I Can’t Forgive Myself

Have you ever heard anyone say that? ?Occasionally I hear believers say they know that God forgives them but they can?t forgive themselves.? What’s going on when we say we can?t forgive ourselves?

First, it reveals a lack of understanding or appreciation of the gospel.

We?re saying that what Jesus did on the cross wasn?t enough. ?Oh, the cross was enough to satisfy God and purchase his forgiveness, but it wasn?t enough to merit our own forgiveness. ?It suggests that we have a higher standard than God himself. We are saying we expect more of ourselves than God does. ?Of course no believer would consciously say they have a higher standard than God but that is what?s implied.

Next, it reveals a lack of understanding of the depth of our own sinfulness.

If we can?t forgive ourselves it means that we think we should be better than to fall into sin. ?We actually think we?re pretty good and shouldn?t fail like that.? It’s a subtle form of pride.

Actually, we?re all much worse than we think we are.

That?s helpful for me to remember. ?No matter how bad I think I am, I?m worse. ?I sin in ways I don?t even realize. ?I fail to please God in a thousand ways I don?t know about.? The sins I become aware of are only the tip of the iceberg.

This doesn’t depress me though.? Getting a glimpse of my sinfulness makes the love of God displayed on the cross even more amazing.

God, the Holy One of the universe, the one who is infinitely holier than we can even imagine, forgives every single one of our wicked, foul sins when we turn to Jesus because of the amazing, incredible, powerful redemption accomplished on the cross. He saves those who are worse than they even know.

When we sin, rather than berating ourselves because we failed again, rather than saying I can?t believe I could do such a thing or fail again, we should first be humbled, that God in his kindness would allow us to see once again our need for a Savior. ?We should yet again come boldly to the throne of grace for mercy and help in time of need. ?And we should praise our Father for the incredible provision of his Son to cover all our sins and his astounding patience and forbearance with us.

So rejoice! ?You?re worse than you thought you were.

But there?s a Savior who?s greater than we know.

photo by fakelvis

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I’m a pastor at Saving Grace Church in Indiana, PA. I’m married to Kristi, have 5 kids, and a growing number of grandkids. I’ve written a lot of worship songs. I also like to paint.

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  1. Elaine says

    I feel like I am always saying this but this is a great post! I remember teaching about this very subject at a ladies retreat and offending quite a few of them. :-) But I am still convinced that we cannot forgive ourselves but must go to the Father and ask His forgiveness, receive that forgiveness, and walk in the truth of that forgiveness. I stumble because I don't always feel forgiven but my feelings are neither here nor there – if the Lord has forgiven me, I am completly and fully forgiven. Thank You, Father!

    • MarkAltrogge says

      You are so right Elaine – our feelings are not always an accurate barometer of the truth – we may not feel forgiven, but if we have trusted Christ and gone to our Father for forgiveness we ARE forgiven, whether we feel it or not. We need to receive it in faith.

      Thanks again for your constant encouragement.

  2. lisa says

    Mark, don't look now, but what you've said here really flies in the face of all the "Dollar Tree Theology" out there — you know, those little plaques that say "Follow Your Heart" and all the rest.

    (And that's about the highest compliment I could give this post. Thank you so much for faithfully teaching us the truth of the Word.)

    • MarkAltrogge says

      Thanks Lisa! I never heard the term "Dollar Tree Theology"… I guess I'm glad I don't teach it….
      thanks for your encouragement!

      My heart is telling me to have a cup of coffee right now. Should I follow it?

      • lisa says

        You never heard it because I made it up. It could also be called "Hallmark Theology" but I'm too cheap to shop at Hallmark.

  3. says

    Hey there Mark, and yet another great reminder! You are so right, we are worse off than we think but more loved than we could ever imagine. Sin isn't just what we do, it's what we are through and through. Even my "good" is stained with sin, my motives are wicked. I love what Richard Sibbes says about Christ being our surety, He is our security and our guarantee of forgiveness of even the omissive sins, and I for one am so very thankful for Him!
    Thanks for yet another encouraging, gospel centered post!
    Ron Reffett

    • MarkAltrogge says

      Hey Ron, your comments are a theological treatise! You packed a lot into a short space. Thanks for adding that we are more loved than we could ever imagine!

    • MarkAltrogge says

      Thank you Nicole. I'm grateful the Lord would use it in your life. I am usually preaching to myself as I write my posts…


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