What comes to mind when one hears the word ‘sin’? How does one describe sin?
Is it something naughty, but nice? Like ice cream, as in Magnum’s 7 Deadly Sins. A tasty temptation.
Or is some ‘sin’ actually a disease. ‘It’s genetic. You can’t help it.’
Or is society not to blame? ‘It’s not your fault. It’s your background, your upbringing.’
We live in a world which redefines, downplays and trivialises sin.
Just listen carefully to our common language. ‘I made a mistake.’ ‘I messed up.’ ‘It was an accident, a mis-step.’ ‘I couldn’t help myself.’
Excuses excuses. Nothing new. We refer to the original sin of Adam and Eve as the fall. When it most definitely wasn’t. It was a deliberate jump.
In 1908 ‘The Times of London’ invited contributions from notable authors to answer the question, ‘What’s wrong with the world?’ One author, a Christian, GK Chesterton, simply wrote, ‘Dear Sir, I AM. Yours, GK Chesterton.’
When someone’s correcting you, do you listen to find fault with what they’re saying, or listen to find your fault.
It’s so easy to shift blame. Adam, when making excuses, managed to point fingers in two directions. Telling God, ‘The woman you put here with me ‘ ‘It’s everyone else. But me.’
Yet if we’re honest like GK. And turn on the light. Open our hearts. And hold up the mirror. We’ll see things like pride, greed, arrogance, lust, bitterness, anger, spite, impatience, harshness, unforgiving, uncaring.
The problem with the world is me. you. us.
If you think you’re not sinful. May I suggest you get a second opinion. Perhaps ask your wife? Or your children? Or your boss? Or your staff?
And the problem is serious. Listen to RC Sproul who writes, ‘Sin is cosmic treason. Sin is treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself.’
Now John writes with two groups in mind. Those who don’t take sin seriously. They’re comfortable and complacent. And then those who are convicted. They’re sensitive about their sin. And uncertain they’re saved.
a. Stairs and Windows
Now John has his own style of writing. Which is more flowing and artful, than tight and sequential. Linear.
Reading the letter is like climbing a spiral staircase in a tower. And looking out various windows on the way up. Each window looking at a different recurring themes. The window of life. Window of love. Window of light. Window on the world. Window on sin. And as you go up, you revisit the same view or theme. Just that you’re slightly more elevated With a fresh perspective. Windows/themes repeating. And it all culminates, with all the pieces blending together, into a magnificent panorama.
We’ve got at least two windows in our passage today. A window onto sin. And a window of love.
b. Blunt and Soft
And John, as he writes, keeps in mind the comfortable and complacent, as well as the sensitive and troubled. He’s style is both blunt as well as winsome, gentle as a feather. Black and white, yet also soft pastel colours. A spiritual kick up the pants. And a gentle arm round the shoulder.
John wants to disturb the comfortable. And comfort the disturbed.
And today’s passage has both. In buckets.
Chapter 2 flows on from an argument John’s already been making. Flick your eye back to chapter 1.
a. The Crazy Claims
The comfortable, the complacent, are making crazy claims. Verse 6. They claim to know God, yet walk in darkness. Verse 8. They claim to be without sin. The claims? They know God, But don’t know sin!
But if you claim to be without sin, if we say we haven’t got a problem, then On the one hand, verse 8, you deceive yourself. On the other hand, verse 10, you call God a liar. You lie to yourself. Yet call God the liar!
b. The True Confession
So, what ought we to do? Verse 9 is the meat in the sandwich. Couched between the false claims of verse 8 and 10.
And here’s the answer. stop lying to yourself. Stop denying. Instead, confess your sin. Your sinfulness. Verse 9.
1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
repent. Do a U-turn. Turn from sin. Turn to God. Whose faithful. And keeps His promise to forgive. And purify.
Which leads us to chapter 2. And a slight transition from the complacent to the convicted who are sensitive and un-settled, un-certain.
a. Sensitive and Uncertain
Uncertain ‘cos they know they’re sinful. and they struggle with knowing whether they’re actually saved and truly forgiven.
1 John 2:1 ” My dear children [John writes, verse 1. Literally ‘my little children’. Gentle. Caring.], I write this so that you will not sin.”
So. Yeah. don’t sin.
That’s the goal. High bar. God expects and commands perfection.
Yet, He knows we’ll miss the mark. There’s a gap, a canyon between what we aim for, our desire, and reality.
1 John 2:1 ” if anybody does sin “
Don’t sin. But you’re gonna sin!
