Laredo, is a classic TV Western that aired some years ago…I won’t say how many, because, that may age me just a bit.
But it was a great show that featured 3 Texas Rangers and their adventures catching criminals in the Old West.
They were Reilly, the handsome tall ranger, Chad the short quick witted ranger and Mr. Bennet who can only be described as the thick ruffian ranger. They could not be more different.
In one particular episode they were investigating a Chinese gang that was moving opium across the Mexican border.
Once they caught up with a shipment, they went to apprehend the drugs and Reilly, the Tall Handsome Ranger, was forced to shoot one of the gang members in the altercation.
They got the opium but less their single comrade the rest of the gang escaped.
When the gang returned to their boss, he was incensed at the loss and insisted that one of the gang members go back and kill the ranger who killed his man.
The assigned assassin immediately protested, “Boss that’s impossible…”
“Why?” the Boss replied.
“Because,” he answered. “I don’t know which one killed them…THEY ALL LOOK ALIKE!”
When John speaks UTIOTHS today, he gives us eternal hope with the knowledge, that we all look alike as well, and that means we look just like Christ!
Now it’s not that we see ourselves this way or even that others see us this way outside the church.
No question we see ourselves as the sinners that we are. We see the willful and ungodly decisions that we make.
We know we come up short even when we honestly try to do what is right. And even our heroes and examples in the Faith fail with a frequency we are uncomfortable with.
But John; the apostle, the evangelist and the elder, before there were ever elders; saw something completely different than sinful brothers and sisters.
John saw them…and us today; not like we see ourselves, but rather how we were and are likened to Christ.
He saw the evidence of Christ in us and made it clear today how that could be possible.
John says you are purified, because of the evidence that Jesus purified us. Even if it is not evident to you or to any one else; THAT’S WHAT YOU ARE.
Since you have that hope in the death and resurrection of Jesus to forgive all your sins; the evidence that He purified you will be there.
As the Book of James says in Chapter 2:18, “I will show you my faith by my works…” and of Abraham in Chapter 2:22, of James “…Faith was active along with His works.”
The works of righteousness that flow from sinners saved by Grace are from Christ and not from us!
Like when we say, “The window is wet, it’s raining!” No one believes wet windows caused it to rain!
We know that the rain caused the window to be wet.
So likewise our acts of righteousness, goodness and mercy did not cause Jesus to be crucified on our benevolent behalf, rather Jesus saved us and thereby enabled us to do acts of mercy, goodness and righteousness.
The text is hard today because John’s Aramaic way of thinking reverses its emphasis when expressed in western languages like Greek, Latin and our beloved King’s English.
Thus when we see in vs. 3 “Everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as he is pure” We always remember,
“Having been purified and made Holy, and given the sure hope of eternal life, we seek that which is Holy and right. Born of God, we are now free to serve our Savior.”(LSB note 1 John 3:3)
But there are those who still believe they obey God’s law in spite of their sin.
The Pharisees of John’s day and many Christians today, will admit they might not be perfect; you know…white lies, gray areas, excusable mistakes and misdeeds, but they still insist they have kept the Law of God.
They might even go so far as to think, I don’t need purification, I just need a little reorientation, overall I’m a good person!
While I think we can all agree nobody is perfect, the greater sin is some people and even a few pastors I have heard about; believe they don’t sin!
Our worship confession and 1 John 1:8-9 says there is no such out for anyone, for “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us!”
And lest the Pharisees of John’s day and the fundamentalist of our day thinks they might sin but still acceptably obey God’s Law, John again reminds them both in verse 4b, “Sin is lawlessness.”
Thanks be to God that John comforts us quickly with hope in 1:9, saying, “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
And again in 3:5, “You know he appeared to take away your sins, and in him there is no sin!”
This is the incredible joy of seeing Jesus risen from the dead.
We get a glimpse of what we look like to him and the heavenly Father through the power of the Holy Spirit!
Our sins have literally been snatched away by Christ and we no longer look like the sinners we are, we only look like Jesus as He is!
Now what we see, in our risen Christ; is what we know; that we are risen as well; and we know that Jesus’ death and resurrection made it so.
John wants the listener to see that what they know, has been revealed to them in Jesus!
Sin no longer rules the sinner saved by Christ. But, unfortunately, we see some who refuse to rescind their sinful ways.
Engaging repetitively and habitually in unrepentant sin is not the individual that believes they have been purified by the blood of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
To this unrepentant sinner we must share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His will to save them from their sins by sacrificing Himself on the cross so He can shower them with His Grace, and forgive all their sins.
And we remain aware by the working of the Holy Spirit and through devotion to God’s Word and sacraments, lest we are deceived by the devil and lured away from our Savior.
Our only desire is the righteousness of Christ that only comes from Christ.
And that righteousness that He won for us on the cross will keep us steadfast in the Faith. AMEN.