The Powers of “If”–1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. –1 John 1:9

“Yes, I said ‘if.'” Can you locate that line in the annals of moviedom? “If” is the dreadful, duplicitous word spoken by the wicked stepmother in Disney’s Cinderella. “If” Cinderella gets all her work done, then she can go to the ball. If!

“If” can be a terrible word, a word used to weasel out of just about anything. “I’ll help you move if I get around to it.” “I’ll take you to the movie if you’re good.” “I’ll start tithing if I can afford it.” That’s the power–the awful power–of “if.”

Here’s the problem with the uses of “if” that I’ve just shared. The condition on which things depended, the “if condition,” was fuzzy in all three cases. Getting around to it is not specific. Neither are good behavior nor affording something. When the “if condition” is fuzzy, then the result can be anything you like. “I’ll give you a million dollars if I feel like it.” I can pretty much guarantee that I won’t feel like it.

Another use of “if” comes in the vast expanses of small print that you find in credit card agreements and wireless contacts. “Pay no interest,” they promise, but then add (in tiny print) “if you make the minimum monthly payment every single time without being so much as a minute late in which case you’ll have to pay ALL of the interest and your rate gets jacked up to 23.9%.” If. When the “if condition” is restrictive enough, the company knows they won’t take a loss. They know that nine out of ten buyers will mail a payment late and then whammo!

So let’s evaluate God’s use of “if.” Is the if condition fuzzy? “If we confess our sins.” That seems pretty straightforward. Apparently we don’t have to use any particular formula or timeframe to confess our sins. We just have to confess them.

Is the if condition unreasonably complicated? You could read Exodus and Leviticus and think they were unreasonably complex, but the single condition in this verse seems pretty easy.

It’s easy and the payoff is a two-fer. You get forgiven and purified, all for the price of confession. That’s a great deal, a much better deal you’ll get from your credit card company.

This isn’t the wicked stepmother speaking in 1 John 1:9. It’s a great and gracious Father. We must take Him up on His “if.”

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