Our Access To Fellowship With God - John 1:6-10
Preparing our hearts for communion next week:
One of my favorite authors, John Flavel, makes this observation about the need to observe the heart and to see and confess any sin that may be residing there. He says, “Carnal and formal persons take no heed to this; they cannot be brought to confer with their own hearts: there are some people who have lived forty or fifty years in the world, and have had scarcely one hour’s discourse with their own hearts. It is a hard thing to bring a man and himself together on such business...Though bankrupts care not to look into their accounts, yet upright hearts will know whether they go backward or forward. ‘I commune with my own heart,’ says David. The heart can never be kept until it is examined and understood.”
Do you think that Flavel is right when he says that most people who have lived forty or fifty years have spent scarcely an hour looking upon their heart?
If this is true, we may be a bit better off because we spend a few minutes reflecting upon our heart just prior to taking communion. However, it seems that it might be beneficial for us to spend some time this week preparing our hearts for communion. Therefore, every Sunday prior to a communion Sunday I am going to remind us to set apart some time that week to prepare our hearts for communion.
When we come together to celebrate Communion we want it to be for the better and not for the worse. The apostle Paul rebuked the Corinthians for this when he said in 1 Corinthians 11:18, “In the following command I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.”
I am not doing this because I see any big problem like Paul did. But I do see the value in spending this time searching our hearts in the light of God’s Word with the help of the Holy Spirit. And confessing any sins and giving thanks for any grace that is there in your heart.
It is far too easy to not reflect upon the heart. The failure to do this is the very thing that the apostle John will address today in our text. It is the very failure that the apostle Paul had to address with the Corinthians. May it not be said of us, that in forty or fifty years we only spent a very small fraction of that time reflecting upon our hearts. Let us begin today to make this a more common practice among us. And may we draw closer to Christ and may we be more unified together as a body for having consistently done this together. And if in your time reflecting upon these things you would want prayer and pastoral care reach out to me and I will spend some time with you.
Last week I mentioned a time when as a child I looked directly into a flood light. My mom had warned me not to look into the light but I did it anyways. And when I looked into that light with my dilated eyes I literally felt the pain that made my mom give me that warning.
The apostle John, like my mom, gives us some loving instructions concerning the implications of living in the Light. God desires to have fellowship with us but we sin. To experience intimate fellowship with the LORD we cannot profess to have fellowship with the LORD while we are habitually practicing sin. Nor can we cannot ignore sin or deny our sin.
Let’s look at 1 John 1:5-10,
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. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 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. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Oswald Chambers has written in ‘My Utmost For His Highest’,
“Unless we are experiencing the hurt of facing every deception about ourselves, we have hindered the work of the Word of God in our lives...The Word of God inflicts hurt on us more than sin ever could, because sin dulls our senses...It hurts not only on the natural level, but on the deeper spiritual level, ‘For the Word of God is living and powerful…, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit…’-to the point that no deception can remain (Hebrews 4:12)...There is never any mistaking the pain of the Lord’s Word by His children, but the moment that pain is felt is the very moment at which God reveals His truth to us.”
Many of us have felt this pain that Oswald Chambers is speaking about. This morning our text will seek to remove all of the deception concerning our sinfulness. And as a result, we should expect to experience some pain and hurt. Sin has dulled our senses, it has slowed our reactions against sin, it has twisted our understanding of sin, it has confused our thoughts concerning sin, and sin has made made us believe things that are not true.
Daily Satan comes to us and tries to get us to believe a lie concerning sin.
He comes and tells us that there is pleasure to be enjoyed in sin, but he does not remind us that it will lead to death.
Genesis 3:4, “But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.”
Genesis 3:6, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”
He tells us that this sin will not bring disgrace upon you and that your sin will not be found out and made public.
Proverbs 5:11 and 14, “...and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, ‘I am on the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.’”
Satan will try to persuade us that there is some advantage to be found in this sin, and he will not speak of the great price that it will eventually cost.
Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
He will say that it is only a small sin, but he will not speak of the fact that this small sin offends a holy God, and that sin is an act of rebellion against His Word.
Dr. James Dolezal says, “Sin strikes against God Himself. The measure of any sin, is not the act perse, it is rather the mark that it misses and the person that it offends. The mark that it misses is the honor of God’s holy name. The person that it offends is none other than Yahweh: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the creator and sustainer of all things.”
Ralph Venning in his book, ‘The Sinfulness of Sin’, says, “Sin is the dare of God’s justice, the rape of His mercy, the jeer of His patience, the slight of His power, the contempt of His love, the upbraiding of His providence, the scoff of His promise, the reproach of His wisdom. Every little sin does every one of those things because of the God against whom it is committed.”
Satan will come and tell you that it can be done because God is merciful.
Romans 6:1-2a, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!”
Romans 6:14, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”
Satan will come and tell you that other men have committed that particular sin or he will remind you that a particular sin is now legalized and become culturally accepted.
Oswald Chambers is right, the message that is given in Scripture will seek to effect us on the natural level and the spiritual level. The Word of God will seek to pierce to the division of the soul and the spirit so that no deception can remain. In doing so, God will reveal his truth and cause great good to come of it. Where truth is received and believed we will experience God’s cleaning, sanctification, and justification.
What a privilege it is to be reminded of these things as we look at John’s letter. It is a needed reminder for every believer in every age.
Paul gave a similar reminder to the church in Corinth who, like those that John was writing too, were being deceived about sin and it was affecting their Christian walk with the Lord and one another.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 says, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Paul says, “Do not be deceived…”. We ought to thank the Lord for delivering us from such deceptions because the consequences are so great. 1 Corinthians 6:9says, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?”
When Christians are deceived concerning sin it results in their sanctification being hindered. In this case, these believers were committing sins against one another. They were wronging and defrauding others in the church and then going before the world to resolve these issues.
