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Confessing our sins

Practice/ Disciplines
Sin is the desire to run our lives without regard for God’s spiritual laws. Sin is not unique to anyone. Even the most righteous people have harboured some envy, pride, greed or lust in their hearts. God provided a way for us to be cleared of our sins through confessing in Jesus’ name.

(See Chinese versions: 繁體中文 > 承認我們的罪 | 简体中文 > 承认我们的罪)

 

Ecclesiastes 7:20 ESV  Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.

1 John 3:4 NLT Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God.

There is only one way to overcome the guilt, shame, and negative effects of sin, and that is to invite Jesus Christ into our lives. Being fully God, He is the only One pure and righteous enough to pay the absolute penalty for all of our sins for all time. By dying on the cross and then overcoming death through His Resurrection, He has full authority to remove our death sentences as a result of the “guilty charges” for our sins. In exchange, He gives us His Holy Spirit who will empower us to live faultlessly before God.

Three types of sin

1. Our attitude

Some sinful attitudes are evident, while others are not. We can even appear to do all the right things, but with the wrong motives. Examples of sinful attitudes include:

  • Blasphemy against God
  • Rebellion against God
  • Unbelief about God’s truths
  • Covetousness
  • Hatred
  • Impatience
  • Jealousy
  • Judgment
  • Pride
  • Selfish ambition
  • Self-judgment
  • Self-condemnation
  • Self-pity
  • Sexual immorality
  • Unforgiveness etc.

Mark 7:20-23 ESV  And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

If we trace the direction these attitudes will lead us, we see that they ultimately lead us to hardened hearts and joyless lives. This is simply the result of living outside of God’s perfect design for us.

Zechariah 7:12 NLT  They made their hearts as hard as stone, so they could not hear the instructions or the messages that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies had sent them by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. That is why the Lord of Heaven’s Armies was so angry with them.

2. Our actions

The sinful attitudes in our hearts will lead us to act in ways that harm others and ourselves. Examples of sinful actions include:

  • Adultery
  • Cursing others
  • Drunkenness
  • Gambling
  • Idol worship
  • Lying
  • Murder
  • Slander
  • Sorcery / fortune telling
  • Stealing etc.
3. Our neglect

There is also a type of sin that is related to neglect. We sin when we dishonour God and His spiritual laws, and neglect to do the things He has told us to do. Some examples include:

  • Neglecting to bear each other’s burdens
  • Neglecting to love others
  • Neglecting to testify for Jesus
  • Neglecting to stand up for the oppressed
  • Neglecting to care for the needy

James 4:17 ESV  So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

Galatians 6:2 ESV  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Romans 13:10 ESV  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

It is humanly impossible not to sin. Human beings are instinctively prone to sin from birth. As infants, we envy, lie and manipulate others. We hold on to grudges and despise others. We also do and say things that break God’s Law which we are unaware of. How discouraging if we didn’t have Jesus Christ as our Saviour! Praise God that He is willing to forgive us for all our sins, even those we find hard to forgive others for. But we should note that there is one sin that He will not forgive anyone for, and that is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Romans 10:2-3 ESV  … For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

Matthew 12:31 ESV  Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.

Sin is conceived through the desires of our hearts

Sin is driven by desires in our hearts that oppose God’s will for us. These desires are often focused on profiting ourselves at the expense of other people.

Matthew 15:17-20 ESV  … But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person…

Let’s say that someone has been bullied by his peers and neglected at home by his family. This may create a desire to avoid further emotional pain, leading to a hardened heart. This deep desire, once it has taken root or “conceived”, gives rise to sinful attitudes and actions such as pride, selfish ambition and seeking to control one’s own future through sorcery (fortune telling).

James 1:14-15 ESV  But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Not all of our desires are bad or sinful. We can desire to do well, resolve conflict, help others or correct human error – but it is how we do it that may be sinful. Both good and evil intentions can give birth to sinful attitudes and actions. The core issue is whether our hearts are spiritually healthy. This will determine whether our desires lead us to bear good or bad fruit.

