God's forgiveness

by John R. Rice

Are your prayers hindered? Well, thank God, there is a remedy. The hindrances can be torn down. Even this very day you may feel again the smile of God’s face and hear the whisper of His Spirit and know that there is nothing between you and God.

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In John 1:9 we are given this blessed promise,

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Confession – that is the remedy for your sin.

A Christian does not have to atone for his sins. In fact, no man can possibly atone for his sins. The atonement was completed by Jesus Christ; and thank God, on the cross He cried out, “It is finished”! Let no one, then, think that he must go through a long period of time, trying to earn God’s favor and to lay up credit so that his prayers can be answered.

And the Christian is not to “do penance” for his sins. Paying money, doing without food, sleeping on boards, or fasting a certain number of days – these, as a matter of penance, or suffering, trying to pay for sins as a criminal spends a certain number of years in prison to “pay his debt to society,” is not what God demands.

No, the dear Lord simply and plainly promises, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

I think that an honest confession of sin would involve the following matters:

First, an honest realization in the heart of one’s failure and sin. Confession cannot be simply a matter of the lips. For the mouth to say, “I have sinned,” when the heart still says, “But it was not very bad, and it was not altogether my fault,” is not true confession of sin. Another way to say this is that the Christian must honestly judge his sin in the light of God’s Word and the revelation of the Holy Spirit of how God feels toward the sin.

Second, honest confession would involve a penitent heart and sincere repentance. I think there could be no honest confession of sin, if there were not grief over it. The sin grieved the Holy Spirit, it wronged God, and by it the Christian who sinned was untrue to the Saviour he professed to love and serve. The Christian’s testimony was injured before the world, his fellowship with God was broken, his usefulness was curtailed, and his prayers were hindered. All these things ought to cause the Christian sincere grief of heart over his own sin. I do not mean a morbid despair. I simply mean the godly sorrow that “worketh repentance” (II Cor. 7:10). And this grief of heart over sin will involve a revulsion, a turning away, a change of mind and attitude toward sin, which we call repentance. If the Christian is not sorry for his sins, in his heart, and does not honestly long to do better, then there is no genuine confession of sin.

Third, a confession, in the sense that is meant in I John 1:9, would involve a simple faith that God is willing to forgive and cleanse us as He has promised. We are God’s own dear children. We are dear to His heart. For us He gave His own Son. He has already given us everlasting life and promised to take us home to Heaven. We have never deserved His mercy, and we do not deserve it now; but He loves us still. And so a Christian can confess his sin, safe in the assurance that God has promised to forgive and cleanse, and God cannot lie. We are under a covenant relationship with Him. Our forgiveness is based on His faithfulness, not on our faithfulness.

So, any time a Christian is conscious of his sin, judges the sin and takes sides against it with a penitent heart, then he has a perfect right to trust the Lord for instant, complete forgiveness and for perfect cleansing.

Beloved reader, you can know the sweet intimacy with God that you long for; you may know it this very day. You may then live a life of unhindered prayer and daily, glorious answers. So in the light of God’s Word, and submitting yourself to the searching of the Holy Spirit, I urge you today to confess honestly and to turn your heart away from every known sin and then claim the forgiveness and the cleansing which God has so freely promised to all of His own who confess their sins!

Is there nothing between your soul and the Saviour? Have you humbly searched your heart anew in the light of God’s Word, and found nothing to hinder your prayers? Oh, then, dear Christian, enter into your inheritance and begin the abundant life of prayer, asking and receiving that your joy may be full! 

Chapter 8 from the book Hindrances to Pray by John R. Rice