By faith alone our sins are forgiven. Well, that certainly sounds like something you'd hear in church. But what the heck does it mean?
A long time ago, sacrifices of animals were used to atone for sins. The need for animal sacrifices ended when Jesus died for our sins. He became the sacrificial lamb for eternity. We no longer had to find and slaughter a spotless animal or do good works when seeking God's forgiveness.
Anyone who believes that Jesus died for our sins can be forgiven. Anyone - Jew or Gentile, liar or murderer, rich or poor. We are all sinners and Jesus created a way for each of us to easily reach out for forgiveness.
But is it really that easy? Do we just have to believe in Jesus to be forgiven? Is it really "by faith alone"? Well... not exactly.
Three Steps To Redemption
As a kid, I took "by faith alone" quite literally. I thought it meant that any time I sinned, *poof!* it was magically and immediately forgiven and forgotten. No need to confess my errors. God knew what I'd done and instantly forgave me.
I had a friend in college who would routinely knowingly sin. He would lie, cheat and steal without blinking an eye. When confronted with his behavior, he shrugged and nonchalantly explained that he was a Christian and so all he had to do was confess his sins and all would be forgiven.
We were both wrong.
The first step to redemption is believing that Jesus died to save us. But there are two more really important steps that are often just implied (no wonder some people get confused by the phrase "by faith alone").
We need to consciously confess our sins to God. It's not always easy to admit when we do something wrong, but it's an important part of the redemption process. Confessing our mistakes - and acknowledging that they truly are wrong - helps us to really understand the difference between right and wrong.
The naïve child in me didn't feel the sting of reproach when I sinned because I never had to think about what I'd don't wrong. Once I started confessing my sins, they became more real to me.
After confessing that we erred, God is looking for us to be sorry for committing the sin. He wants us to say "I'm sorry and I won't do it again."
That's where my friend fell short. He knew he sinned. He knew he had to confess. He might have even felt a bit sorry for the sin, but not enough to do all he could to prevent committing the same sin again.
So, for true redemption of our sins, we need to take those two extra but oh-so-important steps - confession and repentance.
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