THREE BIG IFS

If is certainly an interesting word, isn’t it? It’s a conjunction that means “on the condition that” a certain condition is met, then there will be a certain result.

In a Bible study I am currently leading I am expanding on a series I did a few years ago I called “Standing on the Promises.” Each week we are exploring and applying one of God’s promises to us in the Bible with the goal of being encouraged. Not all the promises are conditional, but the one I was considering earlier today is. And the conditional promise comes right in the middle of three if statements.

The three big ifs are in I John 1:8-10, If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”

The results of the first and third ifs are not promises, but powerful statements about those who meet the conditions. Claiming to be without sin, or claiming not to have sinned, is both lying to oneself as well calling God a liar. Hopefully none of us meet those conditions, and are therefore not calling God a liar or lying to ourselves. We know better as we are well aware of many of our sins and freely admit them.

That’s why I am so comforted and encouraged by the middle conditional if in this trio: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

To whom are we to confess our sins to meet this condition? Perhaps, if it is appropriate, to the person or persons we sinned against. But especially to ourselves and to the Lord. Note if we fulfill the conditions of the first and third ifs, we cannot meet the condition of the middle one. One and three are the opposite of two.

In my experience I have found that the best time to practice the second big if is in connection with the observance of the Lord’s Supper. To my embarrassment, many times in my life I have found myself saying something along the lines of “here I am again Lord confessing the very same thing I have confessed before.” And I must be careful not to allow that realization to discourage me too much.

I’m not claiming the first or third if; I’m not saying I am without sin or that I have not sinned. But I am claiming the promise of the second if, that God is faithful and just and because I have confessed he will forgive me. And not only does he forgive me, the promise continues that he will purify (cleanse) me from all unrighteousness.

I remind myself that I have still have a long way to go in becoming the person God has called me to be; but with his help I am making progress. Thank you Father for the second big if in I John 1:9 and its promise.

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I WAS WRONG

i’m sure there are many reasons why, but a lot of us have a hard time saying “I was wrong.” As I have grown older, I have noted that it has become easier for me to acknowledge my mistakes. Perhaps I am giving myself too much credit, but I think a readiness to admit when we are or were wrong is a sign of maturity.

In the words of Mark Galli, one of the reasons we find it hard to say “I was wrong” is because “we remain addicted to the drug of self-justification.” We justify ourselves because the person we wronged was also wrong. (Are you familiar with the saying “two wrongs don’t make a right?”)

Or we justify ourselves because of other things that were going on in our lives at the time. We had too much to do, or were short on time, or we didn’t feel well, or had a bad day, or any number of reasons we might give to others and ourselves. Our personal situation may elicit some sympathy and understanding, but it doesn’t make doing something wrong right.

Sometimes we won’t say we were wrong because of pride–we are simply too proud and too stubborn to admit we made a mistake. It often does require humility, but that can be very good for us.

For Christians, this matter of acknowledging we were wrong is the first step of repentance. Repentance is not a popular or particularly admired word in most circles today, but it is an important word in the Bible. We might remind ourselves that Jesus launched his public ministry with a call to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17).

To admit we were wrong is to take responsibility. We admit it to ourselves, we acknowledge it to the person or persons we wronged, and we confess it to God. But acknowledging we were wrong is just the first step.

Next, repentance involves being sorry we were wrong—feeling remorse and regret over what we did or said. It is not being sorry we were caught or found out, but being convicted or conscience stricken by it. Sometimes it includes doing what we can to make things right.

Finally, repentance leads to a resolve to do better in the future. That means we make a commitment to be more aware of our weaknesses and tendencies so that we strive not to do what we did again. But it’s even more than that. Theologian J.I. Packer presses the point when he notes repentance “is an actual abandonment of what has been wrong in order to replace it by what is right.”

When was the last time you did something wrong? When was the last time you admitted you were wrong? And when was the last time you repented? I’m hoping the frequency of needing to say those three magic words “I was wrong” lessens in my life, but I’m learning the importance and value of saying them.

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