"Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?" - Romans 2:4
For many years, my walk with God lacked knowledge of the above truth; I knew God was kind, forbearing and patient towards me, but was ignorant of how I should respond to it. Various passages of Scripture confused me such as Exodus 34:6-7,
“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
For some years I felt self-condemned over patterns of sin in my life. I would think to myself, "Am I among the forgiven or am I among the guilty?" Was I one of God's enemies or one of His children? After all, my pattern of sin was met with more remorse and not much repentance. I lacked assurance that I was even saved. I used to read Romans 7 and use it as a cushion for excusing my own sinfulness; after all, if Paul said in Romans 7:20, "Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me," then it really wasn't me but just the sin that lingers...or was it? Didn't Paul say earlier in his same letter that God's kindness toward me is to lead me to repentance? Where is my repentance? I was self-deceived in my walk with God. I professed to be a sheep but looked more like a goat. Does this sound like you?
It wasn't until later I learned that repentance is not a work that I do, but a gift from God Himself (2 Tim. 2:25). Learning this made a huge impact in my understanding of my personal struggle. Yes, I am the one repenting but it is first God who works within me to do it (Phil. 2:13). As a result, I was then confident that I was granted repentance and not just being remorseful, since I knew it ultimately came from God and I was seeing the fruit of that belief and understanding of His Word powerfully working out in my life.
Is the Lord's kindness leading you to repentance or are you "playing the game" and deceiving yourself? As God works daily repentance in my heart, I can confidently say that I delight in God's law (Ps. 1:2) and can boldly come before the throne of grace to find help and mercy in time of need (Heb. 4:16). I am completely and utterly dependent on God and I find it very satisfying to be so. I pray and hope you find this same joy in Christ.
Thanks be to the Lord Jesus Christ who perfectly and powerfully gathers the elect of God, leads them to repentance, and gives them a heart of flesh that desires to do His gracious will!
*Adopted from a sermon on 1 John 1:5-10 preached at Riverside Christian Fellowship in Hernando, FL*
Forgiveness of sins is a work accomplished by Christ alone. God has been more than generous to us by sending His Son to shed His blood on the cross, where we find forgiveness and new life (Eph. 1:7). Because of that, Christians ought never to think, "I need to forgive myself." There is no power in that notion; there is no real forgiveness in "forgiving self." Self-forgiveness, as humble as it may look on the surface, is a form of self-idolatry. Let me explain. A Christian sees his forgiveness in Christ as all-saving and all-sufficient, but does he see it as all-satisfying? When you commit a sin, you feel bad about it, you confess it, and repent...but there is something that lingers in your mind. You've believed what God has declared in His Word, you ARE forgiven of your sins, but there remains an empty space in your heart that hasn't been satisfied; there is something else that you perceive NEEDS to take place. So you say, "I just need to forgive myself." In essence, we are saying, "I know God has forgiven me but I am not satisfied with that, so I also need to forgive myself. I need God's forgiveness AND my own forgiveness." We think to ourselves, “With God’s forgiveness, I KNOW I am forgiven, but with self-forgiveness, I FEEL I am forgiven.” This belief is completely foreign to the Word of God and it has no place in the life of a Christian. It is a sin that needs to be confessed and repented of. Self-forgiveness is what the world teaches and desires; we know that God says "the world is passing away along with its desires" (1 John 2:17). Self-forgiveness is what Satan wants you to believe; he knows he can't take away your actual forgiveness in Christ but he is going to do whatever he can to sap the satisfaction of that forgiveness by offering/adding a counterfeit that supposedly can tune in to your feelings. Self-forgiveness is not of God and therefore it is not for you. We need to readily acknowledge and embrace that God's forgiveness found only in the blood of Christ is all-saving, all-sufficient, and all-satisfying. We can both KNOW and FEEL true forgiveness in Christ.