Close Menu X
Navigate

Sermons

The Christian's Confession of Sin

July 8, 2012 Pastor: Don Green Series: 1 John

Topic: Sunday Sermons Scripture: 1 John 1:8-10

62-007

Welcome to Truth Community Fellowship here today. We are in the book of 1 John, studying, going through the book of 1 John verse by verse. That's what we do here. Our motto in this church is "Teaching God's people God's word," and so we orient our services toward the saints, toward the Christians. We believe that the church is a gathering together of Christians where they can be instructed and edified and love one another and share in fellowship together, and then as we go out, that's where evangelism takes place as we scatter from this place into our different realms of relationships, and we believe that the most important thing that we can do on Sunday is to build the saints up, to build up Christians through the teaching of God's word. Scripture says that it is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." So our desire in this place is to build up Christians through the teaching of the word and what happens is as Christians grow, their lives are changed and that reflects the glory of God. As Jesus said in Matthew 5, "Let your light shine before men." Well, the way that your light is going to shine before men is if you are actively growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Bible makes it absolutely clear that that happens as we interact with his word, as we study and understand what God has said to his people. So we love to study the word of God together and that's what we do every Sunday morning at 9 o'clock. If you're a local visitor, we would love to have you join us as we seek to establish this church in this place.

So 1 John is where we're at. It's been a couple of weeks since I've been here and so if you'll bear with me, I'll just give you a brief reminder of what we said last time which was about three weeks ago now, if my math is not failing me. But we started in chapter 1, verse 5 last time, and I'm just going to read the passage that's in front of us, verse 5 through verse 10 of chapter 1, is where we're at, and let me just read that to set the context for us this morning. John said,

5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 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.

Let me read the next two verses as well because it really goes together as a unit despite the chapter break.

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.

Now, let me just give you a little bit of a sense of what's going to happen today and over the next two or three weeks. What we have here in this passage, chapter 1, verse 5 through chapter 2, verse 2, is we have a very definitive statement of how Christians are to live as sinners in the midst of a hostile world. We said as we've been going through this series, that John writes with this primary goal of having Christians achieve spiritual victory in the midst of a hostile world. He's writing to help Christians live out their faith in the midst of a world that tempts them to sin, in the midst of a world that is dominated by the devil, and in the midst of a world as they walk even with struggling with their own internal conflict that comes from still having remnants of sin in our lives even after salvation. So you see in chapter 2, verse 1, he says, "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin." So that's a really important interpretive key for us as we're trying to understand what John is saying here. He's helping us understand how we can live in a way that would keep us from sin as much as possible as we are living in the midst of a world that is designed to tempt us and push us into completely the opposite direction. He says, "I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin."

Now, keep that in mind. That's key to understanding everything that's going on. What we're going to see this week and over the next two or three weeks is he gives us a frame of mind in terms of how to deal with sin in our lives. When you and I typically think about trying to overcome sin, we start at the wrong place. We'll focus on, we'll start at a place where we see a particular manifestation of sin in our lives and we go and we try to attack that one particular sin, and we're going to be more disciplined or we're going to have an accountability partner or something like that, to try to help us overcome that one particular sin. What's going to be very essential and life transforming for you is to realize that that is not really the biblical mindset that it takes to overcome sin, is to have that kind of focus zero, laser-beam focus on one particular sin. The Bible teaches us to start further back. The Bible teaches us that there is a whole mindset, there is a whole way of thinking, there is a whole worldview that goes into approaching sin and dealing with sin, and if you are a Christian who is serious about spiritual growth, what is found in this passage is essential for you to know and to understand.

Now, last time when I was here, the past two weeks Ken Ham has been filling this pulpit and I'm very grateful to Ken for his ministry on so many different levels, but the last time that I was here, we looked at verse 5 and we need to just review this very briefly. John had said in verse 4, "These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete." He's writing that we might know joy. Part of joy is walking in holiness rather than falling into sin. And what I said last time that you have to understand about this passage, is to look at verse 5 and realize in verse 5 he is giving you the cornerstone of joy, he is giving you the cornerstone of holiness, of personal holiness, and what you need to see so desperately and so urgently is that it's not that joy and holiness does not start with a call to greater self-discipline, a call to greater effort, trying harder. I know that's where almost all of you start. You realize, "Hey, I want to get serious about my spiritual life. What can I do?" It's a common understandable question but that is the wrong place to start. You have to start with a different question and the question that you have to start with is: who is God? What is God like? You have to start by taking your eyes off of yourself and asking yourself fundamental questions about the character and nature of God.

