True ConfessionAre you ready to entrust it to God and experience the freedom of living for Him?
“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.”1 John 1:9-10 NLT
When I was 8 years old, I went to church camp. During one of the meetings every camper received a cute, cuddly, little teddy bear. I loved stuffed animals and I thought the only thing better than having one cute, cuddly teddy bear would be to have two cute, cuddly teddy bears. So when another child in the cabin left hers under her bed and clearly didn’t care for it as much as I did, I took it. I figured she probably wouldn’t even notice. I was doing her a favor by taking the bear off her hands. On the final day of camp she looked everywhere for that teddy bear. I knew it was in my suitcase but to give it to her now would be to admit that I had taken it. Wanting to keep my reputation of being a perfect child, I stayed silent and took two teddy bears home with me. From that moment on, I was very aware that I was a sinner.
When was the last time you sinned? In the last hour? Yesterday? Since you have been reading this article? Sin isn’t talked about much outside of church. Most people don’t seem to think much about it. We see sin portrayed as fun and harmless all around us. Why does the Bible claim sin is so horrible? Can it be so bad if everyone in the world, does it? Does sin really need to be dealt with? 1 John 1:9-10 is a passage I return to often when feeling burdened by my own sin. God’s truth offers a remedy for my problem and a hope for my future. Let’s dig deeper into this passage and explore the hope that God offers each of us.
Most of us are quick to admit that we fall firmly in the “sinner” category. It doesn’t take much reflection to realize that we have fallen short of living a perfect life according to biblical standards. But sin is even more than just a list of what God says not to do. The original Greek word translated to “sin” means “to miss the mark.” Picture an arrow flying through the air and missing the bullseye. Sin includes any action that falls short of hitting the bullseye of that God has set before us. Sin can be actions of commission (things we do that we shouldn’t) and omission (not doing things we should). God has a dream for us of who we should be and what we should do, and falling short of that is sin.
If we are all sinners, at least we are together in this predicament. It must not be a big deal if everyone does it, right? But this view of sin implies that sin is harmless. This is what I thought when I stole the teddy bear – I thought no one would miss it. But as that other camper searched anxiously for the bear on the last day of camp, I realized my action had hurt her. It also hurt me. When I returned home, the two teddy bears reminded me of my guilt and I hated to look at them. Though I played with my stuffed animals frequently, I never played with those bears. I sent them away to the thrift store in the next donation bag that left the house. Sin always leaves wounds in its wake. Many of us are wounded not only from our own sin but another’s sin against us. Sometimes we don’t notice the wounds and continue as if everything is fine. Other times the wounds are deep and obvious, and we look for worldly ways of healing, but sins’ wounds need a divine remedy.
1 John 1:9 instructs that we must confess our sin. Confession is helpful for us in acknowledging who we are – wounds and all. We lay bare who we really are before God and He is faithful and just to forgive us. The source of God’s forgiveness is found in His nature. Being “just” means that He is innocent, faultless and guiltless. He is also always faithful – meaning He keeps His promise to forgive us. David knew this when he declared in Psalm 86:5 “O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help” (NLT).
To confess is to accept and acknowledge the ways that we have missed the mark. Julian of Norwich, a 14th century Christian writer, recommended that we accuse ourselves of sin often and confess to God, not to lead to self-loathing or despair. but to appreciate the great love that God has for us. By forgiving us, God is displaying the tremendous worth each of us has in His eyes. You are loved. You are worth forgiving. You are worth a second (third, fourth…) chance from God.
I don’t remember a specific time that I confessed to God my sin of stealing. I remember trying to suppress that uneasy feeling whenever I was reminded of what I had done. I tried to ignore it and even pretend it didn’t happen. As I have grown older and I’ve learned to pay more attention to those uneasy feelings, they prompt me to examine my actions and motivations and I try to bring what I notice to God sooner rather than later. I try to confess the moments I fall short of God’s perfect plan for me. I ask for forgiveness. I ask Him to help me not to repeat the failure. I have found new freedom in being able to notice and confess my sin rather than try to hide it. I feel like I can truly be myself, a forgiven sinner, and I’m so thankful for forgiveness!
So, what does it mean for God to forgive our sin? Does He simply forget about it? Does He just choose to ignore it and start over? The Greek word translated to “forgive” means “to send away; let go.” God does not simply ignore our sin, He sends it away and lets it go. Psalm 103:12 says “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” (NLT).
Sin is most obvious by the wounds it leaves God’s forgiveness is a healing of those wounds – including those from both our own sin and from others’. God can heal the wounds inflicted by sin because Christ bore those wounds for us on the cross. Isaiah 53:5 says “But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed” (NLT).
That God removes sin is a true miracle – as miraculous as a healing or a divine protection from a disaster. Even though there isn’t an outward sign of the miracle, those who experience true forgiveness know the inner freedom and healing that comes with it. The pain of admitting our sin is worth the healing that comes after. It’s hard to confess the truth of the ways we hurt ourselves and others. It seems easier to hide behind the lies that we are better than we truly are. No lie is more powerful than the one we tell ourselves. But the truth – the ugly, dark, truth of our sin, confessed to ourselves and to God – will set us free. We can be released from the guilt and burden of the wounds we carry.
Gently and lovingly, God Himself invites us to bring our true selves to Him. With our sins laid bare before Him, He will do His cleansing work. Like an infection that needs to be cleaned out, our wounds can begin to heal once the plague of sin has been removed. God will not do this on His own, He demands your partnership. He will not impose Himself on you. If you want to hold on to your sins and carry them around, He will allow it. But why pass up this miraculous offer? God can purify us, and He wants to do so. He wants you to be free to live your best life with Him.
As I have returned to this verse over and over, I have found its words full of invitation and promise. Have you experienced God’s forgiveness recently? Are you carrying the weight of your sin? Are you ready to entrust it to God and experience the freedom of living for Him?
Captain Catherine Fitzgerald serves as Corps Officer in New Albany, IN.