1 John: A 15-Day Devotional


This is a powerful and important text as we deal with the reality of sin in the life of a Christian. Any discussion of this topic must begin, as John does, with the bedrock truth of God’s utter holiness. Without this we will tend to downplay or excuse our sinfulness for various reasons. I have had countless pastoral discussions that ended up with the person saying, in essence, “If you just knew how difficult this is, you would understand that my sin must be excused. God wants me to be happy, and this difficult marriage makes me unhappy, so I must be allowed to walk away.” Or, “I am attracted to people of the same sex, and since I am lonely I must be allowed to marry someone of the same sex.” The examples abound. We must begin with the absolute holiness of God so that we are reminded that the standards of holiness do not depend on our whims. 

John, then, is an example of a wise pastor guiding us through the possible dangers of responding to our sin. We tend, on the one hand, to excuse or hide our sin or, on the other, to be crushed by despair over the reality of our sin—and the enemy of our souls does not care which snare catches us. He deploys both stratagems readily and cunningly. John refutes all claims to sinless perfection this side of heaven. He pokes a hole in all of our puffed up pretension. For all of us, sin is not merely a past memory but also a present reality. We must face it. But when we face it, we can be overwhelmed. We must face it and then run to Jesus. We must take sin seriously, and we must also take God’s forgiveness seriously. 

The best way to fight sin is to confess it. It often feels like admitting our sin would lead to taking it lightly (“Oh, it’s okay. We all do it”) and that it would be better to conceal our sin (“I would never do that”). But this is not the way. We find cleansing by confessing. This faithful cleansing produces gratitude in the forgiven. Since, as Jesus taught, he who is forgiven much loves much (Luke 7:41–47), this confession leads us to greater love for Jesus, and such love is a greater deterrent to sin than fear of exposure is. 

It is also interesting to note how John contrasts things we might say (“If we say . . .” 1 John 1:6, 8, 10) with God’s truth. People make all sorts of claims and sometimes will allow no disagreement. But God’s Word determines truth despite our claims.