1 John 1:5-10
Every form of life has its enemies, and spiritual life has its enemies too. One of those enemies is sin.
John tells us in 1 John 1:5-7: This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
In verse 5 John is addressing the error creeping into the first century church that taught that God is not perfect. By saying that God is light, he’s affirming God’s holiness. There is no dark side to God. He is completely holy and perfectly perfect. 1 Timothy 6:15-16 says, “God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.”
In verse 6, the word “walk” is better translated “keep on walking.” If someone were to say that they are in fellowship with God and yet continues walking in darkness, they are lying. A practicing sinner may have a saving relationship with God but he or she is not in fellowship with God. To walk in darkness is to really try to hide from God, which is impossible by the way. If you find that hard to believe, just read the book of Jonah.
Light and darkness are opposites, and repel each other. One cannot have fellowship with God with one foot in darkness and one in light, since God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. Darkness and light are two opposing forces, each making their competing claims upon us.
Sin is darkness and God is light. The contrast is evident just as our walking in light should be in contrast with walking in darkness. Walking in light is blessed by fellowship with God and with our brothers and sisters in Christ…and that means we are experiencing the purification of Jesus' death for our sins.
Walking in the light also does something else. It intensifies our consciousness of sin and, therefore, our desire to get rid of it. We rid ourselves of sin by confessing it to God. No one can live in light without being overwhelmingly convinced that he or she is not pure.
Fellowship with God and with each other is broken unless we recognize daily that we miss the mark of the high calling of God and that we must confess our falling short of God’s glory. This honesty before God results in forgiveness and cleansing through…
1. Recognition of sin (1:8)
2. Confession of sin (1:9)
3. Acknowledging our sin (1:10)
Verses 8-10 of 1 John 1 tell us: 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
When a person comes to Jesus Christ and accepts Him as both Lord and Savior, the Bible declares that he or she is a new creature; that the old things—the old life and its ways—are behind and passed away; that a new life has begun in the light of God’s mercy and grace. When this takes place, however, we find that we are still possessed by an old nature that likes to rear its ugly head and take control. The truth is that at some point in each and every day of every believer’s life the old nature wins, even if only momentarily. We sin daily. But we don’t like to admit it. We all like to think were ok. But God sees it differently and expects us to deal with our sin
Verse 8 teaches us that no matter how good we think we are, we must realize we are still sinning. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
The biblical scholar F. F. Bruce described sin this way: “There is something in man—even regenerate man—which objects to God and seeks to be independent of Him.”
Some people see sin as heinous evil such as murder or adultery. But sin is also the waywardness that plagues most of us day after day…daily we don’t believe, daily there are times we don’t think or act as we should as Christians.
But the closer you walk in fellowship with God—Who is light—the more you realize the absolute purity and holiness of God…and the more conscious you will become of personal impurity and sinfulness.
Proverbs 16:18 tells us that “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” If we are satisfied with our righteousness, we need to see what true righteousness really is. As we hear, read, meditate, study, and memorize the truth, we become more aware of how far short we fall…and aware of our great need for continuing to walk in the light.
Shara and I like to go down to Chapel, West Virginia, occasionally on Saturday night and listen to the country music. There’s one thing all the musicians do before they first start to play their guitars, banjos, fiddles, and mandolins. They make sure their instruments are in tune.
We need to recognize when our lives are in tune or out of tune with Jesus. The strings of moral conviction, once tuned to God's Word, can become loose through compromise or neglect. It happens to all of us. Usually it starts with the discord of selfish attitudes and negative thinking. Then there are the secret sins that rarely distort the tone of our outward respectability, but sooner or later an off-key word or deed betrays that something is wrong inside.
Daily we need to make sure we are in tune with God. The Spirit through the Word gives us the sure note to which we can tune our lives. When we are off key, confession retunes us.
There are questions we must ask ourselves. Do I listen for God’s true note? Do I recognize when I’m off key with God?
2. Confession of sin (9)
Verse 9 of 1 John 1 summarizes the basic realization and need of sinful man: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
“If we confess our sins” in the original is interesting. The construction of this sentence indicates confession as a continuing activity. We could translate it, “If we keep on confessing our sins.” Confess means "to admit the truth of the accusation, to own up to the fact that one is guilty of having committed the sin, to say the same thing about our sin as God does.”
When’s the last time you truly confessed your sins? Psalm 130:3-4 says, “If you kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness;…”
Confession needs to be our constant attitude. We should be eager to have any sin in life exposed by the Holy Spirit and eager to confess it and have it put out of our life. When God’s Spirit convicts or His light exposes our sin…instead of trying to cover it up or rename it something less offensive, we need to agree with God about our sin. We need to confess it, for through confession there is always forgiveness.
Confession or owning up to our sin also helps rid us of guilt. Guilt is a serious disease. Confession is the cure for this dreaded spiritual disease. Confession to God is the beginning. Guilt is not an illness we can doctor on our own. Forgiveness is the needed treatment. And forgetting is the sign of final recovery.
Notice John says “our” sins in verse 9. The godly Apostle was including himself and all other Christians in this need for confession of sin.
