Seven days ago Jesus overcame sin, death and the devil once and for all. Seven days ago the history of mankind was forever changed. Seven days ago everything we once knew was flipped on its head and nothing will ever be the same for us or for this world again. Or will it?
As our Gospel reading began, all of this was true, but the disciples are still locked away in fear and doubts. In the reading from Acts the people of Jerusalem were still worshipping in the temple (sacrifices and all) as if Jesus had never come. When we came to church this morning it was after a full week of life as usual, where, I am pretty sure, most of your day-to-day was just like every week before it, and most that are yet to come. Chores still need doing, bills still need paying, jobs, school, doctor’s appointments … It is easy to say that Easter changed everything, but still live like it didn’t change anything.
This is one of the dangers John addresses in his letter to the children of God. He had been there himself. He wanted his beloved children to know better. 6If we say we have fellowship with [God] while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth … 8If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us …10If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Dear children of God, what you say means little or nothing if you don’t back it up with what you do. Talking the talk is nothing if you don’t also walk the walk. For how we walk reveals our character. What we do reveals what we believe. How we walk reveals the truthfulness of our claims. And the truth is, even in this blessed Easter season, that we often walk as if we were not children of God!
The denial of sin in our day and age can be as sneaky and diabolical as satan himself. My actions are the result of poor upbringing, not my poor choices. My anger is the result of your oppression, or their suppression, or society’s repression. Addiction is a disease so it can never be the victim’s fault. Promiscuity is an affirming lifestyle option. Abortion, a loving choice. The religious are the only ones who can bigoted or extremist. Science is the only certain way of knowledge, while Scripture, everyone knows, is just a man-made myth. Our culture has the denial of sin down to an art.
And yet, dear children of God, the temptation to deny one’s sin is common to both the non-Christian and the Christian. We are often embarrassed by our God, silent when we should speak. We wish that some of what God said He hadn’t, and some of what He imposes He wouldn’t. We are quick to point out that we are not really as bad as some others so that must make us pretty good. And while we can fool some of the people some of the time, we can never fool God!
The whole Word of God declares that we (yes WE) are sinners. It says so in a hundred different ways and in a hundred different places. From beginning to end it deals with us as with sinners … To pretend that things are any different, even in our own heart of hearts, is not only to deceive ourselves; but to actually make God a liar (verse 10) by denying His clear verdict that we, like the rest of the world around us, are sinners.
But God is no liar, is He? And that is tremendously good news for His children! 5This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all … 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness … 7But 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.
God is the Light of the world and that means God and God alone is the source of all true knowledge, wisdom, happiness, and holiness … There is no evil or deception in Jesus, only Truth. And we know this not just because of what He said, bu what He did. What He does. How He walked revealed His perfect character. How He walked, all the way to Calvary and the cross, to the tomb and back out again, reveals the truthfulness of His claims, and the reality of His undying love for us sinners!
And so it is that even now the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, constantly cleanses us from all sin. In the gift of His Word and Sacraments we are forgiven and sin’s stain is removed. In spite of the weaknesses and imperfections of this earthly life, in spite of the many accusations and temptations on the part of the devil and the children of this world, we have forgiveness of sins … Always, every day, without ceasing, we have forgiveness of sins. For the Children of God are … absolved.
And so dear children of God, we are now free to walk in the light … to live openly, to live honestly, to live without feeling the need to cover-up. Why? We don’t need to pretend to be perfect, we are something better … We are absolved! We are forgiven!
That is the great Easter truth John would have us carry throughout our lives. 2:1My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
The Word of God is furious toward the deliberate sinner. But it is utterly gracious toward the confessing sinner, no matter what his past has been. There are no exceptions. No one gets to stand before God and tell Him what He will sanction and what He will be happy to accept no matter how beautiful their words or strong their convictions. Sin is sin, because God says so, not because we do. But neither will even the most detestable and debased be shunned from the glories of heaven if God says they are forgiven! For Jesus died for every single person, even though not one of them deserved it.
Jesus Christ is called our “Advocate” or Advocatus in Latin. Jesus does not make excuses for our sins nor does He deny them but He pleads for us on the basis of His own righteousness. That is what makes Him the very sacrifice of propitiation, the blood that atones. That is why John calls Him “righteous.” It is through His wounds that we are healed. It is through His life freely given on the cross for sinners like you and me that God’s anger against sin is removed along with the guilt of that sin.
There can be no better Easter present for you and to me … 4And [so] we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. Joy is complete when our sins are absolved! Easter really has changed everything, even for we who so often live like it hasn’t. We are absolved in the blood of our risen Lord and Saviour! And where His nail scarred hands are lifted over us in forgiveness we have peace. And where there is peace there is joy. And where there is joy we join the children of God through the ages proclaiming: “He lives oh, the bliss of this glorious thought; My sin, not in part, but the whole, Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”