1 John, Part 5
1 John 2 is where we’re going to be together. I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into this section of scripture because this section, guys, I really want to be more interested in just articulating … I think clearly what this passage communicates for us, because this is the foundation to walking powerfully in Christ in this world. And this is where he kind of separates for us in this passage of scripture posers from the real followers of Jesus.
If you remember 1 John 2:18-19, those were kind of the freak out verses we looked at last week. We talked about how you handle that. Like, some Christians read this, they’ll bunker, hunker down and say the world’s going to hell in a hand basket and we’re just hiding from it. I don’t think that’s what Jesus wants us to do. Jesus calls us to not walk in a spirit of fear, but we’re victorious in Christ and to live out that victory as lights for him, just as Jesus did for us.
And so, we’ve looked at some of those passages on how we do that in our lives. And then he sort of, in verse 26, he gives us this thought as he relates now to the rest of this section of scripture. He says, “I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.” He wants us to be aware, okay, when we’re talking about light in the world, there is darkness. Darkness works against the light. We don’t want to be deceived by the darkness and think that it’s light when in fact it is not. Rather, what God desires for us to do is to walk in the light.
In verse 28, he now starts to communicate to us, as a body of believers, what that looks like. I think John, if you remember in this passage of scripture, John is approaching 100 years old. He’s getting to the end of his life, he’s the last living apostle who walked with Jesus on this earth. And John’s just looking at the church and he’s wanting God’s best for you. He doesn’t want anything from you, he wants God’s best from you. He’s looking at the trajectory of what awaits the next century church. And he’s just thinking in these last moments of his life, as he writes the last books of the Bible, what it would look like to live for Jesus in this world to make a difference.
In chapter two, verse 28, he starts on that idea. He says this, “And now, little children, abide in him so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.” He positions this idea of deception and darkness in this world, Jesus is light, you wanting to walk in that light. And John’s desire for you is to come before Jesus in confidence. One day, you will meet him face to face. And on that day, what John desires for you is confidence before the Lord.
In fact, some say that this section of scripture is really the meat of what 1 John is about, the end of chapter two, chapter three, into chapter four. You see in chapter four, verse 17, it’s sort of like John puts a book end to the idea of what it means for a believer to walk confidently, because he brings up this word confidence again. “By this is love perfected with us so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment. Because as he is, so also are we in this world.”
So, he’s encouraging us in this desire to want us to be confident before the Lord. He doesn’t want you wandering. He wants you to belong and walk confidently in the Lord. It’s like this, there is darkness and there is light, right? And sometimes we see ourselves as saying, “Okay, I don’t want to belong to the darkness. But at the same time, when it comes to Jesus, sometimes I feel like I mess up. So, I’m sort of in this in between place.” And not being confident in your relationship with God, but not belonging to the darkness. You sort of feel this ambiguous place where you kind of get isolated, right?
And I think that’s a dangerous place in the life of a Christian. Because if Satan can get you alone, he can pick you off. In fact, I like to encourage believers sometimes, I know in life experience we can go through things and sometimes we get jaded. Even in the body of Christ, things that we go through aren’t always perfect and we can get jaded over those things.
And sometimes you encounter Christians that claim to follow Jesus, but they say, “You know what? I’m just going to do it on my own, church on my own.” But do you know it’s impossible to live for Jesus on your own? What God gives you is gifts to glorify him and those gifts are intended to be given away. And the place that God calls you to do that to express your spiritual gifts is in community. When you think about what it means to walk in the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, it requires relationship to be around you in order to exercise those things.
It is impossible to live for Jesus without community. God calls us to be in community. I understand we go through difficult things in our lives, sometimes we do those things. Where we screw up and we’re thinking, “Does God really love me?” Other times we face adversity in other people and with other people in relationships. But through it all, God wants to be glorified in the midst of that hardship. Because there is darkness and there is light.
And God wants us to walk with confidence. So, how do we live with confidence? Well, in chapter two, verse 28, he really starts to play on a word that he’s repeated several times. He talks about this confidence, but he says this, “And now little children, abide in him.” We talk about being confident before the Lord, it has to do much with our abiding.
