Have you recently wondered, "Am I too bad for God to forgive me?" If so, what follows is for you. Messing up badly can be scary, especially when we consider the perfect holiness of God and the fact He has to judge sin. Without a balanced perspective, it can be hard to sleep at night. You may be hounded by guilt and feel there’s no hope because of your past and present sins.
Feelings like this aren’t overly surprising since our human relationships are more vulnerable to falling apart than we care to admit. For instance, a major breach of trust could quickly destroy a marriage—even one that’s decades old. Everything can seem flimsy. We may fear all it’ll take is one more wrong move, and we could lose our jobs or even our closest relationships. To be told we’re ‘irredeemable’ or the wreckage we created is irreparable and irreversible is a scary thought (and not outside the realm of possibility humanly speaking).
So, it’s not overly surprising if we’re tempted to view our relationship with God the same way as our human relationships (very conditional). It’s difficult for our limited minds to grasp much else. And so, we start wondering, “Have I wronged God so badly that He’ll reject me forever?”
Some things make God smile. Deep down, we want his friendly smile to shine on us. It sure beats being the recipients of a perpetual frown (the latter often being much easier to imagine). More than anything, we want peace with God in this life and the next. But sin keeps whispering to us, trying to steal our peace.
What are we in for, then? The happy answer is there is no particular sin we can commit that would be unforgivable by God. He paid a huge cost to provide forgiveness and right standing for us. Having said that, it’s an urgent matter that we get right with Him without delay (More on that later).
Where Does the Fear of Sinning Too Badly to Be Forgiven Come From?
The myth that we can reach the point in this life of being irredeemable by God has gained steam in several ways. It’s a particularly heinous and insidious lie because it’s made too many people feel there’s no hope for them when, indeed, there is. At the same time, it’s deceived others into pridefully believing God is OK with them because, unlike some, they’re ‘good enough’. Here are some of the more common reasons this false belief has become so prevalent.
We Attribute Human Qualities to God:
We just hit on this one, so we won’t camp on it long. Just suffice it to say that although we’re made in God’s image, He’s way different from anyone you know. God is far more forgiving and loving than we’re capable of being. We can all be relieved this is true.
Religious Traditions Reinforce It:
Some religious traditions have taught that certain sins are more damnable than others. The truth is any sin we commit is serious enough to deserve eternal separation from God. Yes, some sins are more terrible than others or have worse earthly consequences, but all sin kills.
Religious tradition should never be elevated over scriptural authority. God’s word should decide how we conduct our faith. Religious or church tradition isn’t necessarily bad, but it should help to carry out God’s will for us as communicated in the Bible, not get in the way of it. When religious tradition is cherished more than God’s words, we end up with all sorts of dreadful errors, such as ‘we can become too bad to be forgiven’.
We Don’t Want to Believe ‘Evil’ People Can Be Forgiven:
Another reason we’re tempted to believe we can reach the point of no return is that humanly speaking, some of the most horrible sins can seem too bad to be forgiven. An assortment of the most terrible, disgusting and heartbreaking sinful actions regularly make national and worldwide news. They can shock us to the core. We’re outraged by them (as we should be). But in our humanity, we struggle to accept that ‘these people’ can also be forgiven by God. And that, apart from Jesus, we all suffer from the eternally deadly consequences of sin.
This false belief can feed our pride if we’re not careful. If we can somehow figure out a way to believe we’re morally superior to others (at least in our minds), that’ll give us false confidence. "Sure, I’ve done bad things, but not like those people. God will understand that I’m mostly good." The danger is our pride can blind us to the truth. Only Jesus is ‘morally superior’, AKA completely and forever sinless from eternity past to eternity future. The rest of us aren’t even close.
We Doubt God’s Power to Forgive Us:
We may beat ourselves up so badly over our sins that we struggle to believe God could wipe those sins away. He can and He does every day. Listen to God’s voice through his word rather than the one Satan whispers to you when you’re tired and weary.
We Don’t ‘Feel’ Forgiven:
We may be tempted to think we can’t be forgiven because we don’t ‘feel’ forgiven. Although feelings are important in our spiritual walk, the truth of God’s word should take precedence over our feelings. If you’ve trusted Christ as your Savior, don’t let false guilt weigh you down or control you any longer.
A Lack of Biblical Understanding:
Behind every major false belief is a failure to study God’s word. No one who’s thoroughly read the Bible could conclude we can sin too much or be too bad to be forgiven. This certainly isn’t an excuse to sin more. Rather, it should give us the courage and hope to turn to God in repentance and stop sinning.
