|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2007|
|Do we have to deal with sin? Is sin a reality in a believer’s life? Certainly we have already seen that it is. It is very obvious that John knows that because we live in bodies of flesh, we will still sin. But he has a stern message for all of us as believers: how we look at sin and how we deal with it.|
Do we have to deal with sin? Is sin a reality in a believer’s life? Certainly we have already seen that it is. “My little children,” John says in 1 John 2:1, “I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins….” Now stop right there. It is very obvious that John knows that because we live in bodies of flesh, we will still sin. But he has a stern message for all of us as believers: how we look at sin and how we deal with it.
We know already that John is dealing with the Gnostic heresy. I want to remind you of that because if you don’t know why a book is written, then you cannot understand it in its context. John is very methodically led of the Holy Spirit of God, bringing an attack against the false doctrine that has gotten amongst these believers.
There are two things that I want us to look at. First of all is a definition of sin. What is sin? If I’ve got to deal with it and it is very clear that I do, then what is sin? In 1:8-10 we have just seen the word mentioned. It is used in 17 verses in the book of 1John, so it is kind of on John’s mind. It is a very prominent word in the study of 1 John.
The Greek word for sin is hamartia. It comes from the hamartano, which means to miss the mark. It’s like taking a bow and arrow and shooting at a target. When you are shooting at something, you try to hit it. When you miss it, that is what sin is like. I want you to get the idea, shooting at a mark and missing the mark. That is what the whole thing is all about.
When you put that in light of the Christian’s life, the Christian’s walk is when you shoot at something. Perhaps it is God’s mark for you but you go about it the wrong way and you miss it. You miss what God had intended in your life. It is when you choose to walk in darkness rather than light. It is when the Word of God has something very specific to say to you about your family, has something very specific to say to you about your finances, has something very specific to say about your future and everything else in your life, but you say, “I don’t need that Book. God, you leave it there. I am going to do my own thing.” You just missed the mark. That is sin.
“You mean to tell me the Word of God plays that kind of role in my life?” Oh, folks, how many times do we have to say it? James tells us that this Book is not so much a map, it is a mirror. Maybe you are not in the Word of God daily. I don’t mean you have to spend three hours a day studying. That is not what I am saying at all. But you are not studying it for yourself. You are not trying to discern the things of the scripture for yourself. Why would you want to do that? So that you can know the mark God wants you to hit. You may be living in sin and not even know it.
One of the hardest things we are finding out about counseling is when people come and say they want help. You take them to the Word, and they either look at you like, “I never heard that before” or they look at you like, “That is not my problem.” To miss the mark is to miss what God has set up, what God requires, the standard that God demands and commands of every individual. When I choose to do it my way then I have sinned. By that very choice I have missed the mark.
All men are born into sin. This is why we need the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is not a man alive without Jesus Christ who can hit God’s mark on anything. As a matter of fact, when he comes to church and tries to do good, it misses God’s mark. When he wants to give to the offering, it misses God’s mark. When he gives things to the church or comes and cuts the grass or goes on a mission trip, anything he does, if Christ is not in his heart it misses the mark God has for him. Every man born of Adam and born since Adam without Jesus Christ in his life has missed the mark and lives a life of missing the mark. So when you go to work and find that you have an unsaved boss who treats you badly and sins, don’t be surprised. That is all he can do. When you are around sinners all they can do is sin. Why should we be caught off guard that way?
But a Christian is a little different. There is a standard God commands and demands and the Law brought that out. That standard is a way of living, the right conduct that no man apart from God can attain. Some people are trying to do it. They are trying to be good enough to get into heaven. You can’t do that. It is like trying to climb up a ladder and the rung at the top you never can get because as soon as you grab one there is another one ahead of you and you can’t seem to get there. You try and you try and you try but your whole life is missing the mark and you are going the wrong way. But when you come to know Christ, God does something from that point on by your willingness to obey in the power of His Spirit. Now you can measure up and conform to what God requires. You couldn’t do that before. Because of salvation, now you can.
