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 righteous to forgive us our sins and 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). Colossians 1:21 says, "And you, though once alienated and enemies in your mind because of your evil works." 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) and the children of God (1 John 3:1). 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 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 "is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 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.
(New Believers Series: If Anyone Sins #6, Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)