Friday, February 6, 2009

Judicial Forgiveness and Parental Forgiveness - Part 4

I shall be concluding my comments on John MacArthur's article "If We Confess Our Sins" today (see part 1, part 2 and part 3)

Remorse over sin, daily confession, and a continual attitude of repentance are marks of a healthy Christian life. What's the benefit? Look again at 1 John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (italics added). Forgiveness and cleansing–those promises are as refreshing to the sinner as a cold drink of water to a thirsty man.

David testified to the power of confession in Psalm 32: "When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer... I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, "I will confess my sin to the Lord"; and You forgave the guilt of my sin" (vv. 4-5). The guilt of David's sin affected him physically–he found relief only through full confession.

We've already discussed the difference between judicial and parental forgiveness–the latter is in view in 1 John 1:9. It is a subjective, relational kind of forgiveness. It is the restoration to a place of blessing in the eyes of a displeased father. Similarly, the cleansing of 1 John 1:9 doesn't refer to regeneration. Rather, it is a spiritual washing to rid you of the defilement caused by sin in your daily walk. The verse is speaking of an ongoing pardon and purification from sin, not the cleansing and forgiveness of salvation.

The pardon of justification and the washing of regeneration do not eliminate the need for you to deal with the subjective reality of sin in your life. If you entertain such an idea, you will either be consumed by your guilt or you will steel yourself against the pangs of your conscience–either reaction will separate you from a loving Father.

Instead, keep confessing your sins; seek God's forgiveness and cleansing daily. As the verse says, He is faithful to Himself to forgive your sins and He is just, having already made full atonement for your sins through the sacrifice of His beloved Son. When you confess your sins, you are restored by a loving Father who delights to shower the brokenhearted and repentant with His mercy and compassion.

Adapted from The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness, © 1998 by John MacArthur. All rights reserved.

This whole concept of Judicial Forgiveness and Parental Forgiveness hinges on only one verse, 1 John 1:9. As I have explained in my earlier comments, when you read 1 John 1:9 in its proper context, you will see that the verse is not directed at believers. John only starts addressing believers in chapter 2 where he begins with:

1 My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. 2 He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.

John is telling us believers that even if we sin, Christ our atoning sacrifice speaks for us in God's presence. When God sees Jesus, He sees that the penalty for our sins has already been paid for by Jesus. In fact, Jesus has already paid for the sins of the world as well and if the people of the world accept that they have sin and confess that Jesus is Lord, God is faithful and just to forgive their sins and purify them from all unrighteousness.

David, in Psalm 32, contrasts perfectly the burden of a man under the Law and the privilege of us believers who are under the grace of God.

Psalm 32:1-2 (NKJV)
1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit.

We believers are the people that David call blessed in verses 1 and 2. We are the people to whom God does not impute sin because we are the people after the Cross while David was before the Cross, and there is no deceit in our spirit because we have the Holy Spirit in us.

Since God does not impute sin to us, why do we insist on wanting to confess sins? God does not require us to confess sins in order to forgive us because He has already forgiven us. God is already satisfied by the sacrifice of His only son, Jesus.

I suspect that those who keep confessing their sins do so to satisfy themselves, to make themselves feel better, to convince themselves that they are repenting of their sins. In fact, I suspect that the main reason some people embrace the concept of confessing sins is so that they could forgive themselves!

Check out this article "Andy Pettitte and My Confession of Sin" to see how C.J. Mahaney from Sovereign Grace Ministries describes his own confession of sin. I append an excerpt below:

When I have sinned against someone, a sincere confession is required. A confession that is sincere and pleasing to God will be specific and brief. I have learned to be suspicious of my confession if it’s general and lengthy. A sincere confession of sin should be specific (“I was arrogant and angry when I made that statement; will you please forgive me for sinning against you in this way?”) and brief (this shouldn’t take long). When I find myself adding an explanation to my confession, I’m not asking forgiveness but instead appealing for understanding.

If my so-called confession extends beyond a very specific (acknowledgement of sin) sentence or two, then I am most likely excusing my sin, and requesting understanding for my sin, rather than sincerely asking forgiveness because of my sin. So I have learned to be suspicious of any confession of sin that is lengthy. Genuine conviction of sin is evidenced by a sincere, specific, and brief confession of sin, without any reference to circumstances or the participation of anyone else. When I sin, I am responsible for my sin, and the cause of my sin is always within my heart and never lies outside my heart.

From the above excerpt, you can see that this obsession with confessing sin speaks of self-centredness. It is all about satisfying ourselves, not God! God does not need our confessions. He is already well satisfied with Jesus' finished work on the cross.

This obsession with confessing sin also speaks of guilt consciousness which we believers should not have. Jesus' blood, unlike the blood of bulls and goats, has cleansed us perfectly from all unrighteousness once and for all, as Hebrews 10:2 says "If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared."

Finally, if you truly believe in confessing sins, then make sure you do it properly and conscientiously! You must constantly examine yourself to check whether you are sinning and after that immediately confess the sin just in case you forget to do it later.

Do you want to live the rest of your life like that? In fact, do you even want to call that "living"?


Derrick said...

Hi Stanley

I don't think you are going to change your mind, but does your brand of 'Christian life' (very different from mine) allow for any humility before God (eg. Paul calling himself the chief of sinners), or any subjective guilt (eg. Paul called himself a wretched man) or any confession of sins?

Btw, I do not know any Christian who find the above three weary tasks to do, since we do them not to gain acceptance from God. Rather they are natural actions reflecting our Spirit life as a result of our faith.

No offence, but I find your description of Christian life rather weird and not true liberation.

In case you are wondering, I am not a fan of Kong Hee (I am actually against some of his teachings eg. prosperity gospel), but I find that he is closer to the fundamental gospel that Joseph Prince is.

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