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FELLOWSHIP'S HURDLE

1 John   •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Fellowship with God can be hindered by sin

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BACK TO THE BASICS: AN EXPOSITION OF 1 JOHN

We begin our second sermon from this short letter this morning. Last week we saw that John wrote this letter in order that we may have fellowship with one another and with the Godhead. The result of that fellowship (commonality) is joy, true, unhindered joy.
This morning we continue our series on Back to the Basics by expositing 1 John. This is an exposition, meaning my goal is to explain the passage of Scripture and then help us apply it to our lives. We are dealing with God’s inspired (breathed-out) Word, and His Word is given to us for all that pertains to life and godliness ().
And God’s inspired Word provides us with the secret to maintaining a deep, ever-growing fellowship with God and one another. Relationships can be complicated, can they not? You have two people, with two different goals, two different passions, likes and dislikes, and the list could go on. Even people who are almost identical still have differences. And sometimes these differences cause division in the relationship.
Think of a parent and child. The two enjoy a close relationship, until the child asks for candy before dinner. After the parent says no, the relationship seems to be lost forever (at least from the child’s perspective). Or, think of a friendship. These two individuals have grown up together, going to each other’s houses, going on vacations together, and yet when something happens to cause a rift in the relationship, the friendship takes a turn for the worst. We could even bring up the examples of marriage. A couple enjoys a deep friendship, sharing life together. But when an issue comes up that the couple cannot seem to break through, the relationship is hindered.
There are a variety of issues that cause hurdles in our relationships. A harmful word, broken trust, different values, we could come up with a book I am sure. However, the Scriptures, seeking to get to the heart of the matter, to move beyond the outward issues of harmful speech, values, and trust and get down to the roots: sin. Sin is the hurdle that hinders our fellowship, both with each other and with God.
John is a genius. He takes complex thoughts and makes them understandable. John chooses to discuss holiness and sin, two incredibly deep and tough topics, and breaks them down into the images of light and darkness. We can all understand the differences between light and darkness. Allen Nelson, a pastor from Arkansas put it like this, “Like a pediatrician ‘dumbs down’ his terms for the sake of his young patients’ intellectual limitations, so much more does God speak to His children in the Scriptures.” [Allen Nelson IV, Before the Throne: Reflections on God’s Holiness (Perryville, AR: Allen S. Nelson IV, 2019), 36-37.] And to put our topic in John’s language, darkness is the hurdle to fellowship.

I. DEFINING THE TERMS- vs. 5

As John begins to address Fellowship’s Hurdle, he first defines terms that will appear throughout the rest of his letter: light and darkness. Now, John has just opened his letter by telling us that he wants us to have fellowship with one another and with the Godhead. He informs us that it required forgiveness and righteousness, brought only by the God-man Jesus Christ. Now John tells us the hurdle of that fellowship through the image of darkness.

A. God is light

God is light. That is, God is morally perfect. All of His motives, His thoughts, and His actions are all morally right. There is no darkness in Him at all. When we receive a gift from someone, we may be tempted to think, “Why did she give this to me? What’s her endgame?” We assume that there is an ulterior motive at work. This is not the case with God! God is light, there is no darkness in Him at all.
Another word is used in Scripture to describe God in a similar way: holy. God’s holiness is the characteristic, the essence of God. Stephen Charnock, a preacher in the 1600s, wrote a series of sermons on the attributes of God. On God’s holiness, Charnock declares, “Holiness is a glorious perfection belonging to the nature of God, hence he is in Scripture styled often the Holy One, the Holy One of Jacob, the Holy One of Israel, and [more often] entitled Holy than Almighty, and set forth by this part of his dignity more than by any other.” [Stephen Charnock, The Works of Stephen Charnock Volume 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2010), 190.]
Brothers and sisters, God is holy, He is light, there is no darkness, no stains of sin in Him in any degree.

B. Sin is darkness

John says that in God is no darkness at all. The picture is that light is moral perfection. The counter-truth is that darkness is moral imperfection. It is sin, to use the biblical term. If God is light, then sin is darkness. And remember, John is framing our discussion of fellowship’s hurdle. As John wants us to experience joy through fellowship with one another and with God, John wants us to see that darkness is the hurdle. Sin is what keeps us from fellowshipping with each other and with God. That is the root of all of our problems.
Now, sin comes in multiple forms, but I just want to break it down to three categories: thought, speech, and actions. We sin in our thoughts primarily, and in fact, according to James, this is the place all sin originates (see ). We see something we want but do not have, we desire something, we have evil thoughts about someone else, and you get the picture. Sin also manifests itself in our speech, too. We say unkind things, untrue statements, and all sorts of words that bring dishonor to the God Who is light. Finally, our actions are sinful. We immediately think of the “big sins” like murder, rape, and theft. But our sinful actions are withholding something someone deserves, not submitting to God’s authority in your life, and a host of other instances.
This is all important matter as John takes us to examining our own lives.

