Living in Fellowship with God

I John 1:5 - 2:11
But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (I John 1:7)

What does God want of me? What does God require of those who want their lives to show commitment and devotion to Him? That’s a big question; one that we all find ourselves asking. What are the marks of a committed Christian? Just what does it mean to be a disciple of Christ? Well, we all have our checklists, don’t we? There are certain things that we expect to see in our own lives and in the lives of others. Daily Bible reading - check, Prayer - check, church attendance - check, tithing - check. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. All those things are good, but are superficial indicators. To really understand what it means to walk in the light, we first need an understanding of God’s character and His work in Christ. Because ultimately, it’s not about our character. Discipleship isn’t a big self-improvement project. It’s not about making myself into a better person. It’s about reflecting His life, being more and more like Him, allowing Him to live through my life. In essence, that’s what He asks of us. It’s as simple as that… and it’s that difficult.

I. God Is Light (1:5-2:6)
Remember last weeks lesson… that John had a testimony to give? We find out a little more about that testimony: God is Light. Here’s another connection with John’s Gospel. Now this is the basis for judging: that the light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. (John 3:19) God is Light. Such a simple statement, yet we could meditate on that for days. What does John mean when he says that God is light? What’s the idea that he’s trying to get across? He’s telling us about God’s moral character. God is pure as light is pure. He repulses darkness. Sin can’t exist in His presence like darkness disappears when the light comes on. To hammer home his point, John goes on to say that there is absolutely no darkness at all in God. Darkness and light are totally incompatible. You can’t have a little darkness when the light is shining. Have you ever been in total darkness? What happens when you walk? You bump into things and stub your toe. There are things there, but you can’t see them. Light exposes what’s around you. The light of God shows us what’s around us that we could never see without it. We are able to see life as it is, as we could never see it without God. We see things clearly and without distortion. C. S. Lewis put it this way: "We believe that the sun is in the sky at midday in summer not because we can clearly see the sun (in fact, we cannot) but because we can see everything else" (Lewis 1947:133). We cannot see the light; but by and in the light we see everything else.

A. Walk in the Light So how does the truth that God is light help us understand what God wants from us? It comes down to this: If we are Christians and God lives within us means that God’s light is shining on our lives. Light and darkness are just as incompatible in our lives as they are in God. Either the light is shining or it’s not. Light and darkness can’t coexist. You’ll walk in one or the other. It’s not possible to have one foot on the path and the other in darkness. God is light, so to walk in the light means to live in God’s presence. It’s like when you walk into a room where the lights are on. You’re in a place where the light shines not only on you, but everything around you. It’s not so much about each individual things you do and think. It’s about practicing the presence of God. There are two ways to live. You can walk in light or darkness. It’s a choice, a lifestyle. We’re to walk in the light. It’s not about being good on our own effort. It’s basically staying on the path… where the light shines. It’s ordering our lives by the standard of the God who is light. It’s a decision to keep our actions, thoughts, and decisions under the light. When we have that goal and that mindset, we’re walking in the light. Now you can get off the lighted path and stumble around in darkness, but don’t fool yourself thinking that you have fellowship with God. You may be saved, but you’ve lost your connection to God. If you go off living however you want with no thought of what God wants, you’re living a lie. So fellowship with God means walking in the light. It also means fellowship with one another.

B. Confess Sins Here is where we might be tempted to throw in the towel. If ‘God is light’ means He is pure and holy then forget it… I can never be like God. No, John never said to be the light, only to walk in it. We can’t be perfect on this side of Heaven. We WILL sin, John recognizes that. The good news is that occasional sin doesn’t forever disqualify us from fellowship with God. There is a big difference between living in sin and occasionally sinning. Walking in light doesn’t mean that we’ll never sin. John assumes that we will. He says that when we walk in the light, our sins are purified. It’s assumed that sin will happen and the remedy is provided, so that we can maintain our fellowship. When we do trip up and sin, John tells us that it’s still possible for the blood of Christ to cleanse us and restore us to fellowship with God. There are two ways a Christian can go: You can ignore your sin. You can try telling yourself that it doesn’t matter, that your sin is only small stuff, or that they just don’t exist. Bad strategy. You’re not only living a lie, but you’re deceiving yourself. Or you can agree with God that sin does happen and that you see them for what they are. Confess your sins. That’s the process that God provides to bring us back into fellowship with Him. It’s that easy and it’s that tough. It’s easy to confess that I sin. It’s tough to recognize my sin when it pops up. I’m really good at justifying myself. I have a reason for all my bad attitudes, sharp words, impure thoughts. But, the more that I walk in the light - letting God illuminate my life, the bigger the spotlight that shines on that sin. When that happens, it’s not to crush me or belittle me, but to bring the sin to light so that I can deal with it. But, how do I deal with a sin that has already happened? In a real sense, I can’t do anything about it. All I

