1 John 1: 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. 5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
This evening I would like to talk about contrasts. We’ve been looking at the book of first John at our midweek Bible study in Montague, and one thing I’ve noticed is the back-and-forth we see in the book. There’s contrast between old and new, between truth and falsehood, and between light and darkness. We live in a world that is filled with contrasts, and so we’re accustomed to them that much of the time we might not even notice, but there’s a lot to learn from all of these.
These contrasts are not with God. Not truth and falsehood, and certainly not darkness and light. We read verse 5 a moment ago, which states quite clearly that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. This might seem like an obvious and uncontroversial statement. Of course God is light, and does not have darkness. That should be self-evident. But in fact John makes a point of starting his message with this. That should indicate that it is important. And so I think it is important that we realize this.
John’s message begins thusly: That God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. This is part of our understanding of God, as limited as that understanding might be. If we are going to follow God, if we are going to serve God, then we need to know Him. That God is light is part of the nature of God, part of who He is.
I’m reminded of something that happened at camp many, many years ago. Someone, and I’ll not share his name because most of you know him, jumped into the lake, and found the water cold. He meant to say “Wow, the water is cold,” but instead he came out with, “Wow, this water is wet!” Everyone else around got a good laugh at that, because of course the water is wet. It’s water. That is the nature of water, if it’s not wet, then something is very wrong.
God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. That is the nature of God. If we look at God and we think we see darkness there, the problem is not with God, but with us.
There is a lie, an ancient lie that comes straight from the old serpent and the father of lies. It has been repeated and altered and spun in many different ways, but the core of it remains the same. This lie is that God does not have our best interests at heart. It’s the lie, the seed of doubt, which was first voiced by the serpent in the Garden of Eden, with the words “Yay, hath God said?” and “Ye shall not surely die.” First the question of did God actually say that? then the follow up of saying that’s not really the case, and the implication that God is keeping something from you, something that you should want, something that you should have. In short, God doesn’t really want the best for you.
It’s easy to find lots of examples of this today. People talk about the God of the OT as if He is some sort of monster who would ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, who would instruct the Israelites to destroy the wicked Canaanites, who would send a flood to wash the earth clean of sinful men. How is that a God who loves mankind? Thus the sceptics ask, and thus they raise doubts.
We are not good. We all have darkness in us, so much as we might not want to acknowledge it, and so much as we might be able to keep it contained. There is none that doeth good, no not one. But God is not like us. God has made us in His image, we should not try to remake Him in ours. We know we are flawed, and so if we think that God is like we are, then we would imagine Him as being flawed. The ancients did so, the Greeks and the Romans and the Norse and the Egyptians and the Canaanites, we know how they imagined their gods. We know how violent, how terrible, how petty, and how depraved they were. They were no gods at all, of course. The God we know and love and follow, He does not have the darkness of all those false deities. Anyone who says differently is repeating the oldest lie in history. After all, a God of darkness does not provide a way of salvation, and certainly does not pay for it himself.
Of course, there are many lies in this world. We can see another one at verse 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
People say a lot of stuff. And a lot of stuff that people say is not true. We live in a society that has made it acceptable to say whatever you want to say, no matter how grounded in reality it may or may not be. Listen to politicians, yes, in the US we are hearing a lot of ridiculous talk coming from down there, but our own elected leaders are really not much better. They just aren’t quite as off-the-hook crazy. But they say a lot of things.
And it’s not just the people at the top, it’s all the way through our culture. It’s acceptable now to identify as whatever you want to identify as. You’re a man, but you identify as a woman? Go for it. You’re a woman, but you identify as a man? Society is fine with that. Feel free to use whatever washroom makes you comfortable. You identify as a Jedi knight? Sure thing, may the force be with you. When I was in university I had a classmate, well, I’d say friend, but you might start to seriously question my taste in friends, in any case, he identified as a werewolf. No, he didn’t seriously think that on the full moon he turned into a wolf, but he basically identified as a wolfman, he grew a scruffy beard, he wore shirts pictures of wolves, he howled at the moon occasionally. He was pleasant enough so everyone else put up with him, but we all thought he was a little crazy. Turns out he was just ahead of his time. He’d probably fit in just fine today.