That is where the desire for holiness finds its fertile soil to be able to grow and that is where you must start if you want to grow in your spiritual life. It is not about starting with your effort, it is about starting with the character of God and you see that by the way that John starts this letter. He was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This is what God says about joy and holiness. This is what God says about how Christians in the midst of this hostile world can have joy and holiness and notice what he does, notice where he starts. Verse 5, he says, "I want you to know joy," and he says, "This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all." You wonder what's the connection there? How is it that that is connected to joy and holiness? Well listen, the way that you think about God and the way that you understand the character of God is going to frame everything that you do. That is the foundational, that is the eyeglasses through which you view the world, through which you view your life, and when you understand that God is light and what John means by that here in this context is that God is holy, God is true, God is absolutely true; the Bible says it's impossible for God to lie, and he goes on and he talks about truth in the verses that follow. The Bible says it's impossible, the Bible teaches that it is impossible for God to sin because he is so holy that it is not even possible for him to sin, even the Lord Jesus Christ under his temptations could not possibly have fallen into sin. That is the starting point for your spiritual life. You realize who God is and since your life and your spiritual life is derivative of God, God gave you life physically, God gave you spiritual life if you are a Christian, then everything flows from that one fountain. It flows from this God who is light, who is holy, who is true. That's where we start and you can see the way that John works this out and you can see why it's so inevitably necessary.

He goes on and says in verse 6, being mindful, here's the way you think about this, okay, God is light, what does that mean? What are the implications of that? In verse 6, if God is light and, "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth." It says it is impossible, it is absolutely impossible for someone to truly be a Christian, joined together with a holy God, and to walk in the darkness of continual unbroken sin. He says that's absolutely impossible. It's just as impossible to live in unbroken sin in fellowship with God as it is to walk into this room with the lights on and to be in darkness. When they turn on the lights in this room, darkness flees. When God, through the person of the Holy Spirit, takes up residence in the life of someone who has been born again, then there is necessarily a life transformation that's going to take place, and that is driven not because we put such great effort into it, although we are to strive after holiness, it's tied to, the reason that transformation must take place is because the God who is light has invaded a dark life of sin and transformed it and that transformation is a complete transformation of nature that issues itself out in the way that you live. If you understand and realize that as a Christian you have been brought into union with a holy God, and you realize that God is holy, this is why this is the starting point of holiness, the starting point of joy, when you realize those things, you realize that it is an inevitable consequence of being a Christian that your life is going to be transformed. And when you realize that God is holy, this is the God that has invaded my life, then you start to understand that transformation is absolutely essential. It could be no other way. You can't have a light on and darkness simultaneously. In the same way, you can't have a holy God involved in a life and have a life totally unbroken, unchanged and living in complete darkness as if nothing had ever happened. So it's important to start with these kinds of realities because these are unseen spiritual realities, and so you have to inform your mind with the character of God for those consequences to start to really take root deep in your heart, and that's where it starts. The Bible says, "Be holy as I am holy," in 1 Peter and in other places in Leviticus and other places of Scripture.

So look at verse 7, and we're still just doing some review here. In verse 7, John states it from the other side of the coin. He said, "If we say that we have fellowship and walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth," now he flips the coin and says, "but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." The word "walk" is a metaphor for the daily conduct of life; that's just in general simple terms, that's what he's talking about. The general conduct of the Christian life is one of walking in this holiness and truth that reflects the character of God.

And notice something important, notice that with the cornerstone of God's holiness in place, notice that last phrase there at the end of verse 7 where it says "and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." When Christ saves you, when Christ saved you, he forgave you of all of your sins, and in a room of this size with this many people in here, there is no doubt that there are extremely dark deeds in some of your pasts; things that you would be utterly horrified and shamed if it came to public light. Well, understand that even in those darkest sins of yours in your past, that the greatness of the Gospel is that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses you even from those sins as well. That is the whole reason that Jesus came was to remove the debt of sin, to cancel the debt of sin, to remove the guilt of sin from your account so that you could stand before this holy God pure, justified, with him having declared you righteous and accepting you because of the work of Christ on your behalf. Christ lived a holy life, Christ died for your sins, and the full merit of the Lord Jesus Christ when you put your faith in Christ, the full merit of his perfect life, his perfect death, and his resurrection, is all deposited to your account.

So God looks at you with the same favor that he looks upon his own holy Son. That's amazing. That's what it means to be a Christian. That is the perfect position with which we stand before God, and that's what John is pointing to here at the end of verse 7, "the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." That's the spiritual reality. It's a change of our standing with God, but his point in this as he's walking through this, is that if that new life has come to you, it is going to be manifested in your daily conduct; it is going to be manifested in the way that you live. That's why he says in verse 7, "if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another." He says there is going to be a walk in the light if you belong to and are joined to the God who himself is light. And when you understand who God is and have a sense of who God is, not that we ever understand that in the full infinite depth of what it means to know the character of God, we can't get all of our minds around that, but when you realize that God is holy, then it has implications for the way that you live as a Christian.

