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Published on November 21st, 2014 | by Discussion Questions

How do you know you’ve been forgiven? How do you forgive?





DAVID WRITES: Several times Jesus said that if we do not forgive our brothers, God will not forgive us. The thought of God not forgiving me is probably the single most frightening thing I can imagine. How can you be sure when you’ve forgiven someone for the wrong they’ve committed? And in turn, how can you be sure that God has forgiven you?


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  • Madeleine Grace

    Hey David this is such a good Question :) i’ll do my best to answer :)

    God tells us if we ask for forgiven and come with a truly repentant heart that we will be forgiven no matter what! and that the only reason we’re forgiven is because of what Christ did on the cross. i know how hard it is to forgive someone who has hurt you. once a while ago i found out that one of my guy friends was making fun of me to some of my other friends. and i was really really mad. i didn’t forgive him for so long. i would tell myself i forgive him but i truly in my heart didn’t those were just words. then whenever is saw him resentment boiled up inside and i’d treat him differently then i had before. i finally said this is enough he’s nice to me know and i’ve been holding this grudge for long enough. and i was convicted by God to forgive because he calls us to. so one night i asked God to help me forgive him, and later i did truly my heart forgave this guy that had made fun of me.

    Don’t be afraid to forgive David. Just forgive it’s hard i know but what helps is if you ask God to help you forgive this person and he will and then once you forgive them you are freed and it feels so good. know i don’t look on this guy with angered eyes i can actually be a friend to him and treat him nice. God will always forgive you but if your not willing to forgive others he won’t forgive us. let your forgiveness be genuine. But don’t worry over this to much David 😉 we’ve all been were you are it’s hard. 😉
    i hope this helps 😀
    i’ll be praying for you!!
    May God Bless You!
    ~Madeleine

  • defyingdepravity

    I second what Madeleine said. The only reason we are forgiven is because of God’s mercy. Matthew 6:12 says, “And forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors.” God forgives us in the same way we forgive others.
    Yes, forgiveness is hard. But if you think about it, it’s demonstrating the love of Christ. He looks at us with enough love to look over our sins and forgive us. If we love others as Christ loves us, we will forgive them in the same way.

  • I agree with what the others have said,

    My dad left us when I was ten, God helped me to realized that I needed to forgive- that doesn’t mean that I can’t ever hurt, or feel angry… but that does mean that I love him, pray for him and respectfully honor him as my father.
    Forgiveness is a choice that we have make, and remember-

    1 John 4:1 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

    God loves you! He sent Jesus so that we can be forgiven.

    2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

    1 Timothy 2:3-4 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

  • I suppose knowing whether or not you’ve really forgiven someone comes down to the heart, rather than the mind. Of course, forgiveness begins with choosing to forgive someone. If your heart is not in agreement, however, you’re only mentally going through the motions of forgiveness. You’ll know that you haven’t really forgiven someone if, when reminded of them and/or what they did, you still feel bitterness and resentment. It can be extremely difficult to forgive on that level, to completely let go. The good news is, I believe that if we go to Jesus with a sincere heart and a willingness to forgive that person, He will help us. I find that when I go to Jesus and ask Him to help me forgive someone, He will give me peace instead of bitterness and love instead of resentment. It truly is incredible and beyond any idea of forgiveness that the world has.

    I can totally understand the terrifying thought of God not forgiving us if we haven’t forgiven someone else. I just think that, while you should definitely keep that in mind, you shouldn’t be in distress over it (unless you need to forgive someone!). If you think you’ve forgiven someone but aren’t really sure, ask Jesus to make your forgiveness complete.

    There are some other really great thoughts here too. :) I hope my addition helps! God bless!

  • Sam S.

    I would like to share a small part of a story from my life. It’s somewhat relevant :).
    Earlier this year, I in some way hurt a friend I care very much about. I will call this person Tony (sorry to all of you Tony’s). My behavior against Tony had been going on for quite some time but I don’t think Tony had noticed. I did notice, but I didn’t think it was *that* bad. So I didn’t really see it a big deal. Suddenly, I noticed that Tony was ignoring be and trying to avoid me. But I didn’t get it. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I felt so helpless. Eventually I had the opportunity to ask Tony about it. He told me what I was doing wrong and asked me to change. I was crushed, but was glad I finally understood the situation. Tony said he forgave me. I changed radically. However, a couple months went by, and I felt that Tony was still kind of ignoring me. I didn’t know what else to do. I let this get me down. Every day, I felt so discouraged. I recently found out that Tony’s forgiveness is real and the real problem at this point is deeper than I had imagined. Tony is treating lots of people the same way. At least I know I am forgiven. Now I am still doing the only thing I really can do: pray. If anyone can fix the situation, it is God–and I know He can!
    My point in sharing this story is to encourage those who don’t think they are forgiven even after they’ve done all that they can do. Don’t let it get you down. If you have changed, and you have asked God to forgive you (He will), ask the other person to forgive you. If they won’t, that’s their problem now. Whatever you do, talk to God about it. He always knows best and His thoughts are higher than your thoughts. Learn from your mistakes, but don’t dwell on them.

