If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1Jn 1:8-10)
Is there anything harder than this? Saying "I am a sinner" and realizing what that means? It is an easy thing to say, it is a harder thing to mean. Admitting our own sin requires us to realize just how condemned we are and how helpless we are. It lays bare our own utter helplessness and dependence on Him. Humans by nature are rebellious and proud. The Gospel shows us how foolish our self-dependence and self-reliance truly is. I believe one of the great stumbling blocks in the human heart is pride and talk of sin pricks that pride. How dare anyone say that I am inherently bad! How dare anyone say that I am helplessly lost and must depend on the death of a Jewish man who lived like a pauper two thousand years ago! Nowhere is the truth of the sovereignty of God in salvation more apparent than in the inherent lostness in sin of the unregenerate heart.
Some people seem to think that being justified means that they no longer sin, that they are walking in perfection in their sin wracked bodies. That deceit is as great as any other heresy. Paul said it simply and powerfully in Romans 7: 19 when he wrote:
I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
What a refutation that is to those who think that they are without sin. How true that is and how helpless we are. How gracious it is that Christ forgave us!
Others think that because they prayed a prayer they are forgiven and can live however they want. As John states boldly and clearly here and later on in this letter, that is not the case. If we say we are His but make a practice of sinning, the truth is not in us.
How wonderful though the these words of our God who cannot lie:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
That is the great promise. That if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us. Note the utter lack of stipulations there. Not if we confess our sins and say a few Hail Mary's. Not if we confess our sins and join a church. Not if we confess our sins and agree with this confession. Not if we confess our sins and do these acts of piety. Not if we confess our sins and are baptized. The great missing "and" is what makes the Gospel so precious and true. Salvation is all of Christ and not of ourselves, not one bit. Even the faith to confess Christ is itself a gift from Him. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone.
Soli Deo Gloria! To God alone be the glory!