“My 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.”
1 John 2:1
This passage was the New Testament reading in the daily lectionary for today. And to set the context, in chapter 1, John was talking about walking in the light. In verse 5 he reminds us that “God is light: in him there is no darkness at all.” In verse 6 comes the statement, and this perfectly logical, if we claim to have fellowship with him, with God, but we walk in the darkness, then we lie, we’re not walking in fellowship with him.
Chapter 2 is a continuation of this theme. And the message to us I think is pretty clear – we can’t continue in our sin, if we’re going to follow Jesus. That’s why he wrote this letter, so the churches would take sin seriously. That Christians will not sin.
Is that possible? Is it possible to not sin? Often I think that we convince ourselves that it isn’t possible, so we don’t even try. I think that shows in two areas. First, we have churches that don’t preach about sin anymore. Forgiveness and repentance aren’t ever mentioned. Why bother, sin can’t be helped, so why build tension.
But the other area is in Christians that don’t even try. Everybody sins, what’s the big deal. Besides, we know we’ll be forgiven, so we don’t even worry about it. And I don’t honestly think that it is possible on this side. But Jesus died for our sin. Our sin is a big deal. And the bible is clear about our need to try. As much as it depends on us, we need to live an honorable life, and we need to avoid sin.
So what is sin? Basically, sin is disobedience to God. It can be doing something that’s contrary to God’s law, or God’s Word, or just doing something you know is not what God would have you do. According to John MacArthur, “Sin is any lack of conformity to the moral character of God or the law of God. We sin by thinking evil, speaking evil, acting evil, or omitting good.”
The second part of that definition gives us a game plan. How do we not sin? If sin is thinking evil, speaking evil, acting evil, or omitting good, we can come up with a game plan to dramatically cut down on the sin in our lives.
What do you think about? Is it evil? Do you let you thoughts wander to things that aren’t good? You’re not an evil person, but do sometimes allow your thoughts to wander? Controlling your thoughts is essential to living a life free from sin. Work on your thoughts. As Paul wrote in Philippians 4:8, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” In other words, think good thoughts, not bad thoughts.
Next was speaking evil. What do you say? What words do you use? Do those words change when you’re upset? Work on your words. Don’ say things that tear others down, say only things that build others up. Instead of criticizing, give constructive criticism. Help others do better – that’s how we should use our words. James 1:19 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” We’re slow to speak because we’re thinking about our words, and avoiding any kind of evil speak.
Next was acting evil. We’ve talked about thinking evil, and speaking evil. It should follow that we need to pay attention to what we do. Do things that reflect Jesus. Do things that honor God. Don’t do things that cause others harm, or even cause you harm. Romans 12:9 tells us, “hate what is evil, cling to what is good.” It follows then that we should hate doing what is evil, and cling to doing what is good.
Finally, omitting good. Sometimes we can sin by omission. By not doing what we know we should do. If you see someone struggling, and you know you should do something to help them, but you don’t, you just watch them struggle – you are sinning. Don’t omit the good you can be doing.
Remember we sin by thinking evil, speaking evil, acting evil, or omitting good. And remember John’s admonition: do not sin.