I love how, if you look in verse 26 to 28, how this breaks down. He’s saying, “Look, I don’t want you to be deceived.” Right? And so, he gives this in verse 27, “But,” so, in order to contrast this deception of darkness, there’s this but in verse 27 of how to live, we’ll look at that in just a minute. And then in verse 28, he says, “And now do this, this is what God wants for you in the light of many antichrists in this world, a light of,” verse 19, “people walking out from us, but they were not of us. In light of all of that, let’s call ourselves, where we are in relationship to God and just acknowledge that before him, so that we can be confident.”
So, how do we be confident? Abide. Abide. John uses this word abide in chapter two, chapter three, chapter four, 23 times. Remember, I said to you, the meat of what the book of John is about really is found in chapter two, verse 28, to chapter four, verse 17. For the foundation of the life of a disciple. And the word that he uses more than any other word in this section of scripture is the idea of abiding.
This is where we separate in our lives those that pretend to follow Jesus from those that do. In fact, when John talks about this word abiding, John knows this was the word that Jesus used in the upper room in the last moments with his disciples, right? John 15, listen to this, this is what Christ said in verse two, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, he takes away. And every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me and I you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away like a branch and withers. And the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.”
The Christian life, it’s about abiding. And he who does not abide, the Bible says in this passage, Jesus cuts away and prunes. I found out, even in my own life, I’ve never been like a farmer, sometimes I’ll just be like, “I should grow things.” And I’ll grow things, right? But the last house that we owned, we did have an apple tree. And what I learned over the years of owning an apple tree, the more I would prune the apple tree, the better the fruit it would produce.
And I think in 1 John 2, that’s where John is in this story. He wants to see a successful church. But I think part of understanding that success which God calls us to, is to understand that everything we do is connected to our faith in Jesus. He is the source of it all. Jesus talks about those things being burned, but what John says in 1 John 2:19, they went out from us but they were not of us.
And so, John and the idea of being confident, he wants us to abide. And he did in chapter two, verses five and six, he defined what abiding looked like. He said, “But whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him. Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” When John talks about abiding in this passage, he defines it as knowing Jesus and then walking with Jesus. This word knowing is not just knowing about, but intimately knowing the things of God.
This idea of abiding in Christ is to know the Lord and then choosing in knowing him to surrender your life and walking in pace with him. To mimic him. Giving my life over to him and allowing Jesus to be the one to guide me in this world. So, you want to be strong and bold for God, how do we do this? Well, we abide and in that abiding, we find confidence in who we are in Jesus. This goal, in John’s mind, is to be confident and abiding in Christ.
In 2012, Lifeway Christian Research did a ten year study, and they looked at the life of disciples and they looked at all the discipline of people that follow Jesus and they analyzed it for ten years. Eric Geiger released a study on it called, Transformational Discipleship, it became a book. But, for ten years they did a study on being a disciple and they thought, okay, out of every discipline a Christian could follow in their lives, what discipline made the biggest difference in the confidence they carried before God and the abiding in him? Out of all that they studied, after ten years they noticed there was one thing that stood head and shoulders above everything else. I mean, they looked at fasting, they looked praying, they looked at serving, they looked church attendance, they looked at giving, they looked at community.
They examined, for ten years, everything about a Christian. What was it that helped Christians be healthy and living confidently before the Lord and abiding in him? And out of all the study, the one thing that stood head and shoulders above all else, how they got into God’s word. How they sought after the Lord in his word.
When we think about what it means to know him, and the way that God has communicated himself to us, out of all the disciplines they studied, they say that the way that a Christian finds his confidence and abiding in God is to know the word of God, which God communicates himself to us in this means. Right? In fact, in 1 John 2:5, it says, “But whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this, we know that we are in him.” Like, the secret of abiding is communicating. I could tell Lifeway before they did this research, you don’t have to spend ten years studying this, right? John says it. They studied for ten years, like, “What is this answer? Hmm?” And he says to us in verse five, it’s the idea of coming to grasp his word and to know his word and to keep his word. And in knowing his word, God’s word transforms our lives.
