Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Confession & Repentance from Sins: How does it Work?

"Professor Drummond once described a man going into one of our after meetings and saying he wanted to become a Christian.

"Well, my friend, what is the trouble?"

He doesn't like to tell. He is greatly agitated. Finally he says, "The fact is, I have overdrawn my account" -- a polite way of saying he has been stealing.

"Did you take your employer's money?"


"How much?"

"I don't know. I have never kept account of it."

"Well, you have an idea you stole $1,500 last year?"

"I am afraid it is that much."

"Now, look here, sir, I don't believe in sudden work; don't steal more that a thousand dollars this next year, and the next year not more that five hundred, and in the course of the next few years you will get so that you won't steal any. If your employer catches you, tell him you are being converted; and you will get so that you won't steal any by and by."

My friends, the thing is a perfect farce! "Let him that stole, steal no more," that is what the Bible says. It is right about face.

Christian growth is gradual, just as physical growth is; but a man passes from death unto everlasting life quick as an act of the will -- "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." -D.L. Moody, Moody's Anecdotes, pp. 99 - 100.

Today we’re talking about confession and repentance of sins, and how it works. But first we must distinguish between two types of repentance.

The first repentance is the repentance that takes place when we first receive Jesus Christ as savior. This is a change of mind that leads to a change of action.

We go from a state of unbelief in God, and through various means we come to believe that Jesus Christ really is Lord. We feel grieved over our sins and we ask God through Christ to forgive us our sins. God forgives our sins and we repent, we hate those sins, mourn those sins, and reject those sins. We know that Christ had to die to pay for them. So we believe on Jesus and we repent away from our past sins.

This repentance and confession is a great thing. It’s how we turn away from the world and toward Christ. It’s salvation. It’s glorious.

But mainly today I would like to talk about the second kind of repentance/confession. It’s the repentance of a Christian after they get saved.

You’re a Christian, you love Jesus, you pray, read your bible, attend church, all that good stuff. But you get tempted one day, and you sin.

Maybe you stole something. You lied on your taxes. You committed masturbation. You cussed at someone. You are holding unforgiveness in your heart toward someone who hurt you.

These are what you call sins. And what happens to someone that sins? Someone that sins is doing something against God.

So what do you do? You know you’ve done something bad. You’re feeling convicted about it. Conviction burns within you. That’s the Holy Spirit inside you telling you that you did something wrong.

What do you do? You bring it up to a church elder or pastor.

Depending on what church you attend, you may get several different answers.

At one church they may say, well, you shouldn’t have done that, but it doesn’t matter, you can sin as much as you want as a Christian.

Not true or helpful.

At a second church, they may say well, you need to ask God’s forgiveness and repent of that sin, but, it doesn’t affect your salvation. You can sin as much as you want because your once saved always saved. It may upset your relationship with God, but it doesn’t affect your salvation.

Partially true, but still not helpful. You’ve made repentance optional. You could repent, if you want to have a better relationship with God, but if you don't, it doesn't matter, it won't affect your salvation. Which isn't true or biblical. 

At a third church, they may say well, you’ve lost your salvation. You're doomed now. Again, not helpful or true.

Here’s what I tell my people: You’ve sinned against God. You’ll want to bring the sin to God and ask God’s forgiveness, and then repent. Then you’ll want to take action to try to make sure that the sin doesn’t happen again. Join a support group, or see a Christian counselor, or access resources to help you fight that sin in the Spirit. If you don’t repent, you’ll be in danger of losing your salvation, of falling away over time, because sinning willfully after receiving the truth is deadly and dangerous (Hebrews 10:26). 

When a Christian sins they must follow the teaching of 1 John 1:9, which is speaking to believers when it says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

And again in Revelation 3:19 ESV says, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”

But you may be wondering, how do I know if I have unrepentant sin in my life? Do I need to search it out?

Jeanne Guyon, in Experiencing the Depths of Jesus shares about this topic:

“Please understand this fact: It is not your diligence, it is not your examination of yourself that will enlighten you concerning your sin. Instead, it is God who does all the revealing.” -Jeanne Guyon, p. 74

God will reveal it to you. I think your part is to examine yourself. If you have a strong relationship with God I think it will be very clear and obvious. If you aren’t as close, I think it may be less obvious.

A few times a week, in the past, I would go before God, and simply ask Him to examine me. And God would certainly do that, and he would reveal anything that needed to be dealt with in me.

You’ll sense that God is searching you. Simply allow God to bring out anything in prayer that is troubling to the Lord.

“You might say that when this brilliant light, which is Christ Himself, shines on you and in you, you are under examination. An examination is being given to you by God when this happens. Since it is your Lord who is doing this, and no one else, you should simply remain peaceful and calm before Him as He carries out this exposing.” -Jeanne Guyon, p. 73

I encourage you to you pray right now and invite God to examine you.

