Rev. Kurt Lantz 2 Easter B 1 John 1:1-2:2
April 11, 2021 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel Reading for today St. John tells us why he wrote it: “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). Similarly, in the Epistle Reading for today, also written by St. John, he tells us why the apostles wrote letters to the Christian churches: “we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete” (1 John 1:4) and more directly: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin” (1 John 2:1).
There are not three different reasons for John’s writing, but they are all for the same reason: That you may have life; and that will be joyful; and that life of complete joy is free from sin. It is all one thing and it is not just wrapped up together like a three stranded rope, so that you could make due if leaving one of them out. It is more like a solution of three ingredients which dissolve into each other. If one ingredient is missing, then you don’t have the life that Jesus’ death and resurrection has won for you. For, if you believe that you have eternal life, joy fills you, and you do not sin. If you sin, you do not have life with God and joy will be absent.
That doesn’t mean that we always have these ingredients in the proper proportions, but they are truly compounded. Those who believe that they have life with God because of the death and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins are not always joyful, because there is a lot of other sin and its disastrous effects that weigh in on them in this life. So we keep needing to hear the Gospel to give us the joy of knowing that all that would take away our joy in life has been conquered in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Those who try to have joy without having life with God through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus for their sins, suffer from a self-deception that robs them of any true and lasting life. They may almost be able to convince themselves that they have a life full of joy, but one day their woeful self-deception will come clear to them and they will come crashing down even to the depths of hell if it comes too late.
Those who try to have life and joy but also keep indulging in the sins which they think are the source of their joy, not only bring sad consequences on themselves, they also rob those around them of the joy that ought to be theirs in a life with God in Christ Jesus. It is, in fact, sin which is the negative ingredient in the equation. Positively, we would say it is holiness, sinlessness. When sin is in the mix there cannot be fellowship with God or His people in any joyful sense.
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ does not bring joy to you as a cherry on the top of an indulgent dessert. It is not an extra on top of the rest. It is part of the sweetness of life with God and His people. The death and resurrection of Jesus was to get rid of sin, so that you can be holy and have a life in fellowship with God and with one another that is full of joy. As long as sin remains, that kind of life that He has secured for you is unattainable.
So when Jesus rose from the dead He didn’t just appear to His followers with a celebratory “I’m back, baby.” But He came saying, “Peace be with you... If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (John 20:21, 23). The forgiveness of sins is inextricably wound up with a life of peace and joy. Unless you get rid of the sin, you won’t have life or joy. The life that God has for you, the life that Jesus purchased for you with His own, is a life of fellowship with other Christians and with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. It can only be a life where sin is forgiven and no longer impairs the fellowship that we have with God or with one another.
The Apostle John sets forth three scenarios to make sure we cover all the bases:
First, “If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6). That means that if we deliberately choose to live in opposition to His Word, we do not have life with Him. We will not live with Him now or for eternity. Many people today want to walk a path believing that they can have eternal joy and live outside of one or two of God’s commandments. But it doesn’t hold together with what the Lord tells us through His apostle. You cannot have life with the God who is light and holiness while living in the darkness of any sin.
As much as the way of sin certainly destroys the joyous life that Jesus’ death and resurrection has won for you, there is a way to walk that assures us that we have the full life that our loving God graciously gives. “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). If we walk according to His Word, in the light of His holy presence, our life is secure with Him and He forgives and cleanses us from everything that would separate us from Him.
The blood of Jesus, which was poured out for us on the cross and is poured into us in the Lord’s Supper, purifies us from all the sin that would defile us: from the sin that we wallowed in and from the sin around us that seemed to have us trapped with no way out. He has provided a new and living way through the blood of Jesus for everyone who has lived a life in opposition to His Word, that they might be purified from it and walk in His ways.
Secondly, even if we have been extricated from a sinful lifestyle or circumstance, we need to acknowledge that there are many times when our sinful nature still makes its presence known and felt. We need to continually flee for refuge to the infinite mercy of our loving God and Father. We remind ourselves regularly with God’s Word given to us through St. John: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). We can never claim that we have no more need of God’s mercy in the forgiveness of sins. We cannot claim that we are pure enough to go it alone.
He is a God for sinners only and if we deny that we are sinners we have no life with Him. It is scary to confess our sins when we believe that we will have to pay for them. But if we truly believe that Jesus, His Son, died and rose again for the forgiveness of our sins, we can be truthful to ourselves and before Him. We can let Him be our God. “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). He is faithful to forgive and cleanse us as He promised. He is just to apply the merits of His dear Son’s innocent suffering and death to purify us wholly.
Finally, “If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:10). We ought not want to live in sin, nor to fall to sin, but neither can we ever claim to be without sin. Our depraved inclinations come to expression in our daily life. We cannot go a day claiming not to have sinned. There is no situation of stress or conflict in our lives in which our own sin is not part of the problem. We do not live by God’s Word when we boast that we have done everything right. We live by His Word when we confess that we have done things that are wrong. For it is His Word that points this truth out to us.
Thankfully, His Word also points out to us that: “if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). We have one who comes to our defence when we confess our guilt. He speaks for us and testifies on our behalf that the crime has been punished in full. The entire debt has been paid. The sin and guilt has been placed on someone else and we are fully and completely innocent and cleared of all charges.
Our great Defender is the one who took our sins upon Himself and suffered for them all to the fullest extent of God’s holy Law. Jesus is the propitiation, the complete and full sacrifice for our sins. We know that He covers all of our sins entirely, because He didn’t only pay for ours but for the sins of the whole world. He has more than fully covered our transgressions.
It is only in the knowledge of this full and complete forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ death and resurrection that joy is possible in a life with God our Father and with one another. In knowing that my sins and completely forgiven in the loving act of a just and holy God, I can live in peace and joy with Him, grateful that all that He has done in Jesus Christ He has done for me; and all that He continues to do in my life, whether it be through suffering or delight, He does so that I can live with Him eternally and with all of His people.
With the good and glad news of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ for me and for the whole world, I can live in peace and joy with others. I know that just as I have been cleansed of the effects of their sins against me, so they are cleansed of the effects of my sins against them. We are purified for life together with God the Father and with His Son. There is no sin that they have done that will stick to me for eternity and there is nothing that I could do to them that Jesus cannot cleanse. In the knowledge that we are all purified by His blood, we can learn to live with one another in peace and love.
This is the eternal life of fellowship with God and with one another that makes our joy complete and it is ours through the forgiveness of sins that Jesus has purchased for us by His suffering, death, and resurrection. It is life eternal. It is life now. And it is ours in the forgiving grace that we have daily. It is only in this forgiving grace and love of God and of one another that true joy is to be found. And God has provided all that is necessary for us to have it truly and forever in our life with Him and with one another.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.