Let me complete the question, “Should Christians ask God for forgiveness knowing that all their sins, past, present and future, have already been forgiven by God when they were justified by their faith in Christ?”
Justification by Faith
The Bible teaches that when we put our faith in Christ God justifies us and we are declared not guilty before him. All our sin is counted to Jesus – who died for our sins in our stead – who thereby bore God’s punishment that should have been ours. All Jesus’ right standing before God is then counted to us. We are justified before God, counted righteous in his sight, and our sin (all of it) forgiven. As Paul says in Romans 8 there is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ (v1) and nothing can separate us from his love (v38-39) – ever. God himself gave himself to save us from himself.
Should I always forgive someone who has harmed or hurt me or should I only forgive if the person repents? I have friends who have been harmed in many ways. One friend recalls how an overzealous corporal humiliated him in the army in front of others. Another friend remembers the pain of a close friend taking advantage of her. Another friend recollects the enormous betrayal of an unfaithful spouse. My counsel to all of them has been to forgive the offender, to release the debt of hurt and pain, and to trust God to ultimately correct all wrongs. Sometimes the offender has repented in other cases not.
Jesus came to call sinners to repentance, not those who think God is impressed with them. Jesus hung out with sinners, even endured being called an alcoholic and glutton, for the sake of the gospel.
How do we also befriend, hang-out with, and engage sinners who sin, without compromising our own godliness? What do we do when we find out the couple we are trying to build a friendship with are swingers? Or the friend from the pilates class, who I invited for a chicken salad, snorts coke? Or the guys from the office circulate who porn?
Jesus’ example in John 8 helps us.
1. Treat sinners with dignity and respect The woman is caught in adultery. Adultery is grievous to God, even punishable by stoning according to Old Testament law. She deserved to die. Yet Jesus treat her with honour and respect, even calling her “woman”, the same word he called him mother in John 2. Big lesson: Sinners (even bad sinners) are humans, created in the image of God and should be treated as such.
2. Call sin sin Jesus however did not compromise on the reality of sin. Jesus did not excuse her sin or avoid talking about it. He said to her, “leave your life of sin”, implying that it was a sinful life! We should not be too embarrassed or intimidated to call sin sin. We can be open and honest when asked our opinion or when called to give advise.
3. Remain godly at all times Jesus was a heterosexual male in his earl 30’s. This woman, presumably half-dressed, caught having sex is put on display in front of him. Yet, Jesus remains godly, full of integrity and self-control. We are called to the same. We need to be discerning as to what were we can participate and when we have to back off and possibly even leave the situation or decline the invite. Compromise our godliness would be selling out, not reaching out.
4. Point sinners to Jesus The religious leaders actually did quite a good thing for the sinful woman: they bought her to Jesus, the only one who can deal with her sin. Unfortunately, when the leaders’ sin was exposed, they slunk away from the source of forgiveness. Our over-arching aim in being friends with non-Christians is to point and introduce them to Jesus.
5. Call for repentance Once this woman was introduced to Jesus and forgiven, Jesus commanded her to leave her life of sin. We should expect the same from our friends who came to know Jesus. No longer excuses or justifications for an ongoing lifestyle of habitual sin, but rather a renewed passion for holiness and obedience to the bible.
Outstanding issue The Old Testament law demanded that the woman be punished by death. How could Jesus simply forgive her and thus break a law of God? Actually, the law was upheld! The woman’s sin was punished by death – Jesus’ death. Jesus died for her sins. Jesus died for your adultery and pride and greed too.