But do you know what my werewolf friend, and men who identify as women, and vice-versa, all have in common? They do not the truth. You can say whatever you want, but that does not make it true. I’m a middle aged white man, if I start identifying myself as an old Asian woman or a black teenager, it’s simply not true. As the verse says, I do not the truth.
If we claim to have fellowship with God, then it is vital that we act as we should. In the next chapter we see this illustrated in verse 6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
If you say you abide in Christ, then you should be behaving as Christ behaved. You can’t follow someone if you are not going in the same direction. That’s only common sense. If we want to follow the path Christ has set out, if we want to walk as he walked, that does require some effort, and it does require attention. It doesn’t happen by accident. It must be a purposeful walk. We must know how He walked, how He conducted Himself, and then we must seek to emulate that. That may mean not going where we would like to go, and it quite likely will mean going some places where we might not want to do. Christ did not leave us some lackadaisical path to follow. His walk was not easy. His walk eventually brought Him to a trial, to a wooden cross, to Calvary. If we would follow Him, we must know the way He walked, and we must be willing to go that way.
If we say we have fellowship with God, but we behave however we want, we walk in darkness, following after our own desires and our own sinful ways, and we are lying about it. To have fellowship means to be united with. The particular Greek word used in the verse, the word is Koinonia (koy-nohn-ee’-ah), it means to have fellowship, to be a partner, and the original root word has the idea of union. That word is used 125 times in scripture, and it is translated as with in 123 of those instances. If we are with God, in whom is no darkness at all, then how can we walk in darkness? That does not compute. You can’t be with someone else if you are walking on a completely different path. If I went for a walk with my wife, but we walked on opposite sides of the street, and maybe I walked 200 feet ahead, and at the end of the block she turned right and I turned left, well, we didn’t really go for a walk together at all, did we? If I were to say I went for a walk with her, then I’d be lying. If we say we are following God, but our behaviour, our actions, demonstrate that we are not, then we lie, and do not the truth. What we say does not define what we do.
There’s a quote I recall, I forget who said it, but the line was “Saying it loud don’t make it right.” It was probably used in the context of getting children to quiet down. Well, I would update that slightly to fit this context. Saying it at all doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t matter how loudly or how quietly you proclaim something, that doesn’t make it right, or true, or accurate.
People may say that they know the Lord Jesus Christ. They may proclaim this loudly and insistently, but their actions say differently. If you claim to know the Lord, if you say you are following Him, then your actions should indicate this. Those who say they know Christ, but do not as He said, they are lying. Whether this is because they are deceived about what it means to know Christ, or because they are intentionally putting forward a false front, or some other possible scenario, in any case the truth is not part of it.
This does not mean that you are required to be perfect. None of us is able to obey all of the instructions that Christ gave to those who would follow Him, at least not all the time. That’s not going to happen. But there should be intent to follow, there should be at the very least an attempt to obey. Even if that attempt falls short, which certainly at times it will, the attempt should be there. And not just one attempt, that’s not going to accomplish very much.
Going back to the passage we read, and here’s more the back-and-forth, the contrast I mentioned earlier, it says at verse 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
God is in the light. He is the light, there is no darkness in Him at all, as we read earlier. Are you familiar with the Chinese concept of yin and yang, and the symbol for that? The black and white swirls, with the black dot in the white area, and vice-versa? God is not like that, there is no darkness in Him. He is light. If we walk with Him, if we actually live as He has asked us to live, if we put our trust, not in ourselves, but in our maker, then we can walk in fellowship with Him. We don’t do this by pretending, by claiming to be, by claiming to do something which simply is not the case. We do this by believing. We do this by following. We do this by letting go of our priorities and by putting God in the forefront.
If we do walk in the light, not only do we walk in fellowship with our God, but we also walk in fellowship with one another. That only makes sense. If I’m walking with God, and you are walking with God, then we should be walking fairly close together. We can’t honestly walk with God and then not be willing to have fellowship with likeminded people. If we are in the light, then we should be there with other believers. I’m not saying that we are going to always agree with every believer, I think we all know that’s not the case. I don’t think we are even necessarily going to like every other believer. But if we both are walking in the light, then we should have that in common, and it should be enough for us to have fellowship.