In verse 27 of John, look at this. The reason I say this is verse 27 in chapter two, it gets a little confusing sometimes when people believe it, they do some weird stuff with this passage as well. But he says, “The anointing that you have received from him abides in you and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in him.” John wanting you confidently before the Lord, this is what he says, “The anointing that you received from him abides you.”
We talked about this last week, right? The idea of the gift of what it is to be anointed by the Lord. In the Old Testament, prophet, priest, and kings were anointed. And it was to signify that the Spirit of God was on them to accomplish God’s will in this world. And that when you get to the New Testament, it says about believers, that God’s anointing is on you. And the New Testament calls you a royal priesthood, saying that God’s Spirit now dwells within you to accomplish his will in this world.
And then he goes on, John encourages us then in this. He says, “You have no need for anyone to teach you.” Right? Which kind of sounds contrary to what I just said about discipleship and what John says about abiding in chapter two, verse five, right? That you would know his word. And now he’s saying you don’t have anybody to teach you because you’ve got the Spirit. Now what is John talking about here? Right? Is he contradicting himself?
Well, what John is saying to us is during John’s time, if you remember, he’s writing this book as gnosticism is starting to grow. And what gnosticism is meaning, or the definition of gnosticism is secret knowledge. And what’s happening in the life of the church is that individuals are coming in and they’re starting to proclaim more than what God desired for his people to know in truth. In fact, what they’re proclaiming is not truth at all. They are teaching what they say is secret knowledge. They’ll come in and they’ll say, “Look, what you have is good, but you need a little more. You don’t have it all.”
And so, they’re giving this gnosticism, this secret knowledge in order to take the truth that God is proclaiming, and they’re beginning to pervert it. And what John is doing here in this passage is saying, “Look, you’ve been anointed by God’s Spirit, you have what God needs for you to accomplish what God calls you to in this world. You don’t need anything else. You don’t need extra teaching. In fact, there is no extra teaching. It’s what Jesus has already given to you.”
It says, “But as his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in him.” And what John is saying is, “Look, you’ve already been taught the truth.” Christians, we don’t need extra revelation. Everything in scripture in the Old Testament points to Jesus. And everything in the New Testament is pointing back to Jesus. Because in everything, in that what we believe in, is culminated in Christ and in Christ alone. There is no need to add to that.
And so, what John is saying to church is, “Look, church, your message in the simplistic form of everything that Jesus has done for you, that is what you cling to.” In fact, when you look at the early church, the thing that is taught over and over, even from this morning, I did my devotions out of the book of Galatians. It says in chapter two that Paul has to come before Peter and stand before Peter. And he’s talking to Peter about the Jews who came into the church. And they’re trying to teach this extra law that the Gentiles need to follow. When, in fact, they don’t. And Paul says that’s anathema, that is acursed.
What John is encouraging us to is in the idea of what abiding really means. The Spirit of God testifies with the truth of God that’s already proclaimed we don’t need any more. In fact, when you think about this throughout scripture, it’s reiterated over and over. Look at this, it says in John 4:24, that, “God is Spirit and those who worship him,” look, “must worship in Spirit and in truth.” What it’s saying to us in this passage is that the Spirit and truth are distinct from one another, but they’re inseparable. That what the Spirit works in is the truth, right? And this is important because sometimes you will meet people in life and they’ll say this, “I am spiritual. I am spiritual.” Um, quite frankly, so is Satan. But we don’t want to believe what he believes, right?
Saying you’re spiritual is nothing profound. Everyone created is spiritual. It’s what you do with it that matters. And here, John wants us to understand we talk about things of the Spirit, it is not exclusive from truth. Rather, there is a foundation for it. Look at this, in 2 Peter 1:20, “No prophecy of scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” God’s word was given to you by the Spirit. It’s not exclusive. Men aren’t coming along to write whatever, God gave his word for a particular reason. For all of us to know. To get God’s word in us, is to get the Spirit of God moving through us.
If you want to be spiritual, connect where the Spirit guides. And where the Spirit guides is in the truth of God’s word. And so, when we talk about abiding, it’s not adding this new revelation. It’s taking what God has already revealed and knowing that. I mean, one of our foundations as a church is to speak the truth in love, right? But you can’t speak what you don’t know. How can you speak the truth in love when you don’t even know what God’s word says?
