1 John 1:8
8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
My sister Chelle and I had a discussion the other day on what role confession of sin has in the life of the Christian post conversion. The conversation centered around what happens to us when we sin as Christians. The main question was what if we commit an overt sin and then suddenly die without asking for forgiveness, would we still make it to heaven? My initial answer to that question was that Christ’s work on the cross was the complete and sufficient work that God ordained to deal with humanity’s sin problem. At the moment of Jesus’ death God poured out His punishment on Jesus. In modern terms, a charge of law breaking was brought against humanity and the judge found us guilty. The sentence for our law breaking was death by execution. As we sat on death row and waited to be executed, Jesus stepped up and offered to take our place and be punished for us. The judge accepted this arrangement, because it was really him who offered it, and now he views all who Jesus died in the place of as people who no longer need their death sentence carried out. Romans 8:1 drives the point home where Paul tells us that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. What Paul is saying is that because of this divine exchange with Jesus we are no longer condemned because of our sin. He uses the term “in Christ”, which refers to anyone who has responded to God’s call and put their faith in Jesus for salvation. So what is the deal with confession of sin post conversion? If all my sins were dealt with at the cross do I really need to confess them to make sure I am still good with God? What if I sin and forget to confess it, will I now be on the outside of heaven? Is it possible to have faith in Jesus and then not have faith in Jesus and therefore be in Christ and then not in Christ based on the frequency of when I sin or when I don’t? These are some of questions that came up the other day. Fortunately, God is gracious to help us understand Him when we seek Him. I feel like today’s verse helps greatly.
I think it is important to be mindful to who this verse was written to. It comes from a letter the Apostle John wrote to his church. This verse was written to people who had accepted God’s call and had put their faith in Jesus for salvation. These folks were Christians. Notice what John says to them, “if we (that’s John included) say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves ,and the truth is not in us.” John is reminding his flock and us that even though we are in Christ we will still sin. He goes on to say, “if we confess our sins , he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” In saying this John is helping us understand that post conversion our goal is righteousness. A definition of righteousness is acting in accord with divine or moral law. To break it down, prior to God saving us our inclination is to judge for ourselves what is good and morale. We live out our lives based on those judgments and in doing so we rebel against God. Our rebellion deserves God’s wrath, yet because of God’s grace He saves us and in Christ we begin a journey that ultimately ends with us becoming like Christ. We look to the perfection of Jesus and we strive to obtain His righteousness. What John is telling us that while we are on our way to becoming like Jesus there will be times where we sully ourselves with unrighteousness through sin. It is through confession of sin that we are unsullied. Notice here that John does not say we are no longer forgiven when we sin, rather he points out that sin post conversion tarnishes the new creation we are becoming.
To wrap it up, I just want to say that in my walk I have had times where I was completely sold out for the Kingdom and there have been times when I have caved in an chased temptation and sin. I have often worried that because of times of falling away whether I am really in Christ. I think that the enemy uses issues of assurance to derail us a bit. I think it is easy to become pre-occupied as to whether I am in Christ, and completely miss the concept that I am to be like Christ. We confess our sins post conversion because God is faithful to clean us up when we get dirty. Jesus did not revoke His call of Peter when Peter denied Him, He did not revoke the call of Thomas when he doubted Him, and He did not revoke the call on James and John when they wanted to rain down fire on a Samaritan village. This is the same John who exhorts us now to confess, not to be called and saved again, but rather to be cleaned.
Heavenly Father, thank you God for the blessed assurance you give to those you have called. Thank you that you are our Father, our Priest, our Shepard, our King, and our Lord and Master. Father forgive our sins and wash away the unrighteousness that tarnishes the image of you that we bear. Lead us into all righteousness and help us become more like you as we come to know you better. Thank you for this day. We honor and bless you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.