1st John- Wayne Barber (Part 5)
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2007|
|There are a lot of people who think that now that they are believers they don’t have to deal with sin any more. As a matter of fact, many want to blame other people or other things. If there is a problem, it is somebody else’s fault. We never seem to look within and understand that we never, ever outgrow the fact that we are going to have to deal with sin in our life.|
The Believer and Sin – Part 1
1 John 1:8-10
There are a lot of people who think that now that they are believers they don’t have to deal with sin any more. As a matter of fact, many want to blame other people or other things. I heard Vance Havner tell the story of a lady who walked into a psychiatrist’s office with a strip of bacon on one ear and a strip of bacon on the other ear and a fried egg on her head. She looked at the doctor and said, “Doctor, I am here to talk to you about my husband. He has a real problem.” That is exactly the way most people are. If there is a problem, it is somebody else’s fault. We never seem to look within and understand that we never, ever outgrow the fact that we are going to have to deal with sin in our life.
The initial message of Jesus Christ found in Mark 1:15 was this. He said, “Repent.” Then he said, “and believe.” That is not in the aorist tense – aorist means that at a specific point in time, do it – it is in the present imperative. Present tense means repent and keep on repenting. The imperative mood means it is a command. Believe and keep on believing. That was God’s message. It is not a one-time repentance. It is the one time, initial coming to know Christ and repenting of our sin, but it is also a daily living in light of the fact that we choose the wrong things and we daily have to repent and change our behavior for Him.
The Apostle Peter preached a message in Acts 2 that has been used by people in the wrong way for so many years. In Acts 2:38 he said, “Repent, and…be baptized.” I don’t know how many denominations have picked up on that. I know one for sure that says, “Oh, you see, you’ve got to repent but you have to be baptized before you can be a Christian. Therefore water baptism is what saves you.” That is not at all what he is saying there. As a matter of fact, the word “for” also is translated “because of.” Are you going to build a doctrine off of that?
Repent. Involved in that word are all the things necessary. Belief is the other side of repentance. They are two sides of the same coin. Repent, be baptized. Being baptized is simply your public witness of what has already taken place in your heart. But Luke puts it in the aorist tense. Aorist tense means “do it”. Now what is the difference? Jesus put it in the present: “Repent and keep on repenting.” Peter says, “Repent” and puts it in the aorist. Is there a conflict there? No. Peter is dealing with the initial response. He is dealing with what these people need to do now. Jesus is putting it not only in the now, but in the future. He is saying, “This is the message. You will repent now but you will live repenting the rest of your life because a Christian deals with sin every day that he lives.” Confession and repentance are a part of the daily agenda of the life of every believer.
We know that the Apostle John in the book of 1 John is writing to combat the Cerenthian heresy. It is a form of Gnostism. Gnosticism is a much bigger subject than just what is going on in 1 John. Cerenthus had a certain idea that he was getting into the church. John was writing to combat that.
There were three other tenets about the Cerenthian heresy that we haven’t talked about yet. First of all they said, “Jesus did not have a body of flesh. Flesh is evil. God inhabited Him when He was baptized and left Him before He was crucified.” Then later it changed and another heresy grew out of that which said He was just a ghost and never had a body to start with. Of course, it denied everything about His redemption and why He came to this earth.
Another part of that heresy was they had three different distinct views of sin and it was found in different twists. One of them said that you can claim to be a Christian and still live in sin. You are not responsible for it anymore. You can live like you want to. Paul had a little bit to deal with some of that type of thinking in the book of Romans when he says in chapter 6, “What should we say then? Should we continue in sin that grace should abound? May it never be!” We are dead to sin. But there was this idea in the Gnostic heresy that said that you could continue to live in sin and still claim to be a believer. No way!
Secondly, there was the idea that you could come to a plateau in your life. In other words, if you have been a Christian for 30 years and you have been a pretty good person and you have read your Bible every day and you haven’t missed any church, you can come to a level of not even sinning any more. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? You wouldn’t even have to confess sin any more. You can enter into this echelon of sinless perfection. That was the second twist to how they dealt with sin.
Then there was a third twist and that was the worst one. The third one said we have never sinned to begin with. Somebody else came up with this word “sin.” There is no sin. Nobody has sinned. Everybody is a good person, just in the wrong environment type thing. We don’t have any sin at all.
