Sin that is not confessed and repented off remains recorded against us, even if we’re saved. God only ‘forgets’ those sins expunged by the blood of Jesus.
If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? (Psalm 130:3)
This little verse encapsulates a wealth of truth that provides encouragement and grace to every believer. But it also clearly highlights the reality of the true human condition, something that is all too often simply glossed over in favour of all the ‘feel-good’ things that come with salvation. This one-sided approach has the inevitable result of leading us into deception which is the first step to destruction. Today’s verse is a good example. There’s a ‘new revelation’ or interpretation that says that, for believers, God does not ‘see’ or ‘mark’ their sin. They move into His ‘blind spot’ at salvation, and remain in a place of ‘no condemnation,’ no matter what they do.
God’s attitude to sin has never changed.
This ‘interpretation’ relies on believing that the little word ‘mark’ actually means ‘notice.’ In reality, it means noted, i.e. written down, paid attention to, or recorded. It carries the implication of ‘being remembered forever’ and we must read it in the context of grace, mercy, and God’s sacrificial requirements. His attitude to sin has not and never will change. In the Old Testament, a sacrifice for sin was written into the Law. Man could not expect to receive forgiveness without it.
The sacrifice was part of a person’s confession and repentance. They had to acknowledge their sin before God, repent of it, and make the necessary sacrifice in order for God’s forgiveness to be released. The principle is exactly the same in the New Testament. The difference, though, is that our sacrifice – Jesus – is perfect and never has to be repeated, no matter how many times we sin. This is a crucial difference, but it is also the glorious truth that is perverted to cover what I call the ‘no condemnation’ gospel.
God still sees our sin, even as saints.
The first truth we must focus on is that we all sin and will continue to do so. That’s because we’re fallen flesh in a fallen world. Christian growth is a process of learning to sin less and repent quicker, thus receiving the forgiveness that enables us to live in ‘no condemnation.’ The reality of our inherent sinfulness does not change at salvation. It’s an ongoing battle for us. It does not simply vanish when we are born again.
There is nothing in the ‘testament of Grace’ or ‘covenant of grace’ that does away the legal spiritual requirements for dealing with sin. Subscribers to this new ‘skewed’ gospel happily throw in the verses that remind us that when God looks at us, He sees Jesus, who was sinless. That’s absolutely true, but it requires us to be ‘in Christ.’ The real truth is that unless we follow the requirements for forgiveness, we aren’t in Christ. If we don’t confess and repent, the blood of Jesus has no efficacy. We remain unforgiven. Jesus didn’t scrap the Law. He fulfilled it, making it possible for us to do so through Him. If God ‘doesn’t see’ our sin anymore, why did Jesus have to be sacrificed ‘once and for all’ to provide the way to forgiveness for our every sin?
Unconfessed sin remains recorded in the Book of Life.
It’s a beautiful and comforting reality that, once our sin is confessed and repented of before God, it’s gone. His forgiveness extends far beyond an encouraging pat on the head. For those who come in honesty and humility to the throne of grace, sin is dealt with completely. When God forgives, He removes it from His ‘book’ and remembers it no more. He looks at us and sees us washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. This is all true, and every believer should hold onto this immeasurable grace.
But should we go off and repeat the sin, it remains recorded in the book until it’s confessed and repented of. This applies to ‘new’ sins, too, i.e. those we haven’t previously committed. Any sin committed by both believers and non-believers is recorded against our name until dealt with. In Jesus, though, we have a blessed advantage. We have the Spirit to prompt us to recognise our sin. God provides the grace and faith to come to Him in confession and genuine repentance. Everything we need to ‘legally’ deal with our sin is provided through the cross. When we avail ourselves of His mercy and grace, the record is expunged and God promises to not see it anymore.
Sin still requires sacrifice for forgiveness.
The proponents of comfortable Christianity twist the truth of Christ’s once and for all sacrifice. It doesn’t mean that sacrifice is no longer required for forgiveness from sin. The entire Old Testament is God teaching this truth to His people in one way or another. Confession, repentance, and forgiveness, along with sacrifice, are woven into the entire Bible, old and new. Jesus died once and for all simply means that His single sacrifice was perfect, complete, and powerful. It has the spiritual power to be our sacrifice every time we need one.
