[When the Catch comes out late, it’s usually because the subject matter has been giving me trouble. It also means the version you are about to read has gone through many revisions, usually indicating earlier versions were rejected by my greatest critic, my wife, as not being sufficiently honest. With a subject like “sin” this was bound to go through numerous takes. The result is a longer than usual Catch but look at it this way: It’s Friday and you have the weekend to digest this. So take your time and dig into your own life as I tried to dig into mine.]
“Sin Exists,” I overhear Marti exclaim at the beginning of her second Zoom meeting with her new discipleship group. It’s the second week, for heavens sake, and she is asking them to focus on the sin in their lives? Shouldn’t she spend some time getting to know these woman she has never worked with before?
“I do not need to know anything about the women I disciple except that they are teachable,” she says later as if it were an extraordinary characteristic.
Come to find out — teachableness is an extraordinary characteristic displayed in every woman she has discipled since 1975. It never ceases to amaze me how women coming from very diverse backgrounds, become members of the same tribe over their desire to act on what the Word teaches.
But why start with sin? Why not begin with the new covenant, or the women of the Bible, or Christ in the culture, or social issues we believers need to understand in order to connect with people in the marketplace? Why start with sin?
“To get below the surface.” says Marti. “The root of sin is the only common element in each one of us. Sin is in direct opposition to the Lord, and what we do with it will determine whether we have a real relationship with God and with each other over the year together. To be relevant women of God, to be harbingers of hope, you must first start with knowing who you are and how you fit into the group.
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; 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. 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, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:6-9)
“The issue,” Marti explains, “is for us to fellowship with Jesus Christ, not just to talk about it.” The apostle John makes that point clear. It’s as if he is saying, This is not just a walk in the park on a nice day but it is actually entering into the experience of having all our resources in common with Him, and all His resources in common with us. Talk about Christmas in July!
But this fellowship she and John are talking about is not automatic. It is very purposeful. As soon as you think you can take it for granted — you are in deep trouble. Walking in the light is not automatic. Walking in the light is the key to fellowship with the Lord. “If we walk in the light we have fellowship, one with another.” Sounds like a good beginning for any relationship, especially a discipleship group. They will get nowhere without this. It’s a brilliant way to start a discipleship group. When everyone is in the light together, everyone knows. There is nothing to hide.
What does light do? It reveals everything — and I mean everything. Who wants the light to reveal everything? The teachable do. The teachable know what it is like walking in the dark stumbling over whatever it is they cannot see. The teachable welcome the light even if hurts, because it reveals reality. The teachable quickly recognize what it was they were tripping over or what they were calling by another name. Their foolishness is exposed when they see what has been there all along. They not only see everything clearly — they choose to act accordingly on what they see. This is what it means to be teachable.
I can teach 1 John 1:6-9. And I have. But just because I can teach it does not mean that I am always teachable. Many times, I choose to avoid the light so I do not have to see what it reveals. But what good does avoiding light do if it keeps me from a relationship with Jesus Christ?
In the light, you will see that I always want to be the center of things. “That’s not so bad,” you might say, “You are an entertainer, John.” Yeah, but I not only want to be in the center of things, Ask Marti, I am like a two-year-old. I want the world to revolve around me. And if it is not, I am not happy. Another name for this is self-centeredness and self-centeredness is sin. It goes by other names as well — pride, selfishness, or independence. That is the root, the twist in human nature which makes us commit sins. I hope you are following me here because I am not the only one exposed by the light and the resulting good, the bad, and the ugly.’ You, too, have the same root sin whether you are walking in darkness or light. It is easily exposed if you are walking in the light.
Marti wisely says, “Avoiding the light is an unexamined life, and an unexamined life is a life not worth living.” If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth.
After all this, however, there is something even worse than the sin in our lives, and that is thinking that we have no sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. John says that walking in darkness is to lie to others about the sin in our life. But to say we have no sin is to lie to ourselves — to live in self-deception. And the person who lives like this is helplessly alone, because he is blind to his own sin, and yet everyone else is not. Others see his sin, but since he cannot, and believes sin isn’t even present in him, he has no way to really connect with anyone outside of himself. Ah, the life of the lonely Pharisee … except he doesn’t even know he is lonely.