Those were three of the twists of the Gnostic heresy back then. Wasn’t it the author of Ecclesiastes who said there is nothing new under the sun? In the 21st century we are not dealing with anything new. We are just dealing with something with a different face on it. Maybe at first we think it is new but it is the same old stuff that comes across.
John is writing to combat that. He actually makes the three false statements that they make beginning in verse 6 of 1 John 1, and he finishes those three false statements in verse 10. We looked at the first one last time.
The second false confession is where we are going to start this time. Three times he says, “If we say.” Verse 8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” What is he saying here? Well, first of all, the “we have” there is in the present tense. We are in the state of having no sin. In other words, we have reached that place. Spirituality is an attainment. We finally arrived and we don’t have to deal with sin anymore. John goes on to say if we say that, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.
The word “deceiving” is the word planao. We get the word “planet” from it. The idea is, if we are saying this, that we don’t have to deal with sin anymore, we are like a planet wandering around. There is no direction in our life. Have you ever noticed people who have problems in their life and they don’t want to have to deal with personal sin? It is almost as if they have come beyond that. Something else is the matter but not sin. You can’t get them to sit down and realize that sin is the problem. These people never seem to come to any solutions. They never come to any answers. Why? Because they are deceiving themselves by saying they don’t have any sin. We have got to understand that sin still is in the life of a believer. A believer has to deal with sin.
Well, he says, “the truth is not in us.” There are two words for “not” in the Greek. One is a relative type of word. The other one is the word used here which means absolutely in any shape or form the truth is not in them. Now, there are a lot of people in our time who still echo some of these things. They say, “Hey, I don’t have to deal with sin.” As a matter of fact, years ago I almost got caught up in a heresy that said you don’t confess sin any more, you confess who you are in Jesus. If you confess who you are in Jesus, then whatever you confess will be so in your life. I would get up in the morning and get in the shower and confess who I was in Jesus. Man, I had that thing down. “I have been made righteous. I am a child of God. I am seated in the heavenlies.” I could go through that thing.
I think that is very critical for us to understand. We need to know those things. But folks, just confessing our righteousness doesn’t mean we have attained it. Paul didn’t tell Timothy to confess it. He said pursue it. There is a big difference. As soon as I got out of the shower and got dressed, I said, “Oh God, I have been made the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ. And, oh God, I am seated in the heavenlies with You. I will not have a lustful thought today.” That lasted about 30 seconds.
What are we doing when we think that we can arrive? Spirituality is not an arrival. Spirituality is a pursuit. It’s a day by day pursuit. We are going to deal with sin until the day Jesus comes and glorifies us. Then we will know a presence apart from the penalty, the power and the presence of sin. We are going to be with Him forever and won’t have to deal with it anymore.
The Gnostics said they could reach this spiritual pentacle. But a believer must deal with sin. Now let me explain something to you. When I got saved I got a new heart. I really did. Go back and study the covenant. It tells us in Ezekiel that we are going to get a new heart. What does that mean? It means that His Spirit has come to live in my spirit. Because of that new heart that is in me, I can’t pursue sin habitually anymore. Oh, I may make some stupid choices, but I can’t pursue it. I can’t live it habitually anymore. Why? Because I have the nature of God inside of me.
But here is the enigma. I still have a fallen body and James says that my fallen body has lust in it. The problem with the lust of my flesh is they continue to gravitate towards that which is not righteous. Whenever the temptation comes, I had better make sure I understand the battle because my flesh always pulls me this way and my spirit is pulling me that way. That is the struggle Galatians 5 is talking about. Every man is going to have to deal with sin. You can never get to a point that you don’t deal with sin.
This is so neat to watch in my children when they come to me and say, “Daddy, I’ve got this problem. I’ve got that problem.” I say, “Yeah, I know. I do, too.” They hate to hear that because they are hoping when they get out of college, get married, have children, they can get to a place where they don’t have that trouble anymore. No, no. I hate to tell you. You not only have it, it intensifies because the more knowledge you have about that, the more intense that particular problem becomes in your life.
One day I was studying in Galatians 5. It says if you obey the Spirit you won’t fulfill the lust of the flesh. Thank God! Man, I jumped up and shouted. Everybody wondered why I was so happy. It didn’t say you won’t have them, it says you won’t fulfill them. Are you a Christian and for some reason you think you have been saved long enough that you shouldn’t be bothered by certain things in your walk? Who told you that? You are going to deal with sin until Jesus comes back. Why? Because we have fallen bodies of flesh. Anybody who ever tells you that you will ever get beyond sin, you had better back away from them and get on your knees and pray for them because they are way, way off the mark. You never come to a point that you have somehow gotten beyond sin.
