Wow! I cannot believe we are out here in this amazing forest! How many of you have been here before? Well, I have been through here once before. It was about 24 or 25 years ago. So, yes, before pretty much almost everyone here was born. I don’t really remember it much. In fact, I don’t actually remember it at all. I do remember seeing a picture of me being carried in a little child backpack by my parents though.
Anyhow, these trees are amazing for many reasons. What has impressed you guys about them the most in just the few moments we have been here? The height? The witdh-or the girth? How about how few branches are here? What about how old these trees are? Did you know that some of the sequoia trees are older than two thousand years old?! Yes…! Some of the sequoia trees are estimated to be older than the very book of the Bible that we will be studying.
How about a couple of other amazing thoughts about these trees? Did you know that the bark can be almost one foot thick? Or did you know that these trees are capable of growing 8 feet in the first year after the seed starts growing? Or that these trees can grow two inches in diameter each year?
Or one of the most unexpected facts. These trees have incredibly shallow root systems for how tall they are. The roots runs laterally—out to the sides and not very far down. And do you want to know what is even more surprising about these roots? The very ends of them — called feeder roots, these roots suck up (make noise) the necessary moisture and nutrients necessary for this tree go become massive. But they are so fragile that they can be crushed and die if someone walks on the ground over them, or if one is even bushing soil off of them. They are even more fragile than your heart when you ask your crush if they want to go out with you and they say ‘no’ (make dramatic sound).
Now why am I talking about these trees so much? Am I just some hippie from almost two thousand miles away? Did I hit my head too hard and forget that we at Bible camp? We are (wink at them), so let’s see how these trees can help us understand the Bible better.
This week we are going to work our ways through first John. This is a letter or a sermon written by the apostle John who was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. After Jesus ascended into heaven the disciples went around the world telling people about Jesus. People started believing in Jesus and started to meet and talk about Jesus and the Scriptures. These meetings became known as churches. The apostles did not always stay in the same area, so they would occasionally write letters to these churches to help them know how to be good Christians, love God more, and to grow in faith, love, and hope. This letter was written to help a group of Christians who seemed to be misunderstanding what it meant to be followers of Jesus. Let’s see what John told them.
Read 1 John 1:1-2:6.
John starts off this passage by describing God as light. He does this because he wants to make it evident that God is a God of purity with nothing hidden about him. There are no secret sins or mistakes. What is it about light that makes it such a contrast to darkness though? Well, we know that shadows are the absence of light, but let’s try an experiment. How many of you have clean bedrooms? How many of you have messy bedrooms? When your parents ask you to clean your room, where do you normally put stuff? Well, a lot of the time the clothes go in the dresser, or get hung up, or put in the dirty laundry, books go on shelves, etc. But what about when you clean up your room reallllllllly quickly? Where do you put stuff? Crammed in the closet? Pushed under the bed? Stacked in a corner? What is it that all those places have in common? They aren’t well lit. You put the stuff that you don’t want your parents to see it where there is not light, or where it is not easily seen. We do that with our sin, our mistakes, and our flaws. With God, there is nothing to hide. That is why God is called light, and there is no darkness in him.
What do you suppose it means to walk in the dark? For me, walking in the dark usually means walking from my bedroom to the bathroom, or maybe to the kitchen to get a glass of water during the night. But here, walking in darkness means to be living in sin. Now I know that Nate is an amazing youth pastor and that he has explained sin to you, so I want someone to explain what sin is.———————— So what does it mean to be living in sin then? It means to be sinning on purpose without any desire to admit it or to stop.
Your decisions show whether or not you are walking with God. When you decide to be walking in darkness, you are rejecting the light. This passage is very serious in what it is saying. It means that belief is not just a statement, but rather it is a life. Or to put it a different way, abiding in God is not just sitting there, but it is a statement of action. Let’s go back to talking about the sequoia trees. Who thinks that they do not move? Who thinks they do move?
The sequoia does not simply stay where it is. In order to be declare alive it is in need of light, moisture, oxygen, and carbon dioxide in order to live. The tree is always growing higher in order to get more light, it is always growing wider, and the roots are always growing outward to get more moisture and nutrients. You can tell when it is dead by when it stops growing. These trees are always moving and growing, and that growth shows that they are alive.
Have you ever sat down and asked yourself, “does how I live demonstrate that I am a follower of Jesus?” Is my life full of anger, bitterness, jealousy, disobedience, violence? Am I constantly looking at things that I should not? Am I constantly fighting? Am I prideful? Do I think of myself before others? Do I even care about changing?
Every single one of us needs Jesus. Jesus came in order that the penalty for all of those sinful thoughts and actions would be paid for. See, If God is holy, and nothing is hidden from him, then if we think and do bad things—the things I just mentioned, then we deserve to never talk with God or communicate with God again. But God said, “I want to have fellowship with humanity,” so Jesus came and died to take the penalty for our sins, and he rose from the grave that we could have new life and be in fellowship with God—and others.
And this is why John says “if someone says they have no sin, they are fooling themselves,” and also “they make God into a liar.” Every single person sins. The difference is that a Christian says to God, “I am so sorry, God. I am offending you and breaking our communion because of the thoughts and actions of my life. I do not want to live for myself, but I want to live for you. I ask that because of what Jesus has done that I will be forgiven.” That is confession—agreeing with God about what sin is and asking for his forgiveness.
But being a Christian also is more than just staying out of the darkness and not sinning. Being a Christian is to love God and to do what he says is good, holy, and right. Just like these trees are seen to be alive because of the leaves they produce, and the continual growth of the trunk, branches, and roots, so a Christian is seen to be following Jesus by the good deeds which are done. Now, these are not just simply stereotypical things such as helping old ladies across the street or always brushing your teeth. You show the world that you are following Jesus by telling others about Jesus, praying, reading the Bible, meeting together with other Christians, confessing your sins, forgiving others, doing something nice for others without them having to ask you or without getting paid. It means being patient with others, being happy for someone else having something rather than being jealous, and helping others when they are in need. If you say you are a Christian, but do not demonstrate these qualities, you need to ask yourself if you are truly trusting in Jesus, or if you are lying to yourself.
Guys, girls—can I call you friends? We need to be honest about something. Being a Christian is not just a statement we make. Being a Christian is following Jesus. Following Jesus means to live like Jesus-both keeping from walking in sin and also in loving others and demonstrating how good God is to others. Throughout the rest of this week we will be talking more about what it means to be Christians—to abide in Jesus. Let’s bow our heads.