Which is what the sensitive need to hear. Yes, we’re sinful, all of us. And yet, there’s an answer, a solution, a Saviour.
b. Our Lawyer and Lamb
I wonder if any of us here this morning may be weighed down by guilt? Perhaps you feel broken or overwhelmed by sin?
Don’t despair. Don’t wallow. Don’t give up. Go to Jesus. run to Jesus.
Who is, John tells us, our lawyer.
1 John 2:1 ” But [verse 1] if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”
When you’ve done the crime. And you’re facing time. You want the best defence lawyer. Which costs big bucks. And so it’s only the rich and high profile who normally have them.
As sinners we’re guilty. It’s an open and shut case. The evidence is plain and overflowing. God’s got every right to throw the book at us.
And yet, the one who flung stars into space. Who holds the world in His hands is the one who speaks up in our defence. Jesus speaks up for us, on our behalf to the Father
And here’s the thing. He’s not arguing that we’re innocent. He’s not saying we ain’t guilty.
We are. He ain’t. John makes clear that Jesus is the perfectly sinless righteous one. The Christ. God’s promised perfect King.
The righteous speaking on behalf of the unrighteous. The sinless for the sinful.
And He argues we should get off. Go free. That we should be declared righteous.
Yet how so?
Here’s the good news.
He can argue that. ‘Cos not only is He our lawyer. He’s our lamb.
1 John 2:2 ” [Jesus] is [verse 2] the atoning sacrifice for our sins “
God is rightfully angry at sin. Cosmic treason must be punished. blood must be shed. We deserve death.
Now in ancient Israel, some animal, a lamb or a goat, would take their place and be punished instead of them. The blood of a lamb would be shed. Sacrificed. God’s anger was directed at the animal, and so removed from them. And replaced with favour.
Though that was merely a picture. Pointing to the lamb of God. The son of God.
Who, at the cross, took our place, took our sin, took God’s judgement upon Himself, and took our punishment. He died our death. Taking the penalty for our sin. Removing God’s anger from us. And replacing it with His favour.
Jesus died for our sin, and, verse 2.
1 John 2:2 ” not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”
For anyone and everyone who’d confess sin and accept Jesus’ sacrifice. Regardless of who you are. For men, women and children. For young and old. For Jews and Greeks, for Africans, Aussies, Americans, for Koreans, Russians, Japanese.
Which is why John, at the back end of our passage, affirms their faith.
a. You’re forgiven!
1 John 2:12 ” I am writing , dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of [Jesus’] name.”
John’s confident of their forgiveness ‘cos of Jesus.
You may have noticed, but we live in a very unforgiving world. People are quick to point fingers. We make snap judgements. Mob justice is meted out by social media. We live in a ‘cancel culture’. Being ‘woke’ doesn’t have much room for forgiveness. The world isn’t ‘awake’ to mercy and grace.
And sadly, that culture has crept into the church culture. We tolerate sin. Making excuses. Sweeping it under the carpet. Though when someone’s sin is exposed. We ignore similar sin in our life, while quickly condemning the other.
Perhaps this morning you feel unforgivable. You may feel unforgiven by others. But, hear this. God says; ‘I sent Jesus for you. My Son died for you. I love you. I forgive you. As far as the east is from the west, so far have I removed your sins. Your sin is out of sight, and out of mind.’
b. You know God.
Forgiven. And he reassures them of this by repeating two other truths.
1 John 2:13 ” I am writing to you, fathers, [verse 13] because you know him who is from the beginning.”
1 John 2:14 ” I write to you, dear children, [verse 14] because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him “
Reassured. You know God.
c. You’ve overcome!
1 John 2:13 ” I am writing to you, young men, [verse 13] because you have overcome the evil one.”
1 John 2:14 ” I write to you, young men, [verse 14] because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”
The Devil is a pretty powerful adversary. Yet, Christ defeated sin, Stan and death. And in Christ, our lawyer and our lamb, we are victorious. Through His atoning death we’re forgiven, set free, declared righteous, recipients of eternal life. we know God.
The term ‘fake news’ is directed at the bias and spin in parts of the media. It’s sometimes difficult to tell truth from error.
Well, how do you tell the true Christian from the fake? How do we know we’re true?
John wants those who know God to know that they know. To be re-assured. Comforted. To have assurance.
And you can be sure of your Faith ‘cos your Faith shows. There’s gonna be evidence.
As a teenager I had a poster on my bedroom wall which read, “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to prove it?”
a. Love to Obey
So what’s the evidence to look for? What’s John got to say? Verse 3.
