Summary: This sermon grapples with the question of guilt and our solution for it
1 John 1:7 - Phantom Pain and the Remedy for Guilt
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.
Do you ever find yourself struggling with guilt??
Maybe you are haunted by the memory of some long-ago failure… and no matter HOW hard you try, you just can’t seem to move past it? It’s always there, lurking just below the surface and whenever you see certain people - or a particular subject is discussed, that thing takes over your thoughts?
Turns out - there's a name for that: phantom pain.
Dr. Paul Brand used to tell a story about one of his medical school administrators who had a serious and painful circulation problem in his leg.
Finally the pain became so unbearable that the man said to his doctor - “I’m through with it - amputate my leg.” Surgery was scheduled immediately.
BEFORE the operation, the man asked his doctor, “What do you do with the legs after they are removed?”
“We might experiment with them a bit… but usually we just incinerate them.” “I want mine preserved in a pickle jar,” said the vengeful patient. “I want to put it on my mantle. THEN as I sit in my armchair, I will TAUNT that leg, ‘HA! You can’t hurt me anymore!’”
The man got what he asked for… but in the end, it was the despised leg that had the last “laugh.”
He experienced what is called “phantom pain.” Deep inside his psyche, it felt as though the leg was still attached… and even though the wound was completely healed, he still felt
the torturous pressure of the swelling,
muscles cramping, and
the pain throbbing that he felt before the amputation.
He would reach out to touch it - but of course - the leg wasn’t there.
The pain of that thing was permanently etched in his brain.
Some have that very same struggle with their past… held hostage by some sin committed long ago. The pain of their failure is permanently etched in their soul…
crippling their spiritual growth…
hindering their ability to serve…
constantly struggling between what they KNOW (the Bible says) and what they FEEL.
They’ve heard all the sermons on forgiveness… they’ve sung the songs about grace… but they are locked in a prison of their own making - CONVINCED that somehow, someway, that THING will forever haunt them.
What do you do when dozens of trips to the altar don’t take the pain away?? What do you do when the tears fail to wash away the stains of a guilty conscience??
John has the answer in this verse.
You’ll notice when you read John’s letters that he is much less technical in his writing style than Paul. He only deals with a handful of topics - and he drives them home again and again. In this opening chapter of 1 John - he leads us to the subjects of God’s holiness, man’s sin, and how there is really only ONE WAY to deal with our guilt.