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Do you claim to be a fool?

Have you ever 'claimed' something that wasn't true, or wasn't yours to claim? To claim means that we assert or demand the recognition of something; maintain as fact and true; or to take as your own. This word comes from the root - to shout out. In other words, when we "claim" something, we are like men standing at the top of the city wall, or in the city square, crying out at the top of our lungs some "demand" that something be done, that an object is ours for the taking, or that we have accomplished some tremendous feat. As humans, we have a tendency to make some claims which are just plain not true. If this were not the case, would there be whole divisions of law to deal with "false claims"? In fact, there is even a False Claims Act as part of our governmental laws - passed in the days of Abraham Lincoln - standing to this day in order to deal with those who make false claims against the federal government system. It is "big business" to make some of these claims, but it is indeed a very sad business, as well.

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)

The issue we are presented with is that of making "claims" which really do little more than fool ourselves into believing something as fact that really isn't. 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 God 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 this 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 do the work of ridding us of the stain of sin - and the guilty memories of sin's 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 us of our 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 that 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 our passage 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 silly to 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. God 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 our heart in the first place. When we do this, we are opening ourselves us to be a display of grace - and grace ALWAYS bespeaks fresh possibilities! Just sayin!

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