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“But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.  I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.” 1 John 2:20-21

The biggest problems we have with truth are not about the truth we don’t know. It’s my observation that most often our biggest struggles are with the truth we know but don’t want to follow.

I could site some specific examples but it occurs to me that it doesn’t really matter if the struggle is theological, philosophical, emotional, physical, mental, sexual, or social. The fact is that we don’t become conflicted about things that we don’t believe are wrong; and right and wrong touches every part of the list of categories I’ve just sited.

I’ll grant you that there’s a lot of wrong in everyone of us that we’re unaware of and because of that unawareness we don’t experience guilt over it. That ignorance, however, doesn’t shelter our lives, and the lives of others, from being negatively impacted by those unknown faults. Because of God’s love for us he wants to see us prosper and to this end God desires to cleanse us from all the faults in our lives. To accomplish this he instructs us regarding truth and righteousness, so that he can bring to light everything that’s hiding in the darkness.

But we don’t always want to give up the sin in our lives. There are times when we yield to God’s teaching easily and there are times when the cleansing and changes come only as the result of intense struggle.

It’s in regards to this struggle to yield that John is writing in our focus text today.

First, he affirms the Christian’s connection with the Holy Spirit and then he points out that they don’t need him to come and teach them the truth. And since they don’t need either conversion or instruction John doesn’t write to them as an evangelist or a teacher. Instead, he presents himself as a father reminding them of what they already have and know, and exhorting them to yield and experience the full blessing of the light of God shining in their lives.

It’s only as we open every part of our lives to the light of God that we’re able to experience the fullness of his healing power. So long as we hold onto and hide parts of our lives from God we resist his healing and hinder ourselves from abiding with him. Eventually that darkness we conceal will cause us to become lost again in even greater darkness.

Jesus provides the knowledge, the strength, and the desire to become like him. But he doesn’t make us use them. That choice is ours. It’s time to choose to do the right we know.

“Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.  They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” 1 John 2:18-19

In my last post we looked at the first part of today’s focus text and concentrated on the reality that God leads his children, in every generation, to believe that Christ’s second coming is near. In this post we’ll consider the evidence that John gave that led to this conviction. The Antichrist.

It wasn’t very long after Jesus had ascended into the clouds that the first antichrist leaders began attacking the church. By the time John writes his first letter to the church he can say that many antichrists have come and it’s the presence of these antichrists that John points to when he sites evidence for the nearness of Christ’s return.

What is an antichrist? Literally the word means “against or opposed to Christ”. It can also mean “the opposite of Christ”. Understood simply the word refers to some agent or agency that opposes Christ and his work. They accomplish this work of undermining the Gospel of Jesus Christ by undermining his teachings and by substituting an alternative gospel, and possibly an alternative savior, in place of Christ and his teachings.

The devil will use any means at his disposal to rob people of the salvation Jesus died to provide. It’s Satan’s purpose, now that his ultimate defeat and destruction are determined, to take as many as he can down with him. He can’t attack heaven directly but he knows that God loves us with an everlasting love and he attacks us because through us he can make God’s heart bleed.

Notice where these antichrist agents began their relationship with the church. John writes, “They went out from us…” The antichrists began their association with the church by being part of its community. They’d been part of us. Notice also, that when the antichrists left, John states that they were no longer “of us”.

Many use this text as a reason to be on a perpetual witch hunt to weed out any possible agents operating inside the church. These hunters justify their hunting by saying that they’re protecting God’s church. But Jesus warned us that this kind of activity posed a danger to the harvest. Some of the true believers might be harmed in our efforts to remove the insincere.

Instead Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit and scripture as our defense. Through the Holy Spirit and the teachings of the Bible we learn what we need to know to develop a secure relationship with God and in his name we find our true defense. Proverbs 18:10 tells us that, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.”

Until Christ returns there may always be those that fight against us but, to paraphrase another scripture, He that fights for us is greater that they that fight against us.

“Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.” 1 John 2:18

I’ve heard the message that Jesus is coming soon from preachers and teachers as long as I’ve been alive. One sabbath school teacher, when I was about 10 years old told us that she thought that Jesus would come within ten more years. She didn’t have anything specific to base her prediction on just a strong assurance that Jesus would come soon.

During my high school years, at the boarding academy I attended, I was walking across campus one day when I met an elderly gentleman that had been a family friend for many years. He didn’t recognize me because I’d been a little kid the last time he saw me but I introduced myself and told him who my father was. We had a short visit updating each other on how family members were doing and then I excused myself to go to class. I’ll never forget the last words he said to me, or the solemn way in which he said them, “Remember, Jesus is coming soon.”

