“You’re forgiven.” Words that you might think offer comfort and rest but instead would strike anxiety in my heart.
I had heard this phase all of my life in church, through my own personal bible study, and in about 98% of worship songs. Personally, I always struggled with understanding and accepting that concept though. Most of my thoughts revolved around thinking I was not worthy of forgiveness (which is true) and not feeling like forgiveness would make me feel better (which was also true).
A lot of times I would hoard the shame of my actions and label myself by them. Regardless of how many times I prayed over again for forgiveness I would still walk away feeling just as empty and broken as before. Gripped with fear just waiting for my next mistake or relapse. What I wanted was freedom from my actions and habits but again, praying and crying out to God did nothing.
The reason? Freedom in forgiveness is something offered freely, but the freedom is something I had to choose to walk in.
Walking in Freedom
2 Corinthians 5:16-21 paints the picture of what our freedom looks like, starting with verse 16:
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.
I’m no longer bound by my flesh. Im not defined by my sin anymore. Christ does not look at me and say “Virginia the addict.” or “Virginia the liar.”, He looks at me and says “Virginia my child.”
Galatians 5:1 states “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery”. This verse doesn’t just mean don’t sin again–it means don’t allow your spirit to bear the burden of your sin any longer. That verse paired with with lyric “You were never meant to carry this beyond the cross” (MercyMe, Dear Younger Me) has really changed how I view my sin. I shouldn’t live in shame of what I’ve done, but rather lay it down at the feet of Jesus and walk away knowing I’m free from feeling its weight and claim healing in my life.
Newness of Life
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17
I’m new in my forgiveness. This change doesn’t happen overnight the same way a habit of sin does not develop in one stumble. But it’s not up to us and our own strength it’s up to us to actively surrender our hearts and allow God to break us and change us bit by bit.
I saw this in my own life when I prayed that God scorch my wrathful spirit. I saw this happen slowly and painfully. Change started in the immediate conviction I felt after saying anything backhanded which lead me to repentance. Next, I realized I could capture the thought before it left my mouth and choose whether it was really worth saying. And finally, I started relaxing and allowing myself to speak more freely because I saw that my heart wasn’t wrathful or angry, it was new and pure, seeking the best in others.
Testifying to a Heart of Change
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – Corinthians 5:18-21
For me, the hardest part of freedom in forgiveness was allowing my testimony of healing and restoration be made known to others.
It’s hard to humble yourself and allow others to see the raw gritty parts of your heart. That’s because we feel judgement even if it’s not there and that’s partially because we are judging ourselves.
Christ does not hold our trespasses against us though and the beauty of our testimony comes from a heart change when you stop sharing it about yourself in shame and start pointing it as Jesus by saying “look at how my God has delivered me!”
This is what being an ambassador for Christ looks like. Not sharing just the reason Christ came for us, but showing what it looks like in your own life by living joyfully in your freedom.