This post by christinecoltman was originally published at GRACE PLACE
Walking the Talk
We continue in our 1 John series where the older apostle John writes to the believers at Ephesus who are spiritually confused by false teachers. Throughout this book, John repeatedly unpacks three pulse checks (Anne in overview) or tests: belief in the gospel, obedience, and love. These tests work together “to confirm and mature the right assurance for those whose profession of faith is genuine and destroy false confidence of those who have counterfeit faith.” (Alistair Begg). We’ll find all three tests in our passage tonight.
John is very clearly communicating, not as a harsh employer or dictatorial king; but as a loving, spiritual father– what he heard from Jesus. This whole book is about believers being built on the ‘Solid Rock’ of Jesus-His words, actions, and nature. Jesus shows us who God is and how to live in the light of HIS TRUTH. Jill pointed out to us last month, that as believers, our Father God graciously sheds light on the darkness of our lives to warn, admonish, and expose those pockets of darkness in our lives in order for us to be re-connected in our relationship with God and each other. You see, John wants to protect and to help believers to be grounded and to remain in Him-then and now. And at times it is uncomfortable, even painful. The word of God cuts both ways. What God has to say to us is not always a comforting word, sometimes He comes to rebuke, warn, or discipline us as it clearly teaches in 2 Timothy 3:16 and Hebrews 4:12-13.(Read together) Walking in fellowship with Christ and with each other is realistic-but it’s also living in a whole different realm of grace; it’s beautiful, it’s staggering- but it’s messy, it’s vulnerable, it can be uncomfortable at times. OVER ARCHING MESSAGE it is the revelation of the glorious light of God in the face of Jesus Christ and this changes everything! So what do authentic people of light and life of Jesus look like? That’s the question John is answering in his book of 1 John.
We are breaking the study down into two parts: First: how sin snares us and spoils everything. Secondly, how Jesus frees us from the snare and gives us new life.
1) How sin snares us and spoils everything: 1 John 1:8-10, 2:1a
I mentioned that one of the tests of our Christian life is right belief. Well, here John lays the theological foundation that the Christian life is built on. Here’s the BELIEF test:
Read 1:8-10 “if we confess our sins – confessing is truth telling, acknowledging we are sinners. How does God respond? He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins – God is just – Christ has absorbed the punishment that we deserve, and it would be unjust for God to punish us – there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Christ has borne our sin.” (In her transcript)
This connects us to the next few verses:
2:1a My children, I am writing this to you so that you will NOT sin. Cf Romans 5:20- 6-3a ‘God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Well then, should we keep on sinning so God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?’ Paul and John aren’t condoning sin or downplaying sin but seeking to prevent sin and the damage it does. He goes on to say ‘but if anyone does sin..’ meaning the reality is that we do sin. Paul Tripp explains this so well:”Eternal rescue has been supplied, but rescuing grace is still necessary every day. What we have received in Christ we still desperately need. The war for our hearts isn’t over. Our need for our conquering Saviour has not ended.”
Let’s pause and consider the term “sin” which is used multiple times in 1 John before we move on. Some might think it is an outdated term, or even worse, irrelevant. It is neither outdated or irrelevant. It is at the very core of the gospel we say we believe. We need to understand sin to understand why the world is so broken, and why we need our Saviour! Jill showed us last month that John uses the metaphor “darkness” as a good word picture for sin. I want to submit to you a definition that also will hopefully guide us as we continue in our 1 John studies. Tim Keller: “If you want to understand your own behaviour, you must understand that all sin against God is grounded in a refusal to believe that God is more dedicated to our good, and more aware of what that is, than we are. We distrust God because we assume he is not truly for us, that if we give him complete control we will be miserable. Adam and Eve did not say, ‘Let’s be evil. Let’s ruin our own lives and everyone else’s too!’ Rather they thought, ‘We just want to be happy. But his commands don’t look like they’ll give us the things we need to thrive. We’ll have to take things into our own hands—we can’t trust him.’”
Does this resonate with you at all? Is not this the common argument going on in our heads, who are “good people?”. I must be honest and use myself as an example. There was a large space of time in my past life that I was talking the talk but not walking in the light. I didn’t fully realize this at the time. I was committed with my lips but committed in practice to finding significance, security, purpose and meaning….on my own terms with God as an add-on. I was basically using God for my own agenda. God was not the centre. I was. My background was ridden with a distorted view of God and the gospel. Instead of God in Christ being my most radical, spiritual trust, I looked to love, looks, relationships, career, alcohol, food, even family. I didn’t fully trust in the Saviour I was professing to know; to rescue me from me. Predictably, these idols were letting me down; they weren’t working.
I see now that God was gently, lovingly nudging me off the fence where I was stuck, as it were, trying to do life. On the one hand, I was tottering on the fence with my idols and blind spots, and disobedience -trying to find a comfortable spot with only temporary relief. Then on the other hand, I would stagger toward the light of God crying out to Him in confusion, resentment, and blame. I see so very clearly now that I was trying to live in the twilight. But there is no talk of twilight in 1 John is there? His light was exposing me. You see, we live in darkness OR in light of the Gospel. I was miserable. Not only was my fellowship with God blocked, I had no true fellowship with others as well. Why? Because no one around me really knew me. I kept it in the dark. I let people see only what I wanted them to see.
