The passion of every follower of Jesus should be to absolutely turn away from every act, thought, and attitude that grieves the heart of Almighty God as if they were a den of poisonous snakes ready to strike at any moment. We should be made so uncomfortable by the sin that plagues us that peace escapes us until we cry out to God in confession for our sin and only then find sweet release in His forgiveness.

Biblically I know this to be true, but the fact of the matter is that I am finding more and more of us who claim to be followers of Jesus becoming more and more comfortable with our sin. Instead of crying out to God for forgiveness and restoration we resort to making excuses as to why we do the things we do, justify our lack of holiness, minimize our sinfulness, and forsake the promises of God to “forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” if we would only confess from a broken and genuine heart.

Many today would find my words an affront to what is popularly being communicated and taught across our country today. Many believe that we must move beyond the antiquated teachings of the ancient prophets and teachers of the Bible and remove phrases like “sin, holiness, and repentance” from our vocabulary. The only problem with this is that popular opinion changes with the wind, but the Word of the Lord stands forever.

From a practical standpoint I can tell you that there is hardly a day that goes by that I do not end up speaking with someone who is feeling the crushing weight of sin bearing down on their soul. The way that we describe sin’s toll on our souls varies, but the culprit is always the same. Some people talk about the emptiness they feel. They can’t seem to buy their way beyond it, talk their way out of it, or find anyone who can deliver them from the gnawing emptiness that eats at their soul. No matter what they do, no matter how “good” they try to be, they can’t seem to find satisfaction or fulfillment in life. Others describe sleepless nights where they toss and turn trying to find freedom from the sin that keeps them up at night. They speak of the anxiety that agonizes them as their efforts to shake free prove futile again and again. Still others talk about the guilt and shame that keeps them shackled to their past like a prisoner in chains. They’ve had friends tell them that what they did is no big deal, they sought counsel from therapists, and they’ve even asked God for forgiveness – but they can’t get their devilish deeds out of their mind. David wrote about sins effects on his life and how he found release in Psalm 32 when he said,

1 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. 3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”- and you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:1-5 NIV)

We have too easily passed over the effects of sin upon our soul and as a result we are looking in all of the wrong places to try and find something or someone who can restore life to our lifeless souls. We are helpless, apart from Jesus, to deal with sins debilitating effects upon our lives. Asking me to absolve myself from my sin is as absurd as asking me to move the stars in the heavens, turn the sun off during the heat of the day, teach a newborn baby not to cry, or stop the earth from spinning. It can’t be done. It has never been done. It will never be possible.

If it were possible for people to do away with their sin with fine works, eloquent words, or a thorough washing then Martin Luther would have been our model for how to deal with sin.

Martin Luther never intended to begin the Protestant Reformation. He was on his way to becoming a successful lawyer when, as a promising 22-year-old university student, on July 2, 1505, he was caught in a violent thunderstorm while riding on horseback. Lightning struck close to Martin and it threw him to the ground. He was so terrified and afraid of dying that he prayed to St. Anne to save him. Martin said, “If you will spare my life I will give my life to entering the monastery and becoming a monk.”

Luther kept his vow and pursued the monastic life with an intensity that went far beyond the already strict requirements. He wore himself out with prayer, confession, and fasting. He wore out his superiors with the excessive amount of time he spent in the confessional pouring over his heart and soul to find every error, every sin that would keep him from right-standing with God. Martin Luther would spend so much time in the confessional that on more than one occasion the Father Confessor accused him of trying to get out of doing work.

The Father Confessor’s reprimand did not deter Martin from searching his soul. Each day in the confessional, when he had finally exhausted all of the sins he had committed he would leave the confessional feeling clean, released from the prison cell of his sin, and in fellowship with God. That is until his mind would be quickened by God’s Spirit with some sin that he had failed to confess. At that very moment the weight of his sin would engulf him and Martin would feel crushed under the weight of his sin once again.

Martin wrote, “I kept the rule of my order so strictly that I may say that if ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery it was I. All my brothers in the monastery who knew me will bear me out. If I had kept on any longer, I should have killed myself with vigils, prayers, readings and other work.” But even these superhuman efforts did not bring peace to his tormented soul. When he said his first mass he stood and was unable to speak because he was “utterly stupified and terror-stricken” at the thought of standing before the Almighty God.

Through his constant studies of the Scriptures, Martin Luther came to see that the guilt that consumed him could not be alleviated and done away with by more religion. He came to the conclusion that he could never be good enough to earn God’s love. He could spend all day in the confessional and never merit God’s grace. Martin found in the book of Romans a truth that opened the door of grace and escorted him through its threshold into the glorious presence of God. Shooting forth from the book of Romans 1:17, another thunderbolt crossed his path one day that would change his life forever. Martin wrote,

Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that ‘the just shall live by his faith.’ Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which, through grace and sheer mercy, God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before the ‘justice of God’ had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven . . .

Martin Luther, the founder of the Protestant Reformation, discovered what many of us need to discover this morning. There is only One who can adequately, thoroughly, and completely deal with your sin and mine and that is Jesus, our Advocate. John writes in 1 John 2:1-2,

1My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense-Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2 NIV)

Last week in our study of 1 John we learned that we are either walking in the light or we are walking in darkness. John said that just because we say we are walking in the light doesn’t mean it is so. We must walk in the light, renounce the life we lived apart from Jesus, and refuse to go back to living in those old sin-filled ways. John told us that if we walk in the light as He is in the light then the blood of Jesus continually cleanses us from all sin. That is good news my friend! We need forgiveness.

In our study for today John say that he is writing to us so that we will not sin. He has already said,

8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. (1 John 1:8-10 NIV)

How can John, at one point, tell us that “if we claim to be without sin we deceive ourselves” and at another point say, “I write this to you so that you will not sin?” Are these words of John contradictory? Absolutely not! The elderly John has been around the block a few times. He knows the debilitating effects of sin. He walked with Jesus and saw how sin darkened the hearts of the people to the point where they eventually beat, scourged, and crucified the One who came to rescue them from sin. He saw the demon possessed ravaged by sin. He witnessed first hand how the sin of sexual promiscuity had smothered a woman in a blanket of shame and guilt. John knew sin and he knew that sin at work in the human heart would rob its victims of life, joy, and salvation.

We don’t have to travel back to biblical days to be convinced of the effects of sin. All we have to do is look in the mirror to its hideous effects. A man becomes bored with his marriage, frustrated with his job, and stressed because of his schedule when one day a female co-worker asks him if he would like to go to lunch. At lunch, small talk turns into intimate conversations of life. She seems so empathetic, so understanding. They go to lunch again and he begins to feel a kindred spirit with this woman who is everything his wife once was. Before long they are meeting after work for a drink, then drinks turn into a visit to her home. The visit to her home leads to an opened door to her bedroom, and the door to his marriage slams shut. Oh he didn’t hear the slamming noise, but Satan knew it was over.

Eventually the man’s wife finds out. She wonders how she will tell the children that daddy will not be living with them any more. Months pass and the man finds himself all alone in an empty apartment. His wife and children are doing the best they can to carry on with life. His mistress, the bombshell of empathy and understanding, she moved on to another frustrated executive who needed her understanding. The man stares into the mirror and wonders what went wrong.

The stories of sin’s effects on our lives are as many as the sands on the seashore, but the end of the stories are all the same…sin will bring us to ruin. That is not the way it was supposed to be. That is not what was promised. Sin initially sells us on its glitz, glamour, ecstasy, and excitement, but then sin shames us. Sin heaps us with guilt until we cannot move. Sin condemns us. Sin drains us. Sin makes us paranoid. Sin kills.

The enticement of sin in our lives is much like the alluring ploys of the Australian Sundew plant. In the Australian bush country grows a little plant called the Sundew. It has a slender stem and tiny round leaves fringed with hairs that glisten with bright drops of liquid as delicate as fine dew. Oh, it is so enticing to the unsuspecting insects that are flying around looking for a cool drink at break-time in the morning hour. The Sundew’s attractive clusters of red, white, and pink blossoms are harmless, the leaves are deadly. The shiny moisture on each leaf is sticky, and will hold any bug prisoner that touches it. The struggle to get free from the sundew’s sticky leaves only makes matters worse for the movement of the insect causes the leaves to close even more tightly. What looked so inviting initially is actually a trap that will end in death as the Sundew devours its prey.

Sin is attractive, but deadly. James illustrates for us so vividly how we are lured into sin when he writes,

13When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15 NIV)

James says that we are “enticed” by our evil, sinful desires. The Greek word used by James is a fishing term. The word, “delea,zw” {del-eh-ad’-zo} means to “entice, allure, to bait, catch by a bait, or deceive.” My youngest son is a world-class fisherman. When my family goes out to fish there is a certainty that we can always count on – I will not catch any fish and Nate will catch more fish than any of the rest of us. Nate will try different lures until he finds the one that the fish can’t resist then he will catch every fish in the pond. Nate is good. He will try different colors, different sizes, sounds, and he will try to reel in his lure at different speeds and depths until he finds the right combination.

Sin works in precisely the same way. There are some “lures” that can be thrown out in front of you that you will not even take a second look at, but the Enemy will continue to fish your spot trying to find the right bait. When the right bait comes along and you lunge out to bite it, then he will reel you in my friend, and serve you up.

John says, “I write these things to you so that you will not sin” so that you and I can avoid being served up by the Enemy. He doesn’t write them because we can’t be forgiven. God will forgive us of our sin. John writes in the last half of verse one, “But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense-Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John 1:1 NIV)

John wants to encourage us to avoid sinning because he doesn’t want us to grieve the heart of God and because he wants us to avoid the debilitating effects of sin’s hold upon our lives.

