************ Sermon on 1 John 1:8-2:1 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 18, 2019
1 John 1:8-2:1
"Testing the Reality of Faith by Confession of Sin"
How do you know if a piece of jewelry is made of gold? There are five simple gold tests you can do at home:
#1 Look for the gold stamp.
#2 Apply a small drop of nitric acid to a scratch; no chemical reaction probably means it is real gold.
#3 If you have low iron rub the gold across your forehead; if it is gold it will leave a black mark.
#4 Gold will sink, not float, in a jug of water.
#5 Gold is not attracted to a magnet.
How do you tell if someone is real and sincere about their faith? As with gold, there are signs or proofs that they are real and sincere Christians.
One of the big concerns of John as he was writing his letters was false teachers, false leaders, heretics, and deceivers in the church. And shouldn't this be one of our concerns as well? Much of the church today is unprotected, open to attack, like lambs being circled by coyotes. It is a scandal that much of the church today is so tolerant, so inclusive. It is a scandal that her doors are wide open, embracing anybody and everybody as members and leaders in the name of tolerance and love and diversity. It is a scandal that much of the church today has no discernment. It is a scandal that much of the church today fails to make the most basic distinctions. The result? True and false Christians are no longer distinguished from each other. Everybody is treated as a Christian, even those who don't know Jesus.
False teachers, false leaders, heretics, and deceivers must be identified. Recognize, though, there are always weeds growing along side the wheat. Not every weed is readily recognized. Some look and sound exactly the same as the real thing even though they are not. For instance, celebrity pastor and author Josh Harris just announced on Instagram he and his wife were separating and, then, a few days later announced he was not a Christian. And, he apologized to the LGBTQ+ community for his past stance against same-sex marriage and for not affirming their lifestyles.
Throughout his letters John gives us three tests of true Christians: a doctrinal test, a moral test, and a relational test. The doctrinal test John has already begun to cover. Do you believe Jesus has come in the flesh -- that He was heard, seen, looked at or examined, touched? Do you believe He is the Word of life? Do you believe He is the fulfilment of God's plan for our salvation? The moral test has to do with sin and confession of sin. The relational test concerns love for brothers and sisters in the Lord, how we treat one another. Today we look at the moral test.
I Denial of Sin
A The dominant word in our Bible reading is the word "sin." The true Christian recognizes the reality of sin in his or her life.
The phrase "if we claim" is found three times in John's opening chapter (1 Jn 1:6, 8, 10):
(1 Jn 1:6) If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth."If we claim." "If we claim." "If we claim."
(1 Jn 1:8) If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
(1 Jn 1:10) If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
John is responding to people in the churches of Asia Minor who make these kinds of claims. Flooding into the churches were sin-denying believers, sin-denying teachers, sin-denying prophets and preachers. These heretics believed they were not sinners. To these self-deluded sinners John writes, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 Jn 1:8).
B Does this heresy exist today? You bet it does. There is so much evil in our world today. There is so much wrong in the lives of people. But none of it is defined as sin anymore. Instead, we are told someone is mentally ill or emotionally ill. Or, they are born with a genetic predisposition for alcoholism or drug addiction. Or, their upbringing is to blame, the hate-filled environment in which they are raised. Or, the big one today, Trump is to blame. What I am saying is that the world and even the church finds so many different ways to deny sin.
Now, in all of these silly efforts to deny sin the correct diagnosis is never made. Man's problem is not illness or genetic predispositions or the environment; man's problem is sin. But people don't want to hear this. Even many churches are not willing to say this. Because it is so offensive -- to be told there is something wrong with me.
The world's solution for all of these illnesses and predispositions? Therapy and counseling and drugs and money. Because the correct diagnosis is never made, the wrong treatment is being given. It is like going to the doctor. Let's say your problem is something with the heart but instead the doctor makes a wrong diagnosis and says the problem is with your lungs. Any treatment he gives is the wrong treatment; any treatment he gives will not help you and maybe even make you worse off. The right treatment requires the right diagnosis. The correct diagnosis is sin.
What does John say about all of this? "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 Jn 1:8). And, John says we make God out to be a liar (1 Jn 4:10), because God says we are sinners.
C The Bible teaches us that every true Christian knows their sin and their sinful condition. You don't understand grace if you don't understand sin. You don't understand forgiveness if you don't understand sin. You don't understand what it means to be set free from condemnation unless you understand the sin and the sinful nature that condemns you. Saved people, born-again people, Christians, know their sin.
Admission of sin is one test by which we can measure whether or not a person is a genuine Christian. Admission of sin is one test to identify false teachers, false leaders, heretics, and deceivers in the church. If a preacher or teacher on TV or the radio or in the church never talks about sin every alarm bell should be going off.
Born-again people know their sin. The unsaved, the unregenerate, the unbelieving, the heretical, deny their sin, conceal their sin, or make light of their sin.
