“Who can say, ‘I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin?”
I vividly remember when I first heard the gospel. It was the spring of 1971, and I was an about-to-be-graduated senior in high school. Another track athlete and I were on the Ohio State campus visiting dorms to decide where we wanted to live our freshman year. Walking across The Oval, we were approached by someone from Campus Crusade for Christ. The guy walked right up to us and asked, "Have you heard of the four spiritual laws?" I said, "No." The guy then launched into his pitch and did his best to explain the gospel. I did my best to listen.
At the time, the part of the message that I had the most trouble with was the notion of sin. The guy told me that I was a sinner, and that my sin separated me from God. I was OK with the idea that God existed, and I was comfortable with the notion that God loved me. But sin? I did not consider myself a sinner.
I was wrong. Dead wrong. I know that now.
"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 to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." (1 John 1.8-10)
Arrogance and pride blind us to the reality of sin in our lives. This is what 1 John means when it says, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Ephesians refers to "the deceitfulness of sin," and so it is. Many people live in self-deception about their true spiritual condition. That was definitely true in my case when I first heard the gospel and was confronted with the reality of my sin. I had deceived myself, and the truth was not in me.
But the Holy Spirit went to work on me through Christian friends, through reading the bible, and by speaking to my heart. A year later, after I had transferred to UCLA, I was attending a bible study with other athletes. During the study, it finally sank in and I became aware -- painfully aware -- of the reality of my sin. My arrogance and pride faded away, and in its place was conviction. I fell to my knees and confessed my sin, I asked for God's forgiveness and gave my life to Jesus Christ.
A couple years ago, my friend Dave Pasch shared some great insights about confession. He wrote: Confession of sin comes down to humility. The world is unwilling to acknowledge sin for what it is, and instead makes excuses. If we are not careful, even as Christians, pride keeps us from confessing our sin. But God cannot be mocked. He isn't hiding or closing His eyes. He sees our sin and WANTS us to confess. Why? Because sin crushes our fellowship with him, and God longs to be intimate with us. Unconfessed sin festers and leads to more sin. Confession and repentance leads to a God who is willing and desiring to set us free from our chains, even as Christians. He WANTS to forgive us. But we must come to Him.
That is the character and nature of our God. As Christians, we tend to bury our sin in guilt and shame, thinking God must be disappointed in us. Remarkably, God runs toward us to meet us. He gives us everything freely, keeping nothing from us, even His great love. He is willing to do this for ALL people who humble themselves before Him. This is why John can say "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness".
We serve a great God who loves us beyond comprehension. May we respond to his love by confessing our sin, walking in the truth, and enjoying fellowship with the Lord and each other.
"Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin." (Psalm 32.1-5)