1 John: Sin

Good morning and welcome to Journey Church – my name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here at Journey.  Today we are in our second week studying the Apostle John’s first of three letters that he wrote to the churches – near the end of his life – about the year 85ad?

John could be in his 70’s by now – and he is writing as a pastor to churches he is concerned about.

Last week we talked about how the Bible is divided into two sections – the Old Testament – which covers the creation of the world, the fall of mankind, and God’s dealing with the Israelites – the New Testament begins with the birth of Jesus and ends with the end of the world as we know it.

The New Testament is comprised of 27 books – 21 of them are letters.  John wrote three of these letters.  Why did the early church leaders writing so many letters?  Well, usually it was to respond to problems or questions or issues churches are dealing with and asked for help in knowing what to do.

And John is no different.  Why is he writing?  Because false teachers have been teaching false doctrine and leading people to false living and division in the church.

So John is writing to say – listen if you call yourself a Christian it will be seen in your life primarily in three areas.  True Teaching.  True Living and True Loving.   

And you might be like – sure Phil you learned that at Bible College.  No!  I learned it from this elephant and Turtle on Right Now Media on a show written for little kids.  You can too! 

So what were these false teachers teaching?  Well one of the issues that came along in the early church came from a group of people who were called Gnostics.  Gnostics believed that your true self is spirit.  That your body is meaningless, that what you do in your body doesn’t matter.  That Jesus wasn’t born, he was a spirit that rested on some guy for a while but left him when he was on the cross – because the body is just a body and flesh is just flesh and who cares what you do with it.

And so – listen anytime you have a teaching that says – your spirit is the true you and your body is just flesh – and it doesn’t matter what you do with your body – like drunken orgies are right around the corner, guaranteed.

The Spirit of Gnosticism is still alive and well.  When you hear someone say – Eat drink and Be merry for tomorrow we may die!  When you hear people say – It’s just sex.  Who cares.  It’s just sex.  That’s the spirit that John was fighting in his letter.

And it’s why he begins the letter with such a strong argument that Jesus was flesh and bones – we touched him – he was real – he wasn’t a ghost.

So 1 John is filled with many basic teachings in the bible meant to refute these false teachers.  And one of the most basic teachings of the bible revolves around sin.  The Gnostics were teaching that there is no such thing as sin.  So this morning we are going to cover four things – we are asking ourselves –

What is sin?

Why is sin a problem?

How did God solve the sin problem?

What do we do when we sin?

John writes about sin quite a bit in his letter.  The word shows up about 20 times in these 5 short chapters…    Here’s how John defines sin in the third chapter. 1 John 3:4 NLT Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God.

At the very core- sin is any action that is against God’s law.  But if you were to read the law of you will see that God’s law is more than just our actions.  It includes our attitudes.

Think about the ten commandments.  Some of the ten commandments are action oriented.  the 7th commandment:Do not commit adultery.  Okay – good commandment!  that an action.

But – then along comes the tenth commandment.  After saying – do not commit adultery – he finishes with the tenth commandment – do not covet your neighbors wife.  Don’t do it and don’t think about doing it!

Wait – you can covet without anyone knowing – there’s no evidence – but God knows what’s going on inside of us – you can sin without ever opening your mouth.

When Jesus walked the earth – the people who struggled the most with Jesus were those religiously moral people.  They obeyed Number 7 – and were pretty proud of it.

But here comes Jesus and he reminds them on the sermon on the mount – the law says – do not commit adultery – and all the Pharisees are very proud of themselves.  And then Jesus says – what about the way your eye lingers on the form of women walking past?  What about the way you allow your mind to undress people in your thoughts?

Jesus reminds the Pharisees of the tenth commandment.  Ad instead of feeling convicted – they are outraged.  Because religionists don’t like being called out.   And it wasn’t long before the most moralistic people who ever walked the earth – the people who did the least sinful actions – these Pharisees – they were saying, Let’s kill Jesus.

Jesus reminded us that sin works its way from the inside out of us.  Out of the overflow of your heart your mouth is speaks…

So sin is more than actions – it’s attitudes.  So here’s our working definition of sin.

What is sin?  Sin is any action or attitude that opposes God’s law or leadership.

Q 2 – why is sin a problem?  And the answer is that sin is treason.  And treason is the highest crime of them all and then and now in just about every country on earth – the charge of treason carries with it the penalty of death.  This is what I copied from the House of Representatives government website this week.

Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death or be imprisoned. 

This is also true of treason against God.  The wages of sin is death.  If you hire me at $25 an hour and I work for you two hours you owe me $50.  Simple.  Romans 6:23.  The wages of sin is death.

John wants his churches to understand true teaching of the bible.

Let’s read John’s words from 1 John 1:8,10 NLT

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 

10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

So here John is saying – Sin is real and it’s swamped your boat.  It’s taking you down.  If you think there is no such thing as sin – you are dangerously mistaken.

If you think your sin don’t stink?  You are deceived.  You aren’t living wisely.

Wisdom is the ability to see things for how they really are and to make decisions in light of that reality.

Wisdom demands we see that we recognize we have a sin problem. Our souls have been swamped by sin – and the penalty – the wages – is death itself.  Physical, spiritual, eternal death.

