This ultimate guide will give you an understanding of your righteousness in Christ in a way that will allow you to live a life of freedom from sin, guilt, shame, and condemnation as a believer.
In this post, I go step by step into Scripture to show you the truth about what the Bible actually says (and doesn’t say) about questions like:
- What is the difference between Spirit, Soul, and body? (you need to know this)
- How does God see you when you sin? (seeing yourself as God sees you)
- What does it really mean to repent? (repentance)
- Who did Jesus really forgive? (forgiveness of sins)
- Do you have to confess your sins as a Christian in order to be forgiven? (confession)
Let’s dive right in.
One Thing You Need to Understand to Know Your Righteousness
In order to understand your righteousness in Christ, you must first understand how you were created.
So this first section is going to focus on your spirit, soul, and body.
Without a basic understanding of the spirit, soul, and body a lot of the verses in the Bible won’t make any sense and will even sound contradictory.
Understanding Spirit, Soul, & Body
In Genesis 1:26, God says “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”
Just as God is three parts, He created us in his image by making us a three-part being:
Spirit, soul, and body. (1 Thessalonians 5:23) (Hebrews 4:12)
The problem is that most believers confuse soul & spirit by mingling the 2 together as one (the inner man).
However, When you look in the scriptures, the Bible makes a clear distinction.
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
It is this confusion between the soul and spirit that keeps many believers stuck in a lifestyle of sin instead of living in the freedom that Christ has paid for on the cross.
The Difference between Spirit, Soul, And Body:
In essence, We are an eternal spirit, with a soul, that lives in a body.
What is the spirit of man?
Your spirit is the life-giving part of you and the very core of who you are. It is also the part of you that has fellowship and communication with God (John 4:24).
However, there’s a transformation that needs to happen in every man’s spirit first.
In the beginning, when God created man, He said to Adam:
“but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17)
This is exactly what happened when Adam and Eve sinned.
Even though their physical death in the body was progressive, their spirit died from the moment they sinned and has spread to all people. (Romans 5:12-15)
The same applies to you and me:
When we first chose sin & unbelief, our spirit became dead.
That’s why Jesus said:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)
Jesus came to give you a new Spirit and a new life. (John 10:10)
When you are born again, your spirit is transformed (2 Corinthians 5:17) and you become one with God’s Spirit (AKA The Holy Spirit). (1 Corinthians 6:17)
Your new born again spirit can never again be tainted by sin. It stays perfect because the Spirit of Jesus is always perfect.
It’s like this:
What is the soul of man?
Your soul is made up of your natural mind, will, and emotions.
Think of the soul as your mind, since it is your thinking in the mind that drives your will and emotions.
Your mind is like the door to your spirit:
It must be changed for everything in your spirit to flow out.
As you are changed in your mind (Romans 12:2), God’s nature, ability, and power flow out from your born again Spirit to your mind (or soul) and through your body which influences the world around you.
I’ll share more on this later…
The body of man
Your body is the part you see in the mirror and it’s what relates to the world around you. It can be defined simply by your taste, touch, sight, smell, and hearing.
Romans 12:1 tells us to offer our body as a living sacrifice to God or to surrender it to God. As you surrender your body to the Lord, He is able to use you to affect the world around you.
Everything flows out of your Spirit, through your mind, through your body, and into the world.
Seeing yourself as God sees you (Your Righteousness in Christ)
Have you ever had a time when you thought to yourself:
“Man, I just failed and fell into sin. I should probably wait a couple of days before I come to the Lord and allow everything to cool down. I’ll pray early in the morning and maybe do a fast so I can feel a little bit better.”
Then, once you feel the presence of God, you’re like: “okay, I forgive myself and everything is good.”
I’m sure you’ve been there.
The truth is you shouldn’t have felt guilt, shame, or condemnation to start with because your righteousness in Christ has nothing to do with the way you feel.
Your righteousness is based on the righteousness of Jesus who lives in you (Colossians 1:27).
The good news of the Gospel is that God is not dealing with you based on your sin and failure in the body or soul, but through your spirit which is a new creation and was made perfect when you were born again (Ephesians 4:24).
Since God sees you through the eyes of his perfect son Jesus in your spirit, you’re able to come to God at any time without having to feel guilt, shame, or condemnation. (Hebrews 4:16).
Remember Romans 12:2?
It says: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
As a believer, God has made you perfect in your Spirit, but your mindset and understanding are still in the process of being changed through the renewal of your mind.
You might be wondering, what does this process look like practically?
