Re-Assurance of Salvation – 1John 3


The last two weeks we have considered two of the major themes in John’s first letter—the essence of sin and the essence of belief. Today we’re going to consider a third major theme. It really is the point at which our sin problem and our mental belief come together. That is, love. This discussion about love, though, begins at the end of chapter 2:28: And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. 

Last week we saw that the Christian faith is not just a community, but a family. John continues this language by calling this church, “Little Children” and gives them a command to “Abide in him so that we can be confident when he returns.” Chapter 3 is how we go about abiding in him. This is how we fulfill the command.

Do you ever get really honest with yourself? I mean, in the moments of silence and when your defenses are down. Do you ever ask yourself, in what real way does my faith affect my day-to-day life? How does a belief in a first century Jewish man make my life any different than my neighbor who doesn’t believe in God? Like I said, it’s an honest question. It’s a challenging question. It’s a question we need to consider all the time. Too often faith can become merely theory. Belief can be merely cognitive.

But this morning, John is going to show us that sin and belief are not merely ideas without substance. Our most intimate beliefs about God and his world will always work themselves out in real life. Have you ever listened to John 15 where Jesus says, “I am the vine you are the branches. Abide in me” and thought, “How in the world do I abide in Jesus?” John is going to answer that for us.

1John 3

  1. Children of God practice righteousness

The idea of being born again is all over the place in this short letter…10x to be precise. This is the same language that Jesus uses when he spoke with Nicodemus in chapter 3 of John’s Gospel.

Our relationship with God is one that needed, not merely a fix, it needed an entire reconfiguration. Not just a few character trait improvements, but a new birth. A new creation. 

We have been born as new creatures and we, like babies, have to learn how to walk and talk and live in God’s world once we see it as he intended. Righteousness, therefore, is not merely a matter of rules that we are to keep. Righteousness is a life lived rightly in God’s world. Now I hear this and immediately think about the folks in my home town saying, “You gotta live right.” Or “He ain’t livin’ right.” This is only part of the equation. Living righteously is not merely about following marching order…it’s about following dance steps. It’s following God’s lead and being in tune with how he navigates his own world. 

There’s a movie called Man on the Moon with Jim Carrey. It’s about the life of the deceased comedian Andy Kaufmann. But there’s a documentary that was just released called Jim & Andy. In this documentary it follows Carrey throughout the filming of that movie, Man on the Moon. It’s quite surreal because Jim Carrey actually embodied the mannerisms and voice and way of being of Andy Kaufmann, not merely while the camera was rolling, but when the cameras were off. At first you think, “This is so crazy!” Then you find yourself believing that Jim Carrey is Andy Kaufmann. In fact, there’s one scene where Carrey is interacting with Andy’s family. They are talking and you think there will be a moment when they tell him to cut it out. Stop doing this. It’s not real. Instead, you see the dad and Carrey fighting. But it’s not the dad and Carrey, but the dad is talking to Jim as though he is actually his son!

This is analogous to what the Christian life is meant to be. A walking out of the life of God on earth. Of course, it is always in part. But it will be brought to completion when he returns. And all those who love him are waiting for him. They are longing for his return. They place their confidence in him. Verse 3: Everyone who hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. Waiting on Jesus’ return is not about sitting around the house. It is a matter of cleaning up the house to welcome him into it.

Verse 4-10 illustrate this cleaning. But this cleaning is not a matter of cleaning to be accepted. It starts with being accepted. You are not welcoming a stranger into your house, but a long-awaited husband from war. You know him and therefore you clean. You don’t clean in order to know him.

The very ability to be able to clean our house starts with the victory Jesus won over Satan. Look at Verses 8-9: Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. Our practicing of righteousness and lawlessness starts with who our Daddy is. 

In order to understand this relationship correctly, we have to go back to the Garden. There was one Law that God gave our first parents—you can have everything here…except that one Tree. Satan crept into the Garden and asked one question: Did God really say? At the heart of this question is: “Do you really trust God?” “Don’t you think you know better?” This is the heart of what John calls lawlessness. Lawlessness is more of an attitude toward God than it is the mere breaking of God’s law. That is, to be lawless means you don’t want to live under God’s rule. 

So when a child of God transgresses or steps over God’s good boundaries…when the child of God steps on God’s toes in the dance of life—as it were—she apologizes. She recognizes she has misstepped and seeks to follow his lead again. The lawless one, the one who is still following the deception of Satan doesn’t even want to be on the same dance floor.

