Scripture: 1 John 1:1-2:6
Well, here we are back at Carman for another year! We’ve had a light summer here in the church, a time of rest. And now that September is upon us, it’s the time of year we begin to try and remember what we were saying we should do way back in May and June!
We’ve got a number of things to get back on track here at Carman. Some of which I’m excited about, well most of them really, but others are smaller items which will hopefully streamline things a bit for us.
Of course, we need to get another round of Hearing God workshops going this fall. I anticipate getting those started mid October, so stay tuned for that. We are working on our anniversary service in early November. Our Light Up service around the start of Advent. We want to have a spiritual retreat this year, and we’ll be working on finding a time in the early spring for that. We’re working on a potential new governance structure for you all to consider sometime over the winter. What else is on the go?
Oh yes, there’s the youth outreach activities that other churches want to get started with us here in the town. We’ve talked over the years about running Alpha again. Will we have Bible studies this year? Will we have a youth group? Will we have a confirmation class?
There is a lot going on this year, on top regular Sunday services, funerals, Christmas and Easter and our Sunday School!
How are we going to get all this done?
That’s a really good question. How are WE going to get all this done? Believe me when I tell you I ask myself the same question!
The good news is we have some folks who are great helpers, but we can always use a few more. I hope that you will consider if there are ways in which you can help out with these great things we are working on this year.
It’s good to be a busy church, it helps us connect with one another, and it helps us be a family, which I truly believe we are here at Carman.
But, on top of being busy, we also need to remember what our true focus is as a church.
So with that in mind, we are going to spend the next couple of months looking at 1 John. This is a book of the Bible with explores powerfully what it means to be a follower of Jesus, and it fits in well with what it is we are doing with our approaches to prayer and growing in our faith.
Of course prayer is something we are working on improving in our lives. We’ve started a time of prayer at 10am every Sunday. It’s a time when we can gather and pray for concerns of our hearts, but we also pray for our church and other things that God reveals to us.
Prayer is a very important element in living a faithful life. Many churches today are seeking ways in which they can grow and reach out to others in their communities.
Do you know which churches are most successful in this? The ones who pray.
Now sure, every church prays. But there is a difference between your typical Sunday morning prayers during the service and what it means to be a church of prayer. The difference is that in the latter, the church, and it’s membership, makes prayer part of its DNA. Prayer becomes the heartbeat of the church. Through prayer these churches seem to be drawn closer to Jesus, and their actions just seem to ooze faithfulness to the teachings and examples of Jesus.
Many churches are exploring a new focus on prayer. We are just one of many here at Carman. I’ve been asked to go speak at a Christian Fellowship church in New Glasgow next Sunday evening. Imagine, me, a United Church minister, being asked to speak on prayer to an evangelical church!
God is clearly up to something!
Prayer goes hand in hand with faithfulness. Do we need to grow in our faith? Sure we all do! I need to as much as anyone else! Faithfulness is a daily exercise of growing closer to God. It’s also an unending exercise.
We will never have it completely figured out. There is always more to learn. We can memorize the entire Bible if we’d like. We can pray 24 hours a day. We can go to every service, every Bible study, every prayer meeting… even if we do all of that, there is still room to grow. And it doesn’t matter if you’ve been going to church for 100 years or if this is your first Sunday in church ever. We all have things to learn from God and we can all grow in our faith.
When we look at our reading from 1 John, we see a letter written by a man who clearly loved the Lord. And he is sharing what he has learned from God with those he is writing to. And in this letter he is encouraging people in their faith. He is helping them grow in their understanding of God as he himself is still growing.
John begins his letter by saying he is one who has seen Jesus personally. He is also saying he writes this letter so that we too may know Jesus and have fellowship with him.
I like how he says, “We write this to make our joy complete.” (1 John 1:4)
John writes this letter to bring others into a life of faith so that his joy is made complete. In other words, when others come to know God as intimately as John does, it brings him great joy.
Part of living in relationship with God is to avoid sin. I think we can all agree sin is bad. John points out, rightly, that if we claim to be in relationship with God, but we still have sin in our lives, then we are not truly walking with God.
If we claim to have fellowship with [God] 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. (1 John 1:6,7)
None of us have never sinned. We have all fallen short at some point in our lives. Yet, when we confess our sins, God will purify us and even more importantly in this relationship, he will forgive us.
John wants us to know God in our lives. God wants us to know him in our lives. He created us. He loves us. He is our perfect Father, who wants the very best for us.
But if we sin, we can’t be in full relationship with him.
On Friday afternoon I had to make a confession. Over the summer I had chipped a tooth, and on Friday I finally made it into the dentist to get it fixed. While I was there, I also had a cleaning.
When you move around a lot at a period in your lives, sometimes things are forgotten. And when you don’t have health benefits for a number of those years, things get really forgotten.
Those years were from the time we left Ottawa until we moved to Sydney Mines.
Now when you put something off for a long time, it’s hard to get back into it. Sometimes you keep putting it off because you know it’s not going to be a pleasant experience, because of the fact you kept putting it off.
