What to do about your sins

Text 1 John 1:9, 2 Time 25 11 00 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church

(1 JOhn 1:8-10) If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
There are many famous verses in the Bible. Among the most famous is 1 John 1:9. It is one of the most quoted and best loved. Many of you here know it off by heart. I’ve never preached on it. In fact 1 John is a difficult book in some ways and so I may never have preached from it. Whatever, this is a great text and one not to be neglected by me or any preacher or by any of us, whether we are Christians or not. Most books of the New Testament are written by Paul but there are also other books by Luke and Matthew and Mark and Peter and James and Jude and may be someone else. There are five books written by John.
Besides the Gospel of John there is Revelation at the very end and then three letters we know as 1-3 John. They are what we call ‘General epistles’ – not written to specific churches but general letters to all Christians. John’s letters were written at the end of the first century AD when the church had been around for some while. There were problems with heretics and apostates and many believers were in need of help in knowing the truth and being sure about the truth. The teaching in 1 John is both simple and profound; both basic and fundamental and of the deepest and most difficult sort. We will just concentrate tonight on one verse, or rather the three verses 8-10.
1. Sin - The great problem that confronts us all
Sin is mentioned in all three verses – sin, sins, sins, sinned. Now what is sin? Different people have different ideas. For many sin = serious wrongdoing. For some it equals the sin of fornication or adultery (living in sin). For others religious word for doing wrong or religious wrongdoing. But what does the Bible say?
It is a big subject but, thankfully, in two places in this little letter John tells us what he means by sin.
1 John 5:7 All wrongdoing (unrighteousness) is sin.
1 John 3:4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.
The Shorter Catechism 14 says: What is sin? Sin is any want of conformity unto or transgression of the Law of God. Not doing what God commands or doing what he forbids. Disobeying or not conforming to God’s Law in any way. Examples would be not honouring your parents (not conforming to/neglecting to do what God requires) or adultery (disobeying, doing what God forbids).
To sin is to break the Law of God then in any way – falling short or going over. God has given us his Law, summed up in the Ten Commandments. Whenever we do anything or say anything or think anything against the letter or especially the spirit of the Commandments then we sin.
For example stealing; using God’s name in an unthinking way; coveting something.
Not honouring God on one day in seven; Lying, hateful thoughts.
It can eb summed up as Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind {Deut. 6:5} and, Love your neighbour as yourself. {Lev. 19:18}. Wherever we fail to do that we are guilty of sin.
2. How to deal with sin – the two alternatives
So that is what sin is. Now in the light of this there are really only two possible ways of dealing with sin.
1. The wrong way – Claim you have no sin
That is the first alternative. We can claim to be without sin, that we have not sinned. Now there are various ways of doing that. In John’s day some said there was a great difference between body and spirit – what the body does has nothing to do with the spirit so even though the body may commit adultery, it is not a sin as it does not affect the spirit. Only the spirit can sin. Over the centuries there have been many other people, especially religious people, who have claimed to be perfect. Now it sounds rather difficult and it is. What you need to do is to redefine your definition of sin. Most ‘perfectionists’ claim that they are guilty of ‘no known sin’ which is not nearly the same as no sin at all. More common is to redefine sin as only serious wrongs – really bad things. Some are more sophisticated and say there is no God to sin against or no Law of God to break. However you attempt it, this is a hopeless way of dealing with sin. It is what psychologists call denial. Being in denial is when you live and act as though something were not true. Your best friend dies but you go on as if they were still living. Along with this we find some of the other defence mechanisms psychology has labelled, repression pushing down those feelings of guilt you have; distortion reshaping reality to suit your ideas; rationalisation justifying sinful behaviour or thinking by blaming others; blame-shifting which is similar, etc.
Anyone here doing that? You know you have sinned. You know you are guilty of breaking God’s Law but you will not admit it.
2. The right way – Confess your sin to God
