Politically Incorrect Christianity: Living the Truth--God, The Light of Believers
Last Sunday, we concluded looking at John’s prologue to his 1st Epistle. Verses three and four makes the message of Christ the basis of all significant Christian fellowship—first with God, and then with each other. “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3, NIV84).
In order to create and nurture deep Christian fellowship you have to talk about who you think Christ is and what he taught. That's what John begins to do in verses 5–7. Let me begin by giving you the overall structure of this paragraph first, and then go back and unpack its meaning.
There are two parts of John's Argument:
- First, verse 5 gives the message of Christ that John has heard.
- Second, verses 6 and 7 describe some practical implications for life that come from this message.
So verse 5 is the theological foundation. Verses 6–7 are the practical application.
I. FOUNDATION—GOD IS LIGHT v. 5
- "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5, NIV84)
- John begins this passage with the affirmation that this message—the one he is about to proclaim—is the true truth
- John puts the stress on the word is as in This IS the message
- John reveals the timeless significance of the Gospel message that Jesus proclaimed during his public ministry
- it’s the true truth because it’s not John’s truth—he’s not makn’ this stuff up as he goes along
- the apostle writes, we have heard from him and declare to you
- this message has not been subject to change and modification, because it did not originate with John or with any other apostles or writers
- the him of verse 5 refers to non other than Jesus
- it’s his message, John and the other disciples are merely passing it on as they heard Jesus teach it and preach it
- what’s the message?
- that God is light; in him there is no darkness at all
- wow, now that takes some unpacking
- John is good at formulating short pithy statements that describe God’s nature
- in John 4:24 he says, “God is spirit”
- in 1 John 4:16 he says “God is love”
- here, in 1 John 1:5 he reveals God’s essence in three words: “God is light”
- God is not a light among many other lights;
- God is not a light-bearer;
- God does not merely have light as one of his characteristics
- God is light; and although he created light (Gen. 1:3), he himself is uncreated light
- moreover, the light of God is visible in Jesus, who said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12)
- so then, what does it mean that God is light?
A. GOD IS LIGHT MEANS THAT GOD IS TRUTH
- this comes from verse 6: "If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the TRUTH."
- John might have written, "When we walk in darkness, we do not live according to the LIGHT."
- but he puts truth in the place of light
- so it seems that John is using truth and light interchangeably
- in other words, God as light means that God is the source and measure of all that is true
- practically, that means everything that we consider true, or beautiful, or good needs to be evaluated in the revealing light of God’s Word
- in the beginning of Creation, everything that God spoke into existence was meant to bring glory to God
- this is why at the end of every day, God looked at what He had created and pronounced it “good”
- why was it “good”
- because what He had created was perfect—God never had to worry about ‘do-overs’
- because what He had created perfectly reflected His will—whatever it was it was there because God intended for it to be there
- because what He had created perfectly fit into His total plan for creation
- but, because of the Fall, sin taints everything man lays his hands to
- this is why the Christian needs to measure everything against God and His Word
- John contrasts the light of God with the darkness of this world
B. GOD IS LIGHT MEANS THAT GOD IS HOLY
- light speaks of the glory, the radiance, the beauty, the wonders and all of the other attributes of God
- we describe the sum-total of these attributes as referring to God as Holy
- ILLUS. One of the ways that God revealed His Holiness to the Hebrew people was through His Shekinah Glory. It was God manifesting Himself in the unapproachable light of fire such as at the burning bush where He spoke to Moses or the Pillar of Fire that traveled with the Hebrews in their wilderness wanderings.
- He is so because the sum of all moral excellency is found in Him
- He is absolute purity, unsullied even by the shadow of sin
- “He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent” (Psalm 104:2, NIV84)
- light then, is an appropriate symbol for the One who is pure, righteous and holy
- “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” (Revelation 21:22–23, NIV84)
C. GOD IS LIGHT MEANS THAT GOD IS LIFE
- light and life go together—it is hard to conceive of one without the other
- ILLUS. We all know from science class that light initiates that process of photosynthesis. It is the light from the sun that allows a plant to chemically convert carbon dioxide and water into organic compounds that cause plant growth. Whether it’s a stalk of wheat or an apple tree—both depend upon photosynthesis to grow and produce fruit. Oxygen is the waste product of plants, but necessary for our survival. Sooo ... no light, no plants to eat and no oxygen to breath—we’re all dead.
Word, when it is ingested and digested produces growth
- “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105, NIV84)
D. GOD IS LIGHT MEANS THAT GOD IS REVELATORY
- what is the main value of light?
- it helps us to see where we are going!
- when you walk in the darkness, you may stumble over a log, or step on a snake, or fall into a hole, or hit your head on a low-hanging branch
- darkness is full of threat—It frustrates your ability to successfully navigate to where you want to go
- that God is light means that God has revealed Himself through His Word and through the Person of His Son
- “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” (John 1:1–4, NIV84)
- “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”” (John 8:12, NIV84)
- “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (John 12:46, NIV84)
- He has done so in order to show us exactly where He wants us to go, to show us how to get there, and to show us how to live while we’re getting to where He wants us to go
- the light of God exposes dangers and frees you from their lurking power
- it opens the way to the Christian’s goal—conformity to Christ
- God is Truth
- God is Holy
- God is Life
- God is Revelatory
II. APPLICATION: WALK IN THE LIGHT
- “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 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, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6–7, NIV84)
- in many ways the statement that God is light is the thesis of the epistle
- it includes a definition of God's character as well as implications for the life of Christian discipleship
- in fact, to lay bare the relationship between the character of God as light and Christian life as "walking in the light" is the whole point of the first part of the epistle
- verses 6 and 7 draw out the practical application from this truth about God
- verse 6 gives the negative side of the application: "If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. "
A. WALKING IN DARKNESS
- what does it mean to walk in the darkness?
