When Jesus Said, “It Is Finished,” The Father Said…

This past Sunday at Cornerstone, we began a series for the month September around the theme of forgiveness. I started out with the obvious one – God’s forgiveness of us. And I jumped into a passage I love, looking at 1 John 1:1-2:2.

It’s quite amazing to know that God is not only faithful, but also completely righteous to forgive us through the blood of Jesus.

Yes, that’s what it says – faithful AND righteous.

But what does it mean that he is righteous to forgive us?

Are you ready for it? Continue reading

Perfect Love

On Saturday, I posted up an article with regards to what God has been stirring in me from 1 John 4:14-18. My heart has been gripped with the reality of John’s words – We have come to know and believe the love God has for us.

These are experiential words coming from the pen of John. He is one so captured by the love of the Father seen in the Son, Jesus, that he identifies this love as perfect love. And we all know what perfect love does – casts out fear (and I suspect it deals with a few more things, though I shared how I believe fear is connected to much of our deep wounds and inner-sin). Continue reading

John & the Love of God

Last Sunday, on Easter Sunday, I approached things from a little different perspective than the normal Easter message (at least I suppose it was not the usual approach). I didn’t focus specifically on the cross or the resurrection, but I focused in on a passage from 1 John 4:14-16.

Many will know John is the beloved disciple. Jesus is the eternal Son of God, even in his life on earth. But being also fully human, he approached life as we would, having a closer circle of friends, though he was ultimately pouring into their lives and teaching them the ways of the Father. We know there was the twelve. But there was also the closer connection with Peter, James and John. And then, within that three, you might say John was the closest friend Jesus had as a human being (at least as John presents it, and I trust John’s testimony).

And so, we read some intimate passages from the pen of John (and some extremely apocalyptic-prophetic visions in Revelation as well). One very intimate portion is found in his first epistle. He writes like a father to his children. It’s quite beautiful. Continue reading

Preaching About Antichrist

This summer Cornerstone is doing a series on 1 John. It’s been quite beneficial in getting into the meat of what John has said in his first epistle. Martin Luther had these words to say about 1 John:

‘I have never read a book written in simpler words than this one, and yet the words are inexpressible.’

This past Sunday, I specifically looked at 1 John 2:18-27. I addressed two specific points from the passage that I believe are not always correctly understood: 1) antichrist and 2) anointing.

There is way too much unhealthy teaching on both subjects. Many people’s thoughts on antichrist (at least in America) have been heavily influenced by the Left Behind books, which I do not believe are helpful accounts. Though the concept of antichrist only comes up four times in all of Scripture, all being found in John’s shorter letters (1 John 2:18; 1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:1-3; 2 John 7), there are too many people spending too much time and money on trying to figure out who this person is or will be. Not only that, but John has a much different focus on antichrist than what is usually offered up by the ‘end-times experts’.

With regards to the other point on anointing, though I consider myself charismatic, I recognise that many of my Pentecostal and charismatic friends have ruined this word. Many times, the word is used to describe some ethereal spooky force floating around in the air. But, the anointing is the Spirit of God, as we can clearly see elsewhere:

21And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 put his seal on us and who has also given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)

Therefore, I would always encourage my Pentecostal and charismatic colleagues to make sure they realise that the anointing is in reference to a real person, one of the persons of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is someone with whom we have a relationship. And, specifically in regards to John’s words, the Holy Spirit is the one who comes and teaches us truth (see 1 John 2:20-21, 27). This all harkens back to John’s Gospel where he records Jesus’ teaching about the Paraclete (see John 16:13).

So, there is an introduction to my message from this past Sunday. If you are interested, you can listen to it below or you can download from our podcast.

Faithful and Righteous To Forgive

There is a simple verse we all probably know found in John’s first epistle:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

It’s one of the famously quoted passages in regards to the promise of God’s forgiveness of sin. There are others such as Psalm 32:1-2; Isaiah 1:18; Acts 2:38; and Ephesians 1:7. But, still, 1 John 1:9 probably rings louder than any other. And it should. It’s beautiful. Such words are a real promise of the faithfulness of God to forgive our sins.

Now, before moving on, I must be honest and say that I think these words of John more have to do with the ongoing relationship we have with God. The gospel says that, in Christ, our sin has already been forgiven, completely forgiven. The forgiveness of God is part of the sealed covenant of God. Thus, when Christ said, ‘It is finished,’ He really meant what He said.