Simply put, God renews your mind through the process of repentance.
Which brings us to our next topic:
The True Meaning of Repentance
In essence, the word repent comes from the Greek word metanoéō which means to change your mind, thoughts, attitude or behavior.
Repentance renews your mind because it changes your thinking about a certain situation to be more like Christ’s. This is why every believer is called to live in a constant state of repentance.
Acts 26:20 (NIV) says: “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.”
As the Holy Spirit convicts us and brings us to repentance (changes our thinking), the result is a renewed mind and a change in our lifestyle.
Now, it’s important to know that repentance does not mean beating yourself up for a week until you “feel like you’re forgiven”.
Repentance is simply turning away from sin and acknowledging the truth of who Christ has made you to be.
This can happen in one moment without any condemnation, guilt, or shame.
Let say you rebuke your friend in a very harsh way and the Holy Spirit convicts you about it.
When He convicts you, he reveals the truth of who you really are.
God wants you to repent and align yourself with the truth.
It’s as simple as saying:
“You’re right Lord, I do need to be more gentle. Thank you Lord that you have given me a spirit of gentleness. I’ll be more gentle next time.”
What about your forgiveness?
Forgiveness of All Sins: Past, Present, and Future
We know that as Christians we are called to live in constant repentance, but what about our forgiveness and confession? How does God deal with our sins?
In this section, we’re going to dig deep into the Bible to answer questions like:
- Who is forgiven of sins and reconciled to God?
- Do you need to first ask for forgiveness to be forgiven as a Christian?
- Do you need to first confess your sins to be forgiven?
- The difference between repentance & confession
- And more…
Here’s what you need to know:
Who is forgiven of their sins and reconciled to God?
Right now we’re going to look at some scripture of what the Bible says about forgiveness and who God has forgiven. Then, We’re simply going to answer some questions based on what the verses say.
Let’s start with 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (CSB), which says:
“Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us.
Who has been reconciled?
Is God counting the trespasses against the people of the world?
Let’s look at another verse:
1 John 2:2 – He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
And one more…
John 1:29 – The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
Whose sins did Jesus take away on the cross?
The sins of the whole world.
Based on these 3 verses, It looks like the Bible is telling us that God has already reconciled the world, paid for their sins, and no longer counts their sins against them.
Does that mean everyone is saved?
Everyone’s sin has already been forgiven and taken care of, however, not everyone has received that forgiveness and reconciliation.
Acts 26:18 says that forgiveness of sins is a gift that must be received.
New and eternal life (salvation) only comes when you believe and surrender your life to Jesus Christ as your Lord.
In John 6:29 (NLT) Jesus said: “This is the only work God wants from you: believe in the one he has sent.”
It’s kind of like this:
Picture someone calling you and telling you that they’ve just bought a brand new flat screen for you at Walmart. They’ve already bought it and paid for it, however, you still have to go pick it up.
Until you actually go to pick up or receive the gift that’s been purchased, you don’t have it.
Once you receive the forgiveness of Christ, all your sins are washed away for all time.
What about the forgiveness of your future sins?
Let’s look at Hebrews 10:9-12 (CSB):
“He then says, See, I have come to do your will. He takes away the first to establish the second. 10 By this will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time. 11 Every priest stands day after day ministering and offering the same sacrifices time after time, which can never take away sins. 12 But this man, after offering one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.”
Let’s break this down.
When Jesus came, He took away the first covenant (by fulfilling it) and established a new covenant through his offering.
Verse 10 says “By this will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time”
Jesus made a sacrifice that sanctified you once for all time, meaning that He forgave your sins in the past, present, and in the future (for all time).
But this isn’t the only verse in the Bible that tells us this, Check out some of these other verses:
God promised that He will never again remember your sins and your lawless acts (Hebrews 10:17).
This means that even after you’ve sinned as a born-again believer, you’re already forgiven before you do anything.
God still wants to change your thinking (repentance) so you can be transformed into the image of his Son, but your repentance doesn’t actually get your sins forgiven.
Hebrews 10:18 says “Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.”
Once you’ve received Christ, you have received the forgiveness that He paid for and there is no longer anything you can offer Him to take away your sins.
Do We Have to Confess Our Sins to Be Forgiven?
Most Christians believe that when you are born again, all of your sins from the past are completely forgiven and you are washed by the blood of Jesus. However, every sin after that is only forgiven after we confess and repent of those sins.
This all stems from one of the most misunderstood & misused verses in the Bible:
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) NASB
Let’s look at this in context. Who is John addressing in this chapter?