- John gives us some clear indications in chapter 2
- \“Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.”/ (1 John 2:8–11, NIV84)
- walking in the light means being a loving person and walking in the darkness means being a person of hate
- what is this darkness that is passing away?
- notice that the same word for passing away is used in 1 John 2:17
- “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:17, NIV84)
- ILLUS. To choose gravel over diamonds you have to be blind.
- everyone who loves the world more than God is in the dark
- but the awful tragedy of this darkness is that it is a willful blindness
- “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19, NIV84)
- John is blunt
- “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” (1 John 1:6, NIV84)
B. WALKING IN THE LIGHT
- verse 7 gives the positive side of the application
- “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, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7, NIV84)
- there is a walk, there is a lifestyle, that the Apostle writes necessarily results from the miracle of the new birth when we are given eyes to see the surpassing worth of the light of God
- what does the Apostle mean when he writes that believers are to walk in the light?
- it means walking in God’s light
- it means walking in the truth
- it means walking in holiness
- it means walking in the life of Christ
- it means walking in the revelation of God’s Word
- "we have fellowship with one another"
- who is the one another?
- verse 6 suggests that it is both God and fellow believers
- it is the recent phenomenon of unchurched Christians
- it is not a new phenomenon—we have always had people who kept their distance from the church, even though they professed faith in Christ
- we have never, however, had them in such astonishing numbers as we do today
- ILLLUS. Christian pollster George Barna has found that roughly one-third of Americans are unchurched. That means that apart from Christmas and Easter, these people have not attended a worship service in the last six months. However, three out of every five unchurched Americans is a self-professing born-again Christian. Survey’s reveal that nearly all of these people claim that their spiritual life is very important to them, but for tens of millions of them, spiritual life has nothing to do with church.
- ILLUS. We’ve all heard it: “I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” Maybe some of you have said so yourself. And maybe you even believed it. But is it true? Let’s ask this question: Does a baseball player have to go to Busch Stadium to be a St. Louis Cardinal? If someone called themselves a Cardinal—insisted to everyone they met that they were a Cardinal—but they never showed up on the ballfield to play a game, is that person really a St. Louis Cardinal? What a dumb question, you say. How could a professing-player who never shows up at the stadium be on the team? If that’s what you think, then I’m inclined to agree with you. “But wait,” someone might say, “What right do you have to decide who is and is not a St. Louis Cardinal?” That may seem silly to us because some things are just obvious: A St. Louis Cardinal is a person who shows up at the stadium and plays the games.
- so why do we get so squeamish when it comes to determining who is and is not a Christian?
- if he thinks I’m a Christian, I am; if he doesn’t, I’m not
- I can call myself a Christian as loudly as I like, and think whatever I please about going to church and being a believer, but in the end, it won’t matter a lick
- what Jesus calls me is what I am
- “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46, NIV84)
- “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:21–27, NIV84)
- ILLUS. After 30 years of ministry, I find myself haunted by the faces of people who insist that they are Christian, but who have not darkened to the doors of their church in five or ten years or even longer. Some of these are faces I see belong to people I’ve supposedly won to faith in Christ and baptized. It grieves me to think that some of these folks will one day hear those fateful words, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.’
- the New Testament knows nothing of unchurched Christians—it is an oxymoron
- “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, ... the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7, NIV84)
- we have already seen that walking in the light means living under the controlling desire for God instead of the world
- it’s the kind of life you live if you see things the way God sees them and share his values
- but walking in the light also means walking in the progressive sanctification of Christ’s atoning sacrifice
- by this, I’m referring to the moral power of the blood of Jesus to help us conquer temptation so that in the end all of our sin will actually be overcome and we will stand really pure and sinless before God
- “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6, NIV84)
- the lack of Christ-likeness among the Church’s congregants
- ILLUS. A recent survey by the Barna Research Group discovered that only 4% of American adults have a biblical worldview. Why is our worldview important? Because it shapes how we think and act every moment. Our worldview tells us what is real, what is important, what is right, and what is wrong. Thus it comes as no surprise that Barna found those with a biblical worldview live according to a much higher moral standard than those without such a worldview.
- the primary reason that people do not act like Jesus is because they do not think like Jesus
- He came not only to justify but also to sanctify—not only to acquit but also to reform
- the ongoing effect of Christ's blood is to cleanse our hearts in such a way that we cannot be content to go on sinning
- “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:14, NIV84)
- it’s walking in truth
- it’s walking in holiness
- it’s walking in life
- it’s walking in the revelation of God
- “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, NIV84)
Con. A powerless gospel is not good news. A gospel that only wins lip service is not different than all the other philosophies of the world. Such a gospel produces a Christianity that is a game of words. It encourages lukewarm church-goers that they are safe from God's wrath because of some inherited mental assent to the love of God.
Such a gospel accounts for how 40 million people can claim to be born again in America at the same time that our moral condition is at all time low of corruption inside and outside the church.
The message of 1 John—that walking in the light is not optional, but necessary for salvation—is good news because it creates the moral atmosphere of urgency in which serious business is done with God. It gives the flavor of eternity to all we say and do. It mitigates against religious gamesmanship. It honors the purpose of God in Christ to destroy the works of the devil. It takes seriously the necessity of glorifying God in our bodies. It leads people to real faith instead of encouraging them to be content with a lip service that cannot change and cannot save.
The Word of God says that "if we walk in the light as he is in the light . . . the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." If we walk in darkness, we cut ourselves off from the cleansing effects of Christ's blood. And if we cut ourselves off from Christ's blood, where will hope be found!