The Biggest Little Word in the Bible

Bible Book: 1 John  1
Subject: Sin; Forgiveness
Series: God's Dear Children
Introduction

What is the biggest little word in the Bible? It's the word, “If.” We find it used three times in our text today and each time it relates to the serious subject of sin.

Actually, we see this little word throughout the Bible in significant places and covering important subject:

i. It is the word of Revival

“IF my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

ii. It is the word of Redemption

“IF any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” (John 7:37)

iii. It is the word of Responsibility

“IF you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15)

iv. It is the word of Rebellion

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. IF anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15)

This is a big, little word and I know that this statement forms an oxymoron - it is like putting the two words jumbo and shrimp together. Can there really be a “jumbo shrimp?” Yet the little word “if” is a mighty big word in the Bible and it is hard to imagine it appearing in a more critical place or circumstance that we find in our text today.

When thinking of sin, and the fact that our sin will surely be revealed, I think of the man who applied for a driver's license. One question on the application form asked: "Have you ever been arrested?" The applicant answered: "No." The next question was only to be answered if the previous question resulted in a "yes" answer. The next statement read: "State why." The applicant should have left it blank, but he wrote in, "Never been caught." On my, it seems he revealed the fact that he had only avoided arrest because he had never been caught. Well, when we sin against God, we are always "caught." He knows our deeds and actions, but He always offers us a way of having our criminal record expunged. Let's look at this little word "if" and see how it applies to everyone of us in this worship center today.

Note three ways the word “if” is used in regard to sin. Each occurrence of the word reveals something about sin and how God views it in our lives.

I. The If of Covering our Sins

A. The Denial of Sin

We begin with the if of covering our sins. Is it possible that someone actually believes that he or she does not sin? Sure, I have talked with some of people who deny that they are sinners. You see, the problem such people have with sin is they do not understand what sin actually is. People who deny that they have sinned are measuring themselves on a scale that they have created. I heard about a man once who built his own golf course and made it a par 110 course. He did that so he could shoot par all the time! If you make up your own rules, you can declare yourself flawless. Some people do that when it comes to what they consider as sin. On the scale they created, they have never sinned. There is just one problem with this issue - sin is always measured on God's scale and His alone.

A 51-year-old man in Jackson, Mississippi, was fined $25 by a district judge for trespassing. He had been arrested when a security guard discovered him under a car in an auto dealer's lot. The man insisted he was tightening all the loose bolts he could find in order to prevent motorists from losing their lives. He said he was "only interested in people's safety." How foolish to make lame excuses for our sins and wrong doings, yet that is what so many people do. In fact, some of us here today may be guilty of doing the same thing when it comes to God's standards in our lives.

There is one other problem regarding the view that one has of sin, and that relates to comparing oneself to others. It is not unusual to find people who believe that sin is a matter of falling below the line of the common denominator in society. Such people believe that there lives are lived just above the median line of behavior and, therefore, they are not sinners. God's judgment of sin has nothing to do with what the habits of our age happen to be. His ways do not change with the times. "Everybody is doing it," is not something God listens to!

You may be surprised to learn that even God’s people sometimes deny sin. Look at David as an example. David committed adultery with Bathsheba, but he denied it. He began by denying it to himself, then denied it before others, all the while trying to deny it to God. Of course, in the end he came to admit his sin when he was confronted by God's man, Nathan. Only when he confessed his sin did he come to a place of peace.

B. The Danger of Sin

Most people in this room have not committed sins as grievous as those of David, but you can be just as guilty of not wanting to admit that you sin. When you deny sin, you become a liar! You go even further than that, you call God a liar.

Look at Ezekiel 14:3ff. When you set up the idol of selfish sin in your life, and then pray or worship as if everything is alright, God states that He will answer you according to your idolatry. In other words, He will answer you according to the idol you have set up in your heart. That is why a person can be involved in sin and say, “Well, I have prayed about it and I feel it is alright.” They are getting the answer they want. What a tragic danger! Sin has a way of anesthetizing our hearts and minds so that we do not feel the pain, judgment or wrongness of our actions.