But if you want that Spirit that God calls us to be anointed with in him, to really move through us, is to get God’s word in us, because it’s the Spirit of God that gave us the truth of God. 2 Timothy 3, “All scripture is breathed out by God.” Meaning, literally, it’s inspired or God breathed. God’s word.
I love Jude, it’s only got one chapter, and verse three, it says, “For the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” Jude’s saying, “I wanted to write to you about a common salvation, but instead rather, I wrote to you about the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” Verse three of the book of Jude.
And what Jude is acknowledging is this, look, he’s saying people are trying to come in and add to God’s word, but rather I want to keep encouraging in the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. What Jude is saying is God’s word is conclusive, right? It was once for all, already passed down to the saints. It’s not changed, it’s not added to, it’s already once for all been given to us.
And so, when we talk about abiding in God, it’s letting the Spirit of God work in our lives. And the way the Spirit of God works in our lives is through the truth of God’s word and allowing us to connect to God in his Spirit by reading his. That his word can have its way in our hearts, in us and through us.
One of the popular verses I often hear is James 1:5. If you’re spiritual, then you read James 1:5 and then you pray and you find out what’s true, right? I mean, the verse says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.” And then people read this verse and say, “Look, if you want to know what’s true, read this verse and then pray that God will show you truth. And then God will reveal it to you, right?”
But here’s the problem, James never says the word truth. Do you see that in this passage? “If any of you lack,” what? He doesn’t say truth. He doesn’t say truth. He says wisdom. “If any of you lack wisdom.” There is a difference between truth and wisdom. Truth in Greek is aletheia. That word in Greek is sofia, that is not aletheia. He’s saying, “If any of you lack wisdom.”
Here’s what’s happening in James’ day, he says, “Brothers, count it all joy when you endure various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect work. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all generously without reproach.” The context for James in this passage of scripture is not the seeking of truth. The context of James in this passage of scripture is a church that’s being persecuted. “Count it all joy when you endure various trials.” When was the last time you went through a trial and thought, “This is joyful.”
James says, “Count it all joy when you endure various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” You know what the church is asking? They’re not asking, “Oh, God, what’s true?” What they’re asking is, “God, this is hard. How do we live in light of the truth because of the difficulty that we’re going through?” And you know what God says? Not pray about whether or not it’s true. God says, “With the truth that you already have, seek God and he’ll give you the answer on how to be wise with that truth.” They’re not seeking truth, they already have the truth. What they’re worried about is honoring God in the midst of the adversity. And what God is promising is them is that he will give them the wisdom.
I mean, how many of you in your life, when you go through a hardship, you’re like, “Man, God, I just need you to direct me in this.” I think what God’s answer in this passage is get his truth in you. And when you get his truth in you and you encounter the adversity, God will give you the wisdom to live that out in your life. They’re not praying for truth. They’re praying for wisdom.
And so, the idea of abiding then for us is this, to know God. And in knowing God, what our heart should be inclined to is his truth, because that’s what the Spirit of God has given to us in order to know this God.
Verse 29, he goes on and says it like this then, “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.” If Jesus is the righteous one, our lives should emulate that. And the way that we emulate that is to know his word. Let me just practically tell you just how to do that and then I’m going to move on for the rest of this section.
But how do we do that? I found out in my life, in wanting to know the Lord in reading his word, when I first became a Christian I got on those Bible reading plans, right? Where you just read the Bible in a year and you try to get as much as you can done. And then what I found out is I’m really bad at that. And then it comes to Leviticus and I get extremely discouraged because I don’t want to go on anymore. Right?
So, if you ever thought, “I want to read God’s word and how do I do this?” I can tell you in my own Christian walk, I am failure after failure at that. And I get bored by that really easy. So, I found a far better way for me, I’ll just encourage you to just consider this when it comes to getting God’s word in you and abiding in him. God wrote 66 manuscripts, 66 books, right? And what I found for my own life is I have a hunger to want to learn and grow, and as I know what these books are about, I will be attracted to different books at different seasons in my life.
