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. (1 John 2:1–2, ESV)
What does John mean when he writes, “if anyone does sin”? Isn’t it known that believers will sin? John clearly states the reason he is writing—so that we will not sin. Wait a minute. He is writing so that we will not sin, then he says “IF” we sin, not “WHEN” we sin.
So, which is it: ”if” believers sin or “when” we sin? To answer that, take a look at these verses later in John’s letter:
No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.(1 John 3:6, ESV)
What does John say? “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning.” What? How can that be? And then he goes on to say that we shouldn’t be deceived:
Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:7, ESV)
Here John clarifies that if we are practicing righteousness, we are righteous like Jesus is righteous. If we are practicingsin, we are of the devil. We are what we practice. Remember that practice and perfection are not the same. I practice my musical instrument because I want to get better at playing it. That is why he said, “If anyone sins.” While we are practicing righteousness, if we hit a wrong note, the Son of God is our advocate.
Too many Christians live as if every day they are going to play the wrong note. So what they do is stop practicing. In essence, they stop playing God’s beautiful song in their life; they give up and say, “I guess God’s righteous symphony doesn’t matter, I am going to hit wrong notes every time.” No, no! Let’s pick up our instrument and practice righteousness. If we make a mistake, Jesus is our advocate.
In your relationships today, how can you practice righteousness? What is a step of righteousness that God wants you to take? Is it a step of forgiveness? Is an attitude of mercy? Is it a choice towards justice? What is your righteous step today?
Lord, help me to practice righteousness consistently. Thank you for giving me the knowledge that if I make a mistake, you will be my advocate. . . . Continue praying.