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Gems in the Letter of 1 John

Part 100 – 1 John 1:9

When I was converted at University the first verse that we were exhorted to take to heart was this one: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Confession – apologizing to God and telling other people the wrong things we have done – is an important part of repentance. Repentance is changing direction – from a wrong way of living to the one and only right way. So part of it is moving forward in a very different and much better direction and the other part of it is stopping doing the wrong things in your life. In most ways the best and most important part is the positive bit – moving forward in a much better direction and we always have the Holy Spirit to help us to do that. The negative bit is turning away from the wrong things in our lives and a very important part of that is confession – telling ourselves, God and other people that we have a strong intention to do so. That is confession.

In practice, one’s attitude to confession tends to depend on which sort of church you belong to! If you belong to a High Anglican or Catholic Church you may be expected to confess very regularly, weekly perhaps. If however you belong to a, Baptist, Charismatic or non-conformist church you will be expected to confess your sins when you become a Christian but scarcely ever thereafter. Why the difference and what does scripture say to incline us one way or the other?

It is easy to see that the difference is between concentration on the negative or on the positive aspects of what has happened to us as we set out on and continue along the Christian Way. Both bits are important and we need to cater for both bits in our thinking. It does seem to me that it is the positive outlook that is by far the more important – but then I would, wouldn’t I, because I come from a strongly Baptist and non-conformist background. As I read the Gospels it seems to me that Jesus was always more concerned with people’s future than their past. “go, and sin no more” is the sort of statement he addressed to people who had turned to follow him.

John knew two lots of people. One was all those who had stayed in the fellowship that he had set up and of which he was still the centre. He was in fellowship with them. He reckoned they were walking in the light. Because he had known and touched Jesus they had, in a sense, known and touched him.

The other group, against which much of this epistle is directed, had broken the fellowship, moved into the darkness, and lost all physical contact with Jesus, to say nothing of the moral and spiritual contact they had lost. What they now believed was not the truth. There was no doubt in John’s mind: they were sinners. It wasn’t just an alternative point of view – they were wrong. They were no longer in any sort of relationship with God through Jesus.

Yet, even so, God would not continue to reject them if they acknowledged their ‘mistake’ by confession. He would accept them back into his family, consider them to be still pure and righteous, that is not those who made some bad ‘mistakes’ thus sinning. They are once again in closest fellowship with him.

Perhaps you too have been enticed away from the straight and narrow way of walking with Jesus. if so, confess what you have thought and done and he will take your hand and lead you once more along the only true way.

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