The Power of Propitiation
Text: 1 John 2:1,2.
Proposition: The reality that we will sin is to be met with the reality that we have both and Advocate and the propitiation our Advocate brings to meet that sin.
Introduction: I was talking with a friend this week who told me about an accident he’d just had. It began with one of the wheel bolts that held the tire and rim onto the brake drum. But one of the bolts broke off. The guys at the shop assured him four were okay for a short while. But a short while turned into a long while and there were trips that had to be made. It turns out the four began to work them selves loose and then one late night when he had a load in the van all the wheel bolts came out and the rim simply rolled away as he was going about 80 K down the highway. The van immediately fell on the rear brake drum sending an impressive shower of sparks into the night and a howling screeching of metal on asphalt.
This morning I want to talk with you about something similar that can happen in our lives. We can begin with having all the bolts securely in place, we believe in Jesus and in heaven and hell and in faith in Him. But then one bolt comes loose and falls off. We don’t think that we really sin or that our sin is all that bad. Then we loose another bolt, we don’t think that God actually cares about our sin, in fact it’s almost as if He just created us and let us do what we will. Then another bolt falls out and we believe that there really is no law at all which means each person ought to decide for themselves what’s right or what’s wrong. When that bolt falls out the wheel comes off. What I’ve described is the descent our faith in Christ can take from a recognition of Christ as Savior and Lord to a position that just believing in Jesus is enough, there’s nothing we need to do as saved people. That position might be called Free Grace. Then we could easily slide to a belief called Deism, where we believe in a Creator but conclude that He leaves us up to our own choices about faith and obedience to Him. The last bolt that comes off is a thing called Antinomianism which basically believes there is no law, each person is morally right because each is entitled to believe what they want to and is free to do what they want to. In this last view there is no absolute moral law. Proverbs put it like this, ‘There is a way that seems right to a man but the end is the way of death.’ When that happens you feel life lurch to the side and hear an agonizing scraping in your soul that knows something is terribly wrong. So John writes to the church and encourages us with these thoughts. Have a look at 1 John 2:1,2..
I. The Reality Of Our Sin Is Met By the Reality of Our Advocate.
The culture of John’s day, like ours is today, didn’t regard themselves as people who had a sin nature which is an inclination to deny the existence of God and put their own desires first. So the people of that day would say that did not sin, they just chose that which was best for them Look at how John starts out in verse 1, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” This is not an ‘if you sin’ position but rather a, ‘when you sin’, view. That sin occurs in each of us is an evidence of our very nature which is inclined to self and sin. Yet at the same time John directs us to control ourselves, to not let those self- serving desires of sin get the upper hand in our lives. As Christians you know not only the reality of the existence of your sin nature and the corrosive effect sin has on you and those around you, but you also know the God Who it is you ultimately sin against each time you choose you over Him. Listen to what King David wrote about this in Psalm 51:4, “Against You, You only, have I sinned and done this evil in Your sight, that You may be found just when You speak and blameless when You judge.” Though we wound one another with our sinful choices, ultimately all sin is an act of unbelief directed against God. So what is John’s remedy for this, what does he direct that early first century church to do? He points then to the reality that they have an Advocate that they can turn to. An advocate is one will stand beside you and plead your concerns and case before those you have hurt or sinned against. The reason the advocate can do that is because they know you, they have been in some sense where you are and they have a right standing with the person that is the judge. You can see where this is going, Jesus Christ the righteous One knows what it is like to walk in the shoes of a human being, He knows temptation, He knows pain and rejection. He’s been where you and I are. If that’s not enough, He also has a relationship with God the Father that is highly regarded, He sits at the Father’s right hand! You couldn’t have a better Advocate, He intercedes for you not because He’s paid to do so but because He’s related to you. Or perhaps it would be more correct to say you are related to Him. By faith in Christ we become family with Jesus, in Jesus. This is the Advocate that John speaks of, He’s the one referred to in Hebrews 2:18, “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Every temptation has an element of suffering in it, a morsel that promises to be a feast but lies. Jesus Christ the righteous is your Advocate, tempted in all things as we are and yet is without sin. He is the best Advocate for the sinner because He knows us and He knows the Father.