Prayer: “Father, we bring ourselves before you. We step into the light, as Jesus Christ is the Light, and we ask that you would expose anything in us that is displeasing to you. Bring these things to mind Lord, and guide us to repent of them and ask your forgiveness, in Jesus name, amen.”

Your first instinct when you sin may be to hide it. But that isn’t the right thing to do. God still sees it. And he will hold us accountable for our sins, even as a Christian.

Jesus has paid the price for sin. But if we sin afresh, we must repent afresh and ask forgiveness afresh.

That’s why the Lord’s prayer includes “forgive us our sins.” Because it’s a repeated process. If we sin in the future, we must bring it again to the Lord, ask His forgiveness, and repent before Him. And we are cleansed afresh of that sin as well.

Many Christians wonder, "Are future sins already forgiven?" They are not. That's why we're told by 1 John 1:9 if we sin we must confess and repent of it when it happens. Those in the reformed camp repeat a phrase "past, present, and future" sin is already forgiven. The more Arminian camp would say that past sins are forgiven, future sins must be brought to God afresh and repented of. 

The fountain of Jesus Christ is available not only when we first get saved, but also along the way toward heaven. That is the amazing grace of God. At the moment of salvation he forgives all our past sin. But even if we sin in the future, if we bring it to Him, he forgives us again. That is amazing my friends! 

Let's talk more about what happens after we sin. Sin will produce in us sorrow after we do it.

As it says in 2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV, "For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death."

We will know we’ve done wrong. We will feel grieved. And we will want to seek forgiveness.

Please do so! Bring it to God in prayer. Ask His forgiveness in Jesus. Then repent, as best you are able in the Spirit. Then make plans to make sure the sin doesn’t happen again.

What about confession? Well, you’ll always want to confess it to God. But there are times when you may want to confess it to a friend or pastor or elder. If it involves your friend, you may need to confess it to them. Or if the sin seems stuck, like you aren’t able to repent effectively, or it keeps happening, you may need to bring it to a pastor or elder or friend, and talk about it, confess it to them, and ask them to pray for you as well.

What counts is how you proceed into the future. If 10 years ago you repented and believed in Jesus, but today you live in constant sin, does that mean you’re justified? No, you’re headed toward hell. You've fallen from grace. 

But if you’ve sinned the last 10 years and then you repent today and believe in Jesus, you’re now headed toward heaven, and the goal is to continue in righteousness to the end.

As it says in Ezekiel 18:21-25, “But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live. Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?

“But if a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked person does, will they live? None of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness they are guilty of and because of the sins they have committed, they will die.”

If you continue in Christ, you will live. If you repent of Christ and embrace sin, you will die. It’s just that simple.

Daily repentance helps us stay on the right track, with Jesus, to the very end.

But again, all of this is about relationship with God. The closer you are with God through Jesus, in prayer and bible reading, the more intimate your contact, the more rare sin will become.

As Jeanne Guyon said…

“Once you have established such a relationship with your Lord, you will soon discover that no fault in you escapes the reproof of God. For instance, as soon as you commit a sin, you are immediately rebuked by an inward sense. It will be a kind of deep, inward burning ... a tender confusion. You see, all things are exposed under the piercing glance of your Lord. He will not allow any sin to be hidden or concealed.” -Jeanne Guyon, Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ

In my own life I’ve found the examination of the Lord is near constant. If I sin in some way, it’s immediately plain to me, and I repent quickly in the moment.

As Jeanne Guyon said…

“Continue in this experience with your Lord. After a period of time of experiencing Him in this way, the Lord will become more and more the constant examiner of your soul. It will not be you examining yourself, nor will it be seasonal. It will be the Lord, constantly.”

So in conclusion, recognize that sinning after becoming a Christian does have real consequences. It can land you in hell if you persist in it, or die in that sin. I know many lukewarm voices in the church today will tell you that sin has no affect on your salvation, don’t believe them! Sin leads to hell. 

Jesus came to die to remove our sins, so how can we any longer live in them? (Romans 6:1). At the same time, don’t panic, don’t go crazy, you don't need to live in constant fear of losing your salvation. Just recognize that if you sin, you need to bring it to God in prayer, ask His forgiveness, and then repent, and God will help you to live clean and pure in this life. As it says in the word, “Be holy, for He is holy” (1st Peter 1:15-16).

Let’s Review Our Main Points:

1. First Repentance occurs the moment we are saved, we repent of sin in general and put our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord

2. Lifestyle Repentance occurs after we’re already a Christian

3. Living in Sin is a threat to your eternal salvation (most churches won’t tell you this, but it is in fact biblical and true)

4. Sin will produce sorrow in us that will lead toward God and toward repentance

5. Confession of sin to a friend or pastor may be useful if it’s a repeated sin that you’re having trouble getting rid of

6. If you have a deeply rooted relationship with God, conviction and repentance from sin will come very naturally

7. As you learn to walk in deep communion with God, the process will become near instantaneous, you’ll immediately be prompted, repent and ask forgiveness on the spot