II. EXAMINING OUR PRACTICE- vss. 6-8

The hurdle to fellowship is sin. Now we need to examine our practice. The reason I say practice is because, if we are not careful, we can assume John is referring to absolute perfection. That is, we can imagine that unless I am perfect I cannot have fellowship with God. And so many people approach God that way. “Once I get my life cleaned up, I’ll start going to church.” This is far from God’s teaching! God looks at our walk.
This term, walk, is used throughout the Bible to denote a pattern. It is the difference between taking a step and walking a distance. So, with that understand, let us examine our practice. Our goal is to determine our pattern. We cannot simply view one mistake or progress and then determine that we are walking in darkness or light. I recommend looking over a week, a month, and even a year to determine your walk.

A. Examine your obedience to Scripture

John says, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” Practicing the truth, as we will see in future sermons, involves obedience to Scripture. Just take the 10 Commandments and do an inventory of your life. Ask yourself, Am I worshipping God alone? Are there any idols in my life? Have I been coveting things? Prayerfully work your way through those commandments, and God’s Spirit will help you identify areas where you are walking in darkness.

B. Examine your fellowship with other Christians

There is another tool that John offers us, though not directly stated, in order to examine ourselves. It involves fellowship. In verse 7 John writes, “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 cleanses us from all sin.” If we walk in the light, John says, we will enjoy fellowship with one another. Fellowship is an evidence of walking in the light.
Now, we have used the term fellowship frequently, but I would like to take a few moments to flesh this out as it applies to the church. John will pick this theme up again and again in the rest of his letter, so I would like to take . Does this passage describe your relationships with one another in the body of Christ, the Church? Can it be said of us that we are patient and kind with one another? Are we envious of other people in our congregation? Are we rude? You can look at that passage later, but John says fellowship with one another is evidence of walking in the light.

C. Examine your evaluation

The last tool given to us to see our walk, our pattern of life, is to examine our evaluation. John writes, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Now, I am not saying that if you arrive at the view that your pattern of life proves you are walking in light that you are deceiving yourself. However, is your evaluation honest? It is true? Sin is self-deceptive. Just when you think you have everything figured out, sin blinds you and deceives you to the truth. The one that flippantly says, “I don’t have any sin!” is self-deceived. It is like a child who thinks there is nothing wrong with their outfit. They may look ridiculous, and the mom may have told the child numerous times their outfit does not match. The child will not budge, he is self-deceived, and in his mind his outfit looks fantastic. That is the idea behind self-deception.
So, are you walking in the light, or in darkness?
Where ever you may be walking, I have some great news! Because now we are applying the truth.

III. APPLYING THE TRUTH- vss. 9-10

So, John defined the terms of light and darkness. Then he offered some helpful tips on examining our practice. Finally, he applies the truth to our lives.
Now, you may be walking in light or darkness, but the good news comes in verse 9. John says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

A. Confession brings forgiveness

Now, John is not saying having remorse brings forgiveness. He is not saying that feeling bad brings forgiveness. He says that confessing our sins brings forgiveness. Confession is to admit the problem, to state is clearly and unequivocally. That is, I am a drunkard, then I confess I am a drunkard. I do not say, “God, I have a hard time with drinking.” That is not the same thing. If I struggle with anger, then I say, “God, I am an angry man! Please forgive me!”
Confession brings forgiveness. Now, this thought flies in the face of human thinking, does it not? I mean, we think we have to do something in order to receive forgiveness. I have to make up for the wrong I have done. But Scripture teaches us the opposite. It is not about what we do, but what He did. Isaiah says it like this, “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” (, ESV) Confession brings forgiveness.

B. Denial demonstrates sinfulness

The positive side of this truth applied means confession brings forgiveness. The negative side, however, illustrates sinfulness. A denial of sin illustrates the problem of sin.
The reason this is so important is because it is, at its very foundation, a denial of God himself. Why? Because God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. God does not contain one iota of evil, and thus of all He is able to determine what is right and wrong. A denial of one’s own sin is a refutation of the truthfulness of God. His Word declares that all have sinned. And denial demonstrates sinfulness. It illustrates that we are not truly converted.
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