“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just 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. My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (1 John 1:5-2:2)
When was the last time you heard someone speak of sin outside of a regular church service? It would seem that in today’s politically correct, increasingly amoral society the word sin has become taboo.
People are all too willing to admit that “no one is perfect” when they are caught in an immoral act, but they will not call such an act a sin. The word sin is loaded, expressing an offense against a holy God—and since by nature humans suppress any knowledge of God, they also reject any accountability to Him. And so man thinks up any and every possible way of downplaying the seriousness of what he has done.
Let us turn the mirror of God’s law upon ourselves. Do we acknowledge our own sinfulness and the many sins we commit against God, or do we attempt to dismiss our sins and re-label them as “not that big a deal”? When we have deceived, have we really just “misspoken,” or did we indeed lie? When we fool around with a boyfriend or girlfriend, are we really just “having fun,” or are we giving in to impure thoughts and lusts? When we gossip, are we simply “venting our feelings” or are we ruining our neighbor’s good name and reputation? When we complain about our financial situation, our government, how our food tastes, even about the weather, are we just “telling it like it is” or are we telling God that what He has given us is not good enough?
Many old sins have been given new names. But sin by any other name is still sin! The Holy Spirit tells us, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Also, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him [God] a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:10). Make no mistake, we are very good at deceiving ourselves. Because of our sinful nature, even we Christians would often rather hide our sins than acknowledge and confess them.
David spoke of the serious consequences of not confessing our sins when he wrote in Psalm 32, “When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer.” We learn here that a refusal to acknowledge and confess sins can lead to physical, emotional, and spiritual anguish.
But let us also take warning when God speaks of not having the truth in us and not having God’s Word in us. A refusal to acknowledge one’s sinful nature and sins is impenitence and unbelief. And God tells us elsewhere in His Word that impenitence and unbelief will have eternal consequences–namely, everlasting suffering in hell.
“God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” Since God is completely holy, He cannot and will not tolerate sin. Scripture is full of examples reminding us that “the wages of sin is death.”
Sin separates us from God—and yet, here we are. How are we able to gather in church on Sunday in the holy presence of the Triune God? Why have we not fallen down dead? Whatever happened to our sins?
You want to know what has happened to your sins, to the sins of the whole world? Three nails, one cross, and an open tomb. You want to know what has changed so that we are able to stand before God on the last day and even approach Him now? “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). In the person of Jesus Christ God lived a perfect life on our behalf and then died for us. He came to us because we could not go to Him. “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”
Since Christ changed our status before God, why then do we need to still make confession of our sin? The Christian confesses because “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God encourages us to confess our sins so that we may be assured yet again that they have already been forgiven in Christ.
Or as Luther put it in his Large Catechism: “[C]onfession consists of two parts. The first is my work and act, when I lament my sin and desire comfort and restoration for my soul. The second is a work which God does, when he absolves me of my sins through a word placed in the mouth of a man. This is the surpassingly grand and noble thing that makes confession so wonderful and comforting.”
May God enable us by His Spirit to acknowledge and confess our sins before Him and before one another so that we may be comforted in knowing that “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”