A Promise and a Problem
The apostle John wrote several books in the New Testament. The last books he wrote were the epistles of 1, 2, and 3 John. When John wrote these epistles he was dealing with a church not so different than our churches today. The epistle of 1 John was written to the people of Ephesus. In its glory, under the early ministry of Paul, this church was on fire for God. They were seeing multitudes saved, false religions thrown down, and cities turned upside down. At this point in history the fire is dying out.
John is writing to the children and grandchildren of these early church members. These descendants were not as “on fire” as their ancestors were. In fact when Christ spoke of this church in the book of Revelation He complains that they have left their first love (Christ).
In an effort to help this church John writes the epistle of 1 John. In the first chapter John states two reasons for writing this book. John states in verse three that he is writing so that they might have fellowship with God, and in verse four he says that he is writing that their joy would be full.
The promise in verse three is one of the most wonderful in the entire Bible. It is the promise that you and I can have fellowship with God. What a wonderful thought that mankind can fellowship with the God of the universe.
In verse three the word fellowship means to share something in common. For example my wife and I have fellowship with one another because we share some things in common. We both love each other. We love our children. We love our home. We have common goals for our marriage, and our future. The same should be said for the church. We should have fellowship with one another. A church should share a common love for Christ, and each other. A church should share common goals and visions for their future. A marriage or a church that does not have fellowship will soon fall apart.
When I think about this wonderful promise of fellowship with God a problem immediately comes to mind. Here is the problem. Amos asked this question in his book.
“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Amos 3:3
This is what is known as a rhetorical question. The answer is obvious. No, two cannot walk together if they are not in agreement. Therefore we have to determine how a sinful man can have fellowship with a holy God. Man has been asking himself this question for many years. In answer to this question mankind has devised three methods to attain fellowship with God. John discussed these three methods in 1 John chapter one. I would like for you to consider them quickly with me.
Method #1 “I will bring God down to my level”
“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” 1 John 1:5, 6
Light produces life, beauty, wonder and radiance. Darkness produces everything that is opposed to light. If God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all, then how are we to have fellowship with Him? In the mind of man one of two things has to happen. One, we must bring God down to our level. Second, we must arise to God’s level. Both of these methods end in failure.
It is impossible for you to be walking in the darkness of sin and at the same time have fellowship with God. If this is your story then John says that you are a liar. Many times when people are guilty of sin they are also guilty of trying to hid their sin from other people. Think about David after he sinned with Bathsheba. He tried over and over to cover his sin and act like nothing was wrong in his life.
None of us are perfect, but God does not want us walking in open sin. To claim fellowship with God while walking in sin is to attempt to bring God down to your level. God cannot be brought down to your level.
Method #2 “I will arise to God’s level.”
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8
This may even be worse than the first method. To be a liar is one thing, but John says that if you believe you have no sin you don’t even know what truth is. This is even worse than being a liar. A liar knows the truth, but chooses to ignore the truth. The person who does not believe they sin doesn’t even know the truth.
I feel sorry for people who teach and believe that they must live in sinless perfection in order to obtain, or maintain salvation. This is an impossible task. Notice that John says that if you believe you have no sin you are deceiving yourself. The person who feels that they do not sin is not fooling anyone other than themselves. Trust me, your spouse, your family, your coworkers and your neighbors know that you sin. The only one you are fooling is yourself. Method 2 also ends in failure.
Method #3 “I will confess my sins.”
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
The Greek word translated “confess” in this verse means “to say the same thing.” It simply means that when God reveals sin in your life, you look at that sin from God’s perspective and proclaim “Lord, you are right that is sin and it is wrong.” That is confession.
When you are willing to take sides with God against yourself, then God is willing to forgive you of those sins and clean you up. Sin is terrible and God hates it. God cannot fellowship with someone who is walking in open sin. When we confess our sins however God will clean us up and accept us into fellowship with Him. Method 3 is a success.
What is your opinion of sin? None of us are perfect. All of us sin. The question is what you do about that sin. Do you ignore it? Do you act like you don’t sin? Or, do you confess sin? Only when you are willing to confess the sin in your life will you be able to experience fellowship with God.