- A Sense of Our Own Condition
A second indication that there is, in all likelihood, spiritual life in us is found in 1 John 1.8-9—“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If [on the other hand] we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
The conclusive point is added in verse 10 — “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
The opposite of that last verse is true of us if we are deeply aware that we are sinners. We say — “I am a lost sinner, guilty and condemned before God, and have repented sincerely before him, relying on Christ’s mercy and atoning death for forgiveness.” If we feel unforgiven and unsure of salvation, we need to consider that something very extraordinary and dramatic has happened within us. We have acknowledged ourselves to be sinners, and unsaved people do not generally act or think like that.
When we tell unsaved people they are lost sinners they protest that this is an unfair and extreme charge. They acknowledge that they sin, but insist they are not so bad as to be designated “sinners”. They object to the idea that you are either a sinner or you are saved. They do wrong, they agree, but would never accept the idea that they are entirely unfit for God, and due for condemnation and rejection. The apostle John declares that the person who has been amazingly humbled so that he acknowledges his hopeless sinfulness does so, normally, only through a work of God in his life.
If we say, “I am a fallen sinner, and I cannot help myself. I never saw it before but have discovered what a selfish creature I am, what a self-centred creature I am, how bad-tempered I am, how cruel I can be, how covetous and greedy, and how dishonest I can be—and other sins besides”—then we very probably have a work of salvation proceeding in the heart.
By nature, the proud human heart will only accept “I am sometimes a sinner,” or “I am a bit of a sinner.” But as soon as we truly (and painfully) acknowledge sin and repent, the evidence is in place that salvation is in process.
You are one of us, says the apostle John, in effect. You are in the family. You have a new attitude to sin. You make no excuses. Your self-righteousness has been broken. You cried out in repentance, and long for some token of acceptance, but you probably have it already, and should marvel and thank your Saviour with wonder and praise.
to be continued