And so, what I do is I wake up one morning and I say to myself, “You know, I kind of feel this way.” And like, I went through 1 and 2 Corinthians this past week. What I did is I picked up the book of 1 Corinthians, I got to know a little bit about why Paul wrote Corinthians and I became excited to see what Paul put on that page of manuscript in order for the early to church to know. Rather than just move through the whole Bible, I found that I’m far better just picking a book of the Bible and just asking the question, “Why did the writer write this?” And then moving through that book.
I used to painfully just say, “You know what? A chapter or two a day, whew! I got my reading done.” But now I’m like five, six chapters, I’m like, “Man, I’m just now cracking into this sucker. I really want to know more about what God says in his word.” And I found my hunger for God’s word grew more when it wasn’t just about this legalistic idea of accomplishing a task to say I read his word. But rather getting to understand why the author wrote what he wrote, and meditating on his thoughts.
I think a key word in the life of a Christian should be the idea of meditating. You’re not reading God’s word to read God’s word. You’re reading God’s word to know God. Read until your soul is full. Read to let his word enrich you. Read to let his Spirit move through you. Read. I want to know you. It’s not about waking up tomorrow and just saying, “I’ve got to read this.” It’s about saying, “God, I want to know you. I want to know you. How do I know you? I abide in you. How do I abide in you? God, you have communicated to me. And the way you have communicated to me is in your word and your Spirit moves through your word. If I can get your word in me, then I can live wisely in this world and the adversity that I face. I don’t know what to always do, but God, here’s what you call me to. You tell me to move in the mess. It’s darkness, but you’re light and your light pierces the darkness. So, when I can get your word in me, then it transforms how I live in this world for you.”
To live confidently is to know his word. You cannot impart what you do not possess. And then John builds from there. He says it like this, “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.” How do we live confident before God? Guys, you’re going to meet God face to face. How can I see his appearing confidently?
And John hones in on this word, righteousness. Jesus is right, he’s righteous. And if you agree with that, then in your life you should also be righteous. And so, you see the surrendering to the righteousness that is Jesus, because in him being right we want to be right. How does that look in our lives? What does it mean to be righteous?
One of the things I want to encourage us in thinking about, because this is a question the world wrestles with. This idea of righteousness, guys, means more than just be good. When Christians, sometimes the mistake that we make is we see this word righteous and we think, “Oh, God wants me to be good.” Righteousness, if you just stop with the definition of righteousness as be good, you’re going to completely miss what Jesus declares to us in the Gospel.
So, then he starts to explain it. And let me just contrast this thought for a minute in verse one of chapter three, he starts to explain this. And by the way, verse 26 to verse 29 I think really should be a whole nother chapter. What John says here, especially in verse 28 and 29, so I’m going to break it 28 to 29, this section should be where chapter three starts. The chapters of your Bible is not inspired. What he’s saying to us is, “Look, I want to you abide, I want you to be confident, and this is what it looks like in your life.” And then he begins to explain it.
So, chapter three, verses one to ten is the explanation of everything he says in verse 29. So this idea of being righteous, in a religious mentality, I think people in this world are looking for acceptance, looking to belong, wanting God to be happy with them. And so, they try to achieve righteousness on their own. And so, when a religious mentality, what should then happen if he’s going to explain this word righteousness after verse 29, is to explain to you all the rules that you need to follow, right? If God is righteous and then he calls you to follow the way of righteousness, then he should explain all of these rules to you.
But in chapter three, verse one, look what he says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God.” And so we are. And the reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. “Beloved, we are God’s children now. And what we will be has not yet appeared, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
Verse two, let me just say, when it says we’re going to be like him, it’s talking in terms of righteousness. Meaning you’re not going to be everything that Jesus is, Jesus is eternal, you’re not eternal. Jesus is God, you’re not God. But what he’s saying is that you’re going to be like him in the sense that you’re going to be righteous, or you’re going to be holy. You’re going to be perfect in that way. That righteousness, right now in our lives, we battle with sin. And we want to walk in the way of righteousness, but one day when we see Jesus face to face, we’re going to be righteous. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
So everyone that hopes in him, look, he never lists a bunch of rules. It’s saying he who’s put his faith in Jesus, because it’s Jesus one day that will make you whole in him. And Jesus is the one that says that you are his child. And when you think about what it means to be righteous in Christ, the author just flips the script on religion here and just says, “Look, it’s not this list of rules, it’s everything that God has done for you and how incredible it is. How incredible it is, what kind of love the Father has given to us that you should be called the child of God.”
