Bringing Home the Faith: a Pastor writes to her teenage son about Christian belief is a series of ten letters I wrote for my son addressing his doubts about Christian faith and answering his questions about what Christians believe and why. Each letter is preceded by an Introduction which introduces its particular topic.
Please share these weekly installments of Bringing Home the Faith with someone in your life, whether young or old, who wants uncomplicated and honest answers to their questions and concerns about Christian faith.
Last week in Letter No. 5: Why Jesus Had to Die, I wrote about the connection between the animals sacrificed for sin in the Old Testament and Jesus Christ, who is the “Lamb of God” who takes away the sin of the world. This week I conclude the letter by writing about confession and forgiveness.
The Bible is very clear in that there are only two options in life. The first is to depend upon our own ability to set ourselves right before God, an effort at which we will always fail. The second is to admit we need to be saved from our sinful nature and turn to the “Lamb of God,” Jesus Christ, who died for our sins. There is no third option – just to be a good person. That’s because even our good efforts are filled with elements of selfishness. We cannot be perfect, no matter how hard we try. In fact, the mere effort of trying to be perfect is riddled with pride, which is a sin.
The sobering truth is that anyone less than perfect, anyone who sins, even in a seemingly insignificant way, cannot stand before God, in the end. As I said at the beginning of this chapter, “God hates sin,” which is a good thing. Yet, if we turn to Jesus and confess him as our Savior, he will stand beside us and his blood will cover all our sins. Paul writes in Romans:
Since we have now been justified by Jesus’ blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath [against sin] through him. (5:9)
Therefore, everyone born into this world needs to be saved if they are to have eternal life. All sins can only be atoned for by Jesus.
Every night before I go to bed I confess to God the things I did (or said or thought) but should not have done. Then I confess the things I should have done but did not do. I do this because I find it helpful to be honest with myself, and God, about the fact that I’ve failed. Confession puts me in the right frame of mind so that I look for and receive God’s forgiveness. It also serves to remind me, that without Jesus, I don’t stand a chance.
Let me be clear: God does not refuse to forgive me until I confess. Through faith in His Son, my sins are already forgiven. But I must come before God in prayer asking for the forgiveness He has already granted. Confession is also important because un-confessed sins can create a barrier between God and me. This is not a barrier which God puts up because He always wants to be close to us. It’s something that arises when our sense of God’s love and of our need for the saving grace of Jesus grows dull. Also, un-confessed sins make us more vulnerable to sin becoming a habit. It’s hard for a habit to develop, however, when we’re on the lookout for it.
So, God won’t walk away from us, but we can certainly walk away from God – and by not confessing our sins we can end up going far away from God, without even intending to do that. That’s why when we all say prayers together every night, we always include some sort of confession in them. We never have to fear being honest with God.
However, there may come a time in your life when you don’t feel forgiven for something, when you are weighed down by a remembrance of past sins, even though you’ve confessed Jesus as your Savior and you’ve been honest with God and laid out before him your ongoing shortcomings and sins. I have been troubled in this way at certain points in my life and here is some advice: Turn to verses in the Bible which assure us God has forgiven us and loves us unconditionally. Here are a few:
As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:2
“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. Isaiah 43:25
You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:19
I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you. Isaiah 44:22
Keep in mind that to continue to feel guilty when God has already forgiven you, and after you’ve been honest with God by confessing your sins, is a form of stubborn unbelief. In effect we are saying, despite the death and resurrection of Jesus on our behalf and numerous assurances of God in Scripture, “I don’t believe that you’ve forgiven me, God.” God wants us to trust Him, so if for no other reason, let go of your shame and hold tightly to God’s promise – don’t reject Him by refusing his mercy.
Lastly, in the Lord’s Prayer it says, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” A forgiven person is called to be a forgiving person. This is not always easy to do, but Jesus wants to help us learn how. I’ll write more about this in the next letter, Why Becoming Like Jesus is What’s Best for Us.
Here are the most important things to remember from this letter:
- Every sin is a sin against God
- A just and holy God cannot excuse sin or look the other way
- Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness
- Jesus is our “scapegoat” who takes our sins upon himself
- The price Jesus paid on the cross is now transferred to the believer’s account and through faith in him we are forevermore set right before God.
I hope you never forget that God loves you so much that He gave up His life for you, so that you can be with Him forever – in this life and in His kingdom in heaven. We have a God who will stop at nothing to win us back. Hold on to that thought!
Discussion Questions for Sixteenth Installment: Why
Jesus Had to Die.
1) What to options regarding salvation are open to us in life according to the Bible? Which one will always fail? Why?
2) Why is it important to confess your sins to God?
3) Is there something for which you feel God has not forgiven you? What advice would you give to someone who feels this way?
Next week Letter No. 6: Why Becoming Like Jesus is What’s Best for Us begins. It will be the last letter I post this summer from my book, Bringing Home the Faith. I will post the remaining four letters and epilogue next year.