II. The Reality of Our Sin Is Met By the Reality of His Propitiation.
This is where things depart from the way we experience normal life. In normal life you will get those who advocate for you, sometimes because they were paid to like a lawyer or like fellow players on a hockey team or fellow workers at the office who take your side on some issue. So we know the concept of an advocate but an advocate that takes the next step of becoming your propitiation, now that’s outside of our normal. So what does that term, ‘propitiation’ mean? To answer that let me use Scripture to interpret Scripture.
Propitiation proceeds from God to us, propitiation meets the needs of God’s justice against sin, propitiation is all about the method of payment, His blood, His life for ours, propitiation is all about what it accomplishes, our restoration of eternal relationship with the Father, our reconciliation. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Cor. 5:2. This is the power of propitiation in Christ Jesus!
The Three Most Important Things
Text: 1 John 1: 1-4
Proposition: The greatest thing in life is that God is known and that we are known by God.
Introduction : A father was walking with his young son and as they walked he asked the boy a question that he asked every week if not almost every day, “Okay son, what are the three most important things?” The little guy with a slight grin looks up and says, “Build robots, read comic books, and take over the world.” We laugh but how would you answer that question? I mean we see wall hangings that say, ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ and the reason they sell is because for many people they are the essence of the three most important things for them. Sometimes the things that we put on that list are good on the surface but ultimately fall short of what really is important in the long run. Despite our very best efforts our lives are unpredictable, the factors of change are within three seconds of timing. One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, think of what can change in the time it took to say that. The Humboldt bus crash was less than that in timing. My point is that the things that we say are most important to us can be too small, too transient, too shortsighted to really satisfy the thirst of our soul.
This morning I’d like to start a new series that begins by answering the question of what is most important, not just to you or the person next to you but universally to everyone of us. It makes the assumption that what is ultimately important is common, not unique. This series we are going to look at was written in about 80 to 90 AD, so even time doesn’t change what is universally important. The author is likely the Apostle John and the intent of the letter is to reveal the truth of Who Jesus Christ is. Turn with me 1 John: 1-4.
I.The First Most Important Thing… God Is Known By You. In John’s day there was a movement called Gnosticism that sought to undermine all that Christ had invested into the church and the world it reached. The core beliefs of Gnosticism were:
1. That knowledge is superior to virtue; so morality was subjective, undefined.
2. That Scripture is not to be interpreted literally and only a select few can really know its’ meaning; so truth is made subjective and not objective.
3. The existence of evil in the world means God could not have created it; so creation is abandoned and replaced with random occurrence.
4. The incarnation of Christ into humanity is impossible because the purity of God could not unite itself with anything material such as a body; so without the Incarnation of Christ there can be no Redemption.
5. There is no resurrection of the flesh; therefore not even Christ is resurrected which neutralizes Salvation and destroys the concept of Eternal life for man.
These Gnostic beliefs were part of why John wrote this letter and when you think about it perhaps things haven’t really changed that much as we recognize a number of these same themes. So look at how John begins this letter, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—". The opening phrase, ‘that which was from the beginning’ is a reference to the beginning of everything, before the world was. It is a reference to the eternality of God. This means that before the world ever was, God was. That which was from the beginning is the eternal, creative, all powerful, loving personhood of God. People today are becoming more and more aware of the incredible detail that exists in creation everywhere in the world. The intelligent design premise says that creation has too much pattern, too much precision and too much complexity in it to be random. What John is saying that not only does God exist from before time and before the earth and the solar system ever were, God is known by creation Generally and by Christ in what we would call Special Revelation. Look at how He is known, they have ‘heard Him, seen Him, touched Him’. What John is saying is that we don’t have to imagine what God is like, we don’t need to use monkeys or cows or bears or characters that represent war, or the sea or fertility to know God. Jesus came that we would know exactly what the Father is like, that we would know the personhood of God in whose image we are created.
Did you know that religion is on the rise in Canada? That includes all faiths from Islam to Buddhism but also includes Catholic and Protestant Christians. It would seem that Immigration is turning around the trend in Canada and when immigrant families, especially Christian Filipinos and Nigerians come to church, it’s with their children. The church is growing in ethnic expressions and in younger people who know the God of Scripture. God is known, which brings a reversal to those trends like Gnosticism. Because God is known there is a moral code. Because God is known there is absolute truth, because God is known the Creator is known. Because God is known there is a Redeemer, there is salvation in Him and there is eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. So I would say the number one on a list of what is most important is that God is known.
