Greetings! Welcome to Lechem Panim. We are continuing today our study of the epistle of 1 John, a book that was written during a time when there were those who were trying to lead the Church astray. And one of the things these early gnostics were teaching was that it didn’t really matter how you lived in the flesh. Do whatever you want; because eventually you are going to be saved out of your flesh anyway. This ideology was very new age like in its teaching.
Cheap Grace-- Now while most Christians today would say Christians ought not to sin, some Christians (if they can be called Christians) keep sinning time and time again. And they do so not because they are ignorant of the fact that what they are doing is sin, but because they have a cheap view of grace. They think they can watch whatever they want to watch; look at whatever they want to look at; think about whatever they want to think about; talk however they want to talk and then just say a quick prayer afterwards and everything will be ok. But that is not how we are called to live. Why does John write this letter at all? He tells us in 2:1a…
1 John 2:1 (NIV)-- 1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.
Powerful Purpose Statement-- That’s a pretty powerful purpose statement for your book. He's saying,"I'm going to help empower you; to help strengthen you; to give you the spiritual equipment you need to have complete victory over sin.”
We May Stumble— Now does this mean we cannot sin? No, because everybody is vulnerable to temptation; even Jesus was. And succumbing to temptation is always a choice. And sometimes Christians (even holy Christians) may stumble into sin. That is why John says here, as a means of encouragement…
1 John 2:1b-2 (NIV)-- …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.
We Can Stand-- But notice John doesn't say, "when anybody does sin” but “if anybody does sin”. While the possibility to fall is always there, so also the ability to stand is always there. And we can choose the right path; the way of obedience. Because if we don’t do so consistently, then we clearly do not know or love Christ. This is why John says in the next verse (verse 3)…
1 John 2:3-6 (NIV)-- 3 We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. 4 Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, love for God[a] is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
Christ’s Life the Model-- And verse six points us to the reality that Jesus always intended the life that He lived on earth to be a model for how we ourselves were to live on earth. We are to walk in his footsteps, not only in his mission, but also his righteousness. We are to love the way He loves; we are to care about the people that He cares about; and we are to remain so close to Him that His righteousness becomes ours.
A Sign of Holiness Manifested in our Lives— Now how is that righteousness manifested? I am sure that you could list a dozen different things right off the top of you head. You could say, “A stronger prayer life; a growing hunger for God’s Word; a changing of your thought life.” But what does John focus on here. It is very interesting what he chooses; how practical John gets in this next section; as to what is that ultimate thing that sums up how the holiness of God is revealed as being manifested in your life. He says it is revealed in how you and I treat one another.
1 John 2:9-11 (NIV)-- 9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister[a] is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister[b] lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
“I’ll Be Right Back”-- [Pious Lydia was kneeling down saying her prayers when her four-year-old brother sneaked up behind her and pulled her hair. “Pardon me, God,” said Lydia. “I’ll be right back after I kill my brother”]. Now we always can find a good reason to harbor bitterness towards another person. Often times we feel justified in doing so because of some wrong that they have done to us in the past. But here John says that there is no room in a Christian’s life for those kinds of feelings. We need to love, even when it is difficult; even when that might involve our forgiving them for something monumental.
Joseph-- You know, in talking about this verse I cannot help but think of the story of Joseph; how he ended up in prison for a crime he didn’t commit; living the life of prisoner-slave. God had made a promise to his great-grandfather Abraham to make his descendants a great nation and he finds himself (to all appearances) cut off from that inheritance. Why? Because his own jealous brothers hated him so much that (as an alternative to killing him and so that they could make a buck off him) sold him into slavery. Joseph had every excuse to go to sleep every night cursing their names; naming every rat he saw in that prison after one of them. He could have let hatred consume him. But what is amazing to me is that he never does that. He keeps his heart pure. And because of that, God grants him favor in everyone’s eyes and he eventually (because of the providence of God) rises to become the second in command of all of Egypt. And his brothers then come because of the famine and present themselves before him (not recognizing him). And Joseph has the perfect opportunity to exact that revenge. But he doesn’t. He tests them, but he never exacts any kind of revenge. Instead he spares them and pours out his love for them. And you and I are left in kind of a stupor. How was it that Joseph was able to forgive them after all that they had done to him? And his own brothers don’t believe it. In fact, they believe that after their father is dead, then Joseph will surely kill them.
Genesis 50:15-21 (NIV)-- 15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. 19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
Recognizing God’s Plan-- It is such an amazing thing to me; not only that Joseph is able to forgive; but how he is able to forgive. He was able to forgive because he saw how their sin against him allowed God to do something great through Him to accomplish His purpose. He was able to forgive because he recognizes and accepts that plan God had for His life.
Can We Have That Perspective?— When is the last time you and I were hurt by somebody in any context; and we immediately were able to forgive and release them in Christ and even love them because we saw how God was using what they intended for evil to produce good in or through you. That is stunning to me; that someone can have such a perspective.
This is What it Means to Walk in the Light-- Now I want to impress this upon you because a love that can allow you to forgive like that; that is at the heart of what it means to be the Church. It doesn’t matter what has been done to you; what differences separate us; we are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ and those in the world we engage with. If we cannot do this, John says we are then those who still walks in darkness.
Radical Holiness— Is this radical? Yes. That is what Christ’s call to holiness is. A complete change of who we are that affects how we live, how you and I see our circumstances and relationships with other people; a change of mind and a change of heart. The ability to walk in the light of the kingdom and not in the shadow of the world. That is depth of the salvation Christ offers; a present transformation where our hearts become oriented on Him. And that orientation can start right here today when you say, “Jesus, I am tired of walking in darkness. I’m tired of the shadows. Help me to walk in the light as you are in the light. Separate me from all darkness. Make me holy as you are holy so that I might live and walk victoriously as I abide in you.”
Invitations to Freedom-- Dr. Dennis Kinlaw (former President of Asbury College) expressed his gratitude for John Wesley making clear something very important. God’s commands are also God’s implicit promises. “If God tells me to have a pure heart, it is because he has the power to purify my heart. If he tells me to live above conscious sin, it means he can keep me there; he will enable me not to sin. His commands are promises that he will do in me all that I need him to do. His commands are not burdens, but invitations to freedom.”
Romans 6:12-14 (ESV)-- 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Let us embrace that freedom today. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.