Faithlife Sermons

The Unavoidable Reality

1 John   •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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A pastoral approach to understanding the nature of sin.

Intro: We all have those realities that we try hard to avoid in life, or put off as long as possible. Like studying for that exam. Having the difficult conversation with a coworker. Filling taxes.
For me it’s getting a cavity filled.
For years, was pretty sure I had a cavity in one of my rear molars. I put off going to the dentist—trying to avoid the reality. I even met a dentist once in a church, and a flood of conviction came over me.
The reality eventually set in: I needed to get this cavity fixed. So a few years ago when we moved here, I was able to get it taken care of.
There are unavoidable realities of we all life with. Like death and taxes.
Spiritually, thee are some unavoidable realities tied to the topic of sin
Sin: There is a spectrum of how Christians deal with the topic. Some just don’t. They avoid it; it’s negative. This can even be true in some churches. Sin is never mentioned—it hurts the spirit of positivity.
On the other end of the spectrum would be to become sin-obsessed. Overly introspective, navel gazing. Turning the Christian life into mere sin-management. The Christian life is not mere sin-management…it’s worship.
**Jesus called sinners to become worshipers.
—The unavoidable reality of sin (lawlessness)
—The avoidable reality of the devil (massive deception and destruction)
—The unshakable reality of Christ’s work (transformative)
The unavoidable reality of sin
A few years back, in the world of pre-engagment and engagement, the buzzword was compatibility. There were books you could read and services you could sign up for to see if you were compatible. We even had family members were were told not to marry because they were incompatible.
I’m not sure how all that works out in relationships—beyond my pay; but spiritually there are two things very incompatible: A Child of God and a lifestyle of practicing sin.
If we are going to grasp the reality of sin, we first need to know what we are talking about; we need to talk definitions
You may have heard before that sin is missing the mark—missing the target. That is the etymology of the word in Classical Greek. It’s a picture of a warrior taking a shot and missing the object.
If that was the only way to define sin, it can mistake, or lack of also sounds very unintentional
**Here we get a more robust definition to work with: sin is lawlessness. There is more intention and rebellion in that definition.
There is also a moral standard with a Holy God behind that as well.
*Sin as lawlessness also sound more devilish.
Open, active rebellion against the Holy Creator-King.
Sin as lawlnessness sound more like the “cosmic treason” definition of RC Sproul
That seems to be the clearest definition we have in scripture of sin’s nature
The word “lawlnessness” in the OT refers to any transgression of the Law of Moses.
So you may wonder: how do I go about knowing what sins are sins. Do you want me, pastor, to go through the law of Moses and start making a list?
Jesus simplified—summarized the whole law down to basics:
Matthew 22:37–40 ESV
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Paul also simplified the law into one target of love:
Romans 13:10 ESV
Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Apply: So how do we know we are sinning? Check our heart for love?
*That’s how this section ends (v10)
There is a contrast with 3:3, and 3:4—purity and practice.
V6 also presses the point: No one who knows Christ remains in a comfortable pattern of sin
—This is not talking about sinless perfection.
—We are not talking about occasional acts of sin, but a lifestyle
—This is about practice and habit—a life that is more characterized by sin than purity. That’s the divide between: 3:3 &4.
The word translated practice, is more woodenly translated “do” (anyone doing sin)
It’s willful, habitual actions
Let me illustrate it this way. How do you define a musician, or an athlete? They practice their instrument or sport. They know scales; they do drills and scrimmages.
Practice is taking actionable steps toward a goal and ingraining particular habits.
Some speculate—and I don’t think it’s a stretch—that in the church 1 John was written to, that people were separating sinful actions with actually being sinful people They either highly enlightened people reach moral perfection, while others taught that sin did not matter if you had special knowledge.
Biblical truth about sins is a lot more “down to earth”
Some can claim to know God, yet stuck on the treadmill of sin.
I think the question boils down to how ok we are with sin in our lives....that revels the level of practice and habit. A true child of God—one who experiences the Father’s lavish love…
Sin is an unavoidable reality in this world—but in with the child of God is incompatibility.
The unavoidable reality of the devil
Now, there are reality two main units in this passage
—Nature of sin
—Nature of Chris’s work
*But since we are on the topic of sin, we see some truth about the devil
Biographies are probably my favorite things to read. I have a friend who reads mathematics books to unwind—can’t fathom that. I look forward to in a few weeks a trip to the mountains in eastern Tennessee reading through the new bio on RC Sproul. I love biography because it’s history. And it’s better to learn from the mistakes and failures of others if we can!
