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The Importance of Deception & Confession

I John 1:5-2:2

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 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. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.


The books of I, II, and III John, the Gospel of John, and Revelation were all authored by the Apostle John. One of John’s major themes in his writing is love. Though Paul wrote the famous love chapter in I Corinthians 13, it is John who often paints a practical perspective on what God’s love and our love is really like. John is so moved by love that he even describes himself in his Gospel as, “The disciple who Jesus loved.” In I John, John also focuses on themes of truth and is pregnant with emotion. John liked using contrasts as we will see in today’s passage. In fact, all of John’s points in today’s passage are set in contrast one to another. 



(1:6,7,8,9,10, 2:1) Our passage is a series of contrasts in the form of Hebrew Parallelism. Six times John uses the phrasing, “If we say,” or “But if.” John is painting a contrast of what it is like to walk faithfully with Christ rather than lying to ourselves about our spiritual condition. This is a literary structure that John uses to drive home his point about what a saved person looks like, and from that, to give assurance that the one who really walks with the Lord is genuinely saved. 

After describing God as light, he then moves on to say that if we don’t walk in the light we are walking in darkness What does walking in darkness look like?

  • (v.6) We lie.
  • (v.6) We do not practice truth.
  • (v.8) We deny our sin.
  • (v.8) We deceive ourselves.
  • (v.10) We call God a liar. 

Notice the progression of John’s words about walking in darkness.

  • We lie.
  • We live according to that lie, I.E., we don’t practice truth.
  • Then we deny that something is a sin.
  • We profess it so much that we deceive ourselves about the nature of our sin.
  • And thus, we call God a lair by not believing him about our sin. 

There is another scripture that tells us about deception and God’s role in convincing us of our sin. It’s also by John in John 18:8, “When he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” This means that the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, but if we disagree with him about our sin we make him a liar. 

How and to whom do we lie?

There are three people we lie to when we walk in darkness. We lie to ourselves, we lie to others, and we lie to God. Lying is the most powerful tool that the enemy uses to keep us from Christ and salvation. 

Remember that the first thing Satan did in the Garden of Eden to deceive Adam and Eve was to question the truth of what God said by saying, “Did God really say?”

What does it mean to not practice the truth?

Not practicing the truth means to live one’s life according to a lie and end up believing that that lie is the truth. The first lie that John is concerned with is that we lie about our sin. We justify ourselves when we excuse our sin or say that sin is not wrong or evil. If we persist in living a lie, eventually, the Lord will give us up to that lie. Paul says this three times in Romans 1:24,26,28. “God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts… God gave them up to dishonorable passions… God gave them up to a debased mind.”

What does it mean to “Practice the truth?” It means to live our lives in obedience to God’s truth as declared in the scriptures. 

How do we deny our sin?

We live as if the thing which is sin is not sin to us. We excuse our sin. It’s like an unmarried couple having sex. They use the excuse, “But we love each other, so it’s okay.” But it’s not okay. We make excuses and thus deny that the sin exists.

In what ways do we deceive ourselves?

We deceive ourselves when we persist in living in sin. Because we don’t want to experience the shame of sin, we redefine sin and deceive ourselves into thinking that what we do is not really a sin. Notice that John immediately follows this by saying, “The truth is not in us.” He does not refer to the truth as if it’s from the world. He says that the truth is absent from our lives. 

What does it mean to call God a liar?

John repeats what he said about, “The truth is not in us,” with a similar phrase. He says, “His word is not in us.” The truth about our sin comes from the word of God. As an example, if we did not have the Ten Commandments, how would we know that lying or stealing are sins? How would we know they are wrong? When the word of God is not in us it is easy to sin and thus, we make God a liar about our lives. 

These are all traits of a person who does not truly know the Lord. Jesus said regarding a person’s character, “By their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:20). 

Sometimes a person might agree that they are sinful, but they compare themselves with others who might be “worse” than them and thus justify themselves. But the truth is that even for such a person these five traits of walking in darkness reveal what kind of person they really are: one who is not truly saved.

What does walking with the Lord look like? 

  • (v.7) We walk in the light.
  • (v.9) We confess our sins.
  • (v.9) We are cleansed from unrighteousness. 
  • (2:1) Jesus advocates for us.

Notice the logical progression of John’s words. 

  • Light reveals our sins. 
  • We confess those sins. 
  • Then we are cleansed from those sins. 
  • And Jesus advocates for us to the Father, that we are forgiven of our sins.

Let’s look at each of these contrasting solutions for our sin.

What does it look like to walk in the light?

Light is regularly used in the scripture as a symbol for righteousness and truth. Walking is also used as a symbol for living our lives. So, walking in the light means that we are to carry out our lives living in the truth about ourselves and about God. 

What does it mean to confess our sins? How much must we confess?

Without confession there is no forgiveness of sin. There are times in scripture when the Lord expressed forgiveness before confession was made, such as Jesus on the cross forgiving his murderers. But generally, we cannot experience God’s forgiveness without confessing that which offends him. Confession means to tell God what we have done and agree with him that it was morally wrong. 

What does being cleansed from unrighteousness mean?

Notice that there is a difference between being forgiven and cleansing us from unrighteousness. Forgiveness is the act of God dismissing our guilt for a sin we have committed. 

Cleansing from unrighteousness means that by forgiving our sin he makes it possible for us to walk in the light (v.7). Cleansing us from unrighteousness implies that we become righteous in his sight. Righteousness then is not earned by confession; it is imputed as a free gift that enables us to walk righteously. 

If we are cleansed from our sins, then why do we need an advocate in Christ? Isn’t confession and cleansing enough?

Notice who John says we have an advocate to. (2:1) “We have an advocate with the Father.”

Because our sin separates us from God we need forgiveness, then imputed righteousness, and then we need Jesus to advocate for us to the Father declaring our sin forgiven and we can walk rightly. Confession and righteousness are not the end result of the process, they open the door to renewed fellowship with God and then we can experience his love and forgiveness. With Jesus as our advocate, we come full circle in this passage, “We have fellowship with him” (v.6). 


John’s Big Idea: If we live a life of confession and repentance, we can be assured that we have eternal life and will always enjoy a love relationship with God. 

Walking in the light means to live our lives in obedience to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. First, we must live according to scripture. If we don’t live according to scripture, then we cannot expect God to speak to us about other things.


Our application is rather simple: Engage in confession of sin to God. No matter what the situation, when we are troubled by something we have done, confession restores our relationship with God. And through confession we can know God’s forgiveness and be assured that we are in right standing with him. 

Dr. Bill Bright used to express this principle in something he called, “Spiritual breathing.” You breathe out by confessing your sin, then breathe in to receive God’s forgiveness. 

Tom Terry is head of Global Broadcast Strategy for JESUS Film Project and serves as General Manager of The Better FM, an online radio station for Asia. Tom is also the author of several books, including Bible studies and "Like An Eagle," his biography about living in Mongolia for ten years.
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