If we confess our sins,
he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1.9
A lot of our energy goes into refusing to sin. But when we do sin, what should we do with our sin? In the opening sentences of John's letter he says there are three options for us. Two are deceptive and one is the way of walking in the light. The first deceptive way is to try to show others and tell others that we have fellowship with God, while at the same time persisting in sin (v. 6). The other deceptive way is to say we have never sinned (v. 10).
The way of walking with God though is to confess our sins. When we confess our sins, we acknowledge what we have done, we acknowledge it to God and we acknowledge to those we have sinned against. We admit the wrong, we accept responsibility for our sin, we acknowledge the hurt, and we turn away from our sin and toward righteousness (See Ken's Sande's Seven A's of Confession for all the 'A's).
What is remarkable about the gospel of God, announced and accomplished by Jesus, is that if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us. I don't know about you, but “faithful and just” language usually connects to discipline or punishment in my mind. But here, “faithful and just” is connected to forgiveness. Have you thought of God as faithful and just to forgive? Amazing isn't it?!
Why does John say that God is just to forgive us? The answer is found in 1 John 2.2, where John says that Jesus is the propitiation for our sins. What is “propitiation?” Propitiation is the act of becoming favorable. In the context, what this means is that Jesus is the sacrifice that is offered in our place to remove our sin and to swallow up God's wrath against our sin, so that God is now favorable to us. Putting this together, Jesus' sacrifice in our place was sufficient to remove our sin and to absorb God's wrath, so that it would be unjust for God to punish us for our sin. Why unjust? Because Jesus sufficiently paid for us. There is no more wrath for us in Christ Jesus.
This is a profound reason why we can be honest with our sins. Why? The greatest news in the world is that Jesus death and resurrection have sufficiently made it possible for us to be forgiven our sins.
Let us confess our sins. Also, let us encourage our neighbors and friends to confess their sins! Why? Because there is forgiveness!