One of the things that has never been an issue in my experience of the Christian life is the idea that we have to feel sorry for our sins. In fact, I was taught that we don’t need to feel sorry at all.
Recently a comment on one of my previous posts (So What DO we do about Personal Sins?) brought up this sorrow, or broken-heartedness as related to some people’s understanding of what “confession” is – that is, not an official, name and cite the sin to God for forgiveness action, but rather a natural feeling of remorse that a believer should have upon realizing he has offended God. In fact, this is considered by some to be part of what turns one away from the sinning.
Updated paragraph: Col Thieme and others taught that this need to feel sorrow was yet one more means of inserting human effort into the equation… The feeling bad or sorry or broken hearted becomes the currency by which one tries to earn or buy forgiveness, and is not commensurate with grace.
Granted, I don’t think my commenter was trying to say that feeling sorry is necessary for forgiveness, but is merely a part of the process of coming back to God. Still whether this view or the view that sorrow is necessary, I don’t believe either has a place in our relationship with God.
Here are some reasons why:
1. I have no argument with the proposition that sin is offensive to God. It is. It’s disgusting, insulting, intolerable, wretched, hateful, gross… I’ve run out of adjectives. He hates it. It’s a denial of His character and in fact, in direct opposition to it.
2. In fact, sin is so offensive to God that no matter how much we might weep, wail, feel awful, feel sorry, promise to do better, none of that — nor anything else we do — could make it up to God for our violation. Death is the only answer to our sin; ie, complete separation from God. And when you’re dead, you can’t do much to rectify a relationship.
3. For that reason, God had to deal with our sin problem Himself, which He did by sending Jesus to earth as a man where He lived a perfectly righteous life, died spiritually on the cross in our place, and after three days in the grave rose again in resurrection life.
4. On the Cross, all the sins of every person who ever lived or will live were poured out on the Son and judged. All sins, but one, that is: the only sin not forgiven is the one of refusing to believe in the name of the only begotten son of God.
5. That is not a sin I have to worry about, since I have believed in Jesus’s name. At the moment I did, I was declared perfectly righteous for all time and I received eternal life, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and a number of other gracious gifts bestowed on all believers.
6. Even so, I still sin after salvation because I am still in this human body with its sin nature. Yet it’s not I who sins, but the sin nature that dwells within me. (Ro 7:17,18) So if I were to feel sorry for my sin, what part of me would feel sorry? Sometimes it’s the sin nature, because it knows people will think poorly of it, or even fears God might punish it. Why would I feel sorry in my new man which cannot sin? (I Jn 3:9) It was the flesh that did it. And yes, I did allow it to take over my soul and do its thing, but the Bible tells me that’s inevitable. I’m weak. I’m going to give in from time to time. Why spend any time at all lamenting the inevitable? Instead, just turn from it and get back with the Program!
7. God is not shocked when I sin. He is not hurt when I sin. He is not offended when I sin. He knew every sin I would ever commit before I was ever born. All of them were poured out on Jesus and judged 2000 years ago, where all the offense God had toward my sin was appeased once and for all.
8. Who am I to think I can improve on or add a little bit more to what Jesus did to satisfy the perfect character of God?
9. When I sin, where’s the big surprise? As I said, I know I have a sin nature and that it will get the better of me at times.
10. Even less is God surprised.
First,because He knew all things before He ever created anything.
And second because He’s the one who decided to create man with a free will, even knowing that man would sin, and that from that point on all men but one born into the world would emerge as sinners with a sinful nature.
If our sinning surprises and hurts Him, why did He leave us here with a sin nature? Why doesn’t He just do away with the flesh and replace it with a resurrection body the moment anyone believes in Christ?
Because that was not His plan. Instead, He placed our new nature into the old fleshly “body of death” along with the indwelling Holy Spirit, and left us here to live out our lives and witness to others. Left us here in this fallen world, with enemies all around, inside and out, trying their best to get the old man back in power.
11. So of course we’re going to sin. And when we do, how could God possibly be shocked or hurt? He knows exactly what we are, in addition to knowing – and choosing – everything that’s happened and is still going to happen. He has a reason for it , and it’s not really about us learning how to be good little Christians who will never sin again. That’s for heaven.
No, it’s so that He, through the transforming power of His grace and His Spirit and HIs word, could transform us into vessels of mercy and the very image of Christ. All here in this devil’s world, with the sin nature right there inside us, and the devil’s minions trying their best to stop us.
It’s so we and all the angels, fallen and elect, might learn what a gracious, loving God He is, how wise and wonderful and powerful. How we are nothing in ourselves, powerless before Him and that we and everything else depends on Him — His power, His sacrifice, His word, His Spirit, His work.
13. Thus, when I realize I’m sinning, I try to waste no time feeling bad about what I’ve done.
“There is therefore now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death” Ro 8:1,2)
I just recognize that the sin nature has gotten the best of me once again, stop with whatever sin I’ve become aware of, and turn to the truth of God’s word, rejoicing that He died for that sin, and that as far as He’s concerned it’s gone, so I can forget about it as well and move on in the Christian life.