II. The Second Most Important Thing…You Are Known By God.
When I say the second most important thing I mean that the two are often sequential, but being known by God is the greater of the two. Consider what J I Packer wrote in his book Knowing God, “All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him, because He first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me, and there is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention distracted from me, and no moment therefore, when His care falters.” Now to be clear on what God knowing us means let’s add what John wrote in 1 John 1:3, “that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” He’s talking about their coming to faith in Christ by the physical evidence of the person of Jesus and what He said and did. Then John says that you can now have fellowship with them as believers and with God the Father and Jesus His Son. ‘God knows us’ is a statement about the church, about who you are to Him as a believer in Christ. Just listen to a couple of other Scriptures that say the same thing. 1 Cor. 13:12 says, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” You are known now by God because of your faith in Christ. 1 Cor 8:3 says, “But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.” When we say God is known by you we are talking not about the facts and details of the existence of God but rather your knowing through faith the very reality of God’s saving you. Your being made alive in the Spirit at salvation is the beginning point of the knowledge of God in you. But preceding this, even before you were born was God’s knowledge of you as His child. Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” Psalm 139:17,18 says, “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.”
Let me remind you that this letter of 1 John is written to Christians, it begins with this great testimony of the reality of Christ, God incarnate. It moves quickly to the fellowship that that all believers have with the Father and with Son. Then in verse 4 he concludes, “And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” Their joy is not full because they know things about God, their joy is made full because He who knows them best, loves them most. Fellowship means a communion, a joint participation, a share in the kingdom of God because of having a share in Christ. That begins when you are known by God and then it moves to you knowing the Father, knowing the wonder of the Son and knowing the Holy Spirit who indwells you and fills you. The joy of the Lord is really just that, His joy in you. These two most important truths, your knowledge of God and more critically His knowing you are what lead to the third most important thing. These two truths lead you in how you live, why you glorify your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. So let’s look at that third most important thing next week.
The Third Most Important Thing
Text: 1 John 1: 5-10
Proposition: The third most important thing is to know both the reality of God and the reality of you, to blur or distort either is to deceive ourselves.
Introduction: Last week we began the series of 1 John and we held out the truth that the things that are most important are common not unique. It’s not the owning of a house or the desire to travel or the longing to have children that is most important. Though these are good and wonderful things they fall short of what is most important. So last week we proposed the three most important things:
The First Most Important Thing… God Is Known By You.
The Second Most Important Thing…You Are Known By God.
That’s as far as we got and I promised to present to you this morning the third most important thing. Before I do that let me just summarize what realities are pushing in on our world. We have reality television shows like Survivor, Amazing Race, American Idol, and the awkward scenarios of dating rituals and bachelorettes and cop shows, all playing out as actual realities to one degree or another. We have virtual reality which is an artificially replicated reality that is becoming more and more popular for education and training and entertainment. We have artificial intelligence that can turn on lights and thermostats and drive cars and function as human interfaces. Then we have one of the more recent innovations called Augmented Reality. A company called Meta has developed one of the cheaper augmented reality headsets that lets you to do things like grab and prod 3-D imagery with your hands, conduct video calls with other Meta users, who can hand you virtual objects that you can inspect from any angle. My point is that reality is becoming a product, rather than being what it is, real. So let me suggest to you that the third most important thing is this… to know both the realness of God and the realness of you because to blur or distort either is to deceive ourselves. Have a look at 1 John 1:5-10.
