*Walking in the Light *
A sermon on 1 John 1:5-10 preached at Christ the King Church on 10~/8~/05
!! Prayer: Father in heaven, we again come to tremble before your Word, asking you to help us to listen to what the Scriptures have to say to us about you and also about ourselves.
So, help us this morning, our gracious God, to know you and love you.
I ask this in Jesus’ name.
!! Introduction: Have you ever stared at the sun, stared directly at the sun?
For that’s one of those strange activities that your mother warned you not to do, and yet drawn by curiosity or direct disobedience or even avoidable innocence, at some time or another in our lives, most of us have stared into the sun.
And do you remember what happened when you gave that giant ball of gases but a momentary glance?
Well, immediately, your eyes began to burn, and this intense burning compelled you to quickly turn your face.
And then, do you recall what happened when you turned from looking into the sun to looking at the world around you? Well, likely your eyes had trouble refocusing.
And so you experienced a brief blackness, a temporary eclipse, in which you saw all the darkness around you.
!! Well, in the Bible passage we have before us this morning, the apostle John intends to provide for us a similar sort of experience.
In 1 John 1:5-10, he sets before us the vision of God as being absolute light, a light far greater and purer than that golden sun above.
And in so doing he wants his readers (you and me) to experience and recognize the blackness that is all around us and within us, the blackness of sin, this great darkness that is only exposed, can only be seen, once we have gazed intently upon the perfect light of God.
!!!!!! God is Light
In the Westminster Shorter Catechism one of the first questions that is asked is the question, /What is God/?
There the answer is given, “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.”
Now, that’s agood answer.
It is surely better than the answer we would receive on the street corner or in the office or at the coffee shop, that now standard assessment of God that makes Him into the image of us.
“I like to think of God as” [fill in the blank].
That’s the way people talk today, isn’t it?
Well, at least the answer of the Shorter Catechism is not a reversal of divine revelation.
But it is, however, incomplete, for it only indirectly answers the question.
And perhaps it does this to guard the un-searchable greatness of God.
The apostle John, however, pulls down all the guards, and, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, directly answers the question.
What is God? John hits the mark straight on.
He writes (v.5), *“God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” *
The Greek Church has long called John “the theologian.”
He has earned this title because of his ability to bring clear definition to difficult concepts.
And here in v.5, using the simplest of language (language that even a child can say and picture), John summarizes the divine Being as being absolute *“light.”*
Now, John is not saying anything novel here.
He is simply borrowing from the language and imagery of Scripture.
Throughout the Old Testament we find *“light”* (in some form or another) as being a depiction of God.
So in Exodus, for example, God reveals Himself to Moses in the burning bush, and to Israel as a cloud of fire that illuminates their way.
And then at the end of Exodus, when the tabernacle is erected, God’s presence is signaled again with fire present in the golden lamp-stands.
Now, the Psalms also make use of the imagery.
David writes in Psalm 27:1, *“The Lord is my light and my salvation.”
*And in Psalm 104 we read, *“You are clothed with splendor and majesty.
He wraps himself in light as with a garment.”
Now, this Old Testament imagery, of course, is also used in the New Testament of our Lord Jesus.
For not only is His coming described as *“a light for revelation”* (if you remember what Simeon said of Him), but also Jesus says of Himself (as we heard in our call to worship), *“I am the light of the world” *(John 8:12).
And then Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6 concerning our resurrected and now exalted Lord, saying, *“he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, /who dwells in unapproachable light/….”
Now, interestingly, while John certainly knows and believes Jesus to be *“the light”* (for he uses this term over 40 times in His Gospel alone), here in 1 John he nevertheless focuses on God the Father.
In fact, it is Jesus (he tells us) who has given John (and the apostles, those first eyewitnesses) this very message to announce.
Look at the beginning of v.5.
It reads, *“This is the message we have heard from him *[from Jesus] *and proclaim to you.” *
Now, at first I thought this expression, *“God is light”* was an odd and vague way to summarize Jesus’ message, of what He taught while on earth.
But the more I looked into the matter, the more it made sense; for the message, *“God is light,” *is in fact a wonderful summary of the Gospel, or at least the starting point of the Gospel.
You see, here’s *“the message”* (and this message will become clear as we move on in our passage): God is light (that is, He is perfectly holy and pure).
Man is not the light (that is, he is sinful).
Thus, sinful man needs a sinless Savior, a man who is “God of God, Light of Light,” as the Nicene Creed rightly puts it.
So, *“God is light.”*
That’s where the gospel starts.