If you're not a Christian, some of you young people, if you are not a Christian, your first step of entering into this life is to repent of your sins and to put your faith in Christ, to realize that you need a Savior. You need someone to rescue you from sin. You cannot work your way into this. There isn't a ladder tall enough for you to climb up to the holiness of God. You need God to come down, as it were, and to save you through the work of the Spirit in your heart and that's what you've got to ask God to do in your life if you're not a Christian. But this message is directed to those of you that do know him, that are truly saved and are working out the consequences here as we go through 1 John of what it means to be a Christian.

Now, with all of that sense of review in place, just thinking about the concept of light a little bit more, it's amazing how light alters your perception of reality. A little bit of light changes the whole way that you look at any situation. Romance is easier by candlelight than under a fluorescent bulb, right? No one goes to a romantic dinner and puts a big lightbulb in the front; you get the candles and it softens the mood and all of that. Light changes things. Your house looks cleaner at night than under the morning rays of sun. That's why you never ask people over for breakfast, you ask them over for dinner. I personally have resigned myself to the reality that I look better with the mirror light off than with the mirror light on. That's just the nature of light. Light has a way of exposing defects right, just in the physical realm. It is the same way in the spiritual realm. When the God who is holy comes into your life, when you become a Christian and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in your heart, the light has turned on in your soul, so to speak, and as a result, things are going to happen. Here's the point of those little illustrations: the underlying reality is the same, right? The morning light doesn't make your house look dusty and dirty, your house was already what it was regardless of what the light was like, but the light exposed, exposes the defects, exposes the dirt. The light shows what is real and that simple principle can help you understand the nature of spiritual reality in your own life.

Talking to you Christians now, this is so important for you to understand: when you became a Christian and started walking with Christ, when you started walking with the God who is light, you inevitably started to recognize sin that you had not seen before, right? Every one of you who is a true Christian can testify to that reality. You thought maybe you just had a couple of tweaks that needed to be made on the corners of your soul, on the corners of your life, but when you get serious about studying the holiness of God, you get serious about studying the Scriptures and seeing what they say, as you draw your mind into this book, it turns the light on in your soul and you start to see sin that you had never seen before. Scripture exposes you to the holiness of God and when you are exposed to the holiness of God, it has a reflective sense and causes you to see corresponding dark corners of your life that you had not recognized before. It exposes things and you see things that you did not recognize, and what happens is as you grow spiritually, the Scriptures and the character of God illuminate your own understanding of your own personal sin. And that's why it's such a travesty that so many churches in our world today have stopped talking about the character of God and want to focus on relationships and things about how to make your marriage better and your marital intimacy better and all of that. That is such a travesty because it takes the minds of the people off of the character of God and lets the shadows start to envelop them and give them a sense of confirmed self-righteousness that isn't even real because the truth of the matter is, as you see the holiness of God, as you study the holiness of God as the Scriptures are expounded to you and you grow in the Scriptures, you are necessarily going to see more sin in your life because the light is going to expose that to you.

Now, as a word of encouragement to you, that is not grounds for suddenly questioning your salvation. You say, "Oh, I'm more sinful than I ever knew." Well, precisely. Precisely. That is why you needed a Savior in the first place. Jesus didn't come because your life was just a little bit tweaked, you know, and kind of give you a little spiritual chiropractic and then you can go on your way like you were before. Jesus came because you were so totally desperately lost and under the bondage of sin, under the bondage of Satan, without hope in this world, that unless he had stepped into this world, unless he himself had saved you, you would have remained forever lost. You see, your sin was not a trivial matter. Our souls are really warped and that's why we need a Savior. That's why we need this truth.

Now, with all of that said, we're going to look at verses 8 through 10 in chapter 1 here today. Let me just go over those again in light of everything that we've said here about the nature of light, how it exposes darkness. The Bible says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. There is none righteous, no, not even one." There is no man on earth who does not sin. With all of those things in mind, you can see why John says what he says in verses 8 through 10 and our points are going to be very simple here this morning. He says, "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us." If you say, in light of the fact that God is light and pure holiness and pure truth, if you really understood that, you would see corresponding your own sin. If you say, "I have no sin," someone who says that, "I'm not a sinner," or stated differently, "I'm good enough to go to heaven when I die," someone who says that has never seen the holiness of God to begin with. If you understood how much God is light, then you would never say what John records here in verse 8. That's why it's the ultimate act of self-deception.