    Have a good day :)

    • Lily

      Thanks for sharing Sam. That helps a lot!
      God Bless You! :)

      • Sam S.

        Thanks! I’m glad I could help :)

    • Amanda T.

      Sam, I’m crying! Wow! You have no idea what this means to me. I had quite an insident at the beggining of the year with some people that were very very close to me. The whole issue really was (and is) stupid, but everyone was hurt a lot. I had a hard time dealing with everything that happened and believed that I had forgiven the people that hurt me when in reality I had not. God did an incredible work in me over the summer and brought true forgivness and healing to my heart. I still have a hard time sometimes though. I miss these people that I used to be friends with, that I used to look up to, that I considered as close as family. It hurts to see the different reactions I get from them when I see them. Friday I went and appologized for the anger and bitterness that I had held onto in the months following our seperation. Now it is all fresh back in my head and I am struggling to accept not always knowing God’s plan or reasoning. Your story spoke so much to me! I am forgiven for my part and my wrong. I have given it back to God. I have obey what He asked me to do. I cannot control other peoples responses, actions, words, or hearts. I do not need to. That is in God’s hands. But I can still love those people and I can pray for them. I can (and have) learn a lot from the experience and grow spiritually from lessons learned for the future. Thank you for your transparency!!! What a blessing!

      • Sam S.

        That’s why I’m on this blog. I want to be an encouragement to all of you. I get encouraged too, so it’s a win-win.

        I grew so much this last summer and this situation set most of it up. I know what it feels like to have friends seems to not like you anymore. In my case, it was basically all my fault. That hurt so much.
        God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!
        Thanks for sharing!

        • Amanda T.

          Oh yes!! God is so good! I always hate waiting for His timing instead of mine, but it is always so worth it! (It is something I definately need to work on)

          I have learned so much. And I think I am still learning from it! I love the verse that says how God works ALL things for our good. It is amazing when you see that He works even the horrible things for wonderful in our lives – just look at Joseph’s story! :)

          Yeah, I have kind of given up labeling fault. My situation was so crazy and so bizzare that you just end up with twenty fingers pointed in all different directions if you try to place blame. And placing blame isn’t forgiveness. Really, when it comes down to it and I think over everything that happened and all that was said, nothing else explains it except for God’s intervention to get me out of there completely. It hurts to have the relationships broken, but like that verse says, it has been for my good!

          All I am responsible for is my heart related to God. Everyone else is their own concern. I am just looking for peace over the situation.

          • Sam S.

            So true.

  • Leorah

    I asked this question A LOT myself, David. Particularly, how did I know that God forgave me? When you truly know that you are forgiven, you forgive others because forgiven people forgive. I knew it in my mind that I was forgiven but it was still hard because at times I would feel all happy and forgiven and other times completely weighed by my fears that I was too awful and wicked of a person. You know? True love casts out all fear, though. And so my initial problem was not that of forgiveness, but of love. And not to say that I have this issue all perfect either! I just have been going through it for a long time now and am finally wrapping my head around it.

    There were several verses that helped me. Finding out Jesus said John 3:16 (which was something I just didn’t know before) helped me SO hugely. Then John 6:40 which says, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

    He wants everyone to repent – that is His WILL. For all of us to be saved. Sanctification makes us more and more like Him, though, and as we become more and more like Him, we must forgive and be merciful as He is. This helped me so much because realizing He loved me helped me just understand the forgiveness that comes through Jesus. <3

    As for if you know if you've forgiven someone else, Corrie ten Boom once said, "Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart." Feeling the emotions aren't the problem – it's what you do in spite of what you are feeling. Continue to treat the other person the way you want to be treated. Pray for them and love them to the best of your ability and you will find that you will actually begin to wish for that person's good – which is the true mark of true forgiveness. Knowing what that person did to you or someone you love and still wanting the best for them.

