“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”
~1 John 1:8-10 (NIV).
Our faith is resplendently replete with paradox upon irony on top of enigma—God making fools of the proud ‘religious’ know-it-all whilst legging-up the lowly.
This above passage from 1 John is an amazingly simple, and yet also powerful, argument, convincing all would-be self-pious people to reconsider their default, fall-back position—converting it to, we are not right; only God is; the only way to a full and meaningful relationship with God is via our admission of the problem we have (presently and always) with sin.
Only through this unconditional admission can we claim any of God’s power over that sin; it’s our only chance to live the life we were destined from the beginning to live.
If We Claim To Be Without Sin...
Many Christians will read this and say, “Well, of course I know I’m a sinner,” and still they’ll live life not understanding God’s intent through John.
John intends this statement to be lived actively. This means that any time pride rears its ugly head—in that very moment—we’re claiming to be without sin. We’re deceiving ourselves and the truth is not, for that moment, in us.
And this is how the enemy often deludes and traps us; via our pride.
We have a conditional righteousness afforded us via the blood and broken body of Jesus; it’s conditional to our obedience. Ultimately (i.e. in heaven) we’re made completely righteous—but we’re still to live out this life in righteousness, and this cannot come without obedience.
If We Confess Our Sins...
John is remarkably reassuring in his opening to chapter 2 of this letter. ‘We will sin,’ is basically what he’s saying. And this is good, if we confess it in our honesty.
As we confess our sins before God, we trust God; we trust that God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins... which now highlights another problem... when we seek God’s forgiveness and then don’t receive it in our person. In other words, whilst we’re forgiven we don’t personally come to accept this forgiveness, for something (possibly our lack of trust in God) has blocked it.
We must know in logical and biblical reality, however, that it is done; that God does not go back on the Word.
Confession of our sin would almost have to be the most fundamental aspect of our Christian calling—indeed, we did not truly enter the kingdom of God without confessing our need of God via our inherent sinfulness and abject need of a Saviour.
If We Claim We Have Not Sinned...
This is what makes the difference between the genuine believer and everyone else, including the many millions who might have some tacit allegiance with Christianity—including the ‘Sunday’ Christian.
If the issue of our sinfulness doesn’t bother us one iota it’s as good as claiming we’ve never sinned. There are people all over the world who sin gleefully all the time; their hearts are darkened to God, and they’re just as happy as pigs in muck... they’re taking all they can from this life, thank you very much!
There’s not a lot, really, separating this person profiled above and the ‘Sunday’ Christian. Both do not bear continual witness to their sinfulness and, therefore, both do not really need a Saviour. They don’t need confession... well, they do, but they don’t acknowledge it; the truth is not in them.
God’s Word, therefore, has no place in their lives. If they were honest they’d readily admit it.
The Good News
We know the Good News... we do not have to be perfect; indeed, God accepts us as sinners needing Jesus and grace to get us over the line, both now and eternally. The paradox of them all is God won’t accept us into heaven until we accept the fact that God accepts our sinfulness and has forgiven same.
When we know this and truly convert it mindfully, only then does the Spirit’s power come flourishing into our lives.
And this is the key difference—Christians live powerful lives because they’re no longer hemmed in by their fear of their sinfulness. They’re honest with, and trust, God. And God throws open the heavens in power over them!
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.