Don’t Sin, But If You Do Sin, There’s Hope

Title: Don’t Sin, But If You Do Sin, There’s Hope

Text: 1 John 2:1-2

Time: July 31st, 2011

 

The Bible is the most practical and relevant book of all time, although most people today don’t think so. The Bible describes reality as it is, but doesn’t just leave it at that; instead, it points us to reality as it should be. A lot of people think the Bible is an old book full of irrelevant truths that don’t apply to life today and has nothing to say to living in the real world of the 21st Century. But nothing could be farther from the truth. The Bible is totally relevant for today and it deals with everyday issues of life. For example, in today’s lesson, we continue exploring the topic of sin, not in some abstract or theoretical way, but in a very useful and relevant way. The Bible describes the ideal, God’s will for our lives, but also acknowledges that we fail to live up to God’s ideal will. It then describes what we can do about that. It doesn’t leave us hanging with no help or hope for our lives. Have you ever thought about this dilemma – God has high expectations for each and every one of us because we are made in the Image of God. Yet on the other hand, we fail to live up to God’s high expectations constantly. This is just another way of saying that God has given us his divine law, yet we constantly violate God’s law through sin. That is the dilemma. What is the solution to this problem? God’s Word explains in 1 John 2:1-2, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – 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.” Do you see the very practical and relevant way God deals with us in our sinful reality on this earth? He commands us not to sin through His Word. He defines what is and isn’t sin in the Bible. Yet, he’s realistic enough to know that we all sin and so he addresses that reality by giving us instructions what to do after we sin. Is God resigning to the fact that we are sinners and we will sin? Is God giving us his divine expectations but at the same time not really expecting us to live up to them? It seems so. In this way we see God the Father in heaven acting as the Ultimate Parent to us his children on earth by telling us clearly what he expects out of us, but then he is realistic enough to know that we will disappoint him and fail to meet his expectations. Yet he still desires a relationship with us, even as we are sinners who daily sin. So he gives us instructions how to salvage ourselves from our mess of sin. More correctly, God’s plan of salvation is his salvage operation for us and the whole human race. All humanity is fallen into a mess of sin and selfishness. Each one of us fails to live up to even the most basic of God’s expectations. We all sin in thought, word and deed. So then how can we have fellowship with God who is all-perfect and all-holy? God himself gives the solution in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Today’s passage outlines the basic problem and God’s solution for us. Let’s look at it.

 

First, we are instructed by God not to sin. 1 John 2:1, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.” What could be clearer? The Apostle John is writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and speaking the mind of God in the process. What he’s saying is, “The whole Bible is written to show us what is the right way to go with our lives and to show us how not to go on the wrong way. The right way is righteousness; the wrong way is sin.” The whole Bible is given to us to encourage us to live holy lives and not sin against God’s laws. Today, people think they can avoid the whole topic of sin by not reading the Bible and not thinking about God’s law. They think that they can follow the saying, “Out of sight, out of mind,” and everything will be alright. They think if they just don’t think about sin, they won’t feel guilty. If they just don’t remind themselves of God’s law, they won’t feel shame over sinning. In other words, people today think they can avoid guilt and shame by denying the reality of sin or putting it out of their minds. But that’s just denying reality. We have so much mental and emotional sickness today because people are trying to live their lives as if there were no God and as if God hadn’t given us his divine will. By denying the reality of God’s law and attempting to deny the reality of their own sin, people are put in a contradiction. Because we are all made in the Image of God, we intuitively know that God has given his divine law, and we also know that we violate that very same law. That makes us feel guilty. But if we deny that guilt by denying that we’ve sinned in the first place, that places a strain upon our mind and emotions. Our guilt and shame come out in the form of mental illness – which is why our society is experiencing an epidemic of psychological sicknesses as never before. It’s hard living in denial. Like we learned last week, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Self-deception is at the core of much mental and emotional illness today. The best thing to do today is to acknowledge God’s law and will for our lives – and also acknowledge that we sin by falling short of living according to God’s standards. This is the best recipe for mental, spiritual and emotional health. Just like David said in Psalm 32:3, “When I withheld acknowledging my sins, my body wasted away.” It’s never good to live in denial. Only by recognizing God’s divine standards can we face squarely the reality of our own sins. Now what John the Apostle is saying in this verse is God’s Word is given to us so that we understand what is sin and how to avoid it. But that’s only part of the reason why the Bible exists. Of course, the other reason is in order to show us what to do once we’ve failed to live up to God’s divine standards. We need to read the Bible for the purpose of showing us how to live. But we also need to read the Bible in order to show us what to do after we’ve failed to follow God’s first instruction on how to live.

