Sermon on 1 John 1:5-2:2
Text: 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 and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out 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 is not in us.
1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father — 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.
How do you know for sure that you are a Christian? How do you know for sure that God loves you, forgives you, and wants you in his family? It may seem like a foolish question at this moment in time. However, there are times when the devil starts to whisper in our ears and tries to get us to doubt this. We are going through the day just fine and then, boom, there is that little doubt. Maybe it is because of something that we have done or said that we know was wrong. It may be that something bad has come into our lives. Whatever the case, it would be great, at that moment in time, to be sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt. In the Scriptures, there is the precedence that everything be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. Following that, we ask HOW CAN I BE SURE THAT I AM A CHRISTIAN? We will look at 1. The Witness Of God, 2. The Witness Of My Faith, and 3. The Witness Of My Christian Life.
First of all, we look at verse 2 of chapter 2. In speaking of Jesus, it says that, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” This is the heart and core of the gospel message. It focuses on what God has done, out of his grace and mercy. It says that Jesus is the “sacrifice.” God the Father sacrificed his own Son. This was done on the altar of the cross. The sacrifices that were offered on the ancient Jewish altars had to be perfect animals. There could be no blemish or any imperfections. How perfectly that describes Jesus! Jesus lived his entire human life without sin. When it would have been easy for him to only show love to those who were kind to him, Jesus kept reaching out to his enemies, even to the end. When he could have said that he was just too tired or too busy to help those who came to him, he preached and comforted and healed. He was a perfect sacrifice. While on the cross, he willingly gave up his life. God punished him, though he was innocent. The reason for this sacrifice is told us in the fact that it was an “atoning” sacrifice. The word “atone”means to bring together two estranged parties. You make them “at-one” with each other.
Who were the two estranged parties? On the one hand, you have the holy and perfect God. On the other hand, you have, “the whole world.” The sins of the world had separated all humanity from God. No one would ever be able to come into the glories of heaven. However, through the life, death, and subsequent resurrection of Jesus, that debt of sin has been paid in full. He is the atoning sacrifice for the whole world.
We find great comfort in that word “world.” Note how often the concept of God’s salvation for the world is mentioned in the Scriptures. Probably, the best known of the verses that show this is John 3:16, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” The reason we can find comfort in the word “world” is that we are included in that. Perhaps, we might think it would have been nice, if God had specifically mentioned us by name. God so loved (insert your name) that he gave his one and only Son. Yet, there would still be some uncertainty, because how would you know, for sure, that he was talking about you? There may have been other people through the world’s history that have your name. How would you know that you were the one that he was talking about? Just by the sheer fact that you are part of humanity, you know that Jesus was your atoning sacrifice. God has announced it to the whole world: past, present, and future. How you can know for sure that God loves you and wants you to be part of his family? God has said so, and he took the steps necessary so that it would be so.
The second witness to this truth is the faith that has been created in us. First of all, John dispels any notion that our salvation is of our own doing. We like to think that we are pretty good people, at least better than some of the others that we can think of. Perhaps, God will let us in on our own merits. Yet, God’s standard to enter heaven is perfection. Just in case, we think that we might be close to that, John writes, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” All it takes is a few moments with God’s law to see that we have sinned. We have not loved God as we should with our entire lives. We have not loved our neighbors as we love ourselves. To hammer this point home, John writes, “ If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” Just take a moment and think about how dangerous it is for us to say that we have not sinned or to downplay our sins. We are calling God a liar. Either God does not mean it when he says that we have to be perfect or he does not really say that we have all sinned. Yet, both are clearly spelled out for us in his Word.
In reality, we find comfort in the fact that we do not earn our salvation. We would always be wondering if we did enough or if we did it correctly. God says that we cannot do it. Where, then, can we find the comfort and assurance that we need?
