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How Do You Develop An Energized, Intimate Relationship With Jesus?

How Do You Develop An Energized, Intimate Relationship With Jesus?

Sermon Transcript

After a brief hiatus in studying First John because of our series for the Easter season, today we dig back into this helpful and challenging book.  You will recall that a ninety-something-year-old John wrote to churches he had probably founded in Asia Minor or was at least intimately associated with.  His letter is as personal as it is pastoral, and the fact he covers the same topics from various angles shows his emotional connection and love for these saints.

By way of review, you will remember how false teaching based on ancient Greek Gnosticism had infiltrated the churches.  Gnostics emphasized the superiority of the inner man while downplaying the outer man.  A position of this nature logically empowered some believers to have a low view of sin, while others drifted into asceticism to control the evil flesh.  Gnostic thinking also diminished the person of Christ.  Since matter/flesh was evil in their theological system, then Jesus could not have been the divine Messiah, for how could divinity be associated with a compromised body? In this system, Jesus was a watered-down version of God, not the one who possessed the fullness of deity as taught by men like John, Paul (Col. 2:1-7), and others (Heb. 1:3). Christians who embraced this new and progressive theological worldview became genuinely enlightened and spiritual.  Those who rejected it were frowned upon and seen as spiritually inferior.

How did Gnosticism impact local churches, especially those in Asia Minor?  To use our modern terminology, it created woke believers versus blind believers.  The false teaching destroyed friendships, created great disunity, and caused many to abandon the church and embrace sinful lifestyles.

In the middle of this mayhem stepped a brave, aged pastor and a former disciple and good friend of Jesus: John. What did he want from his sheep?  He desired them to abandon false teaching and adhere to sound, biblical teaching, even if it made the person in question persona non grata with the culture.  From verses five through ten of chapter one, we learned he also taught saints to restore and understand how to maintain a close, intimate relationship with Jesus.  All of his counsel still resonates with us because false cultural views still infiltrate the local church, resulting in believers being pitted against each other while also losing their close fellowship with Jesus.

Since chapter and verse divisions did not exist in the original Greek text of First John, we can readily see how chapter 2, verses one through two, continue to develop the main idea articulated in what we now call the previous chapter.  Hence, we present the same homiletical question which arises from the verses before us:

How Do You Develop An Energized Intimate Relationship With Jesus? (1 John 2:1-2)

Two more concepts arise from these two verses:

Eighth Answer: Recognize The Godly Goal (1 John 2:1a)

Listen to the gentle, loving words and desire of a seasoned, godly shepherd to broken, battered believers:

1 My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin.

The term “little children” is used six times in this letter (2:12, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21).  John could not have chosen a more caring, endearing term.  Given his age, these saints probably were children to him, but they were near and dear to his heart.  As their shepherd, he loved them, hated to see them suffer, disliked watching wolves in sheep’s clothing decimate their lives, and sought the best in their spiritual maturation.  I feel the same toward you.

John gave them additional insight into why he wrote “these things.”  What does the phrase “these things” refer to ( ταῦτα γράφω)? Does it refer to the entire book? No. Since he continues to talk about how to maintain a flourishing relationship with Jesus, the phrase probably continues the discussion of chapter one, verses 5 through 10.  Sin destroys the believer’s fellowship with Jesus, and recognition and confession of sin restores this broken fellowship, but John had to drive home another crucial point.  Those who understood the pervasive presence of evil could have been tempted to grow weary of combating it and just lived carnal, sinful lives.   Why fight what you can’t defeat . . . could have been a motto. Others might have thought they had gone down the Gnostic road so far God would not forgive them.

Whatever the situation, John said he only ever had one pastoral goal in mind for saints: “that you may not sin” ( ἵνα μὴ ἁμάρτητε).  The conjunction “that” in Greek is hina.  Here it denotes purpose, not result.  If classified as “result,” it would mean John desired these saints to reach a place of sinless status, which is impossible since we wrestle with our sinful flesh until we meet Jesus face to face (Rom. 7; Gal. 5:16-18).  Purpose, therefore, is better theology.  We can, and should, live as sinless as possible; however, we must not ever underestimate the presence and power of our sinful flesh.

