Tag Archives: confession

Can Someone Be Forgiven if They Commit the Same Sin Again After Confessing and Repenting it?

No one who asks God for forgiveness can be confident that they won’t commit the same sin again. In fact, our natures are so contaminated by sin that we often do. When Peter asked Jesus whether we are obligated to forgive a person who sins against us seven times (Peter’s “seven times” more than doubled the rabbinic prescription), Jesus said: “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22 NKJV).

Jesus made it clear that God’s primary concern is not mere outward behavior, but the condition of the heart Matthew 23:25-26; Mark 7:5-9; Luke 11:42-44; Luke 11:42-44. Therefore the sincerity of the confession is what counts.

Unfortunately, we can be sincere in our repentance and confession and still fall into sin again. Because believers continue to be influenced by the “flesh”—the fallen aspect of their personalities—in this world they are incapable of perfect sincerity. At times they are more vulnerable to temptation than at other times. With the passage of time, the strong awareness of evil and the ugliness of sin that brought us to repentence often fades.

Sincere confession of sin is a heartfelt acknowledgment that our sin is wrong, that we don’t want to continue in it, and that we are ready to exert ourselves—under the guidance of the Holy Spirit—to resist it. God doesn’t expect perfection, because none of us are capable of achieving it, but He does expect sincerity.

Sin is highly addictive, and when we’re not on our guard we can easily succumb to the false sense of relief we experience when we surrender to our compulsions. We need to be aware of sin’s addictive nature. Like someone who is attempting to quit smoking or drinking, the worst thing we can do is to give up on our desire to change or believe we can never change, even though we relapse in moments of weakness.

As we experience increasing freedom from sin, we will experience an increasing awareness of evil and understand more deeply how sin carries its own penalty. Each time genuine believers relapse into sin, they will experience more conviction and a more painful awareness of sin’s destructiveness. Each time they repent and confess their sins, they will be purer, stronger, and less likely to relapse.

Of course, some sins are so serious that even sincere repentance can’t erase their earthly consequences. Sins like murder and adultery can be forgiven by God in the ultimate sense and by fellow Christians in the sense of hoping for a sinner’s restoration, but the damage such sins inflict usually cannot be undone in this life, and consequences such as imprisonment or divorce may be unavoidable.

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How Can I Forgive Someone Who Sexually Abused Me?

You took the difficult and vital step of confronting your abuser, but far from bringing some resolution, his reaction made it clear that he still is remorseless and unrepentant. It isn’t surprising that you are upset.

You needn’t feel guilty about your strong feelings. God designed us to have an intense emotional response to evil. Your natural revulsion to unrepented sin isn’t wrong in itself, nor should it be considered contrary to forgiveness. Forgiveness never ignores the harm that someone has caused us. But even though your feelings of outrage are no reason for you to feel guilty, it’s good that you are aware of them. Your awareness of your feelings will make it possible for you to be instructed by them, rather than being consumed by them.

Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger do not sin.” Anger in itself isn’t wrong. What is wrong is being controlled by it in a way that leads to sin. Our anger may be partially driven by righteous outrage, but because of our fallen nature an element of our anger is always like the fury of a dangerous beast — rooted in a lust for power and vengeance. That’s why even though we can’t keep natural feelings from erupting,we need to take charge of our response to them.

It took courage for you to broach the subject with your abuser. Further, the fact that you are disappointed by his response implies that you would be ready to forgive him if he were remorseful. At this point the emotional distance that exists between you and your abuser is mostly the consequence of his attitude and behavior. You can’t bridge the distance alone.

Jesus told us to love our enemies. Loving means to seek the best interests of another. Through our relationship with Christ we can find the strength to seek the best interests of those who harm us. But seeking the best interests of others involves holding them accountable for their sin ( Matthew 18:15-17 ).

There is nothing loving about shielding an evildoer from the ugliness of his sin. Jesus didn’t serve as an “enabler” for evildoers seeking to conceal their deeds. Although Jesus was the personification of love,He truthfully characterized people who consciously resisted the truth as vipers ( Matthew 12:34 ), thieves ( Matthew 21:13 ), whitewashed tombs ( Matthew 23:27 ), liars ( Revelation 3:9 ), and murderers ( John 8:44 ).

The key issue is the attitude of your abuser. Jesus made it clear that forgiveness and reconciliation are linked with repentance ( Luke 17:1-4 ). Only when an offender confesses his willful sin can we rightfully forgive him for what he has done. This man will have to sincerely repent 1 to be a beneficiary of God’s grace ( Leviticus 26:40-42 ; Job 42:5-6 ; Psalm 32:5 ; Proverbs 28:13 ; Jonah 3:8-9 ; Luke 15:21 ; 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 ; 1 John 1:9 ). Although we can pray for an offender and take action to seek restoration, a relationship cannot be healed until he has done what is right in accepting the responsibility for his past wrongs.

