1 John 1 (5-10)

John Seward  •  Sermon  •  
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Notes & Transcripts

Walking in the Light      
A sermon on 1 John 1:5-10 preached at Christ the King Church on 10/8/05
 

Prayer:  Father in heaven, we again come to tremble before your Word, asking you to help us to listen to what the Scriptures have to say to us about you and also about ourselves.  So, help us this morning, our gracious God, to know you and love you.  I ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

Introduction:  Have you ever stared at the sun, stared directly at the sun?  For that’s one of those strange activities that your mother warned you not to do, and yet drawn by curiosity or direct disobedience or even avoidable innocence, at some time or another in our lives, most of us have stared into the sun.  And do you remember what happened when you gave that giant ball of gases but a momentary glance?  Well, immediately, your eyes began to burn, and this intense burning compelled you to quickly turn your face.  And then, do you recall what happened when you turned from looking into the sun to looking at the world around you?  Well, likely your eyes had trouble refocusing.  And so you experienced a brief blackness, a temporary eclipse, in which you saw all the darkness around you. 

 

Well, in the Bible passage we have before us this morning, the apostle John intends to provide for us a similar sort of experience.  In 1 John 1:5-10, he sets before us the vision of God as being absolute light, a light far greater and purer than that golden sun above.  And in so doing he wants his readers (you and me) to experience and recognize the blackness that is all around us and within us, the blackness of sin, this great darkness that is only exposed, can only be seen, once we have gazed intently upon the perfect light of God.

 

God is Light

 
In the Westminster Shorter Catechism one of the first questions that is asked is the question, What is God?  There the answer is given, “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.”  Now, that’s agood answer.  It is surely better than the answer we would receive on the street corner or in the office or at the coffee shop, that now standard assessment of God that makes Him into the image of us.  “I like to think of God as”[1] [fill in the blank].  That’s the way people talk today, isn’t it? 
 
Well, at least the answer of the Shorter Catechism is not a reversal of divine revelation.  But it is, however, incomplete, for it only indirectly answers the question.  And perhaps it does this to guard the un-searchable greatness of God.  The apostle John, however, pulls down all the guards, and, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, directly answers the question.  What is God?  John hits the mark straight on.  He writes (v.5), “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”  
 
The Greek Church has long called John “the theologian.”  He has earned this title because of his ability to bring clear definition to difficult concepts.  And here in v.5, using the simplest of language (language that even a child can say and picture), John summarizes the divine Being as being absolute “light.”    
 
Now, John is not saying anything novel here.  He is simply borrowing from the language and imagery of Scripture.  Throughout the Old Testament we find “light” (in some form or another) as being a depiction of God.  So in Exodus, for example, God reveals Himself to Moses in the burning bush, and to Israel as a cloud of fire that illuminates their way.  And then at the end of Exodus, when the tabernacle is erected, God’s presence is signaled again with fire present in the golden lamp-stands.[2]  Now, the Psalms also make use of the imagery.  David writes in Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.”  And in Psalm 104 we read, “You are clothed with splendor and majesty.  He wraps himself in light as with a garment.” 
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Now, this Old Testament imagery, of course, is also used in the New Testament of our Lord Jesus.  For not only is His coming described as “a light for revelation” (if you remember what Simeon said of Him), but also Jesus says of Himself (as we heard in our call to worship), “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).  And then Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6 concerning our resurrected and now exalted Lord, saying, “he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light….” 
 
Now, interestingly, while John certainly knows and believes Jesus to be “the light” (for he uses this term over 40 times in His Gospel alone), here in 1 John he nevertheless focuses on God the Father.  In fact, it is Jesus (he tells us) who has given John (and the apostles, those first eyewitnesses) this very message to announce.  Look at the beginning of v.5.  It reads, “This is the message we have heard from him [from Jesus] and proclaim to you.”
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Now, at first I thought this expression, “God is light” was an odd and vague way to summarize Jesus’ message, of what He taught while on earth.  But the more I looked into the matter, the more it made sense; for the message, “God is light,” is in fact a wonderful summary of the Gospel, or at least the starting point of the Gospel.  You see, here’s “the message” (and this message will become clear as we move on in our passage):  God is light (that is, He is perfectly holy and pure).  Man is not the light (that is, he is sinful).  Thus, sinful man needs a sinless Savior, a man who is “God of God, Light of Light,” as the Nicene Creed rightly puts it.[3]  So, “God is light.”  That’s where the gospel starts.  That is the foundation of Christ’s teaching. 
 
 
 
In 1 John 4:16, John writes those famous words (words that have been inducted into the Bumper-sticker Hall of Fame), “God is love.”  And you know it is interesting to note how many of our evangelistic presentations start with this definition of God rather than the one given in 1:5, “God is light.”  But, I think the apostolic ordering is significant.  I think it matters that “Light comes before love.”[4]  That is, I think that it is necessary that we first recognize God’s moral purity, His absolute goodness, and thus our impurities and innate badness, before we come to see this “love” that so loved the world that He sent His only Son.   
 
“My God, how wonderful thou art, Thy majesty how bright, How beautiful thy mercy-seat, In depths of burning light!/How wonderful, how beautiful, The sight of thee must be, Thine endless wisdom, boundless power, And aweful purity!”
 
You see it is this “aweful purity,” as the poet Faber called it, this awesome radiance, this staring point that must be our starting point!  For it is in view of the Being of God, that He is “light” (that He reveals Himself to us in “perfect purity and unutterable majesty”),[5] that we come to see the blackness of sin, and with this a recognition of our need for forgiveness and cleansing.   
 
