How To Have Great Fellowship? 1 John 1b-1
1 John 1:5-10
Stephen Caswell © 2005
Cleansing the Soul
While walking down a street one day, I passed a store where a man on the pavement was washing the large plate glass shop window. There was one dirty spot which defied efforts to remove it. After rubbing hard at it, using much soap and water, and failing to remove it, he found out the trouble. It’s on the inside, he called out to someone in the store. Many are striving to cleanse the soul from its stains. They wash it with tears of sorrow; they scrub it with the soap of good resolves; they rub it with the chamois of morality, but still the consciousness of it is not removed. The trouble is, it’s on the inside. Nothing but the blood of Jesus, applied in the power of the Holy Spirit, can cleanse the inside; He alone can reach it.
Who wants to live a joyful life, a fulfilling life? Who craves for real fellowship with God and His people? I think everyone does! Why can’t we have it then? What spoils Christian fellowship? Sin; Sin with an I in the middle. Sin spoils our fellowship with God and His people. John wrote this letter so we could enjoy rich fellowship. 1 John 1:3-5: that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. 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.
John declares here that God is light. His basic nature is one of holiness, glory, truth and perfection. If man wants to have fellowship with God, he must come to the light, for God will not have fellowship with darkness. John is speaking to believers in this passage since he constantly identifies himself with the audience, by saying we. Whether or not we have fellowship with God depends on our walk. The light represents God's righteous standard revealed in the word and manifested in Jesus Christ. The darkness represents the sinful manifestation of the Devil. Inevitably our daily walk determines our fellowship with God.
Fellowship In The Light
God intended from the beginning that we might have fellowship with Him. 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. Last week we saw that, John wrote this letter so that we might enjoy fellowship with God once more. Jesus Christ has provided eternal life for mankind. This is important for people who are spiritually dead in sin. But there is a prerequisite to receive God's life. We must come to the light confessing our sin. Unfortunately, today no one wants to admit their sin! – Read from the Book - The Vanishing Conscience
Passing the Buck
Today people try to blame their past or some chemical imbalance for all of our failures. Even we Christians do this. The result is that God can't deal with our sin. Circumstances may stir up our sinful nature, or even increase its effect, but they don't cause it. Sin is not an accident or mistake, but disobedience to God's revealed standard. We don’t have to sin, we choose to. Has this victim mentality of sin crept into the church? Do we 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! Proverbs 28:13 says: He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.
We have 2 choices. We Can Cover Our Sin, or We can Confess Our Sin! John says that fellowship is based on our honesty with God. God doesn't expect sinlessness but sincerity!
Firstly, We Can Cover Our Sin!
1 John 1:6: If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. This is a false statement.
a. This Response Says, I Can Mix Light And Darkness! Sin doesn’t affect my relationship with God!
The word walk, peripatew means to live, to conduct yourself. This verb is in the present tense. It describes a lifestyle. Some believers say that they can live sinfully and still have fellowship with God. God says that such claims are a lie. The apostle John had to correct this thinking. He replies to this by saying, that we lie and do not practice the truth.
Ÿ If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and bear a grudge against another, we lie and do not practice the truth. We are to love and forgive one another. Colossians 3:13-14
Ÿ If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and don't serve the Lord, we lie and do not practice the truth. To him who knows to do good and does it not this is sin. James 4:17
Ÿ If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and speak evil of our brother, we lie and do not practice the truth. Do not speak evil of one another brethren. James 4:11
Any kind of sin ruins our fellowship with God. If we walk in darkness, we can’t have fellowship with God Who is in the light. Psalm 66:18 says: If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear. We can't pretend to be righteous and keep sinning. If we possess real life from God won't we walk in the light with Him? 2 Corinthians 6:14: Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? And what fellowship has light with darkness? None! There is no fellowship between light and darkness. What does God have in common with sin? Nothing! People who live like this are hypocrites! They are like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. Their life isn't real! They’re playing religion. God doesn't expect sinlessness, but sincerity, honesty & integrity!
