1 John 1:9

Sermon preached on May 25, 2014 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

There are some things that make a huge practical difference in our lives. When I was a kid I played in my first organized hockey league. I was around 9 or 10 and at that time no one in our league could lift the puck off the ice when they were shooting. We were only little guys and all our shots were on the ice. My older brother Paul was a great hockey player and he had set up a big heavy board down our basement to shoot at. It was about the size of a regular hockey net. It had four spots that were circled on it. The first two were at the lower corners. But targets three and four were at the top corners of the net. He would practice shooting at each of the targets. After awhile I joined in and he and my father taught me the mechanics of the wrist shot. After practicing for awhile I could lift the puck and shoot it high. I could do that down the basement. But I wasn't sure I could do it on the ice. But the next game we played I was out in front of the net and the puck came to me and I just shot it toward the net trying to lift it off the ice. Sure enough it lifted off the ice and went in. I actually think the goalie ducked so that it wouldn't hit him. I was the first one on our team to do that. There were lots of better players on my team that me and as soon as they saw me do it, they all started practicing lifting the puck off the ice. It changed everything—especially for our opposing goalies.

Another thing that had a huge practical difference in my life was when I got "NC" on the first history paper I wrote in college. I didn't even know what "NC" stood for when I first got it. N, what does that stand for? "Nice"? Then one of my classmates told me the initials stood for "No Credit". It was a failing grade. I had never failed anything in school in my life up to that point. So I made an appointment with the history professor and asked him what was wrong with my paper. I thought I had done a good job. I had even paid a girl to type it. My professor told me that the paper had no argumentation—that I should have done some research, come up with a thesis, and argued for it using some good sources. That advice made all the difference in the world. I never had any problems with history papers after that.

The text before us is like that. If you apply it to your life it is so helpful, so practical—it makes a world of difference.

I think it was R.C. Spoul that told a story about a man coming to him for counsel. The man said that he had committed a sin, confessed the sin to God yet, he told Sproul, he didn't feel forgiven. Sproul took him to 1 John 1:9 and told him to read it. He read it.

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will
forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

After he read it he told Sproul that he didn't feel forgiven. Sproul told him to read it again, and then again. The man knew the verse, but he wasn't believing it, applying it to his life. I can't remember the rest of the story but I think that Sproul went on to tell him that verse was true, whether or not he felt forgiven. Sometimes our feelings can deceive us. Sometimes our feelings aren't in accord with reality. This verse is a promise and we need to take God at His word, believe what it says and respond accordingly—with praise and thanksgiving.

This is a verse that can be useful to you every day of your life. For what it talks about here relates to how we deal with our sin. We all sin every day. And sin can have a very negative impact upon our lives if we don't deal with it the correct way. Many people are miserable and unhappy because of their sin—and it's all because they haven't incorporated the truth of this verse into their lives—it's all because they haven't applied this verse. They are racked by guilt and suffer ongoing pain and anguish because they don't realize the implications of this verse.

For those of you who are not Christians, this verse is so practical as well. It shows you that the proper way of dealing with your sins is not ignoring or minimizing them. A friend of mine once told me that his mother died of cancer because she ignored the lump that was the first sign of it. You can try to forget and ignore your sins—but if you do that one day they're going to rear up and condemn you to hell. You must deal with your sin in a certain way. It shows you that if you repent and go to Jesus, confess your sins, He will accept you and grant you the forgiveness of your sins. That will change your life forever.

So let's look at this wonderful verse with the intention of applying it to our lives.

The first thing we see here and a great truth that we should have impressed on our hearts is

God's willingness to forgive our sins.

This willingness is sure and certain. Robert W. Yarbrough writes, (1-3 John, BECNT; 2008, 64)

"John's optimism about such confession is based on conviction regarding God's magnanimous character…"

John Calvin adds,

"It is of great moment to be fully persuaded, that when we have sinned, there is a reconciliation with God ready and prepared for us: we shall otherwise carry always a hell within us… it becomes us to receive with the whole heart this promise which offers free pardon to all who confess their sins."