 
 
If We Say We Have Fellowship (vv.6-7)
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So that’s v.5.  This verse gives us the revelation of God as light.  Now then, in vv.6-10 we have what is to be our self-evaluation, our self-evaluation in light of this light.  Or I’ll put it this way:  In v.5 John gives his thesis:  “God is light.”  And then in what follows (in vv.6-10), he systematically shows what it means to walk and not walk in that light. 
 
Now, thankfully John has made his First Epistle quite preacher-friendly, for he has nicely divided this second section (vv.6-10) into three clear parts.  Do you see the phrase that is repeated three times in our text, in v.6, v.8, and v.10?  It is the phrase, “If we say.”  Of all the New Testament writers John is the most ordered and the most poetic.  And here he orders poetically his teaching as follows:  First, with this phrase “if we say” (and what immediately follows), he introduces some aspect of false teaching or thinking within the church.  Then, he follows this with a denial or contradiction of this teaching or thought.  And then finally, he provides a refutation or a correction.
 
So look with me at vv.6-7 and let me show you how this all works.  “If we say we have fellowship with God while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”  So that’s the claim as well as John’s denial of it.  And then here’s the correction, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”  
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Some of you may recall that old Campus Crusade drawing of the train, where faith is the engine and emotions the caboose.  This picture was used to illustrate the claim that emotions were not absolutely necessary to salvation, that one can still be a Christian and have the ‘caboose’ of emotions attached or not attached.  Well, hopefully you recognize that such an idea is in fact unbiblical, for I do believe the first and greatest commandment addresses the necessity of our love for God.  Well, that was then and this is now.  Today’s Christian, I think, (for better or for worse) places emotion in the very engine of the engine, but he relegates obedience to the back seat.  He places obedience in the caboose (if you will), making obedience something a professing Christian can have or not have.
 
Well, God’s Word here teaches us that just as the right emotions toward God and about the things of God are necessary, so too is godly behavior.  In Romans, Paul calls this reality, “the obedience of faith.”  And here in First John it is labeled, “walking in the light.”  John teaches that we cannot claim to have fellowship with God and still continue to “walk” (“habitually live”) in “darkness,” in disobedience.[6]  In other words, he tell us that we are not to be “spiritual schizophrenics,”[7] pledging allegiance to God with our lips, but trampling on His law with our lives. 
Those who profess to know God are to be distinguishable from the rest of the world (as distinguishable as light is from darkness).  And we are to be different especially, as we shall see in vv.8-10, in our attitude towards sin as well as our actions against it.
 
But, before we go to those final verses, let’s not skip over v.7 (John’s correction), that wonderful verse where he writes, “But if we walk in the light, as he [God] is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”  Now, notice here the two results or consequences of walking in the light.  The first result is church fellowship, fellowship with other believers.  We saw two weeks ago (in our study of vv.1-4) how John sees an intrinsic connection between our relationship with God and our relationship to the apostolic eyewitness.  And here we see that if we are rightly connected to God, then we will be rightly connected with others, with those who also walk in the light.
 
So that’s the first result.  The second result is that “the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.”  Rudolph Bultmann, that infamous Bible critic, claimed that this phrase about Jesus’ blood was an artificial editorial edition, and said that the “content” of the verse “is disturbing.”[8]  Well, Dr. Bultmann missed the whole point.  He failed to see the “inherit logic” of these verses.[9]  Here’s the logical connection of thought:  When one walks in God’s light, such a “light brings a penetrating revelation of who we are.”[10]  And thus, the only way forward, for those who walk in this light, is to cling to the cross, to see the sacrificial blood of Christ to be our constant divine remedy, and to see also the consistency of the cross’s benefits to be our greatest encouragement in leading a “consistently holy life.”[11]  So while Bultmann found Jesus’ blood disturbing, we are to find it preserving, preserving our fellowship with each other and with our Father in heaven. 
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If We Say We Have No Sin (vv.8-9)
 
So (vv.6-7) that’s the first claim and correction. Let’s move on to the second.  Look with me at vv.8-9.  “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
 
 
 
Here the claim sounds quite contemporary.  I “have no sin.”  “I’m not a sinner!”  That’s the gist of it.  Here is simply someone who denies what we call “original sin,” that we are all born ‘bad,’ that there is something fundamentally wrong with human nature brought about by Adam’s sin. 
 
Now, I love how John replies to this old but still ‘alive-and-kicking’ heresy.  He says that such people are untruthful and self-deceptive.  Those who deny sin, those who say, “We are not sinners,” deceive no one around them and certainly not God.  The only people they deceive are themselves.
 
I think I could have some sympathy for those who deny their sinful nature if I lived in a cave in some remote desert and therefore never interacted with a single human being.  But since I live with people all around me, I can’t help but see the everyday effects of everyone’s sinful nature.  Like every parent in the world, I am teaching my children not to hit, not to bite, not to lie, not to steal, not to be selfish.  But why am I doing this?  Why is it that lying and stealing and hitting came so natural to them?  Is it just my kids?  Is it just their distorted genes?  And why is it that I have never had to spend one instant telling them how to love themselves, but I battle daily to make them consider others better than themselves?  You see, those who deny original sin deny the very nose on their face.  Yet, the sad fact is that we live a world where people have Pinocchio-sized noses but they simply choose to bury their faces in the ground.
 
