Summary: The real Deal Christian Obeys God rather than presumes upon God’s grace.
“The Problem of Forgiveness”
1 John 2:1-6 www.unionchurch.com
November 5, 2006 Rev. Bruce Goettsche THE REAL DEAL: A Study in 1 John
Much of the time truth is found in finding the balance between competing ideas. For example,
· Parental Love = Unqualified love – consistent discipline
· Good worker= one who works quickly – but is also careful
· The way of salvation = involves God’s Sovereignty--Man’s Responsibility
· Good athlete = someone with confidence – but is also teachable
· Good teacher = someone with an academic knowledge – but also an ability to relate truth to others
Solid theology sometimes involves “balancing acts” like these. This morning is one example. In order to understand the true nature of God’s forgiveness we have to find the balance between two scale tipping extremes.
So far, in our study of Real Deal Christians we have seen that genuine believers,
· Are convinced of the truth
· Put God at the Center of their lives
· Take off their masks and are honest with God about their sin
Today we see that a real deal believer lives in light of God’s forgiveness. There are two potential problems that come with the message of God’s forgiveness and they are on opposite sides of the scale. If we can keep these things in balance we can walk faithfully with the Lord.
DISCOURAGEMENT – (1-3)
John tells us
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—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. (2:1)
John says he is writing so we will NOT sin. That is a nice thought but our experience is one of continuing struggle. We identify more with Paul who said, “the good I want to do I don’t do, and the evil I don’t want to do, that I do” (Romans 7).
We read Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:48 “Be Perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” and know that this is way outside of our experience. The only way to meet this standard is to either pretend to be something we are not or try to redefine sin and perfection so that we fit the definition. Because of this the message of God’s forgiveness can be very discouraging. We may even believe we are true believers because we continue to struggle. Some actually give up because they feel they will never measure up.
I think the words of Jesus about perfection can be understood in another way. Often a coach will tell his/her team that they need to play “errorless ball” in order to win. However, every coach knows that perfection is an unreachable goal. A coach knows that
· A pitcher will miss his spot or a player will bobble a ball
· A lineman will miss a block or a quarterback will miss his target
· A basketball player will miss a shot or be called for an unnecessary foul
· A Volleyball player will go for a block and guess wrong as to where the ball is being hit
The coach knows all this. However, the coach is setting a goal for the team. Perfection is what the team needs to strive and work for. They may never play completely errorless ball, but they should always be working to eliminate mistakes.
I believe this is what Jesus is doing. He is setting a standard for us to work toward. When we ask, “Are Christians supposed to be sinless?” The answer really is “yes and no”. God wants us to be sinless. This is the goal and the standard. However, the reality is that we are growing toward a perfection (sometimes seemingly imperceptibly) that will not be fully realized until we get to Heaven.
John is not naïve and that is why he follows up the words, “I write this to you so that you will not sin” with the words, “but if anybody does sin . . .” (and he knows we will). He is well aware of the fact that the Christian faith is growth process.
To keep us from getting discouraged and frustrated, John reminds us of two important truths: Christ is our Advocate and He is our Propitiation or Atoning sacrifice. These aren’t words we use with regularity so we need to work to understand them.
The word for advocate is the Greek word paraclete. It means “one who is called alongside”. The picture is similar to that of an attorney who stands at our side when we are accused. This advocate pleads our case before the judge. Every time sin is charged against us, Jesus is there to say, “Charge it to my account”. He pleads for us on the basis of the sacrifice that He has already made on our behalf.