"If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us." What is John saying here? His point is really very simple and he's giving us both sides of the coin, and here is the guiding interpretive point for today: John is teaching us here that a Christian responds to the holiness of God by confessing sin, not by denying it. A true Christian responds to the holiness of God by confessing sin, not by denying it. Someone who denies sin is not a believer. A Christian, by contrast, confesses sin and there are two aspects to the confession of sin in the life of a Christian that we're going to talk about today.

The first point, two main points if I remember my notes right. First of all, how do you respond to the holiness of God as a Christian? This applies to each one of you that name the name of Christ. How do you respond to the holiness of God? Well, first of all, you recognize sin. A true Christian recognizes sin. Some people have a fairly basic understanding of being a sinner; some people see their sin in depth and really grieve over it. Wherever you fall along that realm, at some basic fundamental level, you are going to recognize sin. That's what John is saying here in this passage and there are two aspects, there are two ways that you recognize sin. First of all, you recognize sin in your nature. So the big point is if you're taking notes, you recognize sin in response to the holiness of God. Here's a sub point: you recognize sin in your nature. This is such a fundamental point. As I said earlier, the Bible teaches the universality of sin: everyone is a sinner. Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, "there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins." He says, "There is not a man like that." Romans 3:10-12 says, "There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside," speaking about all of mankind in sin, "together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one."

Now, follow me here, a couple of things. I like to say this. I've said this before here and I'll say it again today and I'll say it again in the future: I know a lot about you because I read my Bible. I know that you sin and that you fall short of the glory of God even as a Christian. If you read your Bible, you know something corresponding about me, right? There is none of us that stand here in spiritual perfection. We all fall short of the glory of God. Part of being a Christian, according to this passage, is that we make that acknowledgment, we make that confession. You should be the first one at the line of confession that says, "I am a sinner who has fallen short of the glory of God." Being a Christian does not mean you proclaim your own righteousness – get this because this is really important – the last thing that being a Christian means is that you proclaim your own righteousness. "I am good enough to go to heaven. God will let me in because the good outweighs the bad." A true Christian would never say that, or should never say that, can never say that, I won't even qualify it. A true Christian would never say that because the very fundamental reason that a person comes to Christ for true salvation is because they realize they're a sinner who needs forgiveness. That's fundamental to being a Christian. It's not about going to church or doing good deeds or anything like that. It's far more fundamental that says, "I am a lost, broken, ruined rebel against God and I need a Savior." That's what it means to be a Christian, and you call out to Christ with that kind of forgiveness.

Now, we tend to think about sin all wrong. We tend to think about sin as being something that we do that breaks God's law, that violates God's law, "I told a lie. I stole something that wasn't mine," and on and on, and you think about it in external ways. That's true, those individual acts are sin, but that view of sin is very incomplete and what we're about to say here is something that will open up the realm of spiritual life to you if you start to understand this and start to take it seriously: someone who understands God's holiness realizes that there is something deeper that is wrong than simply the individual acts of sin that we commit. This is so fundamental. Something is wrong beyond that. It's not that you sin out of some kind of spiritual neutrality, that you're basically good, that you're fundamentally good but once in a while you take a wrong turn. No, someone who understands God's holiness recognizes that there is something wrong with his inner man and we're going to look at this.

Look at verse 8 again. John says, "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us." This phrase "to have sin" is referring to more than individual acts of sin. He talks about that in verse 10. What he is saying here in verse 8 is to have sin means that you have a sinful disposition. There is a bent in your heart, even as a Christian, that is open to sin, that is drawn to sin, that is drawn to temptation. And there is a part of you that would welcome that. There is something that drives us to sin in our desires, in our affections. The book of Ephesians 2:3 says that the non-Christian, the unconverted, are by nature children of wrath. They are not fundamentally good. Their whole nature is corrupt and subject to damnation. It is irredeemably bad. It loves sin and Jesus said the mouth and actions come from what's in our heart, and when you see a sinful life, you just know that in the heart there is bubbling up all kinds of sinful desires and that's why we sin. What we do flows from what's going on in our hearts, and that's why you could never save yourself with your own works. That's why you must be born again as an unbeliever. You have to be born again. You must receive a new nature from God from above because your present unconverted nature is absolutely unfixable. It is irredeemably broken. It is irredeemably wicked. By nature, children of wrath, the Scriptures say. God must give you a new nature from above or you can never be saved. The guilty works that flow from your guilty hands could never save you. Never. Give it up. Forget about trying. It's impossible.

Now, shifting back to talking to ourselves as Christians, even as a Christian, there is something in your character that gives you a bent toward sin. Turn over to the book of Romans. You need to see this. Romans 7, beginning in verse 21. The Apostle Paul is writing here and we're just going to pick it up in the very middle of his argument. At some point in the future, I need to spend a lot of time in this chapter and chapter 8 of Romans. But Paul says in verse 21, he's writing as an apostle, he's writing as a converted man here in Romans 7 and he says, "I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good." He says, "I want to do good. I'm a believer. I'm a believer in Christ. I have a new nature but there is still something in me, there is some kind of evil in me that motivates me, that urges me toward sin. Even though the fullest representation of who I am does not want that, there is still something in me that urges me in that sinful direction." He feels sin clinging to him.

Look at verse 22, he says, "I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man." "I love the word of God. I want that to manifest itself in my life. That's where my deepest, truest desires are." But he says in verse 23, "I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members." He's describing something that every Christian knows by experience, that there is some kind of internal conflict going on where sinful desires are competing with what he really wants to be like as a new man. He says, "This is the spiritual reality. There is still a bent toward sin in me. I am not yet made perfect," he said in Philippians 3. "There is something in me that urges me to sin." The Apostle Peter had this in mind, 1 Peter 2:11. You don't need to turn there, I'll just read it real quickly. He's writing to Christians and he says, "Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul." He's recognizing that we have desires, we have lusts that work against, that compete against that desire, that underlying motivating desire for holiness in the life of a Christian.

Now, with all of that in mind, with that background, go back to 1 John 1:8. Here's what this means in the context of chapter 1, verse 8: something inside us is wrong and that wrong is the principle of remaining sin. There is a remaining principle of sin in us as a Christian and we have these sinful desires that act like guerrilla soldiers waging war against our soul, trying to take potshots against the greater quest for holiness that is at the true bottom of the true heart of a true Christian, there are still those internal guerrilla soldiers waging war against us. I'm deliberately taking a little break there to let all of that sink in. You recognize that. You recognize those opposing impulses in light of the holiness of God. As you come into a greater understanding, a greater meditation, a greater appreciation, a greater apprehension of the holiness of God, the pure, unadulterated separateness of God from sin, and then you look back on your own life and you realize, "Do you know what? There are times where that is not the true desire of my heart. There are times where I'm tempted. There are times where I give into the temptation." And what John says here is if someone denies that they have that kind, that there is kind of sin in them, he says, "You are deceiving yourself." He said, "Don't kid yourself. Of course that's there." You would see it in light of the holiness of God if the holiness of God was gripping your thinking.

Martyn Lloyd Jones with his typical insight said this, knowing that, look, we're not pretending to be people that we're not here today, right? We're just dealing with life and the reality of it is. We all know if we're honest, we realize that lusts tempt us; that when someone crosses us, we get angry from time to time at least. We respond and our impulse is one of retaliation rather than grace, and here with those thoughts in mind is this quote from Martyn Lloyd Jones. He said and I quote, "The question that should confront us all is not simply whether we have committed actions that are wrong. No, the most important question is why did I do it? What is it in me that made me think of it and play with the suggestion? And there is only one answer: there is something perverted in my essential being, something in me gives rise to evil and iniquity. That is why we have sinful thoughts, sinful desires, and sinful imaginations. Not only do I do wrong but there is a principle of sinfulness in my very nature." Recognizing that sinful bent in your nature is the inevitable effect of recognizing the holiness of God. That's the point. When you see the pure unmitigated holiness of God and you reflect on it and you think on it, then you see that your life is not perfectly conformed to that. You have desires that are at cross purposes with the holiness of God. That's what he's saying here.

So that's the inevitable effect, so when someone says, "I'm not sinful. I'm not like that," then there is only one conclusion, you've never seen the holiness of God at all. If you say, "I'm not like that," John says you're deceiving yourself. You're like that whether you want to admit it or not. You say, "I'm not like that," and John says, "The truth is not in you." He says, "Of course it's like that. Don't you see the holiness of God? Is the light on in your room or not?" Well, if the light's on, then darkness is being exposed.

Now, there is something for the true Christian, there is something that's in an odd sort of way eminently comforting and consoling about that. You walk through life and deal with sin and grieve over sin, what you're seeing when that happens is something that should be happening. That is what should happen to you as a Christian, that walking with God would expose darkness in your path. You haven't yet been made perfect and I haven't either, and the holiness of God brings that to light, brings that to our understanding. And you realize that it's more than just what you do, there is something in you that is wrong and what do you do with that? Well, we'll talk about that in a minute. But realize, beloved, realize that if you have seen that in your life experience, take great comfort in the fact that that is what is supposed to happen in the life of a Christian. Seeing sin exposed is supposed to happen in the life of a Christian.