Twice in my life I have traveled to the communist country of Cuba.  And no, I do not secretly work for the CIA or the KGB.  Years ago, I went there on a sports visa, to play basketball against their national team.  Now, being a guest of the Cuban government, I was given the best of their propaganda.  Through videos and tours of various institutions, I learned first hand all the so-called benefits of Communism.  I learned about absolute equality for all.  And I must admit (as I came to better understand this system of thought) that it all made perfect sense.  On paper, I agreed, Communism is the best government in the world.  But, why then in reality is it the worst government?  Why is Cuba so poor?  Why do Cubans feel so oppressed?  Why doesn’t it work?  Well, my answer is simple:  Original sin exists.  And Communism fails to account for this fact.  Communism denies that man is naturally bad, that man is naturally prone to sin.  So it is upon this shaky ground that Communism ultimately crumbles.
 
Now, here’s your political science question for the day:  What is one of the basic differences between Communism and Democracy?  Well, Democracy, to put it bluntly, is based on the realization that we can’t trust anyone for too long!  Right?  Democracy “recognizes our human depravity.  For it refuses to concentrate power in the hands of a few, knowing that it is not safe to do so.  So it is of the essence of democracy to disperse power and so protect rulers from themselves.”[12]  As Reinhold Niebuhr put it, “Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”[13]   
 
I have learned through both Scripture and experience that man is both majestic and monstrous.  We indeed are majestic, for among all creation we alone have a capacity for rational thought, moral choice, artistic creativity, social relationships, and humble worship of the divine.[14]  But we are also monstrous.  As Jesus said, “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly” (Mark 7:21-22).  It is out of the heart, from the very root of our being that sin sprouts.                         
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Fredrick Nietzsche said, “If God is dead, everything is permitted.”  And he was right.  But, if God is alive and if He is light, well then sin is not permitted, and yet surely it is committed.  And that’s why John tells us next that the only answer to the denial of sin is confession of sins.[15]  For if there is anything we are to “say,” it is not that “we have no sin,” but that we are full of sin, from eye to nose, from head to toes.  You see everyone is sinful and therefore everyone sins.  The person who denies this does so only by dismissing or re-labeling his evil thoughts, words, and deeds.  But the person who is not living in denial comes to see the sense of John’s solution, the solution to “confess our sins” to God.* *
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In the book, The Way of a Pilgrim, which is a classic work in Russian Orthodox spirituality, the author combines the publican’s prayer (the tax collector’s prayer), “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner,” with Paul’s admonition to “pray without ceasing.”  He calls this combination (if I remember correctly) the Jesus Prayer.  So, someone who says this Jesus Prayer prays over and over those words, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner” [repeat]. 
 
Now, while such a prayer is called the Jesus Prayer in reality it is far from how Jesus taught us to pray.  It resembles more a pagan mantra than a Christian prayer.  However, this Jesus Prayer does highlight the necessity of a life of continuous confession.  And that’s the point John is making here.  Our confession is not to be once and for all.  It is not to be what we call, the Sinner’s Prayer (that prayer we made the first time we came to Christ).  It is to be continuous.  We are to confess our sin when we first come to Christ.  And we are to keep on confessing our sins as we grow in Christ. 
 
Throughout Scripture we find many warnings about “the danger of concealing our sins,” and yet “many promises of blessing if we confess them.”[16]  And here in v.9 we are reminded of the blessing that confession brings.  Confession to God of our specific sins, our wrong thoughts, words, and deeds, including “the good which we omit, as well as the evil which we do,”[17] brings forgiveness and cleansing.  Look at v.9, what a wonderful verse to memorize.  Post it in your brain.  Pin it to your heart.  “If we confess our sins, God* is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”*  
 
Abraham Lincoln once said, “It is the duty of nations as well as men to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon.”  And indeed genuine repentance or confession does lead to mercy and pardon, or to forgiveness and cleansing, as John words it, because God is truly “faithful and just.”  “He is faithful to forgive because He has promised to do so, and just because His Son died for our sins.”[18]  So, again on the basis of Christ’s blood, God forgives (that is He cancels the debt and brings restoration), and God cleanses (that is, He removes the stain of sin, making us holy and thus renewing our fellowship with Him).[19]
 
If We Say We Have Not Sinned (v.10)
 
Now, John (as we shall see in the weeks to come) will continue some of these same themes as he moves on into Chapter Two.  But before he gets there he adds one final thought.  And that’s what we see in v.10.  Here he deals with one final false claim:  “If we say we have not sinned, we make him [God] a liar, and his word is not in us.”   
Once, a woman came to Charles Wesley, the great hymn-writer, and asked him to pray for her.  She confessed to him, “I am a great sinner.  I am a Christian, but I sometimes fail so dreadfully.  Please pray for me.”  Wesley looked at her rather sternly and replied, “Yes, Madam, I will pray for you; for truly you are a great sinner.”  Well, taken aback by Wesley’s demeanor and straightforward reply, she answered, “What do you mean?  I have never done anything very wrong.”[20]
 
Here in v.10 John is dealing with this type of person.  Oh, they may admit they are a sinner by nature (oh, so sinful!), but certainly not by deed.  “I’m a sinner, but I haven’t done anything very wrong.  I’m a sinner, but I haven’t ever sinned.”  That’s the gist of this false claim.  And while we may laugh at that Wesley story, this attitude towards sin is no laughing matter.  In fact, most commentators agree:  This third false claim is “the most serious of all.”[21]  To claim to have not sinned in the past or the present is a serious mistake in moral judgment. 
 
