Vision

In Paul's second letter to Timothy he writes, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man [and woman] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Tim 3:16-17) My prayer for this ministry is that by rightly dividing the Scriptures, I might be able to facilitate all those aspects of the Scriptures to the benefit of all those who visit this website.

Mission

The mission of this ministry is to be consistent with Jesus' original command to his disciples: "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'" Matthew 28:18-20

Personal Disclosure

I am a fellow traveler who doesn't have all the answers and still makes many mistakes. However, I am desperately in love with Jesus Christ, the one and only King of kings, and I am so amazed that he knows exactly who I am and yet still died on the cross for me, then rose from the dead and called me to be His follower!

God's Message To You

"Dear Child,

I wanted you to know just how much I loved you so I sent my only Son, Jesus, to tell you and show you. If you make the decision to believe in Him, then you and I will be able to spend eternity together! I Love You!" (John 3:16 paraphrase)

Method

“Here there is no unanchored liberalism—freedom to think without commitment.

Here there is no encrusted dogmatism—commitment without freedom to think.

Here is vibrant evangelicalism—freedom to think within the bounds laid down by Scripture.”

Dr. Vernon Grounds

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Walk In The Light


(Audio Version)






Introduction

            I know that for many of you it seems like you are daily surrounded by darkness—war, hatred, strife, immorality, etc. I have been praying for you this week as I have meditated on the darkness that surrounds all of us from time to time in our sinful, self-prioritizing world bent on evil and its own destruction. I know that at times it can seem like the world has been turned upside down. What we have always taken for granted as being right, we’re now told is wrong. What was so obviously good for so long, we’re now supposed to believe is bad. Sometimes it feels like it’s always raining on our lives with darkness pressing in on all sides. It can prove to be very discouraging at times. However, as Christians, we have the advantage of being in relationship with the Author of light! It is precisely when life seems at its darkest, that God’s light shines the brightest to light the way for believers. Believers don’t have to live in the darkness of their own sins even as they may have to endure the darkness of the sins of an unbelieving world. Darkness cannot abide in the life of a true believer because every true believer is in relationship with the Light of the world. Therefore every true believer will not live in darkness that is sin but will Walk In The Light because their sins have been forgiven.

Subject Text

1 John 1:5-10

            5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But 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. 8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

Context

            This letter is written by the same John that wrote the Gospel of John. This is a general pastoral epistle that wasn’t written to anyone or any church in particular. Instead, it circulated in a number of Gentile churches sometime during the last two decades of the first century A.D. and was written to Christians in general. John is particularly fond of using light to describe God and His nature. I have often wondered why, considering none of the other gospel writers or even Paul spent much time, if any, describing God as having or being perfect light. I wonder if it is intended to contrast the darkness of the days during which John wrote this epistle. The days of this epistle were dark indeed as the Temple had been completely destroyed possibly less than 10 years before John wrote this letter. These were dark days not only for the Jews but just a few short years before the Temple was destroyed, the Roman Emperor Nero embarked on a historic campaign to destroy Christianity in the Roman Empire. Although the cross was not a Roman innovation, they appeared to perfect the brutality of its use. Crucifixion was not just a means of execution, it was also a means of psychological warfare. Imagine walking the streets of Rome as a Christian with fellow Christians lining the streets nailed to crosses. Imagine now Christians impaled on poles, soaked in oil and then set ablaze as human torches used to light Nero’s gardens in the evenings. Persecution of Christians didn’t end with Nero; the evil and darkness of those days continued as they have continued even in our own day.

Text Analysis

            The disciples, particularly John who was one of the three in Jesus’ inner circle, spent nearly three years with Jesus every day learning from Him about His mission, God’s Kingdom, and about the nature of God. John is the one Gospel writer that is explicit in his assertion that Jesus is God—“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (Jn 1:1).” In v. 5 John picks up on something Jesus taught the people about Himself and ties it directly to an attribute of God’s nature that, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” Here’s the connection from the lips of Jesus that is a direct link to John’s teaching in our Subject Text: “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (Jn. 8:12).” Let’s make the connection together using a bit of mathematics called the transitive law of equality. Here’s how it works theologically in this case: If Jesus is God and Jesus is light then God is light. This describes an important attribute in the nature of God in the person of Jesus. “Light underscores, among other things, God’s glorious character, unsurpassed moral perfection, utter separateness from creation and absolute truthfulness and righteousness. It also bespeaks God’s self-revelation and finds its highest expression in his Son through whom truth is disclosed to the human race. By its very nature light exposes the true nature of something, usually leading to judgment. In any event, the entrance of light triggers irreconcilable division and irresolvable conflict. Darkness conveys its opposite: moral evil, unrighteousness, falsehood, error, willful ignorance, deceitfulness and self-deception. By introducing these metaphors John intends to demonstrate the impossibility of neutrality.”[1]

