CONFESSION AND RECOMPENSE

Scripture Reading: Lev. 6:1-7; Matt. 5:23-26

“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the LORD, and lie unto his neighbour in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbour; Or have found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it, and sweareth falsely; in any of all these that a man doeth, sinning therein: Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found, Or all that about which he hath sworn falsely; he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering. And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD, a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest: And the priest shall make an atonement for him before the LORD: and it shall be forgiven him for any thing of all that he hath done in trespassing therein.” (Leviticus 6:1-7)

“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” (Matthew 5:23-26)

I. A CONSCIENCE VOID OF OFFENSE

After we have believed in the Lord, we must build up a habit of confessing and recompensing. If we have offended anyone or have come short of anyone, we should learn to confess or to recompense. On the one hand, we have to confess to God, and on the other hand, we have to confess to and recompense man. If a man does not confess to God nor apologize or recompense man, his conscience will easily become hardened. Once the conscience becomes hardened, a serious and fundamental problem develops: It becomes difficult for God’s light to shine into a man. A person must build up a habit of confessing and making recompense so that he can maintain a sensitive and keen conscience before the Lord.

There was once a worker of the Lord who used to ask others, “When was the last time you confessed to someone?” If it has been a long time since a person’s last confession to another person, there has to be some problem with this person’s conscience. We often offend others. If a person has offended someone yet has no feeling about it, his conscience must be sick or abnormal. The length of time since your last confession is an indication of whether or not there is a problem between you and God. If the period of time is long, it proves that there is a lack of light in your spirit. If the time is short, that is, if you recently have made a confession to others, it proves that the feeling of your conscience is still sensitive. In order to live under God’s light, we need a sensitive conscience, and in order for our conscience to remain sensitive, we need to continually condemn sin as sin. We need to confess to God, and we also need to make confessions and recompenses to man.

If we have offended God and the offense has nothing to do with man, we do not need to confess to man. We should not overdo anything. If a brother or sister’s sins are unrelated to man, having only offended God, he or she only needs to confess to God; there is absolutely no need to confess to man. I hope that we will pay attention to this principle.

What kind of sins offend man? How should a person apologize to another person or recompense another person when he offends him or comes short in his dealings with him? In order to be clear about this, we need to carefully study two portions of Scriptures.

II. THE TRESPASS OFFERING IN LEVITICUS 6

There are two sides to the trespass offering: One is revealed in Leviticus 5 and the other in Leviticus 6. Chapter five tells us that we should confess to God and offer up sacrifices for forgiveness of our miscellaneous sins. Chapter six tells us that it is not enough to offer up a sacrifice to God if we have offended a person materially; we should also restore something to the offended party. Chapter six says that if we have offended anyone in material things, we should take care of the matter with men. Of course, we also need to confess to God and ask for His forgiveness. But just dealing with God is not enough. We cannot ask God to forgive us on behalf of the ones whom we have offended.

How should we take care of the matter from man’s side? Let us look at the trespass offering in Leviticus 6.

A. Some Sins That Are Trespasses against Man

Leviticus 6:2-7: ” If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the LORD,”—All sins are ultimately trespasses against Jehovah—”and lie unto his neighbour in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbour; Or have found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it, and sweareth falsely; in any of all these that a man doeth, sinning therein: Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found, Or all that about which he hath sworn falsely; he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering. And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD, a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest: And the priest shall make an atonement for him before the LORD: and it shall be forgiven him for any thing of all that he hath done in trespassing therein.” A person who has offended anyone or transgressed against anyone in material things has to settle it with men before he can be forgiven. If he does not settle it with men, he will not be forgiven.

There are six kinds of transgressions against man in these verses:

(1)Lying to one’s fellowman in regard to a deposit: This means to be entrusted with something and then to purposely withhold the good and costly portions while surrendering the inferior portions. This is lying, and it is a sin before God. We should not lie to others in regard to their deposit but rather guard it faithfully. God’s children should always guard faithfully the things that others have entrusted to them. If we cannot guard it, we should not accept such a deposit. Once we accept it, we should do our best to guard it. If anything happens to it through our unfaithfulness, we have trespassed against man.

(2)Lying to one’s fellowman in regard to a security: This means to deal falsely or to lie in business transactions or to profit through improper means or to usurp something that is not yours in trade. This is to sin before the Lord, and it should be dealt with in a strict way.

(3)Robbing a fellowman:  Although this may not happen among the saints, we still have to say something about it. No one may acquire anything by way of robbery. Anyone who tries to usurp the possessions of others by means of his status or power has committed a sin.

(4)Extorting from one’s fellowman: It is a sin to take advantage of anyone through the influence of one’s own position and power. In God’s eyes His children should never do such a thing. This kind of conduct must be dealt with.

(5)Finding what is lost and lying about it: New believers must pay special attention to this matter. Many people have lied about the things which others have lost. To turn something into nothing, to reduce much to little, or to exchange what is bad for what is good is the same as lying. Something is there, yet you say that nothing is there. There may be much, but you say that there is little. Something may be good, but you say that it is bad—all this is lying. Others have lost something, and you take advantage of them, extorting some gain and benefit out of them; this is sin. A Christian must not take possession of others’ belongings and make them his own. If you have picked up something by accident, you have to guard it well and return it to the owner. Never claim lost items as your own. It is wrong to keep lost articles; it is more wrong to usurp the possessions of others by illegal means. To turn other’s possessions into one’s own by any unrighteous means is wrong. A believer should not do anything that profits himself at the expense of others.

(6)Swearing falsely: It is a sin to swear falsely concerning any material thing. You know something, yet you say that you do not know. You have seen something, yet you say that you have not seen it. Something is there, yet you say that nothing is there. Anyone who swears falsely has sinned.

“….for any thing of all that he hath done in trespassing therein.”—this refers to transgressions against men in terms of material things. God’s children should learn and always remember this lesson—they should not make the possessions of others their own. The possessions of others belong to them. Do not make their possessions yours. Whoever swears falsely in any of the things mentioned above and transgresses against others has sinned.

Brothers and sisters, if there is any dishonesty in anything you do, if you have acquired anything at the expense of others, or if you have acquired anything by means of these six ways, you have sinned. You have to deal with these sins thoroughly.

B. How to Return

Our manner of life has to be righteous, and our conscience must be void of offense before God. God’s Word says, “Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away…” (v. 4). The word return is very important. There are two aspects to the trespass offering. On the one hand, there is the need of propitiation before God. On the other hand, there is the need to “return” to man that which has been taken. Do not think that propitiation before God is sufficient. You must also return to man that which has been taken. If you do not return it, something is lacking. The trespass offering in Leviticus 5 deals with sins that do not involve material transgressions against people. Of course, there is no need to return anything in that case. But the sins spoken of in chapter six involve material loss, in which case one must return something. Propitiation through sacrifice was not enough. One still had to “return” that which was taken. This is why verse 4 says, “Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away….” Everything acquired through sinful means must be returned. One must return what was taken by robbery, what was gained through extortion, what was deposited with him, whatever has been found, and whatever has been falsely sworn. All of these things must be returned.

How does a person return these things? “…he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering” (v. 5). Here are three things that we need to take note of.

First, we have to make restitution in full. We are wrong if we do not make any restitution. We are equally wrong if our restitution is not made in full. No one should consider an apology as being sufficient. If the object in question remains in our house, it proves that we are still wrong; we have to return it in full.

Second, God wants us to not only return in full, but also to add one-fifth more when we make a recompense. Why must we add one-fifth? According to this principle, we have to return abundantly. If we have taken money or things from others, God wants us to add one-fifth to the full amount when we return it. God does not want His children to return the bare minimum. In printing books one has to leave margins at the top, bottom, left, and right of a page. Similarly, we should not be stingy in apologizing to people and returning what has been taken from them. We must be generous and liberal.

