“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” ~ 1 John 1:9-10
Explanation of the Text: How beautiful it is the acts God has put into place for the building up of his people! Often difficult because of our pride, the nature of confession, repentance and forgiveness instills into us Christlike character and restores us to a right relationship with God. We often fail to recognize the significance of the words John writes here because our focus is so much on God’s forgiveness with little regard for our need for confession.
The word confessions conveys a rich meaning to the life of a believer. It requires that one agrees with the Holy Spirit about sin and says the same thing about sin as God. It then becomes a full recognition of what the sin in a person’s life is and how God looks at that sin. It is a time of genuine acknowledgment of the sin in one’s life, and mourning over it with a deep sense of regard for its seriousness.
Upon this confession, God forgives and cleanses sinners from their unrighteousness. In their unfaithfulness, men turn from God, but upon their turning back, God remains faithful to them. There can be no greater comfort in our lives than the knowledge that we can attain forgiveness for all that is wrong in us. Praise God for His grace in our lives in this regard! What is so spectacular about the forgiveness and cleansing is that these acts are in absolute harmony with his purposes. He works in the lives of individuals in order that both his faithfulness and righteousness might be displayed through his acts of forgiveness and cleansing (1).
God’s act of forgiveness is quite unique and special in that it is both comprehensive and eternal (cf. John 5:24). The forgiveness that comes from God surpasses the threshold of time, extending into our continual existence with Christ. That means it will never be brought back to bear again, used as an accusation against us. The slate has been wiped clean and the chains of sin have been broken freeing us to serve our Lord Jesus. Guy King rightly reminds us that the “range is as wide as the need; and so the whole expression and personality of the believer comes under the blessed process” (2). Once again it is a reminder of the comprehensiveness of God’s forgiveness, extending to all those areas in our lives in which we fail. This certainly is no excuse to continue in sin, instead it provides comfort and hope to us when we fail to meet God’s perfect standard.
Finally, John writes of those who claim to be without sin. In the past devotions, we have noted the different entrapments of sin. In verse 6 we saw the denial of sin in a person’s life. In verse 8 there was the deceitfulness which comes as a person deceives himself or others by rationalizing the sin or suggesting it does not exist at all. Now we see another characteristic and that is the defamation of God. From God’s word we learn that all have sinned (Romans 3:23). From the fall in Genesis 3, the seed of sinfulness has been set in each generation and thus there are none without sin. However, there are still many who claim to not have it within them. This creates a problem, because it means that either we are wrong or God has lied. We know that God does not lie, yet by continuing to claim to be without sin, one is saying He is a liar. This indicative of a life not lived by the Word because it represents a lack of trust and understanding in the character of God.
Examination & Application of the Text: Confession is the alternative to denying sin and is the character of a person who walks in the light. Thus, we are called to keep short accounts with God (and for that matter with His people). There will be times that we will walk in sin. We cannot rationalize it. We cannot minimize it. We cannot hide it. We must instead, confess it to God and turn it over to Him. We do this as an acknowledgment of what we have done and an acknowledgment of God’s faithfulness to forgive. While we personally can trust that He will cleanse us from the iniquity that is found in us, it also serves as a function to those around us. It glorifies God as they see a person willingly admit and turn from something that they have done. Furthermore, it is a refining process in the life of the believer because it forces the believer to genuinely examine those areas where they have done wrong. Instead of deceiving ourselves into thinking we have no sin, we must look at it as it is, and confess it to be the same as God would call it. In those moments we come to recognize just how horrendous sin is, and thus become more mindful of it. The call quite simply is an examination of one’s life and a confession of sin to God, seeking forgiveness and help to turn from it.
Questions to Consider: In the previous discussions, I have asked a variety of questions that build off of each other urging you to write those down and keep them with you. Review those questions briefly and think about your responses:
- Prayerfully and humbly examine your own life.
- What darkness dwells in you?
- What kinds of relationships do you have? Do you have one or two people in which you have a deeper relationship with, maintaining a level of encouragement and accountability? If you do not have anyone, pray that God would provide someone with which you can have a deeper relationship with.
- Are there specific areas of sin in your life in which you try to rationalize it away, or deceive yourself into thinking it is not that big of a deal?
Today, I ask that you consider the following:
- You should now have a list of some of the sins in your life after working through the past several devotions. Putting into action God’s Word, I urge you to spend time in prayer about those sins. Confess them to God. Cry with God about them. And seek after God through them.
- As you confess them, pray for God to use this as an opportunity to turn from the sin. Ask Him to continually reveal to you those areas and to be mindful of them in order that you may conquer them.
- Finally, this chapter has dealt much with fellowship. I urge you to share this list with an accountability partner. Have that partner pray with you about the sin and the desire to conquer it and then ask them to keep you accountable in it.
This time of confession should be a meaningful communion with God. Take this seriously and do not rush through it. Instead, spend time with God asking Him to instill into you a God-centered lens with which to look at your own life. And in it all, may you be encouraged to know that He is faithful to forgive and cleanse you from it. Praise God for His marvelous works in our lives in order to reveal Him.
(1) W.E. Vine, Epistles of John: Light, Love, Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), 16.
(2) (1) Guy King, The Fellowship (Marshall, Morgan, & Scott, 1954), 26