One of the distinct and unique features of the Christian faith is the practice of forgiveness. If one is a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ then that person has experienced the forgiveness of their sins when they recognized Jesus died for their sins and called on Him to save them. I don’t believe any other religion offers this very unique privilege of knowing that our sins have been paid for through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. But there’s another challenging part of the Christian distinctive of forgiveness and that is the command that we forgive others as we have been forgiven. This may at times seem to be an impossible task. Yet God will not command us to do something that He is unwilling to empower us to fulfill. So if God calls us to forgive someone that has deeply hurt us we must understand that He is also going to help us through the process of forgiveness.
One of the most important features of our understanding of forgiveness in the New Testament is the importance of confession. John writes in his first epistle- “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”, (1John1:9 NIV). This is truly one of the most important and significant verses in the New Testament. Confessing our sins to God is much more than simply admitting that I got caught. It is to agree with God about the nature of our sin, recognizing one’s sinfulness and humbling oneself before God. It is only when we acknowledge our sin for exactly what it is, unrighteousness before a holy God, that we can avail ourselves of God’s provision of cleansing and forgiveness. What does confession do? Confession frees us from self-delusion and the frustration of trying to justify our sinful actions and steps. To confess our need of cleansing from the presence sin is essential to walking in the light of the Lord Jesus Christ. Earlier in the chapter, beginning in verse five we read these words –“this is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth”, (v.5-6 NIV). Sin is incompatible with our “walking in the light”. “Sins” in verse nine refer to the corruption of the old man that still lives in us. The nature of God requires both mercy as well as justice. God’s righteousness brings forgiveness, just as truly as it brings judgment. But the basis of that forgiveness is the confession of our sin. Confession of sin is also a confession of faith. When we confess and acknowledge our sin before God we are acknowledging that He is the sovereign Lord of the universe who knows that we’ve already sinned and that there is nothing hidden from His eyes. Forgiveness is God’s act done for us while cleansing is what God does in us. It is our joy not only to ask for forgiveness but to enjoy the consciousness of His pardoning grace.
Unfortunately we are living in a culture that very much has lost any sense of shame over sin. Because we live in a culture of complete tolerance, except for biblical values, everything is accepted and the younger generation has lost any sense of accountability over sin. Man calls sin an infirmity but God calls it iniquity. Many are seeking cleansing from sin through all kinds of different things like psychology or social remedies or going to a palm reader but the only genuine healing begins when we confess our sin and acknowledge that it is an offense to a holy God. God has paid the price for our sins through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ but what happens to a generation of young people who have no concept of sin in their own personal lives? This is a very serious question which hopefully we can discuss further in the blogs that are to follow. I hope you know that the Lord Jesus Christ has paid for all of your sins and that God is in the process of redeeming and renewing you through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Pastor Rich Sivo