I had a great visit with a good friend recently and in the course of the conversation he asked me an interesting question. He asked, “When you pray, do you ask forgiveness for your sins?” My answer? “Very rarely.”
You see, I understand that my sins are already forgiven in Christ. He washed me clean at the cross and forgave me fully. Of course, like anyone else, I forget that. Sometimes I come into the special presence of the Lord in prayer and I get a sense of the futility of much of the busy-ness of my life. In those times I might ask forgiveness and then, as I remember, I may say, “Of course I know that you have already forgiven me.”
More likely, as I pray, I will confess my sins. Now, I make a distinction between confessing and asking forgiveness. If confessing means that I agree with the Lord that my actions are sinful (hurtful to me and/or to others) then stopping in His presence often reminds me that He is right and I am wrong. I confess or agree with Him that my actions were hurtful and wrong. That is a help to me, a reminder that I no longer have to live by the leading of my flesh and am free to not sin.
Sin still hurts us, even when it is forgiven. There are consequences our loving Lord would have us avoid. I agree that His way is the best way for my life. If I am using “church” vocabulary, I could say that I confess my sin and turn again to Him. But nothing of that has to do with my salvation or His forgiveness.