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MAY 8 2016 WALKING IN THE LIGHT

Walking in the Light

 

Our scripture reading this morning is I John 1:1-10. 

 

[I. Intro] The apostle begins the first words of his letter with, “That which was from the beginning…” He refers not to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, nor to his birth to a virgin, but to the beginning of all things, the beginning of time itself. He is saying that Jesus Christ pre-existed all things.

 

He continues, “which we have heard…” The  “we” here are the apostles. John is letting his readers know that he and the other apostles were eyewitnesses to the majesty that was the life of Christ. They heard the oral teachings of Jesus, not just once or twice, but daily for over three years.

 

“which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon…”  It was not just a voice that they heard. They saw him. They observed his every action

 

They touched him with their hands. John is saying that they were not merely following some tale. They were eyewitnesses. Eyewitness testimony is the strongest kind of testimony in a court of law. It is even more reliable than physical evidence. Do you remember the O.J. Simpson murder trial? There was substantial physical evidence implicating Mr. Simpson of the double murder, yet he was found not guilty.  If there had been one or two witnesses to the crime, it is unlikely even his top-notch legal team could have avoided a guilty verdict.

 

This is what separates the Christian faith from most other faiths like Hinduism and Buddhism. It is grounded in history and chronicled by those who knew Jesus. Many religions are based on nothing more stories made up unknown writers.

 

At the very end of verse 1, John then calls Jesus “the word of life.” Jesus is the word of life because he IS the communication of true life from the Father.

 

John cannot help but proclaim what he has seen and heard because it was so marvelous and because it has to do with eternal life! This eternal life can be enjoyed in the present by having fellowship with John and the other apostles; and this is one of John’s primary motivations for writing this letter. Yes, the genuine Christian faith is for the future. It is saves one from hell and secures heaven. Every person who ever lived very much needs deliverance from hell. Hell is real and, sadly, is the destiny of many people, even to their own ignorance.

 

But there is a sublime benefit to real faith in the here and now. This is John’s burden in the opening chapters of this letter. This fellowship that hedescribes is not only with the apostles; it is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.

 

John desires that we experience this fellowship and this fellowship is a joy that satisfies like nothing else can!

 

[II.] A distinction must be made between the relationship that we have with God, which is unbreakable, and the fellowship with God that can be broken.  God has promised, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Heb 13:5) Once we are born into God’s family by His Spirit we are the children of God and that relationship is an eternal relationship.  It is the same way with our own children. Even though they may misbehave, even in terrible ways that may bring us much heartache, they never cease to be our children. If they are wayward, we pray for them. If they are troubled, we counsel them. If they are estranged, we seek their reconciliation. But they never cease being our children and we never cease being their parents.

 

She was 16, in love with an 18-year-old high school dropout with no job. She believed they were meant to be together. He even wanted to marry her. Her parents were wise and counseled her to break off the relationship. They tenderly shared what they perceived to be serious character problems in the young man. As some teenagers are wont to do, she not only refused her parents’ guidance, but she rebelled. In Texas, at her age, she needed her parents’ permission, but there were other states, her boyfriend said, where they could go instead.

“You’ll get a fake ID,” he assured her. He had an inheritance and a house his family owned in New Mexico. The perfect life awaited them. Her parents just didn’t understand “true love.”

She ran away.  She never even tried to contact her parents. For two years they slept in his car. She learned how to beg. She learned how to steal. They sometimes went for days without food. The promised marriage never happened. There was no inheritance, no home, no perfect life.

But one day in mid-December, she started to suspect there was something else: a baby on the way. She went to a clinic and confirmed that it was true.

Despite all her boyfriend’s talk of love, she was worried about telling him he was going to be a father. After all, they were just barely surviving on their own.

On Christmas Eve they stopped at a mission for dinner. They sat at a plain table, on folding chairs. “I have a present for you,” she said over turkey and stuffing. “We’re going to have a baby.”

He looked at the girl seriously for a long moment. Finally he said, “I think I would rather have a new car.”

He said nothing more about the baby for the rest of the meal. Then he got up. “I have to use the restroom,” he said.

She sat alone at the table, trying to imagine their future. She could get a job. He could get one too. If they worked together really hard, they could make a home for their baby.

She looked around the mission. Her boyfriend had been gone an awfully long time. She searched the whole room. Then the whole building. She ran out to the parking lot. The spot where they’d left their old car was empty.

