1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (ESV)
This is easily the most misunderstood and misused verse in the New Testament. Without a doubt the evangelical conservative western church pounds people with a perverse fear of a mythological Molech g.o.d. and uses this verse to prove their “rightness.” You would think that the cross never happened. You would think that Jesus is just a necessary child sacrifice to an angry bloodthirsty g.o.d. that can only be satisfied by blood blood blood and vengeance and pain and punishment and viscous torture. You would think that the way this verse is taught, we were hopelessly lost, like spiders over an open flame, with a g.o.d. that can’t wait to cut the precariously thin web that holds us above the flame. One sin or one iniquity or one misstep will surely plunge us into the everlasting fire of eternal torture forever and ever. You would think that sin is something that this g.o.d. just can’t let go of, he just can’t give it up. It is almost like this g.o.d. is seething inside with a festering cancer that must be ridden of. As a matter of fact you would think that this g.o.d. can only be happy if all of this horrific mistake of mankind were all plunged into the skin filleting of eternal punishment while he cheers at the pain and anguish that rises from the din of his vengeful pleasure. You might think that his disgust for us will never be overcome, so much so, that he has to have a child that covers us up so he never ever has to see our miserable persons, ever. Even if we make it out of hell, he will have to tolerate our slimy worm, piles of poop for eternity. At least for this g.o.d. there is a son who hides us in his robe of righteousness so we never peek out and present our miserable selves for examination. Yep you would think that God was this g.o.d. of Greek pagan mythology ready to pounce on all of mankind like a ravenous wolf starving for some flesh. That sounds about right.
Or maybe that isn’t God at all.
Religion has us so buried in the bushes. In our religion we love the darkness of human wisdom and deterministic certainty. As Paul says, we are trapped in our foolishness actually believing we are “right.” How sad really when Jesus has done it all for us without even a vote from our self-righteously delusional minds. How sad to miss the mark with regard to a family that loves us without conditions. How terrible to turn our backs on the triune circle-dance of inclusion and turn to our insistence on our wisdom and our doctrine and our tradition. How horrible, really, for us to believe that death is a greater savior than Jesus and only then are we free to be something other than this “miserable human” that we are stuck with. It really is so disappointing to believe that somehow our sinful flesh (our human body) needs to be separated from our good spirit (the only thing that is redeemable) in our death. We actually believe that finally we will be free of our piles of poop to float around on the clouds of boredom forever! Yay!
OK, enough with all the sarcasm. I am making myself sick. This kind of reasoning is what we experience today in religion and what John was addressing in his letter to a group that was struggling with Gnosticism. Gnosticism was the belief that the body was bad and the spirit was good and only good stuff made it to heaven. It comes from ancient Greek cosmology taught by the greats like Plato and Aristotle. The Romans said “what the hell, lets party” because they knew the body and spirit would be separated at death. The Greeks said “we must deny the body completely so the spirit will flourish.” The Greeks would say that the spirit would mature and eventually transcend into the g.o.d. realm. They even believed that Jesus was just a good spirit from God in the flesh of a sinful man. He attained spiritual maturity and excellence by denying His flesh like no other and could then be called the Son of God (which was possible for anyone in their doctrine). Way too much background, but necessary since so many begin at the wrong place when they talk about his verse: 1 John 1:9. They don’t know who God is. They don’t know what Jesus has done. They don’t understand Gnosticism (because they are likely practicing it in their “denying the flesh” religious activities). And they are steeped in religion which is based on irrational fear and human effort, especially the desire to “be right by what we know to be right.” They need to meet Jesus like John says in the start of this letter.
If you are still reading, with that backdrop and considerable tirade, how about we take a new look at the verse in context. I realize that some may have bailed by this point.
This is the foundational verse for John’s entire letter:
1Jo 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (ESV)
We must step into the light of the truth of what Jesus has already accomplished. He said it is finished. He said He forgave us all. The foundation of the New Covenant is God does not remember our sins anymore (Heb 8, 10). Jesus is the visible evidence of all the unseen activity of God. We all died with Him and were raised with Him (2 Cor 5, Rom 5). We are a new creation in Him. We are free of the sin nature in Him (Rom 6). I could go on and on and on. There are so many verses to quote. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the whole cosmos (John 1:29). This is the light we walk in. This is our single eye to stay free from the darkness. We are in Him and He is in us and He is in the Father. All of the godhead is in Christ and all of Christ is in us as the hope of glory. I really could fill a whole book with all those amazing confessions of His finished work and His faith and His glory and His redemption and His salvation and His sacrifice and His incarnation with us and His ascension with us and His seated in heavenly places with us and our adoption as His children from before the foundations of the Earth. Come on! Can’t you feel the confessions piling up inside you that must be let loose like a river of living water?
