Question: Pastor Smith made a statement that “God only forgives the sins that we confess.” My question is in regard to the inference that the sins we do not confess are unforgiven. The problem I see is that we are all in trouble because no one can remember all of their sins to confess.
Answer: This really is a good question! And the original quote is from Dr. Alan Redpath: “God has not promised to forgive one sin that you are not willing to forsake.” And you’re absolutely correct: If we had to confess every single sin in order to be forgiven, that would be an unbearable burden!
The key words in the Redpath quote are “not willing.” The question is not, “Have you really confessed all your sins?” The question is, “Are you holding onto a sin, and refusing to turn from it?” These are two very different things.
The first is an issue of remembering all your sins; the second is the issue of a willful refusal to turn from sin. Pastor Colin (and Redpath) was, in fact, saying that God has not promised to forgive our willful refusal to turn from sin.
This is an important distinction because our forgiveness does not depend in any way on our performance in the Christian life. Our forgiveness depends entirely on the finished work of Christ in his perfect life and atoning death on the cross. The question that is being raised here with the Redpath quote is, “Do you have an authentic Christian life? Is the Spirit of God at work in your life?” The authentic Christian willingly turns from sin.
I pray that this explanation would be clarifying and helpful, leading you to find rest in the finished work of Christ.