II. The If of Confessing our Sins

A. Confession

homologeo-1) to say the same thing as another, that is, to agree with, to assent 2) to concede a) not to refuse, to promise b) not to deny 1) to confess 2) to declare 3) to confess, that is, to admit or declare oneself guilty of what one is accused of 3) to profess a) to declare openly, to speak out freely b) to profess oneself the worshiper of one 4) to praise, to celebrate

What does it mean to confess our sins? It means to call the sin what God calls it. When we call our sin what God calls it, and we confess it to Him, it means that we are tearing down the idol that we have set up in our hearts. We care removing the human scale of judging actions and we are allowing God to weigh us on His scale. When we do this, we call sin what He calls it, view it as He views it, and we confess it as He calls upon to confess.

Something even more important regarding confession is the fact that a willingness to confess shows that we respect what it cost Jesus to offer us forgiveness. Looking at the cross, we see how our sin broke God's heart.

A woman once said to a famous evangelist, "I'm deeply troubled over a problem that I know is hurting my testimony. It's the practice of exaggeration. I start to tell something, and then go on and enlarge the story until it's all distorted. People know that what I say is not true, and lose confidence in me. I wonder if you can help me?"

The preacher looked at her and said, "Let's talk to the Lord about it."

She prayed, "O God, Thou knowest that I have this tendency to exaggerate."

At this point the evangelist interrupted, "Call it lying, Madam, and you may get over it!"

It is said that the woman began to weep and finally made a full confession of her evil habit.

We must always remember that we are not confessing unless we call our sin what God calls it and confess openly to Him. Victory is only available when we take that step.

B. Cleansing

God promises that He will cleanse every sinner who confesses. He will forgive and He will cleanse. What do these two words mean?

Forgive means to send away, to expire, to let go, to disregard, or to give up a debt.

How wonderful that we can have our souls cleansed, our minds purified, and our hearts washed white as snow! God offers this to us IF only we will come to Him in full confession. Why is it so hard for us to confess? Pride, stubbornness and sometimes the desire to continue to live as we wish, keeps us from the full blessing of forgiveness. How many times I have seen the joy in the face a person who has turned from sin and made a full confession to God. Many times the testimony is that the weight of the world has been removed from one's shoulders when sin is confessed and forgiven. God's desire is for us to know and have the peace the comes from cleansing.

III. The If of Conquering our Sins

A. He Speaks to Us when we truly Confess and seek to Conquer our Sins

In 1 John 1:10 we read that God’s Word has no place in our lives if we try to cover up our sins. It is true that the very opposite occurs when we admit our sins. God’s Word is open to us. Remembering that without a “vision” (a Word from God) the people perish, we can see the need to keep the lines of communication open with God. In fact, as we have seen, when we are unwilling to confess our sins we end up with a false word based upon the idol we have set up in our hearts. Look at the Bible and you will see that those who confessed their sins were blessed with special communication from the Lord. Look at Ezra. Look at Isaiah. Look at Nehemiah. Look at Daniel 9:20.

An incident from the early days of computer technology illustrates how a small problem can lead to big complications. It was 1945, and the U. S. Navy was working hard to get the first digital computer into operation. All of a sudden the room-sized machine broke down completely. A preliminary investigation into the problem left the technicians baffled. Finally, after a more thorough search, one of the scientists discovered the cause of the breakdown. Deep inside the computer, a moth had crawled between two electrical contact points and was stuck. The circuit could not be closed. As soon as the moth was removed, the machine began running again. How about that - a moth shut down the entire system. That is where the word "bug" comes from when talking about a faulty computer.

Likewise, a small sin can shut down your effectiveness with God. A little bug can get it and cause a lot of havoc. Far worse, sin begins small but can become a monster in your life. Has some "little" sin come between you and God to disrupt your fellowship with Him? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you identify it, and the get rid of it. When fellowship is restored, you'll be glad you took the time to get the "bugs" out of the system.

