2nd Sunday of Easter (B)
I John 1:1-2:2
April 8, 2018
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Epistle, which was read a few minutes ago.
When I was in High School one of the classes I took was an Introduction to Computer Programming. My dad did a lot with computers and the class seemed like a good idea. It turned out that I didn’t have my dad’s aptitude for programming. I was frequently confused and without his help, I probably would’ve failed. One of the things I remember all these years later are IF/THEN statements. So, if X equals 42, then the program would skip to the next step. If X equals 32, then the program would skip two steps. IF/THEN statements are important in computer programming, but they’ve been in use a long time. They’ve been used in logic and math, and even Saint John uses them the first chapter of his first Epistle. John’s use of this formula leads us to an IF/THEN statement of our own, namely, if you have Easter joy, then you will walk in the light of God.
During this year’s Easter season, all the Epistle readings come from John’s first Epistle to the Church. This works out well because for six weeks we can follow John’s train of thought and learn what the Holy Spirit is teaching us about our faith. John’s letter is different than many of the letters in the New Testament because John’s not addressing errors that have crept into the congregations. Instead John uses his Epistle to remind Christians of what it means to be faithful and to have the joy of salvation.
We start with verse 5, “This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” Darkness and light are frequently seen as polar opposites. Darkness reminds us of sin and evil, while light reminds us of holiness and goodness. Some people like the darkness of night when they can look up at the stars, but what happens when they’re alone and suddenly hear a strange sound? The darkness because a little frightening, right? To walk in the dark is a dangerous thing. We avoid dark alleys in big cities. People avoid the African plains when the sun goes down. And even if you have a flashlight, there are still shadows and places the light doesn’t penetrate. Physical darkness can be a scary, but spiritual darkness is all the more frightening and we must be aware of what it means to not walk in the light of God.
So how do you know you’re walking in the dark? John gives us some IF/THEN statements of his own. He says, “If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, [then] we lie and do not practice the truth.” Fellowship with God is walking with Him and living as faithful Christians. If, however, you say you walk in God’s light but prefer the darkness of your sins, you’re lying. You might say you have fellowship with Him, but the truth is that your life is a lie. God is the ultimate and perfect Truth, anything that doesn’t line up with Him is a lie. We can’t have fellowship, a relationship, with someone that’s built on lies, and the same thing goes in our fellowship with God. It must be based on the truth. Not a truth of our own making, but His and His alone.
The next IF/THEN statement is one that we’re very familiar with, “If we say we have no sin, [then] we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” We say these words frequently here at Emmanuel, but do we really listen to what we’re saying? Or do we think they’re not completely true for usHow do we often view our sins? We rationalize them. We blame others. We blame our upbringing. We minimize them. “Yeah, it’s a sin, but I didn’t really hurt anyone. It’s not like I murdered someone, I just…”
Have you ever heard it said that a person is lying to themselves? That’s exactly what John is saying! To rationalize or to minimize our sins is to lie to ourselves. It’s also lying to God, but He knows the truth, doesn’t He? We deceive ourselves when we think that what we’ve done is so minor it’s inconsequential. We deceive ourselves, so we’re living a lie. And if you build your life on a foundation of lies, eventually it all comes crashing down. If we lie, then we are not living in God’s truth but eventually the truth is revealed.
The next thing John says is “If we say we have not sinned, [then] we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.” This IF/THEN statement goes along with the previous one, but it’s a little bit different. Because while saying we have no sin makes us liars, it does the same thing to God! God makes clear that we’re all born sinful, that sin permeates every aspect of our lives. We should certainly strive to not sin, but how often are we successful? Not very, but we like to think that we’re less sinful than others, that what we do can’t really be called sins in the usual way. But this makes God a liar! And if God won’t ever lie, this is a personal attack on Him. This gives us another IF/THEN statement of our own. If we call God a liar, then we deserve to be punished. Not a good statement at all!
John tells us that this is not how those redeemed by God through the blood of Jesus are to live. John calls Christians “his little children” and if we’re God’s children, we’re not liars and we’re not those who walk in the darkness while saying we’re believers. Instead, we hold to the truth of God’s Word and acknowledge what it says about the depth of our sin.
Now John says something that doesn’t make sense at first glance. He says, “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” How is that possible? Did we just say that we’re all sinful? That we’re not just making mistakes in judgment but truly sinning? John’s not calling God a liar by saying we can not sin. We’re going to sin, there’s no way to avoid it. But there are other options when we sin, other than denying, excusing, or rationalizing them. If we sin, when we sin, then we expose them to the Light of God, for it is there that our sins are dealt with by the only One who can do anything about them. John says, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” This is the Easter IF/THEN statement. If we sin, then we have the risen and living Christ speaking on our behalf, and if we are filled with Easter joy, then we confess our sins are cleansed by the blood of Christ.
John’s entire Epistle is based on the truth of Jesus’ resurrection! What John and the others touched and saw and heard is what John shares with us today so that we can have joy! We rejoice that while we sin, the light of God overwhelms the darkness of Sin and Death. Jesus destroyed the power of the Darkness when He burst out of the tomb shattering the gloom with an unstoppable light that permeated every corner of the world. There isn’t a place on earth where the Light of Christ doesn’t call people to repentance and forgiveness. He is the eternal light and if we are His children, then we are saved!
If you walk in the light, then the Easter joy permeates your lives. If you walk in the light, you’re in fellowship with God This is why Christians faithfully gather for worship. We come before God confessing our sins, acknowledging the depth of our sins against God, and then being forgiven. “If we confess our sins, [then] He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” How’s that for an IF/THEN statement? That’s the Gospel promise of the Risen Savior!
Life is a series of IF/THEN statements. If you don’t break traffic laws, then you won’t get a ticket. If you get sick, then you stay home from school or work. Not all the IF/THEN are earthshattering, some are just daily decisions and events in our lives. But the IF/THEN statement of forgiveness is earthshattering! Nothing is better than confessing your sins and being forgiven. For this forgiveness empowers you to walk in the light of God and it means that the Risen Savior gives you the Easter joy.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen