A sermon based on 1 John 1:5—2:2
Sunday, April 30, 2017
How observant are you? Have you noticed that the linoleum "tile" in the entry way right by the front door is a different color than it used to be? The colors are fading as it's bleached in the sun. Some cushions for two lawn chairs we've left on the deck are no longer the vibrant colors they once were when we bought the set 13 years ago. They too have been bleached by the sun. For some people, their hair turns a shade lighter after a trip to Hawaii as it too is bleached by the sun.
But did you know that radiation from the sun not only removes color, but it can also remove bacteria? I was reading my prepper blogs last week and learned that you can purify water, killing any bacteria in it and making it safe for human consumption using a clear 2-liter bottle, the sun, and a little bit of time. Just lay the bottle down on it's side for maximum exposure to the sun and in 6 hours of direct sunlight or 2 days of indirect sunlight, all your E-coli, salmonella, and giardia will be gone. Your water will be pure enough to drink!
In our sermon for this morning, we hear how the Son (s-o-n) purifies us. He who is in his very nature light makes us pure, not of bacteria, but of sin! He makes us morally pure and holy! In a sense, you could say we have been bleached by the Son! Our lesson for this morning picks up where we left off last week, in 1 John 1:5 to 2:2…
5 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 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 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 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.
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
You know that without the sun, we would all be dead. Without the sun, temperatures on earth would be far too cold to sustain life. Without the sun there would be no food since no crops could grow without the light. Simply put, the sun gives life.
But ironically, you also know that if we were to get too close to the sun, it would mean our death. It is too hot, too intense, for us to handle. Have you ever had a bad sunburn? That would be nothing compared to what would happen if you flew your rocket ship too close to the sun. If we got too close to the sun we would burn up and be totally consumed.
God, whom John here says is light, is a lot like the sun. Like the sun, we could not live without him. He is the source of all good things including the sun that warms our planet and grows our food. But, like the sun, we can't get too close to him, not the way we are, or we will be consumed by his holiness and totally burned up.
God is light. And that light is so intense it burns through the darkness. Of course John is writing metaphorically here. The light is God's holiness. And darkness is sin. If we walk in darkness—that is, if our we live an openly sinful lifestyle—we are living in the dark and we will freeze to death.
But, on the other hand, if we claim to be in the light—living a morally righteous and upright life—well, we're liars, says John. We haven't been perfect. To claim we have not lived in the darkness, that we have not rebelled against God by our actions, that we don't really need him… is a bold faced lie! And no one is really fooled by it. We're not fooled. God certainly isn't fooled. The only one you really fool (if anyone) is yourself.
John says, "If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth… If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." And you'll notice he says, "we." He includes the possibility that even he, the apostle whom Jesus loved, could fall into this terrible line of thought.
The truth is, you are a sinner. You have rebelled against God. You have done things that were in direct defiance of God's will for you. (And it doesn't matter if it was intentional or accidental.) You have said things that you would rather God had not heard. (And it doesn't matter if it was thought out or in a moment of frustration.) You have thought things that you would be ashamed to have projected on these screens. And God has seen your every thought.
The truth is you are a sinner. You are a rebel. You are not pretty good. That's what God says about you… and about me. And if you want to argue that point, well… "If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives."
You are a sinner. And as such you are in need of God's help. So own up to it. Don't try to pretend that you're good enough without him. Or he will leave you to your own devices and you will be without him. Remember your total dependence on God's grace every second of every day. Remember how much you need Jesus and confess your sin to him.
For without him, darkened by sin, we stand a chance to survive in the presence of God's holiness. Like flying a rocket ship into the sun we would be totally consumed. And that's what we deserve: the worst sunburn ever—a Son (s-o-n) burn—as we're totally consumed by God's wrath at our death or on Judgment Day.
We need help! And only God has the solution. But thank God that he's given us that solution…
The boat was ruined. He watched it sink into the water before his eyes. Now he was stranded on this island and surrounded by saltwater, he was in serious risk of dehydration and… death! But he found a small pond in the middle of the small island. The only problem was, he wasn't sure if it was safe to drink. If he drank it as it was, he might get sick and dehydrate even faster as his body used every ounce of liquid to expel any harmful bacteria.
But… he had an empty water bottle. And filling it with water from the pond, he let it sit in the sun for several hours. Then he knew the pollutants would be destroyed. The water would be safe to drink and he would survive until rescue arrived.
In a way similar to how the sun will purify water, God's Son purifies us, not of bacteria, but of sin. He bleaches our sin away so we are pure and holy. And now we will live until he rescues us once and for all. Easter is the proof that God's purification of sin accomplished on Good Friday worked! Our pollutants—our sinful thoughts, our sinful words, our sinful actions—are all gone because of Jesus work for us!
That's what John's getting at in his message here: Have you ever wondered, "Am I really a Christian, even though I keep sinning—all the time?!" You're not alone. John wanted to reassure his readers that they were Christian's purified from all their sin, not by their works or efforts, but by God's work and effort for them and by his promises. In fact, where our text says, "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you…" the Greek literally says, "This is the [promise] we have heard from him and declare to you…"
And this is the promise: Jesus is the Righteous One. He lived a perfect life in your place. Jesus' blood purifies us from sin because his death paid for it all. And if you wonder if his work applies to you, John makes it clear: "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world."
Let's see a show of hands: Was anyone here born on the moon? Perhaps on Mars or some other planet? I didn't think so. If you were born on earth, then Christ's work applies to you. "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world."
And John gives this added assurance (and this is probably my personal favorite verse in the entire Bible): "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness…" And my favorite word in that verse? "Will." "If we confess our sins, he… will forgive us our sins…" H The inspired text doesn't say, "he might forgive us," or even, "there's a pretty good chance he will forgive us," but, "he… will forgive us our sins…" That's a promise from God you can take to the bank!
And it's that promise that takes any fear out of confession. It can be a terrifying thing to confess your sin to someone. It can be terrifying because you don't know how they might respond. Maybe they'll say, "Yeah, you did do a horrible thing! No, I don't forgive you! Yes, I am going to make you pay and I'm going to make you pay big!"
But that's not what you get from God! "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness…"
If you confess, literally, if you "agree with" God that you are a sinner, a rebel, in need of his forgiveness and his help… you will get it! …every time! That promise removes any fear from confessing our sin to God! It frees us to fess up every time we mess up! So trust in God's promise of forgiveness! Confess to him and be forgiven!
Here's my challenge to you: Go home this afternoon and carefully consider: have you been trying to cover up some sin? Have you been trying to hide it from others? Have you been trying to hide it from God? If so, you're not deceiving him! You're only deceiving yourself! But confess it to him openly. Admit that you have been wrong. Agree with him that it is not just some small mistake, but a terrible violation of his holy will… and be forgiven! "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness…"
Then just as a man can drink purified water and live, so too purified of all sin, you too will live… but eternally! So make this your daily habit: When you mess up, fess up, and… be forgiven!
And finally, as you rejoice in God's forgiveness—a forgiveness he gives right away every time!—then show him how thankful you are! Don't go and muddy the water again right away! But do all you can to keep it pure. Yes, you will mess up and sin again. But when you do, your defense attorney will come to your side again. "But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One." And he will argue your case. He will win the case! And the judge will have to declare, "Not guilty! For Jesus' sake!"
The Light has made you clean, dear friends! You have been purified of all sin! You have been bleached by the Son! Now walk in the light and stay clean! Live in the light as you live in such a way that brings glory to God! Delight in the light and in the forgiveness God brings, purifying you in the Son, proven by his resurrection! And serve God in thanks for the truth that Easter means you're pure! In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.