1 John 2:1-6                               November 2016

PROFESSION OR POSSESSION

Ill. In the early days of my Christian life I read a book about sinless perfection and I can’t remember the author but he convinced me that I could live a life without ever sinning. So each day I prayed and tried very hard not to think, say or do anything that I knew was wrong. And at the end of each day I would reflect on how well I was doing. For the first few days I felt I was doing really well and I believed that I could do this, but then I slipped up and became really discouraged. I so wanted to live a sinless life that would please God but no matter how hard I tried I seemed to let God down at some point and I would feel really stink. In fact I got so depressed about this that I felt there no hope for me. 

When we read a passage like this, it seems that God expects us as believers to live a sinless life and yet the reality is that none of us have been able to successfully achieve this, unless there is someone here who has managed it.

So let’s look at the passage under 4 headings:

Our aim, our advocate, our admission and our actions.

 

OUR AIM v1

John makes this statement, “My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin.” In the first 2 chapters of John’s letter he says 9 times, “I am writing”.

I am so glad John wrote these things down. He could have verbally taught the truths to the members of his church but God inspired him to write them down so that future generations could receive these truths.  If the Bible authors hadn’t written down the history and the truths God had revealed to them we wouldn’t have the written record that we have today.

When it comes to Christians sinning there have been two extreme views: The first view is the one I spoke about at the beginning which says, based on verse 1, “If you are a Christian, you should get to the point where you never sin.” The problem of holding this view is that like me, when you do slip up you can get so discouraged and despair of ever getting there.

The other extreme view is based on Romans 6:14 where Paul says we are no longer under law but under grace. Many Christians have argued from this that because we are not under God’s laws, we can live as we like and it doesn’t matter if we sin, God will go on forgiving us.

The problem with holding this view is that if we go on abusing the grace and the kindness of God we are in real danger of falling away altogether and we read about this in Hebrews.

So where is the balance? If we are a genuine, true believer we will hate sin and our aim, our desire is not to sin. We will not deliberately and knowingly go on doing what we know is wrong and offensive to God.

God not only wants to set us free from the penalty of sin but from the power of sin.

Think about it this morning: Looking back over your Christian life, what specific sins have gone from your life? What sins have ceased to have power over you? Jealousy, bad temper, pride, self-centredness, greed, dishonesty, resentment, cursing and swearing, drunkenness, lust?

The aim and desire of every true believer is to get rid of sin in their lives.

Ill. I read about a teenager who was playing baseball with his friends outside his home. Just for fun he threw the ball at the upstairs window. The ball went through the window smashing the glass. The boy went inside to see if anything was damaged and when he entered the upstairs bedroom he found his mother on the floor with her head covered in blood and slithers of glass. He said, “When I saw what my stupid actions had done to my mother, I was so ashamed and so remorseful that I determined never ever to do that again.”  

It is when we believers look at the cross and see what our sinful words, thoughts and actions have done to Jesus we cry out from our hearts, “I never ever want to do, say or think anything that would hurt or offend my Lord again.” Grieve the Holy Spirit.

The Hebrew writer says that if we believers continue to deliberately and knowing go on sinning after God has forgiven us, it’s like nailing Jesus to the cross again.

The aim of every true believer is to stop sinning.

OUR ADVOCATE v1

Although the aim and desire of every true believer is not to sin, the fact is that we do fail, we do slip up and God as made provision for that.

We have an advocate, a defence lawyer, who pleads our case before God the Father.

In our country we have defence lawyers and their job is to try and prove that the defendant is not guilty. Even if the lawyer knows the defendant is guilty, they will present an argument that makes their client appear innocent.

When we sin and break God’s commands, our defence lawyer knows we are guilty and He does not try and prove that we are innocent. He says to God, “Father this person has done wrong, they are guilty of breaking your commands, but I ask that you would forgive them because I have already paid the penalty for their wrongdoing.”

Ill. A guy was telling us that he attended a court case when the defendant was found guilty. The defence lawyer pleaded with the judge to show leniency before passing sentence. He said to the judge, “I am not saying that my client is innocent, but I am saying that he has already suffered enough physically, emotionally and mentally for this crime.”

Jesus says to God, “I am not saying that this person is innocent, but I am saying that I have already suffered enough physically, emotionally and spiritually for his or her crimes. I have already paid for their sins with my life.

And God, who demands that all sin must be punished, forgives us because our advocate, our defence lawyer has taken our punishment at the cross. God sees that the justice for our sins has been served.

OUR ADMISSION V3-4

A lot of people think that being a Christian is all about avoiding sin. In fact some Christians think that obeying God is simply not doing anything wrong. “I’m a good person, I don’t do anything wrong.”

It’s far more than that. Obeying God is also doing what is right and good and loving.

I’ve mentioned this before but I have had Christians tell me that they seek to witness for Jesus in their work place and I have asked them how do they do this. “Well I don’t smoke, drink, swear or tell dirty stories.” “What do you do?”

I don’t believe we will have an impact on unbelievers by what we don’t do, but by what we do do. By showing love, compassion, consideration, understanding. By being truthful, helpful, honest, and reliable. By working hard and doing our best gaining their respect and then sharing our faith when the opportunities present themselves.

Obeying God is not just about what we don’t do it’s about what we do do.

One of the best commentaries on the life of Jesus is found in Acts 10:38 “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and He went around doing good.”

This could not be said about the religious leaders in Jesus day. The spent their time to trying to avoid doing wrong. They were always going on about what you should not do.

John says here says that those who really know God seek to obey Him above everything else. Sin is not just avoiding what is wrong; it is also refusing to do what is right.

When we refuse to show love to others we are disobeying God. When we refuse to forgive others we are disobeying God.

Now this is the bottom line. The Bible says here that if we profess to know God and yet refuse to do what He commands us to do, we don’t know God at all. We are liars and not living in the truth. In other words we are deceiving ourselves.

The worst form of deception is self-deception. Where we profess to be something but the evidence is clearly not there.

Ill. In the mid 1800s James Hammond was the Governor of South Carolina and a US Senator. Hammond claimed to be a Christian while owning 300 slaves. He sexually abused the female slaves as well as his own nieces. His brother in law threatened to publicly expose him if he didn’t resign from public office. Hammonds wife left him and he lost a large number of his slaves and livestock from disease. After all this he wrote in his diary: “It crushes me to see everything I own taken from me. Slaves, cattle, mules, pigs, struck down by this terrible plague. Great God what have I done wrong or failed to do to deserve this fate. He refused to see or acknowledge the sinful behaviour in his own life. Self-deceived.

Ill. Alan Wolfe who is an agnostic sociologist wrote a book in 2005 entitled “The Transformation of American Religion” In the book this non-Christian sociologist speaks about how in the Western nations, Bible believing Christians have abandoned the NT teaching of sin. He writes, “In no other area of religious practice, especially for Bible believing Christians, is the gap between what they believe and what they practice so wide as it is in the area of sin.”

The evidence that we know God is that we seek above all else to do what He wants us to do. We make it our priority to obey His commands.

Listen carefully, not to me but to God’s Word. If you are refusing to obey God’s commands and continuing to go on sinning, you do not really know God at all, no matter what you tell yourself and others. You are lying to yourself and to others. You are self-deceived.

Many churches accept people into membership on the basis of Profession of faith. All they have to do is say that they believe in the essential elements of the Christian faith and that is sufficient.

I had some problems with this because lots of people can say the right things, but Jesus said, “By their fruit you will know them.” Do they possess what they profess? Can we see the evidence in their attitudes and behaviour?

And that is one of the reasons we adopted this requirement for people wanting to become members of this church: “The members of FBC will be believers who are presently seeking to follow Jesus and live their lives according to His teaching.

We might know the Bible inside out – Satan does. We might think that our beliefs are all Biblically correct, but if we are not seeking daily to live a life that is honouring to God, all that means nothing. It’s a farce, a pretence.

OUR ACTIONS v5-6

“But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him.  Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” 

The real proof that we are genuine Christians and love God is that we are seeking day by day to please Him and do what He wants. In fact if you go to the 1 John 5:13, John gives us the main reason for writing this letter.

“I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.”

In this letter John gives 4 proofs or evidences by which we can know that we are genuine believers.

  1. The moral proof. v5-6 “We obey God’s commands.” Our chief desire is to obey God and please Him. That was the overruling desire and aim of Jesus. If we live as Jesus lived our first priority is to please God.
  1. The social proof. 3:14 “If we love our fellow believers, it proves we have passed from life to death.
  1. The Theological proof. 4:2 “If a person claiming to be a believer acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God in them.” This means that we believe Jesus came from God and entered our world as a human being.
  2. The experiential proof. 5:10 “All who believe in the Son of God have the witness, the assurance in their hearts that this testimony is true.”

Ill. I remember the night I became a Christian. I had been invited to a series of meetings and on the last night the speaker invited all those who wanted to give their lives to Christ to say out loud, “Jesus is Lord.”  I had no intention of doing this. I had my own beliefs about God and religion, but something happened inside me. My heart began to pound and I was shaking. I suddenly knew that the message of Jesus was true. It was like having my eyes opened and I found myself speaking out in front of everyone, “Jesus is Lord,”

The Spirit of God was testifying to my spirit that this was the truth. And that witness, that assurance has been with me ever since.

Ill. When John R Rice applied to train for Christian ministry at Dallas Theological college they asked Him how he knew he was a true Christian. They wanted him to make a profession of faith something like this “I believe that Jesus is God’s Son who came into the world to die for our sins and rose again”. But John said, “I know I am a true believer because the Spirit of God has given me the inner witness, the inner assurance that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

They weren’t happy with that answer. They wanted a profession, but John spoke about the possession of the assurance he had in his heart.

When Paul spoke about being saved in Romans 10:9 he said we need to profess with our mouth, but we also need to believe in our hearts.

A lot of people can say the right things with their lips but we if we are genuine believers we will have that inner assurance,  that witness of the Spirit, that inner confidence that Jesus is who He said he was and that we are forgiven and belong to Him for all eternity.

So this morning we have looked at the first proof that we are genuine followers of Jesus.

Our chief aim and desire is to obey the Lord and do what He wants. If that is not your desire and aim then I would seriously doubt that you are a genuine believer. If you are concerned about this then you need to come to Jesus and confess this and ask Him to come into your life and change your heart so that you will want to live a life that honours and pleases God more than anything else.

And God has promised to do this. Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.  And I will put my Spirit in you so that you want to will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my commands.

Ill. In the 1960s a leading English bishop quoted Augustine when he said, “Love God and do what you like.” The Bishop said, “God doesn’t expect you to obey His commands. If you have love in your hearts you can do whatever you like as long as you feel okay about it.”

This was the beginning of what was called the new morality and from this came the hippy movement which was a rebellion against the moral values and standards of society. Their motto was “make love not war.” This reaction against moral standards has developed into what we have today where anything goes.  Not the new morality, it’s no morality.

The NT does not teach, “Love God and do what you want.” It teaches love God and do what He wants.”

If you genuinely love God you will make it your first priority to do what He wants, not what you want.

And do you know what the result is when you do this – Joy. John 15:9-11 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! Obeying God brings the greatest is the greatest blessing a Christian can know.