1 John 1:5-10 September 25, 2016
Series on I John Sermon #2 Today’s Sermon: “Taking Sin and Salvation Seriously”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by (practice) the truth.
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies (cleanses) us from all sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify (cleanse) us from all unrighteousness.
10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives (is not in us).”
With one exception, there are three reasons why every religion and every philosophy fails to meet our deepest needs. The first reason is that they all have false views of God. The second is that they fail to take sin seriously. And the third reason is that they have no satisfactory answer to the problem of our sin. And the only exception to that is Biblical Christianity. Listen to what
John Stott wrote: “Christianity is the only religion which, by emphasizing that God is light, first insists on taking sin seriously and then offers a satisfactory moral solution to the problem of sin. The way to have fellowship with a God who is Light is not to deny the fact of sin, or the effects of sin, but to confess our sins, and thankfully appropriate God’s provision for our cleansing.”
In 1 John 1:5-10, the apostle gives us a high and correct view of God; a serious view of our sin; and a completely satisfying way to deal with our guilt and shame, due to our sin
1.Taking God Seriously “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” (v. 5)
No affirmation about God’s nature is more comprehensive than “God is light.” For this affirmation about God tells us two things:
One, that it is God’s nature to reveal Himself, just as it is the property of light to shine. Think about how the sun shines on a clear day, or how a lighthouse beacon penetrates the dark skies.
Two, that God’s nature, revealed to us, is that of perfect purity and unutterable majesty. Consider the healing and cleansing power of the light of the sun, or the power of a bolt of lightning.
God is perfect and holy, yet He also desires to be known and so He has revealed Himself to us, especially in the person and work of His Son, our Lord Jesus.
“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6)
Therefore we must begin with a high, holy, and majestic view of God, as He has revealed Himself to us in His Son. Without God as your light, you are still walking in darkness, and the truth is not in you.
2. Taking Sin Seriously
John exposes two main errors about how we might view sin:
The first error in thinking about sin is the attitude that living with unrepentant sin/ having an unrepentant sinful lifestyle doesn’t hinder your relationship with God. (v. 6) “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.”
If you are a disciple of Christ, you know that you can’t live in the darkness of sin and still claim to have the Light of the world living in you, right? And yet many believers live with two very opposite forces at work in them, like a Jekyll and Hyde personality disconnect.
Think about the prophets of Baal that the prophet Elijah rebuked in 1 Kings 18:21 “Elijah went before the people and said, ‘How long will you waver (limp) between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him’.” What was their problem? They claimed with their lips to follow the Lord as God, but they lived practically as pagan idolaters.
Are you living that way? Professing Christ and yet at the same time living as a pagan? If so, you are not taking God seriously, and you are failing to take your sin problem seriously.
The second error is believing that you are basically a good person who is innocent in God’s eyes (v. 8), and/or that you don’t have any sin habits (v. 10)
8 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” 10 “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”
If you hold to either of these views regarding sin, then you can’t benefit from the cleaning power of Jesus’ blood, because you feel no need for any forgiveness or cleansing. I think of a prominent local Lutheran pastor who boasted in a newspaper article that in his decades of preaching, he had never used the word “sin.” If that was true, then I am sure he never pointed people to their need of Jesus as their Savior, either. How tragic.
Now most of would say that you believe in sin; in fact, you see evidence of it every day! But be careful, for there are ways that we can subtly fall into this error of presumed innocence or the lack of any big sin habits.
One way is by denying any responsibility for your sins: “Well, I’m not to blame! It was my parent’s fault. It’s my spouse’s fault. It’s society’s problem, not mine!” We live in a culture that has a “victim mentality.” Or you can interpret bad behavior solely on the basis of psychological terms. Or there is the view that all children (and all people) are basically innocent [Just a few hours spent watching children should quickly dispel this false notion!]
Let’s be honest: our hearts can deceive us, and there is sometimes a disconnect between what we say we believe and how we actually live. That is, we know in our minds that we are sinners in need of forgiveness, but we sometimes deny that we are sinning in certain areas, especially in relation to others and in our heart of hearts. We are willing to admit that we commit the usual sins (that shock no one), but we are unwilling to confess the deeper sins, the sins that would require us to really repent and change our lifestyle and to humble ourselves. Or another way in which there is a disconnect between what we say we believe and how we actually behave is when we have become so accustomed to certain sins that we no longer feel their guilt; we live as if they were a part of us.
We must take sin seriously. Again, to quote John Stott: “Christianity is the only religion which, by emphasizing that God is light, first insists on taking sin seriously and then offers a satisfactory moral solution to the problem of sin.”
3, Taking Salvation Seriously
Having considering some ways in which we might not take sin seriously, let’s move on to the gracious and just way in which God provides a solution to our sin problem: (vv. 7 and 9)
7 “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Every one of us carries around at least some weight of the shame and guilt due to our sin. For some people, you bury it deeply; for others, it is a crippling burden to bear. I’m including believers here. Yes, we believe that Jesus Christ died in our place and took the just punishment for our sins. We trust that we are forgiven. And yet, we still struggle. There are sins we committed long ago that still haunt us. There are secret sins we struggle with which we can’t gain victory over. There are times when Satan accuses us of our sins and we feel we aren’t worthy to be called a follower of Christ. And that’s why these two verses are so vital.