The question is what do you do in response to it? You see it in your nature, you realize there is something beating in your heart that is out of whack; you see it in your nature and you also see it in your actions and we won't have to spend much time here because this is where we tend to think about sin anyway. You see it in your nature and you see it in your actions. Look at verse 10. We're going to skip over verse 9 and then come back to it. Verse 10, John says, "If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us." This statement here, "we have not sinned, I have not sinned," it's a total denial of sinful conduct. It's the perfect tense in Greek. It has the idea that, "I stand before you never having sinned." Well, a true Christian could never say that. Anyone who says such things obviously does not have the word of God in them because God's holiness inevitably reveals your sin.

Let me give you a biblical illustration of this. Turn back to Luke 5:4. Peter was out fishing, hadn't gotten anything all night. The Lord comes along and says, "Peter, put your net out to the side and pull it up and you'll have a great quantity of fish." Peter says, "Lord, Lord, Lord, let me help you. I'm a professional fisherman here. I've been doing this all night. I already know there is no catch here tonight but because you said to do it, I'll do it but I'm just trying to save you from the embarrassment of looking bad here." Verse 4, Jesus "had finished speaking, He said to Simon, 'Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.' Simon answered and said, 'Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.' When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish," these professional fishermen all night long, zero, suddenly pulling up fish in such great quantity that their nets were about to break. Verse 7, "they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink." Pretty humorous picture there. And look at Peter's response in verse 8, "when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus' feet, saying, 'Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!'" That's kind of an odd response, isn't it? Why would you focus on sin when you've got a big net of fish in front of you? Well, listen, that catch of fish was miraculous and that display of Jesus' miraculous power, Jesus' complete sovereign control over the natural animal world was on full display. The veil had been pulled back and the great sovereign power of Christ had suddenly been put right in Peter's face, and Peter responds to that by confessing sin. Now listen, remember what we said: light doesn't reveal something different, light didn't change it, the light simply exposes what was already real. So Peter hadn't suddenly turned into a sinful man because there were a lot of fish at his feet all of a sudden, but the conscious presence of the holiness of Christ made him see himself differently. It made him recognize sin and it was such an overwhelming experience that it almost crushed his very constitution. He had his breath taken away by the holiness of Christ, by the power of Christ. It took his breath away. "Do you see what just happened? Do you know what that means? Do you realize, fellow fisherman, what Christ just displayed? Utter, total, sovereign holiness. Utter, total, holy sovereignty." And it crushed his mental existence and all he could say was, "Lord, get away from me because I'm a sinful man. One holy like you should not have me in your presence."

Now, Christians have varying degrees of depth of response to these things. Some people feel their sin really really deeply and profoundly. Some people feel it a little bit. But in one way or another, a true Christian feels the weight of sin in the presence of God's holiness. As you apply that to 1 John 1:10, you can see that someone who says he has never sinned has never understood the first thing about the character of God. Never, otherwise he wouldn't say such a thing. God's holiness makes you recognize sin in your nature, it exposes sin in your daily life. That's what John is saying here in 1 John. You can turn back there if you're still in Luke 5.

Now, we respond to the holiness of God by confessing sin and that confession involves a recognition of sin. Now, I step up on the steps sometimes, for those of you that are visitors, when I'm about to make a really important point, I'll step up just to emphasize it. Preaching is a total body experience for me. You recognize sin in light of the holiness of God but for the true Christian, it doesn't stop there. It's not simply a mental apprehension of sin. It's not simply a casual acknowledgment. It's not enough to just feel bad about it. No, for the true Christian, there is a second aspect to this confession of sin and it's this: you not only recognize sin, secondly, you repent of sin. You turn away from it. Instead of claiming that we are without sin, Christians confess their sins.

Look at chapter 1, verse 9. He says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." John here in this context, he is not speaking about the initial forgiveness of sin which occurs at the first moment of salvation. He is talking to Christians here. He is talking about the way that Christians respond to sin. Look at chapter 2, verse 12. He's clearly writing to Christians, not trying to evangelize the lost in this passage. He says in verse 12, he says exactly who he's writing to. He said, "I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name's sake." That's a definition of a Christian, someone whose sins have been forgiven. That's who he's writing to. So in verse 9, he's describing how real Christians respond to sin.

So what is it that you do, what is it that you are supposed to do with that recognition of sin that has come into your life as you've been exposed to the holiness of God? That's what verse 9 is teaching us. You confess your sins, what does that mean? To confess your sins means to lay them before God and to ask him to forgive you; to seek forgiveness. The verb tense indicates an ongoing confession. That means that this is an ongoing part of the Christian life. A true Christian walking in the light, walking in the holiness of God, is going to see through life periodically, daily sometimes, hourly sometimes, is going to see sin cropping up in their existence and when they do that, they're going to confess it. They're going to go to God and confess it and to seek forgiveness.

