************ Sermon on 1 John 3:5 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 15, 2019
1 John 3:4-6
1 John 3:5
"Jesus Appeared to Take Away our Sins"
A couple of our dairymen have put in a rotary milking parlor. I am told there are multiple reasons for doing this. You need fewer employees. Workmans Comp rates go down. A brochure I looked at says it significantly increases throughput and yield in dairies. The milking process is also very gentle and stress-free for the cows. And, it is the ideal solution for the fast and gentle milking of large herds. [Disclaimer: I am not getting any kick-backs for this sale pitch.]
I want you to note there are multiple reasons to go with a rotary milking parlor. Why do I say this? To highlight there are multiple reasons for most of the things we do. Why do we buy a certain car or truck? Because of the price. But also because it is a Ford, a GMC, a Lexus, a Tesla, or whatever. Because of its color. Because of its options. Because of miles-per-gallon. Multiple reasons.
Apply the same kind of thinking to the coming of Jesus. Why did Jesus come? "That's simple," you might say as you turn to 1 John 2:2. "He came as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." God, however, is infinitely more complex than we are. His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. Christ did not come just as an atoning sacrifice. To say this is the only reason Jesus came is to be man-centered, self-centered; that Christ's coming is all about me and my salvation.
Why did Jesus come? Yes, He came as an atoning sacrifice. But He also came to glorify God -- this is the big one, the main one, the most important one, one we often forget. He came to bring in the Kingdom. He came as light in the darkness. He came to bring jubilee. He came to bring justice. He came to bring peace. He came to restore creation. Multiple reasons.
Why did Jesus come? John mentions two other reasons in the third chapter of his first letter. First, what we are looking at this week, is that Jesus appeared to take away our sins. Second, what we are looking at next week, is that Jesus came to destroy the devil's work.
I Defining our Words
A We need to define the words John uses. Or, we miss the point John is making of why Jesus came.
"You know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins." John uses the word "appear" to describe the coming of Jesus. This word is used often and it can refer to either the first or second coming of the Lord. It refers to a physical, seeable, describable appearance. On Christmas Day, Jesus appeared. On the Judgment Day, Jesus will appear again.
B "You know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins." Notice the word "know." How do they know? This isn't information we are talking about. This isn't data. This is not book knowledge. This is experience. This is something lived out. Something they know in their heart and in their lives. They know. Remember, the gnostic heretics claimed they were the ones who know, who have insight into the mind of God, who know the secret things of God. Their behavior reveals they know nothing. And, the behavior of true Christian believers reveals they are the ones who know, who are in the know, who understand. They know.
C "You know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins." "Sins." John tells us what he means by sin here: "sin is lawlessness" (1 Jn 3:4). Sin is living in rebellion against the law of God. Sin is a rebellious attitude that is deliberately disobedient.
One of our boys was put to bed. We had problems with him in the past so he was firmly told to stay in bed. Sure enough there was a large thump as he jumped out of the crib. He was disciplined and put in the crib again. A few minutes later another thump. Again he was disciplined and put in the crib. I'm not sure whether it was the third time or the fourth time, but his parent found him hiding under the crib to escape discipline. He knew he was in the wrong but he did it anyway. Six times, maybe seven times, he was deliberately disobedient.That's what John is talking about. John is talking about a lifestyle, a way of life, the direction of a heart and will and mind that disobeys.
D "You know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins." "Take away." Notice what it doesn't say. It doesn't say, "cover." It doesn't say, "forgive." It doesn't say, "justify." In our text John is not emphasizing the doctrine of justification. In our text John is not talking about the suffering of Jesus, the cross of Jesus, the vicarious atonement of Jesus. "Take away." Another translation, "to lift, to remove by lifting." John isn't talking about justification. He is talking about sanctification.
Why did Jesus come? Why did He appear? One of the reasons: to sanctify us, to purify us, to make us holy. To cleanse, to purge, to separate from sins.
II Gnostics Revealed
A "You know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins." I've been telling you all along that John -- under the inspiration of the Spirit -- gives us tests to determine who is or who is not a true Christian believer. Satan, let me warn you, wants to do the opposite. Satan wants to convince people that false prophets are true prophets, that wrong religion is right religion. Satan is a deceiver and wants to convince people that all is well with their soul when all is not well. Satan wants a church and believers whose emphasis is on tolerance and acceptance. But John wants believers who are discerning, not gullible.
B "You know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins." I've been saying over and over again that gnostics emphasize knowledge; their emphasis is on the mind, the brain, thinking, ideas. Their goal is the highest and purest kind of spiritual knowledge. In their view, the noblest kind of religion relates only to the mind and what it knows. And that knowledge, in and of itself, gives salvation. Under this mindset guess what they view as being unimportant? The body. What the mind knows and thinks, this is what is important. What the body does and wants and how it behaves, this is unimportant. The body is ignored, the mind is elevated.