In Proverbs 30:20 we find one of those really poignant proverbs:  “This is the way of an adulteress:  she eats and wipes her mouth and says, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong.’”  Now, that’s not just the adulteress today, that’s almost every unbeliever in our culture.  From the oval office to death row, we have become experts in eating from the forbidden tree, wiping our mouths, and then turning to the world and saying, “I have not sinned.  I have done nothing wrong.  What do I need to confess?” 
But God’s Word tells us here that God hates such denial.  Why?  Because to say that you have never sinned is to call God “a liar.”  Why is it to make Him a liar?  Well because God makes the opposite claim.  He claims, “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23).  He claims, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20).[22]  So who is right and who is wrong?  Who is doing the lying?  Is it the man who claims he has never sinned, or is it God who claims that all have sinned?  Well, there is only one right answer.  And I think Romans 3:4 puts it well:  “Let God be true, and every man a liar.” 
 
It was said that a man who claimed to be ‘without sin’ once confronted Charles Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher.  Intrigued, the preacher invited this man home for dinner.  After hearing the claims through, Spurgeon arose from his chair, simply picked up his glass of water and threw it straight into the man’s face.  Well, immediately and understandably this ‘perfect’ man showed his imperfections, causing quite a scene, allowing his anger and language to cross the line of courtesy.  To which Spurgeon (with a twinkle in his eye, I would imagine) replied, “Ah, you see, the old man within is not as dead as you claim.  He had simply fainted and I have revived him with but a glass of water!”[23]
 
Now, I don’t know if that story is true or not, but it does help to illustrate the point; for I think there may be a few ‘perfect’ men and women and children here this morning who need a perfectly good splash of water to awaken them to their imperfections.  For you see no one in the kingdom of God on earth “has been so transformed by God that they have reached a level of spiritual maturity that excludes the need for ongoing forgiveness.”[24]  No one has “fully surrendered” or reached “sinless perfection.”  We are all still sinners in need of grace and God’s constant forgiveness.[25]
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Conclusion

 
“God is light.”  That’s the message John has for us this morning.  And if we are to walk in the light, as we are called to do, our first step is to recognize the darkness within, to have a proper self-assessment, a proper attitude towards sin.  So, we are not to say, “We have no sin.”  Nor are we to claim, “We have not sinned.”  No, rather we are to admit that “We have sin,” and “We still sin.”  And we are thus to confess these sins and receive the perpetually benefits of the blood of Jesus Christ. 
 
And so today, as we have gathered together in the name of our Savior, I pray that the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” will shine in “our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).*  *Amen.  Let us pray.
Prayer:  Lord, this morning we have looked into your light.  And we admit it is burning and blinding.  Your holiness is too extreme for us to gaze upon.  But we are grateful today that it is because of the revelation of this light to us that we see our need and that we freely embrace your divine remedy.  Lord, help us to confess our sins to you, and help us to look to Christ and Him alone as the only hope of our salvation.  We pray this in His name.  Amen.*  *
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Benediction:  Let us walk in the light as He is in the light.
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John writes a lot about the theme of love.  But he also writes much about sin.  And this whole First Epistle of his is saturated with “horror, hatred, fear, and repudiation of sin.”[26]  And here in 1:5-10 John wants to make one fact very clear:  We are sinners by nature and by practice.  And to deny this is to fail to see the light, to fail to grasp the basic message of Jesus’ ministry.
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“When Satan tempts me to despair, And tells me of the guilt within, Upward I look, and see him there, [27]Who made an end of all my sin/Because the sinless Saviour died, My sinful soul is counted free; For God, the just is satisfied, To look on him and pardon me.” 
 
Our forgiveness and cleansing is not based on the intensity of our confession, but on what Christ did on the cross.  We can be confident that when we confess our sins, “we stand before God [in Christ] as if we have never sinned at all.”[28]
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And while John doesn’t tell us how or when to confess, we are told to who we are to confession.  We are to confess our sins to God, not a priest or to a fellow Christian.  In fact, there is only one place in the whole of the Bible where confession of our sins to one another is mentioned, at that is in James 5:16, where the context suggests that this is done “where some illness had been caused through a breach in human relationships.”[29]  So, yes, if we have sinned against another we are to confess our sin to that person and ask for forgiveness.  But, with all sins, we are to ask the Lord to hear our confession.  Scripture gives us several examples of what this entails.  I think of Jesus’ story about the Pharisee and the Publican.  The Publican’s confession is all that is needed.  Luke 18:13, “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’”
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So, John’s “definition of God is stated both positively and negatively.”  God is light (that’s the positive).  There is no darkness in him, none at all (that’s the negative).  Let me say just a word on this negative aspect.  We live in what is often called a ‘postmodern’ world, which means that people have little trouble believing in contradictions.  Basic logic tells us that if the statement “God is good” is a true statement, then the statement “God is bad” is not true.  It is a false statement.  Today, we are so muddle-headed.  We have been trained to think only in both/ands not in either/ors.  Today we have been trained to think in gray, not in black and white.  But, John, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit tells us that, while men may mix the two (the good and the bad, the darkness and the light), God is absolute light.          
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The Shantung Compound, Lord of the Flies, etc. (see Burge, 87ff)
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Primitive Baptists (Harper Lee)- 2:18
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As I studied the first two chapters of First John these past few weeks, I had a difficult time deciding how to divide the material into preaching units.  When I first examined the text, I thought I would preach 1:5-2:11 because this whole section addresses this theme of light and darkness.  There is what is called an inclusio.  In 1:5-7, light and darkness are mentioned five times.  And then in 2:9-11 light and darkness are mentioned six times.  So, I was simply going to do a sermon on these two themes.  Yet, I then noticed that there is another important theme that goes from 1:6-2:2, and that is the theme of sin.  We see “sin” (in some form or another) mentioned in nearly every verse.  So, I then thought about preaching a sermon on our sin and our Savior.  However, I decided finally to do a sermon on just 1:5-10.  I was won over to this decision by John’s symmetric structure. 
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Confession