Now, first of all, the Christian is someone who openly admits that he is a sinner. He agrees with Romans 3:23, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." And please pay attention here. Please pay attention here. The true Christian says, "That statement that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, that general statement," the true Christian says, "that is true of me personally. I have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." That is fundamental to the self-understanding of a true Christian. He starts there as he assesses himself. It's a settled part of his self-understanding. "I am a sinner in need of the forgiveness of Jesus Christ." And if you're a Christian, you have no reservation or compulsion about standing up and admitting that. You openly state that. You state it vertically before God and when it comes up before men, you say, "Yes, of course I'm a sinner. I fall short of the glory of God." If you resist that, you need to question your salvation, and yet understand, tender, sensitive Christian, conscious of sin, understand that that kind of confession unlocks the grace of God.

Look at verse 9 with me again. He says, "If we confess our sins." Notice the response that continually emanates from the character of God. This is how the character of God continually flows out and manifests itself to his children. "He is faithful, he is righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." You admit that you're a sinner by nature. As you become aware of individual sins, you confess them before God in repentance. "God, I sinned when I did this. I sinned when I said that. I sinned in this action. I sinned in this attitude." There is just this humility that no longer tries to protect your personal pride and no longer even, more accurately, no longer tries to maintain a pretense of self-righteousness. The true Christian has abandoned the pretense of self-righteousness. He humbles himself before God and says, "God, I'm a sinner in your presence. I need the forgiveness of Christ. Thank you that you have saved me. These are the sins that I have committed today. Please continue to forgive me and cleanse me because I want to walk righteously before you." That kind of confession, beloved, is intended to be a regular part of the Christian's prayer life. In Matthew 6:12, Jesus taught us to pray, "Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors." It's an ongoing part of true prayer is that regular confession of sin.

Now, sometimes people ask, "Why do we have to confess our sins if Christ has already forgiven us of all of our sins? If the blood of Christ covers all of our sins, why do we have to confess them?" Well, the purpose of this kind of confession is to align your wandering spirit with the character of the holiness of God. You have strayed into sin. Your sinful nature has manifested itself. God's holiness is here and you find yourself wandering, getting further away from that in your life and conduct and thought life. Well, you confess because the reason you confess is to line yourself up, line yourself back up with this holiness of God. Somehow it was not the reigning principle in your heart for that period of time in the midst of that action and you say, "Lord, I want to step out of that back into the straight alignment with your holiness." You're aligning yourself with the character of God. You align yourself with God's view of your life and you confess that in order to restore your joy. David confessed his sin in Psalm 51 and said, "Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit." You see, what happens is when you're confessing sin, you are just humbling yourself before God and saying, "I have strayed from you. I have been all wrong here. I have not appreciated your grace. I have not been grateful for what you have done in my life. I have strayed into sin. I have cultivated sinful relationships, and God, I am so sorry. Please forgive me. God, take the burden of this sense of sin away from me so that I could be restored to the joy of being one of your children." It's not to get your salvation back. God doesn't take away the gift once he gives it to you, but your conscious day to day experience of that forgiveness, sense of God's holiness, sense of walking in his forgiveness, is directly tied to how seriously you deal with sin on a day to day basis.

So that kind of confession cleanses your conscience. It renews your assurance of salvation and the Spirit of God works and brings assurance and comfort into your heart as a result of that, and so you are seeking that intimacy with God in confession. This humbles your view of self yet you just don't maintain any pretense of self-righteousness. When you see sin deeply in your life, welcome to the club. The light is showing you what you're really like and, yes, that's humbling. We've talked about that in Q & A sessions before here. When you walk with God, it is humbling. That's what should happen and that place of humility is a place of blessing because it not only humbles your view of self – listen to me – it heightens your view of Christ. When you have a more profound view of your own sin, then you start to appreciate all the more at a deeper level the greatness of what it means that Christ left heaven in order to save you. "Lord, I am so sinful but you came to save me knowing I was like this? You came to save me anyway? Wow. You're really gracious. You're more gracious than I realized. This is a greater gift than I ever appreciated before." When you're confessing sin like that, the promises of God pour out on you. He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins. Psalm 103 says he removes our sins from us as far as the east is from the west.

