God’s forgiveness is a gift that we receive by faith. Just as we were saved by His grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9), His constant, day by day forgiveness also comes by grace through faith. We can’t earn it by works, nor do we deserve it; we receive it by faith. And the way we begin to have faith in Him is by coming to Him in prayer with a broken and humble heart—to confess our sins and repent. Then when God sees that we are genuine in our repentance, He will freely offer us His gift of forgiveness and cleansing.
But how do we begin to confess and to genuinely turn from our sins? How does this happen? Well, to begin with, God moves in us to change our heart. But then when you feel Him moving you, it is up to you to respond. You must trust Him, agree with Him about your sins, and repent. That is what confessing sin is—agreeing with God about the badness of my sin. It is agreeing with Him that I need to stop my sin and go His way. Therefore, in order to be forgiven and cleansed, I need to listen to God, trust him, and do what He says. And you can believe that He will always tell you to confess and repent. That is the key. As Ron Davis said in his book, A Forgiving God in an Unforgiving World, “When you live a life of free-flowing confession and repentance from your sins, God will faithfully, continually forgive you.”1 And then, along with His forgiveness, as 1 John 1:9 says, “…He will cleanse you from all unrighteousness.”
1 Ron Davis, A Forgiving God In An Unforgiving World (Harvest House Publisher: Eugene, Oregon, 1984), p. 39.