If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. – John 1:9
It’s one of the first things we learn in Sunday school and confirmation class. Yet so many of us misunderstand the fundamental element of our Christian faith that is forgiveness. We fail to forgive one another, and we don’t realize how relentlessly forgiving our heavenly father is.
As Peter found out when he asked Jesus how many times we ought to forgive our neighbor, Jesus will never stop forgiving. So should it also be for us on this earth, no matter the offense those around us commit.
As is the case with several areas of my life, I am currently in a struggle with a repeated sin. I see it as an addiction. Don’t worry, it isn’t drugs or anything that could do significant harm to me physically, but it is sinful. It has been going on for a very long time now but only recently, I’ve felt pretty bad about it off and on.
I’ve also felt extreme worry about it, because, as it says in the Bible, the wages of sin are death, and living an unrepentant lifestyle removes the grace God has freely granted us. I have taken that and ran with it as if it says, “if you don’t feel bad about your sin, you’re going to hell”.
There is a difference between repenting of our sin and truly feeling bad about it all the time. It gets much more difficult when it comes to sins that we repeat in a habitual way, because naturally, we aren’t going to feel bad about them every time. We’re not at all surprised that we committed the sin again, and we’re just sick of feeling so low all the time. At times, we may even glorify the sin, because after all, we probably do it over and over only because of how good it makes us feel.
But before we go any deeper, let’s remember that sins are not just things we do that break God’s law. Sin itself is a condition. The Bible says, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” It’s not like each of us had our Adam and Eve moment where we knowingly ate the forbidden fruit. We have known nothing other than sin as a result of it being introduced into the world, and we are therefore blinded from perfection.
It isn’t the way God intended it, but how can we blame ourselves for being born into something? I wonder this myself sometimes, especially when wrestling with God over my sin. When I feel unrepentant, I think to myself that I am justified to feel that way, because I have known nothing other than sin my entire life.
There is a certain amount of truth in all of this, and it goes against a common misconception that we are aware of all of the sins we commit and consciously choose to commit them. I’m sure we’ve all been faced with the question of, “is this (particular action) a sin?” whether it be from our children, friends, co workers, fellow believers, or even curious and possibly skeptical non believers. I always cringe when I hear that question being asked because it is quite ignorant. Sure, sins are black and white, but sin itself is more than what we do, it is how we are. When people wonder whether or not they are sinning, they most likely are. And if they aren’t in that moment, they will be in a subsequent moment. To wonder what technically is sin and what isn’t is like thinking that it would somehow be possible for us to live without sinning. After all, if all we had to do was stop X, Y, and Z, it would merely be a matter of making and sticking to a few New Year’s resolutions.
Of course we all know better, but we often find ourselves asking these same questions. A lot of times I genuinely wonder if a passing thought or little fib is considered a sin in God’s eyes. Then there are times when I wonder to myself, but deep down I know it is. In reality though, these things that we do only contribute to our condition of sin, they aren’t what make us sinful in the first place. And without Jesus, God would see us as a filthy rag of putrid nastiness, so it doesn’t really matter what we define as sin and what we don’t, because we already have it.
Plus, God has already defined sin for us. It is quite remarkable that we feel the need to constantly redefine it.
Every Sunday at my church we confess our sins. First, we confess those we could name because we are aware of them and they are weighing on our hearts. Usually these include the thoughts and actions during our week that even the world would consider wrong. But then, we also confess the sins we aren’t aware of, or in my case, can’t seem to bring ourselves to feel sorry about.
It is important to emphasize confessing sins we don’t know we committed because as habitual sinners, we aren’t going to realize everything we do that displeases God. But then there’s that last part, which is my struggle and the struggle of so many others.
Essentially, the question is, are we forgiven for the sins we don’t repent of and don’t even feel bad about? The answer? While I know I don’t understand it fully, yes.
We know that the only time our sins aren’t forgiven is when we deny our Savior and refuse to repent of our sins. At that point, Jesus is no longer our ultimate defense attorney as he came to the world to be. When we convince ourselves we can do it on our own without our Savior, we are subject to God’s judgement. Our sins aren’t forgiven.
But when we confess our sins, we are forgiven. Yes, even if we don’t feel bad about them. Here’s where I might get some Christians arguing with me. But as previous articles of mine have noted, our walk with God is not about our feelings. And yes, eventually we need to come to a point to realize we need a Savior. I am confident we all have. But if we’re struggling to feel remorse over our sins, or break the addictions that cause us to continually sin, we can still take refuge in the promise of forgiveness.
I wish I could actually believe this all the time. I continue to worry about being forgiven, and if I am truly sorry enough for what I have done. It seems that many of these sentiments are justified actually. After all, there are times with my repeated sin when I actually plan out the next several times I will commit it. That sure sounds like unrepentant sin.
Still, the bottom line is recognizing our need for a savior. I’m sure I am not the only one who has these fears that they are living life without feeling sorry for their sins, and are therefore unrepentant and subject to condemnation. But again, there’s that word “feeling” in there. We obsess over our feelings because they are immediate and powerful forces. However, we must remember that our knowledge of our savior makes our feelings irrelevant in this situation.
Author and theologian Rick Cornish puts it very well when it comes to being unrepentant about sins. He says, referring to the concept of unrepentant sin, “Concern about committing it reveals the opposite attitude of what the sin is. Those who might be guilty wouldn’t care because they have no distress or remorse over the possibility.”
Basically, those of us who fear being unrepentant are actually sort of repenting. We might not feel remorse, especially when sins get so repetitive and tiring that they become a way of life. But the only way we’d be in trouble as far as salvation is concerned is if we weren’t concerned about this at all.
This also serves as a reminder that the blood of Jesus has covered all of our sins, and that we don’t do anything to earn our salvation. After all, if we needed to feel a certain way to be saved, then that would be relying on ourselves to be saved. This is how so many of us think, including myself. I don’t understand it, but I have the knowledge that my sins are forgiven whether I feel sorry about them or not, because my Savior has done it all.
So try not to get all caught up in your sins. Tallying them or wondering about them is counterproductive. We all have those sins that we become complacent in, no matter what they may be. Mine is a little easier to see, for some they may be hidden. We might not be crying out to heaven to help us overcome them, or even feel remorse for them.
Even so, remember that Jesus has paid it all. I pray that we all realize that and don’t fret over our salvation. I pray that the world would be convicted of its sinful nature and realize its condition. Then and only then will others come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, understanding their need for Him.