“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”
1 John 1:8-2:2
I have been working my way through the book of First John and owe a Part 2 to my previous Part 1 that I wrote a few days back. I also recently had a conversation with someone that centered around the thoughts these verses bring to mind. Much like what was said in Part 1, these verses present an important concept that believers must understand.
In Part 1 I wrote about acknowledging and confessing our sin. So often we fear the exposure of our sin, but it is only then that we can truly be cleansed from that sin. We must expose the darkness of sin to the Light of God and let Him cleanse us and work it out of us. What is the reality of confessed sin though? Once it is out in the open, then what do we do? Do we stand exposed as filthy sinners unable to be of use to a Holy God? The answer is absolutely NOT. Here are just a few of my thoughts on the subject.
To start, it is important to remember a few key things about God and the ways in which He works.
~ God chooses to work through people.
~ People are sinful.
~ God knows all things.
I could stop there, because that alone tells us that God knows we are sinful, yet still chooses to work through us. I still want to flesh it out for those like myself that need to have things solidified numerous times.
1) Being a Christian does not mean we are without sin, it just means that we acknowledge it. Often.
I can try with all of my might to not sin, but I will always fail. Mostly because there is nothing within my flesh that can resist sin. I can grow in how to walk more often in the Spirit than the flesh, but I will walk in my flesh as long as I live on this earth. The hope is that I will continually grow away from walking in my flesh, but it will forever stay with me. Therefore, I can not say that I have no sin. So we must acknowledge that sin, because it exists.
We must secondly acknowledge sin because then we will be cleansed of it. If I don’t confess my sin, I won’t be cleansed of it. I need to be cleansed of sin. What is so beautiful about God and the gospel is that “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Whatever my sin is, when I confess it, He is faithful to forgive it and cleanse me of it. I think it is also important to note how our sin eats us alive when we keep it in the darkness.
“When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.
I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I did not hide;
I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’;
And You forgave the guilt of my sin.”
Here we are reminded again that we ARE sinful and that we MUST confess our sin. God forgives sin. Scripture encourages us to confess, not to keep silent in our sin. Important point number one to remember.
2) Being a Christian means to pursue holiness.
I just acknowledged the fact that we all, even Christians, are sinful. Now I am saying that Christians should pursue holiness. I believe that here is the place that Christians get sidetracked. How, if we are commanded to pursue holiness and to be holy as God is, can we, sinful people, be used by Him? The bottom line is that we are used by Him because of Him, and only because of Him. What does that look like practically though?
It is important that Christians be actively pursuing holiness. To pursue something means that you go after it. It is not enough that we go to church, listen to sermons and Christian music, and bless our meals. We must be active in the pursuit of things that point us to Jesus. That means making choices that are best and not just better. That means not choosing to do some things that might be ok to do. They might be ok, but they may not be actively pointing us to Jesus.
“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.”
1 Corinthians 6:12
For example, it is not always bad for me to listen to secular music, but that music does not cause me to think on Jesus; so I should choose to listen to music that does instead. It may be lawful for me to listen to any music I want, but it may not be profitable for me. I need music that reminds of Jesus; that is profitable for me. Pursue holiness.
At the end of chapter one John tells us to acknowledge sin, don’t hide it, we are sinners. The first verse of chapter two says that we should not sin. Thus the problem. The goal is that we pursue holiness and not sin, but we will sin. Important point number two to remember.
3) When we sin, there is always Jesus.
Before all things began, God knew that man would sin. Thus He always knew that Jesus would be necessary if we were to be with Him again. The gospel is always true. It is true for the person who has not yet believed in Jesus as their Savior and Lord, and it is true again and again for the Christian who needs the saving grace of Jesus Christ every day. We have an advocate; we have Jesus Christ when we sin. Our sin does not disqualify us anymore today than it did not disqualify us on the day that we first believed. The gospel is true for me everyday. The gospel is true for you everyday. The gospel is true for the world everyday. That “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins,” is truth. Hold firm to this truth believer; even in the midst of your sin. Important point number three to remember.
Now, our sin may not disqualify us from serving and walking with the Lord, but it is not a thing to be taken lightly. It is sin after all, and it did require the death of the Son of God in order to be paid for. Though the weight of our sin was upon His shoulders, it should still be a weight that we consider, in my opinion. We must grieve our sin. I think we need to simultaneously grieve our sin while understanding that we are fully forgiven for that sin.
One of my pet peeves in life is when people are not responsible for what they have done. Responsibility is important to me. I do not always follow through with this (because I am sinful), but it definitely sits heavy with me. I need to be responsible. I need to be responsible for my sin. I am not responsible for it though, because Christ already was. My responsibility looks like grieving.
We will all sin. Some of us will slack off at times in our pursuit of Jesus and holiness, and then it will be easier for us to fall into sin. Some of us will be walking with God and in an instance make a poor decision that causes us to fall on our face. Some of us will walk with God and stay far away from sins that can pull us down. Regardless of where we are, we all need to grieve our sins. Our sin may not disqualify us from serving God, but it may require us to spend some time grieving. That time of grieving should put us in a place where we focus more on pursuing Him than pursuing service. A place where we need to remember again the gospel. A place where we are humbled before Him, but not disqualified. Believer, God forgives you and has called you.
John Piper writes some great things about sin and serving, if you care to read something of more substantial worth than my thoughts.
For a black and white, condensed version……
Jesus came to save the world. I believe that. Pursue holiness. Don’t sin. Know that you are forgiven when you do sin though. Know it in such a way that you can still balance the grieving of your sin with continuing to serve God.