From Genesis 3 through Malachi is a story of God being gracious to give his Law. Other Ancient Near Eastern religions relied on priests and necromancers and diviners to tell people what the gods wanted. But the God of the Bible is not like other deities. He tells the end from the beginning. He is near to his people. He tells them exactly how to navigate and move in his world. 

So the child of God practices righteousness, but John tells us that our spiritual lives are not merely about obeying rules. We are not called to keep an account and think that we have done what God intended us to do by giving us new life. Our attitudes and actions toward each other is just as indicative of our relationship with God as doing the right thing.

2. Practicing love for each other 

Our culture has made the word “love” synonymous with affection. Emotion is one aspect of love. Biblically speaking, love is affection that works itself out in action. If I were to say, “You have to love the person sitting in front of you.” Most of us, if not all of us, would think I am telling you to like or to feel some kind of emotion for him or her. While that, of course, would be a great thing…and really is what complete love entails…it only part of the equation of love. Emotions and affection are one half of love. If I were to say, “I love my wife” but don’t lift a finger to ease her burdens or rejoice in her victories…you would rightly question my love for her.

John uses the picture of the first brothers in history—Cain and Abel—to make his point. For our purposes this morning, look at Verse 14: We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. So the converse of John’s statement would be “Whoever loves abides in life.” To love each other is to promote and encourage true living. Flourishing. 

What is the greatest picture of love? Verse 16: By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. Isn’t this what Jesus said in John 15.13: Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 

This, of course, doesn’t mean we lay down our lives as a sacrifice for sin…but could it not mean that we are to lay down our lives for each other when we sin against each other? Could it not mean that we choose to be quick to forgive and extend forgiveness? After all, listen to the verses before and after Jesus’ statement: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

But John also gives us a very challenging explanation of what it means to lay down our lives. Verse 17: 7 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Consider for a moment money. It is neither good nor bad. It is how we use it that determines that. But what is money. It, typically, represents our time. I say “typically” because you could receive an inheritance or win some amount of money. But, It, typically, represents our lives. When you and I give money to someone or something else, we are giving a bit of our lives to that someone or something. We are meeting their need. We believe that something is worth investing my life into. 

But our laying down our lives is not merely physically visible in the here and now, it is how you and I are re-assured of our salvation. There is a lot of talk about the doctrine of assurance of salvation. It is true. When you and I confess our sin and lay our allegiances down to King Jesus, we most assuredly are saved. Yet, as we have seen in John’s letter, the Christian life is a dance. It’s a walking in the light. 

Do you get discouraged by how you continue to struggle with the same sin? Do you feel condemned and unsure of yourself? Do you wonder sometimes if you’re a Christian? 

Where can we find such reassurance when we feel condemned? We look to God. We look outside of ourselves. Outside of our obedience. 

Surely, we are called to be pure and to obey and to walk as he walked and to talk as he talked. But any of us, if we’re honest, do not find our confidence there. We can find our assurance that we even want to obey. That is a gift from God. We can find assurance that we hate sin. That, too, is a gift from God. But these are all in part. Indeed, we continue to step on people’s toes. We continue to be tempted by the beat of the Tempter’s drum. 

So our re-assurance. Our confidence cannot find its sure footing there. 

Verses 19-21: By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God.

Blessed Be The Tie That Binds – 1John 2


The Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer said the Christian community was the greatest apologetic for the Christian faith. When the community of faith is living in light of its acceptance by God, it welcomes all types of people into its midst to love and serve. I would like to qualify Schaeffer’s statement a bit. “The Christian community can be the greatest apologetic for the Christian faith.” I say can be because how many of us have been hurt by people in the church? How many times have you heard someone talk about the hypocrites in the church? How many times have you heard someone say they haven’t been to church for years because of how they were treated by the church?

The great potential of the church’s love and fellowship means there is great responsibility and a grave opportunity to destroy someone’s faith. Read throughout the New Testament and you will see this thread of threat throughout. Jesus said, “Woe to the one who causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for a millstone to be tied around his neck and thrown into the depths of the sea” (Matt 18.6). The Apostle Paul says this much in 1Corinthians 8. And the same idea in Romans 14.

We live in a world of hyper-individualization.

