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First John

Fellowship with God

1 John 1:5-2:2

Perhaps you have noticed it: those who have spent a lot of time with our Lord tend to become very deep people. John was such.

God is Light

(1 John 1:5-7 NIV) This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. {6} If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. {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, purifies us from all sin.

"The message" - we are talking to an eyewitness, a man who got it straight from the horse's mouth, as we say. He heard this from Christ - and who else could speak with such authority? - and passed it on to us. God is Light. Whatever does that mean?

The nature of light

It is a metaphor, in one sense. But think what it shows us:

We use light to reveal things. Have you ever groped for the light switch in a dark room? Or probed such a room with a flashlight? Light reveals, and when we have fellowship with God, we naturally see things more clearly. Things begin to make sense which otherwise would have us "in the dark."

More than revealing, we use light to measure things. We look down the edge of a two by four to see how straight it is. Indeed, our definition of "straight" really is, "the path that light follows." (The implications in the Theory of Relativity are quite interesting for this). It is our standard of "straight." So it is with God. If we need to evaluate something for its straightness - in the moral or spiritual sense - we need to use the light which is God. We are not privileged to bring a crooked yardstick to the lumber yard.

Light is also the source of energy - life on our planet would not exist without sunlight, for example. So it is that God is the source of energy for Christians. Have you ever met a Christian who was really on fire for the Lord? I'd bet he or she spends a lot of time in communion with God, the source of spiritual energy.

So pure is God that John tells us there is no darkness in Him. Darkness is not the opposite of light (it has no opposite) but rather its absence. Evil is not the equal and opposite of righteousness, but the corruption of righteousness - its twisting. God is pure.

This flows from his very essence, his existence. God is named "I AM," and in that name He proclaims his essence to be his existence. Can anything impure be eternal? Only the corrupt things can change and decay. Therefore God is entirely pure and holy, for He does not change. You cannot corrupt light; you can only block it.

"If we claim…"

We can, of course, say that we have fellowship with God - even though we don’t. It's just a matter of words.

But if it's just a matter of words, then this makes us liars - which assures us that we have no fellowship with pure righteousness. Can you mix light and darkness?

And it will not stop and words. We will be lying in our actions too.

So then, we would be walking in darkness in such a circumstance. How could we tell if this is so? The test is easy: do we see reality, measure it correctly and draw strength from it?

Or are we just going through the motions - coming to church only when convenient?

And when we do come, do we listen - or just nod politely?

When we return home, does the Bible occupy our studies, or our coffee table?

In other words, do we use the light we have to examine ourselves - or do we just let sleeping worms lie in the dark?

"If we walk…"

Note, first, the qualifier - "as He is in the light." This tells us two things:

The standard we need to apply to our lives is His, not ours.

We need to seek out that standard, so we can see what we're doing.

The result? We have fellowship with God! Think of it: this is what Adam had in the garden; Enoch, who walked with God; Abraham, the friend of God - the list goes on and on. This is the secret to entering into God's fellowship. How can we tell if we have this? (I am indebted to C. S. Spurgeon for these thoughts):

We will love what He loves.

We will desire what He desires ("thy kingdom come, thy will be done…")

And someday we will share His glory.

The result of all this is that God will purify us. Note something about that passage: the verb is in the present tense. We still need the purification. It's not something we did last month and can forget about. It's also by the blood of Jesus - so our cleansing is not from our actions, but by God's actions, alone.

Sin and Sins

(1 John 1:8-10 NIV) If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. {9} If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. {10} If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

Sin

Note carefully the use of the singular "sin" in the 8th verse. This is deliberate. John is talking about something that is common to all of us: our sinful nature. It is, so to speak, generic. It's cure is generic too:

(2 Cor 5:21 NIV) God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

If we deny this very basic concept, we're fooling ourselves. And we're very good at fooling ourselves. But God has provided us the Holy Spirit, whose task is to convict the world of sin (note the singular again) and judgment. If we have the Holy Spirit (or, in other words, the truth is in us) then we cannot deny the reality of sin.

Sins and confession

Most of us are not too worried about sin. We do worry (and feel guilty about) our sins. Now we have it in the plural - which implies the sins we are familiar with personally. But just as God has made a provision for sin (the generic concept) in Christ, so He has provided for our sins (plural and specific) in Christ. Remember how Jesus washed the Disciples' feet?

(John 13:3-11 NIV) Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; {4} so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. {5} After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. {6} He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" {7} Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." {8} "No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me." {9} "Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!" {10} Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." {11} For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

Here is the answer to those who worry about sins committed after they have accepted Jesus. Note three things:

"He is faithful and just" - which means that this cleansing doesn't depend on our merit, though it is initiated by our confession. His righteousness, his faithfulness and his justice provide our cleansing. Just like salvation, we accept it, we don't do it.

"To forgive" - he looks to the past and wipes it out.

"To cleanse" - he looks forward in the attempt to prevent further sin.

Denial

John points out some simple logic in this passage. Suppose we decide, like Lucy in Peanuts, that we've never made a mistake (thought I did once, but I was wrong). Follow the logic:

This means we're calling God a liar, for He plainly tells us that we are all sinners.

But God is truth itself (remember that part about light?) and cannot lie.

Therefore, we're the ones without the truth in us.

Us? Call God a liar? How could we possibly do that? Let me give you some of the ways (your fertile imaginations, if not your memories, will give you others):

"It's obviously somebody else's fault - my heredity, my upbringing, my environment." (Blame someone else)

"Me? The guy who knows all the rules and follows them so carefully?" (Legalism)

"Well, at least I'm not an axe murderer!" (Relative righteousness)

"Hey, this 'right and wrong' is all relative anyway, isn't it?" (Denying righteousness)

Our Advocate

Remember that one of John's purposes in writing this letter is that we might not sin. But just in case we do….

(1 John 2:1-2 NIV) My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. {2} He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

We have an Advocate

An advocate - one who speaks in our defense - is ours. My dad tells the story of a Jewish officer who shared a room with him on Adak. He used to complain, "You Christians have an advantage - you have Jesus as your lawyer." That's exactly correct: we have an Advocate. Why would we need one?

First, only the truly righteous can approach the throne of God. We, as sinners, have no standing in court.

Secondly - to put it bluntly - anybody who represents himself in court has a fool for a client. Lawyers exist to say things for you that you couldn't say yourself without blushing.

And finally, we need the help! "Your arms are too short to box with God."

The Name

Our defense strategy before the court of Heaven is shown entirely in the name given to our attorney: Jesus Christ, the Righteous.

The name Jesus - a derivative of Joshua - means literally Yeshua (God) Saves. It is His salvation we are claiming as our defense.

He is the Christ - the anointed one. Therefore, by God's commission, he as the authority to plead for us. And because God appointed Him, we know he is the one who is qualified to do the job - for God appoints no incompetents.

The Righteous - a description of his character to be sure, it is also our defense. It is not our righteousness which is our defense - it is His.

Our defense strategy

So then, how is this defense made? First, it is made on the basis of the Atonement of Christ. This has two aspects:

First, we admit that we owe the debt of sin - but our defense is that our debt has already been paid!

The debt has been paid - by the only one who could pay it, a fact that the court has recognized from before time;.

And so it is that we are acquitted before heaven - and thus, standing in righteousness, we have fellowship with God.

We love what He loves - so therefore we do not pass judgment on his children, but rather forgive them as we have been forgiven. By this all will know that we are His disciples - that we love one another.

We desire what He desires - that all will come to know Christ as Lord and Savior.

As we have fellowship with God, as the children of God, we become more and more like the Son of God.

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