            Spiritual hypocrisy has been the death of more ministries in the history of Christianity than can be counted. We so easily wag our fingers and shake our heads when we read the headlines about another prominent pastor who has lost his ministry because of sin. I recognize the danger of sin in my own life everyday. Here’s the difference, I know I’m a sinner and need to seek forgiveness everyday for my own sins even as I battle to eliminate that sin from my life. I can talk about the dangers of sin in the lives of others because I am actively engage in the war against sin in my own life. Spiritual hypocrisy is talking about the dangers of sin in the lives of others while willfully ignoring the sin in our own lives. In v. 6, John makes it clear that we can’t on the one hand claim to have fellowship with; walk with God, who is defined as perfect light, while on the other hand walk in darkness. What John is saying is that the forgiveness of our sins does not give us a license to continue to sin even though sin is still a reality of our daily lives. Willful sin makes Jesus’ sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins a farce and makes our claim to be in fellowship with Him a lie. “In 1 Jn., men’s false evaluation of themselves in relation to God means that any contradiction between the confession of faith and the life of the members of a congregation involves them in lies. To profess fellowship with Christ is incompatible with simultaneous disobedience to his commands. To profess to love God is incompatible with continuing to hate one’s brother. In such cases both the claims and the life of a Christian become a lie, excluding him from the truth of God.”[2]

            Matthew records an encounter where one of the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus by asking him which law is the greatest (Mt 33:34-40). Jesus told the man that the first greatest law is that we should love God with our entire being. However, Jesus added that the second greatest law was like the first and that is to love others as we love ourselves. There is a natural outcome of being in fellowship with Christ, or as John puts in v. 7 to “Walk In The Light,” and that is that we will have fellowship with one another. If we truly love God with our whole being then we will love others as ourselves. In this way we fulfill the two greatest commandments. However, there is another, more personal implication to walking in God’s light—all our sins are forgiven. The implication being that our words are irrelevant if our actions aren’t reflected in those words. V. 7 is a conditional clause that says “if” we Walk In The Light, “then” we will have fellowship with one another “and” we will be purified from our sins. If the condition of walking in the light is not met then we will not be in fellowship with one another nor will we be purified from our sins. “To be ‘purified from all sin’ does not suggest that if a believer does not walk in the light, his sins are not forgiven in the judicial sense. Nor does it mean that all believers are completely freed from all sin. Rather, the verb is in the present tense, suggesting a continuous and progressive action. It might include the forgiveness and purification from all past sin at the moment of salvation. But because of the present tense, it goes further to suggest that those who are walking in the light have sin’s defilement removed and that they experience a progressive sanctification—a progressive character transformation into the image of Jesus. All sin means every kind of sin and shows there is no limit to the categories of sin that Christ is willing to forgive. His sacrificial death made every type of sin forgivable.”[3]

            There are some in our culture that insist humanity is intrinsically good. However, external forces—political, economical, etc. create obstacles for humanity to fully express that goodness. As believers, we know this is patently false. That’s not to say that humanity doesn’t have the capacity for good. Humanity was created in the image of God so clearly humanity has the capacity for good. However, unlike God, humanity’s divine image has been grossly distorted by sin. This is the element that secular humanists refuse to recognize and it’s not new to our time. Some of the false teachers of John’s day also taught that humanity had no natural tendency to sin but only did so as a result of external forces—create the ideal environment and sin would be eliminated. They believed humanity had the ability to create that ideal environment given sufficient time and resources and some sort of special knowledge. In a sense, we know this to be foolishness of the highest degree. However, it’s really deception, or more specifically, self-deception. In v. 8 John makes it clear that we are simply deceiving ourselves if we arrogantly claim that humanity is without sin—John says we are liars. “Regarding sin outside Jewish and Christian circles: pagan thinking lacked definite, universal, and clear moral standards associated directly with religion. ‘In general the standard was public opinion and not a code of conduct,’ religious or otherwise (Ferguson 1987: 118). It was a culture more concerned about shame than guilt. The important question for them was, What will people think? not, What is right or wrong according to a revealed transcendent standard? ‘Cultus had little to do with morality except in cases of grave offense, and priests did not function as moral guides ([Ferguson] 1987: 53). Part of the reason for this lay in the Greek belief that reason, not revelation, was the sole foundation for knowing how to live…From a Christian point of view, no mortally devised scheme of reason or ethics yet has proved equal to the task of taming the downward proclivities of the human heart.”[4]