That is where we turn to verse 9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” We confess our sins. We do not try to hide anything from our God. Indeed, we cannot. We come to our God and confess those sins and, in faith, we turn to him for forgiveness. Listen to the beautiful words again, “he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” God is faithful. He has said that it will happen this way, and he does not change his mind. He is just. God said that sin had to be paid for. He punished his Son in our place. He would not be a just God, if he were to say that we still had to pay for our sins. He will forgive our sins when we come to him, trusting that Jesus is our Savior. He will purify us from all unrighteousness. Because we have been washed clean in the blood of Jesus Christ, we are pure and holy in his sight. It is not of our doing. It is purely by the grace of God. He says, “You are forgiven.” He says, “You are mine.”
There is a time and place for confession. We confess our sins at the beginning of our worship services. If there is a particular sin that is bothering us, we can go to the pastor or a fellow Christian and confess that sin. In doing so, we have the assurance that, when we hear the words of absolution, there are as valid and certain, as if Christ himself were speaking to us. Also, take note of how often Jesus comes to us personally with the assurance that our sins have been forgiven. When we were baptized, Jesus came to us and made us his own. There, personally, our sins were forgiven. That was God reaching out to us. Every time we come to the Lord’s Supper, Jesus is there personally forgiving our sins. We hear those two little words, “for you.” Jesus is speaking to you directly and saying, “I forgive you. Yes, you.” Through the faith that the Holy Spirit creates, we are forgiven. How you can know for sure that God loves you and wants you to be part of his family? This faith trusts that Jesus your Savior gives witness to this fact.
The final witness to speak to assure us of this fact is our Christian lives, or what we refer to as our sanctification. This is the holiness and obedience that Christians demonstrate in their words and actions. Please note that our holiness is never complete during our time here on this earth. We, definitely, are works in progress. However, our sanctification is an absolutely necessary indicator of true faith. John shows this in two different ways. First of all, faith without good works is no faith at all. He writes, “If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.” Walking in the darkness is a metaphor for living like unbelievers, unrepentantly breaking God’s commandments. The fact that we are trying to live as God would have us live is a indicator of that saving faith. We know that we will not be perfect this side of heaven. However, we strive to do things God’s way. We see where we face temptations and we say that we don’t want to do them. We see the times that we have fallen short of what God wants us to do and we resolve not to do them, again. If we did not have faith, we would not care how we lived our lives. You could not tell us apart from the rest of the world. However, with God’s help, we want to walk as children of light. This is an indicator of a saving faith.
We find this assurance that every act of kindness and service and worship that a Christian does gives comfort to their hearts that their faith is alive, the Spirit is alive in them, and thus their forgiveness is alive and secure. It is like a fruit tree. If it were dead, you would not expect to find any fruit on it. It cannot, because there is no life in it. However, a fruit tree that is alive will produce fruit. It is something that it naturally does. You know the tree is alive because it is bearing fruit. When we examine our lives, we know that there will still be sins. However, as we strive to live for Jesus, we see the evidence of that faith. John gives us this comfort in verse 7, “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.” As we go through our lives, living for Jesus in thankful response for all that he has done for us, we, also have the assurance that Jesus continues to forgive our sins. While our good works do not save us, they are evidence of a living faith that brings us to our living Savior. How you can know for sure that God loves you and wants you to be part of his family? The lives that we live to his glory testify to this fact.
It has been said that there are only two things in this life that you can be certain of: death and taxes. You cannot disagree with the certainty of these two things. Unless the Lord returns first, we will all die. That is a fact. As far as taxes go, we just passed April 15. Taxes were paid. However, I would submit to you that there is something else that you can be certain of, something that is far more pleasant. You can be sure that God loves you. You can be sure that he wants you to be a part of his family. You can be sure that you will be with him forever in heaven. May this give us comfort and motivation as we face the questions of this life. No matter how you might feel from day to day, whether on top of the world or down in the dumps, you can be sure of this. Take hold of it. Trust in it. Rejoice in it. Live in it. Amen.
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