Some people do not add one-fifth to their recompense. In fact, they return much less than one-fifth of what was owed. They apologize by saying, “Although I offended you in this matter, I was not wrong in other matters. In other matters I did not offend you; rather, you offended me.” This is a settling of accounts, not a confession. If you want to confess, do not be that stingy. It is all right to apologize more than you need to, but do not apologize less. Why did you sin in the first place? Since you have to recompense now, be more generous. Do not take things away from others and then return only that much to them. You have to return generously.

God’s children should behave in a way that is worthy of their dignity. Even in the matter of confession, we should do it in a way that is worthy of our dignity. An apology that is in the way of settling accounts is not the kind of confession that God’s children should have. God’s children should confess their transgressions thoroughly and add one-fifth to the recompense. No one should be calculating and unwilling to make the smallest of sacrifices when confessing. If you are concerned about how much each party owes the other when you apologize, you are not behaving like a Christian. Some people say, “I was not angry at first, but your words made me angry. Since I have confessed my wrong already, it is your turn to confess your wrong.” This is altogether a matter of settling accounts; this is not a confession. If you are making a confession, you should go an extra mile. Be more generous in the matter of confession. Do not withhold anything in your confession; instead, try to be liberal in it.

Adding one-fifth to our confession or recompense reminds us that offending others is a losing proposition and that we should never do it again. When a new believer offends others, he should realize that he will suffer loss eventually, even though he may gain something temporarily. He took five-fifths, but he has to return six-fifths. It is easy to take something from someone. But when you return it, you have to not only return it in full but also add one-fifth.

Third, we should make our confession and recompense as soon as possible. Verse 5 says, “…he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering.” If it is within our ability to return the object, or if the object in question is still in our hand, we should return it on the day we learn of this sin. It is easy for people to delay in this matter. But the more God’s children put off confession and recompense, the more their feeling will become dull. As soon as we receive the light, we have to act upon it. We have to return it that very day. Hopefully, our brothers and sisters will take a straight path from the day they become a Christian. We should never take advantage of others and never be unrighteous. The basic principle of the Christian life on earth is not to take advantage of others. Taking advantage of others in any way is wrong. We must not take advantage of others. Instead, we must be righteous from the very beginning.

We have to give back to others. But this is not all. We should not think that everything is settled after we have made our apology and recompense. The matter is not settled. “And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD, a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest.” (v. 6).  After we have confessed to and recompensed others, we still have to go to God for forgiveness. The trespass offering in chapter five deals with just God because no material loss is involved. But chapter six speaks of transgression against man. Therefore, one must deal with man first, before going to God to ask for forgiveness. Before a matter has been settled with man, one cannot go to God to ask for forgiveness. What happens once one has settled the matter with man and has asked for forgiveness before God? “And the priest shall make an atonement for him before the LORD: and it shall be forgiven him for any thing of all that he hath done in trespassing therein.” (v. 7). This is what the Lord wants. Whoever has transgressed materially against man should try his best to make recompense. Then he can come before God and ask for forgiveness through the Lord’s blood.

We should not consider this as a trivial matter. Once we are careless, we take advantage of others and transgress against them. God’s children should remember this point and pay attention to it all their lives. In whatever matter they have transgressed against others, they should return these things to them and ask God for forgiveness.

III. THE TEACHING OF MATTHEW 5

Now let us turn to another portion—Matthew 5. This chapter is different from Leviticus 6, which speaks of transgressions against man just in terms of material things. Matthew 5 deals with more than just transgressions in material things.

Matthew 5:23-26 says, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” The farthings (one quarter of a penny) spoken of here do not refer to just physical farthings. They refer to the principle of coming up short in something.

The Lord says, ” Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee.” This specifically refers to disputes among God’s children and among the brothers. If you are offering a gift at the altar, that is, if you are offering something to God, and suddenly remember that your brother has something against you, this remembering is God’s leading. The Holy Spirit often gives you a necessary thought and reminds you of necessary things. When you remember something or are reminded of something, do not put the thought aside and think that it is merely a thought. As soon as you remember something, you should carefully deal with it.

If you remember that your brother has something against you, this means you have transgressed against him. Your transgression may or may not be in material things. Perhaps you have offended him by acting unrighteously towards him. The emphasis is not on material things but on that which sets others against you. A new believer should realize that if he offends a person and does not apologize and ask for forgiveness, he is finished as soon as the offended party mentions his name and sighs before God. Whatever he offers to God will not be accepted. Whatever he prays will be turned down. We should not allow any brother or sister to sigh before God because of us. Once he or she sighs, we are finished before God. If we have done something wrong or if we have offended or hurt someone, the offended party need not accuse us before God. All he has to say before God is, “Oh! So-and-so…” or, for that matter, he just needs to utter an “Oh” and whatever we offer to God will be rejected. All he has to do is sigh a little because of us before God. We must not give any brother or sister the reason or the ground to sigh before God because of us. If we give him or her a reason to sigh, we will lose all our spiritual prospects and all our gifts to God will be annulled.

If you are offering a gift at the altar and remember that your brother has anything against you or has any reason to sigh because of you, do not offer up your gift. If you want to offer to God, “Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” God wants the gift, but you must first be reconciled to others. Those who are not reconciled to men will not be able to offer a gift to God. You must “Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Do you see the proper way? You must first go and be reconciled to your brother. What does it mean to be reconciled to one’s brother? It means to remove the brother’s wrath. You may need to either apologize or recompense. However, the point is to satisfy your brother. It is not a matter of adding one-fifth or one-tenth; it is a matter of reconciliation. Reconciliation means satisfying the other’s demand.

When you have offended and transgressed against your brother, when he is disturbed and feels that you are unrighteous, and when you have caused him to sigh before God, your spiritual fellowship with God is interrupted; your spiritual prospects are gone. You may not have the slightest feeling that you are in darkness, and you may feel that you are all right, but the gift you offer at the altar has become void. You cannot ask anything of God. You cannot even give anything to God. You cannot offer anything to God, much less receive any answer from Him. You may have offered up everything on the altar, but God is not pleased with any of it. Therefore, when you come to God’s altar, you must first be reconciled to your brother. Whatever demands he has, you must try your best to satisfy him. Learn to satisfy the righteous requirement of God as well as the righteous requirement of your brother. You can offer your gift to God only after you have done this. This is quite serious.

We should not offend others easily. In particular, we must not offend a brother or a sister lightly. If we offend a brother or a sister, we immediately fall under God’s judgment, and it is not easy to be recovered. In verse 25 the Lord emphasized, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him;” Here is a brother who has suffered injustice at our hand; he is not at peace before God. The Lord’s words to us are in human terms. Our brother is like a plaintiff in a court of law. The expression while you are with him on the way is wonderful. Today we are all still on the way. Our brother has not died and neither have we. He is here, and we are here. He is on the way, and we are also on the way. We have to be well disposed quickly with him. It is very easy for us to not be here someday; it is very easy for us to not be on the way. It is also very easy for our brother to not be here and to not be on the way. No one knows who will go first. By then it will be too late to do anything. While he and we are still on the way, that is, while both parties are still here, there is the opportunity to speak to one another and apologize. We should be reconciled to each other quickly. The door of salvation will not be open forever. The same is true with the door of mutual confession among the brothers. Brothers have often regretted that they lost their opportunity to confess to each other; the offended party is no longer on the way. If we have any offense toward men, we should seize whatever opportunity we have to be reconciled to them quickly while we are both still on the way. We do not know whether or not others will be here tomorrow. We also do not know whether or not we ourselves will be here tomorrow. Therefore, we have to be well disposed with the brothers while we are still on the way. Once one party is no longer on the way, it is impossible to settle the matter.