One of my dearest friends came to my house one time. I remember everything he ever said to me, even if it was humorous. He was just like me. That brother confessed sin so many times to me. “Brother Wayne, I am so sorry.” I was thinking, “Good night. I thought maybe when I got to your age I would get beyond some of this stuff.” But he let the message come home deep to me that you never, ever, ever get beyond sin. When you begin to understand that, it takes all the judgmental garbage out of us. How are you going to point a finger at somebody else when there are three fingers pointing right back at you?
I have thought many times about the prodigal son. I would have been the prodigal son. I mean, that is kind of the way I was when I grew up. I would be the one taking off with my inheritance. But you know what bugs me? It is goody-two shoes out in the fields. He didn’t go. The thing that really gets me about him is that when the prodigal son came back, he began to accuse him of spending it on harlots. Oh, come on. Why would he say that? Why would he pick out one thing? I guarantee you he is sitting out there in that field and that is his problem. You see, even though he didn’t actually go do it, he was just a guilty as this one is because it is in his heart. Friend, you never get beyond sin! Quit blaming somebody else. You are probably in the same boat.
It is funny how God raised up the Chaldeans in the book of Habakkuk. It shows the Chaldean in each of us, doesn’t it? He will always raise up somebody just like you except they are a little bit further down the tube and they will drive you nuts. God is trying to show you the same thing is in your life. Well, enough of that.
Look at the contrast in verse 9. He says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Look at the first phrase, “if we confess our sins.” The verb “confess” again is in the present tense. Isn’t that amazing? “Now wait a minute. I don’t like the present tense. That means continual action. I want to confess it once and that’s it.” Well, for that sin that is fine, but there will be another one and there will be another one and another one. Part of the lifestyle of the believer is dealing with sin. What he is saying here is that the process of confessing our sins is energized each time we do so. If you confess it once, it is a little easier to confess it the next time. When you let that be a practice in your life, you start recognizing what is sin and what is not sin and you start dealing with it. Oh, the healthiness of your mind and your whole spiritual walk before God when you realize you are dealing with sin and you are dealing with flesh.
The verb homologeo tells us something. There are a lot of people who say if we confess our sins, all that means is to agree with God. That is what it says. Homo means alike, and logeo means to say. “To say the same thing,” is what he is saying. They say, “Well, God, I have sinned. Isn’t that what I am supposed to tell you?”
Now wait a minute. Think with me for a second. The very word itself shows you that there is a whole lot more than just agreeing with God that you have sinned. It means to take upon yourself the same estimate towards that sin that God takes upon it. Number one, how did it happen? It wasn’t your brother. It wasn’t your sister. You made the choice. Quit blaming anybody else. Once we are saved, we are responsible. We have to deal with individual sins. Listen, we make the choice. That is the first thing. God makes you agree with Him on that. Secondly, that choice you made missed the mark completely. Oh, man, I feel like this is a mirror bouncing right back at me. This is for me, too.
The third thing is how God hates that sin. You see, there are a lot of people who go through the motions of agreeing with God. “Oh yes, God, that is sin I did. Thank you for reminding me. Will you forgive me?” Then they go right on. Oh no. You look at it the way God looks at it and you agree with Him and say the same thing He says about it. He hates it. That is what cost Jesus His life on the cross. When a person comes to the place in their walk that they start taking sin lightly, then they have missed the whole purpose and point of what their Christianity is all about. In other words, we must agree with God, not only that we are responsible for our sins, that we chose to do the sin, but we agree with God in His estimate towards that sin. So built in that, implicit in the word “confess” is the attitude of repentance. The attitude of saying, “God, I am so sick of it. I am so sorry for it. God, I want to turn away from it and I want to turn now to do what You want me to do in that particular area of my life.”
One of the places that I failed in so much in my walk in the earlier years and still have some tendencies that way is to confess it without turning away from it. You see, there are a lot of people doing that. In Proverbs it says you are to confess and forsake your sin. That is the repentant attitude. That is taking God’s estimate upon that.
I want to tell you something, sin is so deceitful. We sit back so smug as if nothing is wrong in our life. What is wrong with us? If you ever get to the point that you think you have gotten beyond sin, you are not going forward, you are going backward. You are going to deal with it until Jesus comes back. It is a subtle thing. You think you can get out of it because you think that was Class 101 and you’ve moved to Class 201. There is no Class 201. It is 101 until Jesus comes back. We deal with it every day of our life.
