Let me share a simple process, a spiritual formula, that has helped thousands of people to experience God's love and forgiveness.
It begins by asking the Holy Spirit to reveal every sin in your life. Take a pencil and paper and list every sin He brings to mind. As you write, confess each one of them to God.
I encourage you to humble yourself before God as you do this. Give Him time to reveal everything in your life that is displeasing to Him. This list is just between you and God, so be completely honest. Tell Him everything that's wrong.
Your list may include (to name a few):
Whatever your sin, write it down and remember: you have a loving God who forgives you -- who even gave His Son, the Lord Jesus, to die for you.
A young man said to me after an evening meeting, "I didn't believe I needed to make a list. I couldn't think of anything seriously wrong in my life. But when I saw others making their lists, the Spirit of God told me to do the same."
While there were no major areas of disobedience in his life, he said, a lot of little things had dulled the cutting edge of his love and witness for Christ.
He encouraged me, "If you ever speak on this subject again, be sure to insist that everyone, including those who think there are no major sins in their lives, make a list of their sins. If I had not made my list, I would have missed a special blessing from God."
After you have written the sins that God reveals to you, write God's promise of forgiveness from 1 John 1:9 across the list:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
When you have completed your time of prayer and confession, accept His forgiveness by faith, then destroy the list as an illustration of the forgiveness God has granted you. You may want to tear it into pieces or burn it to show how completely God has forgiven you.
The final step in the process is to ask God if you need to make restitution to someone. You may need to apologize for having a bad attitude toward someone. You may need to ask someone to forgive you for the way you have treated him or her. You may need to return something you have stolen.
It's important for you to make restitution to others because you cannot maintain a clear conscience before God if you still have a guilty conscience before people. Confession often includes making restitution.
At the conclusion of a Christian medical meeting where I had spoken on the subject of forgiveness, a doctor accepted my challenge to make his list. He was very excited when he came to see me early the next morning.
"Last night about midnight," he said, "a doctor friend of mine came to my room and told me that he had hated me for years while pretending to be my friend. As he was making his list, God told him that he should come and tell me and ask me to forgive him. We had the most wonderful time of prayer, and God met us in a special way."
He encouraged me to keep telling Christians to confess their sins to God and, if necessary, to ask forgiveness of those whom they have wronged as the Holy Spirit leads them.
If, after you have fully confessed all of your known sins to God, you still feel a sense of guilt, it may be because you have not been completely honest with God by making a full disclosure. So be sure you are honest with God.
Are you weighed down by heavy burdens of guilt? Do you sometimes wonder if you will ever experience the love and forgiveness of God that other Christians joyfully profess?
Perhaps you feel like the man who was stumbling along the road with a heavy pack on his back. Soon, a wagon stopped, and the driver offered to give him a ride. Joyfully, the weary traveler accepted. But when he climbed onto the wagon, he continued to strain under his heavy load.
"Why don't you take off your pack and rest?" the driver asked.
The discouraged traveler replied, "Oh, I couldn't do that! It would be too much to ask you to carry my load as well as me."
"How foolish," you say. We wouldn't think of responding like that to such an offer, would we? Yet many Christians continue to carry heavy burdens of guilt even after they have entrusted their lives to the Lord Jesus and received His forgiveness.
Frequently we experience hostility or punishment from our friends or family when we fall short of their expectations. If you have truly wronged another person, confessing it and making restitution when necessary will release the guilt. But feelings of guilt will linger if you do not forgive yourself or if you try to live up to the unrealistic expectations of others.
None of us is perfect. But as Christians we do not live in condemnation. As one who has been forgiven, you are righteous before God in Jesus Christ.
When you have completed this simple process, any feelings of guilt that remain are not from God. They are from your enemy Satan. Your sins have been removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). They are buried in the deepest sea (Micah 7:19). God has put them behind His back and remembers them against you no more (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12; 10:17).
There was a young boy who had a pet bird, and one day the bird died. The boy was broken-hearted, and his father and mother decided that instead of allowing their son to be downcast, they would make something memorable of the occasion.
They said, "Let's have a funeral." Calling all the neighbor children together, they dug a little hole in the ground, put the bird in a box, and buried it with a ceremony. Instead of being downcast, the boy was excited.
But the next day, he went out and dug up the bird to see how it was getting along. His father, however, insisted that he bury it. So he did. A few days later, the boy went out and dug up the bird again. This happened several times, and each time the father would reprimand him. Finally, the father became angry and said, "Now look, you leave that bird in the ground, and don't ever dig it up again!"
Are you confessing your sins over and over again -- out of a sense of guilt -- like the little boy digging up that old dead bird?
All of your sins have been forgiven by God on the basis of Christ's death on the cross and the shedding of His blood for your sins. Whenever Satan accuses you of some act in your past that has grieved or quenched the Holy Spirit, you can say with great joy, "I have confessed that sin and I know God has forgiven me and cleansed me as He promised."
I challenge you to examine your life right now. Are you experiencing the fullness of the Christian life? Are you carrying a load of guilt over past sins in you life? I urge you to begin the process of Spiritual Breathing today. It has helped millions of other Christians, and I know it will also help you.
God's forgiveness is complete. Thank Him for canceling your guilt and cleansing you. Claim victory over those negative feelings and move on in faith to be a fruitful disciple and witness for our Lord.
Now you are free to experience the abundant life that He promised. Now you can encourage and serve your brothers and sisters in Christ. And now you can enter the harvest fields to enjoy bringing other people to the Lord Jesus who has done so much for you.
Remember, How You Can Experience God's Love and Forgiveness is a transferable concept. You can master it by reading it six times; then pass it on to others as our Lord commands us in Matthew 28:20, "Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you." The apostle Paul encouraged us to do the same: "The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others" (2 Timothy 2:2).
Adapted from the Transferable Concept: How You Can Experience God's Love And Forgiveness, by Dr. Bill Bright, co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. © Cru. All rights reserved.
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