These are some of the more likely reasons the idea of running out of forgiveness from God has taken root so strongly. Besides, of course, that Satan does everything in his power to keep people from knowing the truth. He hates people and especially the sacred and complete salvation offered by God to humanity. The devil and his followers create confusion, making it harder for us to see God’s truth.
What can get us into big-time trouble with God, then? In a word, ‘unbelief’. But that’s different from an individual sin or the sum total of them. Instead, it’s a blatant refusal to turn our lives over to God. Here’s why it’s different.
All Can Be Forgiven (But Only for a Limited Time)
Salvation is a limited-time offer and it’s expiration date happens at death. You may be saying, “But, wait a minute. You said there were no unforgivable sins.” Yes, that’s quite true. However, dying without turning your life over to Jesus is a different matter. That would be dying in unbelief without accepting the sacrifice of Christ to pay off your insurmountable sin debt. And only those who’ve been made perfect by Christ’s blood can approach a perfect God.
God patiently waits for all of us to repent and accept the gift of salvation. But, as patient as He is, He won’t wait forever. Eventually, we’ll all have to give an account for every sinful thought, action and failure to do good if we don’t to turn to God. Just like there came a time when it was too late for anyone outside of Noah’s ark to be saved from the great flood, the same eventually becomes true for everyone without God’s salvation covering their sins.
Dying without Christ is an irreversible condition. It results in entering eternity without forgiveness and becoming eternally separated from God (something we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy if we fully understood such a terrible fate).
So, while no sin is unforgivable, we must repent and turn our lives over to Jesus to be forgiven. We only have this life to make peace with God. After death, it’ll be too late. Life and time are misleading. The deceptiveness of sin makes it seem like we have plenty of time left. However, one day, our lives will end and, for some of us, this will happen without warning. For that reason, this moment is the best time to reach out to God for forgiveness. None of us are promised another breath.
Each of us is completely ruined and are enemies of God because of sin before salvation. It’s equally true of each of us that God can forgive all of our sins, past, present and future. That doesn’t mean it happens automatically. The default eternal destination for us isn’t Heaven. Each of us must intentionally turn to God for forgiveness and spiritual healing.
Jesus spoke of the "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit" as an unforgivable sin in the Gospel of Matthew. This worries some that there is a specific, hard-to-identify sin that could cost them their eternal souls. In light of the full teachings of Christ and the Bible as a whole, this isn’t the case.
Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come… (Matthew 12:31-32)
Believers can sometimes become perplexed, fearing they’ve said the wrong words and thereby damned their souls because of this scripture passage. This is an unnecessary worry. The reality is that, at some point, we were all God-haters or blasphemers before salvation. And even after salvation, we can say many foolish things. Even the Apostle Paul referred to himself as being a former blasphemer or mocker of God and his holiness.
No, this isn’t a warning against committing the ‘secret unpardonable sin’ during a moment of great foolishness. Rather, it’s a stern and sobering warning against rejecting God and the Holy Spirit’s saving and sanctifying work through the sacrifice of Jesus. It’s also a warning to avoid putting that decision off to another day.
Until our last breath, there is always hope for salvation, but it’s unspeakably foolish to wait until a later date because you want to live your own life right now. There’s also the real fear that if you intentionally put this decision off that you’ll grow increasingly calloused and uninterested in God’s ways (Like Esau, making it difficult to impossible to repent later on).
Context-wise, Jesus’ ‘blasphemy of the Holy Spirit’ comment was directed at the Scribes and Pharisees who didn’t believe in Christ’s work or the empowerment He received from God to do miracles. In their unbelief, they claimed Jesus did his miracles by the power of Satan. Jesus adequately challenged these false accusations. Ultimately, Jesus said to them, “If you reject God with this much evidence present, what is left for you besides the eternal consequences of unbelief?”
Saying Goodbye to Being Good Enough on Our Own or Too Bad for Forgiveness
We cannot work our way to favor with God based on our good efforts. We’re too bad for that. At the same time, God can forgive us of our worst sins. He’s too good to disappoint those who earnestly seek Him.
By categorizing certain sins, we miss some serious Biblical truth. First, doing so can make us ‘feel good’ if we haven’t indulged much in a given sin. Others who have failed badly in that way might ‘feel bad’ though. Sinful people are all too skilled at playing the ‘religious game’ as illustrated in this cartoon rendering of the Pharisee and the tax collector. You know, sin categorizing to make themselves feel superior, and in the process, making others feel unworthy. All the while, we’re pretty much the same—not nearly good enough to approach a perfectly sinless God based on our goodness.