He’d taken the car, and with it all of her belongings: her purse, her driver’s license, her clothes, the little money she’d earned that week as a day laborer. He’d left her with nothing—except a baby.

That night she slept huddled in a homeless shelter. Staring at the dirty floor, she thought back to other Christmases. The big feast with family members crowded around the table. Carols by the tree. Candy canes. Christmas service. Presents. Laughter. But most important was the feeling of being loved.

How ashamed her family must be, she thought, to have a daughter like her. How ashamed they would be to see her now. She couldn’t turn to them for help. She didn’t deserve their help, or their love.

The next day she moved on. She got work when she could, begged when she couldn’t. The baby inside her grew. As winter turned to spring her fears grew too. How would she ever take care of a baby on her own? With no money, no home, no medical care, no family.

In July, her eighth month, she stumbled into a church on a hot Sunday evening. Not for the service, but for a handout from the minister. There was no other way she’d find food that night.

She dropped into a seat at the back as the opening hymn began. She barely listened to the prayers and the singing. She was too focused on her own worries. Then the minister started his sermon. “I want to talk to you today about the prodigal son,” he said.

Her interest flickered. She knew that story. The minister described a loving family not so different from her own, and a son who went out into the world thinking he knew best. When he came home, defeated and humiliated and lost, he expected his father to throw him out.

Instead his father ran out to greet him, gave him a new robe and sandals. He ordered a feast to celebrate the homecoming, “for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

When the service was over she approached the minister, her heart beating fast. She had a couple of ministers in her own family. She thought she could trust this one too. Instead of asking for money, she told her story, start to finish. “Do you think my parents would ever take me back?” she asked.

The minister looked her right in the eye. “If you were my daughter,” he said, “I would welcome you with all my heart.”

He took her to his office to use the phone. It was her father who answered. “Dad,” she said. “It’s me...”

That was all she needed to say. Her father cried for joy. He called to her mother and brothers. “We thought we’d lost you forever,” he said. Then she told him about that horrible Christmas when her boyfriend left her all alone.

Flight arrangements were made. A relative picked her up at the airport. Perhaps her immediate family had second thoughts? As the car turned onto her street, she saw something on the corner: an evergreen tree decorated for Christmas. But in July?

The car rolled past the neighbor houses. In the front yard of her house was another Christmas tree. Images of warm, happy Christmases came back to her once again. She wanted to cry, thinking of the ones she missed. The ones she spent in a shelter, in a car, on the street. Alone, with no one to love her.

She got out of the car and stood at the open door. The biggest tree of all was inside the house: lights, tinsel, Christmas balls, an angel shining on top. There were gifts too. “For the girl who missed Christmas,” her mother explained.

Two weeks later the new baby arrived, a rosy-cheeked baby girl they named Christmas.

 

The fellowship with her parents that was completely absent in this young girl’s life did not diminish the truth that they loved her and that she was their daughter.

 

It is so with God. The relationship that we have with God is unbreakable. But our fellowship can be broken. Sometimes we are aware that our fellowship with the Father is broken and sometimes we are not. We may think everything is alright when, in actuality, we are in darkness.

 

[III.] In verse 5 we read, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all.” John heard this from Jesus. We may ask, what did John mean by this? But, we may just as rightly ask, what did Jesus mean by this? So, what does John mean by light?

 

John does not mean physical light. It cannot be physical light because God is a spirit. He does not have physical parts, even small parts like photons. No. “Light” here is a metaphor for something.

 

Could it be something as simple as what is good? Consider Isaiah 5:20. “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness…” We can see from this passage the close connection between “light” and “good” and between “darkness” and “evil.” A case can be made that light means “good.” However, there is a fuller meaning to what light represents which does include the good but encompasses more.

 

When one considers all the biblical data a picture begins to emerge regarding the symbolism of light.  Consider these two passages:

            Your word is a lamp to my feet

                        and a light to my path.

(Psalm 119:105 ESV)

In this passage we see that the Scriptures are likened to light that helps one see where one is walking. Light facilitates seeing. Not seeing with the physical eyes, but seeing where we need to walk spiritually speaking.

 

            The unfolding of your words gives light;

                        it imparts understanding to the simple.

(Psalm 119:130 ESV)

Here, we see a common feature in Hebrew poetry: parallelism. The unfolding of God’s words “gives light.” Giving light means “imparting understanding”…even to the simple, like me! Again, we see that light enables us to see with our understanding.