And just what is sin?  The word here is from the Greek verb hamartano ( ἁμαρτάνω ), which literally denoted the intentional or unintentional missing of a target.  Years ago, I took my youth group in San Diego to a camp in Alpine, located about thirty minutes East of the city in the beautiful mountains.  One day we enjoyed watching teens line up and shoot arrows at large targets affixed to hay bales.  Since most of them had never used a bow and arrow before, I found it amusing how many arrows flew right past the targets.  I’ll also never forget the student who cluelessly rode his bicycle right behind the hay bales while other students fired away.  I don’t know how he did not get hit.  This activity that afternoon taught me much about sin.  Sin represents either intentional or unintentional missing of what God says is holy, just, and pure.  How do we know what sin is?  Easy.  The special revelation we have in our Bibles tells us precisely what God views as holy.  To bend, twist, alter, rationalize, redefine what He has revealed as sin is sin, or to purposefully reject what He has said is to sin. Martyn-Lloyd Jones defines sin well:

Well, sin means that we disobey God’s holy law revealed to us. Sin is anything that is condemned in the Bible.  It does not matter what it is, if the Bible tells us not to do it, then we must not do it . . .  Sin is disobedience to God’s revealed law.[1]

What could be clearer?

Sin also entails disobeying the law of right and wrong God has hard-wired into all of us.  We know internally what we ought to do and what we shouldn’t do in any situation.  Where does this internal analysis and knowledge come from? God.  Here is how Paul describes it in his letter to the Roman church:

14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus (Rom. 2).

On judgment day, God can justly judge all unbelievers based on their exposure to special revelation and their rejection of it or their disobedience to the moral law God built into their consciences.  As Paul says in Romans, all humanity will be without excuse before God (Rom. 1:20; 2:1).  Everyone arrives on the planet with the God-given understanding there are good and evil actions.  The unchurched person knows you don’t just waltz into a Nordstrom’s and walk out with Coach purses without paying or snatch costly necklaces off the necks of innocent women because you want what they have, but you can’t afford it.  Internally, your conscience screams, “What do you think you are doing?”  I’m sinning,” is most likely the answer.

Now, let’s get back to us.

What is a great, wonderful Christian life like?  It knows what constitutes sin; it hates sin and turns away from and steers clear of sin. It understands how sin permanently destroys intimacy with a believer’s relationship with Christ.  It is committed to clearing the spiritual ledger with Jesus through confession sooner rather than later, lest sin gains a foothold.  Again, the words of Martyn-Lloyd Jones are so appropriate: “The moment you sin, fellowship is broken; the moment you fall into this kind of transgression, you interrupt the fellowship. The one thing that matters is fellowship with God.”[2]  If divine fellowship matters to you, and it should come as a saint, you will waste no time falling daily on your knees in confession. Further, if divine fellowship matters to you, you will have no problem attempting to live a life free of sin.  You will never gain total mastery, but living more sinless from one day to the next is a goal worth pursuing as you yield to the Spirit and seek His power for victory.

Are you ready to head into a new spiritual direction altogether? Those who do will grow in holiness, and their relationship with Jesus will be so much more profound and richer.

Next, to enhance your fellowship with the Lord, you need to wrap your mind and heart around John’s ninth bid of sagacious wisdom about how to do this:

Ninth Answer: Recognize The Godly Gift (1 John 2:1b-2)

In the latter part of verse 1, John gets real:

And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;

The conditional sentence brings us down to reality. If you do bite the spiritual dust because of sinful activity you have entertained, if you do shake your fist in God’s face and walk off the spiritual reservation for a moment (like Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5), if you purposefully choose not to obey what you know you should obey (like when Peter denied knowing Jesus), if your sinful actions (internal and/or external) do, in fact, negatively impact your fellowship with God, is it over for you?  No.  God, who is rich in mercy and grace and loves His children, has made provision for you to fall back in love with Him by giving you two gifts.

