God’s love letter for you: 1 John 2:12-14

Good morning church. We have been going through an exciting series titled “Faith filled Friendships” from the letters 1st, 2nd and 3rd John. Right now we find ourselves in 1 John 2:12-14 where we see the apostle John encouraging & reassuring the church because they were in a season where they were deeply unsettled in their faith. Some of the church members whom they had closely fellowshipped with, prayed with, laughed with and cried with had abandoned the faith.

They were being influenced by heretical teachings which denied that Jesus came in the flesh. More than that, despite their denial of Jesus, their immoral lifestyle and their lack of practical love, they were making big claims saying that they know God and belong to Him. You can imagine how that would’ve left the community of believers shaken, uncertain about everything that they were taught. As I relate to this, I think about the recent stories of popular Christian pastors & leaders who have “fallen from grace” & shockingly caught in a lifestyle of sexual immorality.

And all of this happened simultaneously while they were claiming to know God and engage people with conversations about God. And I can imagine how something like this can disturb and unsettle believers who have been impacted by their ministries. People may end up thinking – “If I followed these people and their teachings, then what can I say about my own faith?”

Maybe some of us are currently in a season where we are deeply disturbed by the brokenness and the sin of someone we looked up to in the faith. Or maybe we are disturbed by our own spiritual state seeing our selfishness and thinking this is not the way it was meant to be. 

And I want to tell you that there is hope. It’s in the midst of this spiritual confusion, where John passes on this love letter from God. More than the flowery words and the flattering words, God communicates his love to His people is by telling them their identity: who they are in Christ. Not only is knowing our identity an assurance for us as believers but our identity – knowing who we are in Christ gives us the motivation to live radically obedient lives. From this passage I believe there are at least 3 identity statements that God wants to remind us this morning:

1. We are forgiven in Christ (v12)

I am writing to you, little children,
    because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.

If you’ve been in a church or been among church people for a while you would’ve certainly heard the word “forgiveness” because it is one of the central themes of our Christian faith. But at the same time, as a result of overusing the word “forgiveness” in our vocabulary, we sometimes lose the essence of what it exactly means.

The definition of forgiveness is “to let go; cancel a debt; refrain from imposing a debt of punishment”. In other words, it’s basically saying “You deserve this punishment for what you’ve done, but I’m going to cancel the punishment. I’m going to let go”.

Okay, so the obvious question here is what was the size of our debt?

Angie and I were watching this documentary on Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi & we were startled at the debt that these men needed to pay back to the Banks. We’re talking about thousands of crores! Since they can’t pay back the amount, they are going to be tried and sent to jail. What if I told us this morning that our moral debts and are offences against God surpass Vijay Mallya’s & Nirav Modi’s financial debt?

Isa 59:1 but your iniquities have made a separation

    between you and your God,

and your sins have hidden his face from you

    so that he does not hear.

Our offences against God are so many that God’s face is hidden from us. And we don’t have the means or the ability to pay off our debt.

On top of that there’s another problem – God is Just and he can’t simply overlook & pardon our sins. Someone may say…what’s the big deal? Why can’t God just forgive sins like that? Imagine if someone burnt down your house out of anger or envy. You land up in court to get the matter settled. If the judge simply pardons the person who wronged you, how would that make you feel? You’ll feel that injustice is done. No matter how good the intentions of the judge is, justice must be served. If that’s the expectation from an earthly judge, can God who is Holy and Just simply forgive sins? Forgiveness is never cheap. Somebody needs to pay. There is always a cost to forgiveness.

That’s why at the end of v12 – it says because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake”. On account of Jesus’ pure life and finished work on the cross is the only way you and I can receive full forgiveness. That’s the only way in which God can tell us “Though you deserve punishment & separation from me forever, I’m going to cancel the punishment. I’m going to let go”.

Col 2:13-14: And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Amen! Why is it important for us to know that our sins are forgiven for Jesus’ name’s sake today?

Because it fills our hearts with love and appreciation for Jesus. If we’re seeing our hearts lack in love and appreciation for Jesus, it’s because we’ve forgotten how much we have been forgiven. The song “His mercy is more” captures this beautifully.

What riches of kindness He lavished on us

His blood was the payment, His life was the cost

We stood ‘neath a debt we could never afford

Our sins, they are many, His mercy is more

We need songs like this, we need daily reminders from Scripture, we need daily reminders from each other to remember how much we have been forgiven.

But not only are we forgiven in Christ,

2. We are friends in Christ (v13a)

13 I am writing to you, fathers,
    because you know him who is from the beginning

Who is this person whom John refers to as “who is from the beginning?” It’s Jesus Christ. In 1 John 1:1 – the very first verse in this letter, John introduces Jesus by saying that He existed from the beginning. Meaning He existed before anything else ever existed. Before time and space existed, Jesus was there. Before the universe was created, Jesus was there.