14. Which boiled down means: start believing the things He’s written in His word. Things such as…
God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. ~Ro 8:28
He will never desert me nor forsake me ~Heb 13:5
Even when I am faithless, He remains faithful ~ 2 Ti 2:13
My living the Christian life doesn’t depend on me, but on His Spirit whom He sent to enable me to live it. Jn 14:6; 16:13; Gal 5:17; Phil 4:13
Very interesting thoughts. On a related note, I’ve always felt uncomfortable with the idea of making children say they are sorry when they clearly are not. It seems to cheapen the idea of forgiveness to force an un-heartfelt apology (basically a lie) and then require acceptance/forgiveness from the other child. I’ve heard that confession is simply agreeing with God that what I did was wrong, and wondered if this principle should carry over to how we handle wrongs our child does. It seems more effective to me to correct/teach until the child understands why what they did was wrong, and then direct them to admit to the other person that they wronged them and ask for forgiveness from them, rather than to immediately force them to say they are “sorry” if they aren’t. And the “Say you’re sorry” paradigm enforces the idea that if we feel bad (or just say we do), the other person has to forgive (whereas forgiveness is not really something we can require when we wrong someone; it’s an act of grace). So maybe we shouldn’t force our kids to say they forgive the other person, either, unless they voluntarily choose to? Maybe we would all understand/value forgiveness more if weren’t forced to give it out as children, but were taught that forgiveness it’s GRACE and costs us (and God) something when we do forgive?
Maybe this sounds radical, and I am NOT advocating a lack of consequences or that we shouldn’t teach our children how to properly treat other people and how make it right when they don’t, it’s just that I question the typical way it’s handled. I’m not sure exactly HOW to handle it, I just know “Say you’re sorry” doesn’t jive with what I believe about forgiveness, confession, and grace. Good thing my son is only a toddler and I have time to think about it! (God, help us to parent so our children see YOU!!) Your post just gives me more to think about along those lines!
Amen Tamara….couldn’t agree more!
Also telling children to give hugs and show affection…like its “owed” to family members…kind of falls in the same category!
Peace to you Sister in Jesus!
You’re so right, buttrflygrl14 (re: telling kids/grandkids to give hugs)!
I agree with you totally, Tamara, re: making kids “say you’re sorry”!
Thanks for the comment Tamara.
I agree with pretty much all you’ve said here. And I love your observation of how the “‘Say you’re sorry’ paradigm enforces the idea that if we feel bad (or just say we do), the other person has to forgive.”
I do think, though, that there has to be some move toward restoring the relationship, and that perhaps that’s what the “say you’re sorry” paradigm addresses. As does the enforced forgiveness. Because once an apology is given and accepted neither child has any more right to continue the quarrel.
So is the child indeed sorry that because of his action his friend no longer wants to play with him? Does he even understand that is what the situation has led to? Is he sorry that he has hurt his friend’s feelings when maybe he didn’t intend to or didn’t realize what he was doing and thus soured the relationship? These are the things that come with the training of why what they did was wrong.
God doesn’t need or want our apologies, but rather wants our belief in His word and His character and our gratitude and our love. People on the other hand are weak, easily offended, struggle to forgive and do need to be handled with the extra grace of the apologies or at least admissions of wrongdoing that come out of humility. It’s an aid to the other person to ward off resentment and bitterness, and to restore our fellowship with one another…
Amen, and agree with Tamara!! Took the words right outta my mouth!
I agree with Tamara as well.
As far as the feeling sorry for sins thing…what about “godly sorrow brings repentance”? (2 Cor. 7:8-11) Is that just in regards to salvation then? Do we need sorrow for that kind of repentance? Because I was always taught this.
It’s my understanding that the passage in 2 Cor 8 is referring to the pain Paul’s earlier letter of rebuke had caused the Corinithians, pain that had led them to stop doing some of the wrong stuff they were doing. It had nothing to do with gaining forgiveness from God, but rather was a form of discipline delivered to them by God through Paul.
Godly sorrow leading to a change of mind is the pain that God sometimes inflicts upon his children to bring them to their senses and back to Him. Like the Prodigal son, out of money and friends and reduced to eating husks with the pigs in the faraway city. That was the pain that finally brought him to his senses. At which point he decided he’d had enough of it, and returned to his father.
It’s sad but true that sometimes only pain will get us to stop sinning in a particular area. So it’s not about feeling bad about our sin for forgiveness, it’s about stopping with a stupid behavior that’s only leading to death.
I found your post interesting as I have not thought about the connection between sorrow and confession, or lack there of. 🙂 However, in your 7th point you say that God is not hurt when we sin and this seems to make light of the sins a person commits. In a relationship with God we are free to come to Him through Christ, but if I just spent the whole day defying Him does that mean that because Christ has already paid for that sin that God feels no betrayal or grief at my refusal to obey Him?
