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Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
 frckelmscott.org
 
Title:Jesus Christ continues to sanctify those who repent of their sins
Text:1 John 1:8-2:2 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Added:2014-03-01
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Old BoP:

Ps. 81: 1

Ps. 81: 5 – 8

Ps. 51: 1 – 5

Ps. 32: 1 – 5

Ps. 103: 1, 4, 7

 

Scripture reading:          1 John 1: 1 – 2: 17

Text:                            1 John 1: 8 – 2: 2

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Continued sanctification through Christ

Ps. 81: 1

Ps. 81: 5 – 8

Ps. 51: 1 – 5

Ps. 32: 1 – 5

Ps. 103: 1, 4, 7

 

Scripture reading:       1 John 1: 1 – 2: 17

Text:                         1 John 1: 8 – 2: 2

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

We confess that we need to know three things in order to live and die in the comfort of the gospel: first, how great my sins and misery are, second, how I am delivered from my sins and misery, and third, how I am to be thankful to God for such deliverance – LD 1.

We sometimes make it short, saying: three things – sin, delivery, thankfulness.

 

There are, however, people who change the knowledge of these three things into three steps of salvation.  

The first step is then to come to a true knowledge of how sinful you are.  

The second step is then that the knowledge of your sins and misery drive you to Christ so that you cling to Him and receive the forgiveness of your sins.

The third stage is then a lifelong experience of assurance, joy and thankfulness.

Yes, they turn the three parts of the catechism into three stages.   As you pass from the one stage to the next, you leave the first and the second stage behind.

 

The knowledge of your sins and misery is then viewed as something which you have experienced in the past, a knowledge by which you were terrified and convicted of sin, which led to a once off dramatic experience of conversion – the day when you “gave your heart to Jesus”; a dramatic “altar experience”, so that you are able to remember the day and date of your conversion.   Once you had that you are viewed as a “born-again Christian”.   You have been converted, you have been forgiven, you have passed these stations and left them behind, and now you live only in the third stage – a lifelong experience of assurance, wonderful joy and thankfulness!

 

However, by changing the knowledge of our sin, deliverance and thankfulness into three steps or stages the whole gospel becomes distorted.

Such men reckon that they have no need to keep on repenting of their sins, and that there is no need for the believer to keep on asking for forgiveness.  

The remorse over their sins and the confession of their sins is a station which they have passed through and left behind.

 

We do not find this only among Methodists; it is also common under certain Charismatics.

They also make a distinction between what they call “a carnal Christian” and a “spiritual Christian.”  The spiritual Christian has moved to a higher level; he is no longer convicted of sin and has no consciousness of sin anymore.

They will quote for example Hebrews 10: 2 where it says:

 

            “…the worshippers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.”

 

So, once you are truly purified from your sins through Jesus Christ you no longer have any consciousness of sin anymore, they say.

 

Dear congregation, we see then that the error against which the apostle John warns us here in our text is not extinct.   Throughout the centuries it re-appears in various forms; also in our own day.

 

The apostle John urges us to acknowledge and confess our sins, not only once, but to continue to repent of our sins and to continue confessing our sins.

As long as we live in this body there should never come a time that we stop repenting or that we stop asking forgiveness.  

As long as we are in this body our own sin remains a destructive force.  We often stumble and we are continually in need of forgiveness.

 

The comfort with which the apostle comforts us is not that we are now without sin, but that there is forgiveness and cleansing through the blood of Christ when we confess our sins.

 

I proclaim God’s Word to you with the theme…

Jesus Christ continues to sanctify those who repent of their sins

We will note…

  1. That we need to acknowledge our sin
  2. That we need to watch out lest we sin again
  3. That Jesus Christ intercedes for us as our living Saviour

 

In the first place we note that…

We need to acknowledge our sin

 

“If we say that 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 us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.   If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” (verses 8 – 10)

 

The apostle is speaking to believers, men who have already come to a true faith in Christ.   They have already acknowledged and confessed their sins, and they have already repented of their sins – otherwise they would not have been true believers.  

He addresses them throughout as beloved children of God, men who have been born of God and who believe in Jesus Christ as their only Saviour.

And thus he is not urging them to confess their sins for the first time as if they still have to come to true repentance.   No, he is not speaking of a once off confession of sins, neither is he speaking of a once off repentance; he speaks of the ongoing continued confession of sins that should mark the life of each believer.

 

Those who reckon that they do not need to seek daily forgiveness and cleansing argue for example like this; they say: “Christ has forgiven us all our sins and washed it away, once for all, therefore we have no sin anymore!   Our sins have been taken care of; therefore we do not have to continue to seek daily forgiveness of our sins.”

But in this way they deny that we are in ourselves still sinful and that we need to continue to confess our sins daily, and to seek daily the cleansing from our sins.  

Somehow they have arrived.   Somehow they have passed the station of repentance and seek no further cleansing.

What happens then?   If our sins are already taken care of once for all, and if we have no need to seek continued forgiveness and continued sanctification, those with such an idea no longer take sin seriously.     

 

Dear congregation, I do not think that there are any in this congregation who will blatantly say: “I have no sin!”