Think of the practical result of such heresy: namely, it makes no difference how you live. The gnostics claim to walk with God, to have fellowship with God, but they walk and live in darkness. We aren't told the specific sins but in that time and place and culture we can make educated guesses: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissension, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like (cf Gal 5:19-21). According to the gnostics none of these sins of the body matter since the only thing that counts is the mind.
C "You know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins." We have come full circle. People claim to be Christian today who do not live a Christian life. There are people who claim to be Christian who live a life of unbroken sin. Lawless Christians are running around who, quite frankly, are not Christian. I am told the divorce rate among evangelical Christians is no different than the divorce rate among those who don't go to church. Young adults in the church live together before marriage and see nothing wrong with this. People in open rebellion against the Lord go to church and do not change their behavior. Tragic. Troubling. Unbelievable.
Even more amazing: churches are going along with this. There are churches that require no repentance, no confession, no submission, no obedience, no love, no forgiveness, no righteousness and yet they consider such persons to be saved.
The whole work of Christ is denied when a professing Christian practices deliberate sin. A person who deliberately and habitually sins proves he does not know Christ. Those who do not practice righteousness, do not know Jesus. If someone lives in a pattern of sin, if someone habitually and continually and deliberately lives a life of sin, they are not a Christian.
III Christians Revealed
A "You know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins." When a person is truly reconciled to God, when a person is truly converted, when a person is born-again, that person is transformed. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation" (2 Cor 5:17). Jesus appeared so that He might take away your sins and your life of sin. He appeared so that now you can be delivered from lawless deeds. Jesus appeared so we can practice righteousness. Jesus appeared so that we who used to be slaves to sin now are slaves of righteousness. Jesus appeared so that now you can live the righteous life.
Those who know Jesus, practice righteousness. Check your Bibles. You will not find a single justified person who is not also a sanctified person. By the grace of God you dedicate yourself to the service of Christ, you get serious about living out the faith, and you don't run around like a pagan chasing after sex and drugs and alcohol. Once a person knows Christ, they don't want to deliberately disobey God.
Those who know Jesus, practice righteousness. Do you realize how remarkable this is? We are now able to do something that is absolutely and entirely impossible for unrepentant sinners. Romans 3:
There is no one righteous, not even one ...That's us before we know Jesus. Our natural tendency is to hate God and neighbor. Our sinful natural tendency is lawlessness and rebellion. But once we know Jesus, there is also another tendency at work in us -- the tendency to love, to serve, to be holy.
There is no one who does good, not even one.
Regeneration, justification, conversion, saving faith has changed your attitude toward sin. Defiance is replaced with compliance. Rebellion is replaced with obedience. Hatred of God's law is replaced with love for God's law. You attitude becomes the same as that of the psalmist: "for I delight in your commands because I love them" (Ps 119:47).
B "You know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins." This doesn't mean we are perfect or can be perfect in this life. Don't forget what John said in chapter 1: "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 Jn 1:8). The fact is, we do sin. Total sanctification doesn't happen, it can't happen, until Jesus appears for the second time. Yet, there is a difference. Once we know Jesus we don't want to sin. Now we feel guilt and shame when we sin. Now we want to follow the path of righteousness rather than the path of sin. There is a break with sin. It isn't perfection. But the direction of your life has changed.
Can a Christian sin? Can a Christian sin in a terrible way? Can a Christian sin over a long time? Yes, but when we look at David or Peter we see it is an immense grief and agony to that Christian. We struggle. We cry. We moan and groan. We want this body of sin to be put to death.
Those who belong to Christ are putting to death the flesh with its passions and desires. And they are bringing to life the new self. All because Christ has appeared. Notice, it is ongoing action, continual action. Something we work at. Something we fight against.
IV Christ Revealed
A "You know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins." Sin reveals the gnostics, the false Christians, for who they really are. Sin shows who is a true Christian. And, sin reveals the glory and purity of Christ. Where do I get that from? Look at what John adds to our text: "And in him is no sin." Sin is incompatible with Christ and the work of Christ.
"You know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins." "And in him is no sin." This began already with the virgin birth. People talk about babies being so sweet and pure and holy. They look that way because they are babies. But they are born with original sin. They are born with original guilt. They enter this world under the curse of God. There is only one who entered this world as completely sweet and pure and holy. Because Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin, He was born without original sin, without indwelling sin, without guilt.
And He remained that way. During His time on earth He was tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin (Heb 4:15). He takes away our sin. And, He kept Himself away from sin. All sin. All His life. He is the absolutely sinless one.
B "You know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins." "And in him is no sin." Those of you who know your Bibles and your Catechism realize Jesus needs to be the absolutely sinless one. He needs to be the absolutely sinless one because a sinner can never pay for the sin of others.
Christians abide in Him. We live in Him. We are united to Him. We identify with Him. We can't be connected to Jesus without having our relationship to sins dramatically changed. Like Him, we should be sinless and pure.
Why did Jesus come? What do we celebrate at Christmas? "You know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins." He appeared so we can live as holy and righteous people.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page