Agreeing with God
“8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:8-10 ESV
Dear Church Family,
One of my favorite old John Wayne movies is “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.” Wayne plays a cavalry officer, Captain Nathan Brittles, who is nearing retirement in the age of “Indian Fighting” somewhere out west. There’s a line in that movie that is perhaps my least favorite line John Wayne ever uttered. A soldier had said, “I’m sorry, Sir” about some lapse in judgment, and Captain Brittles quipped back, “Never apologize! It’s a sign of weakness.”
Last Wednesday evening, we restarted our weekly Bible study and prayer meeting after a brief hiatus during the Christmas season. The topic for our study for the coming weeks is 1 John. Perhaps the most well-known verse in all of 1 John is verse 9 of chapter 1, quoted above. It is a promise that confession leads to forgiveness and cleansing.
Now, a confession is not exactly the same as an apology, but I think the principle still holds that neither confession nor apology are signs of weakness. Rather, when you are clearly in the wrong, they are signs of maturity. Admitting and owning up to a mistake is a step toward growth. It’s simply part of facing reality, and it shows a desire to deal with the problem.
The Greek word for “confess” literally means “to say the same.” In the context of worship, it can mean “declare” or “profess.” When we confess God’s greatness together, we are agreeing with one another about who God is. In the context of personal confession of sin, however, I think it’s helpful to think of confession as agreeing with God. God defines what is sin, and if I confess my sins, I am agreeing with God about who I am and what I’ve done.
Agreeing with God, then, is a critical step on the path toward overcoming sin. When we agree with what God says about our sin, we are in a position to not only receive his forgiveness, but to be cleansed from all unrighteousness. Anything short of agreeing with God is to accuse Him of being a liar (v. 10).
Another interesting part of 1 John 1:8-10 is that God’s forgiveness and cleansing are tied to his being “faithful and just.” I’ve often heard it asserted that God’s justice or righteousness is the grounds for his condemning of sin, and that’s true enough in itself. I think it is important, however, to recognize that God is not somehow “unjust” if he forgives us when we have agreed with him about our need for forgiveness. I could bring in another point here, although it is not spelled out in this passage: God’s righteous judgment on sin is “satisfied,” so to speak, because Jesus died for our sins. This, too, is something about which we should agree with God.