How many of you have ever had a spotlight shined directly on you? Was it a comfortable experience? In 1 John 1:5-10 God is described as light, and sometimes that light is very uncomfortable when it’s shined on us. God is infinitely holy, utterly righteous and morally pure. He shines his light on our sinful, human nature. Darkness, especially the darkness of our sinful, human nature, is the absence of light. When people stray from obedience to God and step into the darkness, they begin to act in ways that are not consistent with God’s character. They start to avoid light in every way possible.
When confronted with the truth, true believers will turn away from darkness to walk in the light. They walk back toward the truth of who God is, and into restored fellowship with him. That process is called repentance, and it is the process by which God forgives and cleanses through Christ’s blood.
In John’s day, as it is today, some people falsely thought that when a person becomes a Christian that person’s sinful nature is erased and he/she could achieve sinless perfection. This idea is false. To have no sin is to have no Saviour, which makes Christ’s birth, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension unnecessary. Because everyone sins, those who say that they have no sin reveal either their ignorance or pride, demonstrating that they belong to Christ. Knowing the gospel is not enough. People must also confess their sins and walk in the light.
Christians who do not regularly confess their sins weaken their relationship with God. It becomes distant and strained. These Christians do not admit their sin or their need of Jesus’ cleansing. If we want to have a relationship with God, we must stand before God in openness and light. This light shines on our own inadequacies and weaknesses. What the light reveals is too much for us to handle on our own, but God will help us through Jesus.
Walking in the light doesn’t mean that we are perfect people. It means that we know that we are sinners. We are not lost causes. If we are penitent-that is, if we genuinely repent of our sins-God will forgive us. When we recognize that we are sinners and that we need forgiveness, we will be restored to fellowship with God.
Obedience to God is necessary. Those who habitually disobey God do not know God. The key to obedience is to have an intimate relationship with Jesus, one in which we live and move and are with him in every aspect of our lives. Penitence is essential if we want to know God. God purifies us so we can serve him. Without the Holy Spirit, we can’t do what God wants us to do.
If we do not admit that we are sinners, we can’t be saved. All too often we claim our innocence in spite of obvious evidence to the contrary. Lying to ourselves is the main reason why our lives are messed up. It causes us to deceive ourselves, and deception causes us to sin. Sin cripples our ability to follow Jesus faithfully. It is far better for us to confess our sins. God wants us to recognize our sins so that the Holy Spirit can lead us to the Saviour who died and rose again for our sins. No matter how horrendous our sin is, God will forgive us when we genuinely repent.
We live in an age where nobody is guilty and everyone is innocent. On the surface that would mean that the world is a happy place, but that idea is wrong. Sin is real, and our hearts are full of sin. We can claim our innocence as long as we like, but the day will come where “I’m not responsible” won’t be accepted as an excuse.
It is often hard for us to forgive ourselves, especially if we are high achievers. We are like the murderer who was condemned to life in prison. One day the guard came and opened the jail cell door. “You’re free to go. Someone else is taking your place,” said the guard. “How can this be? I’m still guilty!” said the prisoner. “Your debt has been paid. You are free to leave,” the guard said. The prisoner decided not to leave. “I can’t allow another to pay my debt,” he said. Because of his pride he chose to remain in bondage. Even though Jesus has taken their place and paid their sin debt, some people refuse to accept what he has done for them. They refuse to be penitent and repent of their sins.
Confession does for the soul what preparing the land does for a field. Before the farmer sows seeds, he removes rocks and stumps. He knows that seeds grow better when the land is prepared. Confession is the act of inviting God to walk the acreage of our hearts and clear our hearts of anything that hinders our relationship with him. Once he has done this, we can come before him with thankful hearts. Remember that just like a human parent, God doesn’t appreciate children who grumble and complain, especially since he sacrificed his Son for us.
True Christianity is like a mirror. We reflect God’s glory to the world, but we also show the world its marred image, its defects and its attempts to hide the blemishes. That’s why we must constantly confess our sins to God and to others. Confession renews our fellowship with Christ and shows the world where our true identity is. Living repentant lives before others is the greatest witnessing tools that we as Christians have.
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