How To Maintain Fellowship with God 1 John 1b
1 John 1:5-2:2
Stephen Caswell © 1999
God intended from the beginning that we might have fellowship with Him. Fellowship can be described as communion, partnership, participation. In the garden of Eden the Lord walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. But sin broke man's fellowship with God. God is light and cannot have fellowship with darkness, with sin. Sin separates us from God. But Christ came to destroy the works of the Devil, that we might have fellowship with God again. This is why John starts by revealing the standard for fellowship. 1 John 1:5 says: 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. What we do with sin affects our fellowship with God. But in today's society no one wants to admit their sin! I will read a quote from:
Whatever Became Of Sin? by Dr. Karl Menninger
In all the laments and reproaches made by our seers and prophets, one misses any mention of " sin, " a word which used to be a veritable watchword of prophets. It was a word once in everyone's mind, but now rarely if ever heard. Does it mean that no sin is involved in all our troubles - sin with an "I" in the middle? Is no one any longer guilty of anything? Guilty perhaps of a sin that could be repented and repaired or atoned for? Is it only that someone may be stupid or sick or criminal - or asleep? Wrong things are being done, we know; tares are being sown in the wheat field at night. But is no one responsible, no one answerable for these acts? Anxiety and Depression we all acknowledge, and even vague guilt feelings; but has no one committed any sins? Where, indeed, did sin go? What became of it?
Quote from John Macarthur's Book " The Vanishing Conscience " pgs 22-24
Passing the Buck
If we try to blame our past or some chemical imbalance for all of our failures, God cannot deal with our sin. Circumstances may stir up our sinful nature, or even increase its effect, but they do not cause it. Sin is not an accident or mistake, but disobedience to God's revealed standard. We are not victims of society. Therefore we are responsible for our actions. God says " all have sinned and fall short of His glory! " We have missed the mark. We have deliberately crossed over the boundary. We have acted independently of God! And God will not accept excuses for peoples sin! He knows the truth about everything. He provides a way of escape for us when we are tempted. We do not have to sin, but rather choose to.
Has this victim mentality of sin crept into the church? Do Christians have a Biblical perspective of sin? Is sin in the life of a believer just as offensive to God as in the life of a non believer? I want to tell you from the Bible that it is! However unlike a non Christian it will not condemn us to hell. But it still must be dealt with! What can people do with their sins? What will you do with your sin? The apostle John deals with this very matter in his first epistle. The Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to reveal the invisible, holy God to mankind. The first three verses of the letter describe how John, along with the other Apostles, saw, heard and handled the Word of life. In Jesus Christ, they saw God in human form. Essentially John was saying we were eye witnesses of the incarnation. We saw God walking in human flesh. One of the reasons John wrote this letter is stated in verses 3-4. He wrote so that they might have fellowship with the apostles and with God.
God is light
John declares here that God is light. His basic nature is one of holiness, glory, truth and perfection. If man is to have fellowship with God, he must come to the light, for God will not have fellowship with the darkness. John is speaking to believers in this passage from 1:5-2:2 since he constantly identifies himself with the audience, by saying " we." Whether or not we have fellowship with God depends on the way we respond to the light. The light represents God's standard revealed in His word and manifested or displayed in the Lord Jesus Christ. The darkness represents the sinful manifestation of the Devil. Believers can either walk in the light or walk in darkness. Our walk determines what we do with our sin. Proverbs 28:13 says: He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.
We have two choices of what we can do with our sin. We Can Cover It, Or Confess It!
Firstly We Cover Our Sin!
1 John 1:6 says: If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
a. This Response Says, " Sin Doesn't Affect My Fellowship With God! "
This verse addresses believers who think that their sinful lifestyle does not affect their fellowship with God. This could well describe a person who says, " I am a child of God, He has forgiven me, loves me, and does not care how I live, after all I am only human. And to err is human but to forgive is divine. After all, we are in the age of grace now, the way I live won't affect my fellowship with God, will it?. In the first century the apostle John had to correct this same thinking. There were people known as Gnostics that brought error into the early church. One of these groups taught that the spirit was basically good whilst the body was evil. So it didn't matter if you sinned in the body since you couldn't help it. Besides it wouldn't affect your spirit or your relationship with God who is also Spirit.
But John replies to this kind of thinking by saying " that we lie and do not practice the truth." We cannot walk in darkness, or live as we choose and think that we will have fellowship with God. He will not ignore our sin and continue to have fellowship with us. Someone who thinks this way has totally misunderstood God's grace. Psalm 66:18 says: If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.
