3rd Easter Sunday
April 15, 2018
Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church
Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Norman F. Seeger
1 John 1:5—2:2
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 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, purifies us from all sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
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.
1 John 1:5-2:2
“God’s People Live in the Light … the Light of Christ’s Cross”
1) We Truthfully Confess Our Sins
2) We Rejoice in God’s Unfailing Forgiveness
Dear disciples of Jesus, crucified but risen, our life-giving Light of the World,
Is your life is an open book? Do you care if your picture covers the front page of the newspaper? Do you care if your name is highlighted by television news reporters? Does the world know what I am doing? Not a problem… if I am trying on a tux for my school prom. But if police arrest me, remove me from a daycare where I worked, I probably prefer anonymity. John’s inspired words let us look at two opposite situations in life as we ask: ‘Will I live my life in the light or would I rather hide in the darkness?’
Throughout his Word, God pictures our life as light or darkness, black or white, good or evil. An inspired psalmist writes, ‘The Lord is my light & my salvation — whom shall I fear?’[PS 27] Jesus personally promises, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’[JN 8] Describing the darker side, God’s proverb warns, ‘Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men whose words are perverse, who leave straight paths to walk in dark ways, who delight in doing wrong &rejoice in the perverseness of evil.’[PROV 2]
As God contrasts light with darkness; pictures good battling against evil, please look at your own life. Do you care if the public, if the police, do you care if your parents can see what you do or hear how you talk? If you will let anyone observe your behavior, I suspect your god-pleasing life is imitating Christ. I imagine you are applying our Lord’s order to love others the way Jesus first loved us. But if you do not want parents chaperoning your party, if you would never let mom & dad double-date with you & a special friend; if you fear police may be watching your actions, tapping your phone or combing through your computer, I suspect you are shattering God’s commandments. I imagine you are breaking our Lord’s law even if not necessarily breaking our country’s laws.
A Christian’s conscience testifies: When I do what God tells us is right, as the Bible guides my behavior, I will not worry who may be looking or listening. But when I do what the devil keeps encouraging, I do not want anyone watching. Our two totally opposite reactions flow from Jesus’ cross. Good, godly people live in the light of Christ crucified but risen while evil, devilish individuals hide from the light of our Lord’s Word. No surprise for Jesus’ disciples! Telling us, ‘God so loved the world he gave his one & only Son that whoever believes in Jesus shall not perish but have eternal life,’ our Lord quickly adds, ‘Light has come into the world’… Prophesying the arrival of the ‘Prince of Peace,’ the Savior who would satisfy God’s justice by paying sin’s penalty for us, a Savior who produces God’s forgiveness, Isaiah pictures daylight dispersing the darkness of night as he writes, ‘People walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.’[IS 9] ‘Light has come into the world,’ Jesus explains, referring to himself, ‘but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.’ Two possibilities are noted, ‘Everyone who does evil hates the light; will not come into the light for fear their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so it may be plainly seen what they do is done in the sight of God.’[JN 3]
Darkness or light – life or death – hell or heaven. Jesus, ‘delivered over to death for our sins, but raised to life for our justification’[ROM 4] separates souls into two categories: ‘Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one & only Son.’[JN 3] Separating all souls into two categories: ‘Saved,’ heading for heaven or ‘Condemned,’ going to hell, Jesus raises a critical question: Will I live in the light or die in the darkness? How do we react as we see Christ being crucified for our sins Good Friday? How do we respond as we walk into Jesus’ empty Easter tomb where God declares us forgiven? Not much of a question, is it? No real option is offered to us as Peter reiterates, ‘Salvation is found in no one other than Jesus of Nazareth, whom we crucified (with our sins) but whom God raised from the dead.’[ACTS 4]
Why would anyone refuse to believe God’s gracious ‘Word of life?’ Why would I reject Jesus rather than trust his innocent death is accepted as payment for our sins while his perfect life is counted as our righteousness? John stresses, ‘God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.’ Assuming our lips confess faith in our Savior, John focuses on our actions, questions our life’s confession, warning, ‘If we claim to have fellowship with God; yet walk in the darkness, we lie & do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another – we have fellowship with God — & the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.’
