Do we truly understand how to request forgiveness biblically? Have we secretly hoped that if we postpone clearing our conscience with someone, the problem will diminish with time? When we offend someone, the words Im sorry, or I apologize, are not acceptable phrases. In the 3rd segment of a 19-article series, Dr. Don Dunlap discusses the scriptural approach to righting wrongs.
When we neglect Gods command to keep a clear conscience we cannot function properly within the Body of Christ. If we refuse to humble ourselves and seek forgiveness when we offend someone, we exert a vast amount of energy in an attempt to maintain our emotional equilibrium. We work hard to minimize our guilt, justify our actions and defend our motives.
Our pre-conversion offenses still count and we must make them right.
One commonly held misconception about guilt is the assumption that we do not need to seek forgiveness for the offenses that we committed while we were still in an unsaved state. The mistaken belief is that since God forgave us for all of our sins when we came to Christ in repentance and faith, our pre-conversion offenses dont count.
The truth of the matter is that when we offend someone we must ask God and the person we offended for forgiveness no matter how long ago the offense occurred. Genuine repentance is the only means for the removal of guilt.
We sometimes find that God opens doors of opportunity to win lost people to Jesus Christ when we care enough to clear our conscience with them. As we take the initiative to return to them with a contrite heart, and make a sincere effort to right some long ago, but not forgotten wrong, we often witness miraculous resultspeople want to know this Savior who has led us to them in humility and authentic loving concern.
Problems do not fade as time passes. They get bigger and more serious.
Although Gods Word instructs us to deal quickly with guilt resolution, we often choose to procrastinate. We hold out false hope that by postponing the need to clear our consciences, the problem will diminish and we will feel less and less guilty as time passes. The reverse is actually true.
The problem gets worse with the passing of time. The offended party has the opportunity to grow increasingly bitter and the offense seems to loom progressively larger in his or her eyes.
Procrastination weakens our consciences because we must ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit in order to procrastinate. God expects immediate obedience to His commands. When we refuse to obey Him promptly, God allows our hearts to harden toward Him and toward the convicting power of His Word.
Saying Im sorry is not the same as asking for forgiveness.
Most Christians do not understand the biblical guidelines for requesting forgiveness. One particularly prevalent deception is the belief that the words Im sorry, or I apologize are acceptable phrases when an offender asks someone else for forgiveness. These are inadequate approaches.
When we offend someone, we must first demonstrate genuine repentance and humility by acknowledging our sins.
We should always use the words,
I was wrong.
We should specifically name the offenses that we committed. Finally, we should ask the question,
Will you please forgive me?
Anything short of this approach is unbiblical and will not lead to true restoration and reconciliation.
The final deception that Christians widely embrace is the belief that God requires nothing further of us after we have asked someone for forgiveness. The notion that we have done our jobs and have no other duties to fulfill is a false one.
God wants us to use each offense that we commit as an opportunity for self-examination.
We should search out any hidden offenses that we may have committed against God and against our fellow man.
God assures us in His Word that when our ways please Him He will make even our enemies to be at peace with us. We must be willing to follow through completely on the scriptural directives for gaining a clear conscience.