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 us 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 to repeat myself here for emphasis. God has not given us a spirit of fear but of POWER, LOVE, AND A SOUND MIND. That Spirit is Himself, in spirit, the Holy Spirit. 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. We don’t even have the human ability to keep track of all the sins we commit. Plus, we don’t always notice our sins, and if we say we do, we’re lying, therefore compounding our sins.

2. The Bible says there is no fear in God’s love because it’s a perfect love, His perfect love casts out all fear because fear has to do with punishment (see 1 John 4:18). When John wrote this, he knew that Jesus had taken on the brunt of all our punishment from the Father in Himself. He saw it happen with his very own eyes (see John 19:26). John also knew that the punishment for sin is death–every sin, from jealousy to murder (see Romans 6:23). He was a Jewish man who got his forgiveness through the death of bulls and goats once a year at the Day of Atonement, and he was waiting on the Messiah. Jesus was the Messiah. His willingness to be punished for our sin, once and for all time, was written about hundreds of years before He was even born (see Isaiah 53). He was punished so we wouldn’t have to be. So because Christians will not be eternally punished for a single sin, we have nothing to fear! 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 grace-confused Christians who try to instill fear in the souls of other believers, they simply don’t understand what Jesus has done for them. Instead, they are too focused on what we are dead to, sin (see Romans 6:11). It’s pointless to focus on sin because as believers in Christ we’ve been given a sinless spirit (see Romans 6:6-7, 2 Corinthians 5:17).

Yet still, you’ll hear some people 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.”

Others will say, “You need to confess to the priest to be forgiven,” when priests are no longer needed because Jesus was the last one (see Hebrews 4:14-16, 10:12). We are all now equal in Christ (see Galatians 3:28). There are not hierarchies of “more holy” people, every Christian is equally holy (see Colossians 1:22, Hebrews 10:10).

Another set of lies you might hear is this, “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 but you didn’t confess it!”

My reply to this would be, “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 do you confess immediately? What about the sins you forget? The ones you overlook, belittle, or incorrectly justify as if they are not sins, but they really are?”

“Matt, those sins don’t count! Those are the sins which are covered by God’s grace! A real Christian would know that!”

“So now those sins don’t count, but the sins you remember to confess do count? I thought God was going to rightfully punish us for all the sins we don’t confess. So which is it? You gotta make up your mind here. With your method, God grades us on a curve which is based on our memory combined with a quasi-forgiveness. Friend, we must be perfect like God is perfect, Jesus said so Himself (see Matthew 5:48). This doesn’t happen little by little through confession and behavior repentance. It only happens once by way of spiritual death and rebirth (see John 3:6-7).”

“You’re wrong, Matt! 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!”

Do you see how they try to instill fear? They are aggressive and threatening, rather than being patient and kind. It’s no wonder we have such a bad rap. I’ve had that conversation nearly verbatim, many times. When you start telling Christians they are completely forgiven once through their faith in what Jesus did at the Cross, angry religious spirits come out of the woodwork to attack. However, their loud words, nasty emails, or all-capped comments with seven exclamation points are comparable to a barking, toothless dog, on a short chain. Nobody should be afraid of these extremely immature saints. We should be confident!

Friends, we shouldn’t be scared of aggressive people. We should simply look to God’s Word as a whole and then keep our peace. They’re aggressive because they believe they are doing something to stay saved, when the only thing keeping them saved is Jesus staying alive (see Hebrews 7:25).

Some will say, “Oh we can’t be completely forgiven one time. We gotta keep confessing!” However, the wages of sin is death, not lip service. Every sin causes us to owe God our death, not our words. And what did Jesus do? He died. Jesus is not dying again and again in heaven each time we sin, His one death was enough (see Hebrews 10:10, Romans 6:10, 1 Peter 3:18).

Old Testament priests presented animal blood for sin forgiveness and they were never allowed to sit down. Jesus, however, was the final priest on earth and He presented His blood, once, through death. This will never happen again. Just look:

“But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12)

Because of this final blood sacrifice, we have nothing to fear as Christians! Nothing! God loves us and wants us to have peace! If we are fearful of being punished by God over sin, we can’t have peace. So please understand that no Christian will be punished on any level in eternity for anything! The blood of Jesus actually worked!

Now, will earthly punishment 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 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. Let’s look at the one Scripture—in context—which has created such confusion:

“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)

First of all, as with every letter in the New Testament we must take into account who 1 John is being written to. Then, we should look around the verse in question to get the context. If we don’t do this, we can smugly cherry-pick single verses here and there, pile them up, and then form a brick wall of fear and condemnation for Christians. This approach–which is used by many who don’t understand the gospel very well–can easily make God out to be someone He’s not and cause us to think incorrect things about ourselves as His children.

Taking Scripture out of context is one of the devil’s best strategies to cause us misery. He even attempted to do this to Jesus (see Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13). And isn’t that just like Satan? He places a hint of truth in with his lies in order to accomplish his work of stealing, killing, and destroying. This proves that just because a person knows Scripture that doesn’t mean they know God. Even the enemy has the Bible memorized, and his goal is to twist God’s words into something they’re not.

When 1 John 1:9 is kept in context, what we are reading in this particular verse is not even directed towards Christians–but the Gnostics. The Gnostics were infiltrating the early church and causing a lot of trouble. They claimed that Jesus did not come in the flesh and that sin was not a real thing.

Because they said Jesus was not flesh, John opens up this letter by saying he touched Jesus. Therefore proving He was an actual human being made of flesh and bone (see 1 John 1:1). Next, because they believed sin was not real, he said this right before 1 John 1:9:

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)

What is the basis of Christianity? Forgiveness. If we don’t believe we’ve ever sinned, then we can’t be forgiven. John was telling the Gnostics they are deceiving themselves if they think they’ve never sinned a day in their lives. The verse right after 1 John 1:9 reiterates the same truth:

“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)

In this letter, John is contrasting the difference between Christian and non-Christian–light from darkness. Once a person confesses that they actually do have sin, and they place their faith in the risen Messiah, they get all of their sins forgiven and are instantly made righteous! Knowing this, let’s look at 1 John 1:9 again:

“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)

Do you see it?! The keyword is all! This verse is not a bar of soap for believers, it’s a statement of just how righteous and forgiven we are! John knew we would still mess up even after we are forgiven, but he also knew that it is Jesus who keeps us forgiven, not confession. Just look at the beginning of the next chapter. It says nothing about repeated confession when we sin, but instead, points to Jesus:

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John 2:1)

So today, my friends, know this: It’s okay to confess your sins to God–it’s healthy even. Confession is simply agreeing with our Creator that our choices and attitudes have been off-base as holy saints. But confession does not cleanse us of anything. Our spirits have already been perfectly cleansed forever! (See Hebrews 10:14).

A prayer for you: Heavenly Father, thank you for the ability to boldly confess to you when we fall off course in our choices and thinking. Yes, you already know about our mistakes, but when we agree with you about who we are, we can ENJOY who we are! Confession is normal, healthy, and wise! You always advise us and strengthen us when we choose to act on sin, but you never punish us. We know that Jesus was punished in full, and we are grateful. Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. Dad, so many of them are confused about confession. Today I ask that you reveal the truth about what you’ve done to their spirits as believers. Teach them that you’ve MADE them exactly like you inside, and you’ve joined them for good! Give them peace in knowing that the words “ask for forgiveness” are not in the Bible, and that only perfect blood can forgive us once and for all time. That blood was Jesus’, and it was more than good enough! In His name I pray, amen.

This devotional is from 60 Days for Jesus, Volume 2. Get your copy here!

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