I think part of the thinking of God on this is that the more I confess sin, the more I am able to recognize it the next time. If I don’t get in the habit of looking at it, then it can slip in and out of my life and I never even understand what is there.
It goes on to say if you will do that, “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” He is faithful. The word is trustworthy. He can be trusted to do what He said He would do. What are you under? What is holding you hostage? I guarantee you it is sin in your life somewhere. He is trustworthy. He will do what He said He will do. Secondly, He is righteous. The word “righteous” there means righteous. I don’t know how to explain it any other way. He is who He is. It is not something He does. It is who He is. Paul said in Romans 1 that the gospel, the good news of God, reveals the righteousness of God. If you want to know what He is like, look at what Jesus did. He is the only One you can turn to when you sin. You can’t go to a priest. You can’t come to church and do better works. You’ve got to go to the One who is righteous, and the One who is righteous is faithful to do what He said He would do.
It says He will forgive us. The word “forgiveness” is the aorist subjunctive aphiemi. The word aphiemi is from apo, from, and hiemi, which means to send, to send away from. “Do you mean to tell me the weight of that sin and the burden of that sin that I have been carrying around with me, the thing that has been holding me hostage so long in my life, do you mean when I confess it with an attitude of repentance that He will do what He said He will do, He will set me free and He will take that burden off of me?” Exactly. As a matter of fact, the picture is in the Old Testament, the High Priest, taking the goat out and putting his hands on the head of the goat and confessing the sins of the people and sending the goat off into the wilderness never to return. The word means to send away. That is what He is doing. He sends it away. Are there any consequences? Yes, there are always consequences. But as far as my fellowship with Him and my right relationship with Him, I am restored. That weight is lifted off of me and then He gives me the mercy to bear up under whatever consequence was there in the first place. Grace deals with sin. Mercy always deals with the consequence.
“To forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The word “cleanse” is the word katharizo. It means something was filthy and had to be cleaned because there is a stain there somewhere that had to be cleansed. God wants to clean us up, cleanse us. You say, “Well, He did that at salvation.” That is exactly right. But that doesn’t mean we don’t walk in the muck and the mire of sin every day. That is why we constantly come back to have our feet washed as He told Peter one day. “Peter, you have already had your bath. You just need your feet washed.” You see, it is a cleansing. It is a cleansing.
It is wonderful to be clean. All kinds of problems can develop when a person is not clean before God, when he hasn’t made a break with sin, when he hasn’t repented, when he hasn’t taken on that estimate of sin that God wants him to take. You see, part of that cleansing is the guilt. Hebrews 9:14 talks about the guilt and the evil consciousness. Hebrews 10:2 and 22 has to do with the guilt of sin. I think that is what he is talking about. The penalty of sin has already been paid for. It has been cleansed away. But now it is the guilt of sin. Proverbs 5 says a man is bound by the cords of his own sin. We tend to say, “No way! It is not my sin. It is their sin!” God says, “No way. It is not what they have done to you. It is how you have wrongly reacted to them.” A man is bound by the cords of his own sin. All unrighteousness. There is not one single sin that you can commit that God cannot cleanse you from except when you reject the gospel of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit of God and blaspheme Him. There is not much He can do with you then because evidently you don’t need Him. But any other sin we commit in our life, God can immediately cleanse us from and it is such a wonderful thing.
One of the things I have discovered is, when you are clean, everybody gets prettier and the grass gets greener and the sky gets bluer. It is just amazing how it changes your whole perception towards life. But if you let sin get into your life, watch the countenance fall. What did God say to Adam in the garden? “Adam, why has your countenance fallen? What is going on here?” There is always an appearance of sin on the outside.
So we see the practice of a believer as contrasted with this wrong doctrine of people saying, “We don’t have to deal with sin anymore. It is not our problem. We have been Christians for years and we have graduated out of it.”
The third false statement is found in verse 10: “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” Here is the worst scenario you can possibly have. He changes from that present tense which is in the preceding verse and puts it in the aorist tense which means, “I have never sinned at any point in time in my life, ever. I am not a sinner. All men are created good!” Have you heard this these days? The tense there means that he has never at any time whatsoever sinned. The word “not” is used there. It’s the same word for “not” used earlier. “I have not in any way, shape or form ever sinned before in my life.” Well, if they haven’t sinned, then they have no need for Christ. Is that not correct?