Note that there are two “conditions.” The first condition is that we need to walk in the light as He is in the light. This does not mean that we have to clean up our act and start walking in the light of holiness before God will cleanse us. Not at all. Rather John is dealing with the false view (v. 6) that a professing believer can still walk in moral darkness and not live by the truth of God’s word. So here John is telling us that if we are true followers of the Lord Jesus, then God will have transformed us, so that we will be walking in the light, just as God Himself is in the light. Let me ask you: If you are a professing believer in Christ, are you walking in the light, as God is in the light? Or are you hiding in the shadows? Are you living a double life? Take time to ask God to search your heart and show you your real spiritual condition.
The second condition is that we confess our sins. What does that mean? For over ten years as a practicing Roman Catholic, I confessed my sins… to a priest. Is that what John means? The word “confess: in the original Greek literally means “to speak the same thing.” That is, to agree with someone one and to publically declare that you agree. So to confess your sins means that you agree with God that you are a sinner, and that you have sinned against God, that you publicly declare your sinfulness; you turn from your love of sinning and your love of yourself as number one, and you throw yourself completely on God’s grace to you in His Son, Jesus Christ our Savior. Have you done that?
Next, John goes on to declare three wonderful truths for those who are walking in the light and who confess their sins. First, we have fellowship with one another. Second, the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. Third, God is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
First: “We have fellowship with one another.” Why does John start with this promise? It may be because the tangible and visible aspects of being adopted into a new family, the bride of Christ, the church, helps us to appreciate the spiritual and invisible aspects of being cleansed and forgiven. In the weeks to come, we will see that John continually ties together the horizontal aspects of our salvation (fellowship and loving one another) with the vertical aspects of being reconciled to God (forgiveness, cleansing, etc.) You can’t pick one without the other [More on this in the weeks to come!]
Second: “The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies/cleanses us from all sin.” The Greek word for purify or cleanse is that of making pure, of cleansing, of removing all filth. It’s the word used when Jesus healed the lepers, as he cleansed them from both their disease and from the religious and social stigma of the disease. [Think of the scene in the old Ben Hur movie, where Judah Ben Hur’s mother and sister are cured of their leprosy!]
The blood of Jesus, poured out from his head, his hands, his side, and his feet, on the cross, provided the atoning sacrifice, the necessary purification, for all of our sins… ALL of them!
This word “cleanse/ purify” means that you and I are freed from the deepest defilement of our most horrible sins! It means that in Christ’s blood, we are purified from all our wickedness and pardoned from all our guilt and shame! Hallelujah! Indeed, this is why the eternal Son of God came to earth: Titus 2:14 “Who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.”
Third: “God is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
What does it mean that God forgave us our sins? The Greek word means that He “sent them away.” Think of the Old Testament Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur- Oct 11/12, this year) as described in Leviticus 16. The Jewish high priest was to take two goats. The first goat was to be offered as a sacrifice for the sins of the people, and the blood of the slaughtered goat to provide cleansing for the people. However the high priest was to take the second goat, lay his hands on the goat, and then confess over the goat “all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites – all their sins – and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert… The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place.” (Lev. 16:21-22) That goat was called the “scapegoat” or “the goat of removal.”
Do you see how Jesus Christ became the scapegoat for you and for me? Just as the sins of Israel were sent away into the desert, so that the people could be forgiven, in a much richer way, our sins were sent away from us, and put on Christ, as He died on the cross and went to the grave, never to return to us! Therefore we are purified and cleansed from ALL unrighteousness. Every violation against God’s holy laws that we are guilty of was sent away onto Christ on the cross! So instead of being a criminal, a fugitive from the law, we are now pardoned, forgiven, and seen as righteous in God’s eyes!
Imagine you are driving in your car and a police officer pulls you over. And you know that in your glove compartment you have hundreds of unpaid traffic tickets. Worse than that, you failed to appear in court dozens of times for crimes you were charged with… and you know that when the officer runs your name and address through the computer, he’s going to handcuff you right there and send you to jail, ASAP. You are a guilty law-breaker, a scofflaw, a criminal with a long rap sheet, and you know it.
But when the officer returns to your car, he hands you back your license and registration, and says, “Have a good day!” He notices the stunned look on your face, and then says, “Yeah, I know how many tickets you have and that you deserve to get thrown in jail right now. But my records show that some big time judge paid all your fines and even went to prison for you… so your debts are paid up and you can go free! That’s some friend you have who did that in your place!”
Brothers and sisters: Are you taking God’s holiness seriously? Are you taking your own sins seriously? And do those two thoughts drive you take Jesus Christ seriously, as your only hope for forgiveness and for cleansing… from all your wickedness?
Let us confess our sins, and thankfully appropriate God’s provision for our cleansing in Christ.