Colton Allen is a Reformational Anglican. He has an appreciation for Karl Barth, loves Biblical Theology, and has been known to unironically use the term “lit” in theological conversation. Follow him on Twitter.
“Against you—you alone—I have sinned
and done this evil in your sight.
So you are right when you pass sentence;
you are blameless when you judge.”
Psalm 51:4 (CSB)
Being a Christian means through the work of Christ we have been redeemed from the debt caused by sin. This does not mean we will never again sin during our time on this side of the resurrection. As Martin Luther said, we are righteous but still sinners. By the light of Christ we can see how sin has corrupted us. This can leave us in despair from seeing how filthy we truly are, and when we do sin, we can begin to feel the weight of it hang heavily on our conscience. Therefore, we should go before God for mercy and forgiveness.
We should ask for mercy and forgiveness on the basis that we know we are guilty according to God’s just verdict. There must be an acknowledgement of guilt and deservingness of the punishment that fits the crime. There is no room for any arrogant thought; we dare not ask for mercy on account of believing we somehow do not deserve the punishment. May it never be!
Having said this, we can go before the throne of God, pleading for mercy and forgiveness, because it is His nature to have mercy and forgive; He has steadfast love, is compassionate, and is full of grace and truth. He has given us His Son, Jesus Christ the righteous, and He laid down His life for us so that the Father can be just when He justifies sinners. Having been raised from the dead, Jesus Christ is at the Father’s right hand, and the Father sends through the Son the Holy Spirit to us. Therefore, the Spirit takes our groans for mercy and forgiveness to the Son, who is our own advocate with the Father.
This should be a source of much rejoicing for us—the children of the Father through the adoption that is in Christ Jesus! For there is no divine dissonance within the Trinity. What the Father assigns the Son to do, the Son will always do it in obedience to the Father, and the Father obeys the Son so that the Son can do the role the Father assigned for Him. The Spirit obeys the Father and the Son by doing the role assigned for Him by the Father through the Son, and the Father and the Son obey the Spirit so that the Spirit can do the role the Father assigned for Him through the Son. Not one person of the Trinity will be an impediment to the others because God cannot deny Himself.
I have found and continually do find great comfort in the character of God. He is an unshakeable foundation, especially compared to the tsunami that is the human emotion. I am dumbfounded sometimes how often my emotions lead me back and forth on the waves of depression. I can be incredibly hard on myself, especially when I sin. I then struggle to experience and understand God’s grace in forgiveness because I base my forgiveness on my ability to forgive myself. But, when by God’s grace our attention is shifted and our forgiveness is seen based on the foundation of God’s unchanging character, then we can see the glory of God shining brighter upon our faces.
The best way to understand your forgiveness through the eyes of God is by the act of confession. This confession can be done in several ways, some which are easier than others. In private prayer, acknowledge your sins to God. Since He is omniscient, He already knows them, so there is no embarrassment in admitting faults. It is like making known our problems to a loving parent because we know they will help us with it.
Corporate confession to God teaches us that we are not alone when we sin. Because sin leads an individual to decide what good and evil is for themselves, sin can leave us feeling incredibly isolated and alone. Corporate confession shows us we are not alone. We are surrounded by other sinners like ourselves. The Church, through corporate worship and confession, is a place for rehab and reformation. God has created and is creating a Community there for us—for He is for us—to help us bear burdens, and we can be there for them to do the same.
This can lead to private personal confession. The isolation of sin can also come from not letting anyone know our struggles. Often the remaining power of sin is simply the sense of hypothetical embarrassment that might come if we confess to someone, but when we confess our sins to a trusted Christian sibling, their love by the Holy Spirit reveals how forgiven we really are; sin continues to lose it sting.
Therefore, let us take comfort! As adopted children of God, we will never be rejected because He will never reject Himself. Let us go before the throne of grace in humility and confess our wrong doings, and let us plead for forgiveness and mercy in acknowledgement of our guilt and deservingness of judgment. Then let us rise in humble confidence found in Christ Jesus because God justifies sinners and does not cast out His sheep. Instead He lays down His life for His sheep because He loves His sheep, no matter how dirty and lost they are.