There is only one difference between the treatment of sin in the Old and New Testaments. We no longer have to physically sacrifice an animal in confession and repentance. We no longer have to put an animal to death as a substitute sacrifice to carry our sin. When we come to God in honesty and humility, confess our sin and repent with genuine sorrow, God remembers the perfect sacrifice and applies it immediately. The requirement of sacrifice has never changed.
There is no automagic forgiveness for sin.
What this shows us very clearly is that there isn’t some kind of spiritual software that kicks in when we sin. There is no auto-confess or auto-repent mode that would meet God’s requirements when dealing with sin. The Holy Spirit doesn’t hover and immediately step in to automagically run the software so that God is satisfied at all times.
Nor does God promise that He will automagically forgive every sin we will confess after salvation. His promise is that He will not record it, i.e. that He will expunge our sin record the moment that we deal with it in the appropriate way. There is only one correct way to deal with sin: recognise, admit to self, confess to God, genuinely repent, seek the grace of the blood of the lamb, and receive forgiveness. There is no short cut or easy route to no condemnation.
Already confessed sin is no longer marked or recorded.
There is another side to this issue that often creates confusion, and that is the matter of receiving forgiveness. Too many Christians, weighed down by their own feelings of guilt and inadequacy, confess the same sins over and over. They don’t ‘feel’ forgiven, so they assume they aren’t forgiven. This is completely contradictory to the Word of God. When He forgives sin, it’s a done deal. The record is expunged, the sin no longer remembered, and no condemnation is ours through His grace and the blood of Christ.
To deny the efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice in this way is essentially denying our faith. But it also denies God’s power, desire, and ability to forgive. It’s the opposite extreme, but I’ve discovered that it’s often the first step towards the easy solution of ‘no longer having to confess and repent.’ There is no denying the beautiful reality that Jesus has, in fact, done it all for us. That’s the grace we should hang onto every day. But it doesn’t make us robots who automagically ‘update’ every time we sin. Jesus has purchased what we need by His blood, but we have to deliberately access it in humility and honesty.
Our living sacrifice embodies Christ’s sacrifice for sin.
Our relationship with God requires that we participate in everything He does in and for us. He may do the work, but He demands the appropriate response. It’s a two-way interaction, not a one-way intervention. Our willingness to ‘work with God’ on His terms is the essence of our lives as living sacrifices. Confession and repentance require humility and honesty. They require surrender to God’s leading, His teaching, and His chastisement. They are, essentially, the daily sacrifice of self in response to Christ’s eternal sacrifice. His perfect sacrifice made the way for forgiveness and justification.
Jesus had paid the price for sin, but it must still be dealt with. Being a living sacrifice keeps us in Him. It enables and empowers us to deal with sin as He did. The absolute truth is that unconfessed sin is recorded until it’s confessed and repented of. If God had not provided the mercy and grace contained in Christ’s once and for all sacrifice, we would have no hope of forgiveness. We would also have no hope of standing tall in the time of judgement. With so great a gift of grace available, we should put confession and repentance at the very top of our daily to-do list.
Sin and the grace of no condemnation.
If we have a place of no condemnation, we logically have a place of all condemnation. Jesus’ blood is the only thing that separates the two. The power of His blood is such that it completely washes out the record of our sin. But it’s not done for us. We have to use it in confession and repentance. Instead of perverting the truth to create an imaginary gospel that keeps us comfortable, let us rather fall on our knees and allow God to search our hearts. Today, let’s respond as living sacrifices. Let us rejoice in the grace that brings us to the assurance that God no longer marks our sin because we have confessed, repented, and been washed clean. The place of no condemnation is only ours if we allow God to remove our sin.
Lord, forgive us if we have had a casual attitude to sin and have fallen into presumption or taken the blood of Jesus for granted. Grant us grace, today, to come to You in humility and honesty, to search our hearts, to confess and to repent so that we may be washed clean. Help us to live a sacrificial life, rejoicing in the great sacrifice of Your perfect Son, relying only on Your mercy, grace, and sovereign forgiveness.