David and Bathsheba
After David had sinned with Bathsheba, he tried to go on with his life as if nothing had happened. He went up to the tabernacle to offer sacrifices and worship God. He continued to rule as king. He tried to hide his sins of covetousness, adultery and murder. But God knew of his sin. David didn't fool anyone but himself. Only when he confessed his sin to the Lord, did he receive forgiveness and restored fellowship. His prayer of confession is found in Ps 51:
b. A second response is to say: I Don't Have A Sinful Nature!
1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
You are probably aware of what an emu does sometimes when in trouble. He buries His head in the sand and pretends that nothing is wrong. In actual fact his problems have not gone away, he simply refuses to face them. This is how some believers deal with their sin.
This verse may address people who claim to have attained sinless perfection. They deny they have a sinful nature any longer, because of some spiritual experience. Some people claim that they cannot sin any more. They claim they have no bias toward sin. That they have reached a spiritual level above sin. But really they are deceiving themselves. And this is exactly the prognosis that John gives them. This does not mean they aren't saved - since John includes them as believers by saying we. But rather that they are out of fellowship with God, since they won't confess their sin. Sin hardens peoples hearts, including believers.
We must realise that sin is not just actions against God's law; but also includes our attitudes, thoughts, words and even the motives behind what we do. Christians usually do not blatantly sin as non Christians do, but we still wrestle with the same temptations. God knows our heart intimately, we can't hide anything from Him. . He can see sin in its earliest form. Jesus said that hatred was equivalent to murder, and lust to adultery. When we are envious of fellow Christians because they have some thing or some blessing that we don't, that is covetousness - and God calls it sin! When we judge our brethren or gossip about them, that is sin. We need to bear our heart before God each day and ask for His cleansing of these hidden sins. These are the things I struggle with most. It is easy for Christians to justify their actions by making other believers their standard of right and wrong. The acceptable standard is God's word.
c. A third response is to say, I Am Sinless
1John 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
This is the third step of deception. Those who have been deceiving themselves regarding fellowship, and the fact that they could sin, now deny to have sinned. This is a further step in their deception since now they attempt to deceive God concerning their sin. Their claim to presently have no sin in verse 8 is now taken further by their claim that they have not sinned, which goes back into the past as well. Some Gnostics believed that they had become sinless through initiation into a higher spiritual level. This initiation was gained through learning special knowledge. They taught that this experience had removed sin from them and this included their past. Sin no longer affected them as it affected others. This denial of sin is in complete contradiction with Romans 3:23, where God says, " that all have sinned. " Since God says that all have sinned, people who deny it, make God a liar and His word is not in them. They turn the truth into a lie. These are the results of covering up sin.
1. We lose our fellowship with God and one another. v.6
2. We lie, and do not practice the truth. (We deceive others) v.6
3. We deceive ourselves. (the truth is not in us) v.8
4. We make God a liar. (We try to deceive God) v.10
Secondy We Can Confess Our Sin!
a. Walking In The Light - Christlike Conduct - Avoidance of Sin
1 John 1:7 says: 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. The word walk is used here to describe our conduct each day, our lifestyle. John 8:12 says: Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." So then by following Christ and walking as He walked - we walk in the light. Christ's walk, His life, is recorded in the Scriptures. The Psalmist says this in Psalm 119 verse 105: Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. When we obey the revealed will of God written in His word, we walk in the light. We must study God's word to know how to live and remain in fellowship with Him. Put positively we live like Jesus lived. Put negatively we are to avoid sin.
Light Exposes Sin
There is another attribute of light that we did not discuss before. Light extinguishes darkness. Even if you go into the darkest room in a building, the darkness disappears when you turn the light on. Therefore God's light exposes our sin. He uses His word to reveal sin in our life. He exposes our sin so that we can deal with it. God has made provision for our sin and uses His word to point it out to us. That is why the verse says that "if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. " There would be no need for cleansing if we didn't sin! David picked up on this also in Psalm 119:9 How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. Once we acknowledge our sin we receive cleansing through the blood of Jesus Christ. This results in continued fellowship with the brethren and of course with God.
b. Talking to the Light - Complete Confession - Acknowledgment of Sin
1 John 1:9 says this: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Helping an Alcoholic
People working with drug addicts or alcoholics know that before they can help them, they must acknowledge their addiction. You can't help someone who denies they have a problem! John deals with the procedure for spiritual cleansing. In verse 7. he has just explained that the light exposes our sin and that Christ's blood cleanses us from this sin. But verse 9 says that we must confess our sin for this to happen. Is confession the same as repentance? I don't believe it is. Repentance means to turn around and walk the other way. This takes place at salvation, when we repent of our old life and believe in Jesus Christ. Repentance is a one time experience, whilst confession is needed continually!