Because they had been deceived and they were failing to see the truth about sin and its consequences.1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “...Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”
These believers had forgotten that the gospel had set them free from such things. They had neglected to consider the profound results that the gospel has had upon them personally. Paul says, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (6:11)
Similarly, the apostle John begins this letter quickly to address certain things that the false teachers were saying.
In 1 John 1:1-4 we discovered that the doctrine of Christ is foundational to the fellowship that is enjoyed in the Christian life between the believer and God and between the believer and others. (1 John 1:3-4).
1 John 1:5 gives us the message that Christ gave to His apostles. We read, “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.”
1 John 1:6-7 gives us the practical implications of this message. John writes, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 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.”
1 John 1:8-10John clarifies any misunderstandings about these things. John writes, ‘If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
If 1 John 1:5 told us that we must be honest about who God is, ‘God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all’; then 1 John 1:6-10 reminds us that we must be honest concerning ourselves. In God there is no darkness at all and He will not surrender anything to darkness.
Here is an astonishing truth, God desires to have fellowship with sinful people. This is a concept that astounded David when he wrote, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4)
In order for us to enjoy genuine fellowship with the LORD we need to be honest about our sin and deal with it according to what the Scriptures say. As a result, there are five conditional clauses in our text. These conditional clauses speak of the fact that it is possible and probable for sinful people to enjoy fellowship with God. But not all will enjoy this type of fellowship because they will not live according to these conditions.
The first conditional clause is found in verse six, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”
Let’s face it, we know that it is easy to profess to be religious and to claim to have fellowship with God, but that does not mean that it is true. Many play a religious game in which they profess to experience intimate fellowship with the LORD, but they are not. A person who does this is lying to themselves. Listen to what David says in Psalm 15:1-2, “O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart.”
There are those who claim to have fellowship with God but they walk (persistently, continually, habitually) in darkness. Every Christian will sin, but John is speaking of people who engage in a life of sin and never deal with it. They do not address the sin.
The second clause is found in verse seven, “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.”
In John’s thinking there are two types of people. There are those who are walking in the light and there are those who are walking in the darkness. This is an either or proposition. There are those who are walking honestly before the LORD and who are walking in truth and the conviction of the Holy Spirit; and there are those who are walking in darkness, living a lie and who are being deceived.
There are two blessings that result from walking in the light. We will have fellowship with one another and the blood of Christ will cleanse us.
Those who continually, habitually, persistently walk in darkness will quickly fall away from meaningful fellowship with other believers who are seeking fellowship with God. They will drift away from them because of the conviction that it brings. They will stay away from them so that they can engage in sin. Proverbs 18:1 says, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.”
Notice also that it says that we are to walk in the light; it does not say that we are to walk according to the light. This is important because the emphasis is on having a relationship with God which cleanses us. Where we walk will inevitably effect how we walk. Those who walk according to the Scriptures will continually be cleansed and be made more and more into the image of Christ and they will continually be cleansed by Him.
The third clause is in verse eight, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
It almost seems unthinkable that that there would be those in the church who would say that they have no sin. What self-denial and self-deception must reside in a statement like that. That statement is full of pride and devoid of any real understanding of what the scriptures teach. A person who says this is insane and the out of their mind.
A man once ate at Charles Spurgeon’s house. While they ate he boasted about the fact that he did not sin. Spurgeon sat quietly and listened to him the entire time. When the man had made his case Spurgeon got up and threw a glass of water on the man and he quickly began to curse Spurgeon and ask why he had done that. Spurgeon said, “To see if I could revive the old man and it worked!”
If Spurgeon cared enough about this man to act in such a manner that his self-deception would be exposed, how much more will God expose this deception in the heart of any one of His children so that they might once again have fellowship and joy together.
The fifth clause is found in verse 9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
To ‘confess’ is to agree with what God says about that sin. It seems so much easier to ignore sin or to think that in time it will be forgotten. But for anyone who has struggled in this way and then come to confess those sins and found forgiveness and cleansing there is no better feeling.
This week I saw a news article about a person who did not realize that he was on zoom and he did something inappropriate. He admitted that he was disturbed by the situation but said, “I’m a good guy, you know. I was just in the privacy of my own home and I didn’t mean any ill will...It was just a mistake on my part, I’m only human.”
This person does not know Proverbs 5:21-21, “For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and He ponders all his paths. The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his folly he is led astray.”
God promises that if we will confess our sins, He will be faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But if we do not confess them we will not experience these blessing or the restored fellowship that is available.
Notice also that it is easier to confess generally than it is to confess specifically. It is easier to say ‘We have sinned’ than it is to search your heart and say, ‘I have sinned and here is how’.
I heard a story about a man who became convicted about a rope that he had taken from a father. He went to the farmer and confessed his sin. The farmer forgave him and told him not to worry about it. But after the man left he still had a guilty conscience and wondered if he should have told the farmer that one of his cows was on the end of the rope.
The fifth clause is in verse 10, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
God says very clearly in scripture that we all have a sin problem. God says in scripture very clearly what those sins are. And when we say that we have not sinned we make God a liar His Word is not in us.
Thomas Watson said, “Sin says to one, defraud; to another, be chaste; to another, take revenge; to another, make a false vow. Sinners are content to be at the command of sin; they are willing to be slaves; they love their chains; they wear their sins, not as fetters, but as ornaments; they rejoice in iniquity…Every man is by nature is in the house of bondage; he grinds in the devil’s mill and is at his command...But God takes his elect out of the house of bondage, beats off the chains and fetters of sin, and brings them into the glorious liberty of the children of God”
If we will receive God’s Word into our heart and respond to it in faith we will be free. He whom the Son sets free is free indeed.