Admitting we have sin—as verse 8 indicates we must—may cost us only comparatively little. Confession of particular sins, individually, one by one, can cost a great deal, however. Confession calls for a broken and contrite heart (Ps. 51:1-4). This may be the reason we refuse to do so. But one who refuses to individually confess sins perhaps may desire—but certainly does not seek—forgiveness. As Proverbs 28:13 teaches us: “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”
If we are willing to lay our individual sins before God, the precious promise in the second part of verse 9 is ours also. “He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
We need to agree with God that we are sinners. The Bible says “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Even believers struggle against sin. John confronted this subject because there were false teachers spreading false teaching about sin. Some claimed to have no sin. Another group claimed that sin was of no consequence. Both groups had a bad attitude about sin. John’s premise is that the beginning place of being in tune with God is to agree with God that we are sinners.
Confession is man's part; forgiving and cleansing are God's part. God does His part after we do our part. God is faithful, true to His own nature, because He keeps His Word, and He is just, because He gives to each repentant Christian as He has promised.
If He says He will forgive us, He will. If through confession we desire to be cleansed, we will be. When God cleanses, He washes away the sin and its filth and infecting power.
There is the story of a man whose guilty conscience prompted him to send a letter to the Internal Revenue Service? The note read, "I haven't been able to sleep because last year when I filled out my income tax report I deliberately misrepresented my income. I am enclosing a check for $150. P.S.—if I still can't sleep, I'll send you the rest."
Now, it's commendable that the man confessed his wrongdoing, but his halfhearted restitution showed the shallowness of his regret. His confession was prompted by his desire for personal peace, not by remorse for a moral transgression.
When we believe in Jesus Christ, we are declared righteous. Our sins are forgiven. But because we are defiled by sin in our daily walk, we need the daily cleansing of confession. This restores fellowship between us and our heavenly Father. But we must be genuine. We must come to Him with a sincere sorrow for our sins and an honest desire to forsake them.
There's no question about it—when we confess our sins to the Lord and really mean it, He forgives. Remember, though, He not only hears our words but He also sees our hearts and reads our motives. Only when we are truly sorry that we sinned can we have the assurance that we have been restored to fellowship with God.
Notice the result of confession. First we are forgiven or absolved from sin's punishment, and second, we are freed from sin's pollution. The one affects our peace, the other our character. The forgiveness which is promised here is absolutely assured, because God “is faithful.” God can forgive us out of His sense of perfect justice because of Jesus’ payment for our sin. Forgiveness is accomplished because Jesus' death paid the penalty for our sin, and He shed His blood that we might be forgiven.
3. Acknowledging our sin (10)
1 John 1:10 tells us: “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”
John makes it clear that if men deny God’s verdict on their sin and sinfulness they have called God a liar. When we are confronted by God’s Word about our sins, we should admit them rather than deny them. To deny one’s personal sin in the face of God’s testimony to the contrary, is in effect, to “make” God “out to be a liar.” By contradicting God’s Word, a person rejects it and refuses to acknowledge its absolute truthfulness.
So another consequence of denying our sin is to cut ourselves off from God’s Word. In 1 John 1:1, John tells us that God’s Word is the “Word of Life”…The Word that gives life, or, God’s life-giving Word, finds no dwelling place in us when we deny our sin.
If we sit through church services and refuse to be touched by the Bible's teachings or think they apply just to others, we are saying that we don't need God's word because we are living just as we think we should.
Several years ago, a pastor named Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas Senate. Everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this is what they heard:
“Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, ‘Woe to those who call evil good,’ but that is exactly what we have done.
We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values.
We confess that we have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it pluralism,
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery,
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare,
We have killed our unborn and called it choice,
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem,
We have abused power and called it politics,
We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition,
We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression,
We have ridiculed time-honored values and called it enlightenment.
Pastor Wright continued, “Search us, Oh, God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent to direct us to the center of Your will and to openly ask these things in the name of Your Son, the living Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
What are we going to do with sin? We can cover it, claim that we have no sin. We can rename it, denying what we did is really sin and call it a mere mistake. We can disclaim it. We can say our sin is someone else's fault.
Or we can confess it and ask for forgiveness. Which do you choose to do? Be hard and insensitive to sin?... or be ready to recognize it…deal with it…and rid your life of it?
The most deceptive sins don’t leap on us, they creep up on us. Maybe there are some sins that have crept into your life. With the help of the Holy Spirit and His Word, identify them. You can admit your guilt and find God’s forgiveness and cleansing…you can get rid of your sins before they lead you into deeper darkness.
If you have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you have become part of the family of God, and that relationship can never be broken. Sin, though it cannot cut our family ties, can break our fellowship with God. And if our fellowship with God is broken, it is broken with our brothers and sisters in Christ, also.
The way to restore fellowship with God is to listen to Him. When He points out our sin we need to simply agree with Him about it. What God says is sin, is sin. We can acknowledge it and let Him forgive us for it and cleanse us of it.
John describes the person who is walking in tune with God. The person who is in tune with God has the right attitude about sin. The person who is in tune with God desires to be obedient to God. The person who is in tune with God reflects a supernatural love. This person is walking in a way that reflects his fellowship with God.
I urge you today to make the decision to be humbled and contrite before God, as David prayed in Psalm 51…let us make David’s heartfelt words our closing prayer today:
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge…
…10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me…
…12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.