guilt is what entraps us and prevents us from breaking free. And we far too easily believe the Devil’s lies that we are no good and a loser, than we believe God’s truth that we are cleansed, forgiven, and new creatures.
The basis on which we approach God for forgiveness has nothing to do with your track record, failures or successes. The only thing that matters when you come to the throne of grace is that Jesus’ blood still avails and is still able to cleanse the vilest sin. When the Father sees the blood of His Son, He is satisfied – your track record is totally irrelevant.

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).