Outlining the ideal — God’s people live in the light of Christ’s cross – John will tie the confession of our life to the confession of our lips, ‘We know we have come to know God if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar; the truth is not in that person. But if anybody obeys his word, love for God is made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.’ John reiterates a detailed application Jesus offered, ‘Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother & sister lives in the light, & there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness & walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.’[1 JN 2]
Outlining the ideal – God expects our every thought, word & action will imitate Jesus – John also addresses reality as he emphasizes, ‘the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin.’ Will my life perfectly apply Jesus’ instructions? Will I fully follow Jesus’ example? No. ‘If we claim to be without sin,’ John warns ‘we deceive ourselves; the truth is not in us.’ Please understand, John is talking to every child of God. If newscasts report police arresting me, my sin is obvious to everyone. I pray I will not fool myself by trying to tell God I am innocent when even a wicked world sees my guilt, sees me living in the devil’s darkness.
On the other side of the coin, when our world praises me, if people label me a ‘good citizen’ or ‘good friend’ as I apparently live in the light of Christ, John addresses what may become an even greater danger. If my life is labeled ‘blameless’ by our world, John warns, ‘If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves.’ While my parents may be pleased, while police may wish everyone were as law-abiding as I am, the Lord warns me to never think I am good enough for God to judge me on my own merits. The Lord, with John’s words, calls us to truthfully confess our sins; to constantly rejoice in God’s unfailing forgiveness.
Warning us to never believe we will be sinless – no matter how ‘perfect’ I appear in this world on the outside – John reassures us, ‘If we confess our sins, God is faithful & just; God will forgive us our sins; God will purify us from all unrighteousness.’ Could God’s good news be any better? Jesus’ forgiveness – Jesus’ atoning, blood-stained cross & Jesus’ empty, justifying tomb producing full & free forgiveness — never allows believers to sin, never offers immunity for us to do whatever my heart may desire. John is quite clear, ‘My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.’ God’s children will live in the light. We saved souls will live in the light of Christ’s cross as ‘God is working in us to will & to act according to his good purpose.’[PHIL 2] God plans for; God would produce nothing less than perfection in our life.
‘But if anybody does sin,’ John continues, knowing what will actually occur in our life – knowing disobedience will still appear in our life, flowing from our faith’s weakness or ignorance — ‘if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father (we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense) – Jesus Christ, the Righteous one…the atoning sacrifice for our sins, not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.’
What a wonderful truth! I may possibly be able to hide in this world; not be noted on a newscast nor pictured in the paper. I may be a private person. While unable to be truly invisible in our information age, my life may not be an open book for everyone to praise or to condemn. God, however, sees my every action & hears my every word; God also knows my heart’s every thought. What would be a terrifying thought – I will be eternally judged by Jesus, who sees every sin I ever commit or omit – becomes a comforting truth as we realize Jesus, who from his cross prayed, ‘Father, forgive them,’[LK 23] is the same crucified but risen & ascended Jesus who will ‘talk to the Father in our defense’ whenever we sin, wherever we sin; however we sin.
What can Jesus possibly say in our defense? Jesus offers no excuse, no alibi, for there is no acceptable reason for us to disobey any one of God’s commands. What can Jesus say? If our sin is public, known by everyone – if our sin hurts other individuals, damages our family or friends – or if our sin is private, unseen even by friends, only damaging our self in some way – Jesus will always say, ‘Father, forgive them’… my innocent, atoning death already paid their sin’s penalty; my holy life counts as their righteousness.
As Jesus, ‘delivered over to death for our sins, but raised to life for our justification,’[ROM 4] separates souls into two categories, will I live in the light or die in darkness? Am I ‘saved,’ heading for heaven or ‘condemned,’ sentenced to hell? Confessing our every sin, rejoicing in God’s unfailing forgiveness, live by our Savior’s proverbial promise, ‘Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses & renounces their sins finds mercy. [PROV 28]