8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
1 John is confronting three different heresies that were threatening the young church. In these verses he is confronting the false teaching that says the sinful nature had been eliminated in a Christian's life. The people who taught this refused to take sin seriously, and in this way the death of Christ did not mean much to them. This was a rationalization that they used to indulge the sinful nature.
To this John says, "if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us". To be in denial that we still struggle with a sinful nature assumes we have already been made perfect. The apostle makes this clear that we are not yet perfect when he says in Philippians 3:12,
"Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus."
Paul expresses what the reformer Martin Luther said when he described that we are, "simultaneously saints and sinners". This is not an excuse to sin, but the reality that as we still live in the body, we will battle against the sinful nature we inherited from Adam. But all that aside, John commands us not to deceive ourselves but to confess our sins. When we sin, we do not have to worry that we have fallen from grace, or that God is mad at us, but we do need to confess it. We need to be honest and contrite in heart. We can't have it in mind to do the same thing again, after we are done with our confession. That would be to cheapen God's grace.
So John says, don't deceive yourselves, you can't deceive God. God knows us intimately and we can't hide anything from him. And when we hide from God, or cover up our guilt like Adam and Eve, we don't have peace. We don't have a clean conscience. Our relationship with God is compromised just like any other relationship here on earth would be.
At the end of the verse, we are given a promise in response to our honesty. John says if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will cleanse our sin and purify us from our unrighteousness. There is a cleansing power of confession. Importantly God is faithful and just. Because God is just He has to judge our sin. But because he is faithful God honors His promise that if we confess our sins, Jesus' blood covers our sin. Jesus takes our judgment on himself, as he has given the once and for all sacrifice for our sins past, present and future.
Is there anything you need to confess to God today? Is there anything you are hiding from him, or rationalizing away? Remember God is faithful even when we are not. There is no reason to fear God as you are His precious child. Go to him now and he will hear your honest confession and your desire to please him in this area of your life. You will be set free from the hold of sin in your life and be truly free.