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Proverbs 28:13  13 Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
Daniel 9:4   4 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments,
Daniel 9:20   20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people
Matthew 3:5-8   5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him,  6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.  7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
Acts 19:17-20  17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled.  18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices.  19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver.  20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.
Ezra 10:1  While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly.
Nehemiah 9:3  3 And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day; for another quarter of it they made confession and worshiped the LORD their God.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Songs:  White as Snow, Before the Throne, And Can It Be  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Message:  God is Light

             

Verse 6Negative (-)If we say We/ lie and do not practice the truth/
Verse 7Positive (+)If we walkHe [God] cleanses us from all sin
Verse 8Negative (-)If we say We deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us
Verse 9Positive (+)If we/ confess/The blood of Christ  [God] cleanses us from all unrighteousness
Verse 10Negative (-)If we say We make Him [God] a liar [un-/truthful/]

 
 
 
 
 
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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.  6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 
* *
1:5 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. 
 
6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  9 If we confess* our sins*, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 
 
Introduction
·       Staring into the sun:  When you stare into to sun, two events occur:  (1) your eyes become so hurt than you quickly have to turn away, (2) when you do turn away you are blinded, you see for a moment that everything is black, eclipsed.
·       Well, our text before is meant to provide a similar experience:  In 1 John 1:5-10 John sets before us eyes, God as light, and in so doing he wants his readers to recognize God’s holiness and their own sinfulness
·       Look with me at v.5.
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God is Light

 
1:5 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. 
·       I was tempted to overlook this verse, because at first I thought the thought here was too vague….
·       What is God? (Boice, 27-28)
·       Positive/negative:  God is light/in him no darkness- “Light is positive, darkness is negative.  In his writings, John habitually contrasts opposites, including light and darkness, truth and falsehood, love and hate, right and wrong, life and death, faith and unbelief” (Kistemaker, 242).
·       John the ‘theologian’ (Greek church)- John uses the “simplest language to convey the most profound concepts” (Jackman, 27)
·       “The revelation that God is light is not a discovery which John has made as a result of his philosophical explorations, but a message he has received” (Jackman, 27)
·       “God is Light”
o    “If God made man in his own image then man has returned the compliment” (in Jackman, 26)
o    “We are like the character in one of G. B. Shaw’s plays, whom the playwright describes as ‘a self-made man who worships his creator’” (in Jackman, 26)
o    Symptoms of this:  “But I like to think of God as ….” (in Jackman, 26)
o    God is Spirit/Love/Light (Boice, 28)- “Plagues on walls and bumper stickers on cars tell the world ‘God is love.’  But no one displays the sign God is light.  Yet this is exactly what John does in his first epistle.  He first says, ‘God is light’ (1:5) and later writes, ‘God is love’ (4:16).  Light comes before love” (Kistemaker, 247)
o    “Light enables people to do their work.  It produces growth in crops; it reveals beauty and provides safety.  Light represents what is good, pure, true, holy, and reliable.  Light reveals; light shines” (Barton, 19)
o    “…means that God is perfectly holy and true and that he alone can guide people out of the darkness of sin…..  Light also relates to truth because light exposes whatever exists, whether it is good or bad….  While light has many connotations, this reference points specifically to God’s purity” (Barton, 19-20)
o    God is Light in Scripture: 1 Timothy 6:16, OT references (see Boice, 29; Burge, 65-66)
o    Jesus as the light (Matthew 17:1-13; John 8:12; 2 Cor. 4:4,6; cf. Burge, 66)
§   “When Jesus was on earth, his divine life illuminated the inner lives of his followers.  Everywhere he was present, he gave light.  This light penetrated people- exposing their sin and revealing divine truth” (Barton, 19)
§   Nicene Creed- The church confesses Jesus is “God of God, Light of Light”
§   Why not “Jesus is Light?” – more general to defeat the general Greek notion
o    “In the Gospel of John itself some variation on the word ‘light’ (either as noun or verb) occurs over forty times” (Burge, 66)
o    “Of the statements about the essential Being of God, none is more comprehensive than God is light.  It is His nature to reveal Himself, as it is the property of light to shine; and the revelation is of perfect purity and unutterable majesty” (Stott, 70)
o    “Intellectually, light is truth and darkness ignorance or error.  Morally, light is purity and darkness evil” (Stott, 71)
o    Fredrick William Faber (19th century):  “My God, how wonderful thou art, Thy majesty how bright, How beautiful thy mercy-seat, In depths of burning light!/How wonderful, how beautiful, The sight of thee must be, Thine endless wisdom, boundless power, And aweful purity!
·       “No Darkness”
o    Eastern Religions (Boice, 30)
o    Illustration:  Sermon at CCIW on John 1 (two gods/Mani)
·       The message (God is light) as a summary of the gospel message:  (Boice, 28)
·       A Summary of the Message:
o    We do not have fellowship with God because we are all sinners, we are all in the dark (v.10)
o    We have fellowship through the blood of Christ (cf. 2:2)
o   We must confess our sins and walk in the light
If We Say We Have Fellowship (vv.6-7)
* *
6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 
 
·       My struggle with what section to p: 1:5-2:11 (light/darkness theme) to 1:5-2:2 (sin) 1:5-10 (based on the symmetric structure)
·       The structure is as follows:  If we say/if we walk/if we say/if we confess/if we say [chart]- (see Boice, bottom of 30)
o    The false teaching/thinking:  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness 
o    Contradiction of this:  We lie and do not practice the truth. 
o   Refutation:  But if we walk in the light….   
 
