Have you ever wondered what it means to be a Christian? A Christian is someone who has received Christ's forgiveness. Christ's death, in your place, is the basis for your forgiveness. Because of Christ's substitutionary death on the cross, your forgiveness is not merely a hope. It is fact!

Christ paid the price for all of your sins - totally, once and for all. If you are a Christian, all of your sins - past, present, and future - have been forgiven. You cannot add anything to what Christ has already done for you. Pleadings, tears, personal efforts, and religious ritual cannot reconcile you to God. That has already taken place - the moment you confessed your sins and placed your faith in Christ as your Savior and Lord.

Hebrews 10 proclaims:
Under this new plan we have been forgiven and made clean by Christ's dying for us once and for all.

For by that one offering he made forever perfect in the sight of God all those whom he is making holy.

Now, when sins have once been forever forgiven and forgotten, there is no need to offer more sacrifices to get rid of them. (Hebrews 10:10,14,18 TLB).

To receive God's forgiveness, simply confess your sin and accept his forgiveness by faith. I call this process "Spiritual Breathing."

Just as you exhale and inhale physically, so you must also breathe spiritually. You exhale spiritually when you confess your sins. The Bible promises that if you confess your sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive you and to purify you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

To confess your sins means to agree with God about your sins. Your agreement is threefold.

First, you agree that your sins are wrong and grieve God. God is holy and will have nothing to do with sin. Although He loves you even though you may have unconfessed sin in your life, you must consider your sin as seriously as He does to receive His forgiveness. Without acknowledging your sin, you have no hope of salvation. Proverbs 14:9 says, "Fools mock at making amends for sin." John writes, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives (1 John 1:8,10).

Second, you recognize that God has already forgiven your sins through Christ's death and the shedding of His blood on the cross.

Confession, then, is an expression of faith and an act of obedience, which results in God making real in your experience what He has already done for you through the death of His Son. This real and ongoing experience of God's forgiveness helps you remain an open channel through which God's love and power can flow.

Unconfessed sin short-circuits the flow of God's power in your life. Let me illustrate. One day, as I was operating the controls of my son's electric train, it suddenly stopped running. I could not figure out what was wrong. I took the train apart, and put it back together. I pushed the plug in and out of the socket; nothing happened. Then I discovered that a little piece of metal - a "No Left Turn" sign - had fallen across the tracks, short-circuiting all the electrical power.

To maintain a victorious Christian life and live as a spiritual Christian, you must keep short accounts with God. By that I mean, you confess any sin that enters your life the moment God's Holy Spirit reveals it to you. If you refuse to confess your sin, you become carnal and walk in the shadow instead of in the light of God's love and forgiveness.

Third, you repent. You change your attitude, which results in a change of action. Through the strength of the Holy Spirit, you turn from your sins and change your conduct. Instead of giving in to the compulsion to what your worldly, fleshly nature wants to do, you now do what God wants in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Through confessing your sins, you begin the process of "Spiritual Breathing" by exhaling. You change from a worldly Christian to a spiritual Christian by inhaling, appropriating the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit by faith. Many people today deny the stain of sin in their lives. Others attempt to ignore sin's smudge by saying, "It's not so bad." Some try to excuse their blemish claiming, "I'm no worse than anyone else." And many others attempt their own methods to overcome sin's blot in their lives. But the only hope anyone has to overcome sin is a supernatural cleansing - the cleansing that only God can perform through His Son, the Lord Jesus, who died and shed His blood for our sins.

King David was well acquainted with sin. Psalm 51 was written after Nathan the prophet had come to inform David of God's judgment against him because of his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah, her husband. Yet David is described as a man after God's own heart because he was repentant. "O loving and kind God, have mercy," he wrote. "Have pity upon me and take away the awful stain of my transgressions. Oh, wash me, cleanse me from this guilt. Let me be pure again. For I admit my shameful deed..." (Psalm 51:1-3, TLB).

And in Psalm 32 he expresses the joy he felt over God's love and forgiveness:
What happiness for those whose guilt has been forgiven! What joys when sins are covered over! What relief for those who have confessed their sins and God has cleared their record.

There was a time when I wouldn't admit what a sinner I was. But my dishonesty made me miserable and filled my days with frustration. All day and all night your hand was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water on a sunny day until I finally admitted all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, "I will confess them to the Lord." And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone (Psalm 32:1-5, TLB).

David, from the depths of his experience, shares this admonition from his heart: "Now I say that each believer should confess his sins to God when he is aware of them, while there is time to be forgiven. Judgment will not touch him if he does" (Psalm 32:6, TLB). I am concerned about multitudes of Christians who are being disciplined by God because they do not confess their sins. They have financial reverses, physical illnesses, and all kinds of difficulties - all because they are being disobedient to Him, and He is trying to get their attention so that He can bless and enrich their lives.

