“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 ESV)
1 John is a letter that was written to Christians. If you have received Christ as your Savior, you are forever forgiven, counted as righteous by God and have been adopted into his family. Have you ever wondered why, then, if your sin has been forgiven at the cross, John says to continue to confess your sin to receive forgiveness and be cleansed from unrighteousness?
Before you received Christ, your sin condemned you to eternal separation from God. The only way to redemption was through the blood of Christ which he gave as payment in full for your sin. Now that you belong to Christ, you are no longer condemned because of sin. The penalty of sin has been removed. But you still sin. As much as you wish you didn’t, the fact is that you do. And I do. We all continue to sin because we are still imperfect in our flesh.
When we walk in darkness (sin) we cannot fellowship with God because there is no darkness in him (1 John 1:5-6). It is important to understand that God does not break his fellowship with us when we sin. He also does not require sinless perfection of us because he knows we are not perfect. We break our own fellowship with him when we choose to walk away from him in the darkness of sin. To restore our fellowship with him, we must confess our sin. But what does this mean? We often view confession as something other than what it truly is.
Comedian “Larry the Cable Guy” provides a demonstration of what we sometimes view as confession. He will say something offensive, then immediately “confess” it to God and pray for the missionaries and the Pygmies in Africa. Then he launches right back into another offensive comment. Has your confession ever looked this way? I know mine has, but this is not what John had in mind. Confession is more than saying “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that, please forgive me.”
When we walk in sin, the Spirit convicts us of our sin and brings it front and center so we can deal with it. If we merely acknowledge our sin, ask for forgiveness and continue in the path of sin, we have not confessed it. When John speaks of confession it is in the context of repentance. When the Spirit convicts us of our sin, we must confess it by turning away from the darkness and returning to the light of God’s righteousness.
When we turn away from the path of sin, God is faithful to forgive. He will not turn us away from walking in his light. As a parent would forgive and accept a wayward child, he will cleanse us of the stench and stain of sin and restore us to fellowship with him. We are not restored to fellowship because we ask for forgiveness. Many ask for forgiveness and continue to walk in sin. You cannot have fellowship with God this way. We are only restored when we confess in true repentance and return to walking in the light.
If you belong to Christ but have allowed sin to break your fellowship with God, take comfort in his promise to restore you. Confess your sin to God by turning away from it and walking in his light. You don’t have to earn your way back into his fellowship. His forgiveness and acceptance are there waiting for you.