Walking in the Light

 

By This We Know Love

Allen Snapp

Grace Community Church

January 14, 2018

 

Walking in the Light

As we continue our study of 1st John, we come to some of the most important verses in this letter and I think what may be some of the most important verses in the entire Bible. It has to do with whether we walk in the light or walk in the darkness. Let’s pray and ask the Lord to help our hearts to hear what we need to hear this morning.

1 John 1:5-10

God is light and in him is no darkness at all

I mentioned last week that John opens both his gospel and this letter with words that are reminiscent of Gen 1: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The gospel of John opens with In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God and this letter opens with the words that which was from the beginning. In Genesis, the first specific creative act God performed was creating light. Verse 3 says: And God said, “Let there be light” and there was light. And God separated the light from the darkness. We see this same focus on light and darkness in John’s gospel where Jesus is the light of life that shone in the darkness, and here in 1st John where the message Jesus entrusted to the apostles is summed up in this truth: God is light and in him is no darkness at all.

Think about that for a moment. God is light and there is no darkness, not even the smallest shifting shadow of darkness in Him. Ps. 104:2 says that God has wrapped Himself in light as a garment and Paul writes in 1 Tim 6:16 that God dwells in unapproachable light. Light describes God’s character in two ways. First, God is Truth – God is always true, God cannot lie, there is no darkness of deception in Him. Second, God is morally pure – there is no darkness of immorality or evil in Him. We should thank God every day that He is good and true and pure. If there were even just the smallest bit of evil in God’s character then all of creation would be hell. There would be no place to escape an all powerful, all knowing, omnipresent God who had evil in His character. But this is John’s message: God is light and there’s no darkness in Him.

The question John is dealing with is what do we do with those who claim to be close to God but are walking (living) in darkness? John is very clear in verse 6: If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  God is light and He lives in light, so if we’re living in darkness we’re not living in God’s zip code. It’s that simple. But what does walking in darkness mean?

Darkness here has the same double meaning that light has: the darkness of deception (anti-truth) and the darkness of immorality. I mentioned last week that when John wrote this there was a false teaching called Gnosticism infiltrating the church and there was a lot about this teaching that was very attractive:

  • It advertised itself as Christianity 2.0 - like the original Christian teaching only it contained a deeper, mystical knowledge that led to a higher plane of spirituality. Who wouldn’t want to be part of the elite group of mystics who are more spiritual than everyone else? This appealed to our spiritual pride.

  • And it taught that the flesh is evil, so God doesn’t really care what we do with our flesh, it’s our spirit God cares about. So we can live as immorally as we want and still be close to God. Best.Of.Both.Worlds! I can do whatever I want and have God’s stamp of approval at the same time! What’s not to like in that teaching?

Gnosticism was a double darkness: it wasn’t truth and it wasn’t moral. It was completely opposed to the gospel message entrusted by Jesus to John and the apostles. In fact, John lays out a very serious downward spiral of darkness that I’m going to call the dangerous progression of deception. Follow this with me.

The dangerous progression of deception

  • It begins with lying to others (vs. 6)

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 

  • It leads to us lying to ourselves (vs. 8)

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 

And it culminates in us

  • Calling God a liar (vs. 10)

10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him (God) a liar, and his word is not in us.

The devastating truth John is warning us about here is that any religion that loves and thrives in the darkness of deception isn’t bringing us close to God, it’s bringing us close to the god of this world, the devil. When he tempted Eve, the devil implied that God was a liar. “Did God really say you will die? You will not die…” The devil thinks nothing of calling God a liar, knowing all the while that God is true and that he is the liar. It’s evil and insidious. Jesus said that there is no truth in the devil, but when he lies, he is speaking his native language for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)

The antidote to this evil, John says, is to walk in the light. Light is the disinfectant. Look at verse 7:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 

Whether we walk in darkness or in light is connected with what we do but it goes deeper than that, it has to do with our nature. There's a phenomenon in plants called phototropism that describes the orientation of a plant in relation to a source of light. Plants that have positive phototropism move towards the light. Plants that have negative phototropism move away from the light. We know that the Bible tells us that we were all born with a sinful nature that, like a negative spiritual phototropism, bent us away from the light, but what John is telling us is that the gospel of Jesus does a work in us that changes our nature so that we go from negative phototropism to positive phototropism. We no longer love or live in the darkness, but through Christ we love and live in the light. Our souls bend towards the light.

As believers, God has given us a new nature in Christ. A nature that bends towards the light. But we need to constantly choose to bend towards the light. In Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, God has already changed our nature to love light instead of darkness, but every day, in a thousand choices we make, we need to choose to walk in the light.

Walking in the light doesn’t mean we don’t sin anymore. It can’t mean that, because John says those who say they don’t sin are lying and living in darkness. So whatever walking in the light is, it’s not being sinless. Taking what God’s light is, I think we can make three statements about walking in the light:

  1. Walking in the light is pursuing truth

If the devil is a liar and the father of all lies, God is truth and the Father of all truth. God has never lied, He cannot lie. So His children love and pursue truth. The authoritative truth about who God is, who we are, and how we can be saved, comes from the Bible. This is why we always want to study the Bible and base all we believe on the Bible, not twisting the Bible to make it fit what we want to believe, but conforming what we believe to fit the truth that is contained in God’s word. Walking the light is pursuing the truth of God’s word.

