This claim is sometimes made against those who preach grace. Because we say God has forgiven all your sins, apparently it’s wrong to ask him to forgive you. Apparently asking God to give what he has already provided is an insulting sin.
But I don’t buy it. It’s true that God has forgiven you, but if asking helps you to receive, then by all means ask!
There is nothing wrong in coming to the throne of grace in your hour of need to receive mercy and find grace. If you need forgiveness, God has an ample supply. It’s not wrong to ask. What’s wrong is telling people God won’t forgive them unless they first do things like repent or confess all their sins. What’s wrong is telling the poor and needy they’ve got to pay to dine at the table of the Lord’s abundance. What’s wrong is putting price tags on the gift of grace.
It’s not wrong to ask God for anything you need. He’s your Father and he cares for you. He wants you to present your requests to him (Php. 4:6). If you have made mistakes and are need of forgiveness, have the freedom to ask knowing that he will give you what you ask for.
But here’s something you may not appreciate: God will forgive you even if you don’t ask, even if you forget to ask. How do I know? Because he’s already done it.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. (Eph 1:7)
Perhaps you think you have to ask as in, “If I don’t ask, God won’t forgive me.” That’s like saying, “Christ didn’t carry all my sin,” which he did, or “Jesus needs to come and die again,” which he won’t, or “God needs my permission to forgive me,” which he doesn’t.
By all means have the freedom to repent, confess, ask, say sorry, or turn cartwheels if you wish, but do these things out of a sense of gratitude rather than obligation. Understand that you are not forgiven because you do the right things or ask in the proper manner. You are forgiven because your Father loves you and abounds in grace towards you.
It’s essential that you see this.
From God’s side, forgiveness is a done deal. There remain no more sacrifices for sin. But from our side sin may be a big problem indeed. Many are crippled by guilt and condemnation. Others remain slaves to sin and are incapable of making healthy choices. The solution is not to buy into a message of dead works—“Try harder! Turn from sin! Beg God to forgive you!” The remedy is to receive the grace that has been provided in Jesus Christ.
Why do you need to receive the gift of forgiveness if you are already forgiven? Because grace will change you. It will free you from sin’s brutal and condemning grip.
Unwanted grace is worthless. Leave God’s grace on the shelf and it won’t benefit you. This is why the New Testament writers exhort us to believe the good news. They’re basically saying, “Quit beating yourself up over sin and trying to make yourself clean. Trust Jesus and rest in his finished work.”
Receiving grace is simply a matter of agreeing with God. It’s thanking him that through Jesus “I have been cleansed from all unrighteousness, and all my sins have been taken away.” It’s giving him thanks in all circumstances because his grace abounds in all circumstances.
Adapted from The Hyper-Grace Gospel, pp.31-33.