The bible gives us some biographical, historical material to work with so we won’t make the repeated mistakes, or follow the same pattern.
We do get some biographical material of our common spiritual enemy
Firs, this comes with tender, pastoral warning (V7-8)
Apply: The reality is, based on our practice, we either look like Jesus or the devil. Not real gray area in this.
Now, I’ve said before we don’t want to
Apply: There is another point of application here. Have you ever known a person—maybe even someone close and related to you, and you say “I don’t want to be anything like him or her” —it’s usually tied to the negative traits you observe.
It may also be eye-opening if we find ourselves acting like that person
John 8:44 ESV
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Apply: It’s also helpful to get an accurate picture of the devil
When I worked with youth in Pittsburgh, every year we took our youth group to a event called Hell Stop. A local church had decorated the basement to try and look like hell. But it basically looked more like a Heavy Metal concert, so half of the kids thought it cool. At the end a guy dressed like Rob Zombie came out and three a bunch of people into hell.
That’s not an accurate picture really.
Think about the most deceptive person you’ve ever met. The biggest con-man, liar. Someone who would sweet talk you into friendship and trust, then steal every single-thing of enjoyment you own..
Someone who has an aim to steal all of your joy and make you miserable.
That’s the unavoidable of the Ancient Foehis entire existence is sin
The unavoidable reality is clear from vs 8
The unshakable reality of the Lord Jesus Christ
Danny Akin “It’s characteristic of the devil to sin, and Jesus to save”
We will finish our time by looking at Jesus and his saving work.
As I mentioned earlier, the main spiritual goal is never to get stuck in the topic of sin; we want to move our faith toward Christ. So it’s good to land here: The unshakable reality of Jesus (his work) —it’s the only way to deal with the reality of our sin
The Work of Jesus
1. Taking away sin (v5)—he appeared to take away sin (forgiveness)
A specific word that points to purpose is in v5:
The mission of Jesus coming to his earth was to deal with our sins by removing them —it speaks specifically to making forgiveness available and possible.
**Two words are very specific to help us see the reality of Jesus
Appeared: It implies Jesus preexisted before his birth. It speaks of his divine nature
Without: Again, only a divine person has this claim. And this is critical tp understanding the reality of Jesus
The Lord Jesus is truly God, and truly without sin...
2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Apply/Gospel: This is why the cross stands at the center of the Christian hope. Always has, always will.
**In light of the Cross, and the Christ of the Cross, the most crucial question then is: have my sins been taken away by Jesus?
Have yours? Do you know this reality?
The answer to that question is found in v6
We know the reality of Christ and His Cross if we make a break with sin
2. Son of God appeared—to destroy devils works(8b) (freedom)
Again, we get concrete purpose:
Hebrews 2:14 ESV
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,
The word destroy, is the same word for loosen (Luo—Greek students learn the verb system)
In John’s writings, we see it show up:
-Jn 1:27, when John the Baptist says he is not worthy to undo the strap of Jesus’s sandal
-Jn 2:19 when Jesus refers to the destruction of the temple—a symbol of his physical body
-Jn 11:44 When Jesus commands the grave cloths to come off Lazarus
**Jesus came to undo, unbind, unravel, set free; that’s all included in his destroying the devil’s works…and in the process, build a new creation
I think if the Apostle John were your pastor—and you asked him to grab coffee because you wondered if you were Christian.
He would probably ask: Do you keep sinning? Do you keep the same pattern of sin you have before you were a Christian? Where is the fruit?
Emily enjoys gardening and planting. So she bought some raspberry's and blueberry bushes to plant.
The packaging and labels all stated they are these types. But we will have to wait to see the fruit they produce.
Fruit is always the proof. It never lies.
Matthew 7:20 CSB
So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.
As we close, the best way to illustrate the spiritual impact Jesus has on people is by the story told in John 8. The woman caught in adultery. It’s debated if it was in the original text of the gospel. Let’s all agree that it’s consistent with the picture we get of Jesus
These stories in the gospel are so beautiful because of the vital contact people have with Jesus
John 8:10–11 ESV
Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
No condemnation, but also no condoning our sin
Very consistent with v6: Seeing and knowing Christ
Apply: That’s the question for today. Have you seen Jesus with the eyes of faith? Do you know him?
The words of comfort in no condemnation is always followed by the command: Go and sin no more.
We can’t take one serious and not the other.
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