We have to realize how serious this matter is! You cannot be nonchalant or careless about it. While there is still today, be well disposed with your brother quickly! If you know that a brother has a complaint against you, you have to deal with it. You must try your best to apologize lest there be no opportunity to reconcile later.

Following this, the Lord speaks again in human terms, saying, “…lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison….” We will not go into biblical interpretation concerning the paying of the last farthing. We are only pointing out the practice of paying the last farthing. We have to see that this matter must be resolved properly. If we do not resolve it properly, the case will not be settled. The Lord is not speaking of a future judgment or of being thrown into and being released from an actual prison. The Lord’s emphasis is not on these things. His concern is that we would be reconciled today, that we would pay every farthing today, not putting the matter off until later. We must do this while we are still on the way. We must not put off the matter today and hope that it will be resolved later. This is unwise, and it does not pay to leave the matter to the future.

God’s children should learn this lesson well. We must make recompense when recompense is due and confession when confession is due. We should make recompense again and again and apologize again and again. We should not allow a brother or sister to harbor any complaint against us. If our conscience is pure, and the wrong is clearly not on our side, we can be at peace. Otherwise, if there is any wrongdoing on our part, we must confess. We must be above reproach in our conduct. We should not always think that others are wrong and we are right. It is certainly wrong to ignore the complaints of others and to instead insist that we are right.

IV. A FEW PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS

Repentance Confession List

First, the scope of your confession should be as wide as the scope of your offense. You should do everything according to God’s Word and should not take the extreme way. Do not overdo anything. Once you overdo, you will come under Satan’s attack. If you offend many people, you must confess to many people. If you offend only one individual, you should confess only to that individual. To confess to an individual when you have offended many people is to under-confess. To confess to many people when you have offended only one individual is to overdo. The scope of confession depends on the scope of offense. The scope of testifying is another matter. Sometimes you have offended one individual, but because you want to testify to the brothers and sisters, you tell them about it. That is another matter altogether. As far as apology and confession is concerned, it should only be according to the scope of the offense. We should not go beyond that scope. We have to pay particular attention to this point.

Second, our confession must be thorough. We must not hide anything to save our “face” or our interest. There are, of course, times when we have to exercise due care in the way we confess; we have to take care of the interest and benefit of others. Perhaps we only should confess that we have offended others in a general way without going into detail. If we have difficulties in making decisions in complicated situations, it is best for us to fellowship with some experienced brothers and sisters so that they can help us do the right thing.

Third, there may be times when you are unable to make the necessary recompense. However, the ability to recompense and the desire to recompense are two different things. Some may not be able to recompense, but at least they should have the desire to recompense. If one is unable to make recompense immediately, he should tell the offended one, “I want to recompense you, but I cannot do it today. Please bear with me; I will do it as soon as possible.”

Fourth, the law in the Old Testament states that if the rightful recipient of one’s recompense has passed away and has left no relatives to accept the recompense, it should go to the priests who serve Jehovah (Num. 5:8). According to this principle, if the recipient of your recompense is no longer available, the recompense should go to his relatives. If he has no relatives, you should give it to the church. If you can make recompense to someone, you should give it to him or to his relatives. You cannot give it to the church for the sake of convenience. However, if someone wants to make confession but the offended party has passed away and there seems to be no opportunity to confess, he can confess the matter to the church according to this principle.

Fifth, after making confession you need to make sure that you are not condemned in your conscience. It is possible for one’s conscience to suffer repeated condemnation even after he has confessed. We must be clear that the Lord’s blood has cleansed our conscience. His death has given us a conscience that is void of offense before God and has enabled us to draw near to God. All these are facts. However, we must see that in order to be clean before man, we need to deal with many sins. We need to settle all offenses in material things as well as in other matters. But we should not allow Satan to condemn us excessively.

Sixth, confession is related to physical healing. James 5:16 says, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” The result of confession is often God’s healing. Sickness often comes in when there are hindrances among God’s children. If we confess our sins one to another, our sickness will be healed.

Hopefully, the brothers and sisters will be thorough in the matter of confession and recompense. This is the way to maintain their purity. If anyone has transgressed against man, he should confess his sins to God on the one hand, and he must deal with the matter seriously with man on the other hand. Only then will his conscience remain bold. When the conscience is bold, a person can make considerable progress in his spiritual pursuit.

(Note – this lesson is probably one of the most important of all the lessons that we have posted in BORN AGAIN LESSONS.  It is a principle that has prevailed in every revival I have ever read about, from the revival of the Hebrides to those great revivals in America of Jonathan Edwards and Charles G. Finney.  I know Christians that have offended a friend or family member and their attitude is “we will leave it up go God in heaven one day.”  These people are totally wrong and that attitude causes the offended person to suffer and sigh daily  before  God.  Sadly enough, sometimes the one who offended will die suddenly and never have a chance to make things right.  I truly believe that if that is the case and a family member knows of the offense, that family member should act in behalf of the one who has gone on to Heaven and try as best they can to make things right before God and to the one or ones offended.  One of the biggest reasons why revival does not come in America or in other countries is because of the stubborn attitude of Christians that causes them to think that if they confess to God in private that they don’t need to confess to the offended party.  Little do they know that God cannot answer their prayers or bless them in this life until this matter is settled and it must be settled as soon as it can be done or there may not be another chance to settle the matter.  I pray that anyone reading this will look back at your life and try to remember if there is any person that is offended by something you have done or said, or by something you wrote or shared with another person that was then relayed back to the offended party.  Take care of it today and you will not regret it.  I will never forget a message that was preached by Dr. Jack Hyles while he was alive.  He said that at the end of our lives we will say one of two things,  either “Would God I had…” or “Thank God I did….”  Don’t let yourself come to the end of life saying, “Would God I had made things right with the offended party.”)

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Written originally by Watchman Nee in China during the Chinese revolution and died in a prison camp but these lessons have been the foundation of my life for 38 years.  David Williams – site Admin.

CONFESSION WITH THE MOUTH

Scripture Reading: Rom. 10:10; Prov. 29:25; Matt. 10:32-33

For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  (Romans 10:10)

The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.  (Proverbs 29:25)

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.  (Matthew 10:32-33)

 

I. THE IMPORTANCE OF CONFESSING WITH THE MOUTH

Once a person has believed in the Lord, he should not keep the matter a secret; he has to confess the Lord with his mouth. Confessing the Lord with our mouth is a very important matter.

A. Opening the Mouth as Soon as One Believes

As soon as one believes in the Lord, he should confess the Lord before men. Suppose a person gives birth to a child. What would we think if the child could not speak by the age of one or two, or even three? Would we say only that he is slow in speech development? Is it possible for such a person to begin saying, “one, two, three, four,” at the age of thirty and then learn to say “daddy” and “mommy” at fifty years of age? No. If a person is dumb in his infancy, he probably will be dumb for the rest of his life. If he cannot say “daddy” and “mommy” when he is young, he probably will not be able to say it for the rest of his life. Likewise, if a new believer does not confess the Lord immediately after he believes in the Lord, I am afraid he will be dumb for the rest of his life. If he cannot speak when he is young, he probably will not be able to speak when he grows up.