It’s not only other believers we need to be mindful of in our walk with Christ. Yes, it is needful that we have fellowship with them, but keep in mind that Christ did not spend all His time on earth with people who had much in common with Him, with people that He would have been going in the same direction. Christ spent a lot of time with people that He did not agree with, whose behaviour He did not condone. He spent time with tax collectors and prostitutes, with low class labourers and with beggars and cripples. He spent time with those who had what we would term today as severe mental illness. And He spent time with the highly learned, with the scholars of the Mosaic law, with those who thought they knew better than anyone else. And you know what? He loved all of them. He died to save all of them, just as He died to save you and me.
What did Christ tell those who would follow Him about how they should behave, how they should treat the people around them? I won’t ask you to turn there, but in the gospel of John chapter 13, verses 34 and 35, Christ told his disciples 34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
This was stated as a new commandment. And yes, this is not one of the ten commandments. But most of those commandments given to Moses is captured in the simple instruction of love one another. If you run through the ten commandments in your head, and consider all the thou shalt nots, well, if you love someone, why would you do anything of those things against them?
Christ did much the same thing when asked which was the greatest commandment, as immediately precedes the parable of the good Samaritan. We won’t turn there, as the passage is probably familiar, but the answer was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength and all your mind, and to love your neighbour as yourself. Love one another takes this down to an even more simple and basic level. There is no need to even ask the question of who is your neighbour. Love one another does not have a disclaimer saying that this only applies to a small and select group. There is no asterisk here, no footnote which says that we are free to hate someone else.
I’ll point out that love does not mean that you agree with everyone and approve all their choices and lifestyles and behaviours. There is an idea in the world today which says that if we disagree with someone, then we must hate them. That is not the case. We might hate someone with whom we disagree, but that is not part and parcel with disagreement. Quite the opposite, in fact. If we agree with everyone, we’ll end up agreeing with a whole lot of sinful choices and wicked behaviours. That is not really love, is it? Love does not turn a blind eye to sin. But love does not scream at people that they are terrible. Love does not belittle and demean. Love does not sit back and criticize while feeling smug and superior. We see a lot of all of that today. It’s bad enough when this is the world, but so much worse when it is those who say they follow God, but don’t seem to show much love or much compassion to those who need it.
Do we love one another? Or do we only love those closest to us? Do we only care about a small and select few? If the latter is the case, then how will anyone ever know that we are Christ’s disciples?
It’s fairly easy to claim that you love God, and that you are serving God, and following Him. You might go to church regularly, you might put lots of money in the offering, you might be well behaved, and not lie and cheat and steal and you might be a good all-around upstanding citizen. You might pray, and read your Bible, and tick all the right boxes for how a Christian is supposed to look. You might say you are in the light, and since your actions do not scream of darkness, then at a glance you will pass as being in the light. But it’s not how we outwardly behave toward God that is the only indictor of our inward condition.
God does not need your money. He does not need your attendance at church. He does not need your good behaviour. Those are all good things, to be sure, and things we should all be mindful of, but God will get along fine with or without them. Your fellow man may not. All around us there are people who need our help. It might involve our time or money. It might be a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, or a strong back to carry a load. It might be nothing more than a cup of coffee and an encouraging word. But when we are selfish, when we ignore our brothers and sisters, when we pay no heed to their needs, then we are not walking as Christ walked. We are not behaving as He did. When we are oblivious and blind to others, then we do not love one another.
It is unfortunate, but I would suggest that very few people in this world today actually love their fellow man. Even those who say they care about others, even those who say they love God, quite often they, and quite often we, fall short of the mark. There are a tremendous number of people who are in darkness, and instead of abiding in the light, they abide in darkness, and worst of all they are not even aware of it. When you are in darkness long enough, you don’t know the light at all, and you are so conditioned to it that it feels perfectly normal to be in darkness.
So often we want to walk in darkness, rather than light. That tends to be our default, the rut that we will drift into if left to run on our own for any length of time. It’s not in our nature to follow God, it’s not our tendency to walk in the light. It requires effort, it requires purposefulness. It does not happen by accident. Well, it might on occasion, just as a stopped clock is right twice a day, but not with any sort of consistency. Stumbling into the light now and then is not walking in the light. You don’t walk in the light unless you intend to.
