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. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
“I write this to you so that you will not sin.” Wow. What an amazing statement. What an amazing goal.
As I think about all the possibilities for sin before me this very day – in thought and word and deed – the immensity of this hope intensifies. Oh, to come into a place of “no sin.” What wonder. But, how? Can I possibly get there?
The image that springs to mind is that of a tight-rope walker. Any that are worth their acclaim are engaged in much more than a feat of sheer balancing. They clearly take joy in the height and the thrill and the step-by-step walking through space, the intricacy of balance, and the pure poetry of movement.
But one misstep, one slight slip, one unpoetic motion spells the end of it all. Which is why, if I were so inclined, I would have a huge safety net stretched beneath me, just in case! Wouldn’t you? Then, I could go for the walk with gusto (assuming I could even get on the rope in the first place!), enjoying the stroll for however long it lasted. Safety net – what a brilliant idea!
Which, of course, is exactly what our Lord provides for us.
I remember years back a fiery Argentinian preacher speaking on Colossians 2:13 (“He forgave us all our sins”) and unpacking that little word “all.” He said he’d studied it in the Greek, and asked the congregation if we knew what the word actually meant. When no one responded, he gave the answer: “ALL!” He went on to explain that “all” leaves nothing out – there are no exceptions with “all.”And then he used this image, saying “all” was like a huge safety net, stretched out beneath us, ready to catch us if we slipped, because every single sin had already been paid for, the slate wiped clean, the guilt atoned. So, he said, if you slip, let the Lord’s grace catch you, confess your sin, and get back up on the high wire.
Hence, the image comes to mind now. Yes, indeed, John wants us to walk the wire, with joy and freedom in Jesus, without fear and with ever-increasing agility. That’s his hope and goal for us all. It’s also the Lord’s.
But the safety net is in place. “If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense.” Yes. Our Lord Jesus, who has so loved us that he has laid down his life for us, taking our sin, paying the price, washing us clean, bestowing on us his right-standing with the Father. He is “the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” The word behind that phrase is actually “propitiation,” meaning that Jesus turns aside the just wrath of God which our sin and rebellion have earned. The work is done. The price is paid. Forgiveness has come for all our sin. The safety net is stretched out.
So, when John says, “I write this to you so that you will not sin,” press into the goal. Follow Jesus on the wire, walking with freedom and great joy. And if you slip, get up quickly and confess your sin, remembering that John has also just told us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9). Remember that Jesus himself speaks to the Father in our defense. What safety. And then get back on the tightrope and walk, with great freedom – in Jesus.
Lord Jesus, praise your name that you have paid the price for all my sin. You are the atoning sacrifice. The just wrath of God has been turned aside. You have spoken to the Father in my defense. And you continue to speak. Thank you. Praise your name. I choose to walk with you, every step.
Contemplate the word “all” (Colossians 2:13), reflecting on how much of your sin is covered. Sins past. Sins present. Sins future. Then, give thanks to Jesus, the Righteous One, who is your atoning sacrifice. Keep giving thanks all day.
Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash