Dealing with Sin

Posted: May 9, 2010 in 1 John, Uncategorized

1 John 1:5 – 2:2, “Dealing with Sin”

They say there are no such things as dumb questions, but surely this one ought to qualify: does anyone here ever struggle with sin? 🙂 Of course we do! The only people who truly don’t have any struggle against sin are those given over to it – and they just don’t care that what they’re doing is actually sinful against Almighty God. Every born-again Christian, on the other hand, has a life-long struggle against sin. We don’t struggle out of some self-imposed guilt complex, but once someone has received Jesus Christ as Savior & Lord – once they’ve tasted of the Lord & know both Him & His forgiveness – the things we once used to revel in now repulse us when we realize what Jesus endured to grant us forgiveness & new life.

Yet knowing this, how do we deal with sin? We know we’re going to struggle against it, but does the Bible tell us what to expect? Does the Bible give us any assurance of the work of God to carry us through it all? Absolutely, yes! That’s what John writes of as he gets into the body of the 1st epistle. To those who would deny the existence of sin, John points it out clearly – to those who would despise God by walking in darkness, John shows their lie. But to those who grieve over their stumbling into sin, John gives us grand assurance – showing how our fellowship with God is restored, and how the Lord Jesus has already made provision on our behalf. How do we deal with sin? We turn to our perfect God for His perfect provision in Christ.

1 John 1:5-2:2 (NKJV)
5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.

A. What does it mean to say “God is light”? Obviously John is not being literal here – God is not comprised of photons travelling at 186,000 miles per second. God the Father is spirit (John 4:24) & thus is invisible (Col 1:15), so this is not literal language; it’s symbolic. To say “God is light” is to refer to His perfect righteousness & holiness. Our God is a consuming fire (Heb 12:29), His glory is referred to as inapproachable light (1 Tim 6:16) & Jesus is the true Light that gives light to every man (John 1:9). He is the source of all holiness because He alone is truly & perfectly holy Himself.

B. Not only is God “light,” but the corollary is that there “is no darkness” in Him. Analogy makes perfect sense…you don’t stare into a lit flashlight expecting to see darkness; you expect to see light. Likewise, it’d be illogical to look to the Source & Author of all Creation & expect to see any darkness; God is light – God is the very definition of perfection…
__a. “So what?” Consider the culture & the mythologies of the surrounding peoples. There were entire pantheons of make-believe “gods & goddesses” that were just as imperfect & sinful as the rest of mankind. The only difference is that they were supposedly immortal – but they could be petty & mean & selfish & hateful, etc. NOT God! God Almighty is absolutely perfect!
__b. There is none better in the entire universe to look to, other than God. …

C. Keep in mind this isn’t something that the Apostle John made up – this is the truth he had received & then turned around to declare to the Church… God’s perfect character has been evident throughout the OT… Throughout creation… Perfectly revealed in Christ Jesus…

D. Because God is light – it has certain ramifications for those of us who claim to have fellowship with God through the Lord Jesus. See vs. 6…

6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

A. Sobering verse! (1st of many…) Right out of the gate, John addresses hypocrisy within the Church. Those who claim the name of Christ, yet walk in darkness have a problem: that is simply not how born-again Christians are supposed to act! If we claim to have submitted ourselves to the Lordship of Christ Jesus – if we claim to have believed upon Jesus for salvation & were born of the Holy Spirit, then one of the things God does for us is to give us a new nature. Our old nature did nothing but sin (more some days than others – but sin, nonetheless); our new nature has the power to resist sin as we submit ourselves to God. Thus someone who is truly a Christian walks & acts differently than what they did prior to their salvation… … When that DOESN’T happen, John tells us “we lie and do not practice the truth.”
__a. Don’t be a liar! John is going to let us know how to deal with sin in our lives – but much of it depends on what we actually do with it. We don’t want to be a people who merely confess the truth; we want to be a people who actually practice the truth. …

