What Do I Do When I Sin after I’m Saved?

Have you ever struggled with what you should do when you sin, even after you’re saved?

When we first repented to God and received Jesus Christ as our Savior, we were forgiven of all our sins, and a peace we never knew flooded our hearts. But we know from personal experience that being saved doesn’t mean we’re immune to sin. Despite our best efforts, we still sin. So what should we do when we sin after we’re saved?

We need to confess our sins to the Lord

Since our salvation is eternal, we don’t need to be saved again to receive forgiveness for our sins. In fact, that’s impossible. 

But we also shouldn’t think it’s okay to sin just because we’re saved eternally. God is offended by and concerned about the sins we commit after we’re saved.

The Bible gives us a clear answer to the question of what we should do when we sin. To experience being forgiven and washed of our sins, we must confess them to the Lord.

Confessing our sins to God is critical for a healthy Christian life. Now, let’s look at 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 our sins

God wants to have a loving relationship with us, and we want to have the same with Him. But when we sin, a barrier arises between us and God. 

Our God is a God of love, but He’s also holy and righteous. He can’t tolerate or ignore sin. This is why our fellowship with Him is interrupted.

In our human relationships, we know that when we offend someone, a barrier goes up between us and that person. For example, let’s say you offend a friend by saying something hurtful, and you never apologize. You both feel there’s 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 more true when it comes to our relationship with the Lord. Before we sin, we have peace in Him. We enjoy free and open fellowship with Him. But when we sin, our conscience tells us we’ve offended the Lord. The ease and sweetness of our relationship is lost. We’ve trespassed against Him, and our sin is now a barrier between us and God. We can’t enjoy fellowship with Him as we did before.

Confessing our sins to the Lord is the only way our fellowship with Him can be restored. 

What it means to confess our sins

To confess means that we admit and acknowledge our sin. We don’t cover it up or act as if we didn’t do anything wrong.

So how do we know when we’ve sinned? 

The Bible tells us in 1 John 1:5 that “God is light.” 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 subdued by any reasoning or excuse on our side.

Instead of trying to justify ourselves, reason our sin away, or cover it up, we should acknowledge the sins God shines on by agreeing with His light. This is the meaning of confessing.  

The writer of Psalm 32:5 gives us a clear word about this: 

“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.”

This verse shows us that to confess our sins to God means not to cover them but to acknowledge them and admit to the Lord that we’ve sinned. This means we agree with God’s light and judgment of our sin and say, “Yes, Lord, that is sin.”

How to confess our sins to the Lord

As soon as we realize we’ve sinned and offended the Lord, we need to confess. So how do we do this?

We confess our sins in prayer directly to God. Whether it’s a small transgression or one that’s more serious, when the Lord makes us aware of it through our conscience, we must immediately admit our sin to Him and ask for His forgiveness.

We don’t need to go to a certain place, tell a special person, or wait for a particular time to confess our sins. No matter where we are, as soon as we’re made conscious of our sins, we can confess them to the Lord by praying to Him. Since He’s living in our spirit, we can confess our sins anywhere and at any time.

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A practical example

Let’s say your workplace has a stock of notepads and pens. Since they’re just the kind you like, you help yourself to a few for personal use at home. Later on, as you open 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, “The office has plenty of those things; they’ll never be missed.” 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’ve sinned. I confess that I took those things. I’m sorry. Forgive me, Lord. Thank You for shedding Your precious blood to take away my sin.”

Notice that this simple prayer doesn’t include a promise to do better. That isn’t required. What is required is acknowledging your sin to the Lord and declaring your faith in His blood shed for your forgiveness.

After we confess our sins, we should also resolve our wrongdoing if necessary. In this example, you should return the items to your workplace.

The sin in this example might seem small, even insignificant. But in principle, all sins—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 by the apostle John to believers, 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 on this verse in the New Testament Recovery Version 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.”

Our forgiveness depends on our confession. By confessing our sins, we receive forgiveness—a forgiveness that’s solidly based on God’s faithfulness and righteousness.

Note 3 on the same verse explains what it means for Him to “cleanse us from all unrighteousness”:

“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.”

We gain so much by confessing our sins: we’re released and washed, and our fellowship with the Lord is fully restored. 

As we’ve seen in this post, practicing to confess our sins to the Lord is crucial for our Christian life. We encourage you to read chapter 3 in Basic Elements of the Christian Life, vol. 1—a book that has helped thousands of believers— to learn more about God’s provision for our sins.  If you’re a US resident, you can order the three-volume set for free here. You can also download these volumes from anywhere in the world here.