If you dig deeper, you’ll find that 1 John 1 is actually addressing a heresy in the church called Gnosticism.
The Gnostics claimed that they never sinned and that there was no harm in indulging in fleshly desire.
In other words:
They were those in the church who claimed to have fellowship with Christ, but were never truly born again believers.
How can we know that?
John tells them to confess their sins so that they can be cleansed from all unrighteousness.
The moment someone receives Christ, they are cleansed from all unrighteousness and become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
So in reality, John is telling a group of non-believers to first acknowledge that they are living and sin and then receive Christ to be saved.
He then goes on to address the actual believers of the church in the very next chapter:
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)
I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. (1 John 2:12)
Isn’t it amazing to know that you don’t have to continue repenting and confessing your sins in order to be forgiven by God over and over?
Your sins have been forgiven and washed away by the precious blood of Jesus Christ once for all time.
Controversial Verse #2
At this point, some of you might be thinking:
What about James 5:15-16?
“And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
Doesn’t this verse tell us that we need to confess to be forgiven?
Again, Let’s look at the context.
Verse 14 says “Is anyone among you sick?”
And verse 15: “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.
James is addressing the people in the church who are sick and in need of prayer for healing.
But as we all know, going to church doesn’t actually mean you’re a believer.
That’s where this next verse comes in:
“And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”
What does he mean by “If he has committed sins”?
I believe James is referring to someone in the church who is living a lifestyle of sin and has never been born again.
1 John 3:9 says “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
In other words:
The prayer of faith will heal the sick person, and if he has not been born again, He will receive the forgiveness of Christ.
Now that we have established the context, let’s read verse 16:
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
So why should we confess our sins?
“That you may be healed”
The benefits of confessing your sins
The truth is that even though we have been forgiven of our sins, there are still consequences to those sins (you rob a store and you will go to prison).
Some of those consequences is that sin can often lead to broken relationships and pain in our own personal lives as believers.
God wants you to confess the sins that are continuing to bring pain into your life to your brothers and sisters in Christ so that you can live in peace.
When you confess your sins to others, it brings healing and restoration into your life and relationships.
Now, Think about this for a moment:
If my forgiveness as a Christian depended on my confession of sin/request to forgive, I would have a very big problem.
If I committed a sin as a Christian right before I died (such as speeding on the freeway), I would not be able to enter into heaven since nothing unclean can enter (Revelation 21:27).
I would have no time to ask for forgiveness or confess, and my sin would need to be addressed in order for me to enter. (Good news, it has)
Do you see why that wouldn’t work?
The point is this:
Nowhere in the bible does it teach that confessing your sins is the way to get forgiven as a Christian.
In fact, out of all the 13 books of the Bible that Apostle Paul wrote, not one of them talks about confessing your sins to be forgiven as a Christian. (Romans 10:9-10 is for non-believers)
The enemy wants you to believe that you need to earn forgiveness through repentance, confession, and crying out to God.
If he can keep you focused on your sin, he can keep you stuck in it and bring condemnation into your mind.
Doesn’t this give Christians the right to live in sin and get away with it?
Since I’ve been forgiven of my sins for all time, doesn’t this give me an excuse to live in sin and get away with it?
The answer is:
In fact, this type of thinking exposes those who are really Christian from the fakes.
Only those who have never truly been born again love the sin that they live in and want to continue in it.
This is what 1 John 3:9 is talking about:
“No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him…”
When you receive Christ, you become a new creation and it is impossible for you to continue enjoying your sin.
Even when you fall into it, you hate your sin and can’t stand what you did. If there’s a desire to repent and stop living in sin, that’s a strong indicator that you have truly received salvation.
For those who are thinking that they now have a free pass to live in sin, I would say that you need to give your life to the Lord and repent.
To summarize this all:
God created us in his image and made us into 3 part beings:
Spirit, soul, and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
When we first sinned, our spirit became dead in sin and our relationship with God was broken. (Romans 5:12-15)
Jesus came to give us a new life and a new Spirit. When He died on the cross, He paid for the sins of the world and reconciled the world to himself. (2 Corinthians 5:16-19)
However, in order to be saved, we must receive his forgiveness and be born again. (Acts 26:18)
When we are born again, The Holy Spirit becomes one with our spirit and we become righteous before God because He deals with us through our new spirit.
Once we receive forgiveness, we never have to ask for it again because the blood of Jesus covers our sins in the past, present, and future.
Instead, God is calling us to live a life of constant repentance (change of thinking) to renew our minds and be transformed into the image of Christ.