Getting ourselves right with God

Image credit: Ian Greig

“But if we freely admit our sins when His light uncovers them, He will be faithful to forgive us every time. God is just to forgive us our sins because of Christ, and He will continue to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

‭‭1 John‬ ‭1:9‬ ‭The Passion Translation


Lord God, You are light, truth — and also love.
Your holy standards are heaven-high,
but I am so grateful that the relationship I have with you through Jesus
is one of love and mercy.

And I get things wrong —
but thank You, Lord, for your light showing my failures,
and Your mercy that understands them.

I admit freely that I have let You down….


but You are disposed to forgive because of Christ
and I receive Your forgiveness now.

As I reflect on the Cross,
Jesus’ blood shed for me and its cleansing —
I humbly ask You to continue working in my life
and helping me to stay right with You.

And enabling me to give You glory. Amen

For a reflection exploring what this verse means see here

There’s a big helping of good news in this verse, and also a couple of obstacles.

The good news is plainly stated: “He will…forgive”, “every time”, and then “He will continue”. All this is accessible to us “because of Christ”.

I remember having a discussion with a local authority planning department and the language they used struck me at the time. It was about a plan to rebuild a rather dilapidated hall on the side of a church in a conservation area. The conservation constraints amounted to a general presumption not to grant permission. However, there would be a presumption to approve the architect’s use of style and materials that blended in with the local vernacular. A proposed improvement to a building in poor repair, to make it more usable, would also merit a presumption to grant permission.

Our relationship with God, through our believing and receiving Jesus, means there is a presumption to grant forgiveness: “God is just to forgive us our sins because of Christ.”

And the phrase “If we freely admit our sins…” offers another presumption that we will be forgiven.

But there are a couple of obstacles. The first one is being aware of what in our life and attitudes is most offensive to God. Our ideas about sin are often slanted towards things we consider culturally ‘sinful’ – eating too much chocolate and having too much fun. For some, historically, it would have been drinking alcohol. Not long ago, an unmarried mother would have been judged like this.

The Bible teaching in the epistles has a much more relational emphasis. It highlights attitudes like disunity, self-importance, and angry or malicious treatment of others. Paul, as well as Jesus, stressed the hidden sin of unforgiveness. Most of the letters mention what proceeds from unforgiveness, which is the human tendency to resort to hurtful gossip. These are the real offences! Offences against any of those created in God’s image are offences against the creator.

The second obstacle is in the words “if we freely admit”. The self-centred, ego driven part of us doesn’t freely admit to any failing! We can find plenty of excuses before we feel the need to say, “I got that wrong…”.

But back to the good news. What God has already done for us in Jesus tips the balance every time. He is waiting for us to agree with Him, about what needs putting into better order with Him. Then He can do what He is already disposed to do: give us His release of forgiveness.

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