I keep asking God to forgive me for something I did that was very bad, but I don’t feel like He has forgiven me. Why do I feel this way?
The fact that you recognize your sin, understand your need for forgiveness and seek God to forgive you, is an indication that the Holy Spirit is active in your life. He is convicting you of sin and you are responding by asking for forgiveness. However, it seems that you are not finding peace in knowing that God has forgiven you. First John 1:9 reminds us that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
That verse in 1 John is about sins that we commit after we have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and made a new creation in Christ. We know that when Jesus said on the cross, “it is finished” (John 19:30), He meant that He had paid the penalty for the sins of the world in full. For those who repent and trust in Jesus, all of their sins (past, present, and future) have all been nailed to His cross (Colossians 2:14) and His blood has washed them away (Rev 1:5). So your sins were forgiven the moment you repented and trusted in Jesus. You already have His forgiveness. It’s done. You are sealed…forever in Him! So, why do you still feel unforgiven?
Reasons for Not Feeling Forgiven
1) Not Understanding Justification and Sanctification
We were totally cleansed of sin by Jesus in our justification (salvation for eternal life) Of course, we know that we continue to sin even after Jesus saves us and washes us clean. So as 1 John says, we continue to confess our sins and Jesus is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us of them. This is not for a cleansing of sin in our justification (Read, The Gift of SalvaTION: Justification & Imputation). It is a cleansing of sin for our sanctification (Read, What you need to know about Sanctification & Glorification).
but in our sanctification (the process of becoming conformed to the image of Jesus (Ro 8:29), we still need to be cleansed. In our justification, we have eternal union with Jesus. In our sanctification, we seek to have ongoing communion with Him. It is that communion that is “dirtied” when we sin. And so, we confess and Jesus is faithful to forgive. This washes us (More specifically our feet. Read, 1 John 1:9 What is the Christian “Bar of Soap?”) so we more fully experience and enjoy our communion and fellowship with Jesus. Not understanding the difference between justification (union with Christ) and sanctification (communion with Him) is one reason you might not feel forgiven.
2) Feelings of Guilt
Another reason you might not be feeling forgiven is that you are dwelling on the grievous nature of your sin against a Holy God. If this is the case, my advice is…don’t trust how you feel. Trust, instead, in who you KNOW, the Lord Jesus Christ. Read of His love, His promises, and His faithfulness to forgive you. Martin Luther wrote that we are not to trust in what we feel, but whom and what we know.
“Feelings come and feelings go,
And feelings are deceiving;
My warrant is the Word of God–
Naught else is worth believing.
Though all my heart should feel condemned
For want of some sweet token,
There is One greater than my heart
Whose Word cannot be broken.
I’ll trust in God’s unchanging Word
Till soul and body sever,
For, though all things shall pass away,
HIS WORD SHALL STAND FOREVER!”
Read and trust God’s Word. Remember that Jesus’ forgiveness is for all sins–from the smallest “white” lie to a most grievous sin. Search the Bible for assurance of forgiveness. Some verse to start with are: Ro 5:6, Ro 5:8, Ro 4:9, Ro 4:15, 1 Cor 15:3, 1 Cor 6:11, Heb 10:10, Heb 10:14, John 3:17-21, John 10:9, Acts 2:21, Acts 4:12, Acts 16:3, Acts 20:23, Acts 26:18. Those are just a few. There are so many more. Remember that Jesus is faithful to keep His promises and that, in Him, your sins have been:
Psalm 103:12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
Revelation 1:5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
Hebrews 8:12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
Satan would like for you to dwell on past sins but remember you have victory in the cross of Jesus Christ. Again in 1 John, we read, For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Honor Jesus by believing and trusting that He has forgiven You. In that knowledge, you will find the rest Jesus promised. (Mat 11:28)
3) Not Having Repented
Finally, there is one more reason that you might not be feeling forgiven. Perhaps you have not repented of your sin. Repentance is a sorrow of the heart and it is intended to bring about a change of behavior. (Read more about repentance here). If you have sinned, confessed your sins, and asked for forgiveness, but then you commit the same sin again (and sometimes again and again), you should seek help. Always turn to God’s Word, but also seek counsel from a pastor, biblical counselor, Bible teacher, or strong Christian friend who can help you in overcoming habitual sin.
Of greatest importance in feeling forgiven is that you believe. With the renewing of your mind by God’s Word, support from other Christians, and by the power of the Holy Spirit who indwells you, you can find victory over any sin and feel truly forgiven.
Remember…You are Forgiven!
The vain regrets of yesterday
Have vanished through God’s pardoning grace;
The guilty fear has passed away,
And joy has come to take its place. —Author Unkown
Be Ready Always...
to give a reason for the Hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15). When you can’t share the gospel with your words, share it by leaving tracts that tell people about God's grace.
When leaving a tract, always be diligent to pray about the short gospel message. Pray that it be found by someone who is in need of Jesus’ saving grace, and pray that the person will have a tender heart and open ears to receive the gift Jesus desires to give them.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, even a small tract can help in turning a broken sinner from darkness to light.