And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty ; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’ children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
–Exodus 34: 5-7
One of the harshest truths we must face as believers, and especially as leaders, is that God by no means clears the guilty. Let us consider the gravity of this fact for a moment. Sometimes we fail to understand that the guilt of sin will remain upon a believer if he does not confess his sin.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1: 8-9)
There are innumerable pitfalls, traps, and snares to which we may fall prey should we allow ourselves to remain guilty, and very often there are areas of warfare in which we find ourselves stymied, defeated, and frustrated because of guilt which remains. Now, I’m not saying that we should confess defeat or be negative, but that we had better be completely honest with ourselves and God about our various failures, shortcomings, and misdeeds, so that we can be both forgiven and cleansed.
John writes that when we confess our sins, the result is both forgiveness and cleansing, and this is no mere idle detail. There are indeed so many areas of our lives in which we have suffered from what is sometimes referred to as “the damage of sin.” Sin leaves its mark on our lives, and when not fully dealt with, can continue to exert its ugly influence for years after the sin occurred. For many of us, our perceptions, belief systems, approach to learning, and even the ways in which we worship, pray, preach, teach and love those around us can be affected by sin and its ability to taint us. Particularly for those of us in leadership, it can be very easy to even use our God-given authority as a mask behind which we may conceal (from people, at least) impure motives, hidden agendas, jealousy, and a host of evil works clearly defined by the Bible as worthy of damnation.
What does it mean to confess one’s sins?
To a great degree the doctrine of repentance has been watered down over the years, and it is commonplace to hear Christians “repenting” for sins while at the same time blaming those sins on circumstance, situations, and other people. One of the most common catchphrases of the modern “self-esteem” movement is “it’s not your fault.” While there ma be things that weren’t our fault, there has been a growing cultural trend that has found its way into the church whereby people are less and less likely to take responsibility for much, if anything. This can be seen in “legal disclosures” and “disclaimers” that companies use to avoid responsibility for defects and deficiencies in their products and services, as well as in the cavalier attitude many of us as leaders take toward the well-being and spiritual maturity of those under our authority. We have often been taught to run to Jesus for forgiveness, but we have rarely been taught to take full responsibility for our sins. If we blame sin on outside influences, then we are failing to confess that we committed the sin, and therefore we can neither be forgiven nor cleansed. This is a major reason why so many Christians live in defeat. Does a murderer confess to a crime by pointing the finger everywhere but at himself? In criminal law, when a suspect admits to a crime and claims full responsibility for it, it is referred to as a full confession. Do we want full forgiveness and cleansing?
If a glass isn’t clean, anything you put in it will be tainted. It works the same way with the influences of sin. this is why so many people are forgiven, but still have a mind that cannot cease from sin; they have not submitted to being cleansed. The only way to do this is to own up to what we have done or failed to do. As long as you continue to blame others, you remain guilty, and you will therefore be subject to the curse of the Law, because the guilty are not cleared by any means. To confess to God is to be pardoned, and therefore no longer to be guilty.
Many other problems will arise from this tendency to blame-shift. When we fail to recognize any problem for what it really is, as well as to recognize its causes and solution, we will never solve that problem. This can carry dreadful consequences in careers, ministries, marriages, and so on. How many divorces have occurred simply because one or both parties refused to accept responsibility for their own wrongs?
Examine yourself regularly
Thus, let us continually examine ourselves. A major key to such examination is to take a closer look at one’s opinions, since our opinions are often instances of relying upon our own understanding, which is contrary to God’s Word (Proverbs 3: 5-6). Begin to thoroughly re-evaluate your opinions in light of Biblical truth, and you will have begun to uncover hidden sins, and even the effects of sin which you might have otherwise overlooked. Some may scoff at such an idea, perhaps even saying that the Holy Spirit convicts us of all sin. While this is true, examples abound of individuals and even nations whose hearts were unwilling or unable to hearken to the Holy Spirit. It is therefore quite possible that some of us may have shut god’s voice out of certain areas of our lives, and so it is imperative that we do examine ourselves. Is it then any wonder that the Bible admonishes us to do so? (1 Corinthians 11;28)
For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (Matthew 13:15)
Never forget that God’s forgiveness is conditional: we must acknowledge that we have transgressed. If we do not recognize our sin, we cannot be forgiven. Neither can we be forgiven when we do not forgive (Matthew 6: 14-15).
God does not clear the guilty!
Points for Discussion:
- Think of some situations in which it appeared that some bad judgement on your part was due to circumstances, situations, or the influence of others, and re-evaluate it in the light of this lesson. What can you now say about those events?
- Think of a way in which the enemy has previously used guilt as a weapon against you. How would you apply what you have learned to such a situation now?