This is a promise. We should take it as such. Jesus came to save sinners. Jesus loves sinners. When He was here on earth He associated with sinners. (Matthew 9:10-11) One of the things that the Bible tells us from beginning to end is that Jesus loves sinners. Right after Adam and Eve sinned God gave the promise of a redeemer, the seed of the woman who would crush Satan. It was incredible. Adam and Eve had sinned against God, they had sinned against His goodness, against His Word. God gave them everything except to eat of one tree and they slapped Him in the face. Yet God didn't cast them into hell like He could have very justly done. He also could have made the world a lot worse than He did in response to their sin. Yes, sin has corrupted this world—but look at it this morning. How beautiful things are. What love and grace God gives. After Adam and Eve sinned He said to Satan, (Genesis 3:15)

"I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers; he will crush
your head, and you will strike his heel."

This was the first promise of the Messiah, Jesus, who would come to save sinners.

This theme is continued throughout Scripture. In 2 Chronicles 7:14 God said,

"if my people, who are called by my name,
will humble themselves and pray
and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,
then will I hear from heaven
and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

Notice the contrast—wickedness and yet God will forgive and heal.

In 2 Chronicles 30:9 King Hezekiah sent this message to the people. It read,

"If you return to the Lord,
then your brothers and your children
will be shown compassion by their captors
and will come back to this land, for the Lord your God
is gracious and compassionate.
He will not turn his face from you if you return to him."

In Isaiah 1:18 God said to His sinful, hypocritical, rebellious people,

"Come now, let us reason together.
Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool."

In Matthew 11:28 Jesus said,

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest."

And in John 6:37 He said,

"whoever comes to me I will never drive away."

In 1 Timothy 1:15 the apostle Paul wrote,

"Here is a trustworthy saying
that deserves full acceptance:
Christ Jesus came into the world
to save sinners—of whom I am the worst."

And then we have our text. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. But what we should note here is that these are but a few representative ones. There are many others. There are even more that don't state it—but show it. Jesus going to the cross. The whole is about God's love for us. Think about how He prayed for the Father to forgive those who nailed Him to the cross. Think of what He said to the criminal who was crucified with Him, when he asked to be remembered when Jesus entered into His kingdom. Jesus said to him, (Luke 23:43)

"I tell you the truth,
today you will be with me in paradise."

It is a truth that cannot be overstated—God's willingness to forgive sinners.

Let's look at these things in a little more detail.

First, we are told here that we need to confess our sins.

What does it mean to confess our sins? It means to acknowledge, to reveal, to own up to them. Its opposite is attempting to conceal them, to keep them hidden, to deny them, to refuse to acknowledge them. David tells us about his experience of this in Psalm 32:3-5.

"When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away through
my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand
was heavy upon me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, 'I will confess my transgressions
to the Lord'—
and you forgave the guilt of my sin."

But confessing sins is not just acknowledging them. I. Howard Marshall writes, (John (NICNT; 1978, 113)

"To confess sins is not merely to admit that we are sinners, but to lay them before God and to seek


So there's more to it than merely acknowledging our sin to God.

True confession of sin is associated with sorrow. Some people will confess their sin and they will keep on sinning. If you confront them about their sin, they'll say,

"You're right. I sinned."

But then they'll go and keep on sinning. They really don't repent of their sin and turn from it. They acknowledge their sin, but there's no sorrow for it. There's no feeling bad about it.

If someone was beating someone else and each time after he hit him, he said,

"God, that was a sin, forgive me."

And then he went on to hit him again. That's not fulfilling the biblical definition of 'confession of sin'. 2 Timothy 2:19 says,

"Everyone who confesses
the name of the Lord must
turn away from wickedness."

In the Bible confession of sin is part of something much larger.

Let me illustrate. What's a home run in baseball? One could say,

"Well, hitting the ball out of the park over center field—that's a home run."

No. There's more to it than that. That's only part of it. If a baseball player stepped up to the plate and hit the ball out of the park over center field and then turned around and walked back to the dugout—would that be a home run? No. It wouldn't count. He has to run around the bases. He actually has to touch every base. If he missed second base for example, if he didn't touch it with his foot, and then he touched third, it wouldn't be a home run. Hitting the ball is only part of the process.

That's the way it is with our confession of sin. If you look at the Westminster Confession of Faith you'll find confession of sin is included in Chapter 15, Of Repentance unto Life. It's part of repentance. It goes hand in hand with grief and sorrow for sin, with turning from sin and forsaking it. As we read in Proverbs 28:13,

"He who conceals his sins does not prosper,
but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy."