Some have been Christians for ten or even twenty years. Yet they remain dumb. This is because they did not open their mouth during the first and second week of their Christian life. They will continue to be dumb until they die. Confessing the Lord begins at the time a person believes. If you open your mouth the day you believe in the Lord, the way of confession will be opened to you. If a person is dumb in the first weeks, months, or year, he is likely to remain dumb for the rest of his life. Therefore, as soon as a person believes in the Lord, he should endeavor to speak to others about the Lord. Even if he finds it hard to speak and even if he dislikes speaking, he still must speak. He must speak to his relatives and friends. If he does not learn to speak openly, I am afraid he will be a dumb man before God for the rest of his life. We do not wish to see dumb believers. This is why we must learn to open our mouth from the very beginning. If a person fails to do this in the beginning, he will find it more difficult to do it later. Unless God grants special mercy or there is a revival, these ones will never open their mouth. It will take a great effort for them to open their mouth at a later date. Every new believer should seek the opportunity to confess the Lord before men. Such a confession is a great matter and reaps much profit.

B. Confession with the Mouth unto Salvation

Romans 10:10 says, ” For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” ” For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” This is something before God. “With the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” This speaks of salvation before man. Whether or not you have believed is something before God; no one can see it. If you have sincerely believed, you are justified before God. However, if you only believe in your heart, but do not speak with your mouth, others will not recognize you as a saved person; they will still consider you an unbeliever. They will not see any difference between you and them. This is why the Bible strongly stresses the need to confess with the mouth in addition to believing in the heart. We must speak with our mouth.

Every new believer must look for opportunities to confess the Lord. Among our classmates, colleagues, friends, relatives, and all those who come into contact with us, as soon as an opportunity arises, we should say to them, “I have believed in the Lord Jesus.” The sooner we open our mouth, the better it is. Once we open our mouth, others will immediately know that we have believed in the Lord Jesus. In this way, we will be delivered from the company of unbelievers.

We have seen some people who hesitated in their acceptance of the Lord, but once they stood up and proclaimed, “I believe in Jesus,” they became sure. The worst thing that can happen to a Christian is for him to keep his mouth shut. Once he speaks, he takes a firm step forward and becomes secure. Many believers hesitate initially, but as soon as they say, “I believe,” they become certain.

C. Confession Saving Much Trouble

There is great profit when one confesses with his mouth after he has believed in his heart. It saves him much trouble in the future.

Suppose you do not open your mouth and say, “I have decided to follow the Lord Jesus; I am His now.” Others will still consider you the same as they. When they sin or indulge in lustful things, they will consider you to be one of them. In your heart you realize that you are a Christian and that it is wrong for you to be among them. But you cannot reject them, because you want to please them. You may come up with an excuse to turn them down. But the next time they will still drag you along, and you will have to think of another excuse to refuse them. You may come up with excuses once or twice, but the pressure will always come back. So why not put the signboard out from the very first day and confess that you are a believer? You only need to confess once or twice, and others will give up trying to persuade you.

If you do not confess with your mouth, that is, if you are a Christian secretly, you will experience much more difficulty than those who are Christians openly. Your temptation will be many times greater than the temptation of those who openly confess the Lord. You will be bound by human affections and past relationships. You cannot excuse yourself from others every time by saying that you have a headache or that you are busy. You cannot use excuses every time. This is why you must declare from the first day, “I have believed in the Lord Jesus. I have accepted Him.” Once you put out this signboard, your colleagues, classmates, relatives, and family will know the kind of person you are. This will save you much trouble. Otherwise, you will have all kinds of frustrations. If a person confesses the Lord with his mouth, he will be saved from much trouble.

D. Not Confessing the Lord
Leading to Accusations in the Conscience

There is another serious problem for a person who does not confess the Lord with his mouth. Many of the Lord’s believers experienced this when the Lord was on the earth.

The Lord Jesus was rejected by the Jews. They vehemently opposed and rejected Him. In John 9 the Jews made a decision: Whoever confessed Jesus to be the Christ would be put out of the synagogue (v. 22). In chapter twelve the Bible says that many Jewish rulers believed in the Lord Jesus secretly, but they dared not confess Him because they were afraid of being put out of the synagogue (v. 42). Do you think that these people had peace in their hearts? Perhaps they felt uneasy about confessing the Lord, but they felt even more uneasy about not confessing the Lord. What kind of place was the synagogue? It was a place where people opposed the Lord Jesus. They plotted, conspired, and discussed plans to trap the Lord there. Such were the dark things that went on in the synagogue. What should a genuine believer do among such people? How much strength would he need to keep his mouth shut? Under such circumstances it would be difficult for anyone to confess the Lord with his mouth, but it would be even harder for him to not confess the Lord with his mouth.

The Jewish synagogue is a picture of the world’s opposition to the Lord. The world always criticizes the Lord Jesus. It always considers Jesus of Nazareth a problem. It has all kinds of things to say against our Lord. In a place like this, can you listen to the people and pretend to be like one of them? To pretend is painful; to pretend is also difficult. You have to muster enough strength to control and repress yourself before you can pretend. Under such circumstances, is it not true that something within you will want to cry out, “This man is the Son of God; I believe in Him”? Is there not something within you that wants to proclaim, “This man is my Savior, and I have already believed in Him,” or, “This man can deliver me from my sins. You may not believe in Him, but I do”? Is there not something within you that wants to make such a declaration?

Are you going to force yourself to be quiet just because you want man’s respect and position? It seems to me it would have been easier for the Jewish rulers in John 12 to simply be put out of the synagogue. They would have felt much better if they had confessed the Lord. If you are a false believer, it probably will make no difference whether or not you confess. But as a genuine believer, you will surely offend your conscience if you pretend and sympathize with the Lord’s opposers. When others oppose the Lord, you have no peace in your heart, yet you must force yourself to say, “What you are saying is interesting.” Is this not the most painful thing to do as a human being?

There is nothing more painful than not confessing the Lord. The greatest suffering is to refuse to confess the Lord before men. I would not want to trade places with those rulers. Their suffering was too great! If you are not a believer, there is nothing to say. But if you have believed, the easier and more joyful and happy thing to do is come out of the synagogue. You may feel that there are many obstacles, but past experience indicates that the obstacles will be greater and your heart will suffer more if you do not go this way.

Suppose you hear someone maliciously slander your parents, saying this and that about them. Suppose that you try to sit still and listen to them or, worse still, pretend to sympathize with them. If you do this, I would wonder what kind of a person you were. Our Lord has given His life to save us. If we do not say something for the very Lord whom we worship and serve, how much more timid are we? We must be bold to stand up and proclaim for the Lord, “I belong to Him!”

II. COMMON MISTAKES

A. Replacing Confession with Good Behavior

Some new believers are influenced by traditional teachings. They think that having good behavior is the most important thing for a Christian and that confession with the mouth is not that crucial. They think that a change in what one says is not important, but that a change in what one does is important. We must correct this wrong concept. We are not saying that it is not necessary to change our conduct. If one’s conduct is not changed, it is useless to confess with the mouth. But changing what one does without confessing with one’s mouth is equally futile. A change in conduct can never take the place of confession with the mouth. After one’s conduct is changed, his mouth still has to confess.

Every new believer must seize the earliest opportunity to tell others about his faith in the Lord Jesus. If you do not confess with your mouth, others will make many conjectures about you. They will try to explain your behavior with speculation. They will say all kinds of things about you, but they will not touch the Lord Jesus. Therefore, you must tell them the reason for the change in your conduct. No good conduct can take the place of verbal confession. It is necessary to have good conduct, but it is equally necessary to confess with the mouth. You must tell others, “Jesus is my Lord; I want to serve Him.” No matter how good your conduct is, these words must come out of your mouth.

We have heard people say that if they have good outward conduct, there is no need for them to say anything with their mouth. Please remember that no one will bother to criticize those who say this if they fail slightly in their personal conduct. But if a man stands up to proclaim that he is a Christian, others will immediately criticize and rebuke him when there is any slip in his conduct. Hence, those who say that good conduct is enough and that there is no need to confess with the mouth are in reality giving themselves an excuse to fail in their conduct. They are leaving a back door for themselves to escape from the judgment of others. Never believe that just a change in conduct is sufficient. Confession with the mouth is needed; in fact, it is absolutely indispensable.