As we look at our focus text we discover that this isn’t a new message. It’s a message that’s been being shared for nearly two thousand years. Listen to the apostle John, “Little children, it is the last hour … by this we know that it is the last hour.” There seems to be a powerful drive deep within every Christian to look for and cling to any assurance we can find that tells us that our time is short, in this rat hole of a world, and soon we’ll be with Jesus.

I don’t think it’s a curious coincidence that believers have this same conviction, nor do I think that a communal mental imbalance has caused it. I believe that it’s part of God’s plan that every Christian should be convinced that time is short for this world and Jesus is coming soon.

There’s something within each one of us that needs the assurance that time is short if we’re to have the motivation we need to become the kind of people we need to become. And I don’t believe we’d do the kind of work that the lost in this world need us to do if we didn’t it.

I’ve observed that it’s those without a relationship with God that don’t believe he’s coming soon. Those who have a relationship are certain he is.

I’m certain. I’ve been certain for more than forty years. And while I don’t know when Jesus will return I know this. The evidence is there. The prophecies have been fulfilled. Just a few signs remain and those could be fulfilled in less than a year. Once again, I don’t know when Jesus will return. But like all Christians, for as long as there have been Christians, I know that Jesus is coming soon.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:15-17

Have you ever really, really wanted something that you really shouldn’t have?

Perhaps there wasn’t anything exactly wrong about possessing the thing you wanted it’s just that at this point in your life it costs too much to be responsibly afforded. Or maybe it would require too much time and attention and, regardless of how much you want it, you just don’t have the time to responsibly care for it. And then again, maybe what you want is not just frivolous, or irresponsible, it’s just flat illegal and immoral and you shouldn’t ever want it.

Which ever scenario fits your situation best, I think it’s safe to say, we’ve all had wants that it would have been best that we’d never had.

When I was in college I was wandering around a shopping mall and came across a large Japanese style dagger. This wasn’t one of those pieces of cheap costume weaponry. It was a 14 inch knife made from hardened steal. And while it was unsharpened, it could be sharpened, and I was assured that it would hold an edge.

I wanted that knife.

I didn’t need the knife. Come on, who really needs a knife like that?

I couldn’t afford the knife. The seventy-five bucks they were asking for it would take me months to save up.

But still I wanted that knife. So I saved up my money and I bought it.

That knife has never been of any use to me. And because I don’t have the matching sword it’s not even a good decoration. It was a complete waste of money.

So much of what we love in the world is like my love for that knife. A waste. Some other things are even worse; they’re dangerous. That’s why John warns us to not love the world. What God is leading us to will take us far from the things that a love for the world will lead us to. Indulging a love for the world will only bring greater trial as God separates our hearts from the sin that infects us and bonds our lives to his.

This world is passing away. It’s best to not burden our lives with things that are temporary. Far better to invest ourselves into something that’s enduring. Like a life with God.

“I write to you, little children,
Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.
I write to you, fathers,
Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
Because you have overcome the wicked one.
I write to you, little children,
Because you have known the Father.
I have written to you, fathers,
Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.
I have written to you, young men,
Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you,
And you have overcome the wicked one.” 1John 2:12-14

In our focus text, the apostle John engages in writing a little poetry. It’s written in a very common, simple, style. The first line in each pairing makes a statement in which John declares that he’s written to a specific group in the church: little children, fathers, and young men respectively. The second line pairs to it the reason for the action stated in the first line. There are six pairings presented in two cycles of three pairs.

In the poem, there’s a strong reference to the depth of the relationship the church has with God. They’ve been forgiven, they’ve known “him who is from the beginning” and the Father, they’ve been victorious in battling with the wicked one, they’re strong, and the word abides in them. All of these commendations tell us that the church membership, whether young or old, are deeply rooted in their relationship with God and bearing the fruit of that relationship.

Another relational component is John’s use of the expression, “little children.” John’s already used the expression once in his letter and he will use it several more times, and it refers not to actual little children but to the church membership as a whole.

John is very old at the writing of this letter, and it appears that he has a very fatherly relationship with the church. All the members are his children.

It also strikes me as being a wonderfully fatherly thing for John to commend the church in the way he does. Already the church has weathered attacks as Satan has tried to destroy the church through persecution and attempted to weaken and dilute the gospel by trying to interject Jewish legalism and Greek philosophy. I can just imagine John smiling and sagely nodding his head as he considers their accomplishments and then states in his strong and simple terms the merits he sees present in the church.

But it’s not enough to just write the words. No he has to make them stand out from the rest of the letter. He takes steps to make them memorable. He writes them as poetry.

Too often we neglect to lighten the loads and strengthen the hands of each other by the words of praise and encouragement we have to give. Sometimes, perhaps most times, encouragement accomplishes more than criticism and complaining.

These verses are perhaps some of the least thought about in the entire letter but, I believe, that they were some of the most important to John.

