Thursday, March 6, 2008

Are You Deceived?

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

In my last post I wrote that we would cover verses 8-10 next time, but as I began to study these and pray about these 3 verses I decided to break this down into 2 posts. So today we are going look only at verse 8 of 1 John chapter 1, and we will pick up verses 9 & 10 next time.

In my previous 2 posts on First John we have seen that God is holy (God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all) and that he requires holiness from us as well. Then we saw that it is only through the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, that we can be made holy (the blood of Jesus, his Son cleanses us from all sin). In this verse we are going to see that without the acknowledgment of our sin we are not in fellowship with God. In fact, John goes so far as to say that the truth is not in us.

As I read this, the question that came to my mind was: What does it mean to say that we have no sin, or conversely, how do we acknowledge that we have sin? If getting this wrong results in self deception, and this is somehow tied into our very salvation, we had better get this one right.

What does it mean to say that we have no sin, and why is this important ?

John begins by saying, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Why would John tell us that if we say we have no sin then truth is not in us? I think the reason is that far too often we tend to see ourselves as better than we really are. The world teaches us that man is inherently good, but the Bible is clear that we are just the opposite - we are evil. The Bible actually teaches that apart from Christ we are dead in our sin (Ephesians 2:5).

In our minds we may have made some mistakes, but overall we're pretty good people. But this is not how God sees us and not how we should see ourselves. There are many passages in the Bible that teach the total depravity of man, but without doing a whole study on that subject let's look at a one; Paul wrote in the letter to the Romans:
None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.
This is how God sees us, and before we can have fellowship with Him we must first see ourselves and our sinfulness as He sees it. James tells us to:
Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
Why would James say this? Because this is the reaction a person has when they see themselves as God sees them, and they see God as He really is. This is really nothing new, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus begins with these words:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
What Jesus is telling us here is that true salvation begins with us recognizing that we are totally sinful - we are wretched through and through, and there is no good in us at all. Before we can repent of our sin (which is a requirement for salvation) we must first acknowledge that we are sinful and that we have willfully and defiantly disobeyed and rejected God and His commandments. It is not just that we have made little mistakes, but that we are evil to the very core of our being. When we come to this place we will see ourselves as poor in spirit, and we will realize that we have nothing to offer to God. At that point we are then ready to place our faith and trust completely in Him and His provision for our salvation; now we see our sinfulness, and we see that there is nothing within us that can change who we are. Now we can see our need for Christ. Now we see the wickedness of our sin in the eyes of a holy God. This is when mourning comes in, and Jesus tells us that those who mourn will be comforted.

So let's take this now and apply it to what we are seeing here in 1 John 1:8. John is telling us here that anyone who says he has fellowship with God, and does not recognize his own sin, is deceiving himself and the truth is not in him. Does this mean that you cannot be a Christian if you don't recognize your sin? I believe that it does; if we don't see that we are sinful we will never see our need for a Savior. Remember, Jesus said that it is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick and that He didn't come to call the righteous but sinners (Mark 2:17).

John goes even further in this verse and actually says that those who say they have no sin are self-deceived. Jeremiah tells us that our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) and that is being reiterated here. We must be honest with ourselves and honest with God when it comes to the condition of our heart, because according to what we are seeing here, if we are not we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. In order to experience salvation we must come to grips with our own sinfulness, and as we do and as we confess it to God, He promises to forgive us (more on this next time).

Spend some time today alone with God and ask Him to show you any area of sin in your life that you may have overlooked. Then take what He shows you and confess it to Him, repent of it, and thank Him for the forgiveness of sin that He offers through His Son, Jesus Christ.
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3 comments:

Preston N said...

Chris

Its been a while since I have visited your site, but I see your still touting the Calvin line. :) I hope your doing well these days.

I will say I do agree with you (I know thats hard to beleive) but we most certainly do need to recognize our sins before coming to Christ. But your statements seem to be leaning in the direction that Chirstian's still sin (continually) or don't really stop sinning? Again, I still struggle with the Calvinist whole concept of "Carnal Christianity" - as this is an oxymoron. Granted I could quote just as many verses in the scriptures that shows man's ability to love and obey God. But you seem to be suggesting that complete obedience or a total change of one's heart is an impossibility. So let me approach this maybe from another angle.

1. Do you beleive that sin is the primary cause of moral suffering in the world (i.e. guilt, opression, pain, suffering, etc)

2. Do you beleive that it's Gods will that suffering of the world (a) decrease, (b) stay the same or (c) increase?

I would be interested in hearing your answers to these questions.

Preston

Chris said...

Preston,

It's nice to hear from you again. I have been doing well, how about you?

This is a rare day indeed if we actually agree on something ;-) and I would not say that I agree with the concept on the "Carnal Christian" but neither do I agree that the Bible teaches that Christians are sinless. There is a difference between committing a sin and continually practicing sin. If you keep reading in First John, especially the next 3 verses, and also Romans chapter 7, I don't see how you could come to any other conclusion.

In answer to you questions (and against my better judgment). Yes, indirectly sin is the cause to all moral suffering in the world. Adam's choice to sin set in motion the suffering that is in the world today. And obviously, God will would be that there is no suffering, but the suffering that there is in the world shows us that we need God, and it should drive us to Him because apart from Him that is all we will ever have.

I know that I have just painted myself into the corner that you wanted me in - so fire away.

Blessings,
Chris

Preston N said...

Chris

I think we agree more than we both would like to admit :) I agree also that Christians can sin, but this clearly this should be the exception and not the rule.

The reason I asked the question was, since sin is what brings moral suffering into the world it must therefore be God's desire (and responsibility as moral governor of the universe) to decrease the moral suffering here on earth. For example, when Jesus teaches his disciples to pray he starts off by saying "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven". Clearly then the will of God is not always being done on earth as it is in heaven. Therefore, as some churches or theologies teach of moral inability to live righteous and holy, this seems to be contrary to what is taught not only in the scriptures, but would seem capricious on God's part not to lessen the amount of moral suffering in the world. The cross is what decreases the moral darkness and bring God's light to the hearts and minds of mankind.

It is good to hear that you do not believe in a "Carnal Christian" and that was really what I was getting at here. I often hear of Calvinist claim or excuse their sinful behavior under the guise of Total Depravity - but from what it sounds like that's not your belief.