Let’s do a short study through I John 1:5-2:2 about the importance of deception and confession.
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 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.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”
After describing God as light, John then moves on to say that if we don’t walk in the light we are walking in darkness What does walking in darkness look like?
- (v.6) We lie.
- (v.6) We do not practice truth.
- (v.8) We deny our sin.
- (v.8) We deceive ourselves.
- (v.10) We call God a liar.
Notice the progression of John’s words about walking in darkness.
- We lie.
- We live according to that lie, I.E., we don’t practice truth.
- Then we deny that something is a sin.
- We profess it so much that we deceive ourselves about the nature of our sin.
- And thus, we call God a lair by not believing him about our sin.
There is another scripture that tells us about deception and God’s role in convincing us of our sin. It’s also by John in John 16:8, “When [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” This means that the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, but if we disagree with him about our sin we make him a liar.
How and who do we lie to?
There are three people we lie to when we walk in darkness. We lie to ourselves, we lie to others, and we lie to God. Lying is the most powerful tool that the enemy uses to keep us from Christ and salvation.
Remember that the first thing Satan did in the Garden of Eden to deceive Adam and Eve was to question the truth of what God said, by saying, “Did God really say?”
What does it mean to not practice the truth?
Not practicing the truth means to live one’s life according to a lie and end up believing that that lie is the truth. The first lie that John is concerned with is that we lie about our sin. We justify ourselves when we excuse our sin or say that sin is not wrong or evil. If we persist in living a lie, eventually the Lord will give us up to that lie. Paul says this three times in Romans 1:24,26,28. “God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts… God gave them up to dishonorable passions… God gave them up to a debased mind.” When God gives up someone, he gives them up completely. Notice in Romans that he gave up their hearts (hearts), their body (Dishonorable passions), and their mind (mind).
What does it mean to “Practice the truth?” It means to live our lives in obedience to God’s truth as declared in the scriptures.
How do we deny our sin?
We live as if the thing which is sin is not sin to us. We excuse our sin. It’s like an unmarried couple having sex. They use the excuse, “But we love each other, so it’s okay.” But it’s not okay. We make excuses and thus deny that the sin exists.
In what ways do we deceive ourselves?
We deceive ourselves when we persist in living in sin. Because we don’t want to experience the shame of sin, we redefine sin and deceive ourselves into thinking that what we do is not really a sin. Notice that John immediately follows this by saying, “The truth is not in us.” He does not refer to the truth as if it’s from the world. He says that the truth of God is absent from our lives.
What does it mean to call God a liar?
John repeats what he said about, “The truth is not in us,” with a similar phrase. He says, “His word is not in us.” The truth about our sin comes from the word of God. As an example, if we did not have the Ten Commandments, how would we know that lying or stealing are sins? How would we know they are wrong? When the word of God is not in us it is easy to sin and thus, we make God a liar about our lives.
These are all traits of a person who does not truly know the Lord. Jesus said regarding a person’s character, “By their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:20).
Sometimes a person might agree that they are sinful, but they compare themselves with others who might be “worse” than them and thus justify themselves. But the truth is that even for such a person these five traits of walking in darkness reveal what kind of person they really are: one who is not truly saved.
What does walking with the Lord look like?
- (v.7) We walk in the light.
- (v.9) We confess our sins.
- (v.9) We are cleansed from unrighteousness.
- (2:1) Jesus advocates for us.
Notice the logical progression of John’s words.
- Light reveals our sins.
- We confess those sins.
- Then we are cleansed from those sins.
- And Jesus advocates for us to the Father, that we are forgiven of our sins.
Let’s look at each of these contrasting solutions for our sin.
What does it look like to walk in the light?
Light is regularly used in the scripture as a symbol for righteousness and truth. Walking is also used as a symbol for living our lives. So, walking in the light means that we are to carry out our lives living in the truth about ourselves and about God.
What does it mean to confess our sins? How much must we confess?
Without confession there is no forgiveness of sin. There are times in scripture when the Lord expressed forgiveness before confession was made, such as Jesus on the cross forgiving his murderers. But generally, we cannot experience God’s forgiveness without confessing that which offends him. Confession means to tell God what we have done and agree with him that it was morally wrong.
What does being cleansed from unrighteousness mean?
Notice that there is a difference between being forgiven and cleansing us from unrighteousness. Forgiveness is the act of God dismissing our guilt for a sin we have committed.
Cleansing from unrighteousness means that by forgiving our sin he makes it possible for us to walk in the light (v.7). Cleansing us from unrighteousness implies that we become righteous in his sight. Righteousness then is not earned by confession; it is imputed as a free gift that enables us to walk righteously.
If we are cleansed from our sins, then why do we need an advocate in Christ? Isn’t confession and cleansing enough?
Notice who John says we have an advocate with. (2:1) “We have an advocate with the Father.”
Because our sin separates us from God we need forgiveness, then imputed righteousness, and then we need Jesus to advocate for us to the Father declaring our sin forgiven and we can walk rightly. Confession and righteousness are not the end result of the process, they open the door to renewed fellowship with God and then we can experience his love and forgiveness. With Jesus as our advocate, we come full circle in this passage, “We have fellowship with him” (v.6).
So, what is John’s Big Idea? If we live a life of confession and repentance, we can be assured that we have eternal life and will always enjoy a love relationship with God.
Walking in the light means to live our lives in obedience to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. First, we must live according to scripture. If we don’t live according to scripture, then we cannot expect God to speak to us about other things.
I was talking with a friend one day about his relationship to Christ He said, “I hear Christians say all the time that God told them something, or that he impressed them with something, or he convicted them of something. But I never hear God speak? Why doesn’t God speak to me?
I quickly prayed in my heart for the answer he needed and asked him, “How often do you read your Bible?”
He hemmed and hawed for a minute saying, “Well, my life is really busy and I don’t have a lot of free time,” and so on. Then I said, “If you’re not listening to what God has already said in his word, why would he have anything else to say to you?” At the end of our conversation he was deeply convicted. My friend had to confess the sin of not giving attention to God’s word. Once he did that, he began to grow in his faith.
Applying this passage is rather simple: We must come to agreement with God about our sin and engage in confession of that sin to God. No matter what the situation, when we are troubled by something we have done, confession restores our relationship with God. And through confession we can know God’s forgiveness and be assured that we are in right standing with him.