That is the foundation of Christ’s teaching.
In 1 John 4:16, John writes those famous words (words that have been inducted into the Bumper-sticker Hall of Fame), *“God is love.”
*And you know it is interesting to note how many of our evangelistic presentations start with this definition of God rather than the one given in 1:5, *“God is light.”
*But, I think the apostolic ordering is significant.
I think it matters that “Light comes before love.”
That is, I think that it is necessary that we first recognize God’s moral purity, His absolute goodness, and thus our impurities and innate badness, before we come to see this *“love”* that so loved the world that He sent His only Son.
/“My God, how wonderful thou art, Thy majesty how bright, How beautiful thy mercy-seat, In depths of burning light!~/How wonderful, how beautiful, The sight of thee must be, Thine endless wisdom, boundless power, And aweful purity!”/
You see it is this “aweful purity,” as the poet Faber called it, this awesome radiance, this staring point that must be our starting point!
For it is in view of the Being of God, that He is *“light”* (that He reveals Himself to us in “perfect purity and unutterable majesty”), that we come to see the blackness of sin, and with this a recognition of our need for forgiveness and cleansing.
*If We Say We Have Fellowship (vv.6-7)*
So that’s v.5.
This verse gives us the revelation of God as light.
Now then, in vv.6-10 we have what is to be our self-evaluation, our self-evaluation in light of this light.
Or I’ll put it this way: In v.5 John gives his thesis: *“God is light.”
*And then in what follows (in vv.6-10), he systematically shows what it means to walk and not walk in that light.
Now, thankfully John has made his First Epistle quite preacher-friendly, for he has nicely divided this second section (vv.6-10) into three clear parts.
Do you see the phrase that is repeated three times in our text, in v.6, v.8, and v.10?
It is the phrase, *“If we say.”
*Of all the New Testament writers John is the most ordered and the most poetic.
And here he orders poetically his teaching as follows: First, with this phrase *“if we say”* (and what immediately follows), he introduces some aspect of false teaching or thinking within the church.
Then, he follows this with a denial or contradiction of this teaching or thought.
And then finally, he provides a refutation or a correction.
So look with me at vv.6-7 and let me show you how this all works.
*“If we say we have fellowship with *God *while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”
*So that’s the claim as well as John’s denial of it.
And then here’s the correction, *“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.” *
Some of you may recall that old /Campus Crusade/ drawing of the train, where faith is the engine and emotions the caboose.
This picture was used to illustrate the claim that emotions were not absolutely necessary to salvation, that one can still be a Christian and have the ‘caboose’ of emotions attached or not attached.
Well, hopefully you recognize that such an idea is in fact unbiblical, for I do believe the first and greatest commandment addresses the necessity of our love for God.
Well, that was then and this is now.
Today’s Christian, I think, (for better or for worse) places emotion in the very engine of the engine, but he relegates obedience to the back seat.
He places obedience in the caboose (if you will), making obedience something a professing Christian can have or not have.
Well, God’s Word here teaches us that just as the right emotions toward God and about the things of God are necessary, so too is godly behavior.
In Romans, Paul calls this reality, *“the obedience of faith.”*
And here in First John it is labeled, *“walking in the light.”*
John teaches that we cannot claim to have fellowship with God and still continue to *“walk”* (“habitually live”) in *“darkness,”* in disobedience.
In other words, he tell us that we are not to be “spiritual schizophrenics,” pledging allegiance to God with our lips, but trampling on His law with our lives.
Those who profess to know God are to be distinguishable from the rest of the world (as distinguishable as light is from darkness).
And we are to be different especially, as we shall see in vv.8-10, in our attitude towards sin as well as our actions against it.
But, before we go to those final verses, let’s not skip over v.7 (John’s correction), that wonderful verse where he writes, *“But if we walk in the light, as he *[God] *is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” *Now, notice here the two results or consequences of walking in the light.
The first result is church fellowship, fellowship with other believers.
We saw two weeks ago (in our study of vv.1-4) how John sees an intrinsic connection between our relationship with God and our relationship to the apostolic eyewitness.
And here we see that if we are rightly connected to God, then we will be rightly connected with others, with those who also walk in the light.
So that’s the first result.
The second result is that *“the blood of Jesus *… *cleanses us from all sin.” *Rudolph Bultmann, that infamous Bible critic, claimed that this phrase about Jesus’ blood was an artificial editorial edition, and said that the “content” of the verse “is disturbing.”
Well, Dr. Bultmann missed the whole point.