B. Before we jump to conclusions – keep in mind that John is NOT writing of a type of “sinless perfection,” whereby true Spirit-filled Christians never sin (ever). (Becomes perfectly clear in vs. 8.) If that’s the case, what does it mean to “walk in darkness”? The phrase gives the idea of an ongoing lifestyle…how someone’s general character might be described. IOW, someone who truly desires to live righteously giving glory to God, but struggles against sinful temptations in their life would not be considered to “walk in darkness.” Yet someone who gives no care to the way they blaspheme God through their actions, or just gives a passing afterthought to their sin is certainly walking in darkness. …
__a. On one level, this might refer to truly born-again Christians caught in a vicious cycle of sin & backsliding… Their relational “fellowship” with God is truly broken because it is left unpracticed… Living a lie of hypocrisy…
__b. On another level, for some this could be what Jesus was addressing in the Sermon on the Mount when speaking of false converts. Matthew 7:21-23 (21) “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. (22) Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ (23) And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ [] Practicing lawlessness = consistently walking in darkness & sin… Despite these people’s verbal confession of faith, their actions revealed a totally different state of their heart.
__c. If you’re under the conviction of the Holy Spirit on this & wondering which category you fall into – don’t let His conviction pass you by. Neither situation is desirable, but one would leave you utterly destitute on the Day of Judgment. The solution to both scenarios is the same: repentance & trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sin. …

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 Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

A. Don’t walk in darkness; walk in light! Walk in consistent holiness… The whole of the NT affirms this same idea. James calls us to be doers of the word & not hearers only (Jas 1:22). Paul exhorts us to walk worthy of the calling with which we were called (Eph 4:1). Peter tells us conduct ourselves honorably among the Gentiles (1 Pt 2:12). Jesus told us to not only hear His commandments, but actually keep them out of our love for Him (Jn 14:21). Christians are to strive to live in holiness! …

B. Result #1: “we have fellowship with one another.” Sounds great! Who’s the “one another”? Among scholars, there are two different thoughts here.
__a. Individuals within the Body of Christ. Within John’s writings, he overwhelmingly uses this phrase to refer to believers in the Lord Jesus. Plus, his subject the whole time thus far has been “we,” referring mainly to John & the church to whom he was writing. As believers walk in the light, we are naturally going to have fellowship with each other, because we’re walking in the same direction – towards our Lord & Savior, Christ Jesus. …
__b. God & the believer. Other scholars note that grammatically, the “one another” could refer to the combination of “He & we,” which speaks directly to the wonderful privilege we have as believers in Christ: intimate fellowship with our Creator God! Jesus doesn’t merely call us “servants,” He calls us His friends (Jn 15:15). Those who receive Christ as Lord have been given the right to be called children of God (Jn 1:12). … Ultimately, what we’re doing when we’re walking in the light is that we’re walking with our Lord Jesus! He is in the light, and thus we’re walking in fellowship with our King.
__c. Whatever John’s original intent was, keep in mind both are true! In vs. 3 he affirmed that when we have true koinonia fellowship with one another, we also have fellowship with God – that’s just the way true fellowship works.

C. Result #2: We know we are truly saved – “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” What assurance! Remember this letter was written to a church that had been infiltrated with false teachers that cast all sorts of doubt upon the Christians as to whether or not they were truly saved, or even needed to be saved in the first place. John casts all of that aside here:
__a. We need to be cleansed! Sin has left its crimson stain upon us, and all of us need to be cleansed from it – we need to be made righteous in the sight of God. Even after our initial salvation (justification), we need continual cleansing from sin throughout our lives (sanctification) as we continue to grow & walk with Christ in the light He gives us.
__b. The only one who can cleanse us is the Son of God. Like the old hymns proclaim, there’s power in the blood & nothing but the blood of Jesus can cleanse us from sin. We are not cleansed because we walk in light; we walk in light because we are cleansed from sin…there’s a big difference between the two. (Salvation via works vs. grace) We are completely reliant upon the atoning blood of Christ Jesus to have paid the price our sin required, and to rely upon Jesus’ grace to empower us to live lives pleasing to Him.
__c. He cleanses us from ALL sin… Amen! There is not a single sin we struggle with that is beyond the reach of our Lord & Savior. There may be temptations we struggle with all our lives – but nothing beyond His power to forgive & nothing beyond His grace to help us through. His blood will cleanse us from every sin in the past, every sin in the present, and every sin in the future!

– So knowing that Jesus Christ cleanses us from sin theologically, how do we deal with sin practically?

