Forgiveness is not a denial of a deed, but a removing of the penalty of sin. At the risk of oversimplification, let us clarify this point. When a person is forgiven, it is not the case that his past actions really never occurred. They did occur. Furthermore, the sins in which we once participated may have lasting consequences. (We may still have to go to jail, not get our job back, or be able to regain our family. Some things may be lost to us.) But we can rest assured that though we may bear the scar of sin for life, we do not have to bear the penalty of sin. We should not equate the physical suffering brought on by our sin with our spiritual relationship with God. It just may be that some will think that God never has really forgiven them because they are still suffering from some lasting consequence of their sin. Because we may have a strong hatred for our past sins, we may want all things to be as if we never committed the sins, but this cannot be. Forgiveness does not erase the past and deny that the action ever took place. Forgiveness admits the sin and then removes the penalty for the sin. We can be bathed in the comforting truth that we can be as clean and pure, having our sins forgiven, with a clean heart, as one who has never sinned. We can hold our heads high and honestly say, “I am not like that any more!” This is not a denial that we were once a sinner, but a denial that we still serve sin.
From BulletinGold, March 7, 2001