Romans 1:17 talks about the good news of God and it says, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” What in the world is Paul talking about? What is the righteousness of God that is revealed in the good news of God? The good news of God is the gospel. What is the gospel? The good news of Jesus Christ. If I were preaching this message to a group of people who didn’t know Jesus Christ, by now they would feel so condemned because they would realize they can’t meet God’s standards. They can’t be good enough to measure up to God’s standard, what God commands, what God demands, that their whole life misses the mark. Then I would bring them to the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ and the righteousness of God is revealed in that good news. That is why we go around the world to tell people. You are living in all this kind of garbage. You can come up out of it. You can meet God’s standards but only through Jesus Christ.
You see, the righteousness of God incorporates three things. First of all, it incorporates that standard of right conduct He demands. The word “righteousness,” dikaiosune, implies a standard that a holy God commands. But it also means a standard of right conduct that only a holy God can approve. Now understand what I am saying. There are a lot of men trying to approve the righteousness of other men. No man can approve anybody’s righteousness. God is the one who must put His stamp of approval on righteousness. That is why Isaiah 64:6 says, “My righteousness is filthy rags in God’s eyes.” Men may say that it is good. God says that it is filthy rags. God is the one who has to approve it.
So far that is not good news. Until you hear the bad news, the good news is not good. The third thing that righteousness means there is that this righteousness, this ability to conform to God’s standard, is what God provides to the individual who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ His Son. Oh, I tell you what, when this finally sinks into your mind, like it is beginning to sink into my mind, it just makes you want to shout.
You see, we have been made righteous. Look in Romans 10:10. This righteousness, this ability to conform to the standard that God commands and demands in our life comes at salvation. Verse 10 says, “for with the heart man believes.” The whole key is belief, bowing before Him, admitting that you can’t conform to His standard, trusting in what Christ has done. “Resulting in righteousness.” Wow! Do you mean to tell me that now with Christ living in me I can measure up? Yes, we have been measured in Him. Now we can measure up. From faith to faith, His righteousness is revealed. What does that mean? Faith is obedience and when I obey Him initially, God enables me to measure to His standard. He justifies me, just as if I’d never sinned. Now every time I say “Yes” to Him in the power of His Spirit, then what God can do in my life is revealed. We see the righteousness of God revealed in an individual who has believed in Jesus Christ.
You may ask, “Why are you harping on sin?” I had better harp on it. I need it and you need it. We don’t have an excuse anymore. We have been made the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ, which means now in Him we can conform to what God wants in our life. Have you ever heard somebody say, “Oh, I am just human! I can’t do it!” No, it is not that you can’t, it is that you won’t. If you are a believer you are just simply saying, “I don’t want you, God, and I will not do what You tell me to do.” That is sin, and everything that results from that is missing the mark of what God commands and demands of every individual.
As you see the righteousness of God built into those three things, indirectly you are seeing the righteous character of God. He is the kind of God that not only condemns and requires but He is the kind of God that paid the ultimate price of sending His Son so that man could meet up to the standard He requires. That is the kind of God that we serve. Sin is missing the mark. Any time I choose not to obey Him or His Word, I have missed the mark of what God requires and that is sin. To the believer it is much more serious in one sense of the word. But if you are not a believer, hell is the end result. That is serious. We are held accountable as believers for the specific choices we make every day of our life. That is what it means to deal with sin all the time because we are not going to attain perfection. We are going to sin and dealing with that sin keeps us aware of what we are not and who He is.
Let’s stop talking about generalities of sin. You say, “I don’t understand what you are talking about. I hear you talking about missing the mark and I hear you talking about sin. What is sin?” Okay, let’s just answer that. First of all, is there any area of your life that you are not allowing the Holy Spirit to control with His Word? Ephesians 5:18 says, “Be ye [being] filled by the Holy Spirit of God.” The word “filled” means controlled, dominated by the Holy Spirit of God. Ask yourself the question, “Is there anything in my life that I am not allowing the Holy Spirit of God, through His Word, to control?” Is it an attitude? Is it something else?
Secondly, what about how you care for your body? 1 Corinthians 6:13 says that our body is for the Lord. Is there any immorality? Is there any sexual conduct that is not pleasing to the Lord that you are committing and nobody knows about it? 1 Corinthians 6:15 shows us that sexual promiscuity is strictly forbidden because the body is a member of Christ.
