Everyone sins. Even Christians still sin. You probably won’t find those statements on Christian encouragement cards or Christian wall art. You probably don’t meditate on those thoughts when you need a boost for the day. But recall that when the Apostle John tackled the tough topic of Christians still sinning, he began with the words: “And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:4). If we handle our sin God’s way, we can expect the fullest kind of joy.
We can handle our sin in one of two ways—we can conceal it or we can confess it. There really is no third option. Notice how John lays out these two ways:
|Concealing Our Sin||Confessing Our Sin|
|1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.||1:7 – If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.|
|1:8 – If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.||1:9 – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.|
|1: 10 – If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.|
Concealing Our Sin
John gives three scenarios of the way we handle our sin by concealing it. The first scenario (1:6) is the way of hypocrisy. We make a claim about our relationship with God (“We have fellowship with him”) that is conflicts with reality. The second and third scenarios (1:8, 10), are the ways of denial: “We have no sin,” or “We have not sinned.”
Of course, few of us would actually say we have never sinned. We are far cleverer than that. We come up with a way to confess our sin, and then cancel out that confession by piling on excuses.
We have this internal defense attorney who knows that, if he can’t prove that his client is innocent, he can at least downplay the seriousness of the crime, or demonstrate that his client had no options but to commit the crime, and therefore is not as guilty as it would appear.
A husband argues, “I know my flirting with this female coworker is wrong, but my wife isn’t satisfying my emotional needs.”
A woman thinks, “I know I overeat and overspend, but if you had my stress level, you would too.”
A young person contends, “I know I’ve been bitter against so-and-so, but she has hurt me deeply.”
Our problem is that we’re not calling sin what it really is. We are so clever that the very confession of our sin becomes our excusing of our sin. We might use the words, “I mess up, I fail, I blow it,” or even, “I sinned,” but then we surround those words we excuses, reasons, exceptions, so we end up looking more like the victim than the villain.
Whether by hypocrisy or denial, we tend to conceal our sin. The sobering results of hypocrisy and denial is that we become self-deceived and make God a liar.
Confessing Our Sin
Thankfully, there is another way to handle our sin. This is the way of confession, the way John calls “walking in the light.”
To confess is to pronounce the same judgment on our sin that God does. But can we see our sin as God sees it? The only way to gain God’s perspective on our sin is to consider the cross of Christ. The cross—Christ’s death for our sin—was God’s definite declaration of two things: our sin is great, but his love is even greater. When we see and admit that our sin was so serious that Jesus had to die for it, we have truly confessed our sin.
Because Jesus died for our sin, we don’t have to—indeed, we must not—excuse our sin. The way out of guilt does not come by covering up or denying, but from confessing, “This sin was so bad that Jesus died for it, but God loves me so much that Jesus did die for it.” Because Jesus died our sin, we are free to confess, and God is free to forgive: “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
This means that “walking in the light” is not living a life free from sin (although it will certainly mean sinning less and less). Rather it is living a life continually seeing your sin as God sees it, and confessing it more and more. It is living a life in the presence of him “who is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). It is living a life in fellowship with other believers who are also confessing their sin (“we have fellowship one with another,” (1:7).
Finally, our living in the light—continually confessing our sin—is a life of joy. Only sin causes sorrow. Only God’s presence brings joy. Only through confessing our sin—because of what Christ has done—will the cause of our sorrow be removed, and our joy be made full.
We can’t cover our sin. Only God can. “Blessed [joyful] is the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1).