When you think about this word righteous, it means more than simply be good. Or I should say, simply describing righteousness as being good is in fact not good. When you think about what it means to be confident before God, God wants you righteous. And defined as just simply being good, it leads to things that are not good. In fact, God starts to explain righteousness in a different way than that religious mentality of just doing good. Righteousness in scripture means to be declared right. To be declared justified in God’s eyes.
In order to further illustrate to us what righteousness means, he then, in verse four, explains the opposite of that. And so, the contrasting of righteousness then is sin. And I want to look at both of these thoughts and I’m going to draw some conclusions on sin and righteousness.
But look in verse four, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness.” Now, if you ask someone today, “What is sin?” Sin maybe would be defined by people as doing bad, right? Not doing good things, it’s doing bad. But I want us to know again, if we define righteousness as being good, we really miss the point of the Gospel. And if we define sin as simply being bad, we run the risk of missing the point of the Gospel.
But look how John defines sin here. He says it like this, “Sin is lawlessness.” Good definition of sin is sin is lawlessness. It’s more than bad, it’s different than just bad. I’m going to explain that in just a minute. But he says sin is lawlessness. And he goes and contrasts righteousness and sin here.
He goes further, “You know that he appeared in order to take away sins and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning. No one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sin is of the devil. For the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning for God’s seed abides in him and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” Lawlessness, sin, it’s contrasted to righteousness.
Now, why do I make a big deal about making sure we see sin as lawlessness and not bad, and righteousness as being more than just simply being good? Well, let me ask you the question, what makes sin sin? What makes sin sin? The typical answer that people give is because bad things happen, right? I did something that hurt someone and bad things happened. But that’s not what makes sin sin. That’s the result of sin, but that’s not what makes sin sin. What makes sin sin is rebellion against God, which is why the author defines it as lawlessness. Every sin that we ever commit in our lives, before it ever hurt someone else, it has always first offended God and been in rebellion against him.
The reason sin is sin is because of God. Meaning God is the author of all things, including what is right and what is wrong. When we murder, what makes murder murder isn’t because a life ceased. What makes murder murder is because God himself is life and he gave life. And when we take a life, we violate the very one who created the life first of all. When we lie, lies hurt people. But what makes a lie wrong isn’t that it hurt people, what makes a lie wrong is that God is truth and in him is no lie. And every sin we ever do in this world, the first thing that it is before it is anything else against someone else is it’s rebellion against God.
That’s why the author in this passage calls it lawlessness. Now think about this, John wants you confident before the Lord. And what I’ve just said to everyone in this room is that we’ve all offended God. We’ve all rebelled against God. We’re all lawless. Now, when you think in terms of sin just being bad, yes, it can hurt people. But when you realize the magnitude of what sin really is, and we’re talking about being confident before God, all of a sudden we’re thinking, does it really matter what I do to try to make myself look good at this point? I’m going to rebel against God every day, what hope do I have in righteousness, right?
In fact, that is the very point of understanding righteousness. So, what makes righteousness? Is it doing good? And guys, if you do good, is that really going to undo the bad of violating against anything that you’ve done against God? You can do good the rest of your life, but can that really undo the bad that you’ve done? Can that undo the lawlessness?
And we think in terms of being righteous in trying to do good things. I think scripture wants us to understand over and over that it doesn’t matter how much you try, you can never live up to the holy expectations of God. We’ve all been lawless. In fact, look in Romans 3:20, look at this, “By the works of the law, no human being will be justified or be made right in his sight. But now the righteousness of God has been manifest apart from the law.” So you see this contrast right here between the idea of doing good and what real righteousness is.
He says in verse 20, “By the works of the law no flesh will be justified or made right by doing good.” So how in the world can we ever be made right? Well, verse 21 he answers, “Now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law.” Living law will never make you right. What makes me right? The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believed.