Is it really loving to be so confrontational? Yes. It is sometimes the only truly caring course of action. Confrontation can be the first step in demonstrating that you believe in a person’s potential for godliness.It is likely that King David would not have repented of his wickedness in taking another man’s wife and arranging the death of her husband if the brave prophet Nathan had not told him a parable that portrayed his sin in all of its ugliness and then said, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12 ).

This pattern reflects the way God Himself deals with our sin. The Bible declares that God can forgive all sin — including the cruelest and most intentional. God Himself paid the price for the reconciliation of all sinners ( John 3:16 ; Romans 3:24-25 ; Ephesians 1:7 ; 1 John 4:9 . But though God provided the basis for forgiveness, He imposes forgiveness upon no one against his or her will. He also expects those who have harmed others to make restitution where possible, or to take whatever measures are necessary to minimize the chances of harming others (Isaiah 1:16 ; Luke 19:8-10 ; John 8:11 ; Hebrews 10:26 ).

Your angry feelings are an important factor in keeping you from offering a premature forgiveness that would let your abuser minimize and ignore his evil. Yet your actions shouldn’t be based on your anger, but on a willingness to honor and obey God ( Exodus 23:4 ; Proverbs 24:17; 25:21-22 ; Matthew 18:21-35 ; Ephesians 4:32 ; Colossians 3:13 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:15 ).

Each of us begins life hating God and the Son He sent to redeem us.In Christ, God provides the supreme example of forgiveness. His example makes it clear that we shouldn’t be nurturing hatred or desiring vengeance. Instead, we should be willing to forgive when our offender truly repents. Forgiveness and restoration, however,can’t take place until your abuser is truly sorry for what he has done.

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Why Don’t Christians Stop Sinning Completely?

The Bible stresses both the importance of confessing ( James 5:16 ) and forsaking sin ( Ezekiel 18:31 ; Matthew 5:29 ; Luke 14:27 ; Romans 13:12 ; Ephesians 4:22 ). But just because Christians should confess and forsake their sins doesn’t mean that they are capable of achieving sinless perfection.

Certainly some sins are the outward and obvious kind that can be clearly confessed, forsaken, and avoided. No genuine Christian could commit an obvious, outward sin like adultery, murder, or theft without realizing it is wrong. In fact, it would be hard for a genuine Christian to commit such a clearly defined, obvious sin without a major struggle of conscience.

But not all of our sins are so outward and obvious or under our conscious control. There is another type of sin so deeply rooted in our depraved human nature that it seems to have its own life within us like a parasite or an alien being with a destructive craving to live independent of God.1 This kind of sin is present in all of us — not just in obvious sinners, like thieves, adulterers, and murderers. Regarding this kind of sin, the apostle John wrote:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. . . . If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10 NKJV)

The apostle Paul described his struggle with this kind of sin in Romans 7:15-25:

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. (Romans 7:14-19 NKJV)

This kind of inner sin is often carried out unconsciously and in ignorance, but it eventually leads to death ( Romans 8:6,13 ) It appears in forms that are often subtle — like greed, pride, sloth, indifference to others, and lust. This inner sin is often so much a part of us that we recognize it only with difficulty, although others around us may see it clearly. Like an addictive poison, it has become so much a part of us — infecting every aspect of our personality and identity — that in this life it is impossible for us to be instantly freed from it. To be instantly purified of its influence would be more than we could bear.2

When we have faith in Christ we are instantly freed from the eternal penalty of our sin, but we can not be freed of the burden of inner sin itself except through a process — the process of sanctification by the power of the Holy Spirit ( 1 Corinthians 6:11 ; 2 Corinthians 3:18 ; 2 Thessalonians 2:13 ; 1 Peter 1:2 ) Sanctification creates a “new man” within us in the image of Christ, a new “nature” that is drawn to life and immortality instead of death and corruption. Unlike the instantaneous event of justification, the process of sanctification continues through our entire life on earth, reaching completion only in heaven ( 1 John 3:2,3 ).

See the ATQ article Are Christians Held Responsible for Unpremeditated and Unconscious Sins?

  1. This is implied by numerous passages in Scripture that describe the immense gap between sinful humanity and the Holy God. ( Exodus 33:20-23 ; Isaiah 6:5 ; John 1:18 ; 1 Timothy 6:16 ). Back To Article
  2. The biblical name for this instantaneous act of forgiveness is justification ( Romans 3:21-28 ; Romans 5:8, 9 ; Philippians 3:8, 9 ; Titus 3:4-7 ). Back To Article
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