The Truth About Confessing Our Sins
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our
sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:9
Have you ever been told that you must confess every single sin in order to be completely forgiven by God? And if you didn’t, or if you forgot to confess any, you’re not really forgiven? What does such a statement create in a person?…One word, fear.
So if this legalistic proclamation of confession of every sin in order to be acceptable to God creates fear for a Christian, then a red flag should immediately go up in our souls alerting us that this is a lie from hell. Here’s why:
1. The Bible says God hasn’t given any Christian a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind—as in a peaceful mind (see 2 Timothy 1:7). I’m going repeat myself here for emphasis. God has not given us a spirit of fear (that Spirit is Himself, in spirit, the Holy Spirit), but of POWER, LOVE, AND A SOUND MIND. So, worrying about confessing every single sin, right down to the fibs you tell your kids about the Easter Bunny, is a big fat lie from Satan which is meant to create fear. You don’t even have the human ability to keep track of all the many sins you commit, plus, you don’t always notice your sins. And if you say you do, then you’re lying, therefore compounding your sins.
2. The Bible says there is no fear in God’s love because it’s a perfect love—and His perfect love casts out all fear because fear has to do with PUNISHMENT (see 1 John 4:18). The Apostle John knew very well that Jesus had taken on the brunt of all our punishment from the Father. How would he know this? Because he saw it happen with his very own eyes at the Cross (see John 19:26). Further, the Bible is clear about the Messiah’s punishment sacrifice for the world. This was written about hundreds of years before Jesus was even born (see Isaiah 53:5). So because we will not be eternally punished for one single sin, after placing our faith in Jesus, we have nothing to fear. The biblical fact is no Christian will give an account for any sin, only unbelievers will. Sure, we will all stand before the throne, Christian or not, but Jesus has secured our verdict as “not guilty” (see John 3:17,18).
The religious Christians who try to instill fear in the souls of other believers, they simply don’t understand what Jesus has truly done for us. Instead, they are too focused on what we are dead to, sin (see Romans 6:11). Why beat a dead horse for previously misbehaving? It’s pointless, it’s dead.
You’ll hear them say disturbing things like, “If you’ve truly repented, only then will you not sin any longer. And if you keep sinning, after you thought you got saved, then you didn’t really get saved! You’re not a true Christian unless you prove it with your works and repentance! You gotta repent every single day, of every single sin, and confess it to God! If you don’t, then you will be in a hotter place of hell than the unbelievers because you knew right from wrong, yet you didn’t confess it!”
My reply to this is, “…Really?…So tell me, how do you keep track of all your sins? A legal pad, or on your phone? Do you write them down so you can confess them later, or immediately? And what about the sins you forget about? The ones you overlook, belittle, or incorrectly justify as if they are not sins, but they really are?”
“Matt, you’re a fool! Those sins don’t count! Those are the sins which are covered by God’s grace! A real Christian would know this!”
“Hmmmmm…so now those sins don’t count, but the sins you remember to confess do count? I thought God was going to rightfully punish me for all the sins I don’t confess? So which is it? You gotta make up your mind here. With your incorrect method, some sins count, and some don’t. So God grades us on a curve? A curve which is based on our memory combined with a quasi-forgiveness? And you just called me a fool, which Jesus said in Matthew 5, if you call someone a fool you’re in danger of hell. So are you gonna write that sin down now, or just confess it later by memory?”
“I’m done with this! I’m not having a Bible discussion with you any longer! You’ll get what you deserve from God Almighty! I’ll be praying for you harder than anyone else I know! You’ll pay for this false teaching of the true word of God!”
…I’ve had that conversation, nearly verbatim, many times. When you start telling people they are completely forgiven one time through their faith in what Jesus has done at the Cross, the angry religious spirits come out of the woodwork to attack. But I ain’t scared—oh I used to be, but now I know the truth. Their loud words, nasty emails, or all-capped comments with seven exclamation points are comparable to a toothless dog barking on a short chain. Harmless. All bark. No bite.
I now know who lives in me, they will never get me to be afraid of God, ever again.
These types find their identity in an anti-grace, “Oh we can’t be completely forgiven one time. We gotta keep confessing!” And do you see what happens? Religious pride happens. Unnecessary aggression happens. Going crazy trying to prove that Christians are not really forgiven “all the way,” happens. It’s sad because the very same people who claim you must confess every sin to be forgiven of it, they have nothing to back it up except attempting to create more fear. A fear that deep down they feel the most, so they want us to feel it too. Don’t fall for it. Jesus told us all the time not to be afraid, and He meant it.
We have nothing to fear as Christians. Nothing. God loves us and wants us to have peace. Of course, I’m speaking about the fear of eternal punishment on any level, or fear of a demotion in heaven because of sin. Those things will not happen to believers in Christ.
Now, will earthly punishments come from making poor choices? Sure they will. If I go out and kill a man, and then plead to the judge that I shouldn’t be punished because I’m a Christian, he’ll probably move me up to the front of the line at death row. So yes, earthly punishment does still happen for Christians, but eternal punishment does not. Thankfully, God is merciful so even when we do deserve to be punished here on earth, He is monitoring those situations as well, working all things out together, for good (see Romans 8:28).
But this notion of confessing every sin after we are saved, in order to stay saved, is ludicrous. So let’s look at the one Scripture—in context—which has created such confusion, and then break it down, 1 John 1:9:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
First of all, as with every book in the Bible, we must look at who 1 John is primarily being written to, then look around the verse in question. If we don’t do this, we can conveniently cherry-pick single verses here and there, pile them up, and then form a brick wall of fear and condemnation. Through this approach, which is used by many who don’t understand the gospel very well, we can easily make God out to be someone who He’s not.
The devil even attempted this trick on Jesus; that is, taking Scripture out of context to confuse and cause harm (see Matthew 4, Luke 4, Mark 1). And isn’t that just like the devil? He places a hint of truth in with his lies in order to accomplish his work of stealing, killing, and destroying. I’ll not go there in this devotional, because I could write forever on the subject, but even the devil has memorized the Bible.
When 1 John 1:9 is kept in context, what we are reading in this particular verse is not even directed towards Christians. John is making a case for Christ. He’s not telling those who believed in Jesus as their Savior what they need to do to be saved. Instead, he’s saying what a Christian’s life should look like organically as they walk by the Spirit of Christ in them—after being saved.
All throughout 1 John he is explaining the actions and attitudes which come from Christ in us. He’s not saying that these actions or attitudes achieve Christ in us. That part, which is called salvation, only comes by grace through simple faith. He tells us so in one of his other books, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
The book of 1 John was primarily written to the Gnostics. Gnostics were people who believed our physical bodies were nasty, dirty, and all-around, just plain bad. They thought that in order to be one with God all they had to do was give away all their stuff and seek out wisdom. Because they thought the bodies of human beings were so flawed, they stuck to the notion of, “God would never belittle Himself by becoming an actual person.” Hence, the Gnostics refused to believe in Jesus as the Son of God, all because the Christians kept claiming Jesus was a man.
For this very reason, John opens up his epistle by saying he touched Jesus (see 1 John 1:1). John makes the claim that he was an eye-witness to Christ as a person, emphasizing the fact that he had a physical relationship with God’s own Son.
Second, and here’s where we get to the brass-tax of the confession verse in question: the Gnostics believed there was no such thing as sin. Their mindset was, “I’m not sinful because sin does not exist.” This is the primary reason why John wrote: “If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sin…” as in, THE VERY FIRST TIME WE CONFESS THAT WE ACTUALLY HAVE SIN!
John was trying to get them to say, “You know what? I actually do have sin in me which needs God’s forgiveness. I must confess I’m sinful without Jesus’ blood. I need to be forgiven.” This is why John says in the verse before that, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
And then look at the verse right after 1 John 1:9, which ties this all together and proves that the Gnostics believed they had never sinned, “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:10).