Gift number one is we have the ultimate defense attorney in God's courtroom. His name? Jesus Christ.  The present tense verb here, “we have” (ἔχομεν), is so important.  Classifying it as a gnomic present in Greek, it emphasizes how Jesus is always the believer’s Advocate by underscoring a timeless, inexorable truth.  What does this term mean?  Advocate is really from Latin, not Greek.  In Greek, the term is Paraklayton, or Paraclete (παράκλητον).  Frederick Danker’s Greek Lexicon of the New Testament gives us the best lexical definition of this keyword:

παράκλητος, ου, ὁ (παρακαλέω) originally meant in the passive sense (BGU 601, 12 [II a.d.] παράκλητος δέδωκα αὐτῷ=‘when I was asked I gave to him’, but π. is restored from παρακλος, and the restoration is uncertain), ‘one who is called to someone’s aid’. Accordingly Latin writers commonly rendered it, in its NT occurrences, with ‘advocatus’ (Tertullian, Prax. 9; Cyprian, De Domin. Orat. 3, Epist. 55, 18; Novatian, De Trin. 28; 29; Hilary, De Trin. 8, 19; Lucifer, De S. Athanas. . . . But the technical mng. ‘lawyer’, ‘attorney’ is rare (e.g. Bion of Borysthenes [III b.c.] in Diog. L. 4, 50; SEG XXXVIII, 1237, 18 [235/36 a.d.]). Against the legal association: KGrayston, JSNT 13, ’81, 67–82. In the few places where the word is found in pre-Christian and extra-Christian lit. as well, it has, for the most part, a more general sense: one who appears in another’s behalf, mediator, intercessor, helper(Demosth. 19, 1; Dionys. Hal. 11, 37, 1; Heraclit. Sto. 59 p. 80, 19; Cass. Dio 46, 20, 1; POxy 2725, 10 [71 a.d.]; cp. π. as the name of a gnostic aeon Iren. 1, 4, 5 [Harv. I 38, 8].[3]

In John 14, verse 16, Jesus promised to send a Helper or a Paraclete after His death and resurrection.

And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;

Verse 17 identifies the Helper with the Holy Spirit.  The word “another” here, which is allov

( ἄλλον), enhances our understanding of the divine nature of this Helper. How so? Friberg’s Analytical Greek Lexicongives us the insightful answer:

ἄλλος, η, ο other, another; (1) generally another person or thing of the same kind (AC 4.12), as contrasted with ἕτερος (another of a different kind or form). [4]

The Holy Spirit would be another Helper identical to Christ, stressing His divinity and underscoring how Christ also stood in this role as well.  Had John used the term heteros (ἕτερος), the Helper would have been different from Jesus or non-divine.  Scripture is so precise in what it communicates.

As the believer’s Advocate, Jesus is the ultimate defense attorney. When you sin and then turn and confess your sin, He comes to help you before the Father’s throne of holiness by arguing why you should not be judged.  Did you get that?  I hope so.  And because He is “Jesus Christ the righteous,” He is always qualified based on His holy character to stand and give a defense for you before the Father.   Why is He doing this?  Because of what the Devil is doing.

The Devil has many names: Tempter (Matt. 4:3; 1 Thess. 3:5), Deceiver (Rev. 12:9; 20:3), The spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2), and the Accuser (Rev. 12:10).  Working as the Accuser, he waits for you to trip up and sin.  He cannot wait to come into God’s heavenly courtroom and bring accusation and ridicule against you when this occurs. His raspy voice can’t be missed, “Can you believe Larry did the same sin again?  What a loser. Why would you ever call him your child?”   “Shiela promised she would never go to that extreme, but look at her. She did. How weak she is.  How miserable. And you call her a daughter?”  You get the drill, I’m sure.

When you see your sin for what it is . . . an absolute insult to the person of God, and you confess it (1 John 1:9), Jesus cleanses and restores you, and He defends you, yes, you before the Father’s throne.  He defends you because He loves you and wants the best from you.  He will never abandon you because He grows weary of how busy you keep Him as the Advocate.  He will never have to be motivated to go to the heavenly court one more time for you.  He’s not anything like an attorney Liz and I hired when a city work truck in Dallas hit her and a friend on their way home for lunch.  Since Liz had some injuries from hitting the windshield and we had limited money as seminary students, we asked the city to cover the damages. They refused, so we hired an attorney to take the city to court.  When he had our court day, I asked him, “How did it go? How did they rule?”  I’ll never forget his reply, “They said they wouldn’t pay.” “So,” I asked, “What did you do then?”  “I simply walked out,” he replied.  Shocking.  That was the best he could do as our attorney.  After I motivated him, he did go back in there and get us money to cover our medical bills with a bit of leftover for pain and suffering.

