Thursday, September 09, 2010

Self-Forgiveness VS. Real Forgiveness

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from Life Together

‘In confession there occurs a breakthrough to assurance. Why is it often easier for us to acknowledge our sins before God than before another believer? God is holy and without sin, a just judge of evil, and an enemy of all disobedience. But another Christian is sinful, as are we, knowing from personal experience the night of secret sin. Should we not find it easier to go to one another than to the holy God? But if that is not the case, we must ask ourselves whether we often have not been deluding ourselves about our confession of sin to God – whether we have not instead been confessing our sins to ourselves and also forgiving ourselves. And is not the reason for our innumerable relapses and for the feebleness of our Christian obedience to be found precisely in the fact that we are living from self-forgiveness and not from the real forgiveness of our sins? Self-forgiveness can never lead to the break with sin. This can only be accomplished by God’s own judging and pardoning Word. Who can give us the assurance that we are not dealing with ourselves but with the living God in the confession and the forgiveness of our sins? God gives us this assurance through one another.’ (113)

As I think about this, I am convinced that my own "innumerable relapses and . . . the feebleness of [my] Christian obedience" are largely due to this phenomenon. It is not until I am broken and desperate enough to push beyond self-forgiveness to receive the forgiving word of God through Christ. At that moment I experience freedom and the grace-power to turn away from it and to turn toward Jesus. Before that time though, I am often underestimating my specific sins and their effects by going through the motions of repentance words and motions. Better to repent less and mean it, than repent often in shallow ways.

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