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. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10
How familiar are you with your sin? How aware of its depths? Do you see and acknowledge the evil that lurks within you?
There is a tendency for us Christians to believe we need Christ to save us from sin originally, at the moment of conversion, but to then think it’s on our backs to keep up our salvation. We know we don’t earn God’s love in the first place, but we subtly think we must prove we deserve it every day.
And so what we do is minimize, downplay, ignore and excuse our sin. If it’s on us to prove we still deserve God’s love, we have to convince ourselves (and God?) that we’re good enough. But when we look at our hearts and minds honestly, we know we’re not, and so we keep our inner press secretary working full time, putting a positive spin on any conviction that arises.
To put it clearly: this is not how God calls Christians to respond to sin. “If we confess our sins…” This requires more than acknowledging sin in general terms: “I’m not perfect; of course I have sins.” This requires us to acknowledge and confess our sins in specific terms: “I am full of bitterness towards that fellow believer.” “I lack self-control when it comes to _______.” “My priorities do not reflect God’s priorities, which is a form of idolatry.”
Furthermore, this lack of real acknowledgment of the evil within reveals a lack of familiarity with God’s grace. When we work overtime to keep up appearances and prove our worth, we betray our doubt in the sufficiency of God’s grace in Jesus. “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance” (Romans 2:4). Do you know God’s kindness? Intimately?
If we truly know that “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” we are free to own up to and confess our sins. Because they no longer are the last word on our worth and identity. God has the last word, and that word is Christ crucified for our sins.
May we as Christians be assured of our secure worth and identity and hope in Christ. And having that, may we be free to acknowledge and confess the evil that still lurks within, to God, to one another, and to some extent to the watching world.
It is no witness to the world to minimize, downplay, ignore and excuse sin. That’s what the world does apart from God. We reveal the freedom and confidence we have in Christ by freely admitting to our worthlessness, and then pointing to the worth given to us in Christ.