God Says, “Repent of Your Sin, and I Will Forgive You.”
David began Psalm 32 with the words: “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”
How blessed. In other words, “How happy.”
How do you experience that blessed happiness?
God’s way of dealing with sin involves three elements:
- acknowledging your sin,
- confessing your sin, and
- believing God’s Word—not your feelings—regarding your sin.
1. Acknowledge Your Sin
In Psalm 32:5, David wrote: “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide.” That’s the very first step. The word acknowledge is translated from the Hebrew word that means “to know,” “to know fully,” or “to know intimately.”
What does that mean? It means you pull your sin out of the darkness and let God’s light shine on it. You take it out of the corner of the closet, and remove the sheet that’s covering it over. Then you say, “This is what I did. In all its ugliness, this is it.”
People don’t like to do that. They don’t like to soberly look in the mirror with the lights on full and see what is truly there. They would rather just walk in the darkness.
You and I are the same way. We like to cover over sins, just as we might try to cover over a blemish on our faces. I’ve been on TV a couple of times, and before you go on camera, makeup artists put you in a room, and man, they can do wonders! I asked one of them, “Hey, can you make it look as if I have hair?” She said, “No, we can do a lot, but we can’t do that.” Even so, the makeup covers over wrinkles and blemishes and all sorts of other unsightly things. And that’s what we would rather do with our sins! Cover them up, and pretend like they’re not really there.
Sometimes we’ll do that with our words. Instead of admitting to road rage, we’ll say, “Well, I have an issue with anger sometimes.” Or, instead of coming clean about adultery, we’ll say, “I made a mistake,” or, “I had a lapse in moral judgment,” or, “I made some unwise choices.” No, what you did was have sex with someone other than your own spouse. What you did was adultery, betrayal of your vows, and a great offense before the God who loves you.
If you’re going to acknowledge your sin to God, you take off the masks, remove the makeup, and say, “This is what it was; and it’s horrible, it’s gross, it’s shameful, and it’s ugly.” You name it before the Lord in an open recognition of sin.
2. Honestly Confess Your Sin
After you’ve pulled the sheet off your sin, you’re ready for the second step: confessing your sin. That’s when you say, “God, I agree with You that this is sin. It was wrong, and I am so sorry I did that. Not only did I break Your law, God, but I also broke Your heart.”
David said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” The Hebrew word David used for confess means “to cast down, to throw down.” It’s a picture of getting that thing out of your life and turning away from it. In other words, it’s a picture of repentance. We are saying to the Lord, “I don’t want that in my life, Lord. I am throwing it down.”
In the New Testament, the Greek term used for confession means “to say the same thing as.” In other words, it means to agree with God. When you confess your sin, you are saying the same thing about it that God says—that it is awful, harmful, treasonous, and even deadly.
What happens then? According to those incredibly liberating words in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
But note this: there’s a big if in that verse.
If we confess our sins, He will forgive us. But if we don’t, He won’t. And if we are walking in unconfessed, unrepented, and unforgiven sin, then we are walking in darkness and living a lie. We may say we have fellowship with God, but we really don’t.
You may say, “But I have confessed my sins, and I have received God’s forgiveness. Why do I still feel so guilty sometimes?” That brings us to a third step.
3. Believe God’s Word—over Your Feelings
“I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’; and You forgave the guilt of my sin.” – Psalm 32:3
What was true for David is true for you and me. Again, 1 John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins, God will “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Did you see that little word “all”? All means all. All is forgiven, no matter what you’ve done. He will cleanse you from all of it. That homosexual act . . . that abortion . . . that betrayal . . . that divorce . . . that dishonesty. Whatever it is, He will cleanse you. And that is the point where you must believe God’s Word more than you believe your own feelings.
Why? Because the devil, named in Scripture as “the accuser of our brethren” and “the father of lies” (Revelation 12:10; John 8:44), will whisper to your heart, “There’s no way you’re forgiven. Have you forgotten what you’ve done? Do you really think you’re washed clean inside? Really? Can I replay the tape of what you did? Can I show you all the damage and hurt that you’ve caused? And you have the audacity to say you’re forgiven? You have the nerve to stand up in church and sing, ‘My chains are gone, I’ve been set free…’?”
What you need to know in that instant, what you must understand, is that the voice you’re hearing is not conviction from God; it’s an accusation, a poison arrow, from an enemy who hates you and wants to destroy you. But if you are going to walk in victory over guilt and being haunted by the sins of your past, you must believe God’s Word!
What makes this especially challenging is that the enemy’s lies fit hand in hand with our feelings, prompting our flesh to rise up and say, “That’s right. I have confessed my sins, but since I still don’t feel forgiven, God’s promise to forgive me must not be enough. I’ve got to do something else, in addition to my confession, to really get forgiveness.”
That’s the scenario men like Martin Luther got into, hundreds of years ago, when men under the conviction of sin would beat themselves bloody, walk on their knees for miles, and even crawl over broken glass, thinking that somehow they were repaying God for their sins by shedding their own blood.
But we don’t have to shed blood for our own sins. There is One who already bled for us. His name is Jesus.
John wrote, “If we walk in the light, as He Himself is in the light . . . the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:6–7).
Don’t fall into the devil’s trap of elevating your sin over God’s Son. The blood of Jesus cleanses us completely and totally from all sin if we acknowledge, confess, get things right, and come His way. And the Bible tells us, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy” (Acts 10:15).
* * *
Talk About It
Have you ever whitewashed your sins? Do you struggle with believing in God’s promises of forgiveness even when you’ve confessed your sins? You’re invited to leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.