·       Transition:  “We are now in a position to see the personal implications of claiming to be in relationship with such a God” (Jackman, 29) 
o    “Do we live in God’s light or are we exposed, discovered to be in the darkness?” (Burge, 67)
o    “A good God expects good people” (Burge, 68)
o    “Whoever does the truth comes into the light….” (John 3:21)
·       “Here John was confronting the first of three claims of the false teachers:  that people can have fellowship with God and still walk in sin” (Barton, 21)
o    Illustration:  Campus Crusade for Christ:  Emotion as the caboose of the train (see Piper)
o    Today it would better be “obedience” as the caboose
o    It was not the caboose for Paul, “the obedience of faith”  
·       “If we say” (3x) – The one in fellowship with God is not merely a talker, but a walker (cf. James 1-2)
o    “A man’s verb profession is not necessarily to be believed” (Stott, 72)
o    There is an “indissoluble marriage of religion and ethics” (Stott, 73)
o    “Claims to know God tested by attitudes to sin” (Kruse, 61)
o    “You might just as well live in a coal pit and claim that you are developing a sun tan!” (Jackman, 30)
o    Illustration:  “Today many Christians profess Christ but live so enmeshed in the values and attitudes of non-Christians that they are indistinguishable from them” (Barton, 22)
·       Check Barna stats///Relate to newspaper article on Mega-churches/revival/Coleman’s remarks
·       “Walk in Darkness”
o    Walk = “Habitually live” (Stott, 74); “a habit of walking, a way of living” (Burge, 68)
o    Here we have “spiritual schizophrenics” (Barton, 27)
o    The world loves darkness (John 3:19-21)
o    John does let us excuse our little weaknesses
·       “Walk in Light”
o    “Living in the light pictures a life of complete transparency, with no attempts to conceal anything from ‘the Light’” (Barton, 22)
o    Coram Deo (always in the presence of God)
o    Illustration: Practicing the Presence of God
o    “A true Christian will find the searchlight of God’s truth constantly exposing the part of his life that need to be confessed as sin and left behind, through the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit” (Jackman, 30)
o   Illustration:  the experience of a new Christian- “I seem to be more of a sinner than ever I was before” (in Jackman, 34)/share own experience of doing the same sins, now seeing the darkness of them
 
Two Results of Walking in the Light
·       “Fellowship with one another”
o    This is a surprise
o    Illustration:  St. Simon (in Dowley)- we are not to be hermits
o    “True spirituality manifests itself in community fellowship” (Barton, 22)
o    “John sees an intrinsic connection (as we saw in 1:3-4) between our relationship with each other and our relationship with God.  One is not possible without the other” (Burge, 69)
o    “Sin alienates man from God and from his fellow man.  It disrupts life and fosters confusion.  Instead of peace, there is discord; in place of harmony, there is disorder; and in lieu of fellowship, there is enmity” (Kistemaker, 243).
·       “Blood of Jesus Cleanses Us”
o    Bultmann claimed this last phrase was an artificial editorial edition, and said that the “content” of the verse “is disturbing.”  He, however, misses the inherit logic:  “Walking in the light brings a penetrating revelation of who we are.  The way forward … is achieved only by the sacrificial blood of Jesus” (Burge, 70)
o    “And this is not simply for us to embrace the doctrine of sacrifice or some mere dogma.  It is to know the cross and to experience its work and power” (Burge, 70)
o    “He not only denies the erroneous view, but indicates the divine remedy which is offered if men will only acknowledge their need of it.  Each time he describes the cleansing and forgiveness which God has made possible through the death of Jesus Christ His Son.  Christianity is the only religion which, by emphasizing that God is light, first insists on taking sin seriously and then offers a satisfactory moral solution to the problem of sin” (Stott, 73).
o    “Still today, although Gnostic notions are outmoded, it is not uncommon for people to claim fellowship with God who see no necessity either first to go to the cross of Christ for cleansing and forgiveness or thereafter to lead a consistently holy life” (Stott, 74)
o    “He erases the stain of sin.  And the present tense shows that it is a continuous process” (Stott, 75)
o    Cleanses us from all sin or “every” sin (sin is singular)
o    “He died, not just for their past sins, but for all their sins that will be committed until the day of his return” (Bart, 24)
If We Say We Have No Sin (vv.8-9)
 