Christ Washes The Disciples Feet
A good example would be Christ washing the disciples feet. Peter did not want the Lord to wash His feet. Then Jesus replied if I don't wash your feet, then you have no part with Me. So Peter went to the other extreme and asked for a complete bath. But Christ explained that they had been washed when they believed in Him. That original washing took place when they followed Christ. All that they needed now was to remove the sin that had smeared them since then. Their sin was a result of living in a sinful world with a sinful nature still present.
This is just as true today. Once someone believes in Christ they are made clean. But they will need to confess their sin along the way to wash their feet and remain in fellowship with God. The word confess literally means " to say the same thing as. " It means we agree with God about the sins we have committed. We must acknowledge that what God says is true. We need to be specific about our sins and own up to them rather than making excuses for them. Adam and Eve tried to blame others for their sin and God did not accept their excuses. Only when we confess our sins is He faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. That is in the present tense, He keeps on cleansing us from all sin! When we confess our sins, God forgives us of our guilt and cleanses our impurity caused by it.
c. The Work of the Light - Our Advocate
But how does God forgive us when we have done these sins. 1 John 2:1-2 talks about this : 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. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. John's desire was that believers might not sin and he encouraged them in this. But John realised that even though this was his desire and what the Ephesians should also desire, they would in fact sin. So he assures them that they have an advocate, a representative in heaven who will defend their case, once they have confessed their sin.
Illustration of a Crooked Lawyer who finds a loophole in the Law!
Today many criminals are prosecuted for shocking crimes. To our horror many of these get off the charges. How do they do this? They pay a lot of money to a crooked lawyer who finds a loophole in the law. They get off on a technicality even though everyone knows that they are guilty. But God's justice doesn't work this way. He doesn't deny our sins, but simply says that the punishment for these sins has been paid for by someone else. And God is satisfied.
c. The Work of the Light - Our Propitiation
The punishment that we should have received for our sin has been paid in full. The Bible says this in Romans 1:18: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, But Christ has taken the punishment for our sin. On the cross Christ cried out tetalisti, it is finished, paid in full! Jesus Christ is Himself the propitiation for our sins and also for those of the whole world. And God the Father is satisfied, His justice has been met in the person of His Son. Christ's sacrifice on the cross is sufficient for the sins of the world. But only those who believe in Him will in fact have their sins forgiven.
llustration Of Martin Luther
Martin Luther had a dream one night in which he stood before God. Satan was there to accuse Luther. When the books were opened the accuser pointed to sin after sin in his life. Luther despaired. Then he remembered the cross and, turning to the devil, he quoted 1 John 1:7, " The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. " Satan had no reply. Because of Jesus Christ, sinners can be forgiven and stand before a holy God. Jesus Christ has paid the debt of our sin on the cross. Therefore we are free from the debt we once owed. The charges have been dealt with and God has declared us righteous.
But What Happens If We Don't Confess Our Sins?
c. The Work of the Light - Our Father
Hebrews 12:5-7 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives." If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?
If we don't confess our sins God will not forgive them or cleanse us! But He doesn't allow us to stay in that condition for long. He leads us to repentance by,
1. Conviction - God convicts us through a guilty conscience. Our conscience will either clear us of our actions or condemn us. If it condemns us then we have sin between us and God. In this situation we don't have God's peace or fellowship.
2. Chastisement through physical sickness. David experienced this. After David had confessed his sin with Bathsheba in Psalm 51 he wrote this in Psalm 32:1-5: Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones grew old Through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
If a believer will not confess his sin in this life, then God will deal with it more severely.
3. Temporal judgement. The Corinthian believers did not discern the Lord's Table, so Paul wrote this to them 1 Corinthians 11:28-32: But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. God called some believers home because they continued in sin. He cut short their time on earth so that they cannot bring further shame to the cause of Christ.
4. The Judgement seat of Christ. Romans 14:10. 2 Corinthians 5:10 talk about this! The Lord will evaluate our service at the judgement seat of Christ. Unconfessed sin will be dealt with there. Not that we will lose our salvation, but it will affect our reward. If we leave unconfessed sin in our lives, we will not have confidence at Christ's coming. We will shrink back in shame. 1 John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.
How can we maintain our fellowship with God? Today we have looked at two ways to deal with our sin.
Firstly by walking in the light of His word. This helps us in two ways.
1. Walking in the light helps us to avoid sin (enjoy fellowship).
2. Walking in the light points out our sin when we do fail.
3. We can then acknowledge it and receive God's cleansing (maintain fellowship).
Secondly by walking in the darkness. This hurts us in two ways.
1. We sin and lose our fellowship with the Father.
2. We cover our sin and suffer God's conviction and chastisement.
What will you do with your sin? I trust you will be honest and open with God. I trust you won't cover your sin, or make excuses for it, which only leads to condemnation. But confess it which brings cleansing and enables continued fellowship.
Remember Proverbs 28:13 says: He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.
2 Peter 3:17-18 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.