8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

A. Dealing with sin #1: Admit it. It’s such a simple step, but it’s one that a lot of people get stuck on. People simply don’t like to believe that they have actually sinned. Instead we say, “Oh, that’s just my personality…” “I’m not perfect, but I’m not really sinful like that person over there…” “I’ve got such a holy walk with God that I don’t really sin any more at all…” This last one is actually taught in some churches as “sinless perfection” – as if when God gives us a new nature as believers, that our old nature is no longer a struggle & we can reach a place where we never sin…ever. That’s simply not true. John puts the lie to it here. Notice the present tense: “If we say we have no sin,” – i.e., if we say we have no more fleshly nature & have no sin right now, then we are deceived. Think of it this way: if you try to claim that you do live in sinless perfection, then you’re already guilty of pride & bearing false witness – thus you have sin just in that alone…

B. Why does admitting sin matter? John tells us: because otherwise we are deceived. We cannot deal with something that we do not admit exists. (Wuest) “The Christian who believes his evil nature has been completely eradicated is deceiving himself, nobody else. All others can see sin stick out all over his experience.”
__a. Another reason not mentioned: otherwise we only look at the sins of others & not ourselves. We can help our brother or sister deal with their sin, but we cannot fix it for them. The only sin we can truly address is our own…and we’ve got to deal with it first. Matthew 7:3-5 (3) And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? (4) Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? (5) Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. []

9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

A. Dealing with sin #2: confess it. “Isn’t that the same as admitting it?” No. When we admit that we have sinned, we’re admitting it to ourselves & getting ourselves ready to deal with the problem. When we confess our sin, we are confessing to God – agreeing with Him that our sin is indeed sin. The word literally means “to say the same thing” – compound word combining “same” (ὁμος) + “to speak/say” (λεγω). Instead of making excuses for our sin… Instead of downplaying the idea that what we did actually was sin… We come to God, humble & contrite & simply confess to our God & Father that what we did was indeed sin – offensive rebellion against Him, and we ask for His forgiveness.
__a. Some have asked, “Why do we need to confess & ask forgiveness if God has already forgiven us through Christ?” It’s interesting that the question is even brought up. We wouldn’t ask this of anyone else in our lives. When our children sin against us, of course we’re going to forgive them, but don’t we still ask them to apologize & admit what they have done? Why would our relationship with our Heavenly Father be comprised of anything less?
__b. What does confession look like? Sometimes we get this idea that true repentant confession has to be long & drawn out – perhaps even beating ourselves up (some even literally physically whipping themselves!) in order for God to accept our confession. Keep in mind that God does not receive you based on the content of your words (that would be works-based salvation); He receives us based on the blood of Jesus Christ (vs. 7). Biblical confession is simply sincere, humble admission of sin as we agree with God regarding what we have done & leaving ourselves at His feet for grace & forgiveness.
__c. The classic example is David, when confronted by Nathan regarding Uriah & Bathsheba (2 Sam 12:13) “I have sinned against the Lord.” Wrote about it in-depth… Psalm 51:1-4 (1) Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. (2) Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. (3) For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. (4) Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight— That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge. [] THAT’s what confession looks like. It’s not paying lip-service to some perceived ritual in an attempt to soothe our conscience; it’s humble submission & repentance towards our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ.

B. What does God do as a result of confession? “forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” What a glorious promise! Christian, this is written to you! Some believers live their lives awash in guilt & shame, with every sin they’ve ever committed always before their eyes, and as a result, they run from the presence of God. That’s not what God would have for His children! If you are born of the Holy Spirit, God saved you that you would bring glory to Him & that you would experience marvelous koinonia fellowship with Him. When we do sin, we are rightly grieved by our actions – but we don’t have to remain in that grief; we can deal with it through confession! Take your sorrow & humility before the Lord Jesus & ask His forgiveness – He will be “faithful & just” to forgive you & cleanse you anew.

C. Why does He do it? Because “He is faithful and just.” He’s faithful to His promises… He’s just in forgiving us because Jesus has already paid the price for us…

10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

A. Beyond mere repetition of vs. 8, John’s taking it to the next level here. Verse 8 is admitting that we have current sin that needs to be dealt with. In verse 10, the idea is of someone who attempts to have claimed they have never sinned at all! … The very definition of a Christian is someone who has confessed their own sin & submission to the Savior Christ Jesus. [] To claim you have never sinned (ever) is to flat-out admit that you’re not saved.
__i. “Oh, I’d never do that.” I hope not – but you might take a lesser form of this argument. Have you ever found yourself in a conflict or fight with someone & say to yourself (or to others), “It’s totally his/her fault! I didn’t do anything wrong!” Really? Very rarely is a conflict only one person’s fault… If we don’t want to admit that we’ve done anything wrong, it’s usually because of our pride. Selfish pride has no place for the Christian!