    1 John 4:1 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
    I'm still working through a lot of my own things with this issue David but I'd like to also say to really take the verses like John 3:16 just as serious as the other scarier ones. I would take the scary ones far more serious than the others like 1 John 4:1 and it really wasn't fair.
    You might not be having the same issues as me but I also want to say that if you are going through a really scary time of not doubt but just of questioning and particularly concerning where you stand with Him, I KNOW where you are. I've gone through it and so many other people have as well. For me I went through a time of not knowing for sure if I were saved and all of this stuff for months and I was crying every day for basically my soul and every one else's. It helped realizing that SO many people out there also go through this. I don't know if you are going through this but if you are, look up "Emotional Doubt" by Gary Habermas on Youtube.
    God bless you and I said a special prayer for you, David. :)

  • Janessa Ledford

    The verse that came to mind as I read this was Colossians 3:13, which says, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

    When Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother, he expected Jesus to say up to seven times. Instead, Jesus said he should forgive “seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:22) I don’t think Jesus was saying that after the 491st time, Peter could hold a grudge against this person. Rather, I believe Jesus was saying that it’s not really about how many times someone mistreats you; we still need to forgive. 1 Corinthians 13 says that love keeps no record of wrongs.

    In Matthew 18, Jesus continues His answer with a parable. The parable tells of a servant who owed his master ten thousand talents (about 16 years wages). The master threatened to sell the servant, his family, and his possessions; the servant pleaded with the master to be patient with him. The master felt sorry for him and forgave his entire debt. The servant then went to a fellow servant who owed him one hundred denarii (about 100 days wages). Instead of forgiving his fellow servant, he had him imprisoned. When the master heard, he called the servant wicked and said that he also should be imprisoned until he could pay back his debt.

    God, like the master in the parable, has forgiven us of all our sins. We could never justify ourselves, just as the servant could not have paid back his debt. But God loves us enough that He paid our debt for us. In turn, He wants us to show mercy to our fellow servants. Sometimes the things people do to us seem unforgivable, but when we compare them to our own sins, they are petty. If God could forgive our sins (like the ten thousand talents), we should be able to forgive someone for sinning against us in a relatively small way (like the one hundred denarii).

    The Bible says that “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12) His forgiveness is infinite; He does not even remember our sins. But how can we, as humans, forgive someone like that? On our own, we can’t. Grudges and resentment are part of our sin nature.

    However, if we have accepted Jesus, we have “crucified the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:24). Romans 6:6 says “For we know that our old self was crucified with Him.” If we live by the Holy Spirit we “will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Galatians5:14). Forgiving may be hard, but we are not alone. If we sincerely ask God for help, He will give it to us (Psalm 37:40).

    Forgiving as God forgives requires that we love as God loves (John 13:34). The Bible tells us that His love has been poured out into our hearts (Romans 5:5) so we are able to love others with His love. If we love, God’s love is made complete in us (1 John4:12), and we are recognized as Christians because of our love (John 13:35).

    We don’t have to be afraid that God hasn’t forgiven us. If we have believed in Christ and asked for His forgiveness, we are saved; and if we forgive, we will be forgiven (Luke 6:37). 1 John 4:17-18 says, “In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like Him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…”

    I hope this helps! I’m sorry it’s so long. :)

  • Hana

    David, great question. But a hard one to answer. I know that a few years ago, someone said somethings that really hurt me. Later he apologized and I said I forgave him. But I didn’t. I didn’t want to and I wanted him to hurt like I was. I even hated him. But I learned that I can’t forgive unless I forgive with Jesus’ forgiveness. And He forgave because He loves us. I had to learn how to love. Then I could forgive. There’s that saying “Forgive and forget” but really, you never forget. I think it just means not holding onto it and dwelling upon it. You have to allow love to paint over the wrong. The verse that comes to mind is 1 John 3:18 “dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but in action and in truth.” We have to truly want to love and we need to show it. You can’t just say I forgive you, you have to want to forgive and believe it in your heart. And in the end, pray for them. Its hard but God does some pretty amazing things when you just give it to Him.
    As for being sure that God forgave you, look at the cross. He did once and for all. And He loves you! With a love that is beyond our understanding! Don’t dwell on it. Just trust.
    Good question. Hope this helped!
    God bless,
    Hana

  • Amanda T.

