Does God leave us when we sin and do we need to ask for forgiveness or just receive it?
We must start by noting that while God hates sin, He loves unconditionally and overwhelmingly. The ultimate expression of His love, expressed through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, was for sinners. Hence, the scripture says when we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8). The same way, a mother, while not necessarily liking her child’s soiled clothes, does not refrain from the child, but helps the child to clean-up, God is not put off by our sins. He promised never to leave us or forsake us. (Deut. 31:6). Rather, He tells us that although our sins are as scarlet, they will be made as snow (Isaiah 1:18).
Yet, sin has an impact on our relationship with us. It pulls our hearts away from God. And, the more we sin, the greater the distance. Isaiah 59:2 puts it this way: “But your iniquities have separated you from God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear”. You know the same way you feel guilty, scared and estranged from your parents, after doing something you know will hurt them; that is the same way we feel with God. We feel estranged and unfit when we see. For indeed, only those with clean hands and pure hearts can ascend the Holy Hills of the Lord or stand in His Holy place. (Ps. 24: 3 – 4).
Put simply, God’s position of love remains constant always, it is man’s position that varies. Do you remember the story of the prodigal child? (Lk. 15: 11 – 32) The son left his father, the father did not leave the son. When the son returned, the father was there to receive him. The father ran to meet him.
What then should be our response when we sin. Scripture mandates that we repent. Repentance means ‘to turn away from’, ‘to change’. It entails an acknowledgement and conviction of our wrong, a confession of the wrong, and an acceptance of God’s forgiveness. Numerous scriptures endorse this. Few examples will suffice. Jesus the Christ when teaching us how to pray, taught us to ask for forgiveness thus “… forgive us our trespasses …” (Matth. 6:12). John told us that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. (1 John 1:9).
Yes, the provision of forgiveness was fully made at the cross. But we must go to the cross to receive it. The process of receiving it is called repentance. And, repentance entails godly sorrow. The Bible says “godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation…” We must never be at home with sin. Something must break in us when we transgress the ordinance of God. In fact, we should be wary when we lose such contrition after sinning. It is a scary sign that something has gone wrong in us.
To ‘ask’ for forgiveness, is not merely by telling God to forgive you. It is essentially a process of being convicted of sin and a desire to make it right with God. The conviction invariably leads to an admission of wrong, a confession before God (and, in certain situations, to men) and telling the Lord that you are sorry. It is an expression of love. An expression of someone who does not want to hurt her lover. And, who feels bad when she does. We, however, come to this place of ‘asking’, knowing that there is already a provision of forgiveness. It is like the fund in your bank account. You simply slot in your debit card or issue a cheque to withdraw from it. Remember, ask and you shall receive. (Matth. 7:7).