As a matter of fact, he goes on to say that we make Him a liar. What did Jesus say? “I came to die for your sin.” You make Him a liar. If you haven’t sinned, then you don’t need Him. This is the attitude of the lost in our world today. Now listen to what I am about to say. People of the world today believe that our problems are not caused because of sin. They are caused by wrong environment. If you put a child in a wrong environment that is what his problem is. It’s bad government. Some people are saying Evangelical Christianity is the root of the problem because they preach against sin and they make everybody feel guilty. That is what is wrong with our society. They say the original Adam was a type for all men. Every man is born good.
I was on a flight recently with this guy. When he found out what I did for a living, he wouldn’t let me talk anymore. I asked him what he did and he said, “Well, I am a counselor of juvenile delinquents in the court system…or I have been. I have just changed jobs and I am doing something else.” I said, “Oh, is that right? What approach do you take with these kids who are in so much trouble with drugs and everything else?” He said, “Oh, first of all you’ve got to realize there are no bad kids. All kids are good.” Right! Do you know what he is doing? Do you know what he is quoting? That is Freudian psychology. Freud said there is no objective basis for wrong. You cannot track it back to sin. You can put it someplace else but there is never one solitary reason. That is what he said. So many have come out against that.
“So we believe it is the problem of environment,” he said. “Get a kid out of that bad environment and you’ve got a kid who will change.” I said, “How long were you doing that?” He said, “Seven years.” I said, “How many people did you see change?” “Well,” he said, “that is relative.” I said, “Wait a minute, I asked you a question. How many kids did you see change?” “Well, many of them got jobs.” I said, “Did you see their character change? Did you see their life in any way morally change?” “Well, no, but I mean, come on man, what are you asking us to do?” You see, that is society, folks. Let’s move to another neighborhood where it is a little bit nicer and we can be better people. Are you kidding? Flesh is flesh I don’t care where you are.
When I was over in Romania all those years, I thought they were the most precious people. I said, “I’ll never be the Christian these people are.” My friends would try to tell me, “Wayne, you don’t understand. Their flesh is just as wicked as your flesh.” We got over there in one situation and found out the liberals were arguing against the conservatives. The people at church were having all kinds of problems. They would come for an hour to pray, yes. But it was because they came out of the Greek Orthodox Church which said if you don’t come to pray, God will kill you. They don’t come because of a love motive. A lot of them came because of the work ethic. They didn’t understand the security of the believer. They don’t understand grace. That is what our ministry was for so many years over there. What did He teach us? Flesh is flesh wherever you are.
My friends were telling me they have seen people who came out of Romania being critical of Americans going to malls and getting all this materialism. Six months later they were the same way. Why? Because every one of us are descended from one man, Adam and because of Adam, we have our flesh to deal with and sin to reckon with. Thank God for the first Adam, which was not the one in Genesis. It was Jesus. Out of Him we have been born again and we are now spiritual beings with a brand new heart. But we still have that ole body which is plagued with the lust of our flesh. They will eat our lunch if we give them half a change. We will deal with sin. For a person to say I have never sinned is the height of ignorance.
John said, “If you say this, you make Him a liar and His Word is not in us.” The “word” there in John’s vocabulary refers to the preexistent word, Jesus Christ, and also to all the truth that He gave to you and me. None of that is in him at all, cannot be. Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” We do deal with sin. It is more intense now probably than it was when we first started because the more you know of light, the more it exposes the darkness and the more repentant your heart becomes. That is why Paul says, “I am the chief of all sinners.” You see, sin is a very real problem in our life.
Do you know what I am like in my flesh? I am a manipulator. Are you that way? If it is in my flesh, I can manipulate it to make it work for my benefit every time. I am good at it. I have been practicing many years of my life. When I got saved I had been in the ministry for eight years. It helps to have a saved minister! I was in the den on my knees and said, “God, will you show me the filth that is in my life?” I cried for two hours until my nose bled when I saw the filth of me, just me. I have no clue why God would ever let me pastor. It amazes me. Sin is real and don’t you ever forget it. Do you have a problem in your life? You might want to track it back there first. Not that you have confessed it, because I think the confession we’ve heard is a watered down version of what God says. Have you broken from it? And repented of it? That is confession because you have taken upon yourself the same estimate of it God has.