David And Bathsheba
After David had sinned with Bathsheba, he tried to go on with his life as if nothing had happened. He continued to reign as king. For about 9 months he went to the tabernacle and offered sacrifices. He worshipped God in vain. In fact he wrote no Psalm during this time. David tried to hide his sins. But God knew his sin. Only when he confessed his sin, did he receive forgiveness and restored fellowship. His prayer of confession is found in Psalm 51:
Sin left alone spreads; it grows bigger. David started by coveting his neighbors wife. Rather than confessing this he committed adultery. After Bathsheba fell pregnant he tried to cover it up by bringing Uriah home to blame him for the child. This deception failed so he arranged for Uriah's murder. His sin spread to Bathsheba, his family and even the nation of Israel. Likewise, people who don't confess their sin, often tell lies to cover it up. It just becomes more and more complicated. The Bible says be sure your sins will find you out. Numbers 32:23 David's sin found him out. Any sin ruins our fellowship with God and our brethren! We can’t hide our sin from God. Adam and Eve tried in the beginning and failed. So will we.
We can’t enjoy fellowship with someone if we have a broken relationship. Have you ever had a row with your wife? Often it’s not even an important decision or issue that you fight over. Yet the result is very real, it affects your attitude toward each other. In fact it can affect your whole life. Other people easily notice that you are out of sorts with one another. Sadly, it stays this way until we go to our wife or husband and say sorry. I am sorry are sometimes the hardest 3 words to say. Tragically we waste so much time and spoil so much of our lives because we don’t say sorry and ask for forgiveness. Our relationship with God is spoiled by our sin. Our broken relationships with others will always spoil our relationship with God.
Matthew 5:23-24: Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Are you enjoying fellowship with God and your brethren? If not, then probably sin is involved.
b. A second response is to say: I Don't Sin!
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.
Some folk claim that they don't sin any more. They won't admit their sins to other Christians. James 5:16: Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. Some folk pretend to be holy while ignoring their obvious failures. Perhaps, they redefine sin and call it by some other name. We call gossip sharing concerns or prayer points. Anger, hatred, bitterness, slander, gossip, lust, covetousness, unforgiveness, jealousy and the like are all sins. To say otherwise is to deceive ourselves. And this is exactly the prognosis that John gives them. God won’t buy it. He knows the truth. He sees our sin.
Do you realize that sin isn't just actions against God's law? It also includes our attitudes, words and the things we don't do, our sins of omission. Christians might not 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 that we don't, that's covetousness. When we wrongly judge our brethren or gossip about them, that's sin. We must open our heart to God each day and ask for His cleansing from these hidden sins. These are the things that I struggle with most. It is easy for us to justify our actions by making other believers our standard of right and wrong. But the only acceptable standard is the light, God's word. David prayed that God would search his heart. Psalm 139:23-24: Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.
c. A third response is to say, I Am Sinless 1 John 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. The result, these folk say that God is a liar. Their claim to presently have no sin in verse 8 is now taken further by their claim not to have sinned in the past also. (perfect tense) They believe that because of some experience they had they have moved to a higher spiritual level. They no longer commit sin. This denial of sin is in complete contradiction with God's Word. He says, that all have sinned. They turn the truth into a lie. Eggerton Long and the testimony he heard from someone. Verses 6-10 are all 3rd Class Condition ifs. Probable future condition. These things will happen to us sooner or later. Verses 6, 8 & 10 are false statements, 7 & 9 true.
Secondly, We Can Confess Our Sin!
a. Walking In The Light - Conquering Our Sin
1:7: But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.
Again the word walk describes our conduct each day, our lifestyle. John 8:12: 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. Walking God’s way helps us to avoid sin. The Psalmist says this in 119:105: 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 negatively we are to avoid sin. Put positively we live like Jesus lived.
The Light Helps Us Avoid Sin
The Lord Jesus Christ was tempted to sin just as we are. Yet He didn't sin. He used the light of God's Word to overcome Satan's temptations. Every time Satan tempted Him, Christ applied the Word to the situation. Yes God's Word and prayer can help us to avoid sin. Eve failed in the Garden because she didn’t know God’s well enough and because she doubted it.
b. Walking In The Light - Cleansing from Sin
1 John 1:7: 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.
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 uses the light to expose our sin. The word reveals any sin in our life. Then it’s up to us to deal with it. Nathan exposed David's sin for what it was, so that he could confess it. David responded by saying I have sinned. Nathan then assured David that God had put away His sin. The Lord removes our sin as far as the East is from the West. That’s why the verse says that, 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 God and with our brethren. We need to deal with disobedience with our kids promptly. Why? Because sin spoils our relationship with them. We must fix it.
