“Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.”
The Christian life is lived in a constant tension. We are both made righteous through faith by God in Jesus Christ, anointed with the Spirit of God for sanctification, and yet we continue to sin. Although we have been regenerated (born again) by the Holy Spirit, the old man of flesh, still beckons us back to the life we once lived in blindness to the great mercies of the Lord.
Ecclesiastes 7:20 is highly realistic, and also obvious. We can never be perfect in this life. Although we are called by God to put off the old man and to count ourselves as dead to sin and alive to Christ and to cleanse out the leaven in us, we often fail and are torn and sad about the sin we continue to commit. We long for the day when we will be perfected and glorified. Even the Spirit of God in us is groaning for the renewal of our bodies! We see evidence of the great grace of God, but we also see our old man.
What are we to do with the sin we still commit? The Bible tells us to confess our sins to God. In Psalm 32:5, King David writes, “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgression to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” In verse two of the same Psalm, David writes: “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”
David is not saying that God will “count no iniquity” towards us if we have no deceit in the sense of being perfect (i.e. if we are not liars or thieves or adulterers). He is saying, rather, that the blessed man is one who is not deceitful to himself or to God about the sin that continues to manifest itself in our lives. David fully exposes himself before a loving king, understanding the vileness and stupidity of the sin he still commits. He understands that God sees all things (that he is omnipresent). David understands that to not confess his sin to God would be deceitful indeed, for in reality, not confessing our sin is the same as saying to God that we no longer commit sin, that there is no longer a problem.
The gospel of Jesus Christ frees us from unrealistic views of ourselves. Instead of trying our best to look perfect before the eyes of our neighbors and friends and family, we are free to look at ourselves in the most realistic way: As saints who still sin. God knew we would struggle! If he knew this and still loved us by sending his Son, then we no longer have to put on a show for others to protect our sorry dignities. The gospel frees us to lay everything bare before God. Christ is our new and only true dignity! And we must confess our sins: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
God’s righteous judgment on the world would be terrible for us without a relief from God’s holy anger. Without the terrible cost that Jesus paid as he drank the dregs of God’s wrath for us on the cross, all would be lost. No man can stand before God and live. If God would count iniquities, who could stand before him? In verse 7 of Psalm 32, David writes, “You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.” Indeed, Christ is the sinner’s hiding place! Because of his steadfast love for you, you no longer have to hide from God as Adam did in the garden. You can come into the Holy of Holies, to God’s throne, boldly and humbly, and confess that you are a saint who continues to sin, in constant need of God’s refreshing grace. Confess your sins to God today, and be glad in the Lord that you can be counted righteous (while even yet a sinner) because of Christ. Be glad that God justifies the wicked. Be glad that he will cast your sins as far as the East is from the West. Relish in the fact that if your heart condemns you, God is greater than your heart and knows all things! Treasure this God, who says that if you do sin, you have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous!