Sermon Notes: Where Justice and Mercy Meet (1 John 1:1-2:2)

Posted: February 1, 2010 in Uncategorized

Sorry that the corporate schmucks won’t let me upload the Tribute video but you can find it at Youtube.

Songs are strange vehicles to tell a story but they are effective ones.  They strike the heart and the mind and they stick with us longer than say…sermons!  You will remember the story from the Tenacious D song longer than you will remember most sermons. 
The authors of Scripture understood this and used inventive ways to get their point across as well.
Scholars have long struggled with how the letter 1st John should be outlined.  It just seems really random, unless you look at it with 1st century Jewish eyes.
The Jews used a form called a chaism, which is a way of arranging something in a parallel pattern with the meaning at the center.  They also arranged poetry and songs this way.
One scholar outlines 1st John like this:
A. Prologue (1:1-4)–Eternal Life
  B. Making Him a Liar (1:5-2:2)–Walking
      C. A New Commandment (2:3-17)–Love
          D. Antichrists (2:18-27)
              E. Confidence–Do Not Sin (2:28-3:10)
                  F. Love One Another (3:11-17)
              E. Keep the Commands (3:18-24)
          D. Antichrists (4:1-6)
      C. God’s Love and Ours (4:7-5:5)
  B. Making Him a Liar (5:5-12)–Testimony 
A. Conclusion (5:13:21)–Eternal Life
Thus, it is a chiaism.  You begin to wonder if the writer had some help?
The center of the chiaism is what would have truly stood out like a catchy chorus to a hair metal song.  So, if there is nothing else you take from 1 John it should be 3:11-17, to love one another.
But building up to that we have 1 John 1:-2:2, let’s take a look:
1 John 1:1-2:2:

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.

 5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 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, purifies us from all sin.

    8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

2:1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Most of us, on any given day, don’t feel like “Christians.”  We don’t feel “pure”.  We feel like failures.

We pray to God but then are left depressed and puzzled when our sin continues to haunt us and pull at us.  Why do we go to church and worship but fail to grow? Why do we read the Bible and pray but continue to struggle with the same sins?

Would you believe me if I told you that those feelings are, to a degree, good news because people walking in darkness don’t care.

But then would it upset you if I suggested that it still largely our fault?

How much time and energy do we put into doing something we really care about? If you want to run a marathon then you will spend a year working hard, eating right, sleeping well, etc. 

But when we approach our relationship with God, we treat it like if we just say, “abracadabra” then He should just fix it and we can get back to catching up on back episodes of Lost on Netflix. 

Does that really make sense?

How seriously do we take our relationship with God? If we really wanted to grow in holiness then would we just spend a few second on prayer here and there and 90 minutes in a church service on Sunday? Or would we attack it like we were preparing for a marathon?

Yet, even then, we will screw up.  Look at 1 John again, even if we are walking in light and say we have no sin in us then we are liars.  There will always be dark, unevangelized corners of our life and when we fall, even when we are giving it our all, we have to trust that God will truly forgive us.

Brennan Manning in his book Ragamuffin Gospel tells the following story:

Four years ago in a large city in the far West, rumors spread that a certain Catholic woman was having visions of Jesus.  The reports reached the archbishop.  He decided to check her out.  There is always a fine line between authentic mystic and the lunatic fringe.
    “Is it true, m’am, that you have visions of Jesus?” asked the cleric.  “Yes”, the woman replied simply.  “Well, the next time you have a vision, I want you to ask Jesus to tell you the sins that I confessed in my last confession.”  The woman was stunned.  “Did I hear you right, bishop?  You actually want me to ask Jesus to tell me the sins of your past?”
    “Exactly.  Please call me if anything happens.”
    Ten days later the woman notified her spiritual leader of a recent apparition. “Please come”, she said.
    Within the hour the archbishop arrived.  “You just told me on the telephone that you actually had a vision of Jesus.  Did you do what I asked?”
    “Yes, bishop, I asked Jesus to tell me the sins you confessed in your last confession.”
    The bishop leaned forward with anticipation.  His eyes narrowed.  “What did Jesus say?”
    She took his hands and gazed deep into his eyes. “Bishop,” she said, “these are his exact words: ‘I CAN’T REMEMBER.”

 How do you balance the absolute demands of a Holy God and the stark reality that we are sinners? We take it to the cross. We confess and live in gratitude that we have a King who pleads our case for us and is never denied his request from the Father. 

We need to take this sacred, eternal relationship more seriously and we have to accept forgiveness when we stumble.


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