I encourage you to do what I do when I experience difficulties - turn to the Lord and ask, "Lord, is there sin in my life that is making it necessary for You to discipline me?" The Scriptures say those whom God loves, He disciplines (Hebrews 12:6).

When you experience difficulties, it is important to look into the mirror of God's Word and to confess any sin that He reveals.

God's cleansing from the sins that hinder you opens the way to the abundant, fulfilling life to which Jesus has called you.

By faith you can simply claim as true what Jesus Christ has said and done for you. By faith you can view yourself as God views you, as His child - loved, forgiven, and cleansed. By faith you can confess your sins and repent. And by faith you can accept God's forgiveness and cleansing.

Now you may wonder, "If Christ has already paid the penalty for my sins, why should I confess then?"

By confessing your sin, you act on your faith in God and His Word. Confession does not give you more forgiveness. Christ has already forgiven you once and for all. But by admitting your sins, you establish in your experience what God has done for you through the death of His Son.

Jesus told a story to illustrate confession and God's forgiveness (condensed from Luke 15:11-32). At the insistence of his younger son, a father gave the boy his share of the family estate. The son left home and wasted his inheritance on parties and prostitutes. Later, the son returned home destitute, hungry, and feeling he was no longer worthy to be considered a son. But his father ran to meet him, embraced and kissed him, put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet, and held a banquet in his honor.

Through this parable, Jesus was teaching that God loves you not "when," "if," or "because" you deserve it, but even when you are disobedient and rebellious. One of my most moving discoveries in the study of Scripture was a statement Jesus made in a prayer recorded in John 17:22,23:

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Think of it! God loves you as much as He loves His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. It's true. When you confess your sins, God, in His unconditional love, welcomes you back and eagerly forgives you. Instead of running away from Him in fear, you can run to His loving arms, confident that He forgives you.

But if you refuse to deal honestly with God by ignoring your sins, you become worldly and are living in the shadows instead of walking in God's light.

As 1 John 1:6,7 says:
If we say we are his friends, but go on living in spiritual darkness and sin, we are lying. But if we are living in the light of God's presence, just as Christ does, then we have wonderful fellowship and joy with each other, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from every sin (TLB).

Perhaps you are aware of sins that you haven't confessed to God. As a result, you have left your first love for Him. You may feel resentment toward someone. Your relationship with Christ may seem mechanical and routine. Your prayers do not seem to reach God. You read the Bible, but you do not remember what you have read. You may even attempt to witness for Christ, but no one responds.

One day I was speaking to a friend on a cellular car phone. At one point in our conversation, all I could hear was loud static. Some obstruction had interrupted the radio signal, and I missed a portion of what my friend had said. After the car had cleared the obstacle, I could once again hear his voice clearly, and we were able to continue our conversation.

Sin obstructs your communication and relationship with God. When you tolerate sin in your life, you can't hear God. You become discouraged and confused. Soon, you may find yourself operating on your memories of God instead of living in vital interaction with Him.

All you need to do to experience God's forgiveness is to confess your sins - exhale spiritually. That cleansing breath restores your fellowship with Him.

How You Can Experience God's Love and Forgiveness: A Spiritual Formula

Let me share a simple process, a spiritual formula, that has helped thousands of people to experience God's love and forgiveness.

1. List Your Sins
It begins by asking the Holy Spirit to reveal every sin in your life. Take a pencil and paper and list every sin He brings to mind. As you write, confess each one of them to God.

I encourage you to humble yourself before God as you do this. Give him time to reveal everything in your life that is displeasing to Him. This list is just between you and God, so be completely honest. Tell Him everything that's wrong.
Your list may include (to name a few):

Leaving your first love for God
Spending little or no time praying or reading and studying God's Word
Seldom, if ever, witnessing for Christ
Lacking faith in God
Having a jealous attitude
Lusting after material things
Dealing with others in a spirit of pride
Acting selfishly
Being dishonest, lying
Talking about others behind their back
Entertaining immoral thoughts
Committing sexual sins
Whatever your sin, write it down and remember: you have a loving God who forgives you - who even gave His Son, the Lord Jesus, to die for you.

A young man said to me after an evening meeting, "I didn't believe I needed to make a list. I couldn't think of anything seriously wrong in my life. But when I saw others making their lists, the Spirit of God told me to do the same."

While there were no major areas of disobedience in his life, he said, a lot of little things had dulled the cutting edge of his love and witness for Christ.

He encouraged me, "If you ever speak on this subject again, be sure to insist that everyone, including those who think there are no major sins in their lives, make a list of their sins. If I had not made my list, I would have missed a special blessing from God."

2. Write God's Promise Across the List
After you have written the sins that God reveals to you, write God's promise of forgiveness from 1 John 1:9 across the list:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

3. Destroy the List
When you have completed your time of prayer and confession, accept His forgiveness by faith, then destroy the list as an illustration of the forgiveness God has granted you. You may want to tear it into pieces or burn it to show how completely God has forgiven you.

4. Make Restitution
The final step in the process is to ask God if you need to make restitution to someone. You may need to apologize for having a bad attitude toward someone. You may need to ask someone to forgive you for the way you have treated him or her. You may need to return something you have stolen.

It's important for you to make restitution to others because you cannot maintain a clear conscience before God if you still have a guilty conscience before people. Confession often includes making restitution.

At the conclusion of a Christian medical meeting where I had spoken on the subject of forgiveness, a doctor accepted my challenge to make his list. He was very excited when he came to see me early the next morning.

"Last night about midnight," he said, "a doctor friend of mine came to my room and told me that he had hated me for years while pretending to be my friend. As he was making his list, God told him that he should come and tell me and ask me to forgive him. We had the most wonderful time of prayer, and God met us in a special way."

He encouraged me to keep telling Christians to confess their sins to God and, if necessary, to ask forgiveness of those whom they have wronged as the Holy Spirit leads them.

If, after you have fully confessed all of your known sins to God, you still feel a sense of guilt, it may be because you have not been completely honest with God by making a full disclosure. So be sure you are honest with God.

Are you weighed down by heavy burdens of guilt? Do you sometimes wonder if you will ever experience the love and forgiveness of God that other Christians joyfully profess?

Perhaps you feel like the man who was stumbling along the road with a heavy pack on his back. Soon, a wagon stopped, and the driver offered to give him a ride. Joyfully, the weary traveler accepted. But when he climbed onto the wagon, he continued to strain under his heavy load.

"Why don't you take off your pack and rest?" the driver asked.

The discouraged traveler replied, "Oh, I couldn't do that! It would be too much to ask you to carry my load as well as me."

"How foolish," you say. We wouldn't think of responding like that to such an offer, would we? Yet many Christians continue to carry heavy burdens of guilt even after they have entrusted their lives to the Lord Jesus and received His forgiveness.
Frequently we experience hostility or punishment from our friends or family when we fall short of their expectations. If you have truly wronged another person, confessing it and making restitution when necessary will release the guilt. But feelings of guilt will linger if you do not forgive yourself or if you try to live up to the unrealistic expectations of others.

None of us is perfect. But as Christians we do not live in condemnation. As one who has been forgiven, you are righteous before God in Jesus Christ.

When you have completed this simple process, any feelings of guilt that remain are not from God. They are from your enemy Satan. Your sins have been removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). They are buried in the deepest sea (Micah 7:19). God has put them behind His back and remembers them against you no more (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12; 10:17).

There was a young boy who had a pet bird, and one day the bird died. The boy was broken-hearted, and his father and mother decided that instead of allowing their son to be downcast, they would make something memorable of the occasion.

They said, "Let's have a funeral." Calling all the neighbor children together, they dug a little hole in the ground, put the bird in a box, and buried it with a ceremony. Instead of being downcast, the boy was excited.

But the next day, he went out and dug up the bird to see how it was getting along. His father, however, insisted that he bury it. So he did. A few days later, the boy went out and dug up the bird again. This happened several times, and each time the father would reprimand him. Finally, the father became angry and said, "Now look, you leave that bird in the ground, and don't ever dig it up again!"

Are you confessing your sins over and over again - out of a sense of guilt - like the little boy digging up that old dead bird?

All of your sins have been forgiven by God on the basis of Christ's death on the cross and the shedding of His blood for your sins. Whenever Satan accuses you of some act in your past that has grieved or quenched the Holy Spirit, you can say with great joy, "I have confessed that sin and I know God has forgiven me and cleansed me as He promised."

I challenge you to examine your life right now. Are you experiencing the fullness of the Christian life? Are you carrying a load of guilt over past sins in you life? I urge you to begin the process of Spiritual Breathing today. It has helped millions of other Christians, and I know it will also help you.

God's forgiveness is complete. Thank Him for canceling your guilt and cleansing you. Claim victory over those negative feelings and move on in faith to be a fruitful disciple and witness for our Lord.

Now you are free to experience the abundant life that He promised. Now you can encourage and serve your brothers and sisters in Christ. And now you can enter the harvest fields to enjoy bringing other people to the Lord Jesus who has done so much for you.

Remember, How You Can Experience God's Love and Forgiveness is a transferable concept. You can master it by reading it six times; then pass it on to others as our Lord commands us in Matthew 28:20, "Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you." The apostle Paul encouraged us to do the same: "The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others" (2 Timothy 2:2).

All material ©2006, New Life Resources; Campus Crusade for Christ, International. All rights reserved. No duplication or distribution permitted except by written permission of the publisher. Site design by GlobalMediaOutreach.net. Updated: 2006-08-07

All material ©2006, New Life Resources; Campus Crusade for Christ, International. All rights reserved. No duplication or distribution permitted except by written permission of the publisher. Site design by GlobalMediaOutreach.net. Updated: 2006-08-07

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