Your sin does not enter into the realm of the way that God deals with you. Oh, he disciplines us to bring us back to holiness but you never forfeit your stature, never forfeit your position as a child of God. Hebrews 10:17, God said, "Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." Listen, you've got to understand in this realm of confession, this realm of forgiveness, that these are God's promises to his children. When you are confessing sin like this, you are in the realm of grace. You are in the realm of unmerited favor, God giving you favor where judgment should have rightfully been bestowed. God is extending favor where he could have extended judgment. And when you are confessing sin, you are in that realm of grace where God does not hold your sins against you. He continues to be your Father. And what the Scriptures say is that he always forgives your sins when you're coming to him in that kind of confession. You can be confident of forgiveness. You can be confident of purification because that is the whole reason that Christ came. That is why he came and he is always, always, always, always faithful and true and just to his own purposes. It's why he came. Oh, he may discipline us for sin but he never changes his attitude of gracious Fatherly love toward you. You're not trying to get back, trying to win back his love, it never left. The idea of forgiveness has the idea of canceling a debt. "I owe you so much." "I know. It's canceled, forgiven, taken away." Cleansing has the picture of removing the pollution of sin so that you can renew your pursuit of holiness.

I want you to notice one final thing here as we're about to wrap this up. Look at verse 9 again, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." There is the word, "all." That word "all." The idea isn't that you confess one sin and you get one sin forgiven, you confess another one and you get another one forgiven, and if you forget stuff, God's going to hold that grudge against you. That's not the idea. That's not the concept at all. Listen, you have never confessed the full depth of your sin before God because you don't understand it. You don't understand how deep and profound your sin is against God. You don't. We just don't have the capacity to understand an infinite breach of an infinitely holy law of an infinitely holy God. We don't understand the full consequences of that. We don't understand the full depth and reach of sin in our hearts but you don't have to. You don't have to. You confess it truly and God responds with a full, complete cleansing, cleansing you from all unrighteousness. So it's not the idea that you confess one sin but if you forget something, look out. No, he cleanses us from all unrighteousness. He says, "Yes, you've confessed those sins. I will bless the humility and the humble intention of your heart. And while you're at it, I'm going to cleanse everything else that you're not even aware of." Just like a mom taking care of things the kids aren't even aware of in her daily care of them. Outside of the realm of your conscious appreciation, God is cleansing you and forgiving you of sins that you're not even aware of. That is how great and vast and perfect his gift of salvation is to us. He cleanses all sin. The darkest sins, the forgotten sins, the ones consciously confessed, he has wiped the entire slate clean and in its place given you the righteousness of Christ.

Is that a great, gracious gift of salvation or what? Praise be to his blessed name. Jesus Christ has secured our forgiveness perfectly. Jesus Christ has reconciled us to God perfectly. There is no defect in the work of the perfect Son of God. Jesus paid it all and in that, we rejoice. And in that, that's where the holiness of God – here's the connection as we close this up – John said, "I'm writing so that your joy may be made complete." God is holy. Holiness drives you to recognize sin. The recognition of sin drives you to confess it, and when you've followed that all the way through, it leads you straight to the cross. It leads you straight to Christ. You say, "I can't begin to cleanse myself from sin. My works can't take away my sin." It drives you desperately to Christ and you realize how exclusively and perfectly and dependently you must depend upon him for forgiveness. Then when you're there, when you're at that point, Scripture says, "Yes, and he is a perfect Savior. He is able to save to the uttermost everyone who comes to him by faith." And when you're at that point, then you have brought your mind into the realm where Christ reigns supreme and your affections belong exclusively to him and you go forth renewed, refreshed, with a deepened resolve to follow him. Is that where you find yourself this morning?

Let's pray.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, as we prepare to sing one final song to your honor and glory, we just want to thank you for the wonderful work of your salvation. Our Father, we honor your holiness so imperfectly. Lord, we long for the day when the constraints of our flesh and the constraints of indwelling sin are removed and we're in your presence perfectly, rejoicing perfectly, honoring you, giving you the perfect worship that you deserve. We long for that day of perfect worship. But here in this flesh, Father, we offer you the true sincere worship of our heart as imperfect as it is, as veiled as it may be, Father. We see from your word your holiness. We see from your word and our own experience our sin. We confess those things before you and we thank you in the realm of that recognition that you have provided a perfect Savior on our behalf. We thank you for the Lord Jesus Christ whose blood washes away every sin. We thank you for the work of the Holy Spirit who drew us to Christ and has given us a new nature whereby we can walk with you. Thank you, our Father, for your great gift of salvation. We honor you and we thank you today. Yes, we're sinners but even more than we are sinners, Christ is a great and perfect Savior, and we rest ourselves in him and in him alone. Father, for those that are here that do not know Christ, we pray and we lift their souls up before you even now. We pray that even now your Spirit would pierce and puncture their proud self-righteous heart. Work in their minds, work in their hearts, humble them so that they would come to the foot of the cross and give their lives to Christ. We ask this for the glory of your name and out of love for sinners and we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

More in 1 John

July 26, 2016

Jesus Declares His Deity

April 18, 2014

The Plight of Man and the Power of God

April 14, 2013

Final Certainty