BANE or BLESSING -1 John 1:9
By Dr. Bill Gillham
When you were born you began constructing a "truth" screen over your mind. You filtered everything through this screen, rejecting anything that stuck in its web. You were super naïve and soon accepted the Santa Claus myth. You didn't question how he and his reindeer could fly or how this round man could slide down chimneys and keep his suit clean including its white collar! Santa lives! Mom and dad said so. In time, you became more sophisticated at screening. Your parents admitted they'd gone along with the Santa story for your enjoyment-that dad really was Santa. You reconstructed your truth screen and ricocheted Santa, his elves, and reindeer into outer space. Over the years you've done more reconstruction than the NYC Street Department.
There's a portion of your truth screen that I want to focus on-your "religious" screen. Just as your early belief in Santa affected your behavior, what you believe about Christianity will influence the way you live. You want to get it right.
Pretend you're a member of a first century church near Ephesus. The apostle, John, has written a circular letter (First John) that will be read to the congregation this morning. Certain influential men in your church are openly immoral, sleeping around, leering at the sisters, and recruiting others to join them. John is very concerned about these "early Gnostics" and believes they're lost. He contrasts the saved wheat against the lost tares thirty-one times in this brief letter! Adjust your truth screen to accommodate this scene. Remember now, you've never heard of 1 Jn. 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness," so remove your knowledge of that information from your screen. Gnostics believed all physical matter was evil; therefore Christ couldn't have had a body, thus making the crucifixion a myth. In their minds, Christ was not a human being, but a phantom. They also believed it was not sinful, but normal to practice pious religion and immorality simultaneously! Gnostics believed they had no sin; they were not born again.
The pastor begins to read. (You're "listening" with the mindset that John is contrasting two groups-born-again folks vs. Gnostics. I've used notes to identify the players whom I believe his pronouns represent. Since Gnostics believed Christ had no body, John, an eyewitness, begins by establishing that Jesus was both divine and human.)
1 John 1
(It's a good idea to read the colored notes below before you go on!)
2 Early Gnostics
3 Father, Son, Holy Spirit and saints
4 saints(1) "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we1 have seen with our1 eyes, what we1beheld and our1hands handled, concerning the Word of Life (Jesus)(2) and the life (Jesus) was manifested, and we1 have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you4 the eternal life (Jesus), which was with the Father and was manifested to us1.
(3) what we1 have seen and heard we1 proclaim to you2 also, that you2 also may have fellowship with us4 ; and indeed our4 fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.
(4) And these things we1 write, so that our4 joy may be made complete.
(5) And this is the message we1 have heard from Him and announce to you2 that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
(6) If we2 say that we2 have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we2 lie and do not practice the truth;
(7) but if we4 walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we4 have fellowship with one another3, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us4 from all sin.
(8) If we2 say that we2 have no sin, we2 are deceiving ourselves2, and the truth is not in us2.
(9) If we2 confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us2 our sins and to cleanse us2 from all unrighteousness.
(10) If we2 say that we2 have not sinned, we2 make Him a liar, and His word is not in us2."
John says these early Gnostics needed to be saved and 1 Jn. 1:9 tells them how! Today, however, well-meaning mentors mistakenly teach that 1 Jn. 1:9 tells Christians how to deal with "unforgiven" sin. Unforgiven sin? Gang, the only folks with unforgiven sin are the non-believers! New Creations are forgiven of all sins. Look what John says thirteen verses later in the same letter, "I am writing to you4, little children, because your4 sins are forgiven you4 for His name's sake" (2:12). New Creatures' sins are forgiven!
Caution: Never evaluate teaching via your emotions. They can't even think! Trust only the Holy Spirit, not this writer or religious tradition. Our forgiveness benefits two parties, not one. A lover can best demonstrate the magnitude of his love via the objects of his affection: the more unworthy the object, the more glorious the lover. God demonstrated His unparalleled love by sacrificing Jesus to forgive a bunch of hammerheads. We, on the other hand, needed God's forgiveness so we could gratefully snuggle up to Him in return. However, it's more complex than that. Since God is not a time restricted Being, He sees forever into what we time-critters call "the future" as well as what we call "the past." Time is a meaningless concept to Him. While we see our sins one by one, to God they're simultaneous. You could say human beings march in the time parade, while God hovers over it like a helicopter. 2 Pet. 3:8 says, "...with the Lord one day is a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." 1,000 = 1 = 1,000? What kind of math is that? It's God's math! Our sins are all present tense to God. God washed away ALL your sins in Jesus' blood! They're not covered; they're gone! Without total forgiveness, God would constantly view our sins. He could never fellowship with us, nor could He receive us into His holy presence, let alone indwell us, were we not holy through our crucifixion and rebirth in Christ. "For the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are" (1 Cor. 3:17). We are holy, forgiven saints or an intimate relationship with God would be impossible! God calls you a saint (holy) in sixty-three post-cross verses! Will you bounce all sixty-three off your religious-tradition screen? For a born-again person to ask God to forgive and cleanse him from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9) is unbelief. We saints were "forgiven (Eph. 4:32) and cleansed from all unrighteousness" (1 Cor. 1:30) at salvation. Asking for forgiveness is similar to repeatedly asking Jesus to save you or continuing to ask your spouse to marry you. God must agonize when a born-again person repeatedly exhorts Him to "be faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness," as if He had failed to accomplish this through Jesus! Our obligation is to believe Him. Therefore, what should we do when we've sinned? I believe quickly acknowledging our sin to God keeps us spiritually honed. Failing to do so tempts us to become dull, casual or even indifferent about our sin. (Hey, we say we're sorry when we bump someone on the sidewalk, for heaven's sake!) Then thank God that He forgave us of all our sins at salvation and snuggle into His lap again. Such grace, dear relative, motivates us to holy living. What a God!
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