Philippians 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
One of the things that excites me about a new year is that when you flip the calendar over to January it is blank. Here is another starting point. I have the opportunity to manage those blank spaces and fill them with profitable actions that will bring glory to God.
There are times though when we have trouble anticipating a new year because we don’t seem to be able to get past the past.
Are you dreading a new year with the baggage of an old year clinging to you? Has this year started like the old year ended? Those besetting sins. Those footholds that have become strongholds. The worry. The missed goals. Is the weight of 2015 keeping you from reaching forth into 2016 with hope, anticipation, and resolution?
Or, even worse, have you become so accustomed to carrying the baggage over from year to year that you have resigned yourself to just trudging through another year mired in mediocrity?
I have a single word for you. Confession!
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
What a blessed verse when we approach it honestly and with transparency. When we embrace the full range of truth presented.
If we confess our sins
The first thing that arrests my attention is the fact that the word sin is plural. It is not confessing sin but sins. We should not seek to address specific sins in the context of general confessions. If our "confessions" are always general, "Lord, forgive my sins", then it is right to raise the question if we are even truly confessing.
1 John 1:8 says, If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. And 1 John 1:10 says, If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. If we are not careful we will be living on either side of verse nine. Of course we don’t live there intellectually but we do practically! We would not claim to have no sin but our lack of confession belies the true nature of things.
Sin is to be confessed! Confess means to assent or acknowledge. The essence of the word is to be in the same place as God in relation to our sin. By nature of the fact that we are exhorted to confess sins we can logically conclude there are several things we should not be doing with our sins; we should not ignore them, justify them, minimize them, surrender to them, or hide them.
Confession is not a foregone conclusion. The bible says "if" we confess our sins indicating we won’t necessarily do it! It is more than just asking forgiveness. It is the spiritual effort to get to the same place God is in respect to our sin. We keep having to ask forgiveness for the same sin over and over again because we have yet to confess it! The essence of confession creates abhorrence! We don’t have the power of God because we have unconfessed sin. The Holy Ghost is grieving instead of empowering! If we will confess we can, we will, get past the past!
He is faithful and just to forgive our sins
Sins once again takes center stage. The reality is that God is in the business of dealing with sin.
He is faithful! To be faithful is to be true, trustworthy, and sure. 2 Timothy 2:13 declares, If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. Verse 5 of 1 John 1 reminds us that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. He is not going to cut a deal with sin! The two pillars of God’s faithfulness is that he is first and foremost faithful to himself and to his word. God’s faithfulness to us can only be appreciated in the context of God being faithful to himself and faithful to his word. He will not deny himself or forsake his word in order to be perceived as being faithful to us. God’s faithfulness to his people is in the context of fidelity to himself and devotion to his word!
He is just! To be just is to be equitable and right. It was Abraham when interceding on behalf of Sodom and Gommorah that asked the rhetorical question, "Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" God is upright! He does not lean to one side or the other! He stands as he ought! God is the ultimate standard of right and wrong! He is the great moral compass of creation! God is just! He acts and responds in keeping with his holy nature! God is right, he is always right and he is absolutely, infinitely just!
He is faithful and just to forgive! My what a blessing of grace that his faithfulness and justice is revealed in forgiveness as well as chastisement. As his children we can mitigate the rod of correction by confessing sin. When we confess it calls forth his faithfulness and justice to execute forgiveness.
There is a very real sense in which we don’t have to seek forgiveness we need only to confess and he will be faithful and just to forgive! If we will confess we can, we will, get past the past!
And to cleanse us from all unrighteousness
Unrighteousness is injustice, iniquity, moral wrongness of character, life, or act. It is worthy of note that God wants to deal with “all” our unrighteousness. The question is, do we? Do we want to be able to face a clear calendar with a clear conscience? Do we want to be able to get past the past?
It is important to note God is faithful and just to do two things not just one. He is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse. These two things cannot be separated. We are unfortunately living in the throes of a practical theology that believes one can be forgiven without being cleansed. This error of thinking permeates the grand doctrine of justification. It reveals itself in the common belief that you can be saved and drink, cuss, live immorally, never go to church, and in general just go about life like you normally would. It is an error that also makes its impact felt in the doctrine of sanctification. We have largely devolved into a Christianity that wants to be forgiven but does not want to be cleansed. A Christianity that want to walk with God in the darkness! The clear declaration of 1 John 1:9 is that he is faithful and just TO CLEANSE US from all unrighteousness. It is a foreign concept to God that there would be forgiveness without cleansing!
To cleanse is to make clean, purge, and purify. God is in the business of wiping the slate clean. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if here at the start of a new year when God blesses us with a clean calendar he also would bless us with a clear conscience! If we will confess he will cleanse!
Confession is the precursor to cleansing. We seek forgiveness over and over in relation to the same sin because we are never cleansed from that sin. We are not cleansed from that sin because we never confess that sin. If we are not cleansed can we really hold out hope that we are forgiven. Didn't he promise to do both? It might do us well to simply humble ourselves and admit that we often do not see our sin like God does. This might prompt us to pray, “O Lord help me to see my sin like you do so that I can truly confess it and know your forgiveness and cleansing.
Proverbs 28:13 He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.
Genuine, sincere confession is the key to getting past the past!