The real question is, “if Christ died for my sins, do I need to keep asking God to forgive my sins?”
God either has forgiven our sins or He hasn’t it? Right? Or is it that Christ only forgave certain sins at the cross? Or did Jesus only die for “original sin?” and not the day-to-day ones. What would happen if I forgot to ask God to forgive me of my sins or certain sins – would I still be forgiven? What if I died and forgot to ask for forgiveness, would I go to hell?
These are all versions of the same question – if Christ died for my sins at the cross, why do I still need to confess my sins and ask God to forgive them?
Let’s begin at the beginning. The jailer who was watching Paul and Silas upon thinking the prisoners had escaped, was about to kill himself before his superiors found out that they escaped on his watch, heard Paul say everyone was accounted for and there was no need for him to kill himself. When he heard Paul said this, he asked the ultimate question that is asked in every generation:
What must I do to be saved? (Acts 16:30)
Paul answered the prison guard, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”
Saved means that Jesus has taken your place on the cross, washed your sins away, and God has forgiven you and holds nothing against you! In other words, you are free – free from condemnation, punishment, guilt and shame. According to Paul in Romans 6:18 we are more than just forgiven – we are free from the power of sin.
You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness
However, just because your spirit (that part of you that connects with God and is in God’s image) has been set free and is in tune with God; we have this little thing called our flesh that is not yet saved. Our flesh is not yet transformed. We have not yet received our new bodies. And until we do, they will want to do what they want to do. They will want to feel good. They will want to do whatever makes them comfortable. In other words, our flesh is unredeemed and relentless at working against what is best for it.
Have you ever noticed – even if you are saved – that your flesh wants to drink too much, eat too much, lust too much, sit too much, and just frankly is way too concerned about itself!
You can see this when people decide to go on a diet. They know it is best for them. Their doctor has told them as well. They know if they want to have a more active life and a better quality life, they need to lose weight and get in shape. It isn’t their spirit that resists a better diet – it is their flesh. Their flesh has appetites that it doesn’t want to be denied. This is true in every area of our lives.
People fight, complain, lie, backstab and abuse each other to get what their flesh wants and what will make them most comfortable. Our redeemed spirit is at war against our flesh.
We war not only against ourselves, but also against God. Every time we do something that is against God’s will and best for us, that is called sin. We sin against ourselves and others, but we also sin against God.
Just as when we sin against others we are in relationship with, we do the same with God who we are in relationship with. What happens when we hurt, offend or abuse the people we are in relationships with? Over time trust is eroded and relationships fracture, splinter and eventually are broken. The only remedy for closeness and healing is forgiveness.
This same principle applies with God. Though our sins have been forgiven by Christ at the cross, when we sin and continue to sin against God, it begins to fracture our relationship with our Heavenly Father. We put sin between us and Him. We put self ahead of Him.
When we sin and confess it to God as it says in 1 John 1:9, we aren’t informing God of our sin. We aren’t telling Him something He didn’t already know. Rather, the purpose of confessing our sins, of coming clean to God, is so He can cleanse us. So He can restore our relationship with Him. When we sin, God isn’t angry with us, nor does He reject us. But the natural consequence of sin means hiding and separation. We see this from the beginning of time with Adam and God in the Garden of Eden. We all know this feeling of separation and alienation when holding secrets or having done something to someone else even when we haven’t told anyone. We can feel it inside our ourselves. We can’t deny it nor run from it. It is a feeling of dread. It remains there until we confess it and seek forgiveness.
If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness
This principle is first and foremost a spiritual principle because we are made by God and made in His image. We can’t outrun our sin, even though Christ has forgiven its penalty at the cross. What we really can’t outrun is the fractured relationship we have with God until we come clean.
While we don’t, according to God’s word, need to compulsively keep asking and begging for forgiveness for sins that Christ has already fully forgiven us for (this is what it means to trust fully in the shed blood of Christ and not in anything else), what we do need in our daily lives is a restored relationship with God that comes from us confessing our sins and asking God’s Spirit to once again restore us, renew and refresh us with His love.
James puts it this way:
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. - James 4:7-8
This is a picture of a restored relationship between us and God. Below is a visual picture as to why we need to confess our sins even though they have been forgiven at the cross. Finally, and remember this, a life of God’s power is lived when we are in intimate relationship with Him (John 15:1-5).