About Jesus Steve Sweetman
Does Confessing Our Sin Really Mean Confessing Our Sin?
1 John 1:9 is well known among Evangelicals. It says, "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins". (NIV) I believe many of us think this verse means that if we can remember, and then confess every sin we commit, God will forgive us for each of these sins. Therefore we should always be alert to our sin so we can ask God to forgive us.
This is one thing that bothered me while growing up as a child. Each evening I would pray and ask God to forgive me. I would list the sins that I knew I committed during the day and ask His forgiveness. But what about the sins I forgot to ask forgiveness for? Would I be forgiven for those sins that I did not confess? Just to be on the safe side, I would add a corollary to my evening prayer and say, "...and please forgive me Lord for any other sin I have left out". I did not want to die in my sleep after leaving a sin off my "please forgive list". Dying in my sleep was something I thought about since I was taught the children's prayer, "now I lay me down to sleep, if I should die before I wake..."
I thought this way because a well-meaning Sunday School teacher once told us that even if we committed a very little sin, and didn't ask for forgiveness, we would go to hell. "If this is the case" I thought, "how could anyone ever make Heaven then? How could anyone be sure they were saved? There's no way I could remember every sin to confess". It is sad to say, but many of us grew up in a "work for your salvation" atmosphere.
Then there is the question, what about things that I don't even consider sin, or know to be sin, yet in the eyes of God might be sin? Would I be forgiven for these? I obviously would not ask to be forgiven for something I did not think needed forgiveness.
Some think that simply disobeying the Ten Commandments is sin. This would mean that there are only ten sins. That would make things real easy for me, if it were true. I should be able to keep track of ten sins without any problem. But really, is sin only disobeying the Ten Commandments? Are there only ten sins to watch our for?
I think Jesus took care of this question when He said that "if we get angry at our brother, we have killed him in our hearts". Or, "if we lust after a woman (or a man), we have already committed adultery in our hearts". (Mat. 5:21-32 - my paraphrase) Sin definitely is more than disobeying ten particular commandments.
Paul, in Rom. 14:23 says that "anything that does not come from faith is sin". This really broadens our definition of sin. This means that anything we do without relying on Jesus for the ability to do it is sin. This means that I can teach Sunday School and sin as I teach, if I don't trust Jesus in the process. Trusting Jesus is the simple definition of what faith is. Therefore, according to Paul and Jesus, sinning goes way beyond the Ten Commandments.
The reason why we sin is because we are born sinners. Sin doesn't make us sinners. Being a sinner makes us sin, or so I believe. The root cause for sin, and the reason why Jesus died is the fact that we are sinners. We are inherently bad. The theological term that came out of the Reformation to describe this is called Total Depravity. This means that there is nothing, absolutely nothing good within us. We are alienated from God without any means within ourselves to remedy the situation. This is what Paul tells us in the first 3 chapters of his letter to the Romans, something that I believe has been passed over too lightly in today's church.
So what is John saying when he tells us to confess our sins? Is he really telling us to sit down at the end of the day and make sure we ask forgiveness for every sin we have committed? I don't think so. We sin all of the time, whether we realize it or not. Yes, maybe we don't commit the big sins anymore. but we do sinned.
The point to note in this verse is that John is not talking to Christians who know they sin. He is talking to Christians who claim that they don't sin. In verse 8 he says, "if we claim to be without sin we deceive ourselves..." John is saying that we all sin. If we claim we don't sin, we are deceived. Therefore "confess that you still sin and you will be forgiven". Acknowledge that sin is still in your life. Admit it and find forgiveness and carry on with life. Don't claim to be without sin.
Even though we are saved Christians, we still sin. John says we should not deny this. We should simply acknowledge the fact that sin is present in our lives as Christians. This is what confessing means in this particular verse. As a result we can be sure that we are forgiven. John isn't expecting us to make a daily list of every sin we commit to present to God. We continually find forgiveness when we acknowledge or confess that we are sinner, saved only by God's grace. Thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ who took care of all this on the cross.