What this means for you is that

you need to be confessing our sins.

What is in view here is confessing our sins to God. The Bible also tells us that we are to confess our sins to one another. In James 5:16 we are told,

"confess your sins to each other…"

And in Matthew 5:23–24 Jesus said,

"if you are offering your gift
at the altar and there remember
that your brother has something against you,
leave your gift there in front of the altar.
First go and be reconciled to your brother;
then come and offer your gift."

So we should confess our sins to others to. But our text is primarily about confessing our sins to God.

Every day you need to be looking for your sins and confessing them. It needs to be part of your daily routine.

If you're going to confess your sins you need to know what they are. It's very easy for us to be blind our own sins.

So if you're going to confess our sins what this means is that you should take some time each day to think about the sins which you've committed during that day. You need to bring them to mind, confess them to God and ask Him to help you to get them out of your life.

I'm not sure the best time for you to do this would be. One time that might be good is at the end of the day, each evening take some time for reflection about the sins you've committed that day. Or the morning might be a good time. Everyone is different and you should be doing this each day.

Confessing your sins is not an unthinking thing, like you could do if you were just reciting the Lord's Prayer, where we say,

"Forgive us our debts…"

No. We are to be rigorous with ourselves, probing our actions, our motives, our inner desires. We are to lay them bare before God.

The second thing we see here is that

the assurance of forgiveness that we receive is based on God's character.

What do you think of when you think of something secure? I worked as a longshoreman when I was in university and one of the things that I think of as being secure is a bollard. It's those things on the wharf that we used to put the ropes of the ships on to secure them to the wharf. Those things were solid. They would hold the ship fast. They wouldn't break. I suspect they were made of hardened concrete with steel inside. The ropes and steel cables would break before the bollard would. They were solid.

But they could be destroyed. In a war, a bomb could take them out. When troubles come from you—you need something that can't be destroyed. Even more than that, you need something that time can't destroy. A couple of years ago I visited the place where I worked as a longshoreman and I hardly recognized the place. I couldn't even find the main wharf. I don't even know if it's still there, if it is it has changed completely. Part of it used to be covered, and the trains would back up into them to have the boxcars unloaded. That's all gone. The whole wharf might be gone. The bollards are gone. They didn't last. Time necessitated their demise.

We need something solid to trust in. Here we see that the assurance of forgiveness that we have is based on God's character. It says,

"he is faithful and just
and will forgive us our sins"

This is absolutely incredible. What is more certain, more enduring than God's character? His character is part and parcel of Him. It never changes. It is eternal. Remember what Jesus said about His Word in Matthew 24:35?

"Heaven and earth will pass away,
but my words will never pass away."

He is faithful. Bruce Milne writes, (John, The Bible Speaks Today; 1993, 39-40)

"He is faithful to his own nature, for it is impossible for him to act in any other way than is consistent with his moral perfection. 'If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself' (2 Tim. 2:13). Therefore he is faithful to his Word, which is the expression of his own nature. He keeps the promises which he has made and none who put their trust in him will be disappointed or rejected."

He is just. Bruce Milne says this, (p. 40)

"expresses his inflexible righteousness. But this too guarantees our forgiveness. God's justice ensures that he will give to each his due. Were it not for the sacrificial death of Christ, we would tremble at that thought, for the justice of God would rightly condemn us for our sin and cast us into outer darkness. But as chapter 2 will teach us, we have a Saviour who has turned away God's wrath, who has died in our place and whose blood goes on cleansing us from sin. Having lived the perfect life that we have failed to live, he died the death that we deserve to die. The fact that the penalty for our sin was paid by Jesus means that God will not demand a second payment. In Christ the work is accomplished, once and for all, and we are forgiven. The justice of God requires him to forgive, because the debt has been met."

I. Howard Marshall, The Epistles of John (NICNT; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), 114.

"The justice lies in the inherent rightness of the act; if the conditions are fulfilled, God would be wrong to withhold forgiveness."


"Our acquittal is not an act of partiality and favoritism for which God can be charged with injustice. He is… righteous and just when he is acquitting the confessing believer for the sake of Christ's blood."

He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God will make us holy. He will renew and transform us. He will help us to overcome sin. This is also forward looking. He will make us perfect on the last day.

We all need to confess our sins in Jesus. It's the only way to forgiveness, it's the only way to salvation. Go to Him today.