  • We don’t want people getting in the way of our dreams and aspirations and spirituality. Of crowding out our personal time. We want community when it’s convenient. Yet, this morning we see that we are interminably tied to others.
  • If we try to free ourselves from others, then we risk undoing the very threads of our faith.

There is an old hymn by John Fawcett called “Blessed Be the Tie That Binds.” In it, he writes

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

What we find is that we are tied to each other, like a family. This tying together can either bring much joy and preserve us from drowning, or it can be the very cause for our drowning.

1John 2

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. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

1John 2:7   Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

1John 2:12    I am writing to you, little children,
because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
13 I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.
14 I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.

1John 2:15   Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

1John 2:18   Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

1John 2:26   I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

1John 2:28   And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

Every single one of us has a family. By virtue of being born, you have a family. A family is not merely your biology, it is the very heart of who you are. In the family you learn what is good and bad. You learn how to view the world. You learn how to navigate in that world. You learn economics, politics, religion, faith, the foundational elements of who you are.

For some of us, this is a comfort. For others of us, our families are sources of the greatest pain in our lives. Words said by a parent still echo in our ears from decades ago. Manipulation or abuse or negligence or criticisms leave indelible marks on our skin and souls. You don’t get to choose your family. But the Gospel of Grace opens up a whole new door to family.

When told that his mother and brothers were outside—presumably trying to keep him from acting like a madman in their town—Jesus looked around at those who were with him and asked, “Who are my mother and brothers?” And he answered, “These are. The ones that do my Father’s will.”

Just as we considered last week that the Christian life is a continual walking in the light—of fellowship with others. And by virtue of living life with others, we live life with God. Our passage this morning gives us another layer to what it means to be in community. In this new family we learn what it means to truly live. We learn what the innermost part of our being ought to look like as we navigate the world around us.

First, in order to truly embrace and appreciate this family that God has given us, we need to understand what’s at stake. Look at the second half of our passage. Verse 15: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

But the world was made good and we are to celebrate God’s activity in his world?!? What does John mean when he says this? He defines what he means in the next two verses. The “world” as John explains it is everything that is antithetical to the self-giving God. Desires of the flesh. Desire of the eyes. Pride of life. Because this desire for puffing ourselves up finds its goal in making us look good, this desire…this kingdom will crumble and pass away.

This is the primary temptation we face in this life—to live lives of self-promotion or of self-giving. To reflect the Serpent in the Garden or the Son on the Cross.

This is how John can seamlessly move into his talk about antichrist in Verse 18. // There have been so many theories as to whether this or that political figure is Antichrist. Once Christ was resurrected, the period of time called The Last Days began. You may hear many people say, “I think we’re in the Last Days.” The truth is, since the Resurrection we have been in the Last Days. It is a period of time the Bible uses to say we are in the time before the Final Last Day when Christ returns physically.

Since this is the case, there is not merely one Antichrist. In fact, if you’ve tried to surmise that Hitler or Mussolini or any other figure was the Antichrist, the answer is all of the above. Look at the last part of Verse 18: Many antichrists have come. And then Verse 22. All these antichrists fall under the umbrella of the Spirit of Antichrist who denies [the deciding factor…not how many people he or she killed]. Everyone who denies that Jesus is who he said he was. The Christ. The Son of God.

What are all these antichrists trying to do? They are trying to not only get you to disbelieve that Jesus is the Christ, but they are trying to pull you away from the very place you get that kind of nourishment. We see this in Verse 19: They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

Those who are truly Christians will remain in Christ. And we see here that those who are truly Christians will remain in fellowship with other Christians. Not just peripherally so, but integrated and sharing life together. Not a, “Yeah, I’m a Christian. I identify with them. But not involved in any real way in the life of a community—or they involved in your life.

Remember how last week I mentioned that to many in our culture, church is an accessory to their Christian lives. This does not seem to be John’s understanding! He is at pains to show that you are in a family. And if you cease to come to dinner or to go fishing or to clean the kitchen or to fill the car up with gas, then you aren’t really in the family.

Throughout our passage the words of family are everywhere. From Verse 1: My little children and Father. The entire song in the middle of our chapter (vv.12-14) highlights this familial aspect.