Let me explain to you what we are talking about. Adultery. God says that is a choice you made. You are a believer. You don’t have to make that choice. You made the choice and you have sinned. You need to deal with that sin before God. Fornication before marriage. Sexual intercourse before marriage. Homosexuality. Incest. Ephesians tells us that we are not to let any kind of thing like that ever be named among the body of believers. You can’t take these kinds of things lightly and claim to be in fellowship with a Holy God. You can’t do it. Sin robs you of that fellowship with God and maybe even your relationship if you have never come to know Him. Sin is very serious.
Is there any area of impurity in your conduct concerning your body that may not concern anybody else? That is usually the cop out. “What I do, Brother Wayne, doesn’t effect anybody but me.” Are you entangled in the affairs of life that distract you from Christ? Are you so busy that you don’t have time to get in the Word, sir? Are you so busy you can’t be the spiritual leader of your family? Are you so busy making the almighty dollar that you are not honoring your vow that you have made to the Lord Jesus Christ? In 2 Timothy 2:4 Paul tells Timothy, “Don’t be entangled with the everyday affairs of life.” In other words, you’ve got to live in this world, but don’t let the world entangle you and choke out what God wants to do in your life.
Why is it you can’t get men in a Bible study for more than about four weeks before they drop out? Why is that? Why is it that a man will sit and learn a computer manual, he will sit down and learn all the different things about his business, he will sit down and read whatever it is, but when it comes to the Word of God, he just doesn’t have time? “I am just too busy. I have to work every day.” That is sin in your life. How can you even know you are walking with God if you are not in the Word of God? The world just entangles us and sucks us under their current. Do you love the world and the things of the world more than you love Christ?
In 2 Timothy 4:10 Paul speaks of Demas. He deserted Paul because he loved this present world. Have you robbed God by withholding from Him and His work your time, your talents and your money? You need to read 2 Corinthians 8:3-5 sometime. It is an admonition to the church at Corinth. The church at Macedonia didn’t have a dime, and they were giving and giving and giving to an offering for the Jews over in Judea. Here is Corinth, the richest church in the New Testament, and they wouldn’t give anything. They were more self-contained. They would rather take care of themselves than the cause of Christ. They were people robbing God.
Do you show love to your enemies and pray for those who persecute you? Matthew 5:43-48 tells you to do that. Or do you pick up the phone and see who you can tell about it? Are you bitter? Do you lose your temper when you don’t get your way? Do you hide behind your smile a hidden anger that is vengeful but you don’t want anybody else to know about it? Ephesians 4:31-32 says to be forgiving to one another, tender-hearted. Do you indulge in idle talk and gossip? Proverbs 10:18 drills that to the wall. Do you speak evil of others? 1 Peter 3:9-10 speaks to you about that. Are you irregular at assembling with believers for prayer and worship? Hebrews 10:25 tells us not forsake that. A lot of people take it lightly, don’t they? Hebrews 10:25 says “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together.” Don’t you ever do it.
Do humility and gentleness and patience and forbearance characterize your walk and behavior with others? Do you know what those words mean? “Humility” means a proper attitude towards yourself. You don’t think of yourself more highly than you think of somebody else. “Gentleness” means your attitude towards God. It is the word “meekness.” You have been broken by the Spirit of God. You don’t have an ax to grind. “Patience” is your proper attitude towards others. Long suffering. Do you know what that implies? They are going to bug you. And do you know what forbearance is? It is the ability to stand up against somebody else while the provocation is going on and rather than kicking him out, you pray for him and hold him up until the provocation is over. Does that characterize your walk? Or do you get mad at any little thing, get critical, find your little group, and say what you want to say to them? That is sin.
When are we going to start calling sin sin? Are you diligently seeking to preserve the unity of the Spirit with your brothers and sisters in Christ by making sure that you at all times are at peace with them? Ephesians 4:3 says we can’t produce unity. But if we don’t keep that line open of forgiveness and peace, that is sin against God.
Are you a liar? I have run into some people over the years who are such good liars they don’t know the difference between a lie and the truth. Do you know anybody like that? They have lied so long about so many things that they don’t know the difference between a lie and the truth. Are you a thief? Is there anyone you have not forgiven? “Oh, if you knew my circumstances you wouldn’t be saying that kind of stuff!” I am not saying that kind of stuff. I am just trying to tell you what God requires out of me as well as you. To refuse to do it is to miss His mark and that is sin, period! That is sin. Oh, how loosely we take it. Sin is missing the mark that God intends.