The truth about the endless confessing of our sins is that it is not confessing which saves us but only the blood of Jesus and our faith in His blood as the truth for the forgiveness of our sin. Hebrews 9:22 is very clear about God needing blood to remove sin—not our words.
Further, according to the Old Testament Law (which non-Jews, us gentiles, weren’t even invited to read, let alone obey), it wasn’t the Jews’ confessing which covered up their sins, but only the blood of animals. To top that off, this huge animal bloodbath party was only required, get this, ONCE A YEAR, at the Day of Atonement!
And the Jews got forgiveness for an entire year through this big day of animal bloodshed! They didn’t get forgiveness for just an hour, day, or week—BUT FOR ALL YEAR! They weren’t required to sacrifice animals each time they sinned, but only annually! So what makes us think that on this side of the Cross, as gentiles—NON-JEWS—our words will take away our sin?! They won’t! WORDS NEVER TOOK AWAY SIN! No amount of babbling, begging, and pleading about our screw-ups can cleanse our spirits, only what Jesus’ blood did for us at the Cross can!
To add to this point, the once-a-year slaughtering of animals at the Day of Atonement only covered up, or “atoned for” the Jews’ sins—that blood never took away the sins for good. That’s why they had to do it once a year! But Jesus’ blood actually took away our sins, forever! (See Hebrews 10:4, 1 John 3:5, John 1:29).
Friend, Jesus has completed all the confessing you’ll ever need to do in order to be saved, as well as keep your saving. He did so when He said, “IT IS FINISHED!” These three words were the ultimate confession of sin! (See John 19:30). After that, He sat down at the right hand of God and a New Covenant began—a better covenant. Not one based on the blood of bulls and goats, but on the perfect human blood of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
This New Covenant is between the Father and Son, we are simply the beneficiaries (see Hebrews 8:13). We’ve done nothing to create this contract, neither can we sustain it by our efforts. All we do is just receive it by faith and say, “Thank you.” The best news is that you will stay saved as long as Jesus lives! And He isn’t dying again and again up in heaven each time you sin! (See Hebrews 7:25). IT’S OVER! DONE! FINISHED! HE IS RISEN!
By Jesus giving up His perfect, sinless blood, once for all time, He has brought everyone into fellowship with God, not just the Jews (see Galatians 3:28). And now, because of such kindness and grace shown to us by our Creator—that He would sacrifice His own Son for us—and because Jesus will never shed His blood again, it’s our job to simply believe that His blood has forgiven us, as in one time. This faith then gives us access to His perfection as He makes His home in our hearts! It’s not about anything we do or don’t do, but about what Jesus has done! (See Romans 10:9, Hebrews 10:10, Romans 6:10, 1 Peter 3:18, Ephesians 2:8,9, 3:17)
So today, my friends, know this: Jesus Christ has finished everything required by God on your behalf, which is to complete all of the laws and commandments perfectly, with love. He is your representative, your advocate, your Savior, and your obligatory sinless bloody lamb. The Father now sees Jesus inside you, in spirit—the Holy Spirit—and He is more than satisfied with Him. To top that off, He will stay satisfied, even if you never confess another thing for the rest of your life.
A prayer for the day: Heavenly Father, what an amazing plan you thought out! You loved us so much you just HAD to create us! But you knew ahead of time that we would fail because of the option of sin. Yet, it was ALSO you who gave us this option because without the ability to make our own choices, we wouldn’t have the ability to CHOOSE to love you back! Instead, we’d all be unlovable robots. But through your pre-planning and grace, you’ve allowed us to make our own choices and I am grateful. You not only created us with free will, but you also wanted to make a way to remove our sin forever. That way, is Jesus. Thank you, Thank you, THANK YOU SO MUCH for Jesus’ blood sacrifice at the Cross! Amen!
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