Everything else in creation has a start date & an end date but not Jesus – He has always existed. Not only did Jesus exist, but everything in creation was made through Him and nothing was made without Him. (John 1:3) Not only did he always exist and everything was created through Him, In Jesus all things hold together (Col 1:17). But not just that but In Jesus all things in heaven and earth is going to be reconciled through His blood (Col 1:20).

And the apostle John is saying that this Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer – He saw with His eyes, he heard him with his ears and he touched Jesus with his hands. Oh..wow! What an amazing thing to witness and know Jesus up and close like that.

But wait a second, in this v13 John is saying something else…he is saying that as believers we also can experience the same level of intimacy. Although Jesus is not physically present with us now, He is spiritually present with us always through His Holy Spirit. Many of us would consider ourselves fortunate if we had the opportunity to meet the President of a nation; let alone be his close friend.

Now think about it brothers and sisters – it’s unbelievable to wrap our mind around this – the God who always existed, Created every single thing in creation, sustains creation with His Word and Redeems us by His blood…we get to know Him personally and intimately. That’s mind blowing because who are we after all? We are like a flower that fades tomorrow. We are like mist that disappears overnight and yet God choses to be our friend.

Why is it important for us to know this truth?

Because it fills our heart with humble worship for our Creator God.  One of the downsides of lockdown has been the inability to be able to go outside the city and see the hills and the valleys. Trust me there are worship lessons that the hills & valleys teach us.

When we look at the hills and valleys, if we are absolutely honest we would say “Wow what a wonderful Creator my God is” but also humbles us telling us “I’m not as big as I think I am. I’m quite tiny in comparison to this” & yet God is my close friend.

But not only are we forgiven & God’s friends in Christ but

3. We are no longer sin slaves in Christ (v14b)

I write to you, young men,
    because you are strong,
    and the word of God abides in you,
    and you have overcome the evil one.

For some of us v14 seems like a strange, unreal promise. More often that not we hear these words spoken to us – “You defeated Christian; you’ll be a slave to sin for the rest of your life, how many times have you tried and failed, God’s had enough of you”. When in fact God in his love letter is telling us something very different. He says “you are strong, the word of God abides in you and you have overcome the evil one”.

I know for some of us it’s really hard for us to believe, but here’s the point I don’t want to miss…this strength & power to overcome isn’t our own. The strength comes by relying on Christ. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. (Eph 6:10)

I’m not trying to give a romantic picture of the Christian life where believers live such a victorious life that there is no struggle. No, the reality is that there will be struggles with sin till Christ comes again but what I’m trying to say is that in Christ now we can fight!

When we were unbelievers, there was no question about fighting sin. Why? Because we went with the flow, we went with the desires of our heart, but now in Jesus we are recreated to fight sin and we’ve been given the weapons to fight sin too.

I’m a fan of the Bourne action movies. It was every guy’s dream to wake up one day and fight like Jason Bourne. He could tear you down using a ball point pen & single handedly beat up an army of bad guys. But there was one problem, he didn’t know who he was and that to a great extent prevented him from doing what he was trained to do.

It’s only when began to understand his identity – know who he was, was he able to use the skills available for him to fight and survive.

And as believers we often forget who we are & so we automatically assume that we can’t fight sin. But what happens when we fall in sin? We repent and turn back. We repent and turn back. 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.

Do I really have weapons available at my disposal? Yes, I’ll tell you a couple of them. God’s Spirit & God’s promises. God knows that we are weak and can’t fight on our own so He gave us His Spirit. “He who is in you is greater than He who is in this world” (1 John 4:4). We have a co-fighter; co-soldier – the Holy Spirit. And He’s given us His Word to assure us of God’s promises.

What does God’s promise say “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philp 1:6)”. Even though we may experience momentary falls and stumbling, God has promised to not leave us incomplete. He has promised to finish His work of perfecting and restoring us. We know how the story will end and so today we can fight sin valiantly & persistently. Christian, if you’re down and defeated today, you need to know that you need to stand and fight.

Has it been the effects of something that has happened in the last one year spiritually disturbed you? Maybe it’s someone you looked up to spiritually whose fall from grace has disturbed you? Maybe it’s your own spiritual state which is unsettling you? You won’t find assurance in looking at the faith of other people. You won’t find assurance by looking at your own performance.

You will find your assurance by knowing who you are in Christ. “You are mine, You are forgiven, you’re His friend & you’re no longer a sin slave”. Take a few minutes to talk to God and get right with Him. If God’s forgiveness, friendship and freedom from slavery isn’t a reality for you, I want you to know that you can receive that by handing over your life to Him today. Repent from your sins and receive Jesus.

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