Three false claims; One true remedy

1 John 1:5-2:2

19 April 2009

St John's, Shottesbrooke

Morning Prayer

Note that I have also preached a fuller version of this sermon.

Introduction: Light and Dark

We're going to be looking at chapter 1 verse 5 onwards of John's first epistle. In verse 5, John makes his great headline statement, God is light and in him is no darkness at all.

Often in the Bible, and certainly here, light is a symbol of God's moral purity and holiness. John is saying that God is completely good and pure and holy. By definition there is no darkness in him, because darkness is the absence of light. In the metaphor, in fact, darkness is the absence of God.

So John makes this great headline statement, and then in the light it (if you will excuse the pun) he goes on to examine three false claims.

Now, false claims are easy enough to make. Here's a genuine advert from a hundred or so years ago.

As I said, false claims are easy enough to make, and John attacks three false claims that are being made about sin, each one just as outrageous as this false claim in advertising.

False claim 1: My sin does not Exclude me

The first of these is a claim that my sin does not exclude me. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness.... We claim we know God, but the way we lives our lives shows that we have shut him out: we are continuing to walk in darkness.

John says that we cannot do this. We cannot claim to be in the light, yet be content to leave parts of our lives in darkness. Walking in sin matters: it excludes us from fellowship with God.

Please note that John is not talking about isolated acts of sin that we all commit every day through weakness. He is talking about "walking" in the darkness. In the Bible, "walking in" something is a lifestyle choice. It is an habitual and on-going commitment, a way of life.

So here John is talking about persistent sin in our lives: sin that we are not fighting. Perhaps we are nurturing and cherishing it instead. If there are dark areas of our lives that we won't let God shine his light into, dark corners that we would rather keep in the shadows, then we are walking in darkness.

If you are committed to walking in the darkness in some part of your life, then, according to John, there is no point coming to church. There's no point saying your prayers. There's no point singing the songs. We cannot have fellowship with God if we continue to walk in darkness by tolerating or indulging some sin in our lives. Our sin matters.

The remedy, John says, is to walk in the light.

We need to be ruthless about finding all the dark corners of our lives — all the things we are ashamed of; all the things that we would rather remained hidden — and we need to let God shine his light into them.

False claims 2 & 3: My sin does not Exist

If false claim number 1 is that my sin does not exclude me, false claims 2 and 3 can be summed up together as, my sin does not exist.

John says If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.ref, and again, If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liarref.

None of us wants to admit that we are sinful, guilty people. But, the only way we can pretend to be sinless is to redefine what sin means. We take some sin, some God denying behaviour, some darkness, and call it light. Then we can call ourselves sinless.

It's like the train operators who were being penalised for missing punctuality targets. The solution? Improve the trains? Oh, no... much better to pad the timetables! According to the timetable, it now takes 10% longer to get from Reading to London than it did 20 years ago. But at least the trains are more punctual!

By fixing the standard against which we are measured, we can make sure that we pass as sinless.

We might wish to say, Oh, I'm not gossipping: I'm only sharing some important information. Or I'm not stealing: I'm only optimising my tax return. So we use weasel words to change the standard of sin.

But, in doing this we only deceive ourselves, John says. God alone sets the standard for sin. He has told us what sin is, and we make him out to be a liar if we say anything different.

One True Remedy: Sin Exposed and Expunged

So, we have one headline statement God is light, and in him is no darkness at all, and three false claims that stem from hiding our sin and denying our sin.

Clearly, hiding our sin from God or denying our sin before God do not help us. What, then, can deal with our sin? What remedy is there?

Well, John says our only remedy is to confess our sins: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.ref.

Our sins are like a stain on our souls. We can try to hide them or deny them, but it won't really help.

What we need is a stain remover. As you know, different kinds of stains need different treatments. Apparently, lemon juice is effective at removing rust stains. Methylated spirits is good for grass stains, and white spirit for shoe polish.

When it comes to the stain of sin on my soul, only one treatment will do: and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sinref. He is the propitiation for our sinsref. When we confess our sins to God he applies the stain remover: he purifies us from all unrighteousness by the blood of Jesus.


So, let us be careful neither to hide our sin nor to deny our sin. Let's make sure that we bring our sin into the light by specific detailed confession day after day. When we bring our sin to God he will purify us from it by the sacrifice and blood of Jesus. Then, and only then, can we have fellowship with our God, who is light.