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6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he 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 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 1:6-10
Although true Christians should be marked by a life of holiness, we will never achieve a state of moral perfection in this life. Sinless perfection is a lie. We must beware of anyone who claims to be without sin. Very rarely will someone blatantly claim to be perfect. However, many in the American “Church” have attempted to redefine sin in such a way that they no longer possess any real sense of moral responsibility for the wrongs they have committed.
“Sinless perfection is a lie.”
BEWARE OF THOSE WHO CLAIM TO HAVE NO SIN
At the beginning of verse 6, John shifts the “we” from the apostles to a hypothetical group that may include anyone, but it especially includes the false teachers of his day. The first claim of these false teachers was this: “We have fellowship with [God].” However, John says that their lives do not back up their claim because they “walk in darkness.” When John speaks of how a person “walks,” he is speaking of the overall manner of that person's life. Throughout our text we see a direct correlation between “walking in the light” and “confessing our sins.” Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that “walking in the darkness” includes an attitude of hiding, ignoring, and even denying our sins.
“Walking in the darkness means possessing an attitude of hiding, ignoring, and even denying our sins.”
Apparently, this is exactly what these false teachers were doing, because in verse 8 of our text we see that the second claim of these false teachers was this: “We have no sin.” These false teachers were likely claiming that they had achieved a state of sinless perfection. Or perhaps, because many of them were Gnostic and believed that the body could not touch the spirit, they may have been claiming not to have ever possessed a sin nature to begin with.
BEWARE OF THOSE WHO ATTEMPT TO REDEFINE SIN
In verse 10 of our text, we find that the third claim of these false teachers was this: “We have not sinned.” This claim goes further than the other claims by essentially saying that the false teachers were not sinning now, and that they had not even sinned in the past. Perhaps they were claiming that their mystical enlightenment had led them to realize that they were basically good people, rather than sinners in desperate need of the grace of God.
“Many false teachers claim that they are not sinning now, and that they had not even sinned in the past.”
BEWARE OF YOUR OWN TEMPTATION TO HIDE SIN
Genuine fellowship with God requires that we walk in the light, as he himself is in the light. It is easy to claim to have fellowship with God, but the devastating reality is that many people who profess to have relationship with God are actually deceived. In verse 7 of our text, we see that to walk in the light is to walk “as he is in the light.” In John 3:20-21, Jesus said, “But he who practices the truth comes to the light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” This is in direct contrast with the evil person who hates the light and “does not come to the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”
“Genuine fellowship with God requires that we walk in the light, as he himself is in the light.”
None of this is meant to imply that the person walking in the light never sins. To walk in the light is to simply desire to be holy as God is holy and to be honest about our sin. Verse 9 of our text says,:“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” To confess our sin is not merely to inform God of our sin. God is omniscient and does not require any information. Therefore, to confess our sin is to agree with God and what he says about the severity of our sin. It is to accept responsibility for our sin and plead for the necessary grace required to turn from it.
“To confess our sin is not merely to inform God of our sin, it is to agree with God about the severity of our sin.”
However, verse 9 creates an apparent problem, in that other Scriptures teach that we are completely forgiven at the point of salvation, including all future sins. Why, then, do we need to be forgiven and cleansed again when we sin after salvation? In verse 9, the word “confess” is in the present tense, but the words “forgive” and “cleanse” are in the completed past tense. So confession points to an ongoing action, but the forgiveness and cleansing are completed actions in the past. All of this begins at salvation, when a person acknowledges their sin before God and pleads for forgiveness and cleansing. When a believer sins, he does not lose the forgiveness and cleansing that took place at his conversion. However, he does not truly experience the fullness of joy and peace which Christ's forgiveness brings until he confesses his sin before God. Therefore, ongoing confession of sin and the ongoing experience of forgiveness characterize those who walk in the light.
Just like the false teachers of John's day, many in our culture have attempted to redefine their own personal pasts in such a way that they are absolved of any real moral responsibility. These individuals will go to great lengths in order to reconstruct their own personal narratives so that everyone else is always at fault, while they conveniently remain nothing more than an innocent victim. Instead of acknowledging their sin before God, they claim that their only true fault is possessing a negative self-image, and allowing “toxic” people into their lives. However, 1 John 1:10 reveals that these victim-minded individuals are walking in the darkness, deceiving not only themselves, but also all those who eagerly adopt this deceitfully flattering narrative. People like this are ultimately calling God a liar and we can be sure that God’s Word is not in them.
1) Have you fallen into the trap of redefining sin? How does the Bible define sin?
2) Do you actively work to take responsibility for your own sin? Or, have you reinterpreted your past in such a way that everyone else is always at fault and you are always the victim?
3) Even when we really are sinned against by someone else we often tend to respond sinfully. Can you see patterns of sin in the ways you choose to respond to others when they sin against you?
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