SIN AND THE BELIEVER
(I John 2:1, 2)
Introduction: Sin is the believer’s greatest problem. The Bible has a lot to say about the believer’s struggle with sin (Rom. 7: 15, 18-25) John, out of love and tenderness, warns us against sin and at the same time points us to the remedy for the moral failures that even believers are liable to experience. Take note that God is not a kill joy; he is not out to spoil our fun. God knows how dangerous and destructive sin is. So when he warns us against sin and rebukes us and disciplines us for ours sins it is because he loves us.
1. John informs us that his purpose in writing this letter is to discourage us from sinning:
a) In order to prevent us from misunderstanding what he said previously. Yes, he did say in ch. 1 that God will forgive us if confess our sins, but we should not take this mean that we can therefore sin all we want because anyway God will always forgive us everytime we ask for forgiveness. The fact is someone who has this kind of an attitude shows that he is probably not a Christian at all because he seems to have no regard at all for what it cost our Lord to save us.
b) In order to preserve our joy by preserving our unbroken fellowship with God (ch. 1: 3, 4). Ps. 34:4-10 speaks about the joy of a man who has sweet fellowship with God. On the other hand, Ps. 32:3-4 tells us of the misery that is caused by unconfessed sin. David himself testifies in effect the sin robbed him of his joy in the Lord (Ps. 51:12). Sin destroys our joy in the Lord because it creates a barrier, a gap, between God and us (Isa. 59:2). We see this happen all the time between parents and children, between husband and wife, even between best friends.
c) Because sin slowly and little by little kills our love for God (ch. 2:15). When we sin, we take away our affections from God and set them upon the object of our lusts. In a sense we push God away and embrace something else in his place. Sin is spiritual adultery (James 4:4)
d) Because sin contradicts what Christ did for us on the cross (ch. 3:8b; Rom. 6:1-4). Continuing in sin defeats Christ’s purpose in dying for us, which is to save us from our sins.
2. Nevertheless, John is realistic enough to recognize that we are still capable of sinning.
a) We have to be realistic in the Christian life.. We must not be too lenient, otherwise, people might be encouraged to take sin lightly. We must not be too strict either, otherwise people might be overcome by despair and might lose all hope of returning to the Lord in case they sin. The keyword here is “balance”.
b) The fact remains however that it is still possible for Christians to commit sin (ch. 1:8, 10)
c) But if Christians are still capable of sinning then what difference does Christianity make? The difference is this: sin is abnormal for a believer. When a Christian sins he is like a fish out of water. He can still sin, sometimes frequently, sometimes grievously, sometimes even for a long time, but in the end he cannot continue in it, he cannot remain in it. There is and will always be in his heart of hearts a longing, a tendency to return, sooner or later, to the Lord who saved him. In Gary Valenciano’s words, “Babalik at babalik ka rin!” (see I John 3:9).
3. Because sin is still a possibility for Christians, and because the shame and guilt that sin brings can so paralyze a Christian as to keep him from returning to the Lord and moving on in the Christian life, John points to the unfailing remedy for sin: Jesus Christ. And he tells us why Jesus is still the answer to the problem of sin in the believer’s life. But before we go that we need to stress once again why it is important to teach Christians that there is a remedy in case they fall into sin. And that is because unless they are aware there is such a remedy they are liable to lose all hope, they are liable to be overcome by despair and to give up, especially if they fall into grievous sin. They won’t be able to rise from where they have fallen, they won’t be able to recover from their backslidden state, they won’t be able to move on in the Christian life. They will simply remain stuck in their sin and failure. In pointing us to the remedy for sin and failure in the Christian life John here is helping us to do what Paul did when he said, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” So back now to the reason why Jesus Christ is the remedy for our sins and guilt and failure in the Christian life:
a) Because Jesus Christ is our advocate before the Father. The word “advocate” means “to call to someone’s side.” Christ therefore is someone who pleads for us; he defends us before the Father and against the accusations of Satan (Rev. 12:10). Jesus is like a lawyer defending a person charged with a crime against the prosecution’s accusations. This is his continuing ministry in heaven (Rom. 8:34, Heb. 7:25; 9:24).
b) But why is Christ’s advocacy effective? It is because he is qualified to defend us, since he is the righteous one (I Pet. 1:19; Luke 1:35)
c) But what has his righteousness got to do with us, since we are guilty? His righteousness benefits us because he is the propitiation for our sins. In other words, he freed believers from condemnation by taking the punishment meant for them upon himself. On the cross there was a divine exchange: he got the punishment meant for us, we got his righteousness which now makes us acceptable to God (II Cor. 5:21; I Pet. 3:18).
– God is a God of love, but he is also a God of justice. A righteous judge does not let sin go unpunished. A judge who acquits a guilty person is not righteous at all. That’s why a sacrifice is necessary in order for God to forgive us. The penalty for sin has to be paid before we could be freed to become God’s children. We are in no position to pay the penalty because we are sinners. But Christ, being righteous, could pay it for us. And because of his death we are free to become God’s children. We are free from condemnation, we are acquitted, we are saved, once we receive Christ as our personal savior (John 5:24).
– So a believer who sins is directed to return to the cross as the basis of his acceptance by God (Rom. 5:1; Rom. 8:1) The way to overcome the depression and paralysis caused by guilt and shame over one’s sins is to remember that God accepts you not because you are righteous but because Christ is righteous, and because he has covered you with his perfect righteousness. You are righteous in God’s sight in spite of your sins because you are covered by the blood of the lamb. “When I see the blood I will pass over you.” (I Cor. 1:30-31). It is important for a Christian to always stand on this place of grace. (Rev. 12:10-11; Rom. 8:34) We have a principle in law known as “double jeopardy”. A man cannot be punished twice for the same offense. God can no longer condemn us because Christ was already condemned in our place. Chastise us, yes; condemn us, no more. (Isa. 53:4-6; 11)
– To be sure, there is always the risk that one might view God’s grace as something to be abused, but in that case such a one has not truly understood what God’s grace is all about and proves to be someone who has not truly experienced God’s grace. God’s grace is for a sinner who has genuine faith in the God who is willing to forgive. But a man who has genuine faith is at the same time broken-hearted over his sins and is sincere in his repentance.
– This remedy is not only for those who already believe in Christ, but even for those who are still to believe in him – whoever you may be. That is why all who hear the gospel are encouraged to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. (John 17:20; 10:15-16; 3:16; Rev. 5:9)
Conclusion: Christ is still the answer to the problem of sin, before we are saved and even after we are saved. Always look to him. A true Christian is righteous in God’s sight in spite of his sins because he is covered by the blood of the lamb. Though he is broken-hearted over his sins he is not discouraged by them, for he knows that God is faithful and just to forgive him if he repents. “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.” Let his precious blood cleanse you from all your sins by humbly confessing your sins and repenting of them and reaffirming your faith in him. I am accepted, I am no longer condemned, because I am covered by the righteousness of Christ.