“He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.  But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” 1 John 2:9-11

I was thirteen years old and we were attending Michigan Conference’s teen winter snow outing at Camp Au Sable. Because it was winter the sun set early so there were several hours of darkness between sunset and when we went to bed.

During one of the trips we took between our cabin and the main lodge, where most of the activities were taking place, we decided to race each other through the woods without using our flashlights.

What a crazy, funny thing to do. There we were tumbling into snow banks, running into trees, and crashing into each other as we attempted to break land speed records on those twisting and turning trails. It was only our familiarity with the trails combined with the fact that we had started at a well lit trail head and would end at another that kept us from becoming lost.

But imagine if we hadn’t known the trails and if there had been no light at all so we didn’t know where we were when we started and we wouldn’t know where we were to know when we’d gotten to where we wanted to go. We’d have probably frozen to popsicles as we waited for someone to come and shine a light and show us where we were and how to get where we were going.

In life, we’ve all been looking for someone to come and shine a light so that we can stop crashing around in the darkness. God’s stepped in and he’s shined his light and he’s lighting the way for us. As we stay within the offered comfort and safety of the light we realize that the only way to keep the light is to accept a relationship with God. And we say yes. But we haven’t walked very far when we encounter someone else lost in the darkness and they rush into the comfort of the light. A little further on and we run into another, and then another. Before long the circle of light is filled with lost people all trying to keep as close to the source of light as they can.

In frustration we begin to wish that some of these people would just go away and stop crowding into the light and it’s here that God tells us that he didn’t come out into the darkness to find just us. He’s trying to find as many lost people as he can and we can only keep our relationship with him if we care about the others lost in the dark and help him as he works through the night to find them.

In our focus text we’re told that if we “hate” our brother we’re still lost in the dark. The Greek word translated, “hate,” literally means, “to love less.” So you don’t have to despise someone or want them dead to hate them. All you need to do is love them less than you do yourself.

Only the light of God is able to show the state of our hearts. As his love for you reveals your indifference to others will you let him open your eyes and teach you to love like he does.

“Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.” 1 John 2:7-8

When I was a teenager it became cool for a bunch of us, at the boarding school we were attending, to find and wear vintage over coats, suit coats, and ties. I guess someone had noticed that his father’s, or grandfather’s, old clothes were a match for the fashion trends currently in style and decided to save some money by borrowing some of them. Some of the rest of us, not having closets of vintage clothes to raid, instead started prowling thrift stores for others peoples cool cast offs.

Solomon was right, there’s nothing new under the sun. Especially when it comes to fashion, what goes around comes back around. Far sooner than you’d image the old becomes new again.

But the apostle John wasn’t thinking of the cyclical nature of fashion trends when he wrote our focus text nearly two thousand years ago.

The apostle begins by writing two sentences emphasizing to the early Christians that he’s not telling them anything new. It’s, in fact, so old that they’ve had it from the very beginning. But then it’s like he reconsiders what he just written and contradicts himself by saying that the commandment is new because of Jesus.

How can something be both old and new?

As we’ve already noted, in art or fashion it happens quite frequently. An artist finds something old and before you know it a gigantic old wooden gear becomes a new piece of modern art. A fashion designer finds something else and, wallah, suddenly a forgotten relic becomes the hot new accent for the next fashion lineup. But, more often than not, that old item is somehow different in the way it’s used and seen. The light of fashion causes us to see something new in the old and forgotten.

Even more this is true when it comes to the way the light of Jesus’ life shines and illuminates the truth of God’s law and the rest of the scriptures. Until we saw the realities spoken of in the law lived out in the life of Jesus we were far too likely to place limits on how far those truths could be applied to our lives. Until, Jesus came and opened our eyes to what love, and goodness, and truth really were, we were far too likely to accept poor substitutes and believe they were the genuine article.

But Jesus, without changing one jot or one title of God’s word, transformed everything. Because of him our eyes, like the eyes of the blind, have been opened to see new things in the earliest messages God ever sent to us.

O Jesus, keep opening our eyes to the wonderful things you’ve been telling us all along.

“But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.  He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” 1 John 2:5-6

For three and a half years the disciples had followed Jesus. They’d listen to him teach about the law of God and the kingdom of heaven. They’d watched as he healed all kinds of conditions, even death. They witnessed him take control over the elements and other parts of the natural world. And then after a night of praying they watched his lifeless body as it was laid in a grave. And after three days the impossible happened. He appeared in the middle of a room, alive and whole, except for the nail scars in his hands and feet, and the scar from the soldier’s spear in his side. So once again they listened as he taught, and watched as he worked until that day when they watched him as he was taken up into heaven.

What was it all for?