Over the years I have made this little statement. I don’t know where I heard it: “Sin will take you further than you ever intended to stray. It will keep you longer than you ever intended to stay. And it will cost you more than you ever dreamed you would pay.” That is sin. For any believer to think for one second that they can get away with sin, that is a foolish deception. Sin is something we have to deal with. It means to miss the mark. It means to not conform to what God requires. We can now conform because His Spirit energizes that and enables us to obey.
The second thing I want you to see is the disgrace of sin. I told you it was used in 17 different verses. I just want to hit a few of them. John doesn’t say that sin is a disgrace but implicit in that is the fact that it is a disgrace, it is a shame to a Holy God that we would choose to sin against Him. We’ve got to see it as a disgrace. I’ve got to see it as a disgrace. I can’t start letting it get into my life where I don’t recognize it anymore. Remember the garments in Ephesians? We choose to put on the wrong garment or the right garment. That is what we are talking about. The right conduct is the right garment energized by the Spirit of God. The wrong garment is the wrong conduct energized by a wrong choice, and it misses the mark of what God requires.
Well, the word “sin” or “sins” is found in 17 verses. Let me just show you a few of them. We just read 2:1. Let’s go back and look at it again: “My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins…,” literally there it means to sin a sin. We have come so far off center that what is normal now looks like it is subnormal.
The more we integrate the world into our lives, the less we begin to care about what sin is. Then we make the mistake of calling anybody who is convicted a legalist. Now a legalist is not a legalist because he is convicted. He is a legalist when he takes his conviction and beats you over the head with it. Let’s don’t kick him out of the kingdom because he is convicted. That is where we all should be. It is not the intention of God that we allow it in our life in any form.
“Sin” is in the aorist subjunctive. We are to never miss the mark of what God wants. We are to always obey Him at any cost. Righteousness is the ability to conform to what God requires. Sin is never the intention of God. A sin is never excusable. It has to be dealt with.
In 3:4-6 John picks up on it again. He says, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.” Now here we go. He does not want us to sin a sin. We know we will because that is brought out in Scripture, but that is not the intention of God. That is not what salvation made possible in our lives. Secondly, for sure, it is not to be a habit in our lives. “Practices sin,” he says in verse 4. He says this is the lifestyle of a lost person. “...also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.” Now that word “lawlessness” has the idea of living as if there is no standard with which you are to be held accountable. Even though we are saved (this is depicting a person who is not a Christian because he is living lawlessly) we come awfully close sometime to thinking that there is nobody we are accountable to, there is no standard that we are accountable to. Yes, there is! God’s Word is the standard.
Well, verse 5 shows us why: “And you know that He appeared in order to take away sin; and in Him there is no sin.” In other words, the very reason He came and lived on this earth was to take away the sin and make it possible for us to live a life on a higher plain and live in a way that conforms to His righteousness. Verse 6 reads, “No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins [habitually] has seen Him or knows Him.” If you know somebody who lives lawlessly like that and doesn’t ever worry about what the Word of God has to say and yet still claims to be a believer, just back off and pray because there is no signal in the Word of God that person knows Christ at all. You can’t live habitually lawlessly and claim to be a believer.
Look down in verse 8 of chapter 3: “the one who practices sin is of the devil.” Boy that is exciting; “for the devil has sinned from the beginning.” It was his very attitude that got him kicked out of heaven to start with. “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” What is the works of the devil? Sin. When Christ comes and deals with our sin we are able, in Christ, to live differently.
In fact, sin is so serious that we are to be looking out for one another. Look in 5:16 and 18. Obviously I am not covering all the verses. We will do that as we study through 1 John. This is just an attempt to give us an idea of what we are dealing with here. In verse 16 we read, “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin.” That word “see” is the word eido. It comes from horao, and it means you have to see a person actually commit the sin. It doesn’t necessarily have to be overt. The Greek concordance puts it under the word that means intuitively understand or perceive something. In other words, you can be with somebody and you can sense in your spirit that there is sin in that person’s life. Did you know that? Not only can you sense it in them, but you know it in yourself. You can sense the sin that is in somebody else, but it may not be an overt sin.
