I was on my girls’ bedroom floor the other day looking for someone’s missing left shoe. As I glanced under the bed, something blue and sparkly caught my eye. I lay down and scootched closer to examine the sparkle. What I found was the contents of an entire tube of toothpaste. Under the bed. On my carpet. Obviously, I abandoned my shoe-search to deal with the toothpaste situation. My suspect list was short and after a few seconds of my stone-faced mom glare, the perp crumbled and fessed up. Consequences were swiftly applied, toothpaste was cleaned up, and lessons were learned.
When I found my daughter’s toothpaste mess, I had to confront her. I couldn’t just clean up her mess and go on as if nothing happened, letting her think it’s acceptable to squeeze toothpaste out anywhere you want. She needed to make things right; partly because I don’t want her to squeeze toothpaste on my carpet again, but mostly because I love her. I want good things for her, and if she goes through life emptying tubes of toothpaste on the carpet, life will not go well for her. I had to confront her with her sin for her own good.
Similarly, when we sin against God (which is anytime we sin), he confronts us. Now, if we are saved, we have been justified before God. This means that the debt we had incurred because of our sin was paid by Jesus, leaving us in the clear. Our debt was paid in full. We stand before God clothed in the righteousness of Christ. This part of our salvation places us in right standing with God.
My daughter is my daughter. When she’s obedient and helpful, she’s my daughter. When she’s rebellious and mouthy, she’s my daughter. Her standing in relationship to me does not change based on her behavior. However, I care about her growth and development, so part of being her mother means I have to correct her, discipline her, and help her learn to obey. Again, this isn’t only because it benefits me, but it’s also for her own good.
Our Father loves us, and because of this, he cannot look the other way when we sin. He cannot be content to let us break his commands and disobey him, which will eventually lead to our own destruction. He loves us, so he confronts us with our sin. Psalm 90 says, “You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.” We might try to hide our sin, covering ourselves with metaphorical fig leaves, but the Lord sees it. He knows. And he lovingly drags it out into the light.
This is really painful, having our sin exposed before a holy God. I once heard a science teacher give an incredibly graphic description of the preparations for open heart surgery. It involved a long incision down the front of the chest, and then both sides of the rib cage being slowly pried open, leaving the chest cavity completely exposed, the heart beating out in the open air. I don’t know if that was an accurate explanation of actual heart surgery, but it captures how it feels when we are forced to bring our sin into the light, to tell the truth about it, to look it in the face, to admit it to God. It is painful and leaves us vulnerable and exposed, completely at God’s mercy.
However, without bringing our sin into the light, it cannot be killed. When we keep our sin hidden, it grows, eventually bringing death (James 1:15). But, when we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
This part of our salvation, called sanctification, has to do with our practical holiness (a phrase I stole from author Jen Wilkin). We have right standing with God, deemed acceptable because of Jesus, but God loves us enough that he won’t let us stay as we are. He calls us to grow in holiness. This is a lifelong process. We will be fighting against sin our entire lives. We will be in a continual cycle of confession and repentance until we die.
My daughter will disobey me again at some point. And again I’ll confront her, she’ll confess and repent, I’ll forgive her, and we’ll move forward. And she won’t be alone on her journey; I’ll be here with her, encouraging, correcting, and helping her.
Similarly, we will sin again (and again and again). And again God will confront us, asking us to bring our sin into the light. We’ll confess and repent, and he’ll forgive. And he won’t leave us to figure it out on our own; he’ll correct us, encourage us, and empower us by his Word, his Spirit, and his church.