I submit to you that the three and a half years of following, and working, and being with Jesus were to teach the disciples what it means to have a relationship with God. Some of the things they understood and some of the things they only heard or saw and would come to understand later. The forty days of seeing, and hearing, and being with Jesus were to bring home to their hearts the fact that their relationship with Jesus wasn’t over. While they would no longer see him, face to face, they would still work with him, they would still be taught by him, and they would still be able to watch as he performed mighty miracles in the world all around them.

Friends, everything we’re going to consider as we work our way through John’s letter is about what it means to have a relationship with God. What having that relationship does for you and how it changes you. If you don’t have a relationship you can’t experience, or even understand, these things. And if you don’t experience these things it’s evidence that you don’t have a relationship with God.

There’s a saying, regarding the combining of ingredients in cooking, that applies particularly when the cook is not following an established recipe, “The proof is in the pudding.” It basically means that you know if the cook followed the rules of good cookery if what they’re cooking turns out right.

In our focus text, the apostle is telling us that we can tell if we have a relationship with God by whether or not our lives are characterized by obedience to the teachings of God in his word, by how similar our lives are to the life of Jesus. The proof is in the pudding. A life that demonstrates obedience to the life and teachings of Jesus demonstrates that that life is being lived connected with Jesus.

“Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” 1John 2:3-4

After recording Christ’s teaching in regards to the signs of his second coming, the apostle Matthew records Jesus’ teaching of the cautionary parable of the 10 virgins.

In this parable ten young women are described as waiting for the coming of the bridegroom to summon and welcome guests to his marriage feast. There’s, however, a delay in making the call and all of the young women fall asleep. This results in all their lamps running low on oil and it’s in regards to this need that the wise are distinguished from the foolish. For the wise have brought extra oil and the foolish have not.

Because of their preparedness, the wise are able to immediately add oil to their lamps and go out to meet the bride groom while the foolish have to go in search of oil.

Finally, after having completed their search, the foolish come to the house of the bridegroom and ask to be let in but the bridegroom refuses them entrance with the words, “I do not know you.”

This parable illustrates the fact that there are actions that we need to take if we’re going to be ready to meet Jesus when he returns. Those that are truly desiring to enter in will be obedient to take those actions and be prepared.

The apostle John, in our focus text, adds his agreement to this assertion. “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.”

Like Matthew, John presents our relationship with God as being the factor of primary importance. And so it is. God has never questioned the sinners desire to live in paradise, walking streets of gold, housed in a mansion of gold, wearing a robe of light, with all our difficulties and cares swept away. But God does question the sincerity of our sinful hearts expressed desire to know him, and to live with him, and to be his child.

So Jesus, through John, tells us that if we want to know him in heaven we need to begin the process of knowing him before we ever get there. We need to begin obeying him now. If can’t begin obeying him now then we can’t say that we know him. We can’t even say that we want to know him.

And what God is looking for in us is a genuine desire to return to what we lost in Eden. A relationship with him. A desire to know him.

“And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” 1 John 2:1-2

There’s a passage in the Old Testament, Zechariah chapter three, that’s, to me, one of most beautiful scenes in all of scripture.

In it the prophet is shown a vision of Joshua the high priest standing before God and the devil. The scene is a scene of judgment. God is the judge, Satan is the accuser, and Joshua is the accused. Joshua’s guilt is obvious in the vision as it is illustrated by his wearing of filthy clothes. Satan’s accusation against Joshua isn’t given but it’s apparent that something has been presented because God rebukes Satan in defense of Joshua.

“The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” Zechariah 3:2

This is what John is talking about when he says that we have an Advocate with the Father.

When someone’s your advocate in court they’re there to make sure that your side and your needs are given the consideration that they need and deserve. And when we come before God with the guilt of our sin plain for all to see. And we come with true humility, not trying to justify or excuse what we’ve done, but simply and honestly confessing our sins to God, repenting of what we’ve done. God forgives us and he, instead of rebuking us, rebukes the devil because we’re one of those that he has saved from the fires of destruction.

But God’s ability to passover our sins isn’t that simple. That’s why our focus text says that Jesus is more than an advocate. He’s also the “propitiation for our sins.”

A propitiation is someone, something, or some action that serves to both appease the wrath of an offended person and to reconcile that person back to the offender.

Our sin places us in a position of deserving God’s wrath and in being unable to offer anything that would satisfy to appease that wrath. Only God was capable of doing anything that would satisfy to propitiate us to Himself. And God, the injured party, the one whose wrath was justified against us, took it upon himself to bear our punishment and to reconcile us to himself.

There are people who question whether or not God is a God of love. Friends, if God wasn’t a God of love we’d all be justifiably dead, executed for our crimes against the law of God. But God is more than merely just. He’s also loving. And in his love he’s chosen to take the way that makes it possible for us to be forgiven, saved, and restored to him even though it requires that he take our penalty.