            At some point, every Christian has looked in the mirror, real or imagined, and seen their sin staring back at them. All of us had the choice to look at that image of sin staring back at us and either say “so what” or “help.” Some of us said “so what” for a long time before we finally said “help.” However, once we said “help,” Jesus was right there to help by not only forgiving our sins but also cleansing us from the unrighteousness that polluted our lives for so long. John says in v. 9 that all we have to do is confess our sins and Jesus is there to help by forgiving our sins and wiping our slate clean. Sin has trapped us and God has provided a way out because He said He would provide a way out. God wants to be in relationship with us but our sin and unrighteousness bars the way—so God didn’t just provide any way, He provided the Way. Because Jesus is faithful and just, He provided the way through Himself. “Confession is successful because of the character of God. His forgiveness is not an act of mercy, as if he were setting aside some usual disposition in response to a religious act of penitence. God’s character is to be faithful and just. It is essential not to oppose these two ideas, as if God’s loving-kindness or faithfulness (Gk. pistos) and his justice or righteousness (Gk. dikaios) were at odds. His faithfulness to us has prompted him to make a way for our purification and thereby satisfy his demand for righteousness. Confession enjoys the good character of God and is empowered by it. Two consequences necessarily follow: forgiveness and purification. To forgive (Gk. aphiemi)  really means ‘to let go’ (as a debt, cf. Luke 7:43), and so John indicates that our sins are removed from God’s accounting. To purify carries a different nuance and suggests a removal of the residual effects of sin, consequences that linger (such as a stain). Therefor there is hope. The past and its errors as well as the future and its propensity toward sinfulness are both addressed.”[5]

            Most unbelievers and some believers hate talking about sin; theirs or anyone else’s for that matter. When presented with the need for forgiveness in an evangelistic setting, many unbelievers refuse God’s offer of forgiveness because they consider themselves a “good person.” That’s a quaint sentiment but who defines “good?” Society? Government? The individual? How about the church? The answer is none of those things—not even the church defines what is good. The church might be able to convey or uphold what is good but only God defines what is good. Too many people believe that unless they are actively engaged in some kind of sinful activity then they are not sinners. In v. 10, John’s language is not intended to be limited to those who are currently engaged in sin but includes anyone who as ever sinned. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he says that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23). If God has determined that we are all sinners then what does it say when we claim that we haven’t sinned? It says that either we are liars or God is a liar. It we confess that we are liars then there is hope for us. Otherwise the only option left is that we are saying God is a liar and therefore has no place in our lives. However, what we are really saying when we call God a liar by denying that we have sinned is that objective truth has no place in our lives; the Word has no place in our lives. “A person may recognize ‘the natural permanence of sin as a power within’ and ‘may deny that he personally has sinned.’…It is possible that there were people who both denied present sinfulness (v. 8) and past acts of sin (v. 10): even if you claim not to sin now, you certainly sinned in the past, may be the thought in John’s mind. Perhaps, however, we should regard the two claims as virtually identical; if so, John is making the point that those who make such claims do not merely deceive themselves (v. 8); they actually make God a liar (v. 10) by denying his verdict on men that they are sinners. Paul’s statement that ‘all have sinned’ (Rom 3:23) is not an isolated mark; it sums up the teaching of Scripture on the universality of sin. Not only so; the scriptural revelation of God emphasizes his character as a God who forgives sin, and this description would be pointless if men had no sins to be forgiven. Those who deny their sin thus fall into the serious sin of making God out to be a liar. By no stretch of the imagination can they be said to have his word in them.”[6]

Application

            Have you ever thought about the power of light versus the power of darkness? Think about it—you can bring light into a dark room but you can’t bring dark into a lighted room. Darkness is dependent on the absence of light but light is not dependent on absence of darkness. Instead light creates the absence of darkness. Isn’t that what John is teaching us here? All sinners reside in darkness—not just spiritual darkness but ethical darkness as well. However, Christians have confessed their sin, which is the equivalent of letting light into darkness. Christians allow God’s light to shine on their sins and forgive them. Although there is a one-time salvation event when we trust Jesus to deal with our sins, the life of faith necessitates that we daily expose the darkness in our lives to the light of God’s truth revealed in the person of Jesus and through the divine word given to us in the Scriptures. Wherever we see evil in the world, we will see people walking in the darkness of their sins and unbelief. Sometimes we don’t have to look far; sometimes we need only look in the mirror. However, God’s light can shine into the darkest corners of the world and into the darkest corners of our lives. There is no evil or sin that God’s light cannot expose. We are not safe because we try to cloak our sin darkness. We are safe and we are saved when we allow God’s light to expose our sin and thereafter commit to Walk In The Light.





[1] Lelabnd Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, Tremper Longman III, gen. eds., Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1998), p. 457.
[2] Colin Brown, gen. ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 2, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), p. 473.
[3] David Walls and Max Anders, I & II Peter, I, II, & III John, Jude—Holman New Testament Commentary, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 1999), p. 157.
[4] Robert W. Yarbrough, 1-3 John—Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p. 68)
[5] Gary M. Burge, Letters of John—The NIV Application Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), pp. 82-83.
[6] I. Howard Marshall, The Epistles of John—The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1978), pp. 114-115.