In John 13 Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. At first Peter didn’t want any part of it. After Jesus talked to Peter he then wanted a complete bath. But Jesus said that He was already clean and only needed his feet washed. Christians are cleansed by Christ’s blood the moment we believe. Positionally we are faultless before the throne. The trouble is this that we walk around in a sinful world, we have a sinful nature and Satan often tempts us. Therefore, we need to wash our feet each day. We need to bring our sins to Christ and be cleansed of them.
c. Walking In The Light - Confessing Our Sin
1 John 1:9: 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, the addict must first acknowledge their addiction. You can't help someone who denies they have a problem! They have to be honest and confess their addiction. They need to take responsibility for their actions. 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.
The word confess, oJmologew literally means to say the same thing as. It means to agree with God about the sins we have committed. We must come clean and not make excuses. We need to be specific about our sins and own up to them rather than making excuses for them. Since God calls pride sin we need to confess it when we’re guilty. Psalm 66:18: If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear. Naturally only God knows at any moment the full extent of a person’s unrighteousness. Each Christian, however, is responsible to acknowledge whatever the light makes him aware of, and when he does so, a complete and perfect cleansing is granted to him. There’s no need to agonize over sins we’re unaware of.
Adam and Eve tried to blame others for their sin and God didn’t accept their excuses. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the Serpent and the Serpent didn’t have a leg to stand on. Samuel challenged Saul about his sin but he made excuses and blamed others. Therefore, God couldn’t take away his sin. Saul continued this way; so God took away his kingdom. Only when we confess our sins is He faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. After David confessed his sin, Nathan assured him that the Lord had put his sin away, and that he would not die. However God didn't remove the consequences.
James 5:16: Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. Matthew 6:12: And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Sins that affect others should be confessed before them as well as to God. Reconciliation should be sought and forgiveness granted. Notice that we ask God to forgive our debts as we forgive others their debts to us. This is plural. Forgiveness is often the business of the Church.
Confess Your Faults To One Another
It is very significant that whenever spiritual awakenings have occurred throughout the centuries, they have always been accompanied by a restoration of fellowship, of the confession of faults, of the bearing of one another's burdens. During the Wesleyan awakening in the eighteenth century England, the evangelist George Whitfield wrote this to converts:
My brethren, let us plainly and freely tell one another what God has done for our souls. To this end, you would do well, as others have done, to form yourselves into small groups of four or five each, and meet once a week to tell each other what is in your hearts; Then you may pray for each other and comfort each other as the need shall require. None but those who have experienced it can tell the unspeakable advantages of such union and communion of souls. No one that truly loves his own soul and his brethren as himself, will be shy of opening his heart in order to have their advice, reproof, admonition and prayers, as the occasions require. A sincere person will esteem it one of the greatest blessings.
Confession enables us to be cleansed of our sin while we walk in the light! Our conscience is cleared of guilt and we have peace with God and our fellowman. Many Christians today suffer from a guilty conscience because they won’t deal with sin in their lives. If we don't confess our sins God will not forgive us or cleanse us! But He won't allow us to stay in that condition indefinitely. He leads us to repentance by; Conviction, Chastisement and Judgment.
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. We should immediately confess our sins and restore our fellowship with God.
If a believer won’t confess his sin, then God will deal with him more severely.
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 still won't confess his sin, then God deals even more severely with him.
3. Temporal Judgment. 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 took some believers home early because they continued in sin. He cut short their time on earth so that they couldn’t bring further shame to the name of Christ. John calls this a sin unto death in 1 John 5:16-17: If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.
4. The Judgment seat of Christ. Romans 14:10. 2 Corinthians 5:10 talk about this! The Lord will evaluate our service at the judgment seat of Christ. 1 Corinthians 4:1-5: Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.
We can deal with our sin in 1 of 2 ways. We can either confess it or cover it. What will we do? If the Lord has touched your heart this morning can I suggest that you put things right with Him. Confess any sin and ask for Christ’s cleansing! If you have offended a brother or a sister can I encourage you to seek them out and to be reconciled.
Remember Proverbs 28:13: He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.
2 Peter 3:17-18: You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.