1 John 2:3 “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.”
True believers love to obey. We’ll want to do what Jesus wants us to do.
Actions speak louder than words. So, verse 4.
1 John 2:4 ” Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.”
Actions give away the truth. Actions give away whether the truth is in them.
1 John 2:5-6 ” But if anyone obeys His word, love for God is truly made complete [matured] in them. [Verse 5. And so ] this is how we know we are in him. [obedience] whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.”
Live as Jesus did. W.W.J.D. What would Jesus do?
We’re called to walk in obedience. To walk in the light. To walk as him who is the Light.
b. Obey and Love
So, obedience, keeping His commands proves our faith.
So what does Jesus’ command?
And command, ‘cos Jesus didn’t make suggestions. His commands aren’t negotiable. Or optional.
And there’s one particular command which kind of wraps all God’s commands together. It’s the command to love.
Jesus taught His disciples to love God and love people. The two commands which sum up all others.
Love one another. Which is implicit in these verses, Though only actually made explicit in chapter 3 verse 11.
1 John 3:11 ” we should love one another”
Which Jesus told His disciples.
John 13:34 ” As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
A command which is both old and new. Verse 7.
1 John 2:7 “Dear friends, I’m not writing you a new command but an old one, which [Israel have had all the way along.] This old command is the message you have heard.”
Same old, same old.
And yet John, verse 8, is also
1 John 2:8 ” writing you a new command; it’s truth is seen [shown, displayed] in him and in you “
Love is made visible. In Jesus. And in His church!
We’re to love each other. Whether your Christian brothers and sisters are lovely and lovable. Or not. Whether you feel like it. Or not. Whether there’s something in it for you. Or not. Whether it’s convenient. Or not.
To live a life of love as Jesus did.
And this love of God is made visible, and tangible, however imperfectly, in us, and among us here at MPC.
True Christians love their brothers and sisters ‘cos. Verse 9.
1 John 2:9 “Anyone who claims to be in the light, but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.”
And so. Verse 10. If you love you’re in the light. Verse 11. if you hate you’re in the dark.
‘ It’s a simple test for true Christianity. ‘Cos true Christianity produces sacrificial love. Instead of division. Instead of bitterness. Instead of selfish unforgiveness.’
Faith shows. It’s made visible in love and obedience. it’s not that we love and obey to be saved. We love and obey ‘cos we are saved.
If you love Jesus, you obey. If you obey Jesus, you’ll love.
a. Time Top 10
In 2010 time magazine ran an article on the top ten apologies. Alongside Plato and emperor Henry IV they listed Kanye West. And Bill Clinton. Tiger Woods.
Since then I guess they might add Lance Armstrong.
An Aussie list might include Kevin Rudd, Steve Smith, and Johnny Depp and amber heard who apologised for smuggling Pistol and Boo into our country.
To be fair, some of those apologies might be non-apologies.
But, if it was up to me, I’d add Marion Jones. World and Olympic Champion over 100 and 200 metres. Yet throughout her career, she was on steroids. She was a cheat.
She finally confessed at a press conference in 2007. Listen to her words. ‘It is with a great amount of shame that I stand before you and tell you that I have betrayed your trust. I want all of you to know that today I have pled guilty of two counts of making false statements to a Federal Official. I am fully responsible for my actions. I have no one to blame but myself for what I have done. To you, my fans, I want you to know that I have been dishonest. And you have the right to be angry with me. I have let you down. I have let my country down. And I have let myself down. I recognise that by saying I am deeply sorry it may not be enough to address the pain that I have caused you. I want to ask you for forgiveness for my actions, and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.’
In a world that downplays sin. Redefines sin. Trivialises sin. Shifts the blame. It was refreshingly humble. And honest.
b. Take Seriously
So may I suggest you and me, God’s family here at MPC, take three things seriously.
Take sin seriously.
Let’s not be complacent. Let’s open our eyes, open our hearts, and look in the mirror.
Sin is cosmic treason against a perfectly pure sovereign and deserves death.
And let that drive us to take Jesus seriously.
He died as an atoning sacrifice for our sin.
Let’s repent and confess. And believe in the name of Jesus.
Let’s trust Him. As our lawyer. Interceding for us. And as the lamb. Sacrificed. Dying our death. Taking our punishment.
And God is faithful and just. He forgives.
We know God. In Christ, we are victorious.
Obedience and Love
Which means we will then seriously love and obey.
However imperfectly, we’ll show our faith Keep His commands. Make love visible, tangible. And live as Jesus did.