 

Light is the seeing of reality. I John 1:6 confirms this.

 

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

(1 John 1:6 ESV) Note that “darkness” is equated with not practicing the truth. Light, then, means practicing the truth. In English, we have separate words for “truth” and “reality.” In both the era and the language of the New Testament they had both concepts but only one word, αλαθεια. Αλαθεια can mean either truth or reality, depending on the context. John may be saying here that walking in darkness is not living out a real life. If we cannot see what reality is, neither can we live it out.

 

If “light” is the seeing of reality what does that actually mean? That statement may be a little difficult to wrap our minds around.

 

We do not always see things as they really are. Again, I am not speaking about material things. We do not always perceive what is best, what is honorable, the way things ought to be…with ourselves!

 

In verse 8 John says that we may deceive ourselves. Being in self-deception means that we are not seeing reality. Being in self-deception means that we are in darkness.

 

John is saying that the community he addresses – a believing community, the church – is beset with darkness. They are not seeing reality

 

  • doctrinally (understanding truth),
  • morally (living free from sin)
  • nor emotionally (not loving one another).

 

You see, reality encompasses all of these realms: doctrine, right living, and right emotions. (Love is more than an emotion, but it does include emotion.)

 

This is what John means by “God is light:” God always sees reality as it is because he created it and reality flows from Him.

 

  • He speaks the truth always.
  • God’s character is pure and is the basis for our purity.
  • And, as John will say in chapter four, God is love.

 

[IV.] John calls us to walk in the light.

 

            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.

(1 John 1:7 ESV)

 

Oh, how we need to walk in the light! I used to be an active hiker. I once lived in a place where there were jungles and I loved hiking in the jungle. My hikes would not just be for an hour or two. I would start in the morning and I would hike the whole day. One time my friend and I went on such a hike. We went over the mountain and through the deep vale. We enjoyed the cool, refreshing river in the valley and appreciated the beauty all around us. But we lost track of time and started heading back too late. We were only two-thirds of the way back when twilight began. We did not bring flashlights, so once it became dark we knew that we would not be able to find the small trails that meandered through the forest. We suspected that we would have to spend the night in the jungle without cover. We were not concerned about safety because there was no dangerous wildlife in the place. But the prospect of mosquitoes biting all night long was not a pleasant one, so we ran the rest of the way and made it to my car just as the sun was going down.

 

We need light to walk by!

 

Verse 7 begins with a condition clause: “If we walk in the light…” As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have a choice. We can choose to walk in the light or we can choose not to do so. To “walk” means to live in the light. It means to live, move, act, do things, and have our being in the divine light. It is to see the reality and live in it.

 

The main sign that we are walking in the light is when we have sweet fellowship with one another. If we are not having fellowship with someone this means that at least one of the two is walking in the dark. It could be that both are walking in the dark.

 

How can we be sure to walk in the light? As I said, we can be in darkness and not even know it. John tells us in verse 9.

 

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

(1 John 1:9 ESV)

 

We must confess our sins. If we are aware of any sin, then we ought to confess it at that time, calling upon His name for deliverance. But, we should also reflect upon our day before retiring for the day. We should consider our words and our actions and confess them to the Lord. In other words, we must keep a short account with God. Let us not be like the rest of the world, plodding through life oblivious to our own sins while taking notice of other’s. That is the way most people operate. That is walking in darkness.

 

[V. Conclusion & Application] Many of have learned the principle of confession when we were new Christians and we have implemented it when we fall into an obvious sin. Many of us have memorized I John 1:9, but we may have failed to make it a regular practice in our lives.

 

The greatest danger in walking in the darkness is that we may not know that we are in darkness. The light that John speaks of is not like material light that is the easiest thing in the world to see. It is possible to be in the darkness and not know that we are. It is possible to think we are in fellowship with God when we are not. We may have the relationship, but not the fellowship.

 

When we are in the bright sunlight, I tell you, we will be rejoicing! If we are not gladly walking, the heavenly sunlight is missing!

 

Yes, these two things: fellowship with every saint and rejoicing, are the two indicators of whether we are walking in the light.

 

Let us confess our sins to the Father and to one another. Then we will experience

 

  • forgiveness,
  • the cleansing,
  • the fellowship,
  • and the light.

 

We will see reality!