can do is say to God, “You’re right about this thing. It was wrong and it was evil. I’m sorry that I did that and I don’t want to ever do that again.” That’s confession - literally, saying the same thing as God says. Having God’s mind about it. Verse 9 tells us that he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. Faithful: In most religions, you can’t rely on God’s faithfulness to forgive sins. They grovel before God without any assurance that they can find forgiveness. Or they punish themselves and pay penitence for their sins. But, God is faithful… you can count on Him. If you confess your sins, He WILL forgive. Just: People can’t understand this process. They don’t see any justice in the thought that you can confess your sins and be forgiven without any punishment. It doesn’t make sense to them. But God IS just in His forgiveness. My sins aren’t going unpunished. That punishment was paid at the cross.

C. The Advocacy of Christ What good does it do to confess sins? How does that fix the problem? Remember, for a Christian, Jesus paid the penalty for all of our sins. In the first verse of Chapter 2, John paints a beautiful picture of Christ’s work for us now. “We have one who speaks to the Father in our defense.” Some translations put it: “We have an advocate with the Father.” The picture is a courtroom. Charges are read against me: “Ronnie, you are charged with the sin of pride. How do you plead?” Since I’ve confessed that sin, my response would be “Guilty, your honor.” This is where you’d expect the gavel to bang down and I’d be hauled off for my punishment. But, I have a defense attorney. He stands but he doesn’t try to rationalize what I’ve done. He doesn’t try to get me off on a technicality. He doesn’t say a word at all. He only raises his hands to show his wounds. Case dismissed… the punishment has already been paid in full. So, John’s message to his readers who were enticed by gnostic teachings and to us, today is simple. Don’t tell me how close you are to God if you don’t walk in the light and obey His commandments. You’re lying and your life shows that. If you are rightly connected to God, you will live like it and I’ll be able to see Jesus in you.

II. God Is Love (2:7-11)
John gives us another view of God that our lives should reflect. Discipleship is not just about how we relate to God, it’s also about our relationship with each other. If we’re walking in the light and living out His life within us, we’ll love our brothers and sisters.

A. The New Old Commandment He says he has a commandment for us. It’s not anything new. It’s not brand new revelation as the gnostics would claim. You’ve heard it before. What’s the commandment? "I give you a new commandment — to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (Joh 13:34) So, it’s nothing new. In fact, it wasn’t exactly new when Jesus spoke those words. “You must not take

vengeance or bear a grudge against the children of your people, but you must love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. “ (Lev 19:18) John reminds us that we, as believers, have a bond with one another. How do we do that? How do we love one another the way God commands? He tells us. He says to one another as I love myself. I always think of myself, first. I’m just like that. I seek to avoid pain and obtain good things. I want to be comforted when I hurt, and praised when I do good. All of the things that I want for myself, I should also want for you. He says to love each other the way that He loves us. Sacrificially, no matter what it costs me, to give of myself without thought of myself. But, John says it’s a new commandment. Not new in the sense of different, but fresh and enhanced. What makes it new? John tells us: “On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” (1Jo 2:8) It’s new and fresh because now we understand it better than when Jesus first gave it to his disciples. We’ve seen it lived out perfectly. We see it from the vantage point of the cross. At that time, darkness was defeated. It’s passing away and someday it will be completely annihilated. The real light is now shining and is swallowing up the darkness. B. Walk in Love So there it is. Walk in love. Make love for your brothers and sisters in Christ a major part of your life. If it truly is there, you’re walking in the light. You won’t have to worry about being tripped up. You can’t claim to have everything right with your relationship with God and yet show hatred and just plain meanness to your brothers. Hatred causes us to stumble in our walk with God. If you have hatred in your heart, you’re in the darkness and you don’t know where you’re going.

So what does God want from us? What are the real marks of His disciples? Just two things. But these two things work themselves out In every detail of our lives. 1. Walk in the Light. Live your life as if God is living it with you. 2. Walk in Love. Allow your relationship with God trickle down into all of your relationships especially with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

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