June 25, 2013 by lellielieb
“If we say that 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 that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
I John 1:8-10
I’ve been thinking a lot about sin, confession, forgiveness and attitude this summer. I’m reading and working through Dante’s Purgatorio. I do not believe in Purgatory. I have more studying to do, but I just don’t see the doctrine of purgatory in scripture. However, Dante’s work has been a blessing and it has been convicting. An important part of Dante’s message is that the attitude of the sinner toward the sin is of vital importance, and that’s the same thing I noticed in these verses from I John. We mustn’t allow ourselves to be deceived on this point.
Dante has some sinners in Purgatory being punished in ways very similar to the punishments he described in Inferno. The difference is in their attitudes. The people in Purgatory admit their sin. They recognize their need for grace. They know that without God they are doomed. Whereas the sinners in hell are bitter, angry, and machine-like as they go through the motions of their punishment, the people in Purgatory have given up trying to operate on their own strength and their hearts are light. They pray. They have hope. They know where they are going.
What Dante is saying is that as long as we think we are okay on our own, we are doomed. It’s not until we see that our sins are really sinful, and that we are without excuse, that we can move in the direction of fellowship with God. I may not believe in Purgatory, but the general idea of repentance Dante presents is spot on. I just think the time to recognize it and deal with it is NOW. Dante is helping me do that.
Too often this recognition of sin is only emphasized at salvation. We see that we are sinners, we ask for forgiveness, receive it, and move into new life. What I am learning, though, is that the Christian life requires a DAILY, sometimes hourly, recognition of sin. I’m a Christian, but I still sin. I can’t go to heaven without grace, nor can I get through a day, an hour, a minute without grace. If I cease to recognize my sin for what it is, if I blame my sin on circumstances or others, I begin to walk in darkness, as verse 7 of I John 1 explains. To walk in the light, to stay in fellowship with God, I must continually admit and forsake my sin. That’s the truth. Help, Lord!