Community Part 2 - Walking In the Light of Honesty
Topic: Community Passage: 1 John 1:1–1:10
Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, you and I are called into deep fellowship. Our idea of fellowship usually, I think, falls well short of the NT. We often think of fellowship in terms of grabbing a cup of coffee and talking about weekend plans or sitting around the table with good food and chatting. This is good and part of fellowship, but New Testament fellowship is so much more.
And John wants us to participate in the life giving reality of fellowship. Christian fellowship (community) is a sharing in the life of God together. Sharing in the Fatherhood of the Father. Sharing in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Through the Holy Spirit.
In the first two verses, John gives us his credentials and the credibility of his message. He says, “The eternal God became man and was manifest to us. We saw him. We heard him. We touched him! And therefore we want to proclaim this message to you!” And John says the message he wants to proclaim in these opening verses of this letter are for the sake of Christian fellowship. Look at how John puts it in verse 3:
That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3)
Not only that, but the very next verse John connects the idea of fellowship with joy when he says,
And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
Christian fellowship is deep and profound and beautiful. And it is not boring! It leads to increasing, full joy! But it is not without risk.
BIG IDEA: Deep fellowship comes from walking in the light of honesty before God and others.
In this kind of culture, we are allowed to flourish in the context of grace and safety which frees us to grow! Here’s the journey John takes us on in verses 5-10. First, he directs our attention to God. Then he shows us fellowship killing tendency to pretend. And then we see the beauty and power of honesty before God and one another. By the time we are done, my prayer is that you will have a new power by the Spirit to walk in the light and experience this fellowship with God and one another.
God is Light
John, first wants to direct our attention to God. And why not. Almost all our problems stem from not seeing God properly. Our horizontal walk is utterly dependent upon the reality of who God is. In verse 5 John says,
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.
Fascinating! John sums up Jesus’ entire message in 11 words (repeat). Think of all Jesus taught - this sums it up. Why does John use this description of God - that he is light? Well because of where John wants to lead us - he wants us to know that God is perfect in his holiness. He is light - he doesn’t have a dark side. But there is more. John wants to point out to us that God is all-knowing. All things are done under the spotlight of God; there is nothing hidden from his sight. We may hide things from others. Our thoughts may be hidden from everyone outside our brain, but we cannot hide anything from God. Psalm 90:8 says, “Our secret sins [are] in the light of your presence…”
Here is the irony though. What do little children think about the dark? Scary. And with light, they feel safe. Yes, God is light - he is perfectly holy and all-knowing. Nothing is hidden from his sight. But for those who come out into the light and meet him in the light, there is safety.
Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t want to do that - we want to remain in the darkness.
Walking In the Darkness of Pretending
God is light. But John warns about the danger of walking in darkness, which kills this fellowship we want. And I don’t think John is referring to non-believers. That is a given, but I believe John is specifically speaking to Christians. Notice the pronoun used over and over “we”. John is including himself in this. He expresses this warning by using the phrase, “If we say” three times in vs. 6, 8, and 10. The NIV says, “If we claim”.
The first of these statements is in verse 6, which says,
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
This, on its face, makes sense. We can’t claim to fellowship with God and walk in darkness. But it is important that we understand what John means by walking in the darkness. Ironically, it is not sinning, per se. It is pretending that we don’t. This is John’s understanding of walking in darkness. John draws this out in verses 8 and 10, starting each of these statements with the same phrase, “If we say…”
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (vs. 8)
If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (vs. 10)
John is concerned about a particular kind of darkness. Darkness is not the fact that we sin. It is that we make claims that we don’t. It is obvious that Christians sin. The bible affirms this. James 3:2 says, “For we all stumble in many ways”. Our own lives affirm this (Wednesday night). We should be the first to admit that we do. If I want my children to repent of their sins, I need to show them how. If we want the world to repent of their sins, we should show them how. But we often fall into this trap of wanting to appear other than what we actually are. Charles Spurgeon said,
The natural tendency of our heart is to try and appear to be what we are not, and we all have more or less to struggle against this tendency, for it assails the most truthful. That love of approbation… very readily pushes men on to pretend to be better than they are. Fear of censure is an equally powerful means of producing hypocrisy. We must by all means strive against the very beginnings of this frightful evil, for if it should ever get the mastery over us it will make us altogether untruthful, and consequently we shall be far removed from all power to walk with God. The Lord cannot stand with us on the platform of seeming and appearance, but only on the ground of what we really are, and therefore in proportion as we are untrue we cut ourselves off from God.
How does this kill fellowship? A few ways. First, pretending breeds more pretending. It creates an environment where others feel they have to do the same thing in order to fit in. Also, people can feel marginalized by a perceived-perfectionism. Additionally, it feels unsafe to be honest about sin and get help. And worst of all, Jesus and his cross and his grace are not magnified - as God desires.
Psalm 51:6 says, “You delight in truth in the inward being…” So pretending kills fellowship. So how do we walk in another way?
Walking In the Light of Honesty
Verse 7 is the remedy,
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
But if we walk in the light. Not in sinless perfection, but honesty with God and others about my weaknesses and sins. As he is in the light. I love this. God is not hiding from us. He is in the light. We need to go low. It’s risky - being vulnerable and completely honest. But that is where Jesus is - and he wants us to join him there. When we do, there are 2 massive promises:
The first promise is “we have fellowship with one another”. This is what we truly long for. Human beings have never been more connected in one sense with smartphones and tablets and laptops and so forth and yet so alienated from God, each other, and oneself. When we come into the light, we are offered fellowship. Real, true fellowship. With the Father and Son. With each other. In the power of the Holy Spirit.
The second promise is “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin”. Notice again, walking in the light is not sinlessness. It is the place where sin is cleansed. Something we may not notice in our English translations, but the word cleanse is a present-tense continuous verb. In other words, it cleanses and keeps cleansing. And notice it is from all sin. Not some - all. Those we are aware of and those we are not aware of. Have you ever felt you have sinned so grievously, you may be beyond cleansing? Come into the light. Jesus is there and will cleanse you. This is what enables us to be completely honest without falling into toxic shame and self-contempt.
So in the light is where the sacred blood of Jesus cleanses us. This is where Jesus Christ is magnified. This is where the glorious Holy Spirit of God comes down and lifts up weak and imperfect people. Why would we want to walk anywhere else but in the light? So let’s walk there. How?
Verse 9 tells us practically how to do verse 7.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Confess your sin. To confess means “to say the same thing as another. To agree.” Call it what it is. There is such a strong inclination to call sin something other than sin. “It is a mistake. It was an error in judgment.” No, it is so freeing to agree with God and call sin what he calls sin. Let’s confess our sins to death. Confessing is like strangling sin - it deprives it of oxygen to it dies. So, when you see self-pity, pride, selfish ambition, wanting praise from men, bitterness, jealousy, unforgiveness, greed, rudeness, gossip… confess! When the Holy Spirit of God convicts you of something, confess it. Start with the sin of pretending…
John Wesley, gave instructions for small groups, that when they met he said,
confess our faults to each other, and pray for one another that we may be healed. Every one in order speak as freely, plainly, and concisely as he can, the real state of his heart, with his several temptations and deliverances...
We are companions - sharing in the gospel. This is fellowship. So let’s risk walking in complete honesty with God and one another.
Let’s never move beyond verses 7 and 9. Let’s be vulnerable… walking in the light of complete honesty. It feels risky, but the Lord Jesus is found there. And deep fellowship with each other and continual cleansing awaits us there. Let’s go there together.