The Futility of Denying Our Sins

Title: The Futility of Denying Our Sins

Text: 1 John 1:8-10

Time: July 24th, 2011

 

One of the biblical Christian truths that is experiencing difficulty in the 21st Century is the doctrine of sin. It’s probably one of the most unpopular teachings found in the Christian church today. Not that the topic of sin has ever been “popular” in the common sense of that word, but today it’s not only unpopular, but it’s also being denied outright. It’s one thing to not like talking or thinking about something, like death and taxes, for example, but it’s another thing altogether to simply deny a reality. But that’s what people are doing more and more today. Now this denial of sin takes basically two forms. First, people today tend to deny the reality of sin outright formally by saying things like, “I know the Bible teaches and Christianity teaches that there is something called sin, but I just don’t believe it.” That’s outright denial of sin. It’s a denial of an absolute moral standard from God, or that God has communicated any absolute moral standards that he expects us to follow. That’s outright denial of sin. You’ll find this outright denial of sin in higher education institutions such as colleges and universities, or in government institutions such as state-sponsored counseling services or social programs. Of course, there are always atheists, agnostics, skeptics and all kinds of people who simply reject the biblical teaching of sin who will deny sin outright and out loud. Maybe you know somebody like that, either in your family or a friend, neighbor or co-worker. But then there’s another kind of denying of sin that is more a denial by neglect than by outright rejection. In this, people just don’t think about sin and by default deny it. Now this type of denial of sin can even affect so-called Christian people and even churches and denominations. While officially affirming the biblical and historic Christian doctrine of sin, these individuals, groups, churches and denominations essentially deny sin because they simply don’t talk much about it, or teach on it, or deal with it in any meaningful way. It simply dies of neglect. It’s this last type of denying of sin that we need to be particularly careful of as Christians in the 21st Century today, because we live in a secular society that denies sin in one way or another, and this tempts us to join in ourselves in some form of denying sin. As a pastor, I’m aware that most people don’t particularly like to hear or learn about sin; it isn’t a pleasant topic – at least when it comes to dealing with our own sins. Talking about other people’s sins is a very popular topic; all we have to do is listen to the news every day and we’ll hear reporting on some interesting sin that someone, some celebrity or politician or preacher, is doing. But as far as learning about and dealing with our own sins – that’s not interesting, in fact, it’s not pleasant and most people, even most Christians, don’t want to hear it. Which does present a problem for good, solid Christian churches. Do we teach and preach what people want to hear – give the people what they want? Or do we teach and preach what God says in God’s Word about sin regardless of opinion polls? Well, I think it’s pretty clear. We must teach what God says in his Word regardless of what popular culture thinks or regardless what opinion polls reveal. We must deal with reality, even unpleasant realties, like sin. That’s what John does in 1 John 1:8-10, he addresses the topic of sin: “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.”