 

Second, after we fail and fall into sin, God has a plan “B.” 1 John 2:1, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ the Righteous One.” Here’s how realistic God and God’s Word really is – we are given the divine standards, but we are also given a back-up plan when we fail to follow the standards. The divine command is, “Don’t sin,” but the reality is we are sinners and we sin, so God doesn’t give up on us but rather gives us another plan – salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. There is always grace in God’s plan for humanity. For example, at the arrest, the trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, there were two disciples who sinned against Jesus, but only one experienced forgiveness and grace. If you recall, Judas betrayed Jesus into the hands of the Jews and the Romans. He was directly responsible for Jesus’ arrest and indirectly for the death of Jesus too. He committed a great sin. But he wasn’t the only disciple who sinned against Jesus that night. Peter also sinned by denying Christ three times in the courtyard of the high priest when he was asked whether he knew Jesus or not. Both men were convicted of their sins. Both cried tears of regret. But only Peter found the mercy and grace of God, while Judas went out and killed himself. Peter confessed and repented of his sins and turned back to God for forgiveness and was eventually restored to fellowship with God the Father and Jesus the Son. But Judas never returned to God for forgiveness but instead played the role of judge, jury and executioner to himself. Judas needed to know and believe what the Apostle John is teaching in this verse, “But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ the Righteous One.” Now the word here in the original New Testament Greek for the phrase “speaks in our defense” is paracleton, which means, “advocate,” as in a lawyer before the judge. Now elsewhere in the New Testament, the word paracleton appears in conjunction with the Holy Spirit, where it means counselor or comforter. But here, the word means something more like “legal representation.” Imagine you are on trial for your sins in a court of law. God the Father is the Judge and you are being examined. Of course, you are guilty, because we are all guilty. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and “There is no one that is righteous, no not one,” Romans 3:23, 10. So all your sins are submitted as evidence against you. There is no question you are guilty. There is no doubt you will be condemned because of your sins. You’ll be sentenced to eternal punishment for your sins against God. Now some people might say, “That’s not fair. Eternal punishment in hell, for the sins of one lifetime?” You sin against an eternal God and based on your own track record, if you were to live forever on earth, you’d keep on sinning eternally. So the punishment does fit the crime. But what the Apostle John is saying is we have a defense lawyer, Jesus Christ, who pleads our case before the Judge. Through the work of our Defense Advocate Jesus, we are acquitted of our sins and set free. How is this accomplished?

 

Third, Jesus is our sacrificial and substitutionary atonement for our sins. 1 John 2:2, “He is our atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” So here is the courtroom scene. We are on the stand. God the Father is sitting as Judge. Our life is being examined on Judgment Day and all our sins are exposed and reviewed. There is no question we are guilty of sin. There is no question we deserve to be sentenced and punished for our sins. We deserve eternal, conscious punishment in hell – which, by the way, was originally made for the Devil and the fallen angels the Bible tells us in Matthew 25:41, but now serves as punishment for all rebellious sinners, including human beings. The only thing separating us from eternal damnation for our sins is our Defense Lawyer, our Advocate, Jesus Christ. But how can Jesus get us set free. Like I said before, there’s no question we are all guilty as sin of sin. There’s no question that we deserve to die the second death, which the Book of Revelation tells us is the eternal Lake of Fire, hell. But Jesus is our defense lawyer and he approaches the bench or the Judge’s Desk. What does Jesus plead on our behalf? Just what the Apostle John says in this verse, “He is our atoning sacrifice for our sins.” In other words, Jesus pleads his blood sacrificed on the cross on behalf of our sins. He makes the argument that his atoning death serves as a suitable sacrifice for our sins in our place. He explains that being sinless himself he is able to serve as the perfect substitute sacrifice for sinners. And also, being righteously perfect makes him able to transfer his righteousness to everyone who trusts in his death on their behalf so that they too share in his righteousness through his death. So then, the trusting sinner is made righteous through the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross. Therefore, their sins are covered over and cleansed by Christ’s blood so that they are no more counted on their record. The Judge cannot hold any sins against any sinner who is covered by the blood of Jesus. In addition, through Christ’s righteousness, every sinner who believes is made righteous. So when the Judge sees the sinner he only sees the righteousness of Christ. On this basis, Jesus our Righteous Advocate gets all charges against us dropped and we are aquitted. Now let me ask you, “Are you trusting in Jesus today to plead your case before God the Father as Judge? Do you accept Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross as a substitute for your sins? Do you acknowledge your sins, your guilt before God the Father? Do you acknowledge that you deserve the punishment of hell for your willful sins against God? But most importantly, do you cling to the cross of Christ today and let the atoning and righteous blood of Jesus wash you clean of all your sins? Do you receive the righteousness of Christ on your behalf?” The bottom line is this – we are called to live holy and righteous lives, but the problem is we don’t. We are guilty and deserve God’s wrath and judgment. But Jesus steps forward to save us from sin and judgment and punishment through his blood and righteousness. There are those who accept this salvation and those who don’t. Which one are you? Have you accepted Christ’s death for your sake? If you haven’t, are you willing to accept it today? Let’s pray.

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