If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Today in our congregational reading we begin with the first chapter of 1 John. We recently finished this book in our Wednesday night studies so I know the theme is familiar to many of you. This is truly a remarkable little book in which John helps Christians to find assurance of their faith. In order to have assurance, a Christian most know that he is actually in the faith. John uses this letter to to explain how you may know that you are a Christian. He proceeds along three lines of proof. There is a doctrinal test, a moral test, and a social test. The doctrinal test concerns the proper knowledge of the person of Christ. The moral test is obedience to God’s commandments, and then thirdly the social test is our love for other Christians. A true believer will be right in all three areas.
A true believer will also realize what to do when he feels himself failing in any of these areas. Failure is sin which is a problem we all struggle with every day of our lives. It is impossible for us to stop sinning altogether since the sin nature is not eradicated when we become Christians. We will not be entirely sanctified until we reach the immortal state. We also cannot be content in sin else we are not true believers. The question then becomes, “What do we do when we sin?” 1 John 1:9 has the answer for this. We are to come to the Father with confession and repentance. When we do, we have the promise that He will forgive our sins and will keep us in fellowship with Him by the continual cleansing of Christ’s blood (1:7).
Recognition of sin is a critical factor for our happiness. Our desire is not to sin and the desire is fueled by three important factors. We do not want to sin because it violates our conscience. We do not want to sin because it violates God’s commandments, and we do not want to sin because sin has consequences. Our conscience has been renewed in regeneration so that it has a strong aversion to sin. The Holy Spirit convicts through the conscience so that we cannot be happy living in sin. We also know that God has commanded us not to sin. A real Christian will not be happy if he disobeys His heavenly Father. We also cannot be happy when we sin because the consequence of sin is chastisement. While we are never in danger of eternal punishment, there are temporal corrections that for a time can be very unpleasant. Hebrews says, “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Heb. 12:11). We do not like chastisement but we are eventually made happy by it because it has the effect of bringing us to our knees in confession which in turn brings the cleansing desired in 1 John 1:9.
As we read through 1 John, pay particular attention to how John emphasizes the factors that help develop assurance. A careful reading of the book will cause you to cautiously evaluate your salvation. We are encouraged to do this because confidence in our faith makes for happy Christians!
Pastor V. Mark Smith