Sunday, February 13, 2011

To Sin Or Not To Sin

God Is Light, So What

Intro.: I want to ask a question – before I answer it, I want to make clear I don't really expect you to answer – I want to ask the question to make a point.

  1. Here is the question - “Why do you come here week after week?”

  2. I can think of several reasons why you are here:

          1. You like the people who are here

          2. You like the preacher

          3. I really hope it is because you love Jesus and you want to express that love.

  3. I could ask the same question of me – Why am I here?

          1. I am called to preach

          2. I really like you guys

          3. I hope I am here, you should hope I am here, because I really love Jesus

  4. As you can see there are several reasons for what we do.

  5. Let me read a short passage in which John discusses why he wrote this short letter.

Read: I John 2:1-6


Trans: Look at the following:

  1. v 3

  2. v 4

  3. and now 2:1

T.S. Lets look more closely at why John has written this letter. The first verse of chapter 2 lists one reason – with two parts.

  1. John writes, first, to let the recipients of this letter know they do not need to sin.

    1. I don't think any one of us would be surprised if John had written, “Do not sin.”

    2. But listen again to what John writes, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.”

    3. Did you hear it? – he is writing so that they will not sin.

    4. Let me point two things out from this short sentence.

    5. First, John address his readers as children – no to put them down or to be critical in any way – but he address them as children because he cares for them.

(Ill.) mou teknia – my little children. He is showing his love and concern for the believers. It is the same term that a father might use with his children “mou teknia“– my little children.

    1. But there is a more important message here – and by calling his readers “Children” he is saying it as gently as he can.

    2. That other message is that the do not need to sin – he is writing so that they “may not sin.”

(Ill.) You know, or most of you know, that my training and theology is that of Methodism and its founder John Wesley. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the theology that has come out of Methodism and John Wesley is a unique characteristic of sin. As Wesleyans read the scriptures, we become very convinced that sin is a choice. We are faced with choices every day – we can do this or we can do that. I can choose a behavior that, to the best of my ability, imitate that of Christ. Or I can choose a behavior that more closely follows what I want – regardless of what God wants. Hopefully those two – what God wants and what I want – are becoming more and more aligned. But I always have a choice. Though, historically, it is mentioned more often by those who follow in the footsteps of John Wesley, there are others groups that also have similar teachings – that Nazarenes, Catholicsi (as best I can discern), some baptists, and whatever our background, many individuals live their lives knowing that “sin” is choosing what I want, rather than what God wants.

    1. It would seem to me that this is how John understands sin as he writes – that we do have choices.

(Ill.) All of humankind is torn between choices for good or evil. The Apostle Paul grappled with this dichotomy, this being torn between good and evil, superior and inferior. He cried out, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.… I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me” (Rom. 7:15, 19–20, RSV).ii

    1. And if I understand John correctly, his point is that given every choice we are faced with each day, we can chose to not sin.

    2. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.”

  1. John also writes to let the recipients of this letter know that God has made provision for them if they do sin.

(Ill.) A few minutes ago I mentioned how John Wesley understood sin. Another great Christian defined sin differently – John Calvin defined sin as any violation of God's will either through act, voice, or state. Those who accept this definition will point out the root meaning of the Greek word for sin, 'amartia, is to miss the mark. It is like an archer aiming at a target – his goal is to hit the target dead center. And any shot that hits anything other than dead center is a miss, he “missed the mark.” Wesley's definition of “a voluntary choice to violate a known law of God” and Calvin; definition, “any violation of God's will either through act, voice, or state” seem to stand apart from each other – let me suggest the answer is that it is not a case of either/or but a simple case of both/and – both definitions are valid.

    1. John seems to use this second definition as he finishes writing his thoughts. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

    2. John writes that his readers will not sin – he know that they will. And God has provided a solution.

    3. That solution is Jesus Christ. A very wise friend of mine wrote the other day that we need to realize that “the gospel is not 'you do' but 'Jesus did'.”iii

    4. If, as John wrote earlier, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” Here we have a God that is holy – who has no connection to sin, to darkness. But His people do sin – they do miss the mark. It sounds like bad news. But then God steps in and gives us an advocate – Jesus Christ, the righteous.

(Ill.) Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “If you take Christ out of Christianity, Christianity is dead. If you remove grace out of the gospel, the gospel is gone.”iv

(Ill.) A lady had a very important lawsuit on hand for which she needed the services of an advocate. She was strongly urged to secure the help of a very prominent and well-known lawyer, but she could not make up her mind to entrust her case to anyone. Time passed on, and at last she was compelled to take steps to secure an advocate, and called upon the great lawyer who had been mentioned to her. He listened while she expressed her wish to engage his help, but in a few minutes he said with a grave face: “Madam, you are too late; had you come to me before, I would gladly have been your advocate, but now I have been called to the bench, and am a judge, and all I can do is to pass judgment upon your case.” Now is the day of grace, and the Lord Jesus Christ is our Advocate, ever pleading the merits of His precious blood, but the day will come when He will be the Judge of sinners, and must pass sentence upon them.v

    1. I guess it comes down to another choice – will we meat Jesus as advocate or as judge. It is a choice we each will have to make.

iCatechism of the Catholic Church. Viewed online on February 12, 2011 at

iiJones, G. C. (1986). 1000 illustrations for preaching and teaching (8). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

iiiSweet, Leonard. Quoting Ed Stetzer on Facebook February 11, 2011.

ivWater, M. (2000). The new encyclopedia of Christian quotations (195). Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd.

vAMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

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