B. Being Afraid of Failing to Persevere to the End

Some people think, “If I confess with my mouth and then fail to persevere in my Christian conviction, will this not become a joke to others? Suppose I can no longer make it as a Christian after three or five years, what should I do then? It is better for me not to say anything now. Let me wait for several years, until I find out whether or not I can make it.” We can tell such ones that if they do not confess because they are afraid of stumbling or failing, they will surely fail. They have already opened a back door and are trying to avoid the front door. They have already made preparations to back out of their own confession. They want to wait to have assurance before they confess. We are sure that such ones will fail. It is better to stand up and say, “I am for the Lord.” If you close the back door first, it will become much harder for you to back out or backslide later. Consequently, you will have a much better chance of going forward than of sliding backward. In fact, this is the only possible way for you to go forward.

If you want to wait until you have good behavior before you confess, your mouth will never open up. You will always be dumb. Even after you have good conduct, you will still be dumb. If you do not open your mouth at the beginning, it will be much harder to open your mouth later. If you open your mouth, the chance of having good conduct will be greater. If you want to wait until your behavior is good before you confess, you will lose both your chance of opening your mouth as well as your chance of having good behavior; both will be lost, and you will fail in both.

One assuring thought is that God is not only the God who redeems us but also the God who preserves us. What should we liken redemption to? Redemption is like buying something. What then is preservation? Preservation is like putting the purchased object in one’s own hand. How many people in this world buy things with the view of throwing them away? When we buy a watch, we want to use it for five or ten years; no one buys a watch with the view of throwing it away. God is saving people everywhere. He does not save them and then throw them away. He wants to preserve what He has saved. Since God has saved us, He will preserve us. Since God has redeemed us, He will preserve us until that day. God loves us so much that He was willing to forsake His Son to redeem us. If He had no intention of preserving us, He would not have paid such a great price. It is God’s purpose as well as His plan to preserve us. Do not be afraid to stand up and say, “I believe in the Lord.” You may say, “What happens if I fail in a few days?” Do not worry about this; God will be responsible for it. It is better for you to stand up and say, “I belong to God.” Commit yourself to God. God knows that you need support, comfort, and protection. We have the assurance to say that God preserves man’s salvation. This preservation makes redemption meaningful.

C. Fear of Men

Some people dare not confess because they are afraid of men. Many people can honestly say that they have no other reservation in their heart; they are willing to stand up and confess, but when they see the faces of others, they become afraid. When they look at their parents’ faces or their friends’ faces, they feel too shy to speak up. This is where many people are stumbled; they are afraid of men and do not have any boldness to open their mouth. Some people are naturally timid; they are timid not only in confessing the Lord but also in other things. If you want them to tell others about their faith, you are asking them for their life. They simply dare not open their mouth.

However, this kind of person needs to hear what God has to say. Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man bringeth a snare.” If you are afraid when you see someone, you will fall into a “snare.” As soon as you become afraid, you fall into a snare. Your fear becomes your snare. Whenever your heart is afraid of men, you are creating a snare for yourself. Once you are afraid, you fall into a snare. This snare is created by your own fear. Actually, the person you fear may be very willing to listen to you. Even if he is not inclined to listen, he may not be as fearsome as you think.

There is a story about two persons who were colleagues. One was a believer and the other was not. The one who believed was very timid; the one who did not believe was also very timid. The timid believer did not dare tell his colleague that he was saved. The one who did not believe was puzzled by the great changes that were happening to his colleague. His colleague used to have a quick temper but had now changed. He dared not ask his colleague the reason. The two of them shared a table and sat face-to-face every day. One was too timid to speak, and the other was too timid to ask. Every day they just looked at each other. One was afraid to speak, and the other was afraid to ask. One day the believer could not hold back any longer. After praying about it, he went to the other one and shook his hand tightly and said, “I am a very timid person. For at least three months I have been struggling to tell you something. Now I am going to tell you. I have believed in Jesus.” After saying these words, his face turned pale. The other one said, “I too have waited for three months. I wanted to ask why you have become so different, but I was too afraid to ask.” The believer mustered enough courage to open his mouth. From that time on, the opportunity opened up, and he was able to bring his friend to the Lord.

Those who are fearful of men will fall into a snare. Please remember that while you are afraid of others, others may be afraid of you too. We must never have a fear of men. We who follow God should not fear men. If you have a fear of men, you cannot be a good Christian and you cannot serve God. A Christian must be bold to speak to his relatives and friends. He must be bold to confess the Lord both in private and in public. We must take this way from the beginning.

D. Being Shy

Some people are shy. They feel that it is a shameful thing to be a Christian. It is true that this kind of shame may exist when we face unbelievers. If you tell others that you are engaged in technical research, they will congratulate you for having a good future. If you say that you are studying a certain philosophy, others will also say that you are a thoughtful person. You are not ashamed to talk about doing many things. But if you say that you are a Christian, many will say that you are too simple-minded or not intellectual enough. They will not esteem you highly. You are not ashamed to talk about other things, but as soon as you confess your Christian faith, you feel ashamed within. It is unavoidable for a new believer to feel shameful when he opens his mouth to confess his faith. However, we must overcome this feeling. It is true that the world feels shameful about someone becoming a Christian, but we must overcome this feeling.

How can we overcome this feeling of shame? We must deal with it from two aspects:

On the one hand, we have to realize that when the Lord Jesus was crucified on the cross, He bore our sins as well as our shame. When our Lord bore our sins, He suffered great humiliation. Today, in the eyes of God, it is only proper that we suffer humiliation from men. The humiliation we suffer before man can never be compared with the humiliation our Lord suffered on the cross for us. Therefore, we should not be surprised at humiliation. We should know that we belong to the Lord.

On the other hand, there is a good hymn which says, “Our shyness is like the early morning sky disowning the sun! But the Lord radiates the divine light which illuminates our consciences which are as dark as the night.” Since the Lord has been gracious to us and has redeemed us, being ashamed of confessing Him is like the early morning sky being ashamed of the illumination of the sun. Today the Lord has graced us. He has redeemed us and preserved us. He will even bring us to the heavens. Yet we consider it a shame to confess Him! If that is a shame, then all the grace we have received should also be considered a shame to us, and we should deny it all! The Lord has done so much for us, and yet we feel ashamed of confessing Him! How can this be?

We should feel shameful for such things as carousing, drunkenness, unrestrained dissipation, works of darkness, sinning, and evil works. The Lord has delivered us from all these. We should feel glorious. How can we have a sense of shame? It is not shameful for us to confess the Lord; it is glorious and joyous for us to confess Him! We are those who will never perish, who will never be condemned or judged by God, and who will never have to depart from the glorious face of God. We are those who follow the Lamb and who will always be with Him (Rev. 14:4). It is altogether wrong for others to plant the seed of shame in us. We should stand up boldly and say that we belong to God. We should rejoice and glory in Him.

By nature Peter was a strong-willed person. He wanted to distinguish himself among the disciples and to be ahead of others in everything. But one day he denied the Lord and became like a little mouse. When he was questioned, he was afraid. Humanly speaking, Peter was a “hero” and a born leader among the disciples. Yet he trembled even before others tried to take his life. He trembled and swore when all that was said to him was, “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.” This was indeed too poor. All those who refuse to confess the Lord are poor. Peter was most shameful; it was a shame for him to deny the Lord (Matt. 26:69-75).