A lot of times when the honeymoon of being at a church wears off, people take off. They don’t stick around. When their wrinkles and pains are at risk of being exposed…or when they see those in another. Instead of seeing these things being brought to light as grace. Instead of seeing these uncomfortable conversations as the very means God wants to conform you. We sneak back into the dark. To the comfort of being hidden. We all say we want community. But when it comes down to it, few of us are willing to take the risk.

Being in the family of God exposes where our true allegiances reside. Our obedience is not done in order to be in the family of God. Rather, our obedience is a sign of and a living out of the truth of our being born again into the family of God.

There is here a warning for all of us. There is a great risk to us to water down or to make light of what it means to be in the family of God. Because we readily speak about our sin here, it can be very easy to become complacent in our obedience.

Look at all the language of obedience John uses: Verse 3: We know God if we keep his commandments. But look also at Verse 5: Whoever keeps his word, in him the love of God is perfected—or brought to its intended goal. We ought to walk as he walked. Our obedience is not done in order to win God’s favor. It’s a life that is lived as it was meant to be.

This was the intent from the beginning in the Old Testament. God graciously gave his Law to teach people how he intended them to navigate his world. We will talk more about this next week.

For today, though, we are called to strive toward love toward one another. Instead of running away or avoiding others when awkward circumstances come up, we are being told that this is the very means God uses to hem us in.

Illustration: The difference between dating and being married.

Think about it this way. We are the most free and vulnerable and honest and ugly with our families. This is not to explain it away as though being mean to your family is acceptable. Rather, I want us to realize that the reason we can be vulnerable and honest and ugly is because we know that our family is not going anywhere. They’re stuck with us.

But look at this on the flip side. The benefit of being intertwined into a family is so that the true and vulnerable you can come out. You don’t have to constantly hedge your comments. You can speak freely. You can love and struggle freely. Because you are in a family. Family also has the opportunity to point out those discrepancies between who you are and what you do. I submit to you: This community that God has given you is the means for your becoming more like Jesus. Don’t treat her as an accessory. Nourish these relationships. If you don’t know somebody, ask them to coffee or to dinner. Risk being vulnerable. This is a safe place to have sin pointed out. Look around. Every single person in here sins.

After all, we ought to strive for obedience…but we all must remember the very first verse of our passage today: My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. That’s the goal. To reflect Christ-likeness.

But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. We rest on Christ’s work and on his alone. This gives us the freedom to mess up.

We seek to lives lives of congruency with what we believe and what we do. The family of God. This family of God is God’s means to help you.

So in order for the Church to be the greatest apologetic for our world, we need to press into life together. We need to help each other and not leave each other to wallow in our sin. Instead of drowning us, may the Lord use the tie of forgiveness as the buoy for our lives.

Seen and Heard and Manifest – 1John 1

We start a five-week walk through the Beloved Apostle John’s first letter. As you may have noticed, there was no OT reading in our service today. This is due to the emphasis in the church calendar to consider what the resurrection of Jesus means for the Church. That is, we read from Acts instead of the OT during this season right after the Resurrection—a forty-day period that ends on Pentecost Sunday. 

You’re going to notice several aspects in this letter that I want you to be aware of before I read our passage today. Each of these elements should be read as a continuation of John’s Gospel. As we work through it together, I will reference some of these elements from John’s Gospel, but of course will not be able to mention all of them.

The earthiness of the Christian faith

Light and Darkness

Love and Obedience

Abiding in God

Singular devotion

It would be beneficial to read John’s Gospel in one hand and 1John in the other. 

1John 1

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

5   This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not 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 cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Eternal life is about life right now…on earth. John 17.3: “This is eternal life…they know you God.” It is, of course, life with God in the new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells. But that life is a fulfillment of and a continuation of the eternal life that we start to live here on earth. Have you considered that the new eyes and new heart and new life you have received by the Spirit of God when you first came to know God is the heart, mind, and life you will enjoy God forever? 

We see this earthiness of the life we have from the beginning of John’s letter. Verses 1-3. Note the senses involved in what John conveys to his readers: Heard. Seen with our eyes. Touched with our hands. That which we have seen and heard we proclaim. 

At the time John was writing this letter, there were the beginnings of a heresy going around called Docetism. It comes from the Greek word dokeo, which means “to see.” This teaching taught that God did not really and truly become human, but that he only appeared to do so. This is the easy way to reconcile really hard teaching in the Christian life. We try to make it palatable and understandable—confining it to our finite mind. How can the Infinite become finite? Well, it can’t therefore it only appears to be finite. He’s a mirage. BUT this is not the Christian way. Earth is not bad. Soil is not unclean. The entire Creation is resplendent with Christ’s glory. The Creator. 