Matthew 7:18-20 ESV  A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

Going back to our example above, let’s say the person who has been bullied or neglected at home chooses to forgive his offenders and not resort to revenge. He turns to God to confess all his pain and asks Jesus Christ to fill his heart with love so that he can be gracious towards his offenders and pray to bless them. In this instance, there is “good fruit” that comes from the same desire to overcome emotional pain.

The Bible teaches us that the healthy way to react to emotional pain is to have the wisdom to overlook an offence, rather than to lash out in anger, curse others or suppress how we feel. Anger is a legitimate emotional response, but we are not called to be easily provoked. When we readily forgive others and respond in love, we demonstrate the same love that Jesus Christ shows us. This is the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. In contrast, “bad fruit” is the result of sin. In the long run, sin has costly consequences, even if it makes us feel good when we initially fall for it.

Proverbs 19:11 ESV  Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

The consequences of our sins

1. Separation from God

When we choose to follow our own ways instead of God’s, we are in reality, rejecting Him. Sin causes a separation between God and us.

Isaiah 59:1-2 ESV  Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

2. Pain, dishonour and shame

Sin always ends up in spiritual death. When people who have broken the law are caught red-handed, they react with denial, fear, regret and shame. This is the same with sin, except that we don’t need to “get caught.” God already knows everything. Even as we sin, God is right next to us as our grieving Father, righteous Judge, and holy Witness. 

1 Timothy 6:10 NLT  …And some people… have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

3. Enslavement to sin

When we give in to sinful attitudes and actions, we submit ourselves to our fleshly desires and the world’s corruption. Whatever we submit to becomes our master. The Bible calls this slavery to sin.

John 8:34 ESV  Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.

4. Sin brings curses

The Bible explicitly says we invite curses upon ourselves when we rebel against God’s laws. A curse stops us from prospering spiritually, relationally, mentally, physically or financially. The effects of sin are not the act of a cruel God. They are the natural consequences of what happens when we live outside of His good and perfect design for human life. It is not too different from people who ignore traffic rules. Their disobedience can cause vehicle collusions and painful accidents, bringing physical, financial, relational and mental pain upon themselves and other people.

Deuteronomy 11:26-28 ESV  “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God…

5. Eternal condemnation for deliberate rebellion

God never stops loving us, but if we deliberately choose to keep sinning, it is as if we crucify Jesus Christ over and over again (Hebrews 6:6). If we continue to rebel and consciously insult God’s sacrifice on the cross, the blood of Christ will no longer cover us.

Hebrews 10:26 ESV  For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

The worldly lies that deceive us

All too often, we give into sin because we believe the world’s lies that we might as well do whatever we want. These lies keep us locked into cycles of sinful behaviour.

  • “No one will get hurt.” | Our sins hurt God and ultimately ourselves. See Ephesians 4:30.
  • “You only live once.” | Our lives don’t end with physical death. There is a second spiritual life or death that will stretch into eternity. See 2 Thessalonians 1:9.
  • “No one is watching.” | God sees and knows everything. See Hebrews 4:13.
  • “God will forgive me anyway.” | God will not forgive those who continue to deliberately sin against Him. See Hebrews 10:26.
  • “Everyone else is doing it.” | Everyone else could be doing the wrong thing. As Christians, we are not meant to blindly follow the masses. We are to follow God’s Word, no matter how unpopular it may be. See Matthew 7:13-14.
  • “I can’t stop myself.” | We can’t stop ourselves from sinning on our own strength. It is only possible when we turn to God. See Matthew 19:26.
  • “Other people forced me do it.” | We all have to give an account for our own actions, no matter why we did them. See Romans 14:12.
  • “My family does things this way.” | We are to follow Christ first, and our family second. See Matthew 10:37.
  • “They don’t deserve my love.” | God loves all of us even though we don’t deserve His love. We should follow His example in gratitude. See 1 John 4:10-11.

God desires to restore our relationship with Him

Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for our sins and:

  • Restore our spiritual blessings
  • Restore our authority over evil
  • Restore our ability to spread God’s goodness
  • Give us unrestricted access to God

God is gracious and kind. He does not deal with our sins as we deserve. Here is what the Bible says.