So, on Friday, as I walked into the dentist I had to confess it had been a long time since I’ve been in to see one. How long you may ask? The last time I went to a dentist, we didn’t have children.
Surprisingly they didn’t scold me. They were actually very nice in the office. I suppose, had they yelled at me, I might not go back!
They were nice, they were as gentle as they could be removing 14 years of build-up. And they set my next appointment happily, making sure I come back to see them.
If you know you’ve been a sinner, yet are scared of what God will do if you lay those sins before him… I can assure you he will be even nicer about it than the dentist office was to me.
“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. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2)
If we have read the Gospels, those books in the Bible written about the life of Jesus, then what John is telling us is nothing new.
In John 14, Jesus tells us we will never be alone. He tells us he has a place prepared for those who follow him. He tells us that if we know him we know God.
And whenever Jesus encounters someone who has had their sin publicly acknowledged, what does he do? He loves them and he forgives them. Think of the woman who was caught in adultery in John 8. The crowd drags this woman out into the streets and they are getting ready to stone her to death because she has been caught in sin. They drag her before Jesus so that she can be condemned and they can be released to kill her. What does Jesus do? He loves her, he saves her from the mob, he forgives her and teaches her to sin no more.
In Matthew 5, Jesus names adultery as a sin. He acknowledges that it is bad in the eyes of God. The Old Testament punishment for this sin is death.
This was, of course, before Jesus came on the scene. As John reminds us in his letter, Jesus has come to free us from our sin. Jesus is our helper, he is our advocate, he is our intermediary between us and our Father God. In Jesus, we are set free from our sin, we are not condemned by it.
He paid for our sin on the cross. He gave his life so we may be free.
This means, he paid for my sin, he paid for your sin, he paid for that woman’s sin. He paid for all the sins of this world.
What am I saying?
I am saying, when we give our lives to him, it’s all covered, it’s all paid for. All the ugliness of our past, all that we will do in the future, Jesus covers the cost of our sin.
All is costs us is our devotion.
This doesn’t give us free reign to do whatever the heck we feel like knowing it’s going to be all paid for. Jesus may have paid the price for our sin, but it doesn’t give us carte blanche to keep on sinning. What kind of message does that send to the world. “Look at us Christians, look at what Jesus did for me. Watch me sin!”
Yeah, that’s not going to work. Sin causes pain, not just for God, and usually not just for ourselves. We may think the sin is just our problem and no one else’s. But is it really?
What about the sin of pride? Pride means we’ve put ourselves above others. When we’ve put ourselves above others, how does that make them feel? Our sin of pride can cause others pain too as we put them down, as we make them feel useless.
To be set free from our sin means our lives change, our priorities change. Is it worth it? Let’s see. All my sin is taken away. All the guilt I may be feeling for the sins I have committed is removed. And I am welcomed into the kingdom of heaven. Is it worth it? You tell me.
My friends, God loves us so much. He created us to be like him, that is loving, caring, compassionate people. He also gave us the freedom to choose for ourselves what we loved the most.
Sure he could have made us robots who simply do everything he commanded. But where is the love in that kind of life?
What would make you happier: having slaves who are forced into devoting all their lives to you, or having children who love you because they see your goodness and want to be with you? Which would you prefer?
Now unfortunately, many have chosen other loves in their lives, and people are suffering because of it. But, if we call ourselves Christians, if we say we are a people who love God and seek to be in a relationship with him, then we are the ones who can help those who have made other decisions to make better ones.
We are the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in the world. We are the ones who have received an amazing gift of freedom because Jesus paid for our sins. And he has also paid for the sins of everyone else, whether they know it yet or not.
John gives us something to ponder this morning when he says,
We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:3-6)
If we say we know Jesus, then we need to live like it. We need to live as Jesus showed us to live. If we don’t do that, if we call ourselves Christians and don’t live as Jesus tells us to live… well, John says we are a liar. And who can argue that?
Jesus lived a pure, sinless life. Yet because of God’s great love for us, he died for our sin.
An innocent man died because of our sin.
The Son of God died for our sin.
If we are truly thankful for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, then there’s only one way we can live. We will live like Jesus. Anything else shows we are liars, because God would not have us act sinfully.
Will we get it right? No. We will make mistakes. And when we do, we turn back to Jesus and receive God’s forgiveness. Then we try to live like Jesus once again.
That’s the beauty of grace. God’s grace means no matter what we do God loves us. It means there’s nothing we can do to make God love us more or less. It means we just need to turn our lives towards him to receive it.
And our lives are forever changed.
Let us pray,
What a gift you offer to us through your sacrifice on the cross. In your death you show the depths to which God will go in order to have a relationship with us. So far as to die for all our sins.
Jesus, you also show us in your resurrection that sin and death have no hold on this world. You show us God is in control, and you show us how to give ourselves to a life of faith and love with our Father in heaven.
As we continue through this day, this week, these months, help us to recommit our lives in service to our Father and live as examples of you in this world.
Be with us because we need you as we seek to grow as your disciples.
We pray this is your most holy name.
Amen and amen.