All those who are too shy to open their mouths are full of shame. The really noble ones are the ones who confess their allegiance to Jesus of Nazareth, even at the point of being burned at the stake or thrown into the sea. They may be beaten, burned alive, or thrown into the lions’ den, but they still proclaim, “I belong to Jesus the Nazarene.” This is the most glorious thing in the whole world. The most shameful ones are those who are ashamed to confess the Lord. This kind of people are useless. They will even loathe themselves and be ashamed of themselves! The most shameful thing is for a person to despise himself and be ashamed of what he has.

Therefore, we should not have any fear or shame. All those who learn to follow the Lord should learn to confess Him boldly before man. If light is shameful and darkness glorious, if holiness is shameful and sin glorious, if spirituality is shameful and carnality glorious, and if following the Lord is shameful and following man glorious, then we would rather choose shame. We would rather suffer humiliation with Christ as Moses did, which humiliation is far better than the glories of men (“Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.”  Heb. 11:26).

E. Love of Man’s Glory

Why did the rulers in John 12 not confess the Lord? They did not confess the Lord because they loved the glory of men more than the glory of God. Many people dare not confess because they want both; they want Christ, and they also want the synagogue. They want Christ; this is why they believe. But they also want the synagogue; this is why they will not confess Him. If a person wants both, he will not be absolute in either.

If you want to serve the Lord, you must make a choice between the Lord and the synagogue. Otherwise, you can never be a good Christian. You must make a choice between the Lord and man. The rulers were afraid of losing men’s favor. They were afraid that if they confessed the Lord they would be put out of the synagogue. But a person who chooses the Lord in an absolute way will not be afraid of being put out of the synagogue.

If people do not persecute you after you have believed in the Lord, you should say, “Lord, I thank You.” If people persecute you after you have confessed the Lord with your mouth, you should also say, “Lord, I thank You.” What is so strange about this? We cannot be like those rulers who, for the sake of their love for the synagogue, refused to confess their faith in the Lord Jesus. If everyone in the church had been like them, there would be no church on earth today. If Peter had returned home and remained silent after he believed in the Lord, if Paul, Luke, Darby, and the rest had remained silent after they believed, and if everyone in the church had remained silent and dared not confess the Lord, their troubles definitely would have been less, but there would be no church on earth today!

One characteristic of the church is that it dares to believe in the Lord. Another characteristic is that it dares to confess its faith in Him. To be saved is not just to believe in the Lord Jesus; it is to believe and to confess that one is a believer. The confession is important. Christianity is not only manifested in one’s conduct but also in one’s mouth. The mouth must confess. One must confess, “I am a Christian.” It is not enough for a Christian to just have good conduct; he must also confess with his mouth. If you take away the mouth, there will be no Christianity. The Scripture is very clear. The heart believes unto righteousness and the mouth confesses unto salvation. Christianity is believing in the heart and confessing with the mouth.

III. CONFESSING THE LORD
AND THE LORD’S CONFESSION

The Lord said, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 10:32). Thank the Lord that if we confess the Lord today, on that day He will also confess us. The Lord also said, “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (v. 33). “But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God” (Luke 12:9). What a great contrast! All we have to do is confess that this excellent One, this chiefest among ten thousand, is the Son of God. He will then confess us before the heavenly Father and the angels of God. If you think it is difficult to confess such a Lord before men, the Lord will find it difficult to confess such a person as you when He descends in the glory of the Father. Today we must not shrink back from confessing the Lord through fear of men (“I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass;”

Isa. 51:12). If today we find it difficult to confess Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, then on that day, when our Lord comes back, He will find it difficult to confess us before His Father and all the glorious angels. What a serious thing this is!

In reality, it is not difficult for us to confess the Lord. It is especially easy when we compare our confession with His confession of us. It is difficult for Him to confess us because we are prodigal sons who have come home, and there is nothing good in us. Since He will confess us in the future, let us also confess Him well before men today.

May all the newly-saved brothers and sisters be bold to confess the Lord from the beginning. We should never try to be Christians in secret.

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Written originally by Watchman Nee in China during the Chinese revolution and died in a prison camp but these lessons have been the foundation of my life for 38 years.  The illustration in the first lesson was created by me after a study of the Greek word “eis” which means “into.”  David Williams – site Admin.

IF ANYONE SINS

Scripture Reading: John 5:14; 8:11; Rom. 6:1-2; Num. 19:1-10, 12-13, 17-19; 1 John 1:7-10;2:1-2

Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.  (John 5:14)

She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.  (John 8:11)

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (Romans 6:1-2)

And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke: And ye shall give her unto Eleazar the priest, that he may bring her forth without the camp, and one shall slay her before his face: And Eleazar the priest shall take of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle of her blood directly before the tabernacle of the congregation seven times: And one shall burn the heifer in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall he burn: And the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer. Then the priest shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp, and the priest shall be unclean until the even. And he that burneth her shall wash his clothes in water, and bathe his flesh in water, and shall be unclean until the even. And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for sin. And he that gathereth the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: and it shall be unto the children of Israel, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among them, for a statute for ever. (Numbers 19:1-10)

He shall purify himself with it on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean: but if he purify not himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean. Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from Israel: because the water of separation was not sprinkled upon him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet upon him. (Numbers 19:12-13)

And for an unclean person they shall take of the ashes of the burnt heifer of purification for sin, and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel: And a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave: And the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day, and on the seventh day: and on the seventh day he shall purify himself, and wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and shall be clean at even. (Numbers 19:17-19)

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

(1 John 1:7-10)  My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)

After we are saved, we should sin no more. John 5 records the incident of the Lord Jesus healing one who had been sick for thirty-eight years near the pool in Bethesda. After the man was healed the Lord met him in the temple and said to him, ” Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” (v. 14). John 8 speaks of the Lord Jesus forgiving a woman who had committed adultery. He said to her then and there, ” Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more ” (v. 11). Once we are saved, we are charged by the Lord to sin no more! As saved ones, we surely should not continue in sin.

I. SINNING AFTER BEING SAVED

Since a Christian should not sin and should not continue in sins, is it then possible for a Christian not to sin? The answer is yes! It is possible for Christians not to sin because we have God’s life within us. This life does not sin. It cannot tolerate any trace of sin. This life is as holy as God is holy. The life within us makes us very sensitive to sin. If we walk according to the sense of this life and if we live by this life, we will not sin.

However, it is possible for Christians to sin. We are still in the flesh. If we do not walk according to the Spirit and live in life of the flesh, we can sin at any time. Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” First John 2:1 says, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:” It is possible for Christians to be overtaken by sins. There is still the possibility of sinning. First John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Verse 10 says, ” If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar…” Hence, our experience shows us that it is possible for Christians to fall accidentally into sin.

 

Will a saved person who has fallen accidentally into sin still perish? No! The Lord said, ” And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” (John 10:28). In other words, once a person is saved, he is saved forever. “They shall by no means perish forever.” Nothing can be surer than this! First Corinthians 5 speaks of a brother who had committed fornication. Paul said, “To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (v. 5). Even though the flesh of a believer who sins may be destroyed, his spirit will still be saved.

Does this therefore mean that after a person is saved, it does not matter whether he sins? No! If a person sins after he is saved, there will be two terrible consequences. First, he will suffer in this life. If you sin after you are saved, you will suffer the consequence of your sin. The person in 1 Corinthians 5 was delivered to Satan. This is a great suffering. After a person has repented and confessed to the Lord, God will forgive him and the blood will cleanse him. With some sins, however, there are further consequences that one must face. Although Jehovah removed David’s sin of taking Uriah’s wife, the sword never departed from his house forever (2 Sam. 12:9-13). Brothers and sisters, sin is like a venomous serpent; it is not an amusing plaything. If you are bitten by it, you will suffer.