First, there’s the problem of denying sin in our lives. 1 John 1:8, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Like I said before, there are many ways to essentially deny the Christian doctrine of sin. Some outright reject it as a myth or fiction invented by the Christian church to keep everyone in a perpetual state of guilt and shame. Then, people are forced to come to the church to receive forgiveness. In other words, some unbelievers, some skeptics, even some backslidden Christians, claim that pastors teach about sin in order to get people dependent upon the church and its ministry to grant forgiveness of sins. Sin is invented to create a problem, then forgiveness is invented to solve the problem, thus making for the church an important role in society. But there aren’t many people who actually believe that explanation. You have to be pretty cynical, disgruntled and paranoid to really believe that sin is the church’s invention just to get people coming back for the cure of forgiveness. But people turn to such far-fetched explanations to justify their own rejection of the doctrine of sin. The biggest reason why people deny sin, or in the words of the verse we are examining, “claim to be without sin,” is in order to continue in whatever way of life they are living guilt free. Or people want the freedom to live, think and feel any way they want without any standard of right or wrong telling them different. Feelings of guilt and shame are normally negative emotions, so what better way of eliminating these negative emotions than to simply deny absolute moral standards and thus eliminate the possibility of ever failing to live by them? Or what better way of avoiding any guilt or shame than by denying that we are obligated in any way to live in accordance with any moral absolute standards? But John is writing to Christians, not skeptics or atheists or others who deny outright the doctrine of sin. So then, what’s his point? For Christians, to claim to be without sin isn’t to deny the doctrine of sin, but to deny that we are sinners or that we do sin. And believe it or not, there are plenty of Christians who deny sin in this sense. They simply don’t see themselves as a sinner or as sinning. They are confused. They are ignorant. They don’t understand the biblical teaching about sin and so their understanding of themselves is overly optimistic. John says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” That means there are lots of people who are self-deceived, not just in ancient times, but today too. We need to recognize that the Bible teaches we are sinners before we come to Christ – which is a big part of the reason we need to come to Christ to begin with – and that we continue to sin even after we are Christians. So we need to constantly be on guard to resist temptation and when we fall into sin, examine ourselves and confess and repent of sin. But the problem with many Christians today is that they don’t spend much time resisting temptation, nor do they put forth much effort examining themselves for sin or confessing or repenting of sin. Why not? Because they don’t think they are sinners or that they have much of a sin problem still. That’s self-deception, according to John. It’s clear from the Bible, if we compare ourselves to the way we are supposed to live and the way we actually live, we fall woefully short. We are sinners. So we need to be constantly, daily, examining ourselves for sin and confessing and repenting. But how many of us do that? Do you examine yourself on a daily basis for sin? The Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith.” Do you do that? Or do you practically deny that you sin by neglecting confession and repentance? If you are typical, you need to make a greater effort to deal seriously with your sins, your failings in thought, word and deed. We need to learn what is sin and learn where we are falling short, and address our problems. To fail to address our own sin problems is to deny we are sinners. That’s what John is talking about.

 

Second, there’s the importance of examining, confessing and repenting of our sins. 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Now here’s the really crazy part of it – all we have to do is be honest with God and own up to our own moral shortcomings on a daily basis and we’ll be forgiven, healed of guilt and shame, and purified by the blood of Jesus. I mean it’s one thing to confess one’s guilt over something and then it’s another thing entirely to receive punishment for the sin in addition to the humiliation and disgrace of admitting to one’s failure. For example, if you remember in the Old Testament, in Joshua 7, there is the unfortunate character Achan who disobeyed Joshua’s command for Israel to not take anything from the defeated enemy camp, but this man stole some items. “Then Joshua said to Achan, ‘My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel, and render praise to him; and tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.’ And Achan answered Joshua, ‘Of a truth I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel,’” Joshua 7:19-20. He confessed to his sins and was promptly executed. So in that instance, he confessed his guilt and paid with it with his life. But God is asking us to examine ourselves carefully for sin, confess our sins and repent of them in order to receive a full forgiveness. Now what do I mean a full forgiveness? It’s this. Technically, when we place our trust in Jesus Christ, when we humbly come to Jesus and put our trust in his atoning work on the cross on our behalf, we are forgiven for sins, past, present and future. We are declared righteous through the righteousness of Christ. But as we continue to live our Christian lives in the present, we do find ourselves continually falling short of God’s holy standards in thought, word and deed. Does it matter any more? After all, aren’t we forgiven of sins through the blood of Jesus? If so, why then is it important to confess sins any more? A lot of people are confused about this today, a lot of Christians are confused too. Many think, “I confessed and repented of sin years ago when I first trusted in Jesus by faith for forgiveness of sins. Why do I need to confess or repent of sins any more? If I’ve been forgiven, then it’s all done, right?” No, it’s not all done. Yes, you are forgiven of your sins, past, present and future. Yes, you won’t lose your salvation through sinning. Yes, you are forgiven and you are considered righteous by God the Father in heaven. Yes, there is a place prepared for you in eternal life with God. But no, that isn’t the end of things as far as our struggle against sin in this life. We are called by God to live holy and righteous lives. We won’t ever fully live up to that calling in this life while we live in this sinful, fallen world, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t struggle to resist temptation and carefully examine ourselves, confess and repent of sins in order to fulfill our calling. We should. How can we make spiritual and moral progress if we don’t take our sins seriously? We don’t have to fear God’s wrath or judgment on our sins after we die, so we don’t operate in life under the threat of hell. Our motivation should be out of love and gratitude towards God for saving our soul. I want to live holy and righteous in order to fulfill my original calling from God. I want to live up to what God created me for, even though I fail to do so. We can be assured that we are loved and forgiven of our sins as we examine our lives, confess and repent of our sins, and seek to make moral and spiritual progress. We do it out of love for God, not out of fear of hell or judgment. Are you faithful in confessing your sins regularly before God? Do you seek to identify areas of your life where you are falling short, where you are failing? If not, why the loose and casual attitude towards sin? Why don’t you pay attention to the sin that cost Christ his life on the cross? Let’s start today in a new pursuit of holiness in our lives.

 

Third, there’s the problem of insensitivity towards sin among Christians. 1 John 1:10, “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” Now there are some people, maybe many people, even Christians who say, “Ok, I believe in sin, original and personal, and believe that it’s possible to sin even after becoming a Christian, but I’m just not convinced that I sin much, at least not in any major way, and therefore, I just don’t have much to confess or repent of.” How do you respond to someone like that? How do you classify someone who in all honesty doesn’t feel the need to examine themselves for sin, confess or repent of sins, because they simply don’t think they sin? Two words – invincible ignorance. No, in all honesty, it’s failure of sensitivity towards sin in their life. Either they don’t know what the Bible teaches about sin or they fail to apply what the Bible teaches about sin to their own life. How many commands are there in the Bible? Hundreds? Thousands? Too many to even count. So, in other words, God has a lot of expectations towards us concerning how we think, feel and live. All we have to do is read just a little bit of the Bible to run into some command of God in one form or fashion. Ok, that’s how God wants us to live. When we fail to live that way, that’s sin. Just to take one area, one command. Jesus taught, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Can anyone honestly say, “I love my neighbor as I love myself?” Of course not. So then, an honest Christian, will examine themselves in this area and ask, “God, in what ways am I not loving others as I love myself?” Then they’ll reflect on their relationships with others and find a number of different ways that they failed to fulfill Jesus’ command to love. Then they’ll confess those failures, those sins, and repent – which means to decide they are going to do better – and commit to making changes in their life. Now this is just one area of life, but there are countless areas of our lives where we need to examine ourselves and let God convict us of our failings, confess, repent and recommit to doing things different. Yet surprisingly, many or even most Christians spend little time doing anything like what I’ve just outlined! Why? Because secretly, deep down inside, they don’t really believe they need to because they don’t really think they are sinners in need of much progress! But it’s just the opposite! They are really sinners who are blind to their own sins, but probably very much aware of other people’s sins. They don’t realize it but by denying they are sinners or that they sin and need to confess and repent of sin, they are calling God a liar! That’s what John says. He also says that God’s Word has no place in their life. That means, whether they read the Bible or not, God’s Word isn’t a reality in their life. If God’s Word was a reality in their life they wouldn’t deny they are in need of confession and repentance of sin. If God’s Word was a reality in their life they’d examine themselves for moral failings and take holiness more seriously. If God’s Word was important to them, they’d read and understand what the Bible calls sins, especially sins of the heart and mind, and they’d grieve more when they fall short of God’s holy expectations. John wants people to wake up and not continue to be “invincibly ignorant.” Do you take sin seriously? Or are you one you basically denies sin as a reality in your life? Do you ever feel guilt and shame over your sins, or do you have such a high opinion of yourself that you are above all that? God wants us to know that we are forgiven, that we are inheritors of eternal life, but that doesn’t mean sin doesn’t matter anymore or that we can skip confession or repentance of sin. No. We can now examine ourselves for sin, confess it and repent of it more because we are forgiven, because we don’t have to be afraid to get honest with ourselves and especially God. We can ask God to help us overcome our failings and sins. And he will help us live holy and righteous lives.

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