OK, more Bible:
1Jo 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (ESV)
The darkness isn’t evil (evil hangs out in the darkness) it is blindness to the truth of Jesus (John 1). So when I doubt and I feel unforgiven because I sinned…again…I cry out “thank you Jesus for forgiving me and washing me with your blood!!!!” That is a confession if I ever heard one.
OK, what about this verse:
1Jo 1:10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (ESV)
Remember the audience. Some of the Gnostic teaching claimed we didn’t need a savior because sin isn’t real or it is attached to our meet-sack which will die anyway. John is making it clear that we all need Jesus. Oh yeah, He died for everyone and everyone is forgiven so whether they admit it or not they have a risen savior (Heaven and Hell will both be filled with forgiven sinners):
1Jo 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (ESV)
Now let me show you what a confession looks like. Are you ready?
Rom 10:6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘ Who will ascend into heaven? ’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “ or ‘ Who will descend into the abyss? ’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); (ESV)
Why are you looking in heaven or hell for Jesus who is in you. There it is in black and white. Let me say it again. Why are we looking for Jesus somewhere else when HE IS IN US? Oh yeah, because He is in you so now you can’t help but…
Rom 10:9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “ Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “ everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (ESV)
So now I am confessing Jesus in me. I am being saved. My life is changing. My fears ARE leaving. My doubts run away. My wounds are healed. I am more and more certain of the finished work. I rest and grow in faith. I am being saved from the darkness (blindness to His goodness) and the fear of death and any thought of slavery to sin. I am being set free. I am agreeing with my adoption. I am a child of God and he is in me.
Check out the Mirror Bible translation for this section in Romans 10:
Rom 10:5 Moses is the voice of the law; he says that a man’s life is only justified in his doing what the law requires. 10:6 But faith finds its voice in something much closer to man than his most disciplined effort to obey the law. Faith understands that Christ is no longer a distant promise; neither is he reduced to a mere historic hero. He is mankind’s righteousness now! Christ is no longer hidden somewhere in the realm of heaven as a future hope. For the Jews to continue to ask God to send the Messiah is a waste of time! That is not the language of faith. 10:7 Faith knows that the Messiah is not roaming somewhere in the region of the dead. “Who will descend into the abyss to bring Christ back from the dead,” is not the language of faith. (Those who deny the resurrection of Christ would wish to send someone to go there and confirm their doubts, and bring back final proof that Jesus was not the Messiah. Faith announces a righteousness that reveals that humankind has indeed been co-raised together with Christ; the testimony of the risen Christ is confirmed in the heart and life of every believer.) 10:8 Faith-righteousness announces that every definition of distance in time, space, or hostility has been cancelled. Faith says, “The Word is near you. It is as close to you as your voice and the conviction of your heart.” We publicly announce this message (because we are convinced that it belongs to every man). 10:9 Now your salvation is realized ! Your own words echo God’s voice . The unveiling of the masterful act of Jesus forms the words in your mouth, inspired by the conviction in your heart that God indeed raised him from the dead. (In his resurrection, God co-raised us [Hos 6: 2]. His resurrection declares our innocence [Rom 4: 25]. Salvation is not reduced to a recipe or a “sinner’s prayer” formula; it is the spontaneous inevitable conversation of a persuaded heart!) 10: 10 Heart-faith confirms our redeemed righteousness and ignites the kind of conversation consistent with salvation. (He restored us to blameless innocence! It is impossible not to boldly announce news of such global consequence [Isa 40:9].) (Mirror Bible)
Your confession is “Jesus is in ME!.” Your confession of sin is the agreement that He has forgiven you already. Your confession is your outlet for doubt. You confession is your declaration of His goodness. Your confession is your agreement with your inclusion. Your confession is your unearthly assurance of your acceptance in the most awesome circle dance of love you can’t even imagine because your brain would explode with the complete revelation of His goodness. Your confession is your trust in Him. Your confession is your faith. Your confession is Him smiling at you.
Sorry for the length of this post but I want you to share it. Print it out and save it. Read it often. He loves you that much, so go ahead and confess it often. Don’t miss a single opportunity to declare the goodness of God. Don’t miss a moment of agreement with your Abba. He loves you. He is proud of you. He has already forgiven you. You are His child.