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 us1 John 1:8-10
In my day job I’m a teacher. As I sit and write this I’m currently on holiday (yes, again…), but when I return to school next week it will be the beginning of a very busy time as I prepare my Year 8 pupils for their Common Entrance exam. Whilst I sit in Costa writing his, I hope that they are at home busily completing the homework that I set them. As always, I asked them to complete some past paper questions, which they are to mark themselves. I hope that the process of assessing their own work will help them to gain a better understanding of what the examiner will be looking for when their final scripts are marked. There’s always the temptation for pupils to mark their answers over generously, but as I always tell them, if they do this they are lying to themselves, since in order to improve they need to first admit that they’ve made mistakes and use this insight to improve their work next time.
John speaks today of the need to admit the mistakes that we make in our own lives. We need to own up to the sin that we commit. He tells us that “if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves.” God promises us that our sins will be forgiven if we confess our sins, but before we can confess our sins we need to first accept that we have sinned. Anyone who has acknowledged Jesus in their life but still believes that they live a good life and therefore is free of sin is lying to themselves. Indeed, John goes so far as to say that “the truth,” a true understanding of God, is “not in us.” We have misunderstood what it means to follow Christ.
John expands on this in verse 10. If we believe that our lives our free of sin, we make Jesus “out to be a liar.” He told us that we are sinners and called on us to repent our sins to find peace with God. If we say that we do not sin, then we are contradicting God, who has made it plain that in his eyes we are sinners. If we contradict God, then John tells us that “his word is not in us,” since it is God’s word – the words of Jesus, the Spirit-inspired words of scripture – that affirm that we are sinners. If we know and understand God’s word then it will be clear to use that we are sinners. If we still claim that we are not, then we do not know God’s word sufficiently well, or we have seriously misunderstood what God’s word says.
On the other hand, once we have accepted that we are sinners, we are able to confess our sins to God, to admit to our mistakes and to ask for God’s forgiveness. If we do this, then he will “forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” He will put our sinfulness out of his mind, and we will find our citizenship in his Kingdom. We can be assured of this because God is “faithful and just.”
How do you stand with this passage? Do you know and understand that you are a sinner? In which case, have you repented your sin and asked God for forgiveness? Be assured that if you have, God will forgive you your sin and purify you from all unrighteousness.