"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).
To "confess our sins" means more than simply acknowledging or admitting that we have disbelieved and disobeyed God. The Greek root word of confess is "homologeo," meaning to "say the same thing." That is, if we sin, we are to agree with God about our waywardness. We are to say the same thing He says about our sins. This involves far more than merely admitting we have sinned. What does the Word of God teach about sin in the life of believers? This is a multi-faceted subject that we have considered in previous devotionals. For now, however, we will address the matter in context of our current consideration regarding the source of sin in born again believers, and our Biblical calling to walk in the Spirit.
Let us consider again the Apostle Paul's fascinating teaching in the seventh chapter of Romans.
"If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me" (Romans 7:16-20).
To agree with God concerning our sins involves our viewing them as did Paul, and as does the Holy Spirit who inspired the Apostle's words. Accordingly, we must say the same thing: "It is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me... that is, in my flesh." We acknowledge the source of sin, which is the law of sin in our flesh (our earthly faculties and members inherited from Adam). We confess that we have allowed this law to have free rein in us, or in Paul's terms, we have "let sin reign in our mortal bodies" (Romans 6:12). We acknowledge full responsibility for the sin that has taken place in our thoughts, attitudes, words and deeds. Nevertheless, we also say the same thing that Paul said. "It is no more I that do it..."
To illustrate, suppose that in times when slavery was legal, a father gave to his son the responsibility for a servant. "Son, it is your duty to be sure this slave does his work and does not cause any trouble. I expect you to lead him to be a good servant of our family, and I want you to be a good master under my authority." If through neglect and failure on the part of the son to perform his leadership duties and capacities, the slave did in fact become wayward, the son would be held responsible by the father. He would not have been the perpetrator of the slave's waywardness, of course, but he would have allowed the misdeeds. "Father, it wasn't I who did it, it was the slave. However, I acknowledge my neglect and failure to act in a manner that would lead our servant to do your will."
This is Paul's teaching in Romans 7, and this comprises our saying the same thing about our sins. The law of sin that dwells in us directly performs the crime, motivating and empowering our earthly faculties to disobey God. Sin does not issue forth from our "I," that is, from our redeemed spiritual selfhood that Paul declares to "delight in the law of God after the inward man" (Romans 7:23). This "new man, created in righteousness and true holiness," makes the choice to act in times of faithfulness. He arises to "through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body" (Romans 8:13). In times of sin, however, he does not act, he does not "awake to righteousness" (I Corinthians 15:34). Sin therefore results in its myriad of forms as the law of sin in our flesh does what such a law would be expected to do. We confess accordingly.
"Heavenly Father, I have failed to arise by faith and put to death this particular deed of my fleshly faculties and members through the enabling of Your indwelling Spirit. Sin has resulted, and in humility and sorrow, I take full responsibility even as I also know and affirm that it did not originate in the the "I" that I am, as united to Christ. Thank You for your promised forgiveness and cleansing, and for the new person you have made me through the Lord Jesus."
"Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin" (Romans 4:8). God does not account sin to the born again believer because sin does not originate in who we most deeply are in Christ. Sin nevertheless remains real, serious and consequential in our lives, and will lead to our Father's loving chastening if allowed rampant expression in our thoughts, attitudes, words and deeds (Hebrews 12:6). And, we remain responsible when sin occurs. Indeed, we will discover as we proceed that this Biblical perspective concerning sin makes us even more responsible than we may have considered because we are far more equipped to overcome it than we normally realize.
"Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace."
Tomorrow: The delight of the new man