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Freedom from innocence: A Sermon on 1 John 1:1-2:2

Brothers and sisters, let me tell you what I am doing in speaking to you today. Let me tell you what exactly I am trying to declare and proclaim to you. I’m here to tell you about that which is eternal, that which is ultimate, that which is greater than any and every created thing. I’m here to proclaim to you the things of first importance, that which we heard, and saw firsthand in Jesus, the Word of God who made us alive. Jesus was revealed to us, brothers and sisters, revealed right here, among us, he came to us and made us alive when we were dead. We all have seen this, and we all are bound and determined to talk about it, to make it known. We saw the mystery: the very life of God, the eternal life of the Living Father, this was apocalypsed to us in the Crucified and Resurrected Jesus. When Jesus came, we saw and experienced the eternal life of God. That is who Jesus was. That is what we saw, that is what we can never stop speaking about.

And why do we keep talking about this? What is it about this Life that has come to us as Jesus that makes us continue to declare it over and over again? Brothers and sisters, we keep on talking about this because if brings us together! When we share this Gospel, this message of Life abundant, we share in it together, in its trials and tasks, its joys and sorrows, its callings and blessings. When we declare this truth, the truth that in Jesus God made us alive when we were dead, when we affirm this together and live it out together, brothers and sisters, we are bound together in unity, in love, in fellowship. And this isn’t just something for us, some sort of enjoyable group friendship that we enter into, no. When we declare the Gospel together, when we live the Gospel together, we are drawn into unity with the Father, and with Jesus. This is no mere human friendship we get to enjoy, no, when we speak the Gospel, when we live the Gospel, God’s very own self, God’s very own life comes to us, abides with us, endures with us, and sustains us.

That is why we’re talking about this yet again, so that we can fully and completely enter into the joy of life in God!

So here is the message for you again. Hear it and believe it once again, brothers and sisters. This is the truth we must speak and the truth we must live:

The truth is that there is no dark side of God. God is nothing but light, nothing but unfettered, undistorted, abundant love. There is no shadow, no underside, nothing behind the curtain. God is pure and undivided light. So then, brothers and sisters if we claim to be living the life that God in Jesus has given us, the life that is pure light, pure love, pure self-giving, if we claim to be living that life and yet harbor hidden darkness, we make ourselves liars. When we carve out little spaces in our life that we order and control by methods other than self-giving love, we deceive ourselves. When we claim to be God’s people, the people of the truth, a people of forgiveness and love, and yet build up spaces in our life together that are run by the powers of control, dominance, self-assertion, fear, and self-protection, brothers and sisters when we do this we lie. When we do this we stop living the Gospel and fall back again into sin and death.

However, when we give up our grasp on these spaces, when we let go of those corners of our life run by power rather than love, then brothers and sisters we enter into the very life of God. When we release those secret places and powers to which we cling so tightly we are delivered, by God’s unbreakable love, into life together, a new life, a life cleansed of all sin, all guilt, all slavery. When our hands open and our idols are allowed to fall to the ground, then brothers and sisters the blood of Jesus, the blood we spilled, it becomes a cleansing flood of mercy, grace, and love. A flood in which we are swept away together, immersed in new life, ever again for the first time.

The worst possible thing we can do brothers and sisters is pretend we are innocent. When we try to establish ourselves, to give reasons, to re-narrate and explain our sins away, brothers and sisters when we do this we deceive ourselves. When we do this we hang on to those secret spaces, we cling to those hand holds that keep us from being washed away in the flood of Christ’s love and grace. We shut out the truth when we try to establish our innocence. The quest for innocence, the quest for defending our own virtue, that is the quest for falsehood and sorrow. When we strive to be innocent, we lock the truth of the Gospel out of our lives.

The alternative is simple, painfully difficult, but simple in its beauty and freedom: we must begin, not with explanation, with rationalization, with self-defense, but with confession. The answer to the problem of our sin, and its ability to poison our life in the Gospel is not to establish ourselves in virtue, not to strive for a justifiable innocence, but to confess. When we confess our sins we are drawn back into the truth. The truth that God is the one who is faithful, who is righteous, just as we saw in Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. God is righteous and not us. God is faithful and not us. When we confess our sins our hands open and our idols are finally thrown away. The Faithful One, the Righteous One, the Crucified and Resurrected One, this One comes to us, and forgives us, cleanses us, and throws us into life together and service in this broken world.

Whenever we search for innocence, whenever we defend ourselves morally, whenever we try to establish ourselves in virtue, we deny the Gospel itself. When we do that we call Jesus a liar. We shut our eyes to the cross, and turn our faces away from the resurrection.

Now brothers and sisters, understand that I am saying all of this so that we will be encouraged and empowered to stop sinning. But never forget that when we do fall, when we scramble to piece together our idols, when we furiously rush to carve out secret spaces of control and power in our lives, when we fall back into these forms of death, remember that Jesus, the Nazarene, the Crucifed and Resurrected one, he advocates for us in the presence of the Father. When we turn our backs on him, he continues to pour out his life of pure, uninterrupted love on us. Remember brothers and sisters that he is the Righteous and Faithful one and that he poured out his life to the fullest to bring us to God, to cleans us from our sins, and to deliver us from the slavery of death. He did this, brothers and sisters, not just for us. No! Not for us alone, but for this whole broken idolatrous, wretched world. This is who our Lord is, the One who will not turn his back of any of the dark corners of this world of rebellion, death, and slavery. Jesus has made himself life for all the world.

And brothers and sisters, this, this is the Good News. That we are saved, not by our innocence but by the faithful and unbroken love of the God we meet in the cross and resurrection. The God who is nothing but light, nothing but love. The God in whom there is no darkness. Let us turn once again to this God, let us cease striving for innocence, and confess our sins. Let us, once again enter into freedom, light, and life by the blood of the One who was Crucified, the one who was Raised, the One who Lives and will not be without us.

5 Comments

  1. roger flyer wrote:

    Bravo!

    Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Permalink
  2. Bruce Hamill wrote:

    i was just saying to my colleague this week what a magnificent text 1 John 1 is, and how much I would like to preach on it, and you went one better and preached it (rather than ‘on it’). thanks Halden!

    Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 10:08 pm | Permalink
  3. Derrick wrote:

    This was fantastic Halden, loved it.

    Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Permalink
  4. Matt Frost wrote:

    Amen. Sometimes the text itself just needs to be heard, and magnified just enough for the purpose. Very nice oral flow.

    The sins shouldn’t have to be wrenched from us and wrung out of us — they should just fall away in every moment of grace, shed like the dying cells of our flesh in the daily renewing of our bodies.

    Monday, April 16, 2012 at 5:29 am | Permalink
  5. Cody Scoles wrote:

    Wow, thank you for this site. I had in my mind this idea that Christians were all stupid and ignorant and so far away from the human experience that they could not write something like this. Everyone here, the writers and even the commenters, are making so much sense to me.

    I think I want to be a Christian again. Maybe there was more to it than I saw. And I never lost my conservatism, even when I obsessively explored the great unknown. Why does everyone want to lose their identities?

    Sunday, May 6, 2012 at 1:15 am | Permalink

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