For those of us who are sinners I have come today to tell you that there is One who is pleading your case before the Father. When we come to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives then Jesus stands in our place as our Advocate speaking to the Father on our behalf.

Before we give our life to Jesus we have no remedy for our sin, we are hopeless in our attempts to escape sin’s shackles. When we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives then His cleansing blood washes away all of our sins and makes us right with God. Satan can try and keep you shackled, after all he is the accuser of the people of God, but he cannot succeed. Paul wrote in Romans 8,

33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-more than that, who was raised to life-is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”?37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:33-39 NIV)

Some of us here this morning are dealing with our sin and wondering if we could ever be forgiven? I’ve heard some of you say, “But Mike you don’t know what I’ve done.” I want you to know that Jesus is interceding for you at this very minute. He is your righteousness. He is your mercy. He is your Advocate who has given His very life so that you and I could know beyond a shadow of doubt that we are forgiven. The writer of Hebrews says,

25Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. 26Such a high priest meets our need-one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. (Hebrews 7:25-27 NIV)

My friend, you cannot even begin to comprehend the deep, deep love that God has for you. You cannot even begin to grasp how ready He is to forgive you and me if we would but turn our face towards heaven and cry out in repentance. God’s love is so great that He was willing to have Jesus die so that we could be forgiven. Listen to these powerful words,

10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10 NIV)

21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV)

Many people in our society today have a difficult time understanding how our sin could be dealt with in such a complete way simply because someone died. How could the death of someone else absolve me from my guilt and shame? The writer of Hebrews says,

22In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22 NIV)

“Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” With that fact stated Jesus offered His sinless life so that sinners could be set free. I am experiencing a pervasive problem that is prevalent in the lives of more and more believers today. Many of us know that God has forgiven us, but we can get what we have done out of our minds and we can’t seem to forgive ourselves. When God forgave me why didn’t He just wipe my mind clean so that I would never have to deal with my sin again? That is a great question! God has refused to wipe our memories clean for two reasons: First, He wants our hearts to be broken for those who are shackled as we were. It is so easy for Christians to become self-righteousness and act as if they have never tasted the bitter fruits of sin. If God wiped our minds clean of any remembrance of our sin then we would certainly be of no use to those who are sinking beneath sin’s tidal wave. Secondly, God has not wiped our minds clean in order for our past sins and heartache to be a reminder to us to not go back there where we use to walk. If I put my hand on a stove when it is hot I will guarantee you that the next time I go to lay my hand on the stove I will check to see if it is hot first. God does not want us to continually go back to the things will destroy us.

Jesus is our atoning sacrifice. He has died so that we might be forgiven for our sins. He has died so that we might be empowered to live in God’s will for our lives. There may be someone here this morning who knows God is calling you to come home, but you are so ashamed of what you have done or have failed to do that you want to get your life together first. Let me save you much heartache and consternation – You can’t do it. God doesn’t want you to get your life in order, He just wants you to come home so that He can clean you up and bath you in His glorious mercy and grace.

There was once a young man who decided that he wanted to make his mark on the world. His father’s house was becoming increasingly confining and so he decided to get out on his own. He asked his dad for his share of the inheritance. His father gave it to him, and saddened, watched his son walk out the front door.

The bright lights of the big city were more than the young man ever imagined. He dove right in. Cars, women, wine, song, anything his heart desired he went after and he thought to himself, “How could I have been missing this all of those years.” As time went on the newness began to wear off of the nightlife and his money began to run low. As the money began to run short he found himself running short on friends and companions as well. Eventually he couldn’t afford his apartment anymore and he decided he had to get a job. The only job he could find was working with a pig farmer feeding the pigs. He was from a good Jewish family and he never dreamed he would end up in a pigsty.

The young man resolved within himself to change his ways. He said, “I would be better off if I was a slave in my daddy’s house. I need to go home.” He gathered up what little belongings he had left and began his long walk home. All the way he thought to himself what he would say to his father. He wondered if his daddy would forgive him? Would his father send him away?

Then the day came when he drew near to his father’s house. And while he was still a long ways off his father saw him – and he ran. His father couldn’t believe his eyes! It was his son. He looked out the front door every day wondering, thinking, hoping that one day his son would come home.

The father threw his arms around his son with tears of joy and laughter filling the atmosphere at the same time. The son began his well-crafted speech, but before he could finish his first sentence the father put his hand over his son’s mouth and yelled, “He’s home! He’s home!” The father took off his outer robe and wrapped it around his son. He took off his signet ring and placed it on his son’s finger. He turned back towards the house and yelled, “Kill the fatted calf we’re gonna have a party. My son, my son was lost, but now he is found!”

My friends, the story of the Prodigal Son is my story and yours. Our Father is waiting, anxiously waiting for us to come home. He has made all of the necessary preparations and now…it’s time to come home.

…For The Sins Of The World!
1 John 2:1-2
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