By way of analogy, if I invited you over to my home for dinner, would it be any more comforting if I told you I only put a few maggots in your bowl of soup instead of many? The point being, that’s exactly how our sin looks to God. We invite Him over for dinner saying, “There are only a few maggots in this soup—far fewer than the guy down the road—bon appetite, God!” And God’s like, “I don’t care how many or few maggots are in that soup. I don’t eat soup with maggots in it. One in my soup disgusts me as much as 1,000 of them and that settles the matter!” So is our sin (the maggots) to God.
Being judgmental causes us to forget that no one is close to good enough to approach a perfect God since we’d have to be completely perfect and sinless to do that. Our sin makes us his enemies. Ironically, the idea we can go beyond forgiveness is closely tied to the belief we can get to Heaven by being good. That’s the opposite side of the same lie, right? You can be good enough to go to Heaven, but you also could be too bad to go as well. You just hope you don’t bomb out too badly when it comes to God’s ‘unknown’ standard. Both of those views are completely false, however.
Absolute perfection is God’s standard, and we all fall miserably short of that. Jesus raised the bar for those who considered themselves morally superior to others and good enough to be accepted by God based on their works. He said if you’re angry with someone, it can endanger your eternal soul (Apart from Jesus). He also said that lustful thoughts made someone as guilty before God as committing adultery.
Yes, the earthly consequences are often vastly different for thoughts versus actions. But the heart attitude is the same with both (and those thoughts can eventually lead to physical actions). Jesus preached this to urge us to repent of our sins, turn from them and to be forgiven. He also shared this to reinforce the truth that we have no way of getting to God by our works.
Most of us have not physically killed someone. Still, we have all hated someone at one time or another and therefore stand just as guilty before God as a murderer. Not all people have committed adultery, but we all stand just as guilty before God for our immoral and impure thoughts. God looks into the soul and sees the evil others can’t. We may fool others, but we can never fool God.
Because of this, there’s no way we could ever be good enough to enter Heaven on our merit. It’s only through faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins that can happen. Jesus is our only hope!
God’s Complete Forgiveness is not a License to Sin
One thing we all can be tempted to believe is, “Well since God can forgive any sin and as many as we commit, we might as well get our ‘money’s worth.’” Those attempting to discredit the Apostle Paul’s beautiful message of total forgiveness through Jesus said he was teaching that we had a free pass to sin as much as we wanted.
And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just. (Romans 3:8)
Paul refuted these false accusations. He shared that those who believe and teach such things deserve condemnation. God’s true believers, although they still fail at times, understand the weight of punishment their sin deserves. They also have comprehended the harm it causes to themselves, their relationships with others and their relationship with God. To know we can be fully forgiven certainly doesn’t mean we should take God’s forgiveness lightly.
God Saved A ‘Really Bad’ Person to Show Us There is Hope
Did you know that Jesus intentionally saved the Apostle Paul so none of us would lose hope? God didn’t want us to figure we’d done too many bad things to be forgiven. He didn’t want our lack of hope to cause us to give up. And so, He saved a ‘really bad’ person. He used Paul as a supreme example of just how strong God’s salvation is (to change us for the good in this life and to ultimately save our eternal souls). Although Paul previously murdered and imprisoned true followers of God before salvation, the Lord saved and changed him.
And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (I Timothy 1:12-17)
Your God LOVES You
If there’s anything God would want you to take from this article, it’s to be encouraged. If you’ve never turned your life over to Him, He wants you to do that. If you’re God’s child but you’ve been wandering away from Him, He longs for you to come back. Yes, the fears in your mind will try to keep you from God, but don’t listen to them: You may be thinking:
"Can you ever forgive me?"
Yes, God can. He is more than able to save anyone who calls on his name for salvation.
"Will you ever forgive me?"
God’s way of forgiveness is ready and available through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. All you have to do is turn to God for the free gift of salvation and follow Him.
"Will God take me back?"
Yes, He will. God loves his prodigal children and longs for reconciliation with them.
As Ephesians shares, God’s salvation is a gift available to anyone who will accept it regardless of their past. None of us deserve it.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
And the book of Romans makes it clear that salvation is available to all who will turn to God.
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ (Romans 10:12-13)
The "whoever" in that verse emphatically includes you. If you forget everything else, don’t ever forget that. God loves you too much to let you perish. Turn to Him today through the perfect forgiveness of Jesus and be saved!