Third Sunday of Easter
Passage: 1 John 3:1–3:7
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: 1 John 3:1-7
Date: April 15th, 2018; Easter 3; Series B
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
- We heard some difficult words in our epistle lesson this morning.
- Again, from 1 John chapter 3, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that [Christ Jesus] appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in [Christ] keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him” (1 John 3:4-6).
- Particularly striking are the words, “No one who abides in Christ keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him” (1 John 3:6).
- This seems to be saying that those who abide in Christ (those who are Christians) do not sin.
- Or, conversely, if you do sin - then you do not abide in Christ and you are not a Christian.
- These are difficult words because when we look into the mirror of God’s Law, when we consider our lives in the light of God’s Law, we find that our lives are not without sin.
- We are not sinless.
- So what do we make of St. John’s words then?
- Do they mean that we are not Christians?
- Do they mean that only those who have been able to achieve perfect, sinless, and holy lives are going to heaven?
- “No one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him” sure seems to contradict what we as Lutherans believe is the most important teaching in the entire Bible - that we are saved by grace through faith - and not from our good works.
- This is why it is so important to read and understand God’s Word in context.
- We do not discover truth in the Bible by looking at words, or verses, or passages in isolation.
- It is very dangerous to do so. We need the bigger picture.
- Unfortunately there are some who do view these words in isolation and end up believing that if you are a Christian - then you no longer sin.
- Or - they teach that if you do sin, then you are not a Christian.
- Just think about that for a moment.
- Think about what it would be like to determine your standing before God based on whether or not you sin!
- When we are honest with ourselves, this is absolutely terrifying.
- This view of things only leads to trouble.
- It leads to a Pharisaical type of hypocrisy where we try to convince ourselves that we are these perfect, holy, and godly people who never sin.
- Or, it leads to complete despair because we recognize that we are not able to fully overcome our sinning.
- Neither result is good.
- In both cases the focus shifts from God’s grace and mercy - to ourselves. That is always dangerous.
- So, how then are we to understand St. John’s words, “No one who abides in [Christ] keeps on sinning.”
- Well, to get some context, listen to what St. John wrote only a little bit earlier in his letter (we heard this last Sunday), “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
- Today we hear St. John telling us, “No one who abides in [Christ] keeps on sinning.”
- Last week he tells us, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."
- It sounds like a complete contradiction!
- But it’s not.
- You see, there’s a difference between struggling with our sin and “practicing” sin.
- What St. John is speaking of here is practicing sin or persistence in sin.
- His words warn us that there is great danger in taking our sin lightly.
- There is great danger in giving ourselves over to our sin.
- And this can happen in a number of ways.
- We can tell ourselves the lie that it’s not a big deal if we practice and are persistent in our sin because Jesus forgives us anyway. We abuse his grace.
- This can happen when we take God’s Commandments and change them into what we want them to be - instead of what he said they are.
- This can happen when we rationalize, deflect, make excuses, and justify our sin.
- This can happen when we stop looking into the mirror of God’s Law, but rather look into the mirror of our culture, and society, and other people.
- It’s amazing how easy it is to find people who are far worse sinners than we are in comparison - and start to feel like we are pretty good.
- This can happen when we know that we are sinning, that we are going against God’s will - but we simply don’t care anymore. “Too bad God, it’s going to be my way - not Yours.”
- So why is this such great danger?
- Because sin is what separates us from each other and from God.
- Because the wages of sin is death.
- Our sin needs to be dealt with, forgiven, removed.
- And repentance is part of God’s gift of salvation.
- In our reading from Acts this morning, St. Peter says, “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19).
- In our Gospel lesson, Jesus says that, “…repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations…” (Luke 24:47).
- Repentance and forgiveness go hand and hand.
- Repentance is part of the gift of salvation that God gives to us.
- So, look into the mirror of God’s Law and pray that the Holy Spirit shines light on where you might be practicing sin, where you might be persistent in behaviour that is against God’s will for your life.
- And repent.
- Allow the light to shine on the darkness of your sin and confess it before God. Turn from it.
- And receive the life-giving gift of God’s forgiveness wont for you in Christ Jesus.
- The reality is, that even though we are “God’s children now” - we will continue to struggle with our sinful nature and we will sin.
- We all fall short of the glory of God.
- But struggle to drown your sinful nature in the waters of your baptism each and every day.
- Struggle for the holy and righteous person that you are to come forth in you each and every day.
- Be well nourished by the means of grace that God has provided - repent and be baptized; read, mark, and learn his Word; take and eat his true body, take drink his true blood.
- Just as Christ opened the minds of his disciples to understand the Scriptures, so he opens our minds through his means of grace to believe and receive all that he has accomplished for us through his life, death, and resurrection.
- Beloved,“If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
- “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1). Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.