The Simplicity of Receiving Forgiveness

Posted: Oct 02, 2013

After Nathan confronted David head-on for his sins of adultery with Bathsheba and murdering her husband, David’s response was short and to the point, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13).

There was no justification, explanation, or denial; no talk of being sorry about his sin. David simply confessed that what he did was wrong. Immediately after, Nathan told David “The Lord has taken away your sin.”

When the prodigal son was on his way home to his father, he planned to confess his transgressions with a speech: “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men” (Luke 15:18). After his father charged his son and gave him a bear hug, his son started into his confession. As the words “I am no longer worthy to be called your son” were out of his mouth, the father cut him off son and started the party in celebration of his return. The son never got a chance to offer to be treated like an employee.

1 John 1:9 shows us how to find cleansing and forgiveness: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

As the stories and verses above show, the only requirement for believers in Christ to receive forgiveness is to confess them. Today, this still amazes me. There are times when I blow it badly and I feel like I need to explain what happened, or trudge through the mud of shame, guilt, or condemnation, but Scripture calls for none of that; just a simple act of confession.

Receiving forgiveness was even harder for me when sexual sin ruled my life. My prayers of confession were often accompanied by groveling and asking God to “please forgive me.” Neither groveling nor begging are required to receive forgiveness.

Neither is feeling sorry for our sins. I felt sorry for my sexual sin hundreds of times, but that never kept me from repeating it. Breaking free from bondage to sin involves the power and work of the Holy Spirit, brokenness, and a no-compromise attitude with sin. However, none of these things in of themselves are what releases the flow of God’s forgiveness to me. According to Scripture, it’s confession of sin, with the understanding that it’s the blood of Christ alone that provides atonement.

The thing about groveling, begging, justification, explanation, or denial is that these things put the focus on me. I’m focused on how rotten I feel, or perhaps I try to offer an explanation so I won’t look so bad. Pride. What made David’s response so great was that he didn’t blame anyone else. When I simply say “I sinned,” I’m taking 100% ownership of my wrong.

Simple confession takes humility because it takes me out of the equation. My eyes are forced to gaze on Christ’s as I admit my wrong, and then I need to accept His gift of forgiveness, which cost Him everything. More humility. I hurt the Lord with my sin, and He gives me a gift. I can’t earn a shred of it by beating myself up, which might even be an insult to Him.

The next time you stumble in sexual (or any other kind of sin), remember that simple confession to God is all that’s required to receive forgiveness.

It should be so with people, but we’re too messed up with pride to forgive as freely and quickly as Christ does. Think of a married couple; if one party hurts the other and merely says “I hurt you and was wrong” without all the explanation, deflection, or justification, it would save countless hours and an immense amount of stress and turmoil.

We need humility, which is impossible to live out apart from the grace and help of God.