The forgiveness of sins is certainly one of the most precious gifts resulting from Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension. It is so important it was included in the Apostle’s Creed next to other fundamental beliefs in the confession of our faith: “I believe in…the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body”.
Resolving the Problem of Sin
Few realize the full extent of the consequences of our breach of God’s laws. It drove apart our relationships with God, with one another, and with creation. Guilt, shame, cover-up and blame crept into our relationships. We saw this with Adam and Eve. It caused them to withdraw from God even as God in his mercy and grace searched for and reached out to them. In mercy and foresight, God justly punished them for their rebellion against his rule, but he had in mind a future redemption plan for the whole human race.
The forgiveness of sins resolves the key issues that block us from having an intimate and loving fellowship with God, with one another and a proper care of creation. This cancellation of the punishment that we deserved for our sins absolves us from guilt and grants us peace with God and oneself; frees us from shame and gives us dignity; makes cover-up unnecessary and promotes authenticity; and stops the blame-game and encourages us to take responsibility.
When sin is committed, the natural tendency is for us to try to atone for it by being good and doing good deeds. We want our good deeds to outweigh our bad deeds or at least balance out the deficit, so that we stand a chance before God at the judgement, or have a better reincarnation in the next life. This leads to uncertainty right to the very end of one’s life, no matter how much good deeds or philanthropy one does. For example, for a bad deed like slander or lust after a married person, how much and what type of good deeds must one do to atone for each transgression. No one knows. And during the final tally, can we be assured that what good we have done outweighs the bad we have committed? Uncertainty at the day of judgment is fatal because it is final and there is no way to try to increase the shortfall in good deeds.
For Christians, we have the free gift of forgiveness of sins when we put our faith in Jesus Christ. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence” (Ephesians 1:7,8). The forgiveness of sins is free for believers but for the sinless Christ it meant paying the great price of an unjust death on the cross, and taking upon himself the punishment that is due for the sins committed by all peoples past, present and future. That cruel death was not deserved by the sinless Jesus Christ, but in a divine mystery, is God’s way of making atonement for the sins of the whole world. The forgiveness we could not deserve or earn by being good and doing noble and charitable things, was earned and deserved by Jesus on the cross and made available as a free gift to all who would repent and believe in Christ’s finished work.
Repentance and Confession of Sins
Repentance is a change of mind and heart leading to a change in one’s attitudes and action. We have to be willing to change our mind about what sin and holiness is, about who God is, about trying to earn forgiveness of sins, and how we are to live our lives. This repentance process is accompanied in varying degrees with sorrow, tears, crisis of belief, conviction, confession, and struggles and this journey continues beyond initiation and baptism.
Forgiveness of sins does not depend on a complete confession of specific sins. This would make our salvation insecure and undermine assurance and joy. Even after being Christians, we constantly fall short of God’s glory and fail to walk in God’s ways. In thought, in speech and action, we daily fall short. Furthermore we are often unaware of our failings and the sins we commit and the good we omit in our daily life. Thus if our salvation is dependent upon a perfectly complete confession of specific sins, we would all be doomed should the Lord take us home suddenly. Even if we had time to prepare, how would we know we have confessed all our sins. Christ’s finished work perfectly atoned for all the sins of the whole world and must necessarily include past, present and future sins. Believing this is the basis of our assurance that God will not hold our sins against us should we suddenly be taken home before we had a chance to confess our sins.
Confession of sins is simply nodding before the Lord that you have wronged him, or people in thought, speech or action. Being specific helps us to know ourselves better about where we tend to be vulnerable to temptations. It replaces the sense of unworthiness and unconscious withdrawal from God, with assurance and peace and joy (1 John 1: 9). It also releases spiritual energy in us that so that we want to change in order to please Him (Philippians 2:13).
Go and Sin No More
Forgiveness is a precious gift that enables us to live godly and follow Christ faithfully. Faith in the finished work of Christ liberates me from the fear of judgment in the future, of rejection in the present, and the condemnation of the devil about my past. Because my sins (past, present and future) have all been atoned for by Christ, I feel assured and certain about facing Him on the day of judgment and being with Him forever. I am no longer haunted by past sins no matter how shameful and evil they were. I live my Christian life fruitfully, with assurance and without condemnation because I know that even when I fail or fall, underneath is the embracing, comprehensive, and fail-safe net of God’s forgiveness of my sins past, present and future. “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered”(Psalm 32:1).
This blogpost is the 6th part is a series of 26 parts about the A to Z of Christ’s Finished Work. To read the other blogposts you can click on the below titles: