If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9
The word confess does not mean to ask for forgiveness. Christ's work for us upon the cross has already done all that is necessary to forgive us. What God wants us to do is to look at the sin before us and call it what He calls it. That means to agree with God about it, and that is what the word confess means: Fess comes from a root which means
to say, and con means
To say with God what He says about something is confessing sin. There is a popular song that you sometimes hear in Christian circles:
If I have wounded any soul today, If I have caused one foot to go astray, If I have lived in my own selfish way, Dear Lord, forgive. That is not a confession at all. Do not say
Lord, I have caused some foot to go astray, I have lived in my own selfish way. That is confession, agreeing with God.
The cleansing is not based upon God's mercy or His kindness or His love or, least of all, His caprice; it is based on the work of Jesus Christ. On that basis God is faithful and just to forgive, and He would be utterly unjust if He refused to forgive a penitent sinner. God Himself would be wicked if He refused, on the basis of the work of Christ, to forgive a penitent sinner. That is how certain we can be of the cleansing that comes when we agree with God about these things.
Whenever we are aware of having fallen into a fleshly reaction, into sins, then let us stop right there, and in our hearts agree with God about it and experience anew this wonderful cleansing, this faithful and righteous cleansing of our lives,
[purifying] from all unrighteousness.
Do you know what happens when you do not confess? You become very unpleasant to live with. As a schoolboy in Montana I endured many bitter winters when the temperature would sometimes go down to sixty degrees below zero for a week at a time. In our homes, where we had no running water, no indoor plumbing, and no electricity, taking a bath was relatively akin to major surgery. In that painful setting, we performed our ablutions. It was difficult enough that some people did not think it necessary to bathe at all during the winter months. If you went into the heat of a one-room schoolhouse on a cold winter's day, with about fifty or sixty sweating bodies there, you became very much aware of this fact.
Now I do not mind living with someone who knows he or she is dirty and therefore frequently washes, but it is terribly distressing to live with someone who thinks he or she never gets dirty. That is what John is saying. If we say we cannot get dirty, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we face up to it and confess it, then the cleansing that the Lord Jesus has fully and abundantly provided for on the cross is immediately ours, and we are as though we had never sinned.
Father, in such practical terms does this reveal the tendency of my own heart to deceive myself and also the readiness of Your heart to cleanse me? May I learn to walk in agreement with You.
Even though we can be freed from sin, we cannot claim to be without sin. What is the difference between asking forgiveness and confessing our sin?