It is possible that there were also no such person in the congregation to which the apostle John wrote this epistle.  

But while the denial of sinfulness may not be expressed in blatant words, it may be present in a different form.  

The greatness of our guilt and the frightful nature of our sin, and its corruptive working also in the lives of believers, are denied in practice when we do not continue throughout our whole life to confess our sins and to seek the forgiveness of our sins with a broken heart.    We deny our sin when we treat it superficially, or when we continue our life as if we have no need to strive against our sin.    We deny our sin if we no longer seriously seek to be cleansed from it.

We all pray the Lord’s Prayer, including the words, “and forgive us our sins”, but if it would happen that we recite these words almost mechanically, without heartfelt sorrow, then the very manner in which we ask forgiveness can be a denial of our sins.

Then the mouth prays, “Lord forgive us our sins for Jesus’ sake, amen”, but the heart says: “You’re okay”.    And therefore your request for forgiveness comes in such a casual way as if you are going through the motions of a boring ritual: “…and forgive me my sins, amen”.

 

Can we ask forgiveness without having heartfelt sorrow?   May we confess our sins without remorse?

Dear congregation, there is no acknowledgement or confession of sins without heartfelt sorrow that we have offended God.

 

So then, where does the slackness to confess our sins and to repent with heartfelt sorrow come from?   Is it not the result of a deviation from the gospel?   Is it not a false gospel that no longer takes sin seriously?  

Yes, you won’t say: “I have no sin.”    But do you still continue daily to confess with heartfelt sorrow the greatness of your sin before the Lord?”

 

The apostle John is not saying that there are actually members who flatly deny that they have any sin; he simply states that it would be great self-deception to deny our sins.   Then the truth of God is not in us.   If we do not acknowledge our sin, then we have not received the gospel; for the gospel, and the true gospel-preaching, do not convict us of sin only once, but drives us to confess our sins – to confess it in the present tense; that is: to continue daily 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.” – verse 9

 

God is faithful and just.   

He is faithful, and therefore He will keep His promise.   He has promised forgiveness to all who believe the gospel and repent of their sins.    In His faithfulness He will surely keep His promise and forgive us our sins when we confess it to Him.

He is also just in accepting the perfect sacrifice of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who made atonement for our sins.

And thus, with a double assurance, He assures us of the forgiveness of our sins as often as we confess it to Him. 

 

What a comfort!

What a merciful blessing that we may come to the Father through Christ, confess our sins to Him, and be assured that our sins are forgiven us!

As David says in Psalm 32:

“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.   Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity…”

 

David experienced this blessing.   He says:

 

“I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden.   I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’, and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.”

(Ps. 32: 5)

 

Brothers and sisters, let us not hide our iniquity, or belittle it, but confess it.

 

As often as we confess our sins we receive a twofold blessing:

 

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (verse 9)

 

When He forgives us our sins He removes our guilt; when He cleanses us He sanctifies us from the defilement and corruption of sin.   And we need both: daily forgiveness and daily sanctification.  

 

The apostle John repeats in verse 10:

 

            “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

 

According to God’s word and God’s truth we all deserve God’s eternal wrath.   We deserve nothing but death.   Also we, who have been born of God, remain in ourselves sinful and guilty.   As the apostle Paul says:

 

            “…I know that in me – that is, in my flesh – nothing good dwells…” – Rom. 7: 18.

 

God in His word testifies to us that we are sinful, and to deny this is to accuse God of false testimony.   Then “His word is not in us.”    Then our thinking and our lives are not governed by the truth of His word, but by self-deceit.  

 

We learn from this passage that we have only made due progress in the knowledge of God’s Word when we become really humbled, so that we groan under the burden of our sins and constantly flee to God through Christ with confession of our sins.

 

Dear congregation, this passage is both a comfort and an exhortation.   We are comforted by the assurance that God will surely forgive us our sins when we confess it to Him.   Both His faithfulness to His promise and His justice in accepting Christ’s atonement, guarantees the gracious forgiveness of our sins as often as we repent and confess our sins.

It is also an exhortation not to deny our sin in any way, but openly to confess it before the Lord.   Then the truth of His word is in us, and active in our lives, when it constantly drives us to the mercy seat of God to seek the forgiveness of our sins and the cleansing from our sins through the blood of Christ.

 

In the second place we note that…

We need to watch out lest we sin again

 

            “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin…” – 2: 1

 

The reason why I write these things to you, he says, is: that you may not sin.

The words “these things” are plural.   He refers not only to one thing, but to the various things which he mentioned already, and also the things that he are about to mention in the rest of this epistle.   The tenor and drift of the whole epistle is to keep us from sinning.

He wants us to depart from sin and be cleansed, more and more, that we may live and grow in holy fellowship with God.  

 

We find the same message everywhere in Scripture.

The Father chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love – Eph. 1: 4

Christ gave Himself for us in order that He may sanctify and cleanse us – Eph. 5: 26

He gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works – Titus 2: 14

 

The apostle has no new message.

The purpose of this epistle, of the corrections and exhortations, is that we may take sin seriously and refrain from sinning.  