The debt is paid, the wrath of God has been averted, and this actual transaction already took place at the cross. Therefore, Paul could declare this truth:

For our sake he made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Again, this is something that already has happened. We are not hoping this will happen. It is truth, and it is truth that sets the captives free! (See John 8:32)

For this reason, the promise of 1 John 1:9 is more in reference to the continual relationship that exists between God and His people. Sure, our sins are already forgiven and, thus, if there were some sin we ‘forgot to confess’, we can have confidence that such has been covered in the blood of Christ. His blood is sufficient and is not based upon whether or not we remember to confess a particular sin. The power of the cross is not ultimately contingent upon fallen humanity. It is contingent upon the faithfulness of the eternal, divine Son who gave His life for our sin.

But, because we are in this new covenant love relationship with the Father, we truly want to consider how we can walk out this relationship. To do so, when we offend our Father, we are called to confess such. To make a confession is simply to be in agreement that what we have said, done or thoughts is not in accordance with the ways of God.

And, thankfully, such is not dependent upon verbally confessing to a priest or vicar, though we should be encouraged that the body of Christ is called to be available to one another to share (confess) our struggles and sins to one another so that we might pray for one another in regards to such (i.e. James 5:16, even Acts 19:17-20).

But this confession we are looking at here is in regards to maintaining a healthy relationship with our loving Father. Again, our sins are completely paid for, but when we offend our Father, we want to let Him know that we understand that what we participated in was not in accordance with His ways.

I suppose it’s similar to the marriage relationship. My wife and I are in covenant and I am assured that covenant will not ever be brought to an end. And our marriage is built upon that covenant foundation. Still, when I offend my wife or she offends me, we are [usually] quick to apologise, confess and ask the other to forgive us.

And that is what John is getting at in 1 John 1:9. The covenant relationship has been established, but we want to look to walk out that relationship each and every day. But let me quote the verse one more time to bring up the major point of this blog article:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

According to this passage, there are two aspects of God’s forgiveness: If we confess our sins, he is both faithful and just (which means righteous) to forgive our sins.

Now most recognise the faithfulness of God in that, when we confess our sins, He is always willing and ready to forgive His people. If we truly confess, the eternal sacrifice of the cross becomes a living and applicable reality right then and there. Yet, most fail to recognise the second reality of John’s words: the righteousness of God to forgive.

Now many people will struggle with my next statement, but do know this is 100% absolute truth in accordance with 1 John 1:9 and the gospel: If God did not forgive the sins of His people, He would be absolutely unrighteous.

Yep, you heard me right. And I have no problem making such a statement. Such is not arrogant, but rather it is based upon the truth of His Word. But why could I make such a statement? If God did not forgive the sins of His people, He would be absolutely unrighteous. Let me break it down.

Either Christ paid for our sin or He didn’t. Either Christ received the judgment for our sin or we will. But both Christ and God’s people cannot pay for our sin. It is one or the other.

If God were to hold our sin against both Christ and us, then it would be what is known as double payment, a kind of legal term. But such is unjust, unrighteous. Again, either Christ paid the debt for our sin or will. It cannot be both.

Some might say, ‘Well, God is God. He can do what He wants.’ But such shows our western, maybe American, idea of God. God is a covenant God and God will never ever break covenant! The new covenant was established on the eternal blood of Christ and it is that eternal blood that was the eternal sacrifice for our sin.

Therefore, for those who are in Christ, who have believed upon Him and have become new creations, He was the One who took our sin. God will never hold our sin against us. Never! Thus, He is both faithful and righteous to forgive our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Now for those who think such gives license for sin, they show they don’t truly understand the gospel and the work of Christ. For those who are in Christ, we are new creations with new hearts indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God. Therefore, we are the ones who have been changed inwardly and are now in a place where we want to walk out the ways of God. It’s not that we don’t deal with flesh, temptations, the lies of the enemy and a fallen world. Such are present every single day. But God has so changed us that we are in a place of wanting to walk out His ways. A new creation is expected to walk in the new ways of God. A branch is expected to act in accordance with the vine.

So we should see that such truth of 1 John 1:9 does not give license to sin, but it actually empowers us to walk out the ways of God. Such truth helps to transform us more and more into the image of Christ. It truly is such good news (gospel) that He is both faithful and righteous to forgive us. And now, knowing such empowering truth, I find myself wanting to walk out His ways.

Therefore, let us be strengthened by 1 John 1:9 knowing that God will never hold our sins against us. If He did, He would be unrighteous.