Here’s another example in a slightly different perspective. Do you know the saying, “two sides of the same coin”, meaning there are two things going on that seem different but really they are closely related. That was me; one side I would excuse, hide, rationalize, and justify my sin. I would blame others and God for my bad choices and consequences. I am trying Lord! Why aren’t you holding up your end of the deal? At other times, the other side of this coin plagued me where I would be crushed by despair over the reality of my sin and pain, not comprehending why I kept travelling in this unhealthy pattern and trajectory. One day I was trying to deny my sin; the next day I was in despair over it. You see dear ones, the enemy of our souls does not care which snare catches us. He uses both cunning, strategies too keep us in the dark. It began to dawn on me that nothing will ever change by my merely trying harder. Why? Because my natural state and your natural state sisters, is to put roots in something other than God. This is what is spoken of in Genesis, and it’s the essence of SIN. This is the problem, the curse, the bad news. We must face this reality head on to be able to embrace the radical intervention, the cure of Jesus Christ!
BREAKOUT : How about you? Which side of the coin do you most identify with?
How can we excuse, hide rationalize, or justify our sin?
How might we be crushed by despair and hopelessness over the reality of sin in our lives?
2) Now to the GOOD NEWS! How Jesus frees us from sin’s snare and gives us new life!
Read 1 John 2:1-2
“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. 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 of the Gospel! Two great truths occur in this: First, Christ takes OUR SIN on HIMSELF, and pays for it. Second, Christ puts HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS in US as a free gift! So if you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Saviour, as our advocate and atoning sacrifice, Jesus says to the Father, “I lived the life she should have lived and died the death she should have died!” There is now no condemnation! She is mine forever!” Sisters, we are not put on probation (you must try harder and do better or else!) Jesus already fulfilled it all on the cross once and for all time. And he is our advocate now and always. And we are His sheep who know His voice and follow Him! This amazing truth gives us humble confidence. It plants in us a desire to please and follow the one who saved us, who saves us still, with full surrender and freedom in Him. Isn’t this staggering? As John Piper says, “We are unworthy of Christ, but we have great worth because of Christ.”
Loved ones, remaining sin is a present reality until we are fully made like Him when we see Him face to face! But until then we must face our sin as it comes right then and there. Don’t follow my bad example of struggling for years, holding our Creator Father at a mistrustful distance and ignoring His light…. and trying to keep my mask in place from others. Don’t wait. Let’s face it and run to Jesus! Let’s talk and share with trusted loved ones and friends. We can do this because we are truly captured by the truth and reality of God’s forgiveness and acceptance. The fellowship will begin to flow! God will reveal Himself to you more and more. And as you submit, you will see God at work, no matter the circumstances.
If you are not a Christian, but drawn to Jesus, I welcome you to talk to Anne, myself, or the friend who you came with tonight. This wonderful salvation is free to all who believe!
And how do we know if we really have this new life in Jesus or not? Because it leads to the good fruit – the good life – which John describes in the rest of our passage: BRIEFLY –
OBEDIENCE AND LOVE – Pulse checks or tests
Read 1 John 2:3-11
My first and wrong instinct is that John is asking the impossible, so why try? But actually it is quite simple. If you have embraced what we have just talked about- true faith in Christ, everything has changed! Sam Allberry says it very articulately, “Obedience to Christ’s ways is the sign that we have been saved by Him– His death and resurrection have truly gripped us. Walking as He did will be seen in how we live” Let us be reminded here that the order of this is crucial. John doesn’t say “obey in order to be forgiven.” But he says repeatedly that anyone who is united in Christ in salvation by grace alone WILL OBEY HIM. Sam also encourages us that “transformation in love and obedience won’t be all at once, but the reality is it will come over a lifetime.” Not perfection, but progress. Is this the direction you’re travelling in … not yet free from sin, but wanting to be … working and praying to be more like Christ because that’s your longing? That’s the evidence that you really are a child of God. He’s given you a new heart!
What should we do if we do not have a concern in how we live, a concern for holiness, and a concern for how we represent Christ and relate to others? Scripture tell us: we need to repent and cry out to God for His rescue.
And we close with a great encouragement: we’re all in this together!
ENCOURAGEMENT OF SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY
Read 1 John 2:12-14
There is so much to feast on in this portion, but due to time constraints, I will only touch on this. John says the reason he has written all these things to us is because he loves us dearly with the love of Christ. We are his “dear children” (v.12). As he looks at us he sees the family God has created by his grace. He sees some who are just beginning their walk with God … others who are now stable on their legs and vigorous … others who’ve travelled a long way with the Lord and are the mature leaders in the church …
We’re all at different stages of our natural life and of our new life in Christ, but the miracle of conversion has made us a FAMILY – so let’s look out for one another.
We have considered John’s teaching on reality of sin, belief in the gospel of forgiveness; and how it changes us to to obey and freely love God and others as Jesus did. That’s how we live together as the family of God.
We will revisit these pulse checks or tests in every study in this series. John thought it was so important for the believers to really get and own this as it is all through the book! Should we not do the same?