And that’s what he does because that’s who he is. He’s on our side. He’s our advocate. He’s our propitiation.

“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin.” 1 John 2:1

So. Why do you sin?

I know, such a ridiculous questions. We sin for the same reason everybody else on the face of the earth sins. We’re sinners. We can’t help ourselves.

The thing is, our focus text really seems to be telling us that Jesus has taken away any excuse we have for our sinful behavior. Let’s take a look at it again.

“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin.”

What John is telling us is that back in what he wrote in chapter one of his letter to the church is everything that’s required for us to have total victory over the sin in our lives.

And now you’re asking the same question I asked when I let the meaning of that sentence sink in for the first time. “What did I miss?” So I went back and reread all ten verses of the first chapter. I took note that first John gave us his qualifications, after that he gave us an invitation to a relationship with God, and then he told us that if we’d admit our sins Christ would forgive and cleanse us. And that’s it.

At first I didn’t get where in those verses the apostle had given us the ultimate solution to all sin in our lives and the it hit me. God is the answer!

A relationship with God is the cure for all of the sin that plagues our lives. Jesus brings the forgiveness and cleansing we need, because of his death on the cross, and the Father and the Holy Spirit join him in giving us everything else we need for total victory over any present and future sin that needs to be dealt with.

So many times we make victory over sin so complicated, so illusive, and so unattainable by adding additional baggage to the solution God has provided. I think much of scripture is written to help us handle all that extra luggage, those questions and objections we present because we’re trying to hang onto any pet or besetting sins we may have. But none of that changes the reality of the cure that God has given.

God has given himself. He is the cure. To accept him is to reject sin and to allow him to drive it from your life.

So, if we’ve got a problem with sin then we must be doing something that amounts to pushing God away. Because he is the cure for sin.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

The apostle John, in his first letter to the Christian Church, is leading us through a consideration of the results and changes that come when we accept a relationship with God. The first thing that happens is that Jesus steps forward to begin the process of cleansing our sins away with his own life’s blood. Yesterday, we considered one of our possible responses to this offer of cleansing, that of denial.

Given the state of our lives it seems ridiculous that we would offer this kind of response but it happens all the time. “I’m not that dirty, Jesus. I’ll take care of that myself.” “Really, Jesus. There’s nothing wrong with me the way I am.” “Yes, Jesus, I want to follow you but I don’t need to change anything in order to do that.”

We could extend the string of possible rejections for the cleansing offer to fill any number of pages and the result would have the same affect. We reject, on the grounds of not being sinful, the cleansing necessary for us to even begin a relationship with God.

But there’s a second response. One that’s only partially understood by many Christians because we all too often lift our focus text out of the context in which it was written, and read it by itself.

Our focus text reveals the second response with these words, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Taken on their own, these words appear to be giving us a key to unlocking heaven’s janitors closet so that Jesus can come and clean up our sins.

Such an understanding has sent many Christians on a never ending quest to discover all the sins buried deep within themselves so that they can receive the depth of cleansing the Bible says we need. But it’s an impossible quest for us. Our sinfulness is too pervasive, and we’re too often blind to it. Eventually such a quest leads us to give up our initial admission of honesty regarding our sins and return to the other option in responding to Christ’s offer of cleansing, that of denial of need.

But John isn’t telling us to confess to Jesus the sins we’ve uncovered. He’s telling us that we need to agree with Jesus, and confess the sins that He has revealed in our lives.

Heaven’s janitors closet is standing open. Jesus is already prepared to begin the task of cleansing. He’s pointing to your filthiness and he’s saying, “Won’t you let me take care of that for you? Please let me clean you up.”

We don’t ever have to look for sin in our lives. Each day we simply need to renew our acceptance of Christ’s offered relationship with him. Each day the accepted light of his presence will reveal more cleansing that needs to take place. And each day, like the days before, we simply, humbly, and gratefully say, “Yes Jesus, you’re right, that needs to be washed away. I can’t do it, Jesus. I need you to take care of this one too.”

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8

It’s something I’ve done and I’d lay odds that it’s something you’ve done.

You were part of some activity that you weren’t supposed to be doing. It doesn’t really matter what it was. Only two things matter for the sake of our illustration. First, as we’ve already mentioned, you were doing something you shouldn’t have been doing. And second, you lied about you’re involvement.

Perhaps you didn’t try and say that you weren’t there at all. Maybe you just tried to tell the story so that you didn’t look quite as guilty as you really were. It doesn’t really matter the exact nature of the lie only that when it came time to own up to your actions you tried to disown something you’d done.

The thing is we try to pull this same same stunt with God all the time. How ridiculous is that? He sees, hears, and knows everything, even our thoughts and motives, and we’re trying to get one over on him?

