I sinned the other day. You’re shocked, I know.
But here’s the thing—even after I’d confessed my sin to God and asked His forgiveness, I still felt guilty. The thing I’d done—actually something I said—kept echoing in my head. And then another voice—the Accuser’s, would chime in: That was so stupid! When will you ever learn to keep your mouth shut?
So I’d ask God’s forgiveness again. And again . . . and again.
A few hours into this I realized I was caught in an endless loop. It was an endless cycle: the echo of my careless words, the words of condemnation, and my apologies to God.
When I realized I was stuck I made myself get quiet before God.
Help me, please, I said to Him.
It was quiet for a while, but then I heard Jesus say, “Daughter, your sins are forgiven; Go and sin no more.”
Immediately, I knew that the infinite loop had been broken! I was free.
Some people get to hear those sweet words of release regularly in church. It’s part of the liturgy. My “low church” service doesn’t have that practice. But sometimes I wish we did.
If you go to a liturgical church, every week you probably get to make a corporate (yet private) confession of sin and then hear the pastor or priest pronounce you forgiven.
It might go like this:
Hear the good news!
The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance,
that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
He himself bore our sins
in his body on the cross,
that we might be dead to sin,
and alive to all that is good.
I declare to you in the name of Jesus Christ,
you are forgiven.
There are many ways this “Assurance of Pardon” or “Prayer of Absolution” can be said.* But the hoped-for effect is the same. Repentant sinners get to hear Jesus’ forgiveness spoken over them—out loud. And somehow, hearing “You are forgiven,” helps. For me, it serves to break the power of cancelled sin, as the old hymn put it.
I’m probably not going to change churches just so I can hear my sins pardoned each week. But I think maybe I will add a step to my personal process of confession. After I’ve confessed my sins, I think I’ll wait to hear Jesus say I’m forgiven. I need to hear Him say that. And I think it’s something He’s happy to say.
*Here are a few other beautiful examples of prayers of pardon:
“People of God, please listen: God holds out His hand of mercy and blesses us by saying, “You told me your sins, without trying to hide them, and now I forgive you.” Our sins are forgiven, He takes away our guilt. In Jesus Christ you are forgiven and free. Amen.”
“Anyone who sins has an advocate with God: Jesus Christ, the righteous one. By his life, death, and resurrection, he has found the lost sheep and brings it back, rejoicing over one sinner that repents. In Jesus, we are never beyond the reach of God’s love. And so today, in the name of Jesus, I proclaim to all of you who believe the Gospel: In Jesus your sins are forgiven! Receive the Good News!”
“To those who turn from sin and seek Jesus Christ there is no god like our God, for He promises to pardon sin and forgive transgression. He treads our sins underfoot and hurls all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. He is faithful, loving and true to His promises. Take heart, in Jesus Christ your sins are forgiven. Amen.”
“The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting. I declare to you, in the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven. May the God of mercy, who forgives you all your sins, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen.”