This is why John tells us that the Resurrected Jesus ate fish for breakfast with his disciples. And this is why he is at pains to show us that the very same eternal Word of God from the first chapter of his Gospel—“In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God.” This self-same God blessed bread and ate it. He was baptized. He took baths. He changed clothes. He cried real tears and laughed real laughter. “That which was from the beginning”  was made manifest—he not only appeared…he ate and drank and sang.

If we’re not careful, we can make our faith very ephemeral. Disconnected from the stuff of life. We can fool ourselves into thinking that we are meant to float on clouds above the cares of the world. But the beauty of the Gospel is that it redeems men and women. It manifests itself by clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, giving sight to the blind. 

The Christian faith is not one disconnected from reality. The physical manifests the spiritual. The spiritual necessarily works itself out in flesh and blood. The very story of all of our salvation comes through the hearing of the proclaimed message. Without the hammer, anvil, and stirrup of the ear, there can be no confessing with the tongue. Embracing this reality helps us to see the utterly practical nature of the Gospel. The Christian life is not merely about ideas and knowledge…it is about life. Yes, eternal life. 

Verse 5 serves as the banner over the rest of the chapter. This is the message we have…

This earthiness works itself out with the conditions John walks through in the second half of our text. A list of five (5) conditional statements show the importance of what we do with our hands and mouths and eyes. 

Verse 6: If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, [then] we lie and do not practice the truth.

John is at pains to show that allegiances are black and white. To use his terminology—light and darkness. You cannot live in the shadows and say you are in the light. This is a HUGE tendency here in our culture where people walked down and aisle or raised a hand or even led a Bible Study for some time. As time goes on, the true allegiances of the heart are brought to the light. When this happens that person has to reckon with their true allegiance. Will they bring it out into the light or will they retreat into the dark and keep their sin safe and secure. 

As God invites us to deeper intimacy, he’s beckoning us into more light. To be closer to him. This oftentimes comes through adversity. 

By virtue of living and breathing you are doing. We are constantly doing something. Either we are lying or we are, literally, “doing the truth”. The truth of the Christian life is lived out. It is acted upon, not merely a truth to be ascended to. It is a truth that grabs you and moves you.

We will see next that abiding in Christ (in the light) means abiding in his community. 

Verse 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 cleanses us from all sin. 

This is the converse of the previous verse. We see that living the Christian life is a perpetual walking and breathing. It is much like what we will be seeing this summer. In case you haven’t noticed, I am a pretty pasty white guy. When Ashley and I first got married, I learned just how much of a sun baby she was. We went to the beach with her family one July 4th week and I wanted to show her that I could hang with her and all the other sun worshipers, so I laid on the beach for several hours. My prior length of time in the sun was about 30 minutes. That night, I couldn’t hold any food down. I had sun poisoning. You go to the beach and you can tell those who have been in the sun longer than those who haven’t. The Christian life is one of living in the light and being changed from one shade of glory to another. 

Verse 8: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 

To guard us from pride and from thinking that walking in the light means we are without sin, John reminds us that the emphasis of the Christian life is the sun that shines on us. We do not produce the light. We walk in the light. God is not expecting you to manufacture some kind of inherent goodness within you. You have, indeed, been made in the image of God…but the life we are called to live is one of enjoying and basking in the glory of Another. In this way we see that the light is a safe place to show that we have blemishes. We have imperfections. We have sin. This is one of the purposes of the light. 

To take the previous illustration a little further, but hopefully not too far!, when I get in my bathing suit this summer, those around me will see my imperfections. More specifically, they will see moles on my skin. This could be an embarrassing thing, or it could be a protection for me. Imagine that my dear wife sees a mole on my back that I cannot see. She sees it in May at the beginning of the summer and then she notices in August that that mole has changed shape. It’s grown! “Hey Babe, you probably need to go to a dermatologist.” Not merely to change the way we look as we walk in the Light, but it points out things that can be detrimental to us. 

The light is a place we can be healed. It shows us our imperfections and it overwhelms us by Jesus’ perfection and love for us in light of that sin. This is the point of the next verse! The point of being brought to the light is to be healed. To be cleansed. To be set free. Not to condemn.

