(Hebrews 9:11-14 ESV)
Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
(Hebrews 10:18 ESV)
Do I need to forgive myself? This is a question that seems to be very legitimate and has received a lot of attention from the church over the past 20-30 years here in the United States. We are being told and actually feel as if we are incomplete in our relationship with Christ and hampered from serving God when we don’t forgive ourselves.
This all sounds very noble and necessary for “self-healing.” However, the Bible only speaks of God’s forgiveness of sins (and who else can forgive sins?) and the One Mediator and High Priest between God and man, the Lord Jesus Christ, who not only intercedes on behalf of the repentant one, but He Himself has become the sacrifice sufficient to cleanse the worshiper from all sin.
Scripture is totally silent on my own need to forgive myself. That is because I cannot act as either God or High Priest. Then what’s up with this notion? It appears as if there is something else that underlies this desire for self-absolution.
Pastor Andrew Siegenthaler (Christ Covenant Church, Cullman, AL) preached a sermon from the Hebrews 9 text which addresses this tendency. Siegenthaler concludes that 3 potential sins (there may be more) prompt us to look for “self-forgiveness:” the sin of pride, the sin of idolatry, and the sin of self-righteousness. He stated:
“‘I have to forgive myself.’ Or 'I just can’t forgive myself.'
Have you ever heard anyone say that? Have you ever said it?
People usually talk about the about need to forgive themselves,
when they are struggling with feelings of guilt.
And it’s become an accepted belief in our psycho-analyzed culture,
that forgiving yourself is something important that you have to do.
That we are somehow in the position to deal with our own guilt.
When Christians talk this way, often add a theological twist:
'I know God has forgiven me, now I’ve got to forgive myself.'
In other words, I know Jesus has died on the cross for sins, believe that.
But I don’t feel forgiven. These negative feelings, this feeling of guilt,
must be judgments I’m making against myself, so that must mean
that I have to forgive myself.
But is that the answer to the problem of guilt and self-accusation?
The Bible says a lot about God forgiving us, us forgiving other people.
But it says absolutely nothing about forgiving yourself.
The problem of guilt will not be solved by trying to be your own priest,
but by trusting completely in Jesus Christ to be your priest.”
So rather than running to a self-help guru, or even a Roman Catholic priest, we go to back to where we started this journey, Jesus Christ and His gospel, for the forgiveness of sins, justification before God, and transformation. Now that makes sense.
Here is a link to the entire sermon (these are sermon notes ... a little choppy at places, nevertheless, worth the read):