He already mentioned that we cannot have fellowship with God and at the same time continue in sin.   He also proclaimed the necessity to acknowledge and confess our sins, in order to receive forgiveness and cleansing.   He also reminded us of God’s faithfulness to His promise and His justice in accepting Christ’s sacrifice as atonement for our sins, that we may be assured of His forgiveness when we do confess our sins.   Now, all these things he wrote in order that we may not sin.

 

The exhortation is not that the members of the congregation must cease to live in sin.   They are not living in sin.   If they were living in sin, they would not belong to God.   He made that clear already.   There is no communion with God while living in sin.   Someone who lives in sin, who continues in it without repentance, does not know God.

But now he speaks to beloved children who do know God, who walk in the light as He is in the light, whose sins are washed away by the blood of Christ, and he exhorts them not to sin.

 

The exhortation is then not that they are living in sin and that they must stop living in sin, but that they, having been forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Christ, must not fall back into sin.  

As long as we live in this body we need to be constantly on our guard and fight against sin to the uttermost, lest we stumble and sin.  

 

Yes, it is not possible that a true believer continues to live in sin, but it is indeed possible that a true believer can be drawn away by the desires of his flesh, by the world, and Satan, and fall into terrible sins whereby he greatly offends God, incurs the guilt of death, grieves the Holy Spirit, suspends the exercise of faith, severely wounds his own conscience, and sometimes for a while lose the sense of God’s favour – until he returns to the right way through sincere repentance.  

We confess this in the Canons of Dort, chapter 5, articles 4 and 5.

How deep did David fall with Bathsheba!  We have many such examples recorded for us in Scripture.  

 

So then, it does happen, but it may not happen!   We are to be on guard lest it happens to us.   We need to resist sin to bloodshed, striving against sin.    That is the purpose of this exhortation when the apostle says:

 

            “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin.”

 

Dear congregation, the forgiveness of our sins and the cleansing from our sins through the blood of Christ are freely given us with this purpose: that we may live in holy fellowship with God, and not in darkness.   We are redeemed in order that we may not sin.

 

But what then if we do fall into sin?   What if we, in spite of our striving against sin, stumble and offend God with our iniquity?   The answer is given in the last part of our text:

 

“And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous.   And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins…”

 

We note that in the last place, that…

Jesus Christ intercedes for us as our living Saviour

 

When we strive against sin, and it happens that we still stumble and fall into sin, that does not prove that we have no communion with God, or that we do not know Him.   When he spoke of those who walk in darkness, whose life proves that they do not know God and have no communion with Him, he spoke of men who continue in their sin without repentance.

 

It does indeed happen that true believers stumble and sometimes fall very deeply into sin.   In fact, it happens with all believers.   As the apostle James says, we all stumble in many things (James 3: 2).

But then we must not despair, nor continue in sin, but flee to God for forgiveness of our sins through the blood of Christ, trusting in Him, the Righteous, who intercedes for us.  

 

Our translation uses the word Advocate.   The Greek word may also be translated: Intercessor.    We have an Intercessor with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Righteous.

 

It belongs to His office as our High Priest to intercede for us.    He died for us only once, but He continues to intercede for us as our eternal High Priest.

And the Father hears Him, because Jesus Christ is the Righteous One.   He obeyed God’s law to the full and satisfied all the demands of God’s righteousness on our behalf.   

 

The apostle adds that Christ Himself is the propitiation for our sins.   That means: Christ Himself is the sacrifice by which our sins are atoned for and by which we are reconciled to God.

Jesus Christ is our High Priest, our Intercessor, who fully paid for all our sins and covers our filthiness with His perfect righteousness.  

 

God forgives us our sins, because Jesus Christ intercedes for us with His own blood.

 

That is not only for the sins of the past before we came to faith.   Christ also continues to intercede for us.   And thus we continue to receive forgiveness as often as we repent and confess our sins.   And we continue to be cleansed by His blood, as often as we flee to Him.

 

Yes, Christ continually intercedes for us, so that we can always approach the Father through Him, and be assured that the Father will hear our prayers through Him, and forgive us our sins.

 

The apostle also adds that our Lord Jesus Christ is the propitiation for the sins of “the whole world”.  

It does not mean that every man in the world is reconciled to God through the blood of Christ.   God does not save all men.   Scripture speaks clearly about the eternal fire that will not be quenched.   There are many who do not believe in Jesus Christ and are not reconciled to God and whose sins are not forgiven.

“…he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” – John 3: 36

 

And thus, when he calls Jesus Christ here the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, he does not include the reprobate.   He simply says that Christ’s atonement extends to all in the whole world who believe in Him.

 

Dear congregation, you have heard this gospel many times, but let the wonder of God’s grace not pass you by.   Let us heed this message and acknowledge our sins before God.   Confess your sins to Him.   He is faithful and just to forgive you your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.

 

Do not sin.

But when it happens that you do fall into sin, do not despair.   Flee to Christ who continues to intercede for us.    By His blood He continues to reconcile us to God and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  

 

Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Mendel Retief

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