Used with permission from The Call of the Shepherd.
Can God ever forgive me? This is a question we sometimes ask ourselves when we realise the full enormity of our sins and the great offence they have given to God. We may think that God has turned His back on us because we have turned our back on Him and nothing we can do will bring us back to Him.
This is not what the Bible teaches! The Lord says
“I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3)
and He waits patiently for us to return to Him.
Do you remember the story of the prodigal son? After leaving home and spending all his inheritance on wild living, the prodigal son fell on hard times; he finally came to his senses and decided to return to his father’s house. But his father was waiting for him and as soon as he saw him coming in the distance the father rushed to meet him and embraced him, taking him back into the house for a great celebration.
“But when he came to himself he said ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants”. And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him . . . ” (Luke 8:17 – 20).
It is just the same for us: The Father is just waiting for us to make the first step back to Him – then he will run towards us and take us into His loving arms.
But, you may say, my sins are so terrible that they can never be forgiven. However, God will forgive the worst sinner, however awful the sins. Jesus has already paid the price for our sins by His death; He has taken all our sins on His shoulders so that all we need to do is to turn to Him and accept what He has done for us, asking for His forgiveness. Look at the story of king Manasseh in the Old Testament (2 Chronicles 33:1 – 20). Manasseh must have been one of the worst sinners the world has ever known: he set up altars for worship of all the false gods, even in the Temple. And he burned his own sons on these altars as a human sacrifice to the false gods. Such was his reign of wickedness that he led the whole population into evil practices.
And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. And he burned his sons as an offering in the valley of the sons of Hinnom, and practiced soothsaying and augury and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with wizards. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him to anger … Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so they did more evil than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel. (vs. 5 – 9).
However, in spite of such terrible sins God did not turn His back on Manasseh: instead He gave Manasseh the chance to repent. But Manasseh refused to listen and so God caused a disaster to fall upon Manasseh and in his distress he turned to God and asked for forgiveness. God heard his prayer and such was His love for Manasseh he restored him as king; Manasseh then led the people back to the true God.
The Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they gave no heed. Therefore the Lord brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks and bound him with fetters of bronze and brought him to Babylon. And when he was in distress he entreated the favour of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to Him, and God received his entreaty and heard his supplication and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God. (vs. 10 – 13). And he took away the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the Lord and all the alters that he had built on the mountain of the house of the Lord and in Jerusalem, and he threw them outside of the city. He also restored the altar of the Lord and offered upon it sacrifices of peace offerings and of thanksgiving; and he commanded Judah to serve the Lord the God of Israel (vs. 14 – 16).
If the Lord can show such love and forgiveness for such a sinner, surely He will do the same for us!
“Father, I repent of my sins and ask for your forgiveness for all the offences I have committed against you. I acknowledge that through my sins I have turned away from you, but I want now to return to you and in Jesus’ name I ask you to take me back as your child.”
Return to me and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.