If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God. (I John 1:8-10 MSG)
The issue we are presented with in our passage this morning is that of making "claims" which really do nothing more than fool ourselves. When we claim this or that about ourselves, without really taking a good look at our actions and attitudes through the eyes of Christ, we often are found to be making "false claims". The first "false claim", and probably one of the most dangerous claims to make, is that of being "sinless". ALL men are born with a sin nature - none of us is without sin (Romans 3:23). What our writer wants to point out is the position of assuming we are without a sin nature, or not guilty of sinning, is really the position and attitude of a fool. A fool lives in a little bit of a "make believe" world - so if we are "fooling ourselves", we are living in a world we have made up in our minds!
The instruction is clear - don't deny we have the sin nature or the guilt of sinning. Instead, embrace the fact we have sinned and have the capability of sinning again - then bring this to God. He will then do the work of ridding us of the stain of sin - and the guilty memories of its effect in our lives. This is the starting point for any person in Christ Jesus - bringing their sinfulness to him and asking him to not only forgive the sin, but to purge them of their sin. To purge means to be rid of whatever is undesirable or impure. In other words, when we bring our sin to Christ, we are asking him to rid us of everything which makes our thoughts, actions, or attitudes impure.
There are seasons of the year when it seems those pesky weeds begin to peek through the surface of the hard earth and then without warning, they have taken root, flourishing like a bumper crop in what used to be "clean" space in our gardens. Note that I said it used to be "clean" space in our gardens. Having a sin nature is kind of like the repeated return of the weeds in our garden - it appears we may have it cleaned out at one point, but almost without warning, those pesky weeds can come up again and again! What we thought was "cleaned out" isn't always, right? Having a sin nature is kind of like having weeds in our garden - it takes only one seed to afford repeated opportunities for the same weeds to come up again and again!
This is why John points out the silliness of making a claim to have NO sin, or NO sin nature. We may not have the action evident, but the "seeds" are there! We may not have murdered someone in the most literal sense, but the "idea" of murder dwells in each of us simply because we have a sin nature. This is probably why John raised the bar a little and told us when we hate our brother, we are really displaying the attitude of a murderer. The seed is there, we just don't act it out to the degree of taking the life of the one we hate.
So, if we have the "seeds" of sin in us, isn't it important to not make a false claim that they don't exist? Instead, we are to take the "care" and "tending" of this garden of our heart to the one who can "ferret out" those seeds before they take full root and give way to a bumper crop of sin! When we do this, we are being wise. Admitting we are sinners is not a bad thing - indeed, it is the first step toward liberating ourselves of that which is naturally within us all. John makes it clear - making a false claim is really only painting us as the fool because we are only "deceiving" ourselves. We are deluding ourselves into believing we "do good stuff" so we must be "good" at the core. The garden produces nice flowers some of the year, but when the season changes, the weeds creep in, don't they? What appeared "good" really had all that "ugly potential" just beneath the surface!
Rather than deny our sin nature, we need to take it to God, allowing his care and tending to "weed out" the stuff which really doesn't belong in the heart. When we do this, we are opening ourselves us to be a display of grace - and grace ALWAYS bespeaks fresh possibilities! Just sayin!