Maybe we pretend that we are walking as we should. That is something that people all-to-often will try to do. And of course it does not work, not for any length of time. As we read at verse 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
I don’t know that anyone’s self-image is entirely and completely accurate. Most of us like to think that we are better than we actually are. We like to imagine ourselves as being more skilled, more athletic, more intelligent, and more attractive than we are in reality. If you ask a random group of 100 people if they are in the top 50 or the bottom 50 in the group for any of those attributes, you’ll find that way more people put themselves in the top 50. If you don’t believe me, try it yourself, right now. Of the people you work with, or go to school with, or are in your family, are you smarter than most of them, or are most of them smarter than you? Think about that for a moment.
On the flip side, there are some people who think so poorly of themselves that they would put themselves dead last in every single category. We might term that as low self-esteem, or depression, or what have you, but it’s not correct, either. It’s safe to say that our self-image is not very accurate.
It takes a special sort of delusion, however, to claim that we have no sin. No sin whatsoever? If you actually believe that, if you seriously claim that, you are thoroughly deceived. The truth is most definitely not in you. Whether it is self delusion, or whether you have been so misguided by the world and the I’m okay, you’re okay mantra of society, it is deception, and it is a lie.
Speaking of this idea that everyone is okay, or can be okay, that is another of the world’s lies. If everyone is okay, if everyone can make it to the point of being okay, really, if anyone can make it to the point of being okay, then a saviour is not required. If we could somehow become good enough that we might be sin-free, then why would Jesus have had to come and die to pay for our sins?
Claiming we have no sin is deception. Whether it is wilful or whether it is ignorant, it is deception, and has no basis in reality. It has no place in the life of the believer.
I recall once going in to renew my licence, and the lady who was processing it asked how tall I was. Not sure exactly why she asked, I would have thought that information was already in the file, and most adults don’t experience much change in their height. In any case, she asked something along the line of “How tall would you say you are?” and I, being a bit of a smart-aleck, said “I’d like to say that I’m six-two,” which did not get me the laugh I was hoping for, but rather an unimpressed scowl. Apparently they are not much into jokes over at Motor Vehicles.
Obviously I’m not six foot two. I can say all day long that I’m that tall, but I’m not. I’m five foot eight, and that’s assuming I’m wearing shoes. I might want to identify as a taller person, I might want to believe that I’m a taller than I am, but it’s simply not true. And if I insist that it is, then that makes me either a fool, a liar, or straight up delusional.
Sometimes, though, that is how we want to deal with sin. We would like to simply sweep sin under the rug. That doesn’t work, as we see at verse 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
We know that God is not a liar. As we read earlier, He is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. Lies come not from God, not from above, but rather from an entirely opposite direction. Satan is a liar, and the father of lies, and He would have you believe that God is a liar. Of course he does. A liar wants you to think that everyone is a liar. In fact, a liar tends to assume, and tends to behave, as if everyone is a liar. You’ve probably seen this in people’s behaviour. The people who are the least trustworthy, those who are known to tell lies, are often those who don’t trust anyone else, and who accuse others of telling lies.
If we say that we have not sinned, then we make God a liar. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Full stop. We know that we have sinned. We, if we are not entirely delusional or are exceptionally well behaved, have no doubt sinned today, and probably more than once. We’ve probably sinned since we finished supper. If we say that we have not sinned, then we are liars, and we are fools. God’s word cannot be in us if we are so untruthful, so deceived. If we claim that we do not need His forgiveness, then we have no place with Him.
If we are willing to turn from our sins, though, God is willing to cleanse and to forgive. As we read earlier, it is the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses us from all sin. We still have sin, the cleansing is repeated as needed, and while I can’t speak for anyone else here, it is needed frequently.
Thank the Lord that He is willing to forgive us our sins. As we read at verse 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
God wants us to confess our sin, and move on from it, so that we can be cleansed. And he is faithful to do so, and because the sin has been paid for, the price has been covered by the blood of Christ, it is entirely just for God to do so. If not for Christ, if not for the cross, there could be no justice in the forgiveness of sin. It would be simply ignoring it, sweeping it under the rug, so to speak. That is not how God operates. He is loving, and He is just, and it is only through Christ that we can have our sins forgiven by the God of the universe. That is the only way that God can do this and still remain true to who He is. That is the only way we can abide in the light instead of walking in darkness.