8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  9 If we confess* our sins*, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 
·       “They have a thoroughly inadequate doctrine of sin and its sinfulness in relation to God who is light” (Stott, 73)
·       “We have no sin”
o    Three possible meanings (Boice, 32)
o    I’m not a sinner- the denial of the sinful nature (Jackman, 33)
o    “In the days of the apostle John, Greek philosophers taught a separation between body and spirit.  The spirit is free, they said, but the body is matter that eventually dies.  That is, if the body sinned, the spirit would be blameless.  Sin, then, cannot affect the spirit” (Kistemaker, 245)
o    Sin = “Again in the singular and refers to the inherited principle of sin or self-centeredness” (Stott, 77)
o    Our sins = “We are sinners not only by nature (sin) but by practice also (our sins)” (Stott, 77)
o    “John’s affirmation is equally applicable today to those who deny the fact or guilt of sin by seeking to interpret it solely in terms of physiological, psychological or social causes” (Stott, 77)
o    Those who walk in the light, still sin, still find themselves hiding in the dark
o    John says, “we have no sin.”  He does not write, “we do not sin.”
o    Illustration:  Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health:  “To get rid of sin through Science, is to divest sin of any supposed mind or reality, and never to admit that sin can have intelligence or power, pain or pleasure.  You conquer error by denying its verity” (in Burge, 71)
o    “We deceive ourselves- but probably no-one else, and certainly not God” (Jackman, 35)
o    Illustration:  “We can all conjure up pictures of angry people, turning purple and about to let off a head of steam as they grimly protest through their teeth, ‘I am not losing my temper!’” (Jackman, 35)
o    “We no longer call sin ‘sin’.  Adultery becomes ‘having an affair’.  Theft is ‘helping myself to the perks’.  Selfishness is ‘standing up for my rights’.  The last thing we human beings will admit is that we sin” (Jackman, 37)
o    “For over a century now, optimistic evolutionary humanism has convinced generations that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with human nature in general, or with you and me in particular” (Jackman, 37)
o    “If God is dead, everything is permitted” (Nietzsche)
o    Illustration:  Trip to Cuba/communism is the best government in the world if there were no original sin!  Democracy is works the best because it is based on the realization that we can’t trust anyone for too long
§   See Stott, Why I Am a Christian
·       “Confess”
o    “The answer to denial is confession” (Jackman, 38)
o    If there is anything we are to “say” it is “I’m sorry, forgive me, etc.”
o    “There are many warnings in Scripture about the danger of concealing our sins, and many promises of blessing if we confess them” (Stott, 78)
o     “Moreover, what is required is not a general confession of sin but a particular confession of sins, as we deliberately call them to mind, confess and forsake them” (Stott, 78)- see Psalm 32:1-5 and Proverbs 28:13)
o    Why should we confess our sins?  “At issue here is our fellowship- not relationship- with God” (Barton, 26)
o    “It is important here to notice the plural, sins, which implies a detailed and specific confession of our wrong thoughts, words, actions, and attitudes.  It includes the good which we omit, as well as the evil which we do” (Jackman, 38)
o    Example of a confession:  “Lord, that was sin.  I recognize it was wrong and I confess that I am guilty.  I ask for your forgiveness and the power of your Spirit to keep me from its repetition” (Jackman, 38)
§   “Confession of that sort is of course really repentance.  It is identifying what is wrong (sin) and who is responsible (us) and asking God in his mercy and grace to deal with both, through the work of Christ” (Jackman, 38)
o    “We are not told when, and how to confess our sins, but daily repentance of sin leads us to continual confession.  John actually writes, ‘If we keep confessing our sins’” (Kistemaker, 246)
o    Illustration:  The confession of the Prodigal Son or the Publican (Luke 18:13)
o    Confess to whom?  The priest? (See Book of Concord), Others (James 5:16 only reference to others in whole Bible)?  No, God (see verses below).
o    “This verse seems to assume that the confession will be directly to God, not to a priest or to a fellow Christian.  There is indeed a place for confessing our sins to one another, as mentioned in James 5:16.  The context there, however, seems to imply that this will be where some illness had been caused through a breach in human relationships” (Jackman, 39)
o   “Confession of sin is not a theme that is found often in the NT” (see Kruse, 68)
·       “Faithful and Just”
o    “More simply, He is faithful to forgive because He has promised to do so, and just because His Son died for our sins” (Stott, 78)
o    “If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Timothy 2:13)
o    Illustration:  “It is the duty of nations as well as men to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon” (Abraham Lincoln)
o    He is faithful and just = the confirmation of the divine nature; forgive and purify = the confirmation of the divine actions (Jackman, 39)
o   Charitie Lees Bancroft:  “When Satan tempts me to despair, And tells me of the guilt within, Upward I look, and see him there, Who made an end of all my sin/Because the sinless Saviour died, My sinful soul is counted free; For God, the just is satisfied, To look on him and pardon me.”
 
·       “Forgive …Cleanse”
o    “In the first phrase sin is a debt which He remits and in the second a stain which He removes” (Stott, 77)
o    “The first verb to forgive describes the act of canceling a debt and the restoration of the debtor.  And the second verb to cleanse refers to making the forgiven sinner holy so that he is able to have fellowship with God.  God takes the initiative, for he says to us, ‘Come now, let us reason together … Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool’ (Isa. 1:18)” (Kistemaker, 246)
o    Jesus will present the church spotless (Eph 5:27)
o    Our forgiveness and cleansing is not based on the intensity of our confession, but on what Christ did on the cross.
§    Monastic writings:  it is not true confession unless one weaps
o    “We stand before God as if we have never sinned at all” (Kistemaker, 244)
 
If We Say We Have Not Sinned (v.10)
 
