Monday, April 13, 2015

Sermon on 1 John 1:1-2:2, for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, "Walking in God's Light"



Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The apostle John speaks a message to you, over nearly 2,000 years of history. A message that is intended to bring you fellowship with God the Father and Jesus Christ His Son. A message that brings you fellowship with the apostles and the early Christians, down through 20 centuries of history to us today. And long before that, Abraham and all the saints who believe in the One True God. This message that brings us fellowship with God and with one another is also a message that is aimed at bringing us joy that is complete.
What’s John’s authority to speak this message? He and the other apostles speak to us as eyewitnesses; who were there in the flesh, seeing, hearing, even touching the very Word of Life, Jesus Christ, God’s own Son. In concrete, tangible ways, they lived, walked, ate and drank with our Lord Jesus Christ, before and after His resurrection. So he writes not from hearsay, but what he and the others saw with their very eyes and heard with their ears. Neither does he speak of clever philosophies and abstract religions that have no connection to this material world of flesh, blood, and stone—but he speaks of Jesus Christ, who by His rising from the dead, proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that He was God’s Son, our Risen Savior. These are the credentials of John and the apostles—they were there and saw Jesus’ resurrection for themselves, and would all go to their graves proclaiming the same truth and living by it.
This message from Jesus, handed down and taught by the apostles, is “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” Does this describe the way that people think of God today? Hopefully for all Christians, we affirm this without question, that God is Light, and there is no darkness in Him. Darkness embodies the sin, the evil, the death, lies, deception, and suffering that fill our world with so much misery and devastation. None of this is from God or has any place in Him. But does the average unbeliever think this way about God? I think it’s easy to find people who question in themselves, or question openly, whether God is ultimately pure good, or that there is no darkness in Him. With so much suffering in the world, one of the most common questions about God is how can He be good, if evil exists? The question assumes either that God hasn’t or doesn’t do anything about the evil in the world, and that in order to be good, He must do so.
But in Christ Jesus, God has shown Himself to us. He has made an open declaration of who He is, and what He is like, so as not to leave us guessing or wondering. And this self-declaration of who God is, is not merely a grand speech, with no actions to follow it up. Rather the “word of life” is made known to us. Jesus, a living person, living out the perfect, holy, righteous, truth-speaking, compassionate, merciful, self-controlled, loving, self-sacrificial life that God intended for Him. A life that walked completely in the light—not by avoiding sinners, but by meeting them and cleansing and redeeming them. Jesus showed in deed, not in word only, but with His humility, His suffering, life, and death, that God is pure goodness and Light, and that there is no evil or darkness in Him. The worst indignities that could be done to Jesus could not provoke Him to anger or hatred against His enemies, but love was written on His life. Again, not mere words, but words and deeds, life and example.
So if we know and see Jesus, if we can even comprehend what He experienced for our sins, the pains of the cross—we can see that God is Light, and there is no darkness in Him. God’s Light shines down on, in, and through us. We, still today, are the sinners whom Jesus meets in our darkness, in our sin-blindness, and to whom He brings healing, hope, and life. John opens His Gospel with the same light and darkness theme, and says that Jesus is the life and the light of men; the light that shines in the darkness and is not overcome. He is the One who gives us new birth, so that we can become children of God. Not by our finding Him, but by His finding and rescuing us. God’s Light, Jesus’ Light, now shines on us so that we walk in light, and no longer in darkness.
Back to our 1 John passage, verse 6-7, he says that “if we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 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 cleanses us from all sin.” “Walking in” something describes our way or pattern of life. Jesus says sinners flee to the darkness in order to hide their sinful actions. That’s not just a problem that is corrected by modern streetlights and plenty of physical light to drive away the darkness—but a deeper spiritual issue of running from God’s light, not wanting for Him to see or know our sin. So we can’t say we have fellowship with God—call ourselves a Christian—if we walk in the darkness. If we do this, he says we lie and do not practice the truth.
There is a hard lesson here in hypocrisy—that when our words and deeds go in opposite directions, this is deadly to our faith. It’s interesting that John says we lie and “do not practice” or literally do not “do” the truth. Normally we would say lying is not speaking the truth. But notice the strong connection between our words and actions. The truth we live should reflect the truth we speak. Christian life is not polishing up the exterior while nurturing pet sins and hidden wrongs inside, but Jesus’ light and life is to shine through our whole being. Our talk must not be “cheap talk” but “authentic living” in doing as well as in speaking (Schuchard). Just as Jesus walked in the light, so are we to walk in His light.
Do you need light to see? Or to walk in safety? Do you produce that light? Are you the source of the light? Yes you do need light to see and walk, but no, you are not the source of light. In the same way, to walk in the light, and not the darkness, comes from God’s Light shining down on, in, and through you. John has no illusions that we are sinless in and of ourselves or that we produce the light. Our walk in the light relies on Jesus cleansing us from all sin. He knows the reality of forgiveness that shines down on us from Jesus. This is how we walk in the light. God is the Light, not us.
The way that we walk in truth, is expressed in the next verses, are familiar from our weekly confession of sins. 1 John 1:8–10 “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” Walking in the truth means confessing our sins. Confessing our sins is to speak the same reality about our sin that God speaks—that our sin is damnable and wrong—that it’s not justifiable or excusable, but deserving of God’s punishment. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us. It’s one thing to just admit we are sinners, as though that were any news—but another thing to say that my choices, my words, and my actions are hurtful and wrong, and that they break God’s eternal law. That my actions are in need of correction. Confessing our sin is saying with the Psalmist, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (Psalm 51:4). Confessing is saying that God is true, His judgment is blameless, and we are in the wrong.
But the amazing thing is that this painful confession, this humbling of our pride and perpetual need to be right, or get the last word—this confession to God doesn’t end in a walk of shame, or further humiliation from God, or His scornful, “You should have known better”. Rather, this confession, telling the truth on our part, ends with God being faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. It ends with God’s declaring us innocent, because the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sins. In other words, this confession ends in absolution—the word of forgiveness! It ends with God setting you free from the paths of darkness, the chains and guilt that enslaved you.
There is a world of difference between abusing God’s grace as a free pass to continue sinning, and ignoring the wrongness of our actions—and someone falling at Jesus’ feet for mercy, and asking His continual, daily, side-by-side help to fight and wrestle against the sins that  we still struggle and wrestle against. It’s the difference between saying we want grace but living as though we don’t, and saying we want grace and living in total dependence on Jesus. Live in that total dependence on the God who is faithful and just, and bring your sins constantly before Him in confession, to receive His forgiveness. John goes on, “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.” We daily strive not to willfully continue in sin. But there is no illusion that we can come to a complete stop in sinning. Sin is a reality in our life till our dying day, and then it will be gone forever when we are raised and glorified with Jesus. But for every fall, for every stumble along the way, Jesus is our advocate, our comforter, and defender. He speaks for our forgiveness, and for our reconciliation with God.
And more than just speaking for us, more than just words, He dies for us. He takes our sins to His cross, and buries them in His grave. He is the propitiation for our sin. That big, rare word contains a load of good news—that Jesus has turned away God’s wrath from our sins, and sacrificed Himself for what we have done. He has done this not just for a special set of people, but for all the people of the world. All of the sins of the world He took upon Himself, and all who believe in that gift, who look to Him and receive His Word of Life, will live forever in His life. The cross of Jesus, you see, is God’s greatest—not the only, but the greatest—intervention in the evil of this world. It’s when He willingly offered Himself up as the sacrifice for our sins, and created a way by which He can rescue us from the evil and sin that is so pervasive in our lives. He opened up the way to forgiveness and mercy and climbs down from heaven to bring it to us. Week by week He blesses us with those old but infinitely good words of forgiveness. Week by week He brings us His body and blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins. Why? So that you may know and receive the good news that His salvation that is for the sins of the whole world, is also given for you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
Read past sermons at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.blogspot.com
Listen to audio at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.podbean.com

