Monday, February 8, 2010

This Week's Message: Walk in the Light

1 John 1:5-2:14.

God is Light- NO Darkness in Him
He is completely consistent No faults, defects, sin, inconsistencies. He is all good, nothing bad in him. Why is important to understand this about God? It is the first thing John talks about, it precedes the understanding of anything else that he writes, so why is this knowledge so important? Sometimes we get the wrong idea about God. We think of him in human terms; we begin to see him created in our image, instead of the other way around.

We often think of God in ways that make him less than 100% perfect? Did you ever think God wanted you to be unhappy, or that he was playing tricks on you, or that you were receiving a blessing but down the road you would have to pay for it? Do you ever have a hard time trusting God because deep down you feel like maybe he can't be trusted to work things out for your good? Anytime we think those kinds of things, we dishonor God. It is blasphemous to think and speak things about God that are not true.

We have to understand who God is before we can understand what he does. We cannot understand Christ's sacrifice, or our position in him until we understand who God is. He is 100% light, there is no darkness in him at all, no ulterior motives, no sneaky plot to ruin your life. He is 100% good, there is nothing bad or impure in him. He is 100% consistent, he always is who he always was and he will always be that way!

Walk in the light= fellowship with God & others
We sometimes have a hard time understanding what sin is, and why it is bad. We know there is such a thing as sin, we accept that and we try to live within those parameters, but we don't always understand the reason behind the rule. Simply put, sin destroys. It is death in some form. When we sin against God, we chip away at our relationship with him. When we sin against others, we injure our relationships with them. When we sin in any capacity, we begin to isolate ourselves.

Remember in the garden, when Adam and Eve sinned, first they hid from God, then they turned on each other, and even broke their relationship with creation. Walking in the light, in the way of God encourages and builds relationships, walking in darkness kills them. But we know we cannot possibly be perfect all the time. So, what is the solution?

For many people the solution is to put on the “Christian Mask” and pretend that they are walking in the light to maintain some semblance of fellowship. But John is saying here that those people are liars. If we walk in the darkness while claiming we have no sin, we are liars, and the truth is not in us. The solution is to confess our sin. It is to be open about our failure to measure up. When we confess our sin, we have opened the door to forgiveness, both from God and our brothers and sisters. It is so important to recognize our sin that John restates that if we claim to have never sinned we call God a liar and we reject his word.

Purpose: Don't Sin!

John tells us his purpose in clearing up the issue of obedience, it is so that we don't sin. John is saying, “Look, the reason I am writing to you about light and darkness, and the nature of God and his followers is so that you will take it and apply this teaching to your life, so that you will not sin.” But even in saying, “Don't sin” and in giving this teaching on light and darkness, John gives us a remedy for dealing with our failure.

He says, “don't sin, but if you do, there is a solution.” We have an advocate. We have an atoning sacrifice for our sin in the person of Jesus Christ. He atoned for our sins and the sins of the whole world. We are not alone in our sin problem, and we are not alone in having a solution. Jesus died for every sin that was ever committed and every sin that ever will be committed. If we sin the solution is simple, confess your sins and he is faithful and follows his own declaration of forgiveness in wiping those sins away permanently.

Evidence for his work in us= Obedience
In making these declarations about sin and light and darkness and forgiveness, John sets up a nice platform to discuss obedience. If we know that God is light with no darkness, and that fellowship with him is walking in the light, and that sin and darkness lead to lack of fellowship, and that there is an ongoing extension of forgiveness to us through Christ; then we can begin to discuss obedience.

If we didn't know God was good, how could we obey him? If we didn't know that walking in his ways brings fellowship with God and others, why obey him? If there was no hope of forgiveness when we fail, where could we find hope to attempt to obey him? That is why John lays out his discussion in this way. We know God is good, that makes him trustworthy. We know that if we walk in his light, we will find encouragement and joy in fellowship with him and others, that gives us a reason to obey. We know that there is an offer of forgiveness and restoration when we fail, that gives us hope in being able to follow through with our commitment to obedience.

John brings out the hard truth when he says that the evidence of God at work in our lives is obedience. If we claim to walk with God, but we don't obey him, we are not telling the truth. Is John talking about following and falling here? Does he mean that if we fail in our obedience we are not walking with Christ? No, he is not talking about perfection. Otherwise, he would have skipped the earlier part about having an advocate and forgiveness in Christ. Rather he is talking about obedience and disobedience as lifestyles.

Are you walking the path of obedience, seeking to follow Christ, or the path of disobedience seeking your own way? Obedience is the evidence of him at work in our lives, so every time we obey, we add to the list of evidence that we are walking with him. The only time we are in danger is if there is no evidence that we are walking with him. If there is no mark of obedience in our lives. If there is no place that we can point to active obedience then we are in danger of not being followers of Christ.

We find the summary of this teaching in verse 6“Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” It only makes sense, if we claim to live in Christ, to follow him, to walk in his way, our lives will show the evidence.

John's Instruction Nothing new- Love each other
John gives one major, or the major evidence of Christ at work within us, that of loving our brother. We have discussed many times the two greatest commandments, that hold up and support all the other commands and laws—Love God, Love Others. Jesus said, “A new command I give you, love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you must love one another. This is how the world will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” It is not a new command that John issues, it was Jesus' command, and is shown forth in all the laws that God had issued through Moses. But this is a new statement of that command, as a measuring stick of our obedience and therefore our fellowship with God.

If we love our brothers, John says the result will be greater spiritual fruit in our lives. We will be walking in the light. We will be able to see obstacles in our path and avoid them. If we do not love our brothers, we are walking in the darkness. We will not be able to see and we will stumble all over the place. Our love or lack of love for our brothers and sisters can either help or hurt our relationship with God! If you do not love them, you are disobeying God's number two commandment. If you are brazen enough to disobey his number two commandment how can you say that you love him? How can you possibly claim to be following him? It would be absurd.

Song of encouragement
John finishes this discussion with a word of encouragement. It comes in the form of a poem, or perhaps even a song. He reminds them of the reasons they have to rejoice. All who are children of God have had their sins forgiven. Those who are elders in the faith have had time to know Christ. Those who are young are strong in the faith and overcome the evil one. Again as children of God, they get to know the Father. The spiritual fathers have known Christ, and the young are strong in the faith, the word of God is alive in them and they have overcome the evil one.

Just like John finishes this section with encouragement, I want to encourage you. I want you to know that God is 100% good and trustworthy, you can obey him without fear. I want you to know that he is calling you to a life of walking with him, and that he has made it possible for you to do that through Christ. I want you to know that even if you feel like you have failed or fallen short that there is hope—God extends to us grace and forgiveness and love when we fall.

I want this knowledge to encourage you as you walk with God through Christ, and to spur you on to obedience in every area of your life. God wants to shine his light on every part of you, to purify you completely so that you can walk in perfect fellowship with him and others. If you find yourself struggling with a particular area of obedience, I want to encourage you to pray and surrender that area of your life right now. If you are struggling with loving your neighbor, ask God to pour his love through you onto that person. Don't be surprised if he begins to show you ways in which to show love to that person in a tangible way. Ask God to shine his light on any dark places. Commit to obedience and ask for his Holy Spirit to empower you to follow through.

In this way we walk more in his light, we build up evidence for our fellowship with him, we show the world that we are his followers and God receives glory in our lives and in his church.

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