1 John 1:9(b)

In his book on Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Iain Murray tells a story about a man name William Thomas. He was converted under Lloyd-Jones's ministry. Before he was converted to had been quite a bad character and had a filthy tongue. Old habits sometimes die hard and after he became a Christian obscene language sometimes came out of his mouth before he realized it. One morning he was getting up and gathering his clothes so that he could get dressed. He couldn't find his socks. So he went to the bedroom door and shouted something like this to his wife,

"I can't find my socks! Where are the things?"

You might be thinking, 'What's wrong with that?' Well, I left out all the bad words. In the book they were blanked out. But even if I knew them I couldn't possibly say them.

As William Thomas heard himself speak those words and realized what he had done, a great horror possessed him and he fell back on the bed. He was very dejected.

As a Christian, how do you feel after you sin? Like William Thomas we can be horrified with ourselves. We can be filled with grief and be greatly discouraged. We can feel bad. We can feel that we've let God down. We can feel that we've let others down as well. And we can feel that there's no hope for us ever to improve our lives.

You've all heard the expression,

"People don't change!"

People say that because of their experience with people. They've worked with people and tried to help them and they find that after all their efforts to help them improve their lives, after all the money that was spent, after all the programs that they went through—the people they were trying to help haven't changed one bit.

Maybe you know people like that. Three years ago at a wake I had a chance to talk to an old acquaintance I hadn't been in contact with in almost 40 years. Forty years ago he was arrogant, dismissive, rude and talked bad about other people. Three years ago I talked to him for five minutes and every one of those negative qualities were still so evident in him that I was appalled. It wasn't just that those same qualities were there—but it was obvious that over 40 years those qualities had been honed, improved and perfected. I was horrified that those characteristics would still be so evident. At a wake of all places.

But that experience showed me that the old saying "People don't change" isn't true. Some people do change—they get worse!

But of course it's easy to see other people's sins and tell about them. Often we're oblivious to our own sins and that's why we keep doing them. But the opposite can happen. We can became dreadfully aware of our own sins. It's one thing when other people recognize our sins and see that we've stayed the same or gotten worse—but when you feel that way about yourself—it's incredibly discouraging. We can look at ourselves, the mistakes we've made, the sins we've committed and become overwhelmed with grief and be totally demoralized.

How does someone who is aware of their own sins feel when they read 1 Timothy 4:12 where Paul told Timothy to,

" set an example for the believers
in speech, in life, in love,
in faith and in purity."

and to give himself to preaching and teaching, and then said, (1 Timothy 4:15–16)

"Be diligent in these matters;
give yourself wholly to them,
so that everyone may see your progress."?

They feel terrible. People are supposed to see how we are making progress in Christian living, in showing love, in holiness, in controlling our tongues, in being pure. When some Christians think about their lives and how people don't see their progress, because there is little or none—they become even more depressed.

It is certainly proper to have a certain amount of grief after our sin. For a time we are to mourn for our sins. In Matthew 5:4 Jesus said,

"Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted."

But certain other feelings are inappropriate. After sin we can feel defeated and dejected and it can seem like we're useless and that we'll never be able to get out from the power of sin. We become discouraged and demoralized. We feel that not only are we no good at that present time, but we feel that we'll never be any good. We can become depressed and dejected. It's like we are crushed beneath the burden of our sins and we feel that we'll never get out from under that burden.

In a time like that we need to remember verses like our text that contain truths that should lift our spirits and give us optimism, hope and confidence in our future, not because of what we are in ourselves, our what we can do by ourselves—but what God has promised to do if we confess our sins. Our text says, (1 John 1:9)

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

So this morning we're going to look at the last part of verse 9. It tells us that if we confess our sins, will

purify us from all unrighteousness.

God promises to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. This is an incredible promise. This is a promise of God that is rooted in God's character. God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. God is going to do this. He promises you this. This is true.

When we confess our sin God promises to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Commentators are divided over what the exact meaning of 'unrighteousness' in our verse. Some suggest that it refers to specific acts of wickedness or wrongdoing. (Yarbrough) Others (like Lenski) see it as a more general or abstract term,

"anything contradicting the divine norm of right;"

No matter who is correct, the main point is that

we are cleansed so that we are once again brought near to God and have fellowship with Him.

Sin separates man from God. After Adam and Eve sinned they tried to hide from God. They instinctively knew that they were not fit to be in His presence. Hendriksen-Kistemaker tell us that the verb 'cleansed',

"refers to making the forgiven sinner holy so that he is able to have fellowship with God."

We see this from verse 3. It says,

"We proclaim to you what
we have seen and heard,
so that you also may have
fellowship with us.
And our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son, Jesus Christ."

God is light and by the Spirit working in us we are, as it were, translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. (Colossians 1:13)

After we confess our sins to God, we can get up rejoicing because we know that because of Jesus and His work we are in a right relationship to God. The sin that cut off our fellowship has been forgiven and we are restored. We don't have to hide. We can go to Him and cry, "Abba, Father—Daddy."

The second thing we should understand from our text is that

cleansing us from all unrighteousness is God's work.

Just like forgiving our sins is something that God does, so too cleansing us from all unrighteousness is essentially God's work.

We do have a part to do. Philippians 2:12–13 says,

"continue to work out your salvation
with fear and trembling, for it is God
who works in you to will and to act
according to his good purpose."

But we must remember that in John 15 Jesus told us that without Him we can do nothing. So although we are required to work, we must always keep in mind that we can only work because God works in us. It is His power that we must draw on. It is His grace that we must rely upon. As we are told in Ephesians 2:10,

"For we are God's workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus
to do good works, which God
prepared in advance for us to do."