That is the answer – confess your sin. Own up. Acknowledge your sins. Say ‘Yes, I have sinned’. More specifically not to men but to God. Most people find it very hard to bottle up everything and never to admit their sins. So instead what they often do is to confess it to men. Many go to men who claim to be priests. You know it is an important part of Roman Catholicism, confession is one of their seven sacraments. Done in various ways (not always in a box sometimes more like group therapy). Others go to modern gurus like psychologists and psychiatrists and various other therapists who, although they may deny the very existence of sin are nevertheless father confessors to their ‘clients’. Similarly there are group therapies that involve similar things. ‘My name is Gary Brady and I am an alcoholic/gambler/sex addict/shopaholic, etc’. Some never go anywhere near such things but they still have a best friend who they confess to. You may have heard someone say ‘I just had to tell someone’.
Now what John is talking about here, of course, is not human confession but confessing to God, owning up to sin before him. Never easy but absolutely vital for us all to do. Without defending ourselves or justifying ourselves we need honestly and openly face up to our sins. We need to say ‘Yes, there are no excuses. I have broken the Law of God and I deserve to be punished. I am guilty.’ The word sin is in the plural – our sins are many and we need to confess not just the general fact that we have sinned but the specific sins we have committed. We will not remember them all but those that are particularly on our consciences should be confessed first. We need to dig a little too. Go through the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes – soon you will think for sins you have committed but have forgotten about. We need to confess them all. Easy to say ‘I’m a sinner’ but what sins? Obviously when we are in public we confess in a more general way but in private we ought to be specific. It literally says If we keep confessing our sins …. It should be a daily (even hourly) part of life.
Are you confessing your sins? Have you ever? Some of us find saying sorry very difficult. To admit we are wrong is very painful indeed. But the only alternative is to deny reality, to pretend we are not guilty. Suppressing guilt cannot be good for you. Even the world acknowledges that.
3. What happens when you deny your sin
Verses 8 and 10 remind us of the consequences of denying our sins. If you pretend not to be a sinner …
1. You deceive yourself and the truth is not in you
You say ‘I have never sinned’. Such a person can’t see how proud and foolish he is. Another says ‘there is no such thing as sin’. Such a person is very ignorant indeed and is sinning in the very statement he is making. To say you are not a sinner is to fly in the face of one of the plainest truths in all the universe. It is to argue that black is white and yes is no. Utter nonsense. Yet so many do it. Have you been doing it? Saying ‘I’m not so bad’, ‘I’m not a real sinner’, ‘I’m not guilty before God’.
2. You make God out to be a liar and his word has no place in your life
Worse, people who claim to be without sin make God out to be a liar and his word has no place in their lives. To confess sin is (literally) to say the same thing about it as God. Not to confess is not only to deny it but to say God is a liar. God says ‘You have sinned’ but you say you have not. Is God a liar? God says ‘That is a sin’. You say ‘It is not’. You are making God out to be a liar. You are rejecting his word. It has no place in your life. You are rejecting it.
Don’t you see what you are doing? Not to confess your sins is a great blasphemy against God. Go to God like the six burghers of Calais went to Edward III and pleaded for their city.
4. What happens when you confess your sin to God
You may wonder how confessing sin to God can make a difference. Because he is faithful and just - that is the key thing here. All the way through the Bible far from suggesting that God is a liar (he cannot lie indeed) the Bible is clear that God is faithful and just – he keeps his promises; he is absolutely fair. Now because God is like that, if we confess our sins he (in faithfulness and justice) will forgive and purify. NB faithful and just not faithful and merciful. The word just comes in because God forgives on the basis of what Jesus has done. By his death he has secured a just salvation for all who trust in him. Cf 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1. He will forgive you your sins
All God requires is that we own up to our sins and he will forgive them. If we deny them they cannot be forgiven but if we will own up them and say ‘ Yes, I have sinned’ then we can be forgiven. We do not forgive ourselves; we do not receive absolution from a man but God himself forgives. He cancels the debt outstanding. He wipes the slate clean of every sin we confess.
2. And purify you from all unrighteousness
More than that he purifies from all unrighteousness. Whether we remember certain sins or not he still purifies – he washes clean. Every stain is removed. No man can do such a thing.

The word if is important in these verses – these are conditional sentences. What you do makes all the difference. What will you do? Deny or confess. Think of a man who owes a thousand pounds slowly agreeing he does (a hundred, two hundred, three and so on). That is not a great illustration perhaps but we must admit our sn.