Now – someone might be thinking to themselves – why is sin a problem?  If God is our father – then why doesn’t he just say when we sin – no problem.  I mean if my child sinned against me – or broke my rules – I can just say – no problem.  You are forgiven.  Why can’t God do the same thing and just look the other way?  Just wave it off?

And the reason is because God is more than a father.  He is also a judge.  And it is the job of a judge to render an impartial verdict.  There are many judges who are fathers – but no one in our culture will ever have a father for a judge.

Why not?  We immediately recognize that justice is at stake.  I mean, imagine if someone robbed you blind – and you are able to find the culprit and the day of the trial begins and the judge says – I am so and so the person you arrested for the robbery is my son – but no worries I’ll judge fairly.

You’d say – no way!  Get me another judge!  Why?  We want Justice!

This sin thing is interesting – because on one hand there are some of you out there – you say – I don’t believe in God because I don’t understand why God would judge anyone.

But on the other hand I’ve spoken to quite a few people who say – the reason I don’t believe in God is because of all the injustice in the world.  I mean if there is a God why would he allow evil people to do evil things – why doesn’t he intervene and smash those evil people.

Right – again – I don’t say this to provoke you – what I’m suggesting is that we naturally demand justice – until we are the ones who violate the law – then we want something else.  We want to be understood.

Most people want to be judged on their intentions – or their personality – right?  Judge, I’m not a bad guy.  I’m not a bad guy Judge.  I just messed up this once.  But I’m not a bad guy.

Here’s the thing though – that’s not how our justice department works.  thankfully – I mean every time they arrest someone who has committed some heinous crime – they interview the neighbors – and what do they say?

He kept to himself but seemed like a nice enough guy.  Never caused any trouble.  Seemed like a good dude!

If you are in court trying to win your case – do you want the judge to say – you know it’s clear you broke the law but you seem like a good guy.

So can we see the problem that God had on his hands with us?  We are clearly guilty – by our action and our attitudes – we have opposed God’s law and leadership.  Justice is at stake.  He can’t just wave it off.

So what was God’s solution to our sin problem? Did he just decide to turn a blind eye to justice in order to show mercy?  No…

Let me show you chapter 2…

My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father.

Now this is an interesting language – it’s lawyer talk – John is using courtroom language – we have an advocate who pleads our case.

But what is his case?  What is he saying to the Judge?  Is he saying – mercy!  Have mercy Father!  No – it says that he is pleading our case!

Jesus is our defense attorney and he is pleading our case!  What is the case that Jesus has on our behalf?

He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.

What is the case?  Jesus is saying – the law says the penalty is death – the sentence has been served.  If the wages of sin is death – I received the wage on their behalf.  I died the death for them.  I – the one true innocent one – willingly died in order to pay the debt.  I died that my friend might live.

Guys – do we see – Jesus isn’t pleading for mercy for us – he is pleading for justice.  The debt has been paid.  It’s not right that it should be paid twice.  The sentence has been served.

The same author who wrote these letters also wrote the last book of the Bible – the book of Revelation -and in chapter 12 he tells us one of the main tactics of the enemy of our soul – John tells us that the devil is the accuser of our souls.

Have you ever heard the voice of the accuser?  You are still struggling overcoming that sin?  God must be sick of you.  You call yourself a Christian?  You hypocrite.  You sinner.

Have you committed some terrible sin in your past, and you hear this voice in your heart reminding you of your sin?  Trying to get you to live in shame or tie you up with regret?

Next time you hear that voice – remind yourself that Jesus is your defender and he has a case – the penalty has been paid.  Justice sets you free.

That’s why John can say – I want you to avoid sin – but – if you do – remember you have a defender.  You have an advocate pleading for justice.

Now – let’s talk about the last question:  What do we do when we sin?  And let’s circle back to 1 John 1:9 – one of the greatest verses in the Bible.  Very often this verse is one of the first verses new believers are encouraged to memorize, and for good reason.  John writes,

But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 

The question is a little misleading isn’t it?  We don’t do anything about our sin.  Jesus has done all the work.  All that God requires is that we admit our need for forgiveness.  He does all the work.  All that God asks of us is that we are humble enough to receive what he has done on our behalf.

Are you familiar with the story of the prodigal son?  Two sons – at the end of the story – it’s the sinful rebel who is partying with the father and it’s the moral do-good son on the outside.  Why?

When you read about Jesus life – why are the notorious sinners partying with Jesus, and why do the grumbling moralists refuse to join the party?

Because Christianity is not about the good people getting in, and the bad people being left out.  Christianity is about the humble people recognizing their need for forgiveness.  It about being humble enough to recognize we were pitiful before Jesus.  That we were in desperate need of a savior.

Do you hesitate to admit you were pitiful?  Does it sting to have to admit it?  Why?

Come into the party!  Leave your pride behind!  And join the party!

Let me ask you this last Question:  Have you come to the place where you are humble enough to admit you need a savior?  that it’s not good people who get into heaven?  It’s not about being good enough – the kingdom of heaven is only available to those who are humble enough to know they need Jesus to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

Won’t you make today the day you decide to become a follower of Jesus?  You can pray a simple prayer – it might sound like this –

Lord I realize I’m a sinner and there’s nothing I can do to clean myself up – I need your help.  I believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus was enough to cleanse me of my sins.  I confess my neediness to you Lord, teach me how to live my life with you by my side each day.  And thank you for loving me enough to die for me. 

Today I have decided to become a follower of Jesus.  Amen.