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. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice 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 cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.1 John 1:5-10
In World War II, the American armies liberated POWs held captive on an island in the South Pacific. While imprisoned, they were locked in huts, under constant surveillance, and in complete darkness. When they were finally released, many of them were dazed and confused by the overwhelming light of day and ran back into their prison cells.
Living in the dark is a lesser form of existence, but it has an elusive power to become something familiar and comforting. This is true of physical darkness. Our eyes need time to adjust when the lights come on. But it’s also true of spiritual darkness. In scripture “darkness” refers to all that is opposed to God; namely, sin and evil. The apostle John saw people in the church adopting false teaching that kept them in darkness. There was a brand of heresy growing in popularity, and it was rooted in this idea that human beings do not have a natural bent towards sin. It shouldn’t surprise us that this teaching spread like wildfire. After all, who doesn’t want to be praised for their choices and never called out for their actions? This false teaching denied the reality that sin has relational consequences, but also that one’s behavior could even be considered “sinful” in the first place.
You now have a situation where people want to be counted among those who have found salvation in Christ, yet were denying the very reason they would need salvation in the first place. Logically, this doesn’t make sense. Nevertheless, people were buying into the idea that they had done nothing to break fellowship with God or with others, and therefore they did not have to admit any wrongdoing. But this neuters our ability to appeal to any objective standard of truth. Any sense of justice or morality is now subjective.
“What’s true for me is true for me. What’s true for you is true for you.”
It sounds appealing to be able to set our own terms for what’s right and wrong because there is no end to the selfish behaviors we can justify. But here’s the problem. When your version of right and wrong conflicts with mine, we will continually be at odds with each other because:
1. We fail to agree on the root issue (I have a bent towards sin and so do you), and as a result…
2. We can never come to an agreement on the solution (salvation in Christ).
However, if there are unchanging moral standards of truth given to us by an unchanging truth-giver, then we are actually held accountable when we violate those standards. This is what John is appealing to in the verses above.
Take a moment to read verses six and seven. Allow the reality of John’s words to sink in for a moment. To “walk in darkness” and say we “walk in the light” with the God who is light means we’re walking contradictions. We’re hypocrites. In John’s day how you “walk” refers to a consistent pattern of sin that has gone unaddressed in your life. In other words, he’s describing someone that has made a habit of living opposed to the things of God and, therefore, is relationally distant from God. That’s what sin is, and that’s what sin does. There’s been a growing trend to avoid the word “sin” because it has an edge to it that makes us uncomfortable, but if we don’t allow for the discomfort and admit our sin is, in fact, our problem, we will be doomed to a continual downward spiral of fractured relationships.
But John doesn’t leave us without hope. He encourages us to come into the light, and he gives us the way to do it. Confess our sins. What does it mean to confess?
1. Agree with God that your sin really is sin, and you are willing to turn from it.
2. Don’t hide your sin. Instead, be open with God and trusted confidants about your struggles.
3. Recognize your natural bent towards sin and rely on God’s power to overcome it.
It is impossible to say we belong to a God who is light if we continue to walk in darkness. Walking in the light will feel uncomfortable at first, just like it did for the POWs when they emerged from their prison cells. But “discomfort” is not the same as “wrong” or “bad.” I want to encourage you today to walk in the light. Get real about what your choices do to you and others, allow God to fill you with His Spirit, and trust that the temporary discomfort of exposure to the light is better than permanently living in darkness.
Grace & Peace,
Pastor Mike Wrigglesworth