I agree that He is not surprised, but (and this is a human argument) just because you are not surprised when a nurse stabs you with a needle doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt. If a God-fearing man and wife choose to have a nasty divorce in which their children are emotionally wounded for the rest of their life are you saying that God does not hurt because of their decision to disobey Him? Perhaps I’m misunderstanding you. It just seems that according to Eph. 4:29-32 it is possible to grieve the Spirit by our actions, even though they have already been paid for.
Any clarification would be great! 🙂
You have raised some interesting points/questions here, Christina. I didn’t have answers off the top of my head, so I spent some time this afternoon thinking and praying and writing and ended up with, well, tomorrow’s blog post. So thank you! And hopefully you’ll tune in to see my full reply tomorrow.
What do you do with James 4:7-10? “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
Hi Karen, been thinking of this post and would offer the following from A. Custance, a writer and Christian: We seek the Father’s forgiveness not because we fear his wrath and the consequent severing of relationship as though we had lost our membership in his family, but because we become aware of his disappointment and the consequent loss of fellowship. Confession ensures the restoration of this sense of fellowship. It is forgiveness in this context that we are seeking, forgiveness for having disappointed Him even as we seek forgiveness from our friends when we disappoint them. Forgiveness in the legal sense is not at issue here; that is already a fait accompli. Yet although we are legally forgiven we may still grieve the Lord and lose the sense of his presence and find ourselves out of fellowship with our brothers and sisters in the Lord. For the child of God, unconfessed sin is not the same as unforgiven sin, but unconfessed sin is still offensive to God because it entails a breach of fellowship. So we seek his forgiveness on this account. And when we nourish an unforgiving spirit towards another brother we endanger our fellowship at that level, too.
It is for this reason that Paul says in Colossians 3:13, “Even as Christ forgave you, so also do you.” He does not say that we are forgiven because we forgive others but rather that we forgive others because we have been forgiven. Then what are we to do with Matthew 6:12, 14, 15 (“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. . . For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses”)? Clearly we have here a different kind of forgiveness, for we are not in a position to exercise the right of judicial forgiveness; only God can forgive sins (Mark 2:7). What the Lord was calling the disciples to do, and calls us to do, is to maintain fellowship wherever possible by keeping the channels open. This is not a question of legal satisfaction but of exhibiting a forgiving spirit to maintain fellowship. When we pray, “Our Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9), we are acknowledging for ourselves the unquestionable fact (if we are born again) that God is our Father. This relationship is the starting point. But what happens when we are disobedient and show no repentance towards God is that our fellowship with Him is sacrificed. And the same thing applies with respect to our brothers and sisters in the Lord. An unforgiving spirit towards them endangers the possibility of fellowship with them and is reflected inevitably in a loss of the sense of communion with our Father, for they are members of the same family and the whole family circle is strained.
When we nourish an unforgiving spirit towards another brother or sister in the Lord, we endanger our fellowship vertically and horizontally. We are called upon to forgive those that trespass against us in order to preserve or restore fellowship at both levels, with God and with his children. It is not legal forgiveness we need now but family forgiveness. “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin. . . And truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:7 and 1:3). Legal forgiveness is essential for sonship, to establish relationship within the family of God; familial forgiveness is essential to maintain fellowship.
Been thinking again….Note: Lewis S. Chafer also wrote on confession with a biblical view. He notes, “Divine forgiveness is never an act of leniency. God can righteously forgive only when the full satisfaction of His holiness has been met. The root meaning of the word forgive, in the Scriptures, is remission. It represents the divine act of separating the sin from the sinner. Human forgiveness is merely a lifting of the penalty: divine forgiveness is exercised only when the penalty, according to the terms of His infinite righteousness, has first been executed on the sinner, or his Substitute.
This was true in the Old Testament: “The priest shall make an atonement for his sin that he hath committed, and it shall be forgiven him” (Leviticus 4:35). The forgiveness was possible with God, only when there had been a full atonement for sin.
So in the New Testament, or after the sacrifice has been made at the cross for us, we are told that the blood of Christ has become the sufficient atonement for our sins. “This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). All divine forgiveness whether toward the unsaved or the saved, is now based on the shed blood of Christ. His blood answers the last demand of a holy God. When we were saved He forgave us “all trespasses” (Colossians 2:13). This is judicial forgiveness and means the removal of the grounds of condemnation forever. There is still parental forgiveness to be exercised toward the sinning child. It is not exercised in order to rescue the child from destruction and condemnation; but it is exercised in order to restore him from a state wherein he is out of fellowship, into the full blessing of communion with the Father and with His Son. It is wholly within the family circle and the restoration is unto the full enjoyment of those blessings. It is not restoration to sonship, — of that the Bible knows nothing.
It is restoration to fellowship.” so writes Chafer….I think confession is legit and fundamental to the Christian walk. 1 John 1: 8-9 are written to believers, not unbelievers. Thoughts?