  • God grieves when we sin | Ephesians 4:30 ESV And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
  • God takes no pleasure in the fate of those who sin | Ezekiel 33:11 ESV Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?
  • God pursues our repentance for our sake | 2 Peter 3:9 ESV The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
  • God corrects us because He loves us | Revelation 3:19 ESV Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
  • God is merciful and lenient towards those who repent | Job 11:6 ESV … Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.
  • God calls us to no longer be ignorant | Acts 17:30 ESV The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,
  • God forgives and forgets our sins when we confess | Isaiah 43:25 ESV “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.
  • God will cleanse us from our sins | Acts 3:19-20 ESV Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.
  • God will give us a fresh new start | 2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Overcoming sinful desires

1. Don’t be ignorant, study the Word

God is our eternal and majestic King. If we are serious about getting to know Him, we would invest time in studying the Bible and getting to know His Law. Ignorance is no excuse for sinning. We would still be penalised for driving down the wrong side of the road even if we were ignorant of the rules. We cannot escape the Law.

Acts 17:30 ESV  The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,

Psalm 119:11 ESV  I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

2. Invite God to reveal our desires

It is good to give our hearts a regular spiritual check-up. This is why spending quiet time with God is important. When we quiet ourselves down and wait on God, He will lovingly show us our blind-spots, teach and correct us, and help us in our struggles.

Genesis 4:7 ESV  … And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

3. Don’t try to hide our sins

It is unhealthy for any relationship for people to “sweep things under the carpet” and pretend that issues don’t exist. So it is with our sins. The Bible warns us that we don’t flourish when we try to ignore or conceal our sins.

Proverbs 28:13 ESV  Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

4. Don’t grieve the past, celebrate redemption

God calls us not to judge others – and that includes not judging ourselves. God does not condemn us, neither should we condemn ourselves. Just as God extends His grace to us, we too need to exercise grace towards ourselves and not go on grieving our past mistakes.

Matthew 7:1 ESV  “Judge not, that you be not judged.  

Psalm 34:22 ESV  The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

A more appropriate way to respond to our past sins is to humbly thank God for His priceless forgiveness. There is a place for godly regret but to continue to live in regret is a form of pride; where we focus on ourselves rather than glorify God for His wonderful grace. God can turn every form of evil into good if we invite Him to.

5. Seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit

Our sinful desires pull us in the opposite direction of God, and will try to drown out the truth about sin with lies, confusion, excuses, fleshly lusts etc. We must ask the Holy Spirit to do His work in us each day. He will prompt us with gentle warnings against corrupting ourselves with sin.

Galatians 5:17 ESV  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

6. Be trained in discernment

Practice makes perfect. No one learns to run well overnight. We may misjudge our steps, trip and fall over. We all need consistent training in growing strong in our knowledge of God’s Word and our desire to please God more than ourselves.

We should not shun the training needed to build our faith and character, because we are the ones who reap the most benefit from it. If we trip and fall, we simply need to get back up, brush off the dust of our sin through prayer, and continue walking with greater spiritual awareness and wisdom afterwards. Every mistake is a lesson learnt.

Hebrews 5:14 ESV  … for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

7. Choose our inner circle with care

We need to actively take steps to stay away from unhealthy influences. The company we keep greatly impacts the way we think, feel and behave. If we love ourselves well, we would gravitate towards an inner circle of friends that will help us in our Christian walk. We should always remain in a healthy Christian community, whatever our circumstances may be.

1 Corinthians 15:33 ESV  Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.

8. Don’t blindly follow the world

We are surrounded by thousands of “sound bites” each day from advertisements, social media, family, friends, work, society and so forth – each with their own ideas of what choices we should make.

Any influence outside of the eternal Word of God is considered of “this world.” Most of them will not lead us closer to God. We are surrounded by catchy lines such as “work hard, play hard”, “strive harder and you will get what you deserve”, “I will survive on my own” or “words will not hurt me.” Many of these are in direct opposition to what the Bible says.

We have to be careful not to blindly follow this world’s patterns. They will only lead us down the path to sin and self-destruction. Instead, we need to renew our thinking on what God says is good, acceptable and perfect for us.

James 4:4 ESV  … Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Romans 12:2 ESV  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

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