    1. 1 John 1:1 echoes John 1:1, the opening words of John’s Gospel. What does the “from the beginning” tell us about Jesus and about God? Cf. Genesis 1:1; Romans 1:28.
    2. In describing himself and the other apostles as those who had “heard, seen, looked upon, and touched”—what is he saying about their role in relation to Jesus? They were ____ of these things. Luke 1:2; 2 Peter 1:16; cf. Acts 1:21-22 for criteria for replacement of an apostle.
    3. The eyewitness message that the apostles proclaim leads to having what? 1 John 1:3. What does this kind of community and support then produce in all of us as Christians? 1 John 1:4.
    4. What does it mean that God is Light, and there is no darkness in Him? What realities are represented by light or darkness? Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 27:1; Luke 1:79; 2 Corinthians 6:14; John 3:19-21. How does darkness affect sight? Spiritual understanding?
    5. What is the difference between walking in the light, and walking in the darkness? How is confessing our sins part of walking in the light? Vs. 8-10. If we do confess them, what does God do?
    6. Is John writing to people who don’t sin or have stopped sinning entirely? 2:1-2. What is the difference then, between a person who walks in darkness, or who walks in light?
    7. In 2:2, the word “propitiation” means that Jesus, as our sacrifice, has turned away God’s righteous wrath from our sins. He has been held accountable for all we did wrong. How wide and how far does that sacrifice extend, to cover sins?

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