Verse 9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

But the ability to confess is often avoided because we don’t like to admit how messed up we are. You and I can hear this beautiful news this morning, that we are loved and accepted and welcomed by God and yet run away from the very place he wants to do his work of surgery. 

Verse 10: If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

If we lie and say we don’t have sin, then we make him a liar. Takes our lives up a notch. God wants to live his life through you. The Christian life is meant to be a life of congruence. One of integrity. One of honesty. There is safety here. There is healing here. The sooner and the more frequent we make these confessions, the more opportunity we have for healing. Instead of wishing the mole would go away or simply because we can’t see it we claim that it doesn’t exist. The Gospel gives us the courage and confidence to confess and come to the only place that it can be healed.

But we have to ask why does John speak so candidly and directly about living in the light and a life of integrity? Why? He gives three reasons in this text. And we’ll work backward.

Verse 9 is so that, quite simply, we will be cleansed and be forgiven. God is standing at the ready to forgive even the most heinous sin in your life. He is faithful when you have been faithless. Maybe you have been walking in dark. He standing ready to receive you! He will make good on his word to forgive you. He is just. What he says, he will surely do. He split the Red Sea. He resurrected his Crucified Son. Will he not surely receive you and wash you?

John has a second reason in Verse 4. It’s a self-serving reason in some respects. He proclaims the glory of the Gospel so that his joy may be complete…brought to its fullness. Have you considered that the folks you and I interact with everyday can bring you joy? They are not meant to merely be hindrances to your joy. Even though you may think so many days. They are God’s means to bring you even more joy. Every time you draw near to that one who is unlovely or annoying, seeking to enjoy the Light with them, your joy is magnified. Like a magnifying glass on an ant, the joy burns up those tiny annoyances in our lives. 

John gives one more reason in Verse 3. It’s not just about bringing someone to the Light, as in a “See, I told you so!” Rather, this magnification of our joy, the bringing to its fullness is when we are changed and fellowship with one another. As each of us is along the way we are being changed, shade by shade…and the beauty and sufficiency and glory of the sun helps us enjoy all that he has for us even more!

The Christian life is meant to be lived in community with others. We shortchange our joy when our faith is merely about me and Jesus.

Walking the Ancient Paths

I thought this tendency would have died after graduating college, but there is a perpetual draw for people to herald and lift up the new. I just saw a post from someone the other day that said, “Worship Jesus in a whole new way this Easter.”

Now I get the desire to make our faith ever fresh and ever new. I get it. I do. But I think we assume that ever fresh and ever new means ever real. That is, we can believe that just because something is different than what we’ve done before it is better. In reality, such drives and pulls are better called novelties.

People are drawn to the novel, but they don’t have the staying power of authentic. To “worship Jesus in a whole new way” does not necessarily mean you are, in fact, worshipping Jesus. Instead, it can mean you are going to the latest sideshow. You are being drawn to the novel. When you accumulate a lot of novel things, it’s called a novelty shop.

As a result, many churches are just that–novelty shops. 

Churches are clamoring for more attention and more “influence”, when what they are really doing is becoming increasingly irrelevant to the real needs and longings of the human heart. I don’t know what it is, but as people get deeper and deeper into religion, they try to ramp up their devotion by doing the strange. Knowing their actions are strange, they can dress the strangeness up for “taking risks for the Gospel” or “suffering for the Gospel” when in reality they are just weird.

You know the things I’m talking about. They are the outreach events churches put on where the first reaction of neighbors is either “eye rolling” or a furrowed brow of “what in the world?”

What people are longing for is not more entertainment (i.e., novelties), there is plenty of it everywhere else! People are longing for the real and the true and lasting. They are longing for meaning in a sea of change and the impermanent.

I believe one of the ways forward in the malaise is to recover the ways of the Church that have had the staying power people are longing for. Too often people interpret doing away with the old as singing a new song with meaning. My contention is that it is when we sing, in unison with our brothers and sisters from the past, we find a depth of beauty and meaning that we didn’t previously have. You get a sense of this when you sing songs you learned as a kid. It’s a different depth of emotion than singing the latest song on the radio. It envelops the whole sensory panel of the person. Try it. Sing a song you learned as a kid right now. Doesn’t it transport you to a different time and place as you repeat it?