(Originally posted on the Bibles for America Blog)
When we first repented to God and received Jesus Christ as our Saviour, we were forgiven of all our sins, and peace flooded our hearts. And God’s Word assures us that our salvation is for all eternity and can never be undone.
But although we’re saved, we know from our personal experience this doesn’t mean we’re immune to sin. We still sin after experiencing salvation, despite our best efforts. So what should we do when we sin after being saved? The Word of God tells us that we should confess our sins to the Lord.
Confessing to God the sins we commit after we’re saved is absolutely critical for our life as a Christian. In this post, we’ll cover why we need to confess our sins, what it means to confess, how to confess, and the results of confessing.
Why we need to confess: Sin breaks our fellowship with the Lord
Our God is a God of love, but He’s also holy and righteous. God can’t tolerate sin, so the sins we commit create a barrier between us and Him and interrupt our fellowship with Him.
We can see this even in our human relationships. Let’s say you offend your friend by saying something hurtful, and you never apologise. You both feel there’s a rift between you, but until you clear the air by apologising, you simply can’t be at ease in each other’s presence.
This is even more true when it comes to our relationship with the Lord. When we commit a sin, we sense in our conscience that we’ve offended the Lord. The ease and sweetness of our relationship is lost. We’ve trespassed against Him, and that sin is now a barrier between us, disrupting our fellowship with Him.
So we need to confess our sins to the Lord because even though our salvation is eternal and we can never lose it, our sins cause our fellowship with God to be broken.
What it means to confess: To admit, to acknowledge our sin
First of all, how do we know when we’ve sinned? As 1 John 1:5 tells us, “God is light.” So when God shines on us, He exposes our sins and failures, and we become conscious of them. The resulting sense of guilt in our conscience is uncompromising and can’t be quelled by any reasoning or excuse on our side. Instead of explaining our sin away or trying to cover it up, we should acknowledge the sins God shines on and ask for His forgiveness.
Psalm 32:5 gives us a good example of this. The psalmist said, “I acknowledged my sin to You, and I did not cover my iniquity. I said, I will confess my transgressions to Jehovah. Then You forgave the iniquity of my sin.”
These verses help us see that confessing our sins to God means acknowledging them and not trying to cover them up, but admitting them to the Lord. We agree with God’s judgment and say, “Yes, Lord, that is sin.”
How to confess: Praying to the Lord as soon as we realise we’ve sinned
When we realise we’ve sinned and offended the Lord, we need to confess. But how do we do this?
We confess our sins in prayer to God. Whether it’s a small transgression or one that’s more serious, when the Lord makes us aware of it in our conscience, we must immediately admit our sin to Him in prayer and ask for His forgiveness.
You don’t need to go to a certain place, tell a particular person, or wait for a special time to confess your sins. No matter where you are, as soon as you are conscious of your sins, you can confess them directly to the Lord by praying to Him. Since He’s living in your spirit, you can pray to Him at any time to confess your sins.
A practical example
Let’s say there’s a stock of notepads and pens at your workplace. Since they’re just the kind you like, you help yourself to a few for personal use at home. In the morning, as you turn your heart to the Lord to spend time with Him, He shines on you and convicts your conscience that you’ve taken something that doesn’t belong to you. At this point, you could reason, “The office has plenty of those things; they’ll never be missed.” Or you can go along with the feeling of conviction and guilt in your conscience and agree with the Lord that what you did was wrong.
When you decide to go along with the Lord, you can immediately pray to Him, “Yes, Lord, You’re right; I’ve sinned. I confess that I took those things. I’m sorry. Forgive me, Lord. Thank You for shedding Your precious blood to take away my sin.”
Notice that this simple prayer doesn’t include a promise to do better. That isn’t required for confession. What is required is acknowledging your sin to the Lord and declaring your faith in His work on the cross.
Of course, in this example, after you confess to the Lord you should also return the items to your workplace and not keep them.
The sin in this example might seem small, even insignificant. But in principle, all sins—big or small—must be confessed, since any sin interrupts our fellowship with God.
The result of confession: Forgiveness and cleansing
In 1 John 1:9, a verse written by the apostle John to believers, we see the result of confessing our sins:
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
If we confess, the result is that we are forgiven and cleansed.
Note 2 on this verse in the New Testament Recovery Version explains what it means for God to be faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins:
“God is faithful in His word (v. 10) and righteous in the blood of Jesus His Son (v. 7). His word is the word of the truth of His gospel (Eph. 1:13), which tells us that He will forgive us our sins because of Christ (Acts 10:43); and the blood of Christ has fulfilled His righteous requirements that He might forgive us our sins (Matt. 26:28). If we confess our sins, He, according to His word and based on the redemption through the blood of Jesus, forgives us because He must be faithful in His word and righteous in the blood of Jesus; otherwise, He would be unfaithful and unrighteous. Our confession is needed for His forgiveness. Such forgiveness of God, which is for the restoration of our fellowship with Him, is conditional; it depends on our confession.”
By confessing our sins, we receive forgiveness—a forgiveness solidly based on God’s righteousness.
Furthermore, note 3 on the same verse explains what it means for Him to “cleanse us from all unrighteousness”:
“To forgive us is to release us from the offense of our sins, whereas to cleanse us is to wash us from the stain of our unrighteousness.”
By confessing our sins, we’re forgiven and cleansed, and our fellowship with the Lord is fully restored because the obstacle of our sin is removed. Praise the Lord!