    Hey Trent! I like what you have to say, but curious about your statement at the end saying that “forgive and forget” is not in the Bible.

    I know that there are lots of little sayings that get tossed around and sound really deep and spiritual that are garbage. My biggest one that bothers me is the whole “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” However, I didn’t come up quite so empty-handed when I considered the whole “forgive and forget”. PLEASE don’t be upset about this!! I don’t want an argument or anything, I just thought maybe I would put my thoughts out there and also make sure I correctly understood what you are saying. I’m sorry if this isn’t right!!

    So, to me, “forgive and forget” kind of falls in the lines of “be holy as I am holy” verse (1 Pet 1:16). It is the ideal, but a fallen us in a fallen world won’t be able to perfectly accomplish that, yet we should still continue to strive for it as much as we can.

    Psalm 103:12 – “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

    When God forgives us, our sins are thrown away as far away as the east is from the west. And He does not remember them any longer.

    Hebrews 8:12 – “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” ”
    (This is also mentioned in Hebrews 10:17, and both verses are referencing Jeremiah 31:31-34)

    Isaiah 43:25 – ” “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

    It is love that motivates forgiveness.

    John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
    that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

    Ephesians 2:4-5 – “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”

    You also see this when you back up one verse in Psalm 103:
    “11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
    12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

    Jesus commanded us to love each other.

    John 15:12 – “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

    Matthew 22:37-40 – “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    Love does not hang onto what has been done wrong.

    1 Corinthians 13:5-6 – “[Love] does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”

    Just as we are not perfectly holy like God is, I don’t think we perfectly forget and keep no record, but I do think that is what we are called to. Maybe, if we ask for Jesus’ help, we can learn better and better to remember less and less and forgive more completely as we have been forgiven.

    I would be happy to hear your thoughts on this!! And I promise I am truly, truly not trying to pick a fight or put down anything you are saying!

    In Christ,
    Amanda T.

    (All the scriptures I quoted are NIV)

    • Sam S.

      1 Corinthians 10:13
      “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
      I don’t know if that helps.

    • Hey Amanda, thank you for your humble and sincere question. I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to clarify.

      When I say the phrase “forgive and forget” is garbage, I meant “forget” as “I do not remember what so-and-so did to me and now I trust him/her because he is forgiven”. I believe when the Bible says, “Forget” it does not mean “God doesn’t have in his memory what we did” but means, “He will no longer pursue punishment for our sins and will never bring it up to us.” Now I could be wrong, but this is what I think the Bible says. Does that make more sense?

      God bless my friend!
      – Trent

      • Amanda T.

        Okay, :) thanks!

        It is true, that you don’t just blindly open yourself up to someone who will keep hurting you, but you do always forgive them! That can actually be a hard balance to find, at least for me.

        And yes, that makes much sense! :) Thank you for answering me! (and for not being mad) I do agree. Forgiveness is a choice. It is a decision of the will and not an emotion. So, just as you decide to forgive that person, you can ( and should!) decide to not go back and dwell on what they did. You choose not to go back and remember even though you are capable.

        • Exactly! You explained it perfectly!

          • Amanda T.

            Haha :) well thanks

  • mimeforJesus

    I don’t know, but I have a question on this topic…
    I don’t hold on to things people have done to me. I think I just “forgive and forget”. Seriously, my sister and I can be at each others’ throats in the morning and then in the afternoon I’m talking to her about everything. So is that forgiving, or am I just forgetting? I mean, I’m not making a conscious decision to forgive people, I just don’t care about/remember what they did toward me. Is that enough?

    • Amanda T.

      It depends on your heart. That is something only God can show you.

      Are you stuffing it? Or have you taken it to the cross and left it there?
      Either one of those could result in those actions.

      I held onto unforgiveness for a really long time. I didn’t even realize it. It can be hard to see. Pray about it a lot.

      Search me, God, and know my heart;
      test me and know my anxious thoughts.
      See if there is any offensive way in me,
      and lead me in the way everlasting.
      – Psalm 139:23-24

      Only God knows your heart; seek Him and ask Him to show you!!
      Praying for you!

      • mimeforJesus

        Thanks Amanda. It’s just that I’ve always heard that it’s important to choose to forgive, and I never had to choose. I guess in ways it’s easier, in other ways when someone really hurts me and I have to consciously forgive them, it’ll probably be harder. Praying for your testimony!

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