Confession, Conviction, Confusion!
Posted on January 4, 2011 by Paul Ellis // 58 Comments
Did Jesus sneak out of heaven against His Father’s wishes to come and die for our sins? Did He distract the Holy Spirit then slip away on His own initiative to shed His blood for our forgiveness? Of course not! Yet judging by some of the comments I get on this site, it’s clear that some think that God the Son and God the Father are playing a good cop-bad cop routine with humanity. God the Father is angry with us on account of our sin, but Jesus stands between us protecting us from His Father’s wrath.
What’s wrong with this picture? Everything! It suggests that God the Son and God the Father have different natures, that One loves us unconditionally, but the other can’t see past our sin. Even if you don’t know your Bible you can probably see how ridiculous this is.
Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus is the “exact representation” of God’s nature. He is the visible image of invisible God (Col 1:15). Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). If you want to know what God the Father is like, look at Jesus. They are different people, but they share the same character, the same heart, and the same spiritual DNA. The gospel tells us that Jesus was sent by God the Father and empowered by God the Holy Spirit to save the world. Contrary to what you may have heard, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are very much on the same page when it comes to your forgiven-ness.
A Christian is someone who has received the gift of God’s forgiveness. By trusting in God’s grace, they experience today that which God provided 2000 years ago, namely salvation through the finished work of the cross. In Part 1 and Part 2 of this study we looked at six reasons why Christians never need to confess their sins to be forgiven. Perhaps you confess your sins because you are uncertain about your forgiveness. You know that Jesus died for your sins, but you may think that God is keeping records and that the Holy Spirit is convicting you and leading you to do works of confession. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here are two more reasons why those who have been forgiven don’t need to confess-to-be-forgiven:
7. God chooses to forget your sin
“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” (Heb 8:12)
Confession usually involves telling God about our sins (as if He didn’t know!). But why would we want to remind Him of things that He has chosen to forget? Somehow we have bought into this idea that God is in heaven recording all of our sins onto DVDs and on Judgment Day He’s going to embarrass us by playing movies of our mistakes. But this is not what the Bible says! God does not impute our trespasses to us (2 Cor 5:19). He is in the reconciliation business, not the shaming business. When you confess-to-be-forgiven you are imputing sins to yourself that God Himself is not counting. In other words, you are acting unlike your heavenly Father.
Under the law covenant it was important to keep track of and account for every sin, but the new covenant is characterized by loving forgetfulness (Jer 31:34). Did God suddenly have a change of heart after the cross? Did His memory suddenly go faulty? No, God never changes. He is the same today, yesterday and forever. The Bible refers to the law covenant as a fading and therefore temporary arrangement (2 Co 3:11). Although God chose to relate to people for a time through this fault-finding covenant in order that we might learn the seriousness of sin and see our need for Jesus, His own nature is otherwise. He has always loved us (Jer 31:3) and love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Co 13:5).
On the cross God the Father made Jesus be sin for us that we might become His righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). Jesus was not acting alone but in perfect submission to His Father’s will (Lk 22:42). Forgiving you was the Father’s idea; making Jesus be sin that you might become righteous was His work. Because God the Father relates to you through His sinless Son, He chooses to remember your sins and lawless deeds no more.
Why did God do all this? Because He is love and He loves us. For God the Father so loved the sinful world that He sent His only Son. When you see the Father’s heart of love behind the Son’s redemptive work, you will no longer fear sin. You won’t be worried about those sin-DVDs because God isn’t making any. When you begin to grasp the Father’s love, you will even look forward to Judgment Day with boldness (1 Jn 4:17). Where does this confidence come from? It comes from knowing that we have “grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son” (2 Jn 1:3).
8. The Holy Spirit is not convicting you
“The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this… ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’” (Heb 10:15,17)
Some believers feel impressed to confess their sins because they think the Holy Spirit is convicting them. Only He doesn’t. How could the Holy Spirit convict us of something He chooses not to remember? Look at what He says: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” You can take those words to the bank! They are truth and life. God the Son died to do away with sin. Because of what Jesus has done, neither God the Father (Heb 8:12) nor God the Holy Spirit (Heb 10:17) remembers your sins any more. If the Holy Spirit were convicting you, then the Godhead would be a house divided.
You may say, “I know I’ve sinned because my conscience has been pricked. Isn’t that the Holy Spirit’s conviction?” Nope. Have you ever wondered how you know when you have sinned? Most people have an innate knowledge of good and evil because of what happened in the Garden of Eden. But where that moral compass is rusty, the law kicks in with fault-finding force. “I would not have known sin except through the law” (Rms 7:7). If you are feeling condemned, don’t blame the Holy Spirit! It’s the law that condemns you. Some try and wriggle out of this by distinguishing conviction from condemnation. They say conviction is good and comes from God, but condemnation is bad and comes from the devil. But if we’re talking sin then there’s no scripture that supports this distinction. The word convict, as found in the NIV translation of John 16:8, literally means to refute, find fault and call to account. This is what the law was designed to do (2 Co 3:9), in order that you might be led to Jesus and receive His gift of no condemnation (Rm 8:1).
religious_convictionAs an expression of His love and mercy, the Holy Spirit convicts the world of the sin of unbelief. But the only thing He “convicts” or rather, convinces, Christians of is their righteousness (Jn 16:8-10). When you sin, your conscience may convict you, the law may convict you, and the Spanish Inquisition may convict you. But while all of this convicting is going on, the Holy Spirit will be there to remind you of your right standing in Christ. Your righteous acts don’t make you righteous; neither do your unrighteous acts make you unrighteous. Only Christ makes you righteous. If you listen to your sin, you will think you are damaged goods only capable of screwing up. But if you listen to the Holy Spirit, He will tell you that you are as righteous as Jesus and capable of living right. This is not a challenge to live right through will-power – the Holy Spirit will never promote a flesh trip. This is a call to continue living in Christ the same way you started – by faith (Col 2:6). Listen to your sins and you’ll end up a victim, but be led by the Spirit and you will be more than a conqueror!
God is not a fault-finder
Jesus did not sneak out of heaven on a secret mercy mission and God did not have a change of heart after the cross. Your heavenly Father is not a fault-finder. Neither is the Holy Spirit.
When you confess-to-be-forgiven, you are essentially trying to make yourself good enough for God. You’re saying, “I messed up, but I can fix it.” Well, you are half right! But you are fooling yourself if you think you can fix what sin broke. Jesus died to set our minds free from acts that lead to death (Heb 9:14) and confessing-to-be-forgiven is a dead act. It may make you feel momentarily good about yourself, but as we will see in the final part of this study, this sort of confession ultimately leads to death and defeat. True confession is agreeing with God and God says all your sins were forgiven at the cross for all time by the blood of Jesus. Confess that!