The Believer's Confession and Repentance
We can sin by disobeying God's instruction or abusing or losing faith in His promises. John understood that even a believer will continue to occasionally sin. Though we have the gift of perfection through Christ in this world age, our completed perfection will not come until that glorious day when we receive our incorruptible bodies. And God, realizing the burden of the sinful nature, will continue to have forgiving compassion on man. John wrote, “If we believers confess our sins, God is faithful to His promise to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." To confess a sin without trying to repent of it is to take advantage of God's grace. The first step in repentance must always be prayer for God to give us divine strength in resisting further temptation.
First John 3:6 reads, "No one who practices sin knows God. No one who remains in God and His teachings deliberately continues to practice sin." Then again in verse 9, "No one who is born of God practices sin, because God's seed abides in him. Therefore, he cannot habitually practice sin because he is born of God." Here, the one who habitually practices sin is one who is a slave to sin. It is the constant course of their life. This person is too preoccupied with sin to obey and live by God's Word. A relationship with Christ and His Spirit has not taken place or has been broken.
On the other hand, one who is born again from the seed of God is a new creature in Christ. This new nature cannot sin with the divine conscience they did not have before their rebirth. There will be a weight upon their hearts that causes them to loathe the things that God also hates. Our stubborn human will can sometimes make this a very gradual process in which the carnal self dies a little at a time over the course of our lives. What a wonderful affirmation this is for a believer that God is helping them reach spiritual maturity. But the key to Christian growth depends upon our response to the continual prompting of the Holy Spirit. "An incorruptible inheritance is reserved in Heaven for you who are being guarded by God's power through your faith..." The greater our desire to trust in, rely on and surrender to the Godhead, the more obedient we are in response to God's conviction, and the more certain we are of receiving God's promises, including protection against further temptation. This is the dynamic relationship the believer and the Spirit of Christ share. It is the very crux of the New Testament pact between God and man. "Christ has given you a new law of liberty from certain death. But we are warned that you must not abuse this freedom by continuing to pursue fleshly desires or vain accomplishments. Rather, you must serve one another in love"
Forgiveness is a powerful Christian principle that sets us apart from the ways of the world.
Even those ensnared in worldly routines recognize and are moved by it. Jesus plainly taught "If you do not forgive others, neither will your Father in Heaven forgive your failings and shortcomings." The Bible tells us many times not only to forgive our brothers and sisters in Christ, but our enemies as well. We are not only to forgive, but also forget, as if it had never happened. This is the same unconditional love that God shows to us. We are required to forgive as often as it is necessary. Mercy must be a way of life for the believer and not just something practiced when the occasion arises.
Moreover, we are called to prove our mercy through action. We are to pray for those who persecute us. Jesus was the prime example of this when He spoke to His Father while being crucified, "Forgive them Father. They do not understand what they are doing." As the martyr Stephen was near death by stoning, he prayed for his executioners. We are even to go so far as to tend to our enemy's needs in the hope our love will be an overwhelming witness that leads to their repentance. In Matthew 5:39, Jesus said, "Do not resist one who slaps you on the jaw, but turn to him the other one also." Elsewhere, Jesus gave a protocol for His follo-wers to handle such situations among themselves. But here, Jesus is referring to the cor-rect attitude when dealing with those of the world. In order for the young church to get on its feet, Christ's followers could not be risking their reputation by fighting authorities and others. A low profile had to be kept until the right time. All the while, Jesus was building the foundation of a church set in humility and servitude. A modern application of this verse for us is that true, valid, effective revenge is out of our hands and will be properly handled on the day of judgment.
When we are attacked, our carnal reaction is to retaliate. But our Bible tells us this is very destructive to the public impression we should be making as followers of Christ. Paul wrote, "Pay back no man evil for evil. Instead, provide things honest in the sight of all men." This means we do not fight fire with fire, whether that may mean evil words or deeds. "Vengeance is mine, says the Lord."
If we harbor any ill feeling against a fellow believer, it must be taken care of before we can expect God to continue relations with us. "So if when you are offering your gift at the altar you there remember that your brother has any grievance against you, leave your gift at the altar and go. First make peace with your brother, and then come back and present your gift." "Do not let your anger reach a sinful state. Do not even let it last until the sun goes down."2
In all this we must remember that the actions of a man may be hated, but the person must still be loved, if not with a spiritual affection, then at least a humanitarian one. All children of creation deserve to be dealt with pity and hope of potential salvation. There is a reward for our forgiveness, and there is nothing wrong with looking forward to it. "Blessed and happy are the merciful, for they will obtain (everlasting) mercy."