April 15, 2012
Second Sunday of Easter
1 John 1:1—2:2
The Battle of Trenton, which encompasses the Christmas night voyage and attack by Gen. George Washington in the midst of an ice storm, was a significant turning point in the American Revolution. Just before boarding to cross the Delaware River, Washington gathered his troops and read The Crisis by Thomas Paine. The opening paragraph, which begins with the famous line, “These are times that try men’s souls,” is really an indictment of sunshine patriots and a commendation of true patriots. Realizing many of the locals would be traitors in disguise (Tories, as they preferred to call themselves), Washington issued a secret password and response that would identify those true to the cause. The first person would say “victory,” and the person being confronted would say “or death.” Otherwise, he was perceived as a traitor and would be arrested.
In this day of cults, false prophets and charlatan profiteers, wouldn’t it be great to have something as easy as a password to identify true believers? Well, actually we do. An old disciple named John gave us a fourfold test that would try (or test) men’s souls.
First John 1:1—2:2 is one of those mountain peak passages. Twice in this passage John indicates his purpose (v. 4: “that your joy may be full”; and v. 2:1: “that you may not sin”), and it all hinges on the act of letting His light shine through you (v. 1:7). So, how do you walk with a tried and proven soul?
I. Maintain a Vibrant Testimony (v. 1:3).
John wasn’t a second generation religionist with no firsthand understanding of the movement called Christianity. He knew Christ intimately. He walked with Him, watched Him perform miracles, listened to His teaching and saw the risen Lord. He testified of what he knew intimately and personally.
That is exactly what unbelievers need from you. Let them know what Christ has done in you and that you know Him personally. A testimony is not just something that you say in church, but rather what you say and show on a daily basis.
II. Wear Joy as a Badge (v. 1:4).
John wanted believers to have full joy. This is an inner peace that surpasses circumstances. It is not happiness, because that is dependent on happenings. Joy is intimacy with and humility before the Father during life’s trials and triumphs.
A preacher, while conducting a children’s sermon, asked the children what animal made them think of Christians. He wanted them to say a dove or a lamb, but one little boy blurted out, “A mule.” Taken aback, the preacher said, “Why a mule?” the boy proudly answered, “Because all the Christians I know have such long faces!” Don’t wear a mule face; wear a joy badge.
III. Walk in God’s Light (v. 1:7).
Two word pictures come to mind with this verse. First, we are to let the truth of God’s Word light our path. That is easily understood (and sometimes obeyed) on the how-to sermons concerning child rearing, marital fulfillment and financial management. We recognize God has a prescription for us in those areas; but what about those inner areas of repentance, humility in preferring others, asking forgiveness and responding to attacks with gentleness and kindness?
The second word picture that comes to mind is the ability of light to pierce the darkness and show what was hidden. Again, this applies to us. Let God’s Word and His Spirit uncover those hidden areas of our lives. Become so like Christ that the brightest scrutiny reveals His character reigning in us.
IV. Quickly Confess Sin (v. 1:9).
The word confess means to speak or think the same way about something. In other words, we are to think the same about sin as God thinks about it. We are to see it as a poison to our soul and an impediment to our fellowship with Christ.
The real beauty of confessing sin is that God uses that confession as a brush and His Son’s blood as a soap to cleanse our soul. He cleans and forgives us and removes that sin from our account.
Gen. Benedict Arnold, who was not involved in the Battle of Trenton, was later discovered to be a traitor. Don’t allow your moment before God to reveal treason against Him. Maintain a vibrant testimony; wear joy as a badge; walk in God’s light; and quickly confess sin. These are the real passwords to try men’s souls!