I'm so thankful Jesus isn’t anything like this earthly attorney.  I don’t care what sin you have done, I don’t care how much you have compromised your faith, I don’t care how long this particular sin has been ingrained in your life, leaving you defeated, Jesus stands ready to defend you, but you must do your part and come clean through heartfelt confession.  What a gift Jesus is.  When Satan is your accuser, Jesus is your Advocate, your Helper to get you back on your feet so you can run again.

Gift number two is Jesus is your propitiator.  Here is how John puts it:

NAS 1 John 2:2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

NIV 1 John 2:2 He Himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Once more, the present tense copula is either gnomic (a timeless truth) or durative (expressing an ongoing reality).  The personal pronoun, autos (αὐτὸς), is also highly emphatic as it speaks about Jesus’s role as “the propitiation for our sin.”  It’s as if John sits back and relishes in the fact that Jesus defends His own, and He does it based on the fact His redemptive work on the cross is atoned for our sins.  This is how the NIV translates the Greek word here, hilasmos(ἱλασμός).  The NAS translates it as propitiation.  Combined, both translations take us back to the Old Testament, where the Hebrew equivalent, kipper (כִּפֶּר), means to “cover over” sin so God doesn’t “see” it or “to pacify” God’s anger against sin by offering the appropriate and divinely ordered sacrifices (Ex. 29:36-37; Lev. 4:20-31; 8:15, 34; 10:17; 12:7-8; 17:11).

Only Jesus, the sinless God-man, was qualified and capable of bearing our sin on the cross, so the Father’s wrath was averted from us to Him.  Now, in the Father’s courtroom, where the Devil brings accusations against us, Jesus stands as the One who did what only He could do to cover our sins by dying in our stead.  Ostensibly, this means the Father can quickly turn His eyes from our accuser to His Son, and when He does so, the first thing He sees is the nail-scarred hands and feet of the One who spilled His blood to cover those sins for all time. When this type of Advocate steps in to argue our case, the Father is instantly moved to look out into the courtroom and say, “My anger against this person’s sin is satisfied in the death of my Son. Case dismissed. Next.”

With this imagery in mind, I must ask you, What sin is the Devil bringing before the Father which you have committed or are currently engaged in?  What sin are you engaged in that keeps Jesus quite busy before the throne of the Father? What sin do you need to confess right now? When’s the last time you thanked Jesus for propitiating your sin so the Father’s wrath against said sin is placated for time and eternity?

Before we leave this verse, we do need to comment on what John says in closing:

2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

Does this mean everyone will be in heaven? No.  Christ’s death secured the possibility of propitiation for all sinners; however, a sinner must first come to Christ in repentant, trusting faith to be saved.  Regarding this, Hodges remarks,

The removal of sin as a barrier to God’s saving graces does not automatically bring regeneration and eternal life. While God’s holy and just requirement that sin receives His judicial retribution is fulfilled at the cross, the sinner remains dead and ‘alienated from the life of God (Eph. 4:18). Faith is the prescribed way for this alienation to be bridged . . . Our Savior’s universal sacrifice for sin makes eternal life available, but not automatic. By the cross, God is fully propitiated for all sin so that He then might have mercy on any who believe. The worldwide extent of God’s love is proved by the worldwide extent of this propitiation (John 3:16).[5]

If you are not a believer in Christ, your sin is not covered until you come to Him in faith.  You live based on your sinful desires and opposition to God’s truth. You probably have manufactured your own concept of truth, so you don’t have to embrace His, which is truth. Further,  God does not govern your thoughts, nor does His teaching control your life.  You live for yourself, cut off from rich, eternal fellowship with Him, and you are under His constant wrath (Rom. 2:1-3) because you haven’t, by faith, availed yourself of His propitiatory work on your behalf.

Today is the day to change your life course. Today is the day to entire God’s family and be saved.  Today is the day to have your sin covered before the Holy Father. Today is the day to secure an Advocate in God’s courtroom who will represent you well as you make your arduous earthly pilgrimage toward your heavenly home.

                  [1] Martyn-Lloyd Jones, Life In Christ: Studies in First John (Crossway: Wheaton, Illinois, 2002), 154.

                  [2] Jones, First John, 156-157.

            [3] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 766.

                  [4] Timothy and Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (Canada: Trafford Publishing, 2005).

                  [5] Zane Hodges, The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love (Denton: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999), 72-73.