A brother is sinning a sin. This is different from what John said in chapter 3. In chapter 3 here is a man living lawlessly. Here it is sinning a sin. In other words, every one of us has a weak problem in our life. Whatever that weak problem is, it has a trap to it and if we are not careful and abide in Him and walk in the light, we can easily be entrapped. It may be the area of immorality. It may be the area of covetousness and material things. It may be in the area of bitterness and a critical spirit, but all of us have something that is a weakness to us.
Here is what he is talking about. Here is a brother, a Christian who is falling into the trap of sin. If you become aware of it and if you perceive it in your spirit, you have a requirement. “He shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit a sin not leading to death.” I can’t wait until we get there in chapter 5. I am kind of glad it is going to be a while because I have to think a lot on it. But you know, all sin brings about some type of death. This is not talking about eternal death. For all of you who are saying, “I told you we would lose our salvation,” that is not what he is talking about. There is no definite article at all. That is not what he is talking about. But there is a death.
It can be a physical death. There can be a sin that causes death in a person’s life. It is almost as if God looks down and says, “I am sick and tired of you being a mockery to Me. I will take you home before I will allow you to continue to live that way.” Maybe it is that way and maybe it is not, but it seems to be that way on the surface interpretation. When you see a brother sinning a sin and obviously it is not leading unto death because he is still living, you have a responsibility.
John says in verse 16, “There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death. We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him and the evil one does not touch him.” In other words, as we walk in that obedience there is a keeping that the Lord Jesus gives to us. But what is the responsibility? Look in verse 16: “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin he shall ask and God” will do something. That is really what I wanted to say. I have a responsibility. I am not to go to him first. I am to go to God first.
Matthew 18 picks up on that same thought. It tells us to go to him privately if you saw him. Then it tells you to take a brother with you. Then it tells you to make it public in the church so perhaps making it public will somehow send a signal and the person will repent. Then if he won’t repent treat him as if he is not even a believer.
You know, one of the things that has really bothered me in studying 1 John is becoming aware of the fact of what I have to deal with. Most of the time when you hear a message on sin you are thinking about somebody else. That is the sad part of it. You think about people you don’t like, people who don’t conform to the way you are. What about you? This is what John is trying to get across. Sin is something that every believer is responsible to deal with.
I pulled these verses out of a context, but we will look at them as we study through 1 John. It will all fit together. The point is, He doesn’t want a sin in my life. The point is for sure He doesn’t want habitual sin and practice in my life because that means that I am not even a believer. The point is, if I see my brother, I am responsible. I am responsible.
I have been thankful over the years when people have come to me. Not at first, but after it has dawned on me that they love me and they are there to help me, I can look back and see they are the people who probably helped my growth more than anything else. I remember one year I was visiting on church visitation night. I was in a real financial crisis at that time and I picked a man as my partner who was a millionaire. We went out to visit a few houses. We pulled up in a certain place and I said, “You know, Tom, I just want you to pray for me.” Yeah, right! What I want you to do is write a check, but I didn’t tell him that. I told him about my situation and I said, “I’ve got a real problem.” After I told him he looked at me and said, “Wayne, you don’t have a problem, you have a crisis.” Then he said, “Son, I know exactly what you are doing and that is sin.” I said, “What?” He said, “You are telling me all this stuff because you want me to answer your problem. You are not willing to go to God and let God deal with it and let God take care of your problem.” Boy, that stung me! But you know what? That was one of the best things that ever happened to me because God began to show me, “Hey, big boy, is God your provider or is He not?”
I am a manipulator in my flesh. What are you like? You are exactly the same way. Every one of us are after Adam. If we are after our flesh we will manipulate anything we can manipulate to get our way in the midst of it. You can tell I am not real comfortable. I am not comfortable at all. I don’t like dealing with sin. I don’t feel like I need to be telling you about sin. We all need to be on our knees letting God speak to each of us. I am no better than anybody else. I have not arrived! Until we learn to see the seriousness of sin, all we are going to end up with down here is conduct that we call right that falls so short of what God commands. It ought to nauseate everyone of us.
Are we going to deal with our own sin? That is the key. I am responsible to you if I see you sin. You are responsible to me when you see me sin. Let’s remember that in the days to come. We are on equal ground with one another. The Gnostic heresy is convenient today. It is being preached with a different cover on it. But if you will come to what God says, we are all responsible for flesh and for sin and we deal with it every day of our life.