Guilt and Repentance – Often Misunderstood

I believe that the most important verse in the Bible for believers is 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” This is the method for maintaining our temporal fellowship with Christ. When a believer sins, we lose that temporal fellowship (though not our eternal fellowship), and our ministries will lose effectiveness until we restore that temporal fellowship through confession. So, if we are going to make a difference with our Christian lives, we must practice 1 John 1:9.

Confession of sin just means that we name our sins to God (not to any man). We just think of every sin we’ve committed (since we last named all of our recalled sins to God), name them to Him, and He not only forgives us, but He also forgets that sin. It’s covered by Christ’s blood on the cross, so it’s like we never even did it.

Now, the key to confession is for us to also forget that sin. If we don’t forget that sin, and we don’t acknowledge God’s forgiveness of that sin, then we’re going to dwell on it. This is going to create guilt, and that guilt itself is a sin. So, we’re in a vicious circle of sin. We confess our sins, and we immediately feel (or retain) guilt for that sin, then we immediately lose that temporal fellowship again, so our confession didn’t even work as God intends for it to work. In other words, most of us are ineffective in our spiritual lives because we’re eaten up by guilt.

Along with guilt, our misunderstanding of repentance can also destroy our effectiveness. Since repentance means to “turn around,” or turn away from our sins. When we recognize that we’re confessing the same sin over and over, we realize that we have a problem with an habitual sin, and this scares us to death. This creates a new problem for us: We worry about committing that sin again. Of course, we shouldn’t commit that sin again, but, just as with guilt, our worry is a sin, so again we’ve lost the effectiveness of confession. Instead of focusing on the possibility_ of our committing that sin again, we simply need to accept and appreciate our current state of cleansing that confession provides for us. Of course, we are going to try not to commit that sin again. However, even if we do, from the point of confession until the point of re-committing that sin, we’re clean. We’re in a state of spiritual effectiveness, and that’s what’s important. If we slip, and commit that sin again, we simply confess it again, and continue to ask for power over that sin.

I realize that many fundamental preachers would reject this logic. They would argue that if one is in a state of habitual sin, then he cannot be effective. However, I would argue that the guilt and worry caused by this is an additional habitual sin, so there’s no way out of this vicious cycle. We simply need to confess our sins, ask for power over them, and practice effective spiritual lives. Then, when we sin again, we simply repeat the process.

Leave a Reply