As our focus text tells us, when it comes to who we are and what we’ve done, the only one we’re even remotely capable of deceiving is ourselves. Those who know us best know we’re guilty. Those who don’t even know us at all know enough about human nature to know we’re guilty. God and the angels have been witnesses to our sin so they know the truth. That leaves only us trying to convince ourselves that we’re better than we really are.

When it comes to a relationship with God the first thing God requires from us is complete honesty in regards to who we are and what we’ve done.

When we said, “Yes,” to a relationship with God the first thing Jesus does when we enter that relationship is step forward to cleanse us with his own shed blood. This action on Jesus part tells us that he knows that we’re filthy with sin and that we’re helpless to get ourselves clean. The only hope for us is that he’ll step forward and do the job.

But he can’t get us clean if we’re in denial as to how bad off we really are. And so many of us are running away from Jesus making excuses and trying to convince him and ourselves that we’re not as sinful as we really are.

In the end it’s your choice. You can lie to yourself, and deny your need, and walk away from the only hope of salvation you have, the relationship with God he’s offering.

Here at the beginning God’s only asking for your honesty regarding your condition and your need for him. Is that too much to ask?

“If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Mark 1:6-7

I have friends, that are very gifted and intelligent people, that are thought, by most people who know them, to be very irresponsible and unreliable. I’m certain that’s not how they see themselves. They see all the tasks they complete everyday, and all the effort they put into making sure that whatever they do it’s the highest quality product anyone could produce. And they see themselves as productive, responsible, and reliable. What they fail to account for is the large number of times they’re very late to appointments, and the frequency with which they, at the last hour, have to tell friends or family that they won’t be able to fulfill a commitment they’ve volunteered for, leaving the rest of the already overburdened volunteers to figure out how to cover for them at the last minute.

And you can tell that they’re frustrated to be thought of as unreliable, but reputations, like so many things are the product of cause and effect. The pattern of the way we live our lives produces the pictures, that define the relationships we have with people, often defining who we are to them.

In the same way, what we do spiritually has a direct cause and effect relationship on who we are in our relationship with God.

God is light, only light, and the only way we can ever say that we’re with God is if we’re living our lives in the light.

Walking in darkness, that is, living a life following after selfishness and sin, puts us on a path apart from God, leading to a very different destination from the one God is bound for.

Most of us come to Christ primarily because we want a relationship with God and because we know that we need forgiveness and cleansing from sin. Our focus text reveals that there is a cause and effect relationship between the pattern of our lives and the reality of our fellowship with God and the cleansing from sin we seek.

“If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Do you see the pattern? “If we walk in the light…we have fellowship…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses…”

Understand, a life of obedience doesn’t earn us salvation; Jesus bought and paid for that with his own life’s blood. But walking in the light, that is being obedient to God’s instructions, does place us where we need to be, so that we can have the relationship with God we need, so that we can receive the cleansing that only Jesus’ blood can give.

“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to meet people with a variety of different conditions we would call handicaps. Several have been deaf, a few have been blind, others have been paralyzed and in wheel chairs. One thing I’ve learned is that if you don’t also have the condition the other person has you really have no idea what life is like for them.

You can try to imagine what life’s like but even with that you really only touch on the bigger, the more obvious things, people with those conditions deal with all the time. In addition to those things there are a myriad of other things, some big, some not so big, that shape, flavor and color, everything, all because they’re blind, or deaf, or paralyzed. We can try to understand what it’s like to be them but we never really can.

In the same way, while God invites us to have a relationship with him, and he wants us to know him, we can never really understand what it’s like to be God. The best we can do is tune into the more obvious of his characteristics and try to imagine what it’s like to be like that. The greatest adventure we’ll have for all eternity is the opportunity to forever grow in our understanding of our amazing God.

In 1John 1:1-4, the apostle has led us to the point where he’s invited us into a relationship with the Father and the Son. As we proceed with the rest of John’s letter we move ahead following the assumption that the reader has said, “yes,” to the invitation. John now takes up the task of teaching us what we need to know, and what life will be like, now that we’re living in a relationship with God. And there’s no better guide than John. He walked and talked, face to face, with Jesus and he’s lived another sixty plus years serving, worshipping and living a life connected to with Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

The first thing John teaches us about understanding God is, “God is light and in Him there is not darkness at all.”

As we move into the verses that follow our focus text it becomes clear that the darkness, John is referring to, isn’t the same as sin. It’s hard to precisely define exactly what John’s referring to but it seems that the darkness is referring to conditions that exist when sin is present in the life.

Our lives are profoundly affected by sin, and darkness, but God is so perfectly holy that he’s not only is totally without sin he’s also without any of the conditions associated with sin.