B. He Speaks for Us when we truly Confess and seek to Conquer our Sins

He is our Advocate, and as such He stands for us and speaks for us when we confess our sins.

“What a friend we have in Jesus,

All our griefs and sins to bear,

What a privilege to carry,

Everything to him in prayer.”

You see, when we confess honestly to the Lord, the devil can no longer accuse us.

A preacher of the early 1900s said that when he was 12 years old he had killed one of the family geese by throwing a stone and hitting it squarely on the head. Figuring his parents wouldn't notice that one of the 24 birds was missing, he buried the dead fowl. But that evening his sister called him aside and said, "I saw what you did. If you don't offer to do the dishes tonight, I'll tell Mother." The next morning she gave him the same warning. All that day and the next the frightened boy felt bound to do the dishes. The following morning, however, he surprised his sister by telling her it was her turn. When she quietly reminded him of what she could do, he replied, "I've already told Mother, and she has forgiven me. Now you do the dishes. I'm free again!"

Unconfessed sin makes you a slave! You are bound and your life is unfulfilled. Confession makes you right with God and frees you from the shackles that bind you.

C. He Speaks through Us when we truly Confess and see to Conquer our Sins

His desire is to reach the entire world with the message of divine love and grace. See that clearly in 1 John 2:2. If we would see our friends saved, we must clean the closets of our own hearts. If we would be a reflector of God’s light, we must clear the mirror of our hearts so the light can shine out from it.

After F. E. Marsh preached on restitution, a young man came to him and said, "Pastor, you have put me in a bad fix. I've stolen from my employer, and I'm ashamed to tell him about it. You see, I'm a boat builder, and the man I work for is an unbeliever. I have often talked to him about Christ, but he only laughs at me. In my work, expensive copper nails are used because they won't rust in water. I've been taking some of them home for a boat I am building in my backyard. I'm afraid if I tell my boss what I've done and offer to pay for them he'll think I'm a hypocrite, and I'll never be able to reach him for Christ. Yet, my conscience is bothered."

Later when the man saw the preacher again, he exclaimed, "Pastor, I've settled that matter and I'm so relieved."

"What happened when you told your boss?" asked the minister.

"Oh, he looked at me intently and said, `George, I've always thought you were a hypocrite, but now I'm not so sure. Maybe there's something to your Christianity after all. Any religion that makes a man admit he's been stealing a few copper nails and offer to settle for them must be worth having.'"

You might ask, “If I confess my sins, what will others think of me?” I am reminded of a story told by a preacher who was in a revival. In the middle of a sermon, a man jumped up. "Preacher!" he shouted. "I have been a miserable, contemptible sinner for years, and never knew it before tonight!" Before he could say any more, a deacon in the next pew announced, "Sit down, brother. The rest of us knew it all the time."

Conclusion

Many years ago I pastored a church, that like so many others had a number of leaders who had been in the church for many years. After leaving the church, I learned that a couple of those leaders had been living in sin for years. It was hidden from me all the years I was pastor of that church. Sadly, those men left behind a terrible testimony - and now it is too late for them to do anything about it. I wonder, as I look back, what might have happened if just one of those men had come forward to confess openly what everyone already knew. If a confession had been made and forgiveness sought, a great revival might have broken out in that entire area. You see, our sin does not only hurt us, and harm our testimony, but our sin may keep many others from coming to Christ.

In a cemetery not far from New York City is a headstone engraved with a single word: FORGIVEN. The message is simple, unembellished. There is no date of birth, no epitaph. There is only a name and the solitary word FORGIVEN. But that is the greatest word that can be applied to any man or woman, or written on any gravestone. If you died today, could that word honestly written on your tombstone?

Your sin may not seem so great in your own eyes, but I am asking you to look into the eyes of God and ask Him what He thinks about it. "IF" we confess, He will cleanse! Let it be so - right now - right here!