“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)
When did you last confess your sins – or any sin at all – to God? A question that’s worth asking regularly. Of ourselves certainly and, if we’re feeling bold, of our Christian brothers and sisters too. Now in some of our churches, of course, confession forms part of the regular liturgy. Or we might frequently recite the Lord’s model prayer, which includes the line “and forgive us our sins” (Luke 11:4). In which case, surely I’m covered. Aren’t I?
But I’m thinking here of specific sins that we know we’ve actually committed, rather than a general prayer of confession. So particular things that I’ve thought, said or done. Things such as a lustful glance, an angry outburst, a covetous desire, a slanderous comment, an act of selfishness. Or it could be things that I’ve failed to do or to say. Not responding in practical love to the material need of a brother or sister, even though it was well within my power to do so. Or failing to speak the truth in love to someone, despite that internal prompting of the Holy Spirit.
So if I may be so bold, when was the last time for you? Maybe it was just a few minutes ago. Or perhaps it was a few hours, or days, or weeks, or months, or years ago. I served as the Pastor of a London Church for ten years and one of the many things I learnt during that period is that, generally speaking, we Christians tend not to be all that good at regularly confessing our sins to God.
Now I may feel that I’ve got nothing to own up to since the last time that I confessed sin. The Apostle John, though, would caution us that “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (verse 8). So even if you can’t bring to mind anything specific, it’s worth following the example of David and asking God to declare you “innocent from hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12).
The great news is that any heartfelt confession is met with a gloriously gracious response from the God who is “faithful and just.” He’s faithful in that he can be trusted fully to “forgive us” on the basis of “the blood of Jesus his Son [that] cleanses us from all sin” (verse 7). And he’s just in that, having already accepted the blood of Jesus as full payment for my sins, he will not now punish me for those same sins.
If you need any further motivation to be a regular confessor, then note the promise not only to forgive our sins but also “to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (italics mine). We’ve already had the bath, of course, as Jesus put it to Simon Peter. But we need to return to the Lord regularly to have our feet washed (John 13:10).
So think about this. Right now, at this very moment, or at any point in any day this coming week you can own up to your sins and be fully cleansed from any hint of impurity or unrighteousness. As I regularly confess my failures, omissions and weaknesses, I can live a consistently cleansed life and enjoy a completely clear conscience before a Holy God. Day by day, moment by moment. Isn’t that amazing?