  1. Walking in the light is pursuing moral purity

God is morally pure. Righteous. Good. When sin entered the world, the darkness of immorality entered the world in the form of lust and greed and lying and murder and cheating and such. Walking in the light for the Christian can never just be knowing truth about God – it has to affect our morals.

Pursuing moral purity means pursuing a clean conscience. But this can be tricky because if those walking in darkness may get to the point where their conscience doesn’t bother them. They are lying to themselves and eventually the conscience gets seared. They mistake an inactive conscience for a clean conscience. They mistake absence of conviction with absence of guilt. Their deception can be so deep that they not only don’t feel the pangs of their guilty conscience, but they actually think they are more spiritual and closer to God than everyone else. Spiritual pride is a deep darkness.

Let’s keep our conscience tender. Let’s pursue and preserve a sensitive conscience. When we do wrong and our conscience bothers us, let’s listen to it, not ignore it. If we’re about to do something and our conscience whispers, “that’s not right. Don’t do it” let’s listen. If we do something that is wrong, welcome the nagging voice of conscience that bothers us – God forbid it should be silenced.

Years ago Janice and I had run up some debt that much higher than we wanted. It wasn’t through impulse buying or anything – mostly because of various unexpected expenses that we weren’t prepared for. But I didn’t want to tell Janice how bad it really was. There wasn’t anything in the debt that I felt guilty about or wanted to keep secret, but I was concerned about upsetting her and the anxiety she would feel if she knew that our debt was worse than she thought.

One night as we were going to bed, Janice asked me a question about our finances that, if I answered honestly, would have revealed the extent of our debt. Without even thinking, I blurted out an answer that wasn’t truthful. I lied. We went to bed and fell asleep, but I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get that lie off my mind. It was the call of my conscience and it got so loud that I finally woke her up and told her that I hadn’t been truthful and I shared with her where we were really at. I still remember us getting up in the middle of the night and going through all our credit card bills to understand how we got there and then putting a plan together to get out of debt. But mostly I remember feeling such a weight lifted off me by clearing my conscience and being honest with Janice and bringing everything into the light. That brings us to the third step of walking in the light:

  1. Confess our sin honestly to God

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

Confessing our sin honestly to God is bringing our sins out of the darkness into the light. Not that God can’t see our sins when we hide them, but we are walking in the light – bending towards the light – when we voluntarily confess them to God. And John stresses something that we all need to hear: when we confess our sins, God forgives and cleanses us from all sin. There is no sin so deep, so dark, so bad, so big, that the blood of Jesus can’t cleanse us completely from it. Do you think there is any sin that is more powerful than the blood of Jesus? Is there any stain so dark that the blood of Christ can’t remove it and make us white as snow? Isaiah foretold of the efficacy of Christ’s sin-cleansing work on the cross when he wrote:

Come now, let us reason[c] together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool. Isa. 1:18

There are some whose consciences are hardened by sin that their consciences don’t feel guilt when they should, but there are others who feel guilty even after they have confessed their sin to God and asked His forgiveness and turned from that sin. If that’s you, if you feel distant from God and dirty in His sight, please, please believe that Jesus’ blood is more than powerful enough to cleanse you of all sin. Let his cleansing power wash over your conscience, and remove the stain of guilt and condemnation. There is now, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Jesus paid it all on the cross, there is no wrath left for us, and no guilt left for us, and no condemnation left for us. It is amazing (grace) but it’s true! Believe God at His word and walk in the freedom of forgiveness and cleansing.

Not only are we forgiven of our sin, but we have loving fellowship with God…and with each other. In fact, John does a surprising twist here in verse 7. In verse 6 John says:

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

So we’d think the progression of logic would have John say that those who walk in the light do have fellowship with God. But he shifts it in verse 7:

 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 

Why doesn’t he say that if we walk in the light we do have fellowship with God? Isn’t that the mirror image of verse 6? Yes, but remember John said in verse 3:

 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

True fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus will always bring us into loving fellowship with each other too. Darkness breaks, not only our fellowship with God, but with each other as well. Walking in the light restores fellowship with God, and each other.

The church isn’t the place where people never sin against each other. Or fail each other. Or bump against each other. But when we’re walking in the light, we take the steps to be restored in fellowship one with another. When we sin against each other, we confess it rather than deny it. When we fail each other, we ask for forgiveness and takes steps to make it right.

If we’re walking in the light before God, we can’t help but walk in the light before each other. Which leads to a rich fellowship with God and one another. Full of grace and love and forgiveness and honesty.

As Christians, we bend towards the light not away from it. As we close, if there’s an area of darkness that you’ve become convicted of, bend towards the light not away from it. Confess it to God openly and honestly. If you’re aware of someone whom you’ve sinned against, or offended, commit to going to them and confessing your sin/offense and asking them to forgive you. Yeah, it’s hard. But not as hard as walking in the darkness. And God blesses us in so many ways.

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