Second, if a man sins he will be punished in the coming age. If a Christian sins and does not deal with it properly in this age, he will have to deal with it in the coming age. When the Lord comes again, ” For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.” (Matt. 16:27). Paul said, ” For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Cor. 5:10). (Note – this is only speaking about receiving rewards or not receiving rewards.  There is no teaching in the Bible about any kind of punishment for any Christian for any reason other than loss of rewards.)

Besides these two terrible consequences, there is another immediate result of sin—the breaking down of fellowship with God. To a Christian, fellowship with God is a most glorious privilege. Such fellowship is the greatest blessing he can have. However, if he sins, he will immediately lose his fellowship with God. The Holy Spirit within him will grieve for him, and the life in him will feel uncomfortable about his sin. He will lose his joy as well as his fellowship with God. Formerly, when he saw God’s children, he was warmly attracted to them, but now he no longer feels that warmth; there seems to be a barrier between him and them. Formerly, prayer and Bible reading were sweet. But now they have lost their sweetness; he can no longer touch God. Formerly, he treasured the church meetings very much; when he missed one meeting, he felt that he had suffered a great loss. But now the meetings are tasteless to him; it no longer makes a difference whether or not he goes. When he sees God’s children, he wants to run away instead of meeting. them. Everything has changed.

It is a serious thing for a person to sin after he is saved! We must never be loose in our conduct. We must never tolerate sin and must never give ground to it.

But what do we do “if anyone sins”? If a Christian becomes careless and sins by mistake, if he is overtaken by sins, what should he do? How can he come back to the Lord? How can he recover his fellowship with God? This is a very important subject, and we have to study it carefully.

II. THE LORD HAVING BORNE ALL OUR SINS

To take care of this matter, we must first realize that the Lord Jesus has borne all our sins on the cross. All the sins which we have committed, as well as those we are committing and will commit during our whole life, were borne by the Lord on the cross.

However, on the day we believed in the Lord, under God’s light we only saw the sins that we had committed before we had believed. A man can only be conscious of the sins which God shines His light upon; he cannot feel the sins which he has not yet committed. Therefore, the actual sins the Lord Jesus bore on the cross are more than the sins that we see. The Lord Jesus bore all of our sins on the cross, but we see only the sins which we have committed.

You may have been saved at the age of sixteen, or you may have been saved at the age of thirty-two. All the sins you committed before your salvation are absolutely and totally forgiven by the Lord. However, at the time of your forgiveness, the number of sins that you were conscious of was actually much less than the actual number of sins which the Lord bore for you. Your experience of the Lord’s grace went only so far as your personal experience of your sin. But the Lord’s work on our behalf was based on His knowledge of our sins. We must realize that even the sins that we are not conscious of are included in the Lord Jesus’ redemption.

Perhaps you were saved at the age of sixteen. Suppose you had committed a thousand sins during the first sixteen years of your life. You might have said at the time you believed in the Lord, “I thank You. My sins have been forgiven because You have taken away all my sins.” In saying that the Lord had taken your sins away, you meant that the Lord had dealt with your one thousand sins. What would have happened if you had been saved at the age of thirty-two instead? Proportionally, you probably would have committed two thousand sins by the age of thirty-two. You might have said the same thing: “O Lord, You have borne all my sins.” If you were saved at sixty-four years of age, you would have said the same thing: “O Lord, You have borne all my sins.” It is quite clear then that the Lord has dealt with the sins that were committed during the first sixteen years of your life as well as the sins that were committed from age sixteen to age sixty-four. The Lord dealt with all of your sins on the cross. The criminal on the cross did not believe in the Lord until just before he died, but the Lord took away all his sins (Luke 23:39-43). In other words, the Lord took away the sins of our whole life on the cross. Although, when we first believed in the Lord, we only felt the forgiveness of our past sins, in actuality, the Lord took away all our sins, even those we commit after we are saved. We must understand this fact before we can understand how to recover our fellowship with God.

III. THE TYPE OF THE ASHES OF THE RED HEIFER

We have a picture of the Lord’s vicarious death for our sins in the type of the ashes of the red heifer.

Numbers 19 is a very special chapter in the Old Testament. A heifer was used, which speaks of something special. This heifer was used not to meet a need at that moment but to meet a need in the future. This, too, is very significant.

In verse 2 God told Moses and Aaron, ” Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke:” A heifer, not a bull, was offered here. In the Bible gender is very meaningful. Male signifies everything related to the testimony of the truth, while female signifies everything related to the experience of life. This is a principle we should be familiar with in reading our Bible. Abraham speaks of justification by faith, while Sarah speaks of obedience. Justification by faith is objective; it has to do with truth and testimony. Obedience is subjective; it has to do with life and experience. Throughout the Bible the church is symbolized by females, because the church is subjective, being related to the Lord’s work in man. A heifer is used here instead of a bull because it represents another aspect of the Lord’s work—His work toward man. The red heifer signifies a work that is subjective rather than objective.

What happened to the heifer? It was slaughtered, and its blood was taken and sprinkled seven times directly in front of the tent of meeting. In other words, the blood was offered to God because the work of the blood is always for God. The heifer’s blood was sprinkled seven times in front of the tent of meeting, signifying that it was for God and for the redemption of sin.

After the red heifer was killed, it was burned. The skin, the flesh, the blood, and the dung were all burned. The whole red heifer was burned. As it was being burned, the priest cast cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet into the midst of the fire. What do cedar wood and hyssop signify? First Kings 4:33 said that Solomon discoursed about trees, from the cedar to the hyssop. Cedar wood and hyssop therefore signify all the trees. In other words, they signify the whole world. What does scarlet signify? This word is also translated scarlet in Isaiah 1:18, which says, “… though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;” Scarlet, therefore, signifies our sins. For the cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet to be burned together means that the sins of the whole world were gathered together with the red heifer when it was offered up to God; they were all burned together. Here, we see a picture of the cross. The Lord Jesus offered Himself up to God. He embraced all our sins. The gross sins were there as well as the lesser sins. The sins of the past, the present, and the future were also there. The sins for which man feels the need of forgiveness, as well as the sins for which man does not feel the need of forgiveness, were there. All sins were upon the heifer, and they were all burned with it.

After they were burned, what was done next? Numbers 19:9 says, ” And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for sin.” What does this mean? This is what makes the red heifer so distinct. After the cedar wood, the hyssop, and the scarlet were burned with the heifer, the ashes were gathered up and kept in a clean place. Thereafter, if any of the Israelites touched something unclean and became unclean before God, another clean person could mix the water for impurity with the ashes and sprinkle it on the unclean person. This would remove the person’s uncleanness. In other words, the ashes were used to remove uncleanness. They were prepared for the future. They would be used when uncleanness was detected at a later time.

In the Old Testament, sinners needed to offer up sacrifices to the Lord. If a person had offered up a sacrifice and then touched something unclean, he would become unclean again before God and could no longer fellowship with Him. What did he have to do? Another person would take some ashes of the red heifer on this person’s behalf, put them in a vessel, pour in living water, mix it into the water for impurity, and sprinkle it on his body. The man’s uncleanness would then be removed and his sin forgiven. When an Israelite brought a bull or a lamb to the Lord and offered it up as a sin offering, he did it because of some known sin. But the red heifer was related to another matter. The burning of the red heifer was not for known sins which had been committed in the past, but for future uncleanness. The burning of the red heifer was not for past sins but for future transgressions.

This shows us another aspect of the Lord Jesus’ work. One aspect of the Lord’s work is like that of the ashes of the red heifer. The efficacy of redemption is signified by the ashes. The sins of the whole world are in it, and the blood is also in it. Whenever a man becomes unclean or has touched some unclean things, he does not need to kill another red heifer and offer it to God. He only needs to take the ashes of the red heifer that was offered once and mix them with water and sprinkle them on the body. In other words, there is no need for the Lord to do anything a second time. His redemption accomplished everything. He made provision for all of our future uncleanness and future sins. Everything has been fully accomplished by His redemption.

What do the ashes signify? In the Bible, ashes signify something in its final form. Whether a bull or a lamb, its final form after being burned is ashes. Ashes are very stable; they do not corrupt into something else. We cannot corrupt or destroy ashes. Ashes signify something in its final form.

The ashes of the red heifer signify the eternal and unchanging efficacy of the Lord’s redemption. The redemption which our Lord accomplished for us is most stable. Do not think that rocks on mountains are stable. Even rocks can be burned into ashes. Ashes are more stable than rocks. The ashes of the red heifer signify the Lord’s redemption which He has prepared for us. It is forever unchanging and incorruptible. We may apply it any time. If a Christian touches something unclean by accident and there is uncleanness in him, he does not have to ask the Lord to die for him again. He only needs to trust in the eternal and incorruptible efficacy of the ashes and to sprinkle his body with the water of life, and he will be clean. In other words, the ashes of the red heifer tell us that the past work of the cross is applicable for our use today. We also can say that the effectiveness of the cross covers all the needs we will ever have in the future. These ashes are specifically for the future. Only one red heifer needs to be burned, and it only needs to be burned once. Its ashes are enough to cover one’s whole life. Thank the Lord that His redemption is sufficient for our whole life. His death has taken away all our sins.

IV. THE NEED FOR CONFESSION

We have covered the side of the Lord’s work, which is redemption and the removal of our sins. What should we do on our side?

First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” In this verse the word we refers to believers, not to sinners. When a believer sins, he must confess his sins. Only after he has confessed his sins will he be forgiven. When a believer sins, he should not ignore it or cover it up. Proverbs 28:13 says, ” He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” When a believer sins, he must confess his sin. Do not give sin a nice name. Do not excuse yourself. Lying is a sin. When you lie, you should confess that you have sinned. You should not say, “I have said a little more (or less) than I should have.” You should say, “I have sinned.” You should not explain it away or cover it up. You should confess that you have committed the sin of lying. You must condemn lying as sin.

 

Confession means to stand on God’s side and judge sin as sin. There are three things here: God, ourselves, and sins. God and sins are at the two ends, and we are in the middle. What does it mean to commit a sin? It means that we stand on the side of sin and that we are away from God. Once we sin, we are away from God. Once we join ourselves to sins, we cannot be together with God. As soon as Adam sinned, he hid from God and dared not meet Him (Gen. 3:8, “And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.”). Colossians 1:21 says, ” And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled.” Sin alienates us from God. What does it mean to confess our sins? It means to come back to God’s side and to acknowledge that what we have done is sin. We have come back to God. We are no longer with sin. We are standing opposite of sin and calling sin a sin. This is confession. Only those who walk in the light and who have deep feelings and a repulsion for sin can have genuine confession. Those who are callous to sin, who consider it natural to sin, are not making any confession when they merely acknowledge something with their lips in a heartless way.

Believers are the children of light (Eph. 5:8, “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:”) and the children of God (1 John 3:1, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God:”). They are no longer outsiders but members of God’s family. In a family one should behave in a way that is worthy of the family. You are a child of God, and you should know about sin. You should have the same attitude towards sin as your Father. The way the Father considers sin should be the way you consider sin. Confession in God’s house comes when His children take the same attitude as their Father towards sin. They condemn sin in the same way that their Father condemns sin. They take the same attitude as their Father with regard to sin. When a child of God sins, he should condemn sin as sin just as the Father does.

If we confess our sins this way, God ” ….. he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1:9)  When we sin and when we know our sin and acknowledge it as sin, God will forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God is “faithful,” which means that He must honor and fulfill His own words and promises. He is also “righteous,” which means He must be satisfied with His Son’s redemptive work on the cross and must recognize it. Based on His promise and based on His redemption, He has to forgive us. He is faithful, and He is righteous. He must forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

We have to pay attention to the words “every” and “all” in 1 John 1:7 and 9. “Every sin” and “all unrighteousness” are fully forgiven and cleansed. The Lord has done this. When the Lord says “all,” He means all. We should never change it to something else. When He says every sin, He means every sin, not just every sin committed before we believed or every sin committed in the past. He has forgiven us of all sins.  In order to help you confess sins, please click on this link to download the list I have used for 30 years:

Repentance Confession List

V. AN ADVOCATE WITH THE FATHER

First John 2:1 says, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.” These things refer to the forgiveness and cleansing from our sins through God’s promise and work. John wrote these things to us so that we may not sin. It shows us that the Lord has forgiven our many sins and that, as a result, we do not sin. When we find out that we are forgiven, we do not become free to sin; rather, we will not sin.

Following this it says, “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: ” “With the Father”—this is a family affair; it is something that happens after we are saved. We have already believed and have become one of God’s many children. Now we have an Advocate with the Father, who is Jesus Christ the Righteous; “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins.” Through the Lord Jesus’ death and by His becoming the propitiation for our sins, He has become our Advocate with the Father. These words are spoken to Christians.

The propitiation spoken of here is the reality of the type of the ashes of the red heifer in Numbers 19. It speaks of God’s forgiveness of our future sins according to the accomplished work of the cross. There is no need to have a new cross. We only need the work of the cross once and it is sufficient. With the eternal redemption of the cross, our sins are forgiven. That sacrifice was not an ordinary sacrifice. It was a sacrifice whose efficacy could be applied at all times. It was ashes; therefore, it was applicable all the time. Based on His blood, the Lord Jesus Christ has become our Advocate. He has accomplished redemption on the cross. Based on His accomplished work, we can be cleansed. If we sin by accident, we should not be disheartened by our sin; we should not wallow in it or remain in it. When we sin, the first thing we should do is confess our sin to the Lord. God says that it is a sin, and we should acknowledge it as a sin. God says that this is wrong, and we also should say that it is wrong. When we ask God to forgive our sin, He forgives our sin, and our fellowship with Him is restored immediately.

In the eyes of God, no brother or sister should sin. However, if anyone sins by accident, the first thing to do is deal with it immediately before God. He or she should take care of the problem of sin immediately. Never delay. Deal with it as soon as possible. You must confess immediately. Tell God, “I have sinned!” Our confession is our judgment of ourselves. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

When a child of God sins and does not confess his sin but instead remains in his sin, he loses his fellowship with God. There will be no further fellowship between him and God. There is a leak in his conscience, and he will not be able to stand up before God. He may still have a little fellowship with God, but that fellowship will not be pleasant. Indeed, he will suffer. When a child who has done something wrong comes home, he will feel that something is not right because his father will not speak to him. He cannot have an intimate fellowship with his father. He knows that there is a barrier between him and his father. This is the pain that results from a loss of fellowship.

There is only one way to recovery—it is to go to God and confess our sins. We have to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has become our Advocate and has borne all our sins. We have to confess our failures and shortcomings before God in a humble way. We have to look to Him so that we will no longer be proud or loose when we set out on our journey again. We have to realize that we are no better than anyone else, and that it is possible for us to fall at any time. We have to ask God for mercy and strength to go on step by step. Once we confess this way, we will immediately recover our fellowship with God, and the joy and peace that were lost will come back.

Finally, we should point out once more that Christians should not sin. Sin results in suffering and loss. May God have mercy upon us, keep us, preserve us, and lead us on in the way of unceasing fellowship with Him!

WANT TO KNOW JESUS PERSONALLY?  CLICK HERE

Written originally by Watchman Nee in China during the Chinese revolution and died in a prison camp but these lessons have been the foundation of my life for 38 years.  The illustration in the first lesson was created by me after a study of the Greek word “eis” which means “into.”  David Williams – site Admin.

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