I was 18 months old, as my mom tells the story, when she found me holding a spoon and an open can of wet cat food. Smelling my breath, she asked me the obvious questions.
“Sarah, did you eat the cat food?”
“Nooooooo,” I replied.
“Sarah, did you stick the spoon in the cat food?”
“Sarah, did you put the spoon in your mouth?”
“Sarah, are you telling me the truth?”
Isn’t it funny how little kids think they can hide obvious sins from their parents? The boy who is holding Crayola markers (permanent ones, of course) and denies that hedrew the masterpiece on the wall. Or the girl with a three-inch circle of red around her mouth who tells her momma that shedidn’t “borrow” her favorite lipstick.
Sadly, as adults, we’re not much better! How often have you or I denied to our family that we ate the last doughnut or left the TV on all day? Surely, I didn’t do it!
We come by this denial naturally. It’s as old as humanity.
The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.
The serpent deceived me, and I ate.
We all have a serious problem. Taking responsibility for our sins does not come naturally, yet I John 1:9 tells us there is great reward for those who ‘fess up.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If we confess our sins…That’s the first step. Stop the denial. Stop the excuses. Stop acting like God doesn’t already smell the cat food on your breath. ‘Fess up!
There’s good news if we do! John tells us that God is faithful and righteous. We need to understand that our God is not mean and vengeful. Who would want to confess to that kind of God? If you knew He was about to drop the hammer, of course you wouldn’t confess. But we somehow miss this–God isn’t waiting to berate us. He’s not waiting for us to confess so He can return us to dust. He’s waiting for us to confess because Hewants to forgive us.
Did you hear that? He wants to forgive you!
He’s a faithful and righteous God who knows that we need forgiveness. He knows we get ourselves into a lot of messes. We eat the wrong things, misuse the gifts He’s given us, and do things to ourselves and others that hurt. And all the while, He’s patiently waiting for us to admit that we’ve screwed up…because He’s faithful and righteous.
I John tells us there are two things He does. He doesn’t just forgive our sins; He also cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
When we apologize for rolling around in the mud pit, He doesn’t just say, “I forgive you.” He doesn’t just put nice clothes on our muddy bodies. He calmly walks us to the tub, turns on the faucet, and hoses us down. He washes away the filth.
The Psalmist puts it this way:
I acknowledge my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:5, italics mine).
Have you ever had that experience? You’ve confessed your sin, but you still feel guilty? You know intellectually that you’re forgiven, but you just don’t feelit. I think that’s part of what John is talking about. The cleansing involves our emotions—the guilt of my sin. God can heal our emotions as we take them to Him. He can also help us establish better habits, which is another fabulous aspect of “cleansing from all unrighteousness.”
It’s good news, people! We worship a God who doesn’t want to play hide-n-seek with us. He’s eager to forgive, eager to cleanse, and eager to help us grow in righteousness.
Today, my love for cats is still strong, but thankfully my palette has improved remarkably.