10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 
·       I haven’t sinned- the denial of sinful actions (Jackman, 33)
·       “In a sense, this is the darkness of the three false claims” (Jackman, 37)
·       “…the verb employs a perfect tense verb, suggesting a reference to specific sins that spring from a  preexisting condition” (Burge)
·       Williams Law “Horror, hatred, fear, and repudiation of sin pervade the whole Epistle” (in Stott, 80)
·       “The false teachers not only denied that sin breaks people’s fellowship with God (1:6) and that they had a sinful nature (1:8), but some even had the audacity to make a third claim- that, even if they did have a sinful nature, they had never actually sinned!” (Barton, 27)
·       Sinless Perfection:  “Their lives have been so transformed by God that they have reached a level of spiritual maturity that excludes the need for ongoing forgiveness” (Burge)
o    “Down the centuries there have been groups in the church who have believed and taught that it is possible for a Christian to live without sin” – named “a second blessing, brokenness, a release of the Spirit or full surrender (Jackman, 35)
o    Illustration:  “It is said that Spurgeon was once confronted by a man who claimed to be ‘without sin’.  Intrigued, the preacher invited him home to dinner.  After hearing the claims through, he picked up his glass of water and threw it in the man’s face.  Understandably, the visitor was highly indignant and expressed himself very forcefully to the preacher about his lack of courtesy.  To which the wise man replied, ‘Ah, you see, the old man within is not dead.  He had simply fainted and could be revived with a glass of water!’” (in Jackman, 36).
·       But they failed to realize that all people are sinners but nature and practice!
·       If we deny that these things are sin (adultery, theft, lying, murder, greed, jealousy, envy, malice, bitterness, a critical or unforgiving spirit) we are actually calling God a liar.  Such language is meant to shock us (Jackman, 38)
·       Such a claim makes God “a liar” because God has said that all have sinned; and God has sent His Son to conquer sin
·       The attitude is, “What have I done that I need to confess?”- Such an attitude “maligns the truthfulness of [God’s] word, which makes the universal sinfulness of humanity a basic and pivotal tenet (Gen. 3; 1 Kings 8:46; Job 15:14-16; Ps. 14:3; Prov. 20:9; Eccl. 7:20; Isa. 53:6; John 2:24-25; Romans 3:21-24)” (Burge, 83)
·       The fifth petition of the Lord’s prayer:  “forgive us our sins” (implies we still will sin)
·       Illustration:  A character in Pilgrim’s Progress [?]
·       “This is the way of an adulteress:  she eats and wipes her mouth and says, ‘I have done no wrong” (Proverbs 30:20)
* *

Conclusion

“John has contrasted the nature of God (God is light) with the nature of man….” (Boice, 33)
 
Acknowledge and confess our sin
·       Illustration:  Wesley (Boice, 34)
·       “The most important theme is our notion of ‘sin’” (Burge)
·       Illustrations:  Two views expressed in books/movies: 
o   The Shantung Compound, Lord of the Flies, etc. (see Burge, 87ff)/ /
 
Walk in the light 
·       Illustration:  Wesley song (Boice, 34)
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Confession

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Proverbs 28:13  13 Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
Daniel 9:4   4 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments,
Daniel 9:20   20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people
Matthew 3:5-8   5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him,  6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.  7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
Acts 19:17-20  17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled.  18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices.  19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver.  20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.
Ezra 10:1  While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly.
Nehemiah 9:3  3 And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day; for another quarter of it they made confession and worshiped the LORD their God.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Songs:  White as Snow, Before the Throne, And Can It Be  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Message:  God is Light

             

Verse 6Negative (-)If we say We/ lie and do not practice the truth/
Verse 7Positive (+)If we walkHe [God] cleanses us from all sin
Verse 8Negative (-)If we say We deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us
Verse 9Positive (+)If we/ confess/The blood of Christ  [God] cleanses us from all unrighteousness
Verse 10Negative (-)If we say We make Him [God] a liar [un-/truthful/]

 
 
 
 
 
* *
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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.  6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 
* *
 
 

 
——
[1] See Jackman, 26.

[2] See Burge, 65-66

[3] See Boice, 28.

[4] Kistenmaker, 247.

[5] Stott, 70.

[6] Stott, 74.

[7] Barton, 27.

[8] In Burge, 70.

[9] Burge, 70.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Stott, 74; cf. Boice, 32.

[12] Stott, Why I am a Christian,77.

[13] In Stott, 77.

[14] See Stott, Why I am a Christian, 70-75.

[15] Jackman, 38.

[16] Stott, 68; e.g., Proverbs 28:13  13 Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

[17] Jackman, 38.

[18] Stott, 78.

[19] Kistemaker, 246.

[20] Taken from Boice, 34.

[21] Boice, 33.

[22] Cf. Job 15:14-16   14 What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous?  15 Behold, God puts no trust in his holy ones, and the heavens are not pure in his sight; 16 how much less one who is abominable and corrupt, a man who drinks injustice like water!
 
Proverbs 20:9   9 Who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin”?
 
Isaiah 53:6   6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

[23] In Jackman, 36 (with slight changes).

[24] Burge.

[25] Do you recall the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer?  When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He said to pray like this:  “Our Father in heaven, [1] hallowed be your name.  [2] Your kingdom come, [3] your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  [4] Give us this day our daily bread, and [number 5] forgive us our debts/our sins/our trespasses….”  Those who are Jesus’ disciples pray like that.  As we pray for our daily bread we are to pray also for our daily debts. 

[26] William Law (in Stott, 80).

[27] Charitie Bancroft

[28] Kistemaker, 244

[29] Jackman, 39; cf. Kruse, 68ff.