If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:7-9 NRSV
Walking in the light is a choice. Have you ever gotten up in the middle of the night and bumped into something, usually with your shin or toe which is very painful? Of course! Almost all of us have. We don’t turn on the light because we either don’t want to disturb the others in the house or we don’t want to fully wake up so that we can return back to sleep. We choose to walk in the darkness.
Walking in spiritual light or spiritual darkness is also a choice. Spiritual darkness is unrighteousness. Conversely, spiritual light is righteousness. Righteousness is more than just what is considered to be morally acceptable. Righteousness is completely pleasing God with everything that we do. Righteousness means being right in His eyes. It is living His character in our behavior, our choices, and our actions.
John warns us that unrighteousness — behavior that is unacceptable to God (sin) — will not only bring separation between us and God, but will also break the relationships that we have with those around us. Even if our family and friends are unaware of our sin, sin changes us in such a way as to cause this separation. But Father God, in His infinite love, is willing and able to completely forgive if we choose to confess our sins.
Two things happen when we regularly confess our sins. The first is marvelous; the second is necessary.
The first thing that happens when we confess our sins is that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from those sins… all of them. And this is more than just forgiveness (because forgiveness is included); it is a complete cleansing. Psalm 103:12 NRSV: As far as the east is from the west, so far He removes our transgressions from us. This is an interesting metaphor; God chose it specifically and well to show us how far our sins are away. Think of a world globe. Begin at any point and travel north. Once you reach the North Pole, you will no longer be able to travel north and will have to travel south. It is the same with traveling south; once you reach the South Pole, you will have to travel north. But begin again at any point and travel east. You never stop traveling east. When you travel east, you never reach the end and have to begin traveling west. It is the same with traveling west. East never meets west. It is the same with our sins. Father God removes them so far from us that our sins never touch us again. They are gone forever!
The second thing that happens when we confess our sins regularly is that the Holy Spirit begins to reveal to us the sins of which we were not aware. Psalm 19:12 NRSV states: Clear me from hidden faults. There are sins in our lives that we ignore, that we have hidden, or that we are even unaware are sins! We are forgiven of even these, but the Holy Spirit reveals them to us so that we can deal with them, confess them, and turn from them.
As a society, Americans are so enamored with self-esteem that little is often said from the pulpit about sin confession. And yet, this is an essential dynamic in our relationship with God and with those around us. By failing to understand the power of sin confession, we are leaving ourselves wide open to the delusions of the enemy who would try to convince us that we are fine and dandy without the Lord and His cleansing work at the cross. And because many Christians have believed this lie, we exist in ever-distanced relationships with those around us, feeling increasingly lonely and alone. We can restore those relationships and our relationship with the Lord by accessing sin confession and clinging to His promise of complete forgiveness and restoration.