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Light and Dark

Light and Darkness, Sin and Forgiveness

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

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.  (I John 1:5-10, NIV)

Right now, would you say that you are living in light or in darkness?  Are there things that you  hide from others—-things you’re doing from that would cause you to be embarrassed?  Would you be willing to unlock your phone right now and pass it to the person beside you to see, or magically allow them to peer into your wandering thoughts and imaginations?

I suppose that most of us in here would call our selves Christians, that is “creatures of light”, but John offers a sobering test—something we can do in our minds right now to determine if we are really walking in the light.  Here’s the test:  You are in fellowship with other people of light?   Are you, or do you avoid fellowship?

One thing required for fellowship is that we are right before God. And to do that, we have to admit our failures—our sins—those things that fall short of what God created us for.

Do you claim that you’ve done nothing wrong? Or do you secretly believe that you’re better than most other people?  When you get caught doing something wrong, do you argue that everyone is against you but you don’t deserve what you’re receiving?   If you do that, you’re gully of the worst sin in all humanity—self pity.  And there’s for you—short of  a miraculous intervention of Jesus Christ into your life—little hope.

When you explain yourself, or speak or write an email, are you careful to make sure you are not telling the whole truth?  Do you  hide some facts, those truths which might hurt you? Not an out-an-out lie, because you don’t want to be found to be lying, but not the whole truth?   If you live like this, you’re not enjoying the light,  you’re living in darkness.

Sometimes we deceive ourselves into thinking that we’ve really done nothing really wrong, compared to all the “wrongs of Mao, Stalin, Hitlter, Pol Pot or Napoleon.  But if you reason like that, then you are are still in the spiritual dessert of denial—bereft of God’s gift of peace and salvation.

The first step to salvation and eternal security in Christ, is to know that God loves you—and that He does not want you—-or anyone else!—to perish in hell.  That’s the truth! That’s why Christ came here 2000 years ago.  Strange as it may sound to those of us who experienced the avalanche of God’s love, it’s hard to understand who  some do not believe that God loves them or that Christ is the Son of God. Their destiny is the eternal separation from God.  That potential, everlasting  error, is why we preach the gospel at this church—-and at my camp each summer.

But he second step for salvation is to admit our sin….and feel bad about it…to regret that you did it….to hope to never do those bad things again.  That’s the sermon today.  Here’s the confession that you were required to  make when you came to Christ: Have I sinned: “I have, I admit it, I am to blame, I am sorry, I want to never do it again!”  Too many people are like Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. They’re willing to admit they sinned, but that’s not the same, at all, of confessing sin, turning from sin, and having genuine sorrow for sin.  David sighed, in great affliction and sorrow, “Against thee only have I sinned!”. And he meant it!  God forgave him, established his kingdom, blessed him, protected him and took him to heaven!

Paul said that  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”

The primary thing is to admit it. If you deny it, you make God out to be a liar—and you have no hope. But if you finally come to admit your sins, you must also come to Him with a broken and “contrite” spirit.  And mainline Christianity is glossing over this!   Contrite means crushed or pulverized. Now, most folks don’t like to talk this at all. Gives them the heebie jeebies.  They do not like the idea of saying that feel crushed or dismayed about how bad they’ve been.  They just want God to excuse them of their mistakes and move on to getting God’s bountiful blessings!  We worry too much, I think, about our self-esteem and too little about the need self-loathing.

And yet that’s what our sins make us, in the eyes of God—loathsome creatures, intent on evil and rebellion to any authority—especially God’s.  And strange as it may seem, God has pity on us anyway. Pity because we’re so messed up! We are surely pathetic in our sinful condition before we came to Christ, and yet God showed us His great pity, mercy, and love in our  lowly and disgusting state.

But many people, perhaps some in this room right now, cannot accept God’s pity and provision for salvation, Because of pride, some do not often see themselves as pitiable or wretched. Those same people are thinking right now, he’s talking to the others in here, not to me!  Did you know that many church hymnals removed the phrase “that saved a wretch like me” from the hymn “Amazing Grace” because it offended some people in the pews.  Every single one of us are pitiable and do not stand a chance without the Lord’s grace and mercy. We should be careful to check our pride when we bristle at such notions that we don’t need God’s compassion.  There is no sin God hates more than pride.