Born-again people know their sin. That's why every Sunday morning we read from the Ten Commandments or the Summary of the Law or another Bible passage or one of our forms that point out our sin. God's people need to be reminded they are sinners. God's people need to be reminded of what their real and biggest problem is.
II Confession of Sin
A In my second point I want to talk about that little word "confess" that we find in verse 9:
(1 Jn 1:9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.Don't deny your sin, says John. Instead, confess your sin.
What is confess? The Greek word literally means to say the same thing. The same thing as what or the same thing as who? To confess you say the same thing about your sin that God says about your sin. What does God say? That you are a sinner. That you deserve punishment and condemnation because of your sin. So, in confession you admit you are a sinner. In confession you admit God is terribly angry about the sin you are born with as well as the sins you personally commit. In confession you admit your problem, the world's problem, is sin. That's what you say -- the same thing that God says.
Confession of sin is absolutely basic to the Christian life. There are people and churches that teach you don't have to confess your sins. That's not what the Bible says.
B In the Roman Catholic tradition, confession of sin is made to a priest. The Bible teaches that proper confession is made to God. Following the example of David and Paul and others in the Bible we know we confess our sins to God.
Scripture has an amazing number of confessions. Let's start with Joseph's brothers in Egypt trying to buy food. These brothers had sold Joseph into slavery. Joseph became ruler of Egypt but the brothers didn't recognize him. Joseph made matters difficult for them. Remember what they said to one another? "Surely we are being punished because of our brother" (Gen 42:21). A little bit later it is Judah who said, "God has uncovered your servants' guilt" (Gen 44:16).
When God visited the plagues upon Egypt in judgment, it is Pharaoh who made a surprising confession:
(Ex 10:16-17) "I have sinned against the LORD your God and against you. (17) Now forgive my sin once more and pray to the LORD your God to take this deadly plague away from me."We have every reason to doubt the sincerity of these words, yet he made confession.
Saul, Israel's first king, sinned against the Lord by sparing the king of the Amalekites and the best of the sheep and cattle. When confronted by the prophet Samuel, King Saul made this confession:
(1 Sam 15:24-25) "I have sinned. I violated the Lord's command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them. (25) Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD."
Think of King David. He counted the size of his army and put his trust in soldiers and swords and spears rather than the Lord. The Lord punished the land with a plague.
(1 Chr 21:17) David said to God, "Was it not I who ordered the fighting men to be counted? I am the one who has sinned and done wrong ..."
Think of Daniel's beautiful prayer when he realized Jerusalem would remain desolate for the seventy years of the Babylonian captivity:
(Dan 9:4-6) O Lord ... (5) we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. (6) We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.
It is especially the psalms that contain words and prayers of confession. Psalm 51, for instance, is a psalm of David when the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba:
(Ps 51:4-5) Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. (5) Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Luke 18 describes two men to us. The Pharisee boasted that he wasn't a sinner. The tax collector asked God to have mercy on him, a sinner.
III Forgiveness of Sin
A God wants us to confess sin. Why? As I was studying for this message I came across a verse I have never noticed before. It has to do with the story of Achan who stole a beautiful robe, 200 shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold from the plunder of Jericho. Remember how Israel was defeated in battle because Achan stole from the Lord? Remember how lots were cast to determine who was guilty? When Achan was finally confronted Joshua said something surprising to Achan -- surprising to me, at least.
(Josh 7:19) "My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me."What was Joshua asking Achan to do? Joshua was asking Achan to confess his sin.
Now here is the surprising part. Joshua ties Achan's confession to God's glory. By making confession, Achan is glorifying God. I repeat, by making confession, Achan is glorifying God.
B How does confession glorify God? First, confession shows God is just in punishing sin. Without confession some might think or claim God is unfair and unjust when He punishes sin. Without confession some might think or claim God is unfair when He punished Achan and his family. But God is not unjust. God is righteous and holy. That's the first thing confession show us.
C Second, confession shows the magnificence of God's grace when He forgives sinners. That's how I want to end this message -- with the magnificence of God's grace. Listen to verse 9:
(1 Jn 1:9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Sinners don't have to hide their sin. They don't have to deny their sin. They don't have to make light of their sin. They don't have to pretend sin has no consequences. Instead, sinners know that sin confessed is, by grace, sin forgiven. Forgiven not because they confessed. Forgiven not because they deserve it or earn it. Forgiven not because they are so good. Forgiven because of God's grace in Jesus.
(1 Jn 1:7) ... the blood of Jesus ... purifies us from all sin.
Grace. That is what is on display when we boldly come to God's throne and ask for forgiveness. Grace for undeserving sinners. Grace for sinners who confess sin.
How do we know if someone truly is a Christian? True Christians confess their sin. Do you?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page