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 1:8-9
A garbage truck comes by our house every Monday to haul away our week’s garbage. So early on Monday mornings I gather all the garbage of the week and take it to the curb for the garbage truck to take away. Similarly, we need Jesus to regularly take away the garbage that we take to the ‘curb’ in prayer. Theologian Cornelius Plantinga Jr. reminds us: “Recalling and confessing sin is like taking out the garbage: once is not enough.” (Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin) I find it something in my life I have to deal with routinely.
Dealing with our garbage begins with acknowledging our sin or confessing it, and taking it to Jesus. Today’s Scripture emphasizes that none of us can ever say that we don’t have sin that needs to be dealt with: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” So we need to get used to thinking of today, and every day, as garbage day: a day to search out and acknowledge sin and take it to Jesus. God’s promise is: “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
The word “confess” translates the Greek homologeo (homo = “same” + logeo = “speak”), that means, “to say the same thing” or “to agree with” When we confess sin we are agreeing with God’s estimation of it: it is sin. And we are also agreeing that Christ faithfully takes away that sin. It is because of what Christ accomplished on the cross that God is “faithful and just” in forgiving our sin. God forgives us because the debt is paid, and not because we have vowed to God to do better or to make amends.
Many people find the following prayer to be helpful in taking a daily inventory and dealing with sin in their lives. I hope you do also.
Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer)
Acknowledging our sin and taking it to Jesus is a joyful and freeing moment in prayer, because we know that Jesus completely takes it away! “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
- Today, where do you sense a failure to love the Lord your God with all
your heart, soul and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself?
(Matthew 22:37-39) Talk with God about your failure and confess it to
Him as sin.
- Now take a few moments to confess, or “to agree” with God that Jesus
completely removes that sin. Then thank God for your full and complete
“It is wrong, then, to conceive of confession as an arduous
process of self-purgation. The freeness of our forgiveness
in Christ corrects that mistake. Yet it is just as wrong to take
forgiveness lightly and to forget the cost of how it was obtained.”
Timothy Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God