B. How would this make God a liar? Easy – His word makes it absolutely clear that every single human in all history is a sinner in need of salvation. All have sinned & fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23).

2:1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

A. Dealing with sin #3: don’t continue in it. Don’t keep on sinning… God does not forgive us through Jesus Christ in order to give us permission to keep on sinning. Romans 6:1-2 (1) What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? (2) Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? [] The point of forgiveness is not to give us license to continue doing the very things that required forgiveness; it’s to get those things out of the way in order that we could enjoy unfettered fellowship with our God & King. We will obviously struggle against the old sinful nature all our lives, but we ought to consider ourselves dead to it & do everything in our power NOT to sin. [pluck the eye; cut the hand – Matt 5] We praise God for the forgiveness & grace Jesus showed to the woman caught in adultery – but don’t forget His admonition to her: “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8:11)
__a. This is not meant to sound overly simplistic, but if you are one who consistently struggles with a besetting sin or temptation, you need to hear this: stop it! Stop doing what you’re doing. No one forces you to give into the sin; if you’re born again, you do it freely of your own choice. Make the tough choice in the tough time to actually stop doing it.

B. Dealing with sin #4: rely upon our Advocate, “Jesus Christ the Righteous.” The word for “Advocate” is the same as used for the Holy Spirit as our “Helper/Comforter” (Jn 14:16, παρακλητος). Jesus, like the Holy Spirit, is One who comes alongside us to help us & plead for us. Contextually, the word refers to someone who would speak to a judge on behalf of the accused. We have an accuser (Satan), but praise God we also have an Advocate, the Lord Jesus Christ! [] Do you find yourself accused by Satan? Beat up in spiritual attack because of your sin? Run to your Advocate! Confess & repent from your sin & be done with it…
__a. How is it that Jesus can serve as our Advocate? Because He alone is “righteous.” The fact that we have sinned shows that (1) we are not righteous, and (2) we are in need of righteousness! Jesus alone can provide it, because Jesus alone is righteous.

C. Note the purpose statement here. Vs. 4, John wrote that one of the purposes of the letter was that the Church’s “joy may be full.” Here, he says that he wrote the letter, “so that you may not sin.”

2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

A. What has our Righteous Advocate done? He became “the propitiation for our sins.” Speaks of Jesus’ work of atonement – when Jesus went to the cross, He satisfied the wrath of God on your behalf & performed the work necessary to do away with sin.

B. Who did Jesus die for? Everyone! “Does this mean that everyone is saved? Is this universalism?” Absolutely not. His work of propitiation on the cross is universal in scope, but particular in use – IOW, sufficient for the world, but efficient only for those who have trusted in Christ as Lord. No one is going to be able to stand before the throne of God on Judgment Day & claim that Jesus didn’t make provision for his/her sin – no one is going to be able to say, “I didn’t have any choice. You didn’t die for me, like you did that other person!” On the contrary, there is none in all history the Lord Jesus did not make blessed provision for upon the cross. What a wonderful gospel we preach, that we can take it into the whole world & every corner proclaim the good news that salvation is found in Christ Jesus for everyone who places their trust in Him!

So Christian, do you deal with sin? Sure – all of us do. To say otherwise is to deceive yourself. Don’t be deceived regarding sin; DEAL with it. Our perfect God has provided the perfect solution to sin: Jesus Christ. In dealing with our ongoing struggle against sin:
1. Admit it
2. Confess it
3. Cease from it
4. In everything, rely upon our glorious Advocate Christ Jesus.

In essence, we REPENT from sin & RELY on the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s not merely something that takes place upon our initial day of salvation – that’s what continually happens in the lives of all of us as believers. What happens when we don’t continually repent? Our fellowship with our Heavenly Father is broken & we live lives of hypocrisy & defeat. Don’t count yourself among the statistics who do exactly that. Deal with your sin today – and be done with it.


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