A man who joins the army becomes a soldier — in title only because he knows little about his new role. In boot camp, he is trained. On assignment, he puts his training to practice. When he returns home, he is experienced. When he retires, he remains a soldier.
This illustrates what it means to be a Christian. Upon regeneration and that first confession of sin and faith, the new believer is a Christian. He has much to learn, but even with those baby steps, he is a Christian. He fails and makes mistakes, but is still a Christian. This is so because the fact of being a Christian is not based on performance but on the new life and status given to him by grace through faith.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9)
Why does a new soldier go to boot camp if he is already a soldier? Why does a new Christian have to learn and live out the descriptions of Christian life in the Bible? Being something and not acting like it is a contradiction, a denial of who and what I am. I’m saved and being saved as I learn how to walk with Jesus.
Weeks ago, someone told me that since her sin was already forgiven, she believed confessing any that occurs now she is a Christian is not necessary. She added that confession is a form of self-centeredness and claimed that her focus needed to be on others, not herself. This sounded noble, yet a bit like a soldier saying he does not need boot camp or to go into battle because he IS a soldier and development of his skill was not important.
David was “a man after God’s own heart” who loved God yet like all of us, he sinned even with his status as having faith. He was forgiven because of his faith, but knew that sin messed up his fellowship with God and his performance as a person who loves the Lord. For this reason, he confessed his sin. Psalm 52 is the most familiar example, yet this one also shows the way David practiced his faith. He confessed his sin to God:
“O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath! For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me. There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness, I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning. For my sides are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart. O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me. My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague, and my nearest kin stand far off. Those who seek my life lay their snares; those who seek my hurt speak of ruin and meditate treachery all day long. But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear, like a mute man who does not open his mouth. I have become like a man who does not hear, and in whose mouth are no rebukes. But for you, O Lord, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer. For I said, “Only let them not rejoice over me, who boast against me when my foot slips!” For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever before me. I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin. But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty, and many are those who hate me wrongfully. Those who render me evil for good accuse me because I follow after good. Do not forsake me, O Lord! O my God, be not far from me!” (Psalm 38:1–21)
Many years later, the Apostle John wrote about this principle of confessing sin as it happens, even though Christ has secured our forgiveness. This is a matter of faith, but also how God wants us to live in constant agreement with Him and His Holy Spirit. He said:
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say 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. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:7–10)
Jesus, I cannot deny that I sin. I must acknowledge it to You when it happens, agreeing with You that I need Your forgiveness and cleansing. It happened when I was saved, but continues as I walk with You. This is much like the idea of Your kingdom is already here but not yet here. I am now a child of God and have been translated out of the kingdom of darkness into Your kingdom of light. Confessing my sin is part of walking in the light. I am cleansed, but not yet cleansed of all sin. Part of the process of becoming more like You includes confession, speaking truth, and avoiding self-deception. This is vital as You work in my life to transform me into what already am: a forgiven sinner. Like a soldier, I need to learn how to live like it.
“But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” (Psalm 130:4)