One of the many things that can block our experience of the love of God is pride. The kind of intellectual pride that thinks that, no matter what everybody else may say, we know better. Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we are following a series titled “Sin, Forgiveness and Love” (Messages from the First Letter of John.)
Last week we talked about “Walking in the Light” (sermon here). This week we look at 1 John 3:1-10. A group of folk who John warns his readers about, were known as “Gnostics.” “Gnosticism” is a multi layered belief system that offers to its adherents “Secret wisdom.” The Greek word literally meant “knowledge.”
Over the centuries of its existence the Christian faith has intrigued some of the greatest thinkers known to humanity. For some, such as C.S. Lewis, a significant part of their faith journey was wrestling to understand how their knowledge of the world, could relate to an understanding of God. In an essay titled “God in the Dock” he talks about how, having come to faith, there were certain areas where he encountered resistance to the Christian message in those he sought to share his beliefs with.
The title of his book came from the observation that, instead of God being considered as being the judge, the modern person judged God (Hence “God is in the dock'). He confesses that before being a person of faith, such was his own approach. It is an act of humility to accept that ones own intellect may not be able to unravel every secret of the universe. Pride tells us we can know it all without need for revelation.
He also recognized something that Johns first letter reminds us of. Pride is related to sin. Lewis felt that some he sought to debate with did not hold to of any concept of sin. Not that sin was absent in their lives, but the thought, “I’m a sinner,” was simply not present. There was no guilt, so the Christian message of forgiveness just didn't mean anything.
One of the problems that John saw in the lives of the “Gnostics” was that their belief system led them to dismiss sin as being something that drove their actions. They rationalized their actions, and insisted that they were above the law, because they knew better. Some of them even interpreted the idea that Jesus had done away with sin, meant that sin didn't matter anymore, so they could do whatever they pleased.
He counteracts their argument in 1 John 3:4-5 “Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that He (Jesus) was revealed to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin.”
John is telling them, “You really don't want to underestimate that sin thing. It's like a bomb waiting to go off in your life. It will cause you to be blinded by pride and take away your desire for God's love to redeem you and save you. It will take from you the light and joy that could be yours in Christ.”
I am thankful to God for those who offer an intellectual understanding of faith. But I also recognize that knowledge, if not receive with humility, can lead to the kind of pride that places “God in the Dock,” rather than reveals to us our need of Christ's love to recreate and redeem us from our sin.
Thankfully, God's love is greater than sin. Acknowledging “God knows best” opens the way to experience God's love!
For some music, a song by Michael W. Smith, “Never been Unloved!”
The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.