What does that mean for us? It means that now that we have a relationship with God our lives are going to completely, and totally change. Bit by bit, piece by piece, each part of our lives is going to be taken apart, repaired, polished, and realigned so that we will be in harmony with the God of light.

Now that you’re with God everything is going to change to match the new reality that you’re with God.

“That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.  And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” 1 John 1:3-4

Knowing, and keeping in mind, the objective or goal is often the most important single thing a person can do if they are going to be successful.

Because I’m a preacher I’m most familiar with the application of this statement as regarding preaching.

Early in my training in the art and skill of preaching I was told that the one thing that set preaching apart from just talking about spiritual things is that a sermon always asks the listener to make a decision regarding their relationship with God. As preachers we call this part of the sermon “the appeal” and I was taught that a preacher should begin his, or her, sermon preparation with the appeal. This way everything that’s included serves to help lead the listener to make the decision called for in the appeal.

I could easily imagine that it’s equally important in business to keep in mind the objective you have if that business, and all the people and other parts of it, are to best work together to achieve success for the business. If you don’t have a clear understanding of what product or service your business is trying to provide it can be very difficult to stay focused on providing what you’ve set out to provide. And success becomes illusive when you don’t know your purpose.

The apostle John is an old man as he’s writing his letter to the Christian Church. Scholars believe that he may be about ninety years old. Six or seven decades have passed since he became a disciple and witness for Jesus. In his lifetime he’s seen the church grow and extend its reach far into Europe, Asia, and Africa. In the beginning it was the disciples, those that had known Jesus, that had led the churches. But now most of that generation are gone. John is among the last that remain and he knows that he won’t live many more years.

As he writes his letter, and I believe his gospel as well, John’s sets as his objective the task of reminding Christians that their purpose is to call people to accept a relationship with God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Church. This relationship isn’t something that will come at some distant point in the future. This is a genuine relationship that God is offering us right now.

John knows that Jesus is yearning for us to accept the fellowship he’s offering and at the beginning of his letter you can hear him making this call to a relationship with God, “Come have fellowship with us. Truly our fellowship is with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.”

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us…” 1John 1:1-2

What’s it like to have a large dog as a member of your household?

Most people couldn’t tell you what’s it’s like simply because of the fact that they haven’t experienced it, so they don’t know.

If you were to ask me, I’d ask you, “What breed: St. Bernard, Great Dane, or Greyhound?” I have experience living with or around all three of these breeds. I should say that having lived with dogs of this size I don’t really think of Labs, and Collies, and most Shepherds as being large dogs, though I know most people do. To me they’re medium sized dogs. I guess it’s a matter of experience and perspective.

Most people can only imagine what it’s like to live with a large breed of dog and while our imaginations are amazing tools in helping us prepare for what we don’t know there’s really no comparison between imagination and actual experience.

The Apostle John, as he writes his first letter to the Christian Church, begins by presenting his, and his fellow apostles, real world experience as his credentials.

“We’re telling you about the things we heard, what we saw, those things we had the opportunity to study, what we got to touch. We have personal, intimate experience with Jesus, the Word of Life.”

It’s from this up close and personal experience with Jesus that they testify and bear witness.

“We’ve seen that eternal life is real. That life lives together with God the Father and was made manifest to us and now we’ve come to tell you about the eternal life we’ve seen.”

Friends, as Christians, we have a great number of truths that we can share with the people God puts us in contact with. There’s healthy living, prophetic signs of the end of the world, the unchanging law of God, spiritual gift, etc., etc. All of these truths are good and necessary for a growing, maturing Christian to study and learn. But there’s one truth that is the number one truth to know and not lose sight of. And that’s what John opens his letter with.

Jesus, he’s the beginning and he’s the life. He is eternal life for us. In the midst of all the important truths contained in the everlasting Gospel never lose sight of the One that is of surpassing importance. Jesus. He makes everything clear. He puts everything else in its proper place.

“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.’ ” Mark 16:15-16

When I was a boy, maybe eleven or twelve years of age, I found a introductory book for learning the Spanish language in our house.

“This is cool,” I said to my self. And I decided that I was going to learn Spanish.

And so began my first attempt at learning a second language. There have been two or three additional tries at learning Spanish. One was a college language course and the last two were attempts using the Rosetta Stone curriculum.

All of that work and I still don’t speak Spanish.

I assign most of the reason for my failure to learn on the fact that I almost never have anyone to practice Spanish with. And for most people the key to learning to speak a language is lots of opportunities to practice speaking it.

Quite honestly, I think that’s the key to learning anything new. Lots of opportunities to use it.

We practice reading and math skills for years in order to master them. Whenever there’s a new task we’re slow at first but after a while we can almost do it with our eyes closed all because we’ve done it so many times.