III. The Third Most Important Thing…Know Both the Reality of God and You. Listen to what John writes in verse 5, “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” Author and Pastor Ray Steadman observed that, “…what light is, on a physical plane, God is on every level of human experience. If you want to understand the character of God, then observe what light is. What light does, God does. What light accomplishes, God can accomplish in your life.” Light does essentially three things. 1. It reveals. 2. It measures. 3. It energizes. You know the first is true when you got up this morning because one of the first things you did was to flip on the light. God reveals what is, particularly what will cause you to stumble and where the safe ground is. Like light He reveals all of what is really there both physically and spiritually. But light also measures, like the way light in a laser measures eyes or the lasers on bulldozers to the right grade or by your garage door to measure if it’s clear to close. Even so God measures all things. He measures good and evil, the thoughts and intentions of your heart, your faith in Christ as it relates to what you do. He even measures the blood of Jesus Christ that the atoning work of the cross would cover everyone it was designed to cover. And then Light also energizes, we know that through grade 6 photosynthesis classes, the way that light causes plants to grow and produce oxygen. We know that the medical world uses light to destroy cancer cells and stimulate healing. Even so God energizes the lives of people, He energizes the souls of people and causes them to see reality and He invites them to agree with Him about what really is.
There is no darkness in light and there is no darkness in God. Who He is, is always light, revealing hope, measuring faith, energizing love. That’s the reality of Who God is. We could use words like holy, just, loving, merciful, true as they begin to frame the relational way we experience God. So the third most important thing for all people is to know the reality of God Who is all about you, around you through you and in you. Know the reality that the chief thing He has revealed to you is His Son Jesus Christ. The Son, the exact image of the invisible Father, has incarnated into humanity that Jesus would confront death and the very cause of death, sin. So you cannot start talking about knowing the reality of God without also coming face to face with the reality of you!
Look at how John describes the interface of you and God, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” Three questions jump out at us from this statement. What does it mean to have fellowship with God? What does it mean walk in darkness? What does practice the truth mean? Fellowship, it’s the Greek word ‘koinonia’ signifying partnership, benefaction, communion. So fellowship is more than just knowing about Him, it’s the recognition that I’m connected to Him. I benefit by that connection as He reveals what I cannot see. I’m brought close to Him, I commune with Him, that’s what fellowship implies. The opposite of that is what is implied in darkness. A loss of partnership, a loss of benefaction and a loss of communion with Him. I’d say, and you’d agree, that darkness is really dark if it brings about those kinds of consequences. To walk in darkness means a steady progress in replacing God with something else. In short, to walk in darkness will always be an expression of idolatry. The thing about walking in darkness is that we can lie about it and usually the first person we lie to is ourselves. We deceive ourselves. Don’t forget this letter is addressed to Christians, so the light shines on us revealing, measuring and hopefully energizing us towards truth. So the conclusion is that when we willfully walk in the darkness we do not practice the truth. To practice is continually exercise faith that strengthens us in every area of who we are, with each other and with God.
Look what John says next in verse 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 Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” The speed of light has been calculated as 299,792,458 meters per second, it is the fastest thing that exists. I would suggest to you that the speed of light is representative of how fast it takes God to forgive you of your sin if you but bow the knee and confess it to Him. It is the fastest form of being cleansed known to man. That’s what the blood of Jesus Christ His Son does, it moves like light revealing sin, it moves like light measuring the depths of Christ’s forgiveness purchased on the cross for you, it moves like light energizing your soul with reconciliation and restoration. It restores you, with other believers and especially with the Father. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin is a reality claim that is about Who God is and who you are. Compare for just a moment verse 8, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”, with verse 10, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” There is a definite parallel structure to these two statements, yet they are saying two different things. The first is calling you to agree with the fact that you have a sin nature. The second invites you to agree with the fact that you exercised that sin nature in a way that was self-serving, placing you above God. In the first statement you lie to the reality of yourself, you deceive yourself saying that you are basically good and have no sin nature. In the second statement you call God a liar, meaning you call what he reveals error, what He measures irrelevant, what He energizes unnecessary. When you deceive yourself or call God a liar the reality is that God calls out to you, calling you to turn back, to agree with Him. It’s from here that He awakens your sense of need, the need of a Savior who can do what no other can, He restores your soul. Look at 1 John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We confess our sins, sometimes to one another but always to God. To confess essentially means to agree with God about what He knows is true or real. Our sin is real, and if we agree with God about that He is faithful, just, forgiving and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
There is more to God than your assumptions or experiences tell you. And there is more to you that just flesh and blood. Know the reality of Who God is and who you are, it’s where light comes into your life in the wonder of Christ in you.
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