If We Don't Forgive, Will God Forgive Us?

One of the biggies that strikes fear and anxiety in many is this question,  “If I don’t forgive, will God forgive me?”  It’s a valid question because if the answer is “yes”, even if you believe in Jesus for your salvation, you could go to hell if you don’t forgive people.

Our daughter with Downs tried out for cheer leading when she was young.  It was amazing to observe how high she could jump and then land with a split! She seemed to have the skills, so we thought she could make the team.  She was so excited the day the list was to be posted as to who made the team.  Yet, her name was not on it. She was obviously disappointed like many girls who’ve tried out for this and didn’t make it.

We were curious though as to why.  When we asked, we were told that Bekah had hit other girls and cussed.  Ellen and I were stunned because we had never observed this ever.  To the contrary, she was very loving and kind.  A few months later,  several girls came for her birthday and one of them asked why Bekah didn’t make the cheer team.  Hesitantly, Ellen simply said, “Well, you know.  She kicked the girls and cussed.”  The little girl was immediately indignant, exclaiming, “That’s not true!  I tried out with her and she didn’t do any of that!”

It was in that moment we realized we had been lied to because of prejudice against Bekah.  They apparently didn’t want a child on the team with Downs, even though she was qualified.  Soon after, we also realized we had a choice.  Forgive or live in the painful vice grip of unforgiveness.

Where does this idea originate that God will not forgive us and we will go to hell if we don’t forgive?  It is a result of misunderstanding when the Old Covenant of living under law ended and when the New Covenant of living under grace began.  Most people think, as I once did, that the New Covenant began when Jesus showed up on planet earth in the New Testament.  Therefore, everything Jesus taught applies to Christians.  However, that’s inaccurate.  Most of what Jesus taught, not everything, was actually Old Covenant teaching 2.0.  This was intended to prepare the Jewish people to believe in him as the promised Messiah and Savior of the world.

Do you know how the Old Covenant of law worked?  Deuteronomy 28 is explicit that the condition for being blessed by God was based on obeying all of the laws God gave to Moses.  Simply put, if they obeyed, God blessed.  If not, he punished.  Verses 1-2, say:  If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lordyour God.  The blessings named are chronicled through verse 15.  But verse 15 states, However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you.  This is followed by a whopping 52 verses of punishments (curses)!

Jesus, himself, said that the New Covenant of grace would not be in place until he died.  His death ended the Old Covenant and his resurrection from the grave began the New Covenant. (See Luke 22:20)

Let’s look at the Scriptures Jesus taught, while the Old Covenant was in place. They indicate you will be unforgiven by God, if you don’t forgive.  At the end of the Lord’s prayer, Jesus said, And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.(Matthew 6:12)  He then clarifies this by stating in verses 14-15, For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

Afterwards Peter asks Jesus how many times we should forgive people.  At the end of the parable about a man who didn’t forgive and was given over to the torturers, Jesus says, My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you do not forgive his brother from your heart.  (Matthew 18:35)  In other words, if you don’t forgive, God the Father will take away the forgiveness he gave you and you will be forever separated from him. (Hell)   That’s what it’s like to live under the Old Covenant of law.

Wow!  That’s very scary, isn’t it?  Here’s the good news.  Under the New Covenant our forgiveness is dependent on Jesus’ death on the cross, not our forgiveness of others.  Feast on these delicious New Covenant Scriptures. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive together with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.  (Colossians 2:13.)  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. (Ephesians 1:7)  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other,  just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

Do you see it?  Our union with Christ means we are completely forgiven by the Father before we ever sin.  And because we are already forgiven of all of our sins, God says we are to forgive.  If we do not forgive, we will not lose our forgiveness and go to hell.  However, if we don’t forgive, our sin of unforgiveness is so contrary to who we are in Christ, our disobedience will make us feel like hell and possibly the people around us whom we really care about.  Forgive today because you are forgiven in Christ, not because you are fearful of losing your forgiveness and going to hell.   It will free you and heal your soul.  That’s why we forgave those involved in the situation with Bekah.  Today we are at peace.  You can be, too!

Do We Need To Try To Get Closer to God?

Have you ever heard someone pray to get closer to God? Sometimes we hear people say in our discipleship counseling session that they believe getting closer to God will help them overcome their depression, marriage, sin habits, etc. In all these instances, we understand what they are really saying is, they want a more intimate, dynamic relationship with God. However, if we are God’s children, we are starting our quest with an incorrect assumption that there are things we can do to get closer to God.

This assumption has a “Yes” and “No” answer. There are Scriptures that have good news for every person. God wants us to be close to him but it’s better than we might think. Look at these encouraging Scriptures. “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8) “(For the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.” (Hebrews 7:19) “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience…” (Hebrew 10:22) In each of these, the promise being touted is that every person who places their faith in Jesus Christ alone, not the 10 Commandments, not good works, not a ritual, WILL get close to God!

This closeness is better than we can imagine because it means we are close to God because we are united with God. In other words, once we are saved (completely forgiven by God and made righteous by him), Christ is in us and we are in him! Think about it for a moment. If Christ is in you, can you get any closer to him? If you are in Christ, can you get any closer to him? So, the “Yes” to the query as to whether we need to get closer to God is true for every person who does not have Christ in them. Romans 10:9-10 says it so beautifully, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

Have you placed your faith in Jesus Christ for your salvation? If not, do it right now by telling him you do. If you have, you are close to God, as close as you will ever be! If not, you are very far from God but he wants to be close to you.

After I taught on this not too long ago, a man named Jasper, a very big man, welled up with tears. When I asked him why he was so touched by this, he replied, “It’s so freeing because I no longer feel pressure to do something so I can get closer to God.” A lady named Shaquita responded to this teaching by saying, “I’ve never heard this before. I know the Bible very well and have heard some great teachers over the past three decades, but no one has ever said this.” Her face literally relaxed in front of my eyes.

Do you think God the Father answered all of Jesus’s prayers with a “Yes”? Of course, he did. Did you know that Jesus prayed that you and I would be close to God? Look at part of the prayer he prayed just before he died on the cross. It’s recorded in John 17:20-21. “My prayer is not for them (his disciples at the time) alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (Parenthesis are mine for clarity.) Isn’t that cool? We who believe, are in Jesus and in the Father. Other Scriptures tell us we are in the Holy Spirit. The entire Trinity is in us and we are in the entire Trinity! We are united with God in our new creation spirit! As believers, we don’t need to try to get any closer to God. We are as close as we will ever be.

Obedience to God is very important but it will not get us closer to him. Sinning is not what God wants us to do but it will not take us far away from God. We may struggle with believing this because we don’t always feel close to God but our feelings of closeness to God come and go. I’ve personally found, that talking to God, reading the Bible, and remembering I’m as close to God as I will ever be, sometimes help me feel that closeness, but not always. Sometimes, I “feel” like he’s a million miles away, but he’s not. So, this is the “No” that we don’t need to try to get closer to God once he’s in us. We need to believe it and live from that closeness.

What joy! What freedom! What grace! What intimacy! Thank you, Father that we are as close to you as we will ever be, right now! (Based on my book, "God's Best-Kept Secret" on Amazon