Our church is making a very important vote today. Instead of a regular service, we will pray, have communion and worship. As I sat down with my Bible this morning, I asked the Lord for guidance. He gave me a verse that I consider the most important verse in the New Testament. If I do what it says, I stay close to God, can grow in my spiritual life, and can better understand His will. If not, I fail and fall.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
The operative word is that little one: if. If I do what this verse says, I experience the faithfulness of God. He promises to forgive confessed sin and He keeps that promise. He also cleanses that sin, meaning that He does wash it out of His books, but also out of my heart.
A little voice in my head says, “Yes, but what about the times you confess then do the thing again?” Ah, I’ve learned that there are different kinds of confession. Sometimes, particularly for the many first years of being a believer, I confessed the actions of sin without realizing that buried under those actions was a sinful attitude, an “I want” that went unrecognized or ignored. If that stayed as it was, then the actions would pop up again.
For example, I’ve had a proud and competitive spirit. It might show up playing games with my children — I must win the game. Or it might show up in entering a competition, or on the highway with other drivers. Whatever the action, confessing it did not rid me of pride with its desire to boost my own ego by defeating someone else. It has only abated as I recognized the root of it and began confessing that root. And these roots of sin go deep into the core of human identity. God repeatedly speaks of it in words like this:
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way. . . (Isaiah 53:6)
Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil. (Jeremiah 13:23)
For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person. (Mark 7:21–23)
The Word of God also speaks about the nature of God. It says He is faithful. He does forgive sin, not because I deserve it, but because Jesus died on the cross for it. This is why 1 John 1:9 says God is just. My sin has been punished — only He did not punish me. His justice has been satisfied at Calvary. Because of Jesus, He can pardon sinners.
In my prayers this morning, I will ask the Lord to reveal to me any attitudes or actions that have violated His will. Before I make any decisions, small or large, I want my relationship with Him clear and uncluttered. I want all selfishness purged and any foolish or prideful thoughts forgiven and cleansed. How can I decide any matter if I merely want my own way? How can I know the will of God if my own will has my fist clenched or my lips pursed? How can I vote for God if I am wanting and going my own way?
Lord, some may think that it is possible to simply change, to move from “me” to “God” without dealing with sin. This is like saying a leopard can change his spots to stripes. Sin is a barrier. It separates me from You and from others. Only You can deal with my sinful heart. To insist otherwise is to say that I don’t need Jesus — and that would be a lie, and darkness, and a foolish decision.