Perhaps that’s what’s lacking for so many Christians, when it comes to their growth in their understanding of the teachings of Jesus. They’ve spent a lot of time listening to teachers and preachers explain, and put their beliefs into words but they’ve spent very little time sharing what they believe with others. As a result they continue to be immature regarding the depth of their own belief and stunted in their ability to share it with others.

Jesus disciples weren’t very experienced when it came to preaching and teaching. In some ways they were still immature when it came to the depth of their own understanding of Jesus and his kingdom. Only weeks before they’d gone through a spiritual crises largely because they hadn’t been listening to Jesus very well. Yet Jesus still commanded them to start preaching the gospel to the world.

Jesus knew that in order for understanding to grow those beliefs had to be used. On top of that the world needed to know that the price had been paid so that they could be saved from their sin. So he supplied both needs by sending his students out to be his first cohort of teachers.

Many churches today are crying out for God to supply their needs when if they’d just look in the mirror they’d see one of the people God has already sent to get the job done.

“Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.” Mark 16:9-11

Have you ever been told something that was just unbelievable?

When I was in college, Dr. Scorpio, one of the professors in the chemistry department told us about how he’d been called in to help settle a case in which a student had been accused of cheating on a test.

The student hadn’t actually been caught cheating. In this case the evidence submitted against the student was that too much of the written answers on the test were worded exactly as the material was presented in the text book. You’d expect some similarity but to have every written answer absolutely word for word what was found in the text book was, in the thinking of the teacher, explainable only by cheating.

The student, however, protested his innocence, claiming that he had just written down what he remembered.

The teacher was disinclined to accept this answer because it seemed impossible that anyone could remember so much material verbatim.

Then someone suggested that he might have perfect recall or a photographic memory. This too seemed impossible. I mean we talk about this ability but how many people do you know that actually have perfect recall?

“Well, let’s test it,” someone suggested.

So they got a book they were certain the student had never seen before and told him to read. After several minutes they took the book, gave him paper and pen, and told him to write. After the student had filled a few pages they then compared what he had written with the text in the book and they were the same. The student claims were proven possible.

Sometimes things seem to be impossible. Jesus’ resurrection was one of those things for the disciples. But it was true nonetheless. What’s more, Jesus resurrection fit what he’d already demonstrated he could do. He’d healed all types of diseases. Restored sight, hearing, and mobility. Raised the dead. Evicted demons from the possessed. Commanded the winds and the waves. If he could do all that, how unreasonable is it for Jesus to do just what he said and rise up from the dead?

It’s not unreasonable at all. Jesus’ resurrection, while impossible for you and me, fits the pattern of what Jesus has proven is possible for him.

“But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.’ ” Mark 16:6-7

There the women were. At the grave where they’d seen Joseph of Arimathea place the body of Jesus. In their hands they carried ointments and perfumes so that they could apply additional applications to our Saviors lifeless body.

The first surprise they get that morning is that the stone covering the entrance to the tomb has already been rolled away. Someone else is here ahead of them.

But when they enter the tomb they don’t see any sober, yet familiar, persons tending to their Saviors form. In fact, Jesus is gone and in his place they are greeted by a young man they don’t know who assures them that Jesus, “just as he said,” has risen from the dead and he is going ahead of them into Galilee and that they should tell the disciples – and Peter – that he will see them there.

There are a few things that impress me in this brief encounter. The first is Jesus’ kindness in having one of his angels remain at the tomb to explain what happened to women that would come there first and discover that he was no longer in the grave. He didn’t have to. He’d already told them he was going to rise on the third day. He could have left the disciples to figure it out from their memories of what he’d already told them. But he didn’t. He moved ahead with kindness and gentleness.

Then there’s the part where he specifically instructs the women to tell Peter. After his denials Peter is doubting his right to consider himself a disciple but Jesus doesn’t kick him to the curb. Jesus makes sure that Peter knows he’s included in the invitation to meet him in Galilee.

And then there’s the words, “as He said to you.” It not a dig, like we might say to one another. But it is a reminder that Jesus has given them instructions about what’s going to happen and what they’re supposed to do. If they’ll take a step away from their grief and confusion and take the time to think and remember they’ll be able to cooperate with Jesus in the next phase of his work to save the world.

For us today this third observation is, without a doubt, the most important. Many times the gospel is presented as Jesus died and is risen and that’s it. But there’s more to saving the world than that. Jesus first had to purchase the means of salvation by giving himself to died in our place. After that comes the convincing of each person about the need to accept that salvation. For that he enlists our help. We’re His witnesses. He calls us away from the trauma that so often afflicts us and bids us to come to him. He himself will assure us before he sends us out to share his great salvation with those he longs to save.