In John’s day, people were coming in to the church and saying, “Look, we’ve got secret knowledge. I mean, what you have is good, but we need to add to this.” John’s saying, “No, I want you confident before the Lord in righteousness. If Jesus is right, that’s your righteousness.” That’s what he says to us in verse 29, right? To be confident before God is not to do this performance, it’s to take Jesus. It’s not what you do, it’s what’s been done.
In 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become,” look, “the righteousness of God.” People call this verse the great exchange. Jesus, who was perfect, became sin, so that in our sin we could be made perfect in Jesus, declared right. Galatians 2:21, “If righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”
What these verses are showing is, guys, we don’t have the ability to be righteous. But Jesus has been righteous for us. God doesn’t call us to good. And talk about being righteous, it’s not be good. God doesn’t call you to good. God calls you to him. Jesus is our righteousness.
If you think being righteous means being good, I think there’s a powerful verse to consider in scripture. Matthew 7:22, there are these individuals who come before the Lord and they say, “Lord, Lord, did we not do many wonderful works in your name? Did we not cast out demons and do all these wonderful things in your name?” And if righteousness was about being good, then Jesus would have said, “Man, you guys, that was spectacular. Peter, when they’re up there, open the pearlies, man, let them in. These guys have lived it on their own.”
But here’s what Jesus says, instead, in Matthew 7. He says, “On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name and cast out demons in your name and do many mighty works in your name? Did we not do these things that made us righteous?'” And look what Jesus says, “And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me you workers of lawlessness.'” Look how he defines it, guys. What’s sin? Sin is what? Lawlessness.
And when Jesus says, “On that day,” in the very beginning of verse 22, he’s talking about the same thing John’s talking about. When you meet God on that day, I want you to meet him confidently. And now Jesus is saying, “On that day, people are going to come to me. And you know what they’re going to present? Morality. Morality. You know what they’re going to present? Good. I was good.” And what’s Jesus going to say? “Righteousness is not achieved on your own.”
Guys, you’ll walk out even maybe this week and you’ll hear someone say this. Someone will say, “You know, as long as you’re good, that’s all that matters.” And I would just say, for this reason I object, because Jesus did. Here’s what you do, you go to people and you say, “Look, if all that matters is that you’re good, can you please explain a verse to me? Look at Matthew 7, read verse 22. ‘On that day, many will say, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works?’ And if all you need to be is good and that’s all that matters, then what should Jesus say here?” Let them answer.
And then you say, “But read verse 23, what does Jesus say? ‘Depart from me.'” In fact, I would say, not only would I object for that reason, but I would object for Galatians 5. Where did Galatians 5 go? Disappeared. Our stuff’s messed up, guys. Or Galatians 2:21, where Paul says, “I do not nullify the grace of God.” Listen to that, “I do not nullify the grace of God.” Galatians 2:21, “For if righteousness could be achieved through the law, Christ died needlessly.”
If we’re saying being good is all that matters, what we’re also saying is what Jesus did didn’t matter. It’s spitting on the cross. Why in the world would Jesus do what he did if it didn’t matter? So, where does righteousness come from? It comes from Jesus. You want to be confident before the Lord? Don’t add things to Jesus, don’t work yourself to God, you can’t get there. Accept what Jesus has already done.
Now, here comes the kicker in all these questions people ask, is, “Well, when you think about that, then why in the world would anyone do anything good?” Well, John started to argue that for us in chapter three. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us that would should be called the children of God.” People in this world want desperately to belong. They want to know they matter. And what Jesus is saying is that we matter, because Jesus came for us, Jesus died for us, Jesus loved us by giving his very life for us. Who has ever loved you that way?
And so, John is saying the reason that we respond in any way to God and his righteousness is because of Christ’s righteousness because we see everything that Jesus has done for us. And so, John’s encouragement for you in light of all that is to abide in him. To know him. And to know him in his word and to walk in that righteousness. How do you walk in that righteousness? It’s because of what Christ has done for you, you now, in that love that he has demonstrated, surrender your life to him and live for his glory because of what Christ has done.
You want to walk confidently before the Lord with everything that you are, lay your life down to belong to Jesus. It’s not about good or bad, it’s about understanding the picture of lawlessness or righteousness. Rebel against the King or embrace the goodness that he’s brought to us on the cross.