The man who ignores the light and walks in darkness deceives others, but seldom himself. He knows that he is not living as he ought, he knows he is ignoring light. But the one who actually believes that he can no longer sin, that there is no longer any possibility of evil in him is delusional.
The double tragedy is that this person is without fellowship, for the key to fellowship with Christ is to walk in the light. If you have reached the place where you say there is nothing for the light to reveal anymore, all sin is taken away, there is nothing to look at anymore, then, of course, you are deceiving yourself which always results in loss of fellowship with Christ and others. Who wants to walk with someone who has no sin?
Sin exists. It is a reality. It is always there. Always. Sin seeks to influence and control our thinking. Sin is personified in the evil one. It exists as a very powerful and persuasive factor in life. You are grievously mistaken if you think this is not so.
But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
I always thought the word ‘confess’ meant to ask for forgiveness. I have fallen on many a sword in my life, piteously crying, “Lord, if I have acted as though I was more important than Marti in any way, please forgive me.”
I hate to reveal the following as I will no longer be able to play these 3 cards again. But since we are confessing, I will tell you that:
- The definition of confessing is not calling for forgiveness. All we need in the category of forgiveness is Christ’s work for us upon the cross — that He has already done all that is necessary to forgive us.
- Confess simply means “to say with God” what it is you are doing that is wrong, agreeing with him that is a sin, and calling it what it is — a sin.
- Take the word “if” out of your conversation with God. “If” takes it out of the realm of confession. Sin is sin. Either you sinned or you didn’t. There is no “if” I sinned … Say straight on, “I agree with you God, I am going my own selfish way.” That is confession. That is agreeing with God. When you agree with God about these things, what happens? Well, John tells us,
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
In most cases, the Lord will want us to confess not only to God but to others who we injured by what we did. If we are honestly saying what God says about the sin, then we need to do something about it. We need to make the wrong right. It is the result of agreeing with God what I did that was dead wrong. Then make right what went horribly wrong, resulting in the cleansing like no other.
The cleansing is based solely on the work of Jesus Christ. On that basis God is faithful and just to forgive.
But let’s bring this closer to home…
The character in the Bible Marti thinks she most resembles is Peter, and her favorite story is the washing of Peter’s feet. I am gradually understanding why she likes to tell the story often to me. It dramatizes what we have been taking about in 1 John 1:6-9.
You, of course, remember when Jesus came to Peter to wash his feet. Peter’s response was, “No, Lord, you will never wash my feet” (John 13:8). Jesus responded, “If I wash you not, you can have no part with me” (John 13:8b). Jesus was saying, “Peter, here is the key to fellowship with me. You can be related to me by sharing my life, but you do not have any fellowship with me unless you let me wash your feet.”
Just like Marti, Peter’s response in his impulsiveness, always plunging himself into the full in everything said, “Lord, if that’s the case, then wash me all over” (John 13:9)! Jesus probably lifted his eyes to the sky like I often do when finally catching up to Marti. To which Jesus replied (and I am embellishing), “By the grace of my blood, you are forgiven for all of your sins — including the one you are committing right now — but your feet stink!”
Peter needed to recognize that his feet were indeed dirty and in need of being cleansed and experience the cleansing before God. Just as you and I can experience anew this wonderful cleansing, this faithful and righteous cleansing of our lives, “cleansing from all unrighteousness.” That is keeping the feet clean.
Except for her three inch high-heeled shoes she wears when she dresses up, Marti hardly wears shoes. Her feet got very dirty during the pandemic. Sometimes she will put her feet in my lap to rub her toes. The first whiff opens my senses. But she knows her feet are dirty and she will be taking a bath before bed (thank God). But can you imagine how terribly distressing it would be for me to live with Marti if she thought her feet never got dirty?
That is what apostle John is saying. If we say we cannot get dirty feet, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we face up to it, and confess it, and agree with God about it, well then, the cleansing that the Lord Jesus has fully and abundantly provided for on the cross is immediately ours, and we are clean before our Lord.