This shows us that

we can't cleanse ourselves.

We are saved by Jesus and His work. God forgives our sins. God cleanses us on the basis of what Jesus did for us. This is clear from 1 John 1:7. It says,

"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,
purifies us from all sin."

Don't trust in your works. Don't put your hope in them. Don't think that you can earn a place in heaven. No. Your works, no matter how good they are, can only condemn you.

Be aware of what sin has done to you. It has made you impure. You can't wash yourself. It's impossible. It's like Lady MacBeth trying to wash the blood off her hands but no matter how much she washed, she couldn't get it off.

It's the same way with us and the guilt of our sins. In Jeremiah 13:23 the prophet says,

"Can the Ethiopian change his skin
or the leopard its spots?
Neither can you do good
who are accustomed to doing evil."

We need God to cleanse us. This is described in Ezekiel 36:25–27. God says,

"I will sprinkle clean water on you,
and you will be clean;
I will cleanse you from all your
impurities and from all your idols.
I will give you a new heart
and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove from you your heart of
stone and give you a heart of flesh.
And I will put my Spirit in you
and move you to follow my decrees
and be careful to keep my laws."

This should give us great hope and confidence.

Although we have failed in the past, although we are weak in ourselves, God has promised to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

This should give us hope for the present and hope for the future.

Consider the present.

We can overcome temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says,

"No temptation has seized you
except what is common to man.
And God is faithful;
he will not let you be tempted beyond
what you can bear.
But when you are tempted,
he will also provide a way out
so that you can stand up under it."

Or as we read in Ephesians 6:10–13,

"Finally, be strong in the Lord
and in his mighty power.
Put on the full armor of God
so that you can take your stand
against the devil's schemes.
For our struggle is not
against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers,
against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world
and against the spiritual forces
of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God,
so that when the day of evil comes,
you may be able to stand your ground,
and after you have done everything,
to stand."

You can stand. As the apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:13,

"I can do everything through him
who gives me strength."

We can have victory over temptation. As the apostle Peter said in 2 Peter 1:3,

"His divine power has given us everything
we need for life and godliness
through our knowledge of him who called
us by his own glory and goodness."

We should have confidence—God is working in us right now. As we read in 2 Corinthians 3:18,

"And we, who with unveiled faces
all reflect the Lord's glory,
are being transformed into
his likeness with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord,
who is the Spirit."

Can we overcome temptation. Can we overcome years of bad, sinful habits? Yes. I began by telling you the story of William Thomas and his socks. After he sat back on the bed he cried out, (From Lloyd-Jones, Vol. 1 p. 244)

"O Lord, cleanse my tongue. O Lord, I can't ask for a pair of socks without swearing, please have mercy on me and give me a clean tongue… as he lay there, and as he got up from that bed, he knew that God had done for him what he could not do for himself. His prayer was answered, and it was his testimony that from that moment to the end of his life, no swear word, or foul or blasphemous word, ever again passed his lips."

Charitie Lees Bancroft: (Before the throne of God above)

When Satan tempts me to despair,And tells me of the guilt within,Upward I look, and see him thereWho made an end of all my sin.Because the sinless Savior died,My sinful soul is counted free;For God, the just, is satisfiedTo look on him and pardon me.

We should be optimistic about Christian living and our ability, with God's help, to obey Him.

But there's more.

Consider the future—on the last day we are going to stand before God and be totally cleansed.

On that day our sanctification is going to line up with our justification. When we believed in Jesus we were declared righteous. It was a once and for all judicial declaration by God about our objective status before Him. In justification our sins were forgiven and we were accepted as righteous in God's sight because of the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ.

But right now, as we live this life, we are still sinful. But that is going to change on the day that Jesus comes. Philippians 1:6 says,

"being confident of this,
that he who began a good work in you
will carry it on to completion
until the day of Christ Jesus."

On the last day, we are going to be fully clothed with the righteousness of Jesus. We will surely be cleansed of all unrighteousness. Colossians 1:22 says about God's work,

"But now he has reconciled you
by Christ's physical body through death
to present you holy in his sight,
without blemish and free from accusation"

In Revelation 21:2 we read,

"I saw the Holy City,
the new Jerusalem, coming down
out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride beautifully
dressed for her husband."

Ephesians 5:27,

"and to present her to himself
as a radiant church, without stain
or wrinkle or any other blemish,
but holy and blameless."

We are going to be dressed in white—in the wedding garment of the Lamb, in the righteousness of Christ. Then will come what is Jesus said in Matthew 13:43,

"the righteous will shine like the sun
in the kingdom of their Father."

This ought to be a great relief to our conscience.

Christians, how wonderful Jesus is!

If we confess our sins God forgives us on the basis of Christ's work. He cleanses us—inside and out, and gives us new hearts. He gives us the power to overcome temptation day by day—gradually cleansing us. On the last day we are going to be perfectly cleansed, standing in the righteousness of Jesus. How wonderful Jesus is. How great His work on our behalf. Herman Bavinck writes, (Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3, p. 339)

"What Christ acquired by this sacrifice is beyond description."

His work is so sufficient. It is everything. It is sufficient in every way to save us.

If you don't know Jesus—you need to go to Him and believe on Him. You need to have faith in Him. Otherwise your lost. Your sins have polluted you. They have made you unfit to be in God's presence. They will doom you to hell. Go to Jesus today.