“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit…I acknowledge my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Psalm 32:1-2, 5
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, The Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell. The third day he arose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins…
The forgiveness of sins is the beginning of joy in the Christian life! It’s when by confession and the real forgiveness of sin, your guilt is removed before God. Whereas we were under condemnation before, we are no longer under condemnation because of divine gracious forgiveness (Romans 8:1). Blessed is the person that the Lord has forgiven and does not count their sins against them! I believe in the forgiveness of sins.
Forgiveness begins with acknowledging our sins and our true guilt before God. Most people choose to blame others for the guilt and consequences of their own sin, anger, rebellion, pride, and selfishness. This blame shifting and anger is not the way of Christ and does not lead to life. As Psalm 32 teaches us, the Christian acknowledges their sins before God and does not try to avoid the sin of their life. Those who believe in Jesus believe in Him as Savior. They believe that Jesus is able to forgive sins because of His work on the cross and because of His great love and mercy toward us.
It’s important to recognize that asking for and receiving forgiveness from God is similar to asking for forgiveness from a friend or family member that loves you. When you know that brokenness in your family relationships relates to something you have said or done, you must go the person you wronged and ask them for forgiveness. You must say you’re sorry without making excuses, and then ask the person you wronged to forgive you. This type of heartfelt confession encourages the other person to grant forgiveness and reconcile the division. This is basically what happens when we acknowledge and confess our sins before God. “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. When we come before the Lord with earnest repentance, sorrow, and brokenness of heart to confess our sins, we can know that we are truly forgiven by the grace of God.
It’s important to understand that God determines what the offenses are – not us. God has from eternity defined what is good and evil. We cannot reverse the moral order. We can only rebel against it. This is partly why reading the Bible is so important. By studying God’s word, we come to understand the will and commands of God, and these passages of Scripture are used by the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin. It’s worth noting the difference between our first confession of sin when we first believe in Jesus and come to salvation, and the ongoing confession of sin. When we first acknowledge our sin before God, repent of our sins, and ask God to forgive us – this is our time of conversion and regeneration. This is when the guilt of your sin is removed, you are born again, and justified before God.
As we go on from salvation, confession is still a regular part of life. You are making progress in godliness, but sin remains a part of your life. This does not cause you to lose your salvation but does affect your fellowship with God. We understand this from family relations. When a husband or wife sin against each other it does not end their marriage but does break their fellowship. Their will be division in the friendship and fellowship of the relationship until the person in the wrong acknowledges their sin and asks for forgiveness. When forgiveness is granted the fellowship and sweetness of the relationship is renewed. This is the same way things work between the Christian and God after salvation. As a Christian, keep short accounts with God. When your sin is affecting your nearness and joy, confess your sins and receive the grace of God that the relationship might be renewed.
There is no penance in the Bible. Salvation and the forgiveness of sins is by grace alone. The idea of penance (mostly known from the Roman Catholic Church) is doing something related to punishment in order to work off the guilt of your sins. This is the opposite of grace and is not what the Bible teaches. Beating yourself up after you have confessed your sins, is not what Jesus would have you do. Instead, joyfully receive forgiveness by faith and go and sin no more. Take forgiveness seriously and take holiness seriously as well.
As Christians we must forgive others, because we have been forgiven everything by God. When God has forgiven us as wretched sinners, we must also forgive those that have sinned against us. Withholding forgiveness and grace toward those who have sinned against you shows a problem in your heart. There is no place for grudge keeping in the Christian life. Forgiveness is never easy and is harder the more grievous or costly the offense. But as we go to God and ask for the grace to love and forgive even our enemies, the world will know that we are Christians because we love and forgive like Christ.
Lastly, there are many false prosperity and positive thinking preachers in our day. They intentionally never speak of sin, or repentance, or confession, or forgiveness. This is because they are not interested in the gracious salvation of Jesus. They do not believe in real guilt before God and they do not believe in hell (eternal punishment for final rebellion against God). They falsely tell you that by positive thinking you can save yourself by reshaping your situation. This is a lie. Only by forgiveness from God can the guilt of our sins be removed.
May you confess your sins today and receive the blessed forgiveness of Jesus,
< This is part twelve in a series of articles on the Apostles’ Creed. To learn more about the Apostles’ Creed read: “The Apostles’ Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits” by Albert Mohler. >