Thursday, June 15, 2023

Comfort in the Struggle (1 John 1:6-2:17)

"And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1).

During the last week and a half, we have studied a lot about seeking the kingdom, pleasing God, overcoming the temptations of the world, subduing the flesh, and putting on the full armor of God in the battle against Satan. Such a stream of exhortations can be overwhelming, especially when every day, after you’ve finished the study and finished your prayers, not much time passes before sin raises its ugly head. The struggle against sin can be frustrating, and exhortations to be righteous can be grating rather than comforting. Yet God continues to urge us on in the battle, for the battle continues until we are glorified. He does not fail to exhort us to pursue righteousness, to crucify our sinful desires, and to warn us of the danger of continuing in sin. On nearly every page of Scripture we read of the Christian’s duty to conform to the image of Christ and to be approved before the Lord.

If we dwelled only on these passages, the Christian life would surely be a melancholy one. That’s because as we run the race toward perfection and holiness, we often see, not how much closer we are to that goal, but how far we are from it. Throughout his epistles Paul expressed grief over the times he had missed the mark. Where then do we find comfort amid the struggle? We find it in the forgiveness of God. God knows we are going to sin. He says so in 1 John: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves” (1:8). But He has promised that when we sin, if we confess with heartfelt repentance, He is faithful to forgive us. And more than that, He assures us that we have One who speaks in our defense. “If anybody sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” God desires that we do not sin as He says in 1 John 2:1. But even as He exhorts us in this manner, He assures us that all is not lost when we do sin. We have an advocate in Christ—the One who has been anointed as our Mediator, whose own righteousness covers us, who is the propitiation for our sins, and whose intercession on our behalf is powerful and effective. Forgiveness in Him, who can by no means fail in anything He wills to do—here is our hope, here is our encouragement, and here is our defense against the accusations of Satan who tries to bring us down.

Read Zechariah 3. Does Satan ever accuse you like he did Joshua? Do you carry the guilt of sins that you have already repented of and confessed before the Lord? Read Psalm 103:1–13. What does God say about your sins? Find peace in Christ’s forgiveness and forget those sins. God no longer holds them against you.