I John 1:8-2:2
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 is not in us. My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
This passage is tricky in one sense because it both instructs christians to stop sinning, but then it makes provision for them when they do sin. Sin is bad. We know this. It doesn’t belong in our lives with God. So what should we do when we sin? Spoiler alert: we don’t pretend it doesn’t happen; we may as well boldly look God in the face and call him a liar.
Remember, God is light. He is pure truth and holiness. His light uncovers everything; we cannot deny what he can clearly see. From the jealousy and hatred you nurture toward that woman at church, to the resentful eye roll you throw your husband’s way when you step over a pile of dirty laundry, to the escapist thoughts you entertain when the kids begin to fight, to the lust you mentally indulge when you imagine a relationship outside the bonds of biblical marriage, to the faithless sighs of self-pity, to the spoken accusations against him, God sees and knows it all. His truth and purity cannot overlook these crimes against his character. They must be dealt with. And in his mercy, he has already dealt with them by sending an advocate: Jesus, one who was completely holy. Jesus, one who took our sins upon him and bore the penalty for them in full. Jesus, one who because of his righteous sacrifice stands in our place before God saying, “Justice has been done, now receive your children.” And the Holy Judge, once outraged because of our many crimes, became our Merciful Father. He saw that the demands of justice had been met and that the death sentence had been served, so he happily received us as his children. This had been his plan from the beginning–to deal with our sins according to the law and to bring us back to him forever.
But as these verses remind us, even after becoming God’s children, we still sin. Our only way forward is through confession. Rather than concealing or denying those sins, we name them and bring them into the light before God. We can trust him to judge fairly. He sees the sin, but now both justice and mercy cry out, “Paid in full!” He faithfully and justly grants forgiveness, restoring our good relationship with him. Life with God is a life of confession and renewal.*
*King David beautifully models this life of confession and renewal in one of his songs. You can read it here.