Perhaps you don’t see your predicament, outside of Christ, as clearly as you ought to.  C.S. Lewis wrote that:’ A person can be an object of pity (even) when he is not feeling miserable …. Imagine yourself looking down from a height on two crowded passenger trains that are traveling towards one another along the same line at sixty miles and hour. You can see that in forty seconds there will be a head-on collision … The passengers are an object of pity … though they do not feel miserable themselves.”   They did not know what was coming.  We should pity those outside the faith.  They’re headed for utter destruction and don’t know it.

This is our condition, too, all the more so if we deny it. God sees our pitiable state from on high. Many of those on the imaginary trains may think of themselves as quite secure. Some may be laughing and having a gran time, others are smug and content. Still others may be anxious about lesser things. Not one of them is thinking of an approaching train and likely death. No, they do not feel pitiable and are not thinking about the fact that they are helpless beings, dependent on God for every beat of their hearts. They are not thinking that they are about to be summoned to judgment.

Recognizing our precarious is a first step to be healed from the disease of sin. Through contrition we announce not only our sorrow but admit that our sins have crushed and broken us. Surrendering our pride, we realize that we are, as the Lord says, wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. In our pitiable state, though, the Lord’s pity and mercy can now reach us.

But let me add that we often confuse or blend together  the idea of forgiving and excusing. They are not the same.   “There is all the difference in the world between forgiving and excusing. Forgiving says, “Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology and will not hold it against you … But excusing says, “I see you couldn’t help it, or didn’t mean it. You weren’t really to blame.” Lewis.  The latter is what we’re teaching our children in school, from what I’ve seen and heard from my teenage sons. And it will be our undoing as a nation. If one was not really to blame, then there is nothing to forgive. In that sense, forgiving and excusing are almost opposites.  In that case, we’re all victims.  That’s the biggest lie from pit of hell.

This is an important insight because it is a very different thing to say to someone, “I did something wrong. I admit it, I am sorry I did it, it won’t happen again,  and I ask for your forgiveness,” than it is to say, “I didn’t really mean it. I’d had a long day and was upset. Please excuse me.” The second option in effect is saying this: “I have an excuse and want you to accept it. Because I have an excuse I didn’t really do anything wrong, or at least I didn’t mean to.”

How rare it is for someone to think, let alone say, “I did it. I will not excuse what I did or ask you to excuse it. I will not try to explain away what I did. I simply and humbly ask for your forgiveness.”  Oh to have men and women at this church, and at our camp, brave enough to fess up!

We have a tendency to minimize our sins by focusing on our better qualities. Sure, we all  have some good qualities, but this does not eliminate the fact that we have sins and they must be attended to.  “When you go to the doctor you show him the bit of you that is wrong—say, a broken arm. It would be a mere waste of time to keep on explaining that your legs, and eyes, and throat are all right.” Lewis

Within the body of Christ, I can tell you what happens when a man or woman truly, sincerely, admits their sins, with no excuse or whining about how they can’t help it. They become new creatures that forgive others.  Do you know someone that holds a grudge, likes to remind you of how you hurt them or let them down?  They’ve not yet sincerely come to their heavenly Father with an admission of their sins yet. They’ve not beat breasts and cried to God, “Father, have pity on me, a sinner…”

God will  remove the sin of the one who makes humble confession, and thereby the devil loses the control and sovereignty he had gained over that human heart. Has His Spirit spoken to you about your sin—or your sins? A  guilty conscience needs to confess, repent and walk in a new way.

John went on to say that, “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.”  I John 3:6, NIV.  That’s the test. If you’re still doing the same bad things you were, day in and day out, you’ve no more confessed and repented than Satan himself!  John said that, “The one who (continues to do)  what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.”  I John 3:8-9, NIV.   


Do you see the point?  You cannot be born again and continue to do those things that He does not allow! It does not mean that you will never trip, fall back into some bad habits from time to time, but you cannot continue to live that,  if the Holy Spirit—the seed of God Almighty—is within you!




BENEDICTION:


Psalm 20

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;    may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.

May he send you help from the sanctuary    and grant you support from Zion.

May he remember all your sacrifices    and accept your burnt offerings.[b]

May he give you the desire of your heart    and make all your plans succeed.

May we shout for joy over your victory    and lift up our banners in the name of our God.

May the Lord grant all your requests.

Now this I know:    The Lord gives victory to his anointed.He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary    with the victorious power of his right hand.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,    but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

They are brought to their knees and fall,    but we rise up and stand firm.

Lord, give victory to the king!    Answer us when we call!




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