Devotion: What Genuine Confession and Forgiveness Look Like

I 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.”

I John 1:9 is a verse (and concept) I cling to. I am painfully aware that I am just a sinner saved by grace. I am cognizant every day that I still sin. But I’m also thankful that genuine confession on my part leads to genuine forgiveness from God.

Guess what? We can apply the same principle to our human relationships. God expects us to confess to one another when we sin against each other. He also expects us to forgive when a brother or sister confesses. When we model this in our human relationships, we also model our relationship with the LORD.

Our Sins Are Remembered No More

The principle of forgiving and forgetting he is pretty common in Christianity. We understand the principle from the fact that, as born-again children of God, he remembers our sins and iniquities no more. In fact, that’s exactly what Hebrews chapter 10 tells us. But what does that mean?

The Greek word for ‘remember’ in Heb. 10:17 is mnaomai (mna’-o-mai). Here’s what it means:

  • To exercise the use of one’s own memory
  • To recall to mind (i.e. recollect)
  • To be mindful (of)
  • To remember (to reward or punish)

Instead of saying that God does not remember our sins, we say he forgets. But regardless of the word we choose, what God DOES NOT do is wipe sins from his memory. He is omniscient. That means he knows everything. If he wiped our sins from his memory, he would no longer be omniscient.

So what does he do? When God forgives, he chooses to no longer exercise his memory in relation to our sins. He no longer recalls them. In other words, God does not bring them up again. He does not hold us accountable for those sins. They are over and done with forever. For all intents and purposes, they are buried in a spiritual landfill for all eternity.

That’s what genuine forgiveness looks like. When we genuinely forgive others, we do the same thing. We never bring up the offenses again. We never hold those offenses to the other person’s account. They may not be wiped from our memories, but the offenses are buried in our own mental landfills never to be dug up again.

Genuine Confession Requires Genuine Humility

Now that we know what genuine forgiveness looks like, let’s talk about genuine confession. Confessing our sins, whether it is to God or one another, is more than just saying ‘I’m sorry’. It is more than just uttering facts. Genuine confession requires ownership and genuine humility.

Take a look at Jacob when he finally meets Esau after spending 20 years in Syria. You can find the story in Genesis 33. Jacob does a number of things that demonstrates a genuine humility before his brother.

He gives Esau a very impressive gift to make up for (as best as he can) what he stole from his brother. Jacob bows before his brother seven times, in a ritual that’s very similar to how people from the eastern cultures of the day would bow to a king. Finally, Jacob also asks for mercy. He even goes so far as to indicate that he is putting his life in Esau’s hands.

Pride Gets in the Way

One last thing to consider is that pride so often gets in the way of both confession and forgiveness. Pride makes it very difficult to confess with a genuine heart of humility. Pride also makes it difficult to forgive someone who has offended us. But pride in and of itself is a sin. And in fact, Scripture tells us that it often precedes a person’s downfall.

God is faithful in just to forgive when we confess with a genuine heart of humility. Likewise, he expects us to set aside our pride to forgive others. When we offend, he expects us to confess with the heart of humility and see forgiveness from the one we have offended.

Confession and forgiveness are hard, but they are not impossible. God would not have told us to practice them if he knew we could not.

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