The Apostle John, acknowledging that we all fall short, wrote in 1 John 1:8-10, NRSV:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and 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.
There are two major points in this passage that we should understand:
The first point in this passage is: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves” This means that we have to understand that we aren’t perfect, that we’re vulnerable, and most importantly, that we need God’s help continuously. The problem with sin is that it breaks fellowship with God, and hinders the work of the Holy Spirit’s in us. We need to be aware of our shortcomings and what drives us to sin, so that we can avoid temptations and not give in to them as readily.
The second point in this passage is: “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Knowing we fall short, God has provided us with a means of getting back into right relationship with him. By confessing, we consciously acknowledge that what we have done is wrong and offensive to God, which forces us to confront the reality of our lives. By confessing our sins, we restore fellowship with God and we allow the Holy Spirit to do his work of improving us.
However, we must confess with the intent of repenting, meaning that we commit to doing better with God’s help. When I was younger I went to confession often because that’s what was expected of a good Catholic boy. However, I had absolutely no intention of changing anything in my life. There was no repentance, just maybe a twinge of shame and remorse. So I wasn’t taking confession seriously, just going through the motions with no intention of letting God work in me. So we should confess, repent, and seek God’s help in making us better persons.
Is Sin OK?
You might be thinking that since the Bible acknowledges we all sin, is occasionally doing the wrong thing all that bad? We know God readily forgives the repentant sinner, and after all, we’re only human. Even the Apostle Paul admitted he couldn’t always do the right thing. Let me answer this by pointing out three things regarding sin.
1. God Hates Sin
First of all, God hates sin. Sin is ugly, it is ungodly, it dishonors God, and it is harmful to us and others While God acknowledges the harsh reality of the existence of sin – even among followers of Jesus – God still hates sin (but he loves us).
2. God Forgives Sin
Second, God forgives sin because he does love us. God sent Jesus to pay the penalty for our sins, so justice has been done – and we are the beneficiaries. Because of our faith in Jesus, God forgives us and restores us back into rightful relationship with him. We see an example of that restoration with Peter in today’s Gospel. Peter denied Jesus three times, and Jesus restored Peter back into right relationship with him because he was truly sorry and had repented. God forgives, not because he takes sin lightly, but because we have put our faith and trust in Jesus and are now God’s adopted children.
3. God Helps Us to Do Better
We know God hates sin, yet forgives us our sins because he loves us. The third and last point about sin is that God helps us to do better when we truly want to turn our lives around. God sent the Holy Spirit to empower us to resist temptation and to do God’s will. Thru the Holy Spirit, God gives us his grace to help us in this life, especially to avoid sin. The Holy Spirit won’t force us to turn our lives around, but will work within the willing believer to put us on the right track.
Notice I said “willing believer.” We have to be committed to Jesus, and want to do better. If we’re just going through the motions – like I used to do – then not much is going to happen. There has to be a willingness, and love and reverence for God.
More on our struggles in this life in a future post.