Walking in the light is a requirement in order to maintain fellowship with God (1 John 1:7). What, though, does it mean to walk in the light? To walk in the light means being controlled by a desire that is in harmony with the will of God and living within the borders of that will (Ephesians 5:14-17; Matthew 7:21). What walking in the light does not mean is that we have to live perfect, sinless lives.
Perfect living is a goal we all should have. We should never want to sin or fall short of the glory of God (1 John 2:1). The truth, however, is that we all do from time to time. John said that “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (ver. 8). Someone once said, “The mark of a saint is not sinlessness, it is sin-consciousness!” None of us are perfect. Thank God for the cleansing blood of his Son, Jesus Christ.
There are two extreme positions that might be taken regarding the cleansing blood of Christ. First, someone might teach that because of the blood of Christ, our sins are automatically cleansed when we sin. John denies this by setting forth a requirement for forgiveness. He said, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (ver.9). Sin must be repented of and confessed if we hope to obtain forgiveness from God. Peter told Simon to repent and pray God if he wanted to obtain forgiveness (Acts 8:22). There is always something that must be done to have sin removed. The person who is not a Christian must repent and be baptized. The person who is a child of God must repent and confess. The removal of sin is never automatic for anyone.
Second, someone might teach that the moment a child of God commits a transgression, even one of which he is not aware, he is in darkness. Those who advocate that position say that more than a repentant heart is necessary, every specific sin must be confessed to be forgiven. That is an extreme position because it makes salvation based on perfection and demands that which, in most cases, is impossible. For example, have you ever driven down the street and gone over the speed limit without knowing it? Well, that’s sin (Romans 13:1). Have you ever said something offensive to someone without even realizing it and thereby offending that person? Well, that’s sin (Ephesians 4:29). Have you ever demonstrated, even in the slightest way, a lack of patience with your children? That, too, is sin (2 Pet. 1:6). Yet I, for one, would readily admit that I have shown a lack of patience with my children occasionally, and sometimes I do not even realize it.
My point is that none of us are always aware of sins that we have committed. Yes, we should usually be aware of our transgressions, but there are times when we are not. It is possible, even probable, that many of us sin in word, thought or deed almost every day without knowing it. Remember, inward sins of the heart are just has real as outward transgressions. Furthermore, we must give account for every idle word.
Does this mean that at times God automatically forgives our sins. No! Peter said pray. John said confess. Every day I try to pray to God and confess my sins, even those of which I may not be aware. If I am aware of the sin, I confess it specifically. In case there are any sins that I am not aware of, I ask God to forgive me of any sins of which I am not aware. Surely, we are not to believe that God’s response to my prayer is, “Son, I will not forgive you until you go back and figure out what sin you committed ignorantly and confess it. In the meantime, you are in darkness and lost.” No, God doesn’t demand perfection. He demands an honest and contrite heart (Isaiah 66:2), repentance of specific sins when we can, and a general repentant heart always. If such were not the case, we could never really be sure of our salvation and would be forced to live a life void of the hope of heaven. Yet, the Bible encourages us, even demands of us, that we keep hope ever before us (Hebrews 6:18-20). If you are a faithful child of God, one who is walking in the light, hang on to your hope of heaven. God has promised you a crown of life, despite your imperfections.