How can I be forgiven?

What is sin?

Sin is the transgression of the law 1 John 3:4
Whatever is not of faith is sin Romans 14:23
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God Romans 3:23
Sin is the falling short of the standard of living God requires. 'law' articulates that standard so we have no excuse; but even if we have not read the Bible, we still know in our hearts that we do not meet even our own standards. Every time we put ourselves ahead of someone else, we sin. Every time we go against God, in thought or action, we sin.

The Bible is testimony to God's standard and our failure to meet that standard. God's righteousness demands punishment, but His love has provided a way out.

Authority to forgive sins

Luke 5:17-26 records that four men brought their paralysed friend to Jesus to be healed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralysed man "Man, your sins are forgiven you." 5:20 Some of those present began to reason "Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" ... Jesus responded "... But that you might know the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins" - He said to the man who was paralysed "I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house" Immediately he rose up before them ... and departed to his house.

Later, when challenged why he ate with 'tax collectors and sinners', Jesus answered and said to them all "Those who are well do not need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." Luke 5:31-32

Again, Luke 7:36-50 reports a woman 'who was a sinner' who came and annointed Jesus feet. Jesus declared to those around I say to you, her sins which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little" And he said to her "Your sins are forgiven" ... "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace"

These passages show that Jesus purpose and intention is to forgive sin but forgiveness requires repentance (turning away from sin) and faith (obedience).

Legal basis for forgiveness

Sin can be viewed as incurring a debt which is too big for us to pay back. The good news is that Jesus has paid the debt on our behalf and if we accept His offer of forgiveness, it becomes effective.

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ the Lord Romans 6:23

For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotton Son, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish but have everlasting life John 3:16

If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
My little children, these things I write to you, that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. 1John 1:7-2:2

Many passages in the Bible explain the legal basis under which God forgives sin. They all point to someone else taking the punishment for us. From the day God killed animals to provide a covering for Adam and Eve, until the time of Jesus Christ, this was portrayed in animal sacrifice. Yet killing animals can never cleanse the conscience. The only sufficient sacrifice was Jesus Christ Himself since He was a man who never sinned.

When He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Hebrews 1:3.
Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come ... Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. for if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? ... He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Hebrews 9:11-28

Confess your sin

Repent and believe

When Jesus began his public ministry, he began to preach and say Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand. Matthew 4:17, the same as John the Baptist preached.
When Peter preached in Acts 2:38, he said Repent and let every one of you be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. for the promise is to you and to your children and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord your God will call.

Repentance is essential for forgiveness and involves making the definite decision that from now on, you will seek to live to please God. (John 8:28-29, II Corinthians: 5:9). John the baptist said to those he baptised "Bear fruits worthy of repentance" Matthew 3:8. Jesus said to a woman Go and sin no more. John 8:11

Paul describes this as Put off the old man and put on the new man Ephesians 4:17-32

The Holy Spirit comes to help us know and do what is right (John 14:26). When we sin again, we quickly confess it and claim again the blood of Jesus.

The widely quoted 'Lords Prayer' contains the couplet forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. to which Jesus added the comment For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 7:12, 14-15.

A suggested prayer

Father I have sinned against you. I acknowledge that Jesus has suffered severe punishment resulting in His death on the cross in my place, that He rose from the dead after three days and is now at your side in heaven waiting for me to accept Him. Today, I turn from living my way to living to please you. Please forgive my sin and help me to forgive everyone who offends me. Thank you for hearing my prayer. I receive Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord and thank you for your Holy Spirit who will help me. Amen

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