John wrote this letter to counter the false teachings that crept into the churches. This morning, we will look at three ineffective ways to deal with our sin and three effective ways to deal with our sin. The passage we will look at is 1 John 1:5-10.
Because the word, sin, is not always familiar to everyone, let me begin by defining what sin is. The Apostle Paul would say that sin is falling short of the glory of God. Elizabeth has put it well, "Sin is doing what shames God. "Because God made us in His image, pure, good and loving, whenever we are impure, evil or unloving, we fall short of His glory and put our Maker to shame.
Sin separates us from God. Isaiah 59:2 tells us, "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. "In other words, if we don’t deal with our sin effectively while we are alive, we will be separated from God for all of eternity, and that’s hell.
This morning, John starts by saying that the sin that separates us from God and the sin that separates us from others is our own sin, because God has no sin at all. We read in verse 5, "God is light; in him there is no darkness at all."
Now that we know the trouble is with us, what are you going to do about it?
This week, I received an insightful email from one of my favorite research assistants, and the email reads:
"Man discovered weapons, invented hunting. Woman discovered hunting, invented furs. Man discovered colors, invented painting. Woman discovered painting, invented make-up. Man discovered agriculture, invented food. Woman discovered food, invented diet..."
I won’t go on, because you get the idea. We choose what we do with what we know. And this morning, we know that the sin in us separates us from God, and unless we deal with the sin effectively, we will be separated from God in this life and for all of eternity. Again, we will look at three common but ineffective ways to deal with sin, each followed by the correct way to deal with sin.
FIRST, people deal incorrectly with sin through compartmentalized obedience. We read this in verses 6-7. The false teachers of John’s time was teaching that if we know and believe in the right things, we will have a right relationship with God, regardless of the way we are living.
Many Christians can talk a good talk about morality and enter into deep conversation about God’s truths, but if their lives do not reflect their knowledge, their relationship with God is not right. James, the half-brother of Jesus, noted, "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder." Obviously, demons do not have a right relationship with God. Right beliefs without right behaviors do not foster right relationship.
If what we learn and affirm on Sunday morning does not transfer over to our obedience to God in our use of our body and mind, our work and finances, and our family and recreation from Monday through Saturday, we cannot claim to have a right relationship with God. Relationship involves our totality.
Jesus would remind us with these words, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: `Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:30-31)"
The solution to dealing with compartmentalized obedience is to allow the blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse every compartment of our life, our mind, our mouth, our money, our relationships and our use of time. The blood of Jesus shed on the cross makes forgiveness of sin possible, and the forgiveness of sin makes right relationship with God and with one another possible.
FIRST, people deal incorrectly with sin through compartmentalized obedience. SECOND, people deal incorrectly with sin through perfectionism. We read this in verses 8-9. Another false teaching John faced was the teaching that once we have a right relationship with God, we will be free from sin.
Someone told of a church that believed in sinless perfection once you trusted Jesus Christ into your life and were baptized. A visitor to that church heard this teaching and asked to be baptized. He was tired of dealing with his habitual sin without any success. Unfortunately, it was in the middle of winter and the river was near frozen.
The man with much persistence got the Elders to baptize him in the river. After the man and two Elders came out of the freezing cold water, the man was so excited, he said, "I feel so good, I’m not even cold." One Elder turned to the other and said, "He’s lying, we have to do it again."
Having a right relationship with God does not make us robots without free will. We are forgiven, but we are not prevented from sinning. Perfectionism is the belief that one can be free from making mistakes, wrong choices and even intentional disobedience to God. God’s Word, the Bible, does not teach this, but many of us, especially American Christians with the "can-do" mentality believe and live this lie.
We have the tendency to be a perfectionist if we are unforgiving toward another Christian’s sinfulness. We also have the tendency to be a perfectionist if we think that being a Christian makes us immune to all sins in life. There is no sin in life of which you or I am incapable. Only by God’s grace and our diligent application of God’s truth do we progress in godly character.
The solution to dealing with sin that continues to be a part of our lives is not perfectionism but confession. We are called to confess our sin, the intentional and unintentional violation of God’s moral character and commands. When we confess our wrongs, God will forgive us and purify us from all unrighteousness. Forgiveness and new beginning follow confession.
FIRST, people deal incorrectly with sin through compartmentalized obedience. SECOND, people deal incorrectly with sin through perfectionism. THIRD, people deal incorrectly with sin through denial. We read this in verse 10.A third false teaching John faced was the teaching that we really have not sinned.
We’ve not killed anyone; we’ve not raped anyone; we’ve not set fire to anyone’s property. Therefore, we’ve not sinned. Right? Wrong!
Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, `Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.... You have heard that it was said, `Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.... You have heard that it was said, `Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...."
Jesus wasn’t giving us one man’s opinion. God’s Word, the Bible, tells us that we will stand in Jesus judgment at the end of our lives, and His definition of sin is the only one that will matter.
We live in a day when sin is either redefined or removed from our vocabulary, but the impact of sin is seen continually. I think it was Shakespeare who said, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." And applying that to sin, "Sin by any other name would do as much damage."
Some twenty-seven years ago, Dr. Karl Menninger, whose name is synonymous with the fields of science and psychiatry, asked the question in his book, "Whatever Became of Sin?" Menninger saw that dealing with sin effectively was central to all helping professions and would offer answers to a hurting world.
When we call sin a disease or dysfunction, we come up with very different solutions, solutions that hide the real problem, the violation against God’s moral character and commands. Violence, infidelity, abuse, and many other problems in our society are being treated with drugs and counseling rather than with God’s instruction and solutions.
Chuck Colson, of Prison Fellowship, tells about a prison in Sao Do Campos, Brazil, which was turned over to two Christians more than twenty years ago. It is run according to Christian principles. The prison only has two people on its staff. The inmates do everything else. Each prisoner has another to whom he is accountable. Every prisoner goes to chapel or takes a course in character formation. Each prisoner is assigned to a volunteer family outside the prison that makes him a part of their family. The rate of return for crimes after release is 4% compared to 75% in other Brazilian prisons.
When Colson visited the prison to discover the secret of their success, a prisoner took him to what at one time was an isolation cell. When they got there, the prisoner asked Colson if he wanted to go in. He said, "Yes." When the door opened, Colson saw a beautifully carved wooden figure of Jesus hanging on the cross. The prisoner pointed to the figure of Jesus and whispered, "He’s doing time for all of us."
If we claim we have not sinned, we make God out to be a liar and a fool, for having sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for the penalty of sin. The solution to dealing with sin is not denying or redefining what sin is. God’s solution to dealing with sin in our lives is to concur with God’s Word on sin, leading to confession of our sins and cleansing of our sin by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Man discovered sin, invented compartmentalized obedience, perfectionism and denial. God discovered man’s compartmentalized obedience, perfectionism and denial, so He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross to offer the only real solution for sin.