If we say we have fellowship but walk in darkness (i.e., sin) we're lying, but if we walk in the light, we have fellowship and cleansing from sin. (I John 1:6-7)
If we say we don't sin, we're deceiving ourselves and we don't have the truth in us, but if we confess our sins, we will receive forgiveness and cleansing from sin. (I John 1:8-9)
If we say we have not sinned, we are making God a liar. (I John 1:10)
Dealing with sin is one of the themes of I John. Throughout the letter, there is an understanding that a changed spiritual condition results in a changed life. That means forsaking sin. As John points out in v. 8-9, we will sin, but we have forgiveness. Later, in chapter 2, he will talk about our "advocate," and introduces the principle of "propitiation." No, there is no expectation that we will be sin-free.
Would we dare to say "I have no sin?" When we sit in church regularly, and read the Bible for ourselves, could we actually think we have no sin? We may automatically deny such a thought, but let's think about this for a minute.
- Are we unwilling to be told that we're wrong?
- Do we resist being corrected?
- Do we always make excuses for our conduct?
- Do we seldom ask forgiveness from others?
- When do we apologize to someone, do we open with "I'm sorry, BUT...." which is no apology at all?
- Do the people we wrong end up apologizing to us simply to bring the conflict to an end?
The first step to conquering my sin is to squash my pride. My pride says, "You're not really sinning." When I refuse to admit that I have been arrogant or obnoxious, my pride is telling me, "It's just your personality." When I am reluctant to admit that I am at fault, it is my pride that is telling me that I have a "right."
John mentions cleansing in this passage, cleansing which is through Christ's blood. His sacrifice cleansed me from the sin which separated me from God before I knew Him. Now, it cleanses me from the day to day sin which interrupts my fellowship with Him. There is a reason why when Jesus taught his disciples to pray he included a petition for forgiveness. We need it daily. Do we want our fellowship with God broken?
As a creation of God, one who bears His image, the condition of my heart is of great importance. The consequence for not dealing with sin is serious. I like what John Owen said:
“Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.”Every relationship, every circumstance, every goal in my life will be affected by sin in my heart. But I cannot have forgiveness without first acknowledging that I sin. When I fail to do that, I "deceive" myself (I John 1:8).
And yet, all is not lost. Praise God, there is cleansing from sin! Praise God that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins!