If we say 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. (1 John 1:8–9)
Only one kind of person comes to God: a sinner. There aren’t different classes of people — some more pleasing to God, others more repulsive. He’s not more inclined toward firefighters, stay-at-home moms, and high school teachers, and less likely to love sex-traffickers, teenagers, or drug addicts.
That’s the message of 1 John 1:8, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” One of the things we have to know about ourselves — no matter who we are — is that we are sinful. We learn the same thing in Isaiah, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned — every one — to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). And in Romans, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). You are a sinner, and that sets you violently, even hopelessly against God and his righteous, sovereign wrath. In our sin, we oppose the one true, living, and holy God, and so we deserve death. Therefore, forgiveness is the greatest need in all the world.
Our Curse and God’s Compassion
Because we are sinful — all of us — God would be just and right to condemn us all forever apart from him, apart from life, and apart from any kind of mercy or relief. But he is not only a God of condemnation, but also one of great compassion and patience.
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103:8–10)
It wouldn’t be wrong for him to deal with us according to our sin, but he chooses not to anyway. He has found a way to remain faithful to himself — his integrity, justice, and holiness — and free us from the condition and consequences of our corruption. As much as he loves and upholds justice, and as much as he hates sin, and as committed as he is to punish and eradicate every form of iniquity, he is also merciful and gracious and patient and forgiving. It’s just as much a part of who he is as his justice, integrity, and holiness. In him, all those qualities are perfectly expressed and in perfect harmony — no conflict or contradiction.
Confession and the Character of God
Our God, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). John adds something before this, though. “If we confess our sins. . .” There’s a clear and present condition in God’s compassion. We must admit the atrocities of our heart, plead our desperate need for a Savior, and look to God as the only source of forgiveness, restoration, and eternal life. God doesn’t ignore our sin when he redeems us. His plan to save us confronts our sin face-to-face, crushing his Son to pay for every evil thought or deed. God’s love for us is not a justice loophole. It’s an open, honest, and ultimately winning war waged against our sin.
But we must confess. We have to acknowledge that he will forgive and rescue us this way, or he won’t do it. We have to say in our hearts and with our lives that he is our only hope. That is how he forgives, and it is glorious, precious, and unchanging.
Only Jesus could live the life we could never live. Only he could suffer in our place and die the death we deserved. Only he could conquer death and raise us up with him. May we never forget that forgiveness looks like this — like him.