“Do we still reap for all past sins if we are forgiven?”
This question was emailed to me by one of our regular readers, Brenda, back in September and it got put on the back burner during our Fall travels. Since it’s such a good question, one that others can profit from, I’m offering a public answer.
Brenda explained that she understood the principle Paul enunciated in Galatians 6:8-9.
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”
Brenda correctly admitted that it’s obvious some sins, like adultery, have long-lasting consequences. King David is such an example. The one identified as “a man after God’s own heart,” committed adultery with Bathsheba. He lied about it. Covered it up. Had her husband killed in battle. And then took her to be his own wife.
The prophet Nathan confronted David, who eventually admitted, “I have sinned.” David’s remorse is obvious. His painful pleas to God begging forgiveness are found in the Psalms. God forgave David. Yet, Nathan’s prediction that God would “raise up adversity against you from your own house” came true. Although David repented, He suffered the consequences of his sins.
The child born to the illicit union died. His son Ammon seduced his half-sister. Absalom murdered Ammon, then later led a rebellion against his own father and the kingdom of Israel. Indeed, David’s sin resulted in much trouble.
However, Brenda asked about private sins, hidden from the view of others. Such as lying, stealing, or hate. Possibly even abortion. When we ask forgiveness of these kinds of sins, do we reap the consequences?
Sins of attitude such as bitterness, jealousy, envy, and hate, may not be apparent to others. We may hold them inside. Yet, they will more than likely affect our relationships with those toward whom we hold ill feelings. They may not know why. But we do. Let’s say we become convicted of our sinful attitude. Repent. And ask God’s forgiveness. It may take a while before we can restore and resume a good relationship.
There is also the issue of guilt. Secret sins, while they escape the view of our family, friends, and brethren, don’t elude God’s eyes. And neither are they immune from affecting our conscience. How long our sins affect our conscience depends on several factors. The seriousness of the sin. How long we engaged in it. Our age or level or spiritual maturity. Our ability to forgive ourselves. And how we deal with guilt.
“Guilt is one of the most debilitating of human emotions,” wrote Robert Jeffress in Choose your Attitudes, Change your Life. “It wreaks destruction in our relationships and our spiritual lives. It is also a major cause of depression.”
Guilt accuses. Guilt condemns. Guilt convicts. Guilt is mentally draining. Physically demanding. And spiritually disastrous. A guilty conscience is one of the consequences of sin.
I would refer Brenda and all others interested in dealing with guilt to three past posts we’ve written on the subject. For now, I would remind our readers of Paul’s encouraging words: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (Rom 8:1). Christ removes guilt because His blood redeems us from sin (Eph 1:7). We don’t have to fear. We don’t have to hide. We don’t have to carry around the baggage of sin, and the burden of guilt.
When God forgives us of sin, we can and must forgive ourselves. We can overcome the guilt of past, private sins, by walking in the light. Refusing to give in to the same sins. By growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. By staying connected with God through prayer and Bible study. And living with the assurance that when God forgives, God forgets.
All sin is an affront to God. And ought to be handled correctly. But, let’s not unmercifully beat ourselves up over the indiscretions of our youth, or a momentary lapse in judgment, or a foolish transgression committed in weakness.
Hold on to the promise. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn.1:9).
Then forgive yourself. And in the words of Albert Cliffe “Let go and let God.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman