When we first repented to God and received Jesus Christ as our Savior, we were forgiven of all our sins. What peace flooded our hearts! And God’s Word assures us that our salvation is for all eternity and can never be undone.
But although we’re saved, we know from our personal experience we’re not immune to sin. We still sin after salvation, despite our good intentions and efforts to avoid failure. What should we do when we sin after being saved? The Word of God tells us that we should confess our sins to the Lord.
Confessing to God the sins that we commit after we’re saved is absolutely critical for our life as a Christian. In this post, we’ll cover why we need to confess our sins, what it means to confess, how to confess, and the results of confessing.
Why we need to confess—sin breaks our fellowship with the Lord
Our God is a God of love, but He is also holy and righteous. God cannot tolerate sin, so the sins we commit create a barrier between Him and us and interrupts our fellowship with Him.
Even in our human relationships, we can see how this can be. Let’s say you offend your friend by saying something hurtful, and you never apologize. You both feel a rift between you, but until you clear the air by apologizing, you simply can’t be at ease in each other’s presence.
This is even truer in our relationship with the Lord. When we commit a sin, our conscience lets us know we’ve offended the Lord. The ease and sweetness of our relationship is broken. We’ve trespassed against Him, and that sin is now a barrier between us, disrupting our fellowship with the Lord.
So the reason we need to confess our sins to the Lord is because, though our salvation is unchangeable, our sins break our fellowship with the Lord.
What it means to confess—to admit, to acknowledge our sin
First of all, how do we know we’ve sinned? As 1 John 1:5 tells us, “God is light.” So when God shines on us, He exposes our sins and failures, and we become conscious of them. The resulting sense of guilt in our conscience is uncompromising and can’t be quelled by any reasoning or excuse on our side. Instead of explaining our sin away or covering it up, we should acknowledge what God says is sin and ask for His forgiveness.
Psalm 32:5 gives us a good example of this. The psalmist said, “I acknowledged my sin to You, and I did not cover my iniquity. I said, I will confess my transgressions to Jehovah. Then You forgave the iniquity of my sin.”
So we see confessing our sins to God means acknowledging our sins and not trying to cover them up. It means to admit our sins and failures to the Lord. Our attitude and prayer is to agree with God’s judgment of our sin and say, “Yes, Lord, that is sin.”
How to confess—to the Lord, when we know we’ve sinned
When we realize we’ve sinned and offended the Lord, we need to confess. But how?
We confess our sins in prayer to God Himself. Whether it’s a small transgression or a serious sin, when the Lord makes our sin known to us through our conscience, we must immediately admit our sin to Him in prayer and ask for His forgiveness.
You don’t need go to a certain place, tell a particular person, or wait for a special time to confess your sins. Wherever you are, by praying to the Lord, and as soon as you are conscious of your sin, you can confess your sins directly to Him. Since the Lord is with you, right in your spirit, you can pray to Him at any time to confess your sins.
An example—confessing in our daily life
Let’s say your workplace has a stock of notepads and pens. Since they’re just the kind of notepads and pens you like, you help yourself to a few for personal use at home. In the morning, as you turn your heart to the Lord to spend time with Him, He shines on you and convicts your conscience that you’ve taken something that doesn’t belong to you. At this point, you could reason with that feeling by telling yourself, “The office has plenty of these things and will never miss them.” Or, you can go along with the feeling of conviction and guilt in your conscience and agree with the Lord that what you did was wrong.
When you decide to go along with the Lord, you can immediately pray to Him, “Yes, Lord, You’re right, I sinned. I confess taking these things to You. I’m sorry, forgive me, Lord. Lord, thank You for shedding Your precious blood to take away my sin.”
Notice that such a simple prayer doesn’t include a promise to do better. That isn’t required for confession. What is required is acknowledging your sin to the Lord and declaring your faith in His work on the cross.
Of course in this example, after you confess to the Lord, you should also return the items to your workplace and not keep them.
The sin in this example might seem small, even insignificant, but in principle all sin, whether big or small, must be confessed, since any sin interrupts our fellowship with God.
The result of confession—forgiveness and cleansing
In 1 John 1:9, a verse written to Christians, we see the result of confessing our sins:
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
If we confess, the result is that we are forgiven and cleansed.
Note 2 of this verse explains what it means for God to be faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins:
“God is faithful in His word (v. 10) and righteous in the blood of Jesus His Son (v. 7). His word is the word of the truth of His gospel (Eph. 1:13), which tells us that He will forgive us our sins because of Christ (Acts 10:43); and the blood of Christ has fulfilled His righteous requirements that He might forgive us our sins (Matt. 26:28). If we confess our sins, He, according to His word and based on the redemption through the blood of Jesus, forgives us because He must be faithful in His word and righteous in the blood of Jesus; otherwise, He would be unfaithful and unrighteous. Our confession is needed for His forgiveness. Such forgiveness of God, which is for the restoration of our fellowship with Him, is conditional; it depends on our confession.”
By confessing our sins we receive forgiveness—a forgiveness solidly based on God’s righteousness.
Furthermore, Note 3 on the same verse explains what “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” means:
“To forgive us is to release us from the offense of our sins, whereas to cleanse us is to wash us from the stain of our unrighteousness.”
By confessing our sins, we’re forgiven, cleansed, and our fellowship with the Lord is fully restored because the obstacle of our sin is removed. Praise the Lord!