Sermon on 1 John 1:1-2:2
Christ the King Sunday
November 22, 2020
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! Amen.
Dear fellow light-dwelling sinners: how would you like it, if, after your earthly life has come to an end, people would say about you: “He (or she) walked with God?” Well, our text was written by a man who literally walked with God. John was with Jesus for his entire earthly ministry, and so he speaks with a great deal of authority, and love, when he pens this letter to Christians in danger of being led astray by heresy. We Christians, too, are in danger of going astray, led by our own sinfulness. So, at this, the close of our church year, let us pause—and let us forget about the events in the world, and focus on what we have done—and listen to the firm yet gentle message penned by our brother John, who urges us to step out of the darkness of sin, and into the light of Christ.
John writes in very specific, black and white terms: “when we say we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie.” What does he mean? If we say we are believers, that we love God, and that we know and do His will, but we don’t, then we are lying, and aren’t acting like believers at all. We’re acting like the unbelievers around us, who “walk in the darkness.”
Christ said to Nicodemus “Everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” That is where the deeds of your sinful flesh belong – in the dark, because they are shameful and not the actions of a reborn, faithful Christian. Look at another simple statement from John: “God is light, and there is no darkness in him.” The darkness is unbelief – if you say you are a believer, but act like an unbeliever, once again, you are a liar, and a hypocrite.
How can we dare to deny our sin, or to diminish its significance by comparing to those of others, when Scripture teaches us again and again that we are dead in sin, that no one born of woman is righteous, that no one seeks after God? To break even one part of the Law is to break all of it – and so your “meager” sins are as damning as the millions of murders carried out on the orders of Josef Stalin, or Adolph Hitler.
Paul calls himself “the worst of sinners,” but I say that you are the worst of sinners – and so am I.
If we do not acknowledge our sinfulness, then we have no use for Christ, the Word, and worse, we have no use for the forgiveness he won for us. We dwell in darkness. His Word, the Word of Life, is not in us. Without that Word of Life, without the Light of Life, we have only darkness, death, and hell.
But John does not write this to condemn us and leave us in our sin. Guilty? Yes. Hypocrite? Sometimes. Liar? Yep. But God did not leave me, or you, without help. His inspired writer John wants “(Our) joy to be made complete,” that is, he wants us to have the joy that comes from a true faith, not one based on lies. So now that we stand convicted, let us step out of the darkness of that sin, and into the light of Christ.
We might deceive ourselves, but we can't deceive our holy, all-powerful God, who knows what we need. So John spells it out for us in black and white, or dark and light, terms – every time he reminds us of the darkness of our sins, he takes us back to the light – Christ.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Our just God promised us punishment, death, for our sins. Our faithful God kept that promise – by punishing our Savior instead of us.
“But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” Our intercessor Christ speaks for us “I paid the price, so this sinner can become a child of the light, and has a place in the fellowship of Heaven.”
When we repent, in faith, then we may receive for ourselves, each one of us, the grace and forgiveness won for us by our intercessor, Christ. We have been purified from all unrighteousness. We have been forgiven all of our sins. Have you walked in the darkness, to hide the shame of your sins? You are forgiven! Have you lied to cover yourself? You are forgiven! Have you tried to point the finger at some “worse” sinner, to make yourself look better? You are forgiven! These sins, and all the rest, have been paid for by Christ your Savior, your Intercessor.
Honest, open—that's the nature of the true fellowship believers have with each other and with Christ when their faith is not marred by hypocrisy and lies. “When we walk in the light we have fellowship with each other and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sins.” So do you have to walk in the light, doing God’s will, to be cleansed of your sins? Absolutely not, Christ’s blood paid for your sins, and for those of the whole world, whether we believe or not.
But do you walk in the light? “God is light, and there is no darkness in him.” We who have been cleansed of our sin, have fellowship with each other, and with God…and to walk with God, is to walk in the light. Let’s finish Christ’s statement to Nicodemus: “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
Where am I going with this? John saw and heard, and in his gospels and his letters he witnesses and announces what he has seen and heard. And so do we, dear friends, in our words and in our actions. To walk in faith is to walk in the light, witnessing and announcing our faith in everything we say and do.
Are we the worst, the darkest of sinners? Yes. Are we forgiven children, walking in the light of Christ? Also yes! John, the beloved disciple, who touched and tasted the Lord’s first Supper, who heard the Savior cry “it is finished!” on Calvary, who ran into the empty tomb of Jesus on Easter, and who saw the glorious vision of Christ the King’s return, tells us so. Let us, then, remain in that joyful fellowship with John, and with our Lord and Savior, until the Last Day comes and our King returns. And on that Day we will walk with our King and God, out of this darkened world, and into the perfect light, and the eternal joy, of Heaven. Amen.
Votum: To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power, and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forever more! Amen.
The Holy Bible, Evangelical Heritage VersionTM (EHVTM) copyright © 2016 The Wartburg Project. All rights reserved.
Lectionary listings from Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal © 1993 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.