Is there danger in unconfessed sin?

The Bible tells us that we all sin and deserve death because of it (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Sin is defined biblically as missing the mark that God has set for us. None of us can perfectly meet His intentions and desires because sin gets in the way. When we believe in Jesus, all our sin is atoned for, and God now views us as righteous through Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21). Instead of seeing our sin, God sees us by way of Jesus' perfect life and sacrifice (Titus 3:5). Those who refuse to turn to Jesus receive eternal punishment (2 Thessalonians 1:8–9, John 3:15–18).

Even though Jesus has atoned for all of a Christian's sin and set him free from being a slave to sin (Romans 6:5–11, 17–18; Galatians 5:1), we know that Christians do still sin. What are we supposed to do when we sin? If we don't confess, is the sin not forgiven? If all of our sins are already forgiven, what is the point of confession? Is it dangerous to have unconfessed sin?

John gives some helpful instruction here. In writing to believers, John said, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). It is important to remember that our eternal salvation is intact. John 10:28–29; Ephesians 1:14, 4:30; 2 Corinthians 1:22; and Romans 8 are among the passages affirming that when we come to Christ, our salvation is secure. But when we sin and avoid going to God in confession and repentance, we begin to build a barrier to our fellowship with Him. Though sin does not result in eternal death for believers in Jesus, it does result in some sense of separation from God. Much like a human parent and a disobedient child experience strain in their relationship (without loss of the parent-child relationship nor of the love of the parent toward the child), so our sin results in strain in our relationship with God. God wants fellowship with His people to be restored (Isaiah 65:2 and 66:13, Matthew 23:37, Joel 2:12–13). God convicts us of sin and leads us to confession so that He may cleanse us and restore us to deeper fellowship with Him.

When Christians refuse to seek God in confession and repentance, they may experience a broken fellowship with God, disrupted fellowship with other Christians, and a lack of spiritual growth. John explains it like this: "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says 'I know him' but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked" (1 John 2:1–6).

Christians desire holiness and therefore seek to live pleasing to God (Matthew 22:37–38, John 14:15). Unconfessed sin is a barrier to pleasing God.

God desires to delight in us (Psalm 37:23, Romans 8:38–39) and to fellowship with us (Psalm 84:11, Psalm 115:13, 1 Samuel 2:30). When Christians fail to repent, God will lovingly discipline us (Hebrews 12:7–11). If we find ourselves sinning without conviction or without a desire to repent, we may need to take a closer look at our relationship with God and see if we are really in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

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