Love Letters: God is Light I
Pastor Terry Inman
John 1:1-2:27 (NIV)
We were driving down Old Yellowstone Trail a dirt road in front of our Montana cabin when suddenly we came upon Andy O’hare on horse back driving a herd of beef. Our cabin is in a small development in the middle of the15,000 acre Armstrong/O’Hare Ranch. It’s one of the largest and oldest in South Western Montana’s Paradise Valley. We stopped to wait for the critters to pass. I rolled down the window to talk to Andy.
We met he and his wife Karen several years ago. They are now in their’ seventies and still working the ranch. Andy shouted from his saddle, “I’m just living my dream”. Some of the cattle were breaking ranks. Then with a cowboy chuckle he added, “Sometimes this dream turns into a nightmare”!
If anyone was closest to Jesus it was probably the Apostle John. John identifies himself as the disciple Jesus loved. I’m not sure Jesus loved him more than anyone else but obviously John felt very loved.
To be one of Christ’s treasured apostles was living out a dream. Sometimes that dream became very challenging. He shared the story of Jesus from his perspective in the Gospel of John.
Later on seasoned by several storms he writes three short letters, first, second and third John. You could call them “love letters”. His deep love for God and His deep love for the church drove him to contend for real faith in the face of “nightmarish” apostasy and false teaching.
These letters insist that true faith requires knowing that Jesus came in human flesh, lived a human life, and died in the flesh. But it’s more than religious doctrine. Evidence of that faith is measured by the genuineness of our Christian lifestyle, and not so much by what we “know.”
In John’s first letter we will see three themes, God is Light, God is Right, and God is Love. Today we will focus on the first, God is Light.
The knowledge that God is light is tested by whether we walk in that light and obeys God’s commands. The knowledge that “God is Right”, or (righteous) is tested by whether or not we live righteously.
The knowledge that “God is Love” is tested by whether we love our fellow believers as we love God. John probably more than anyone else best reflects the simplicity of the love and obedience Jesus himself modeled.
John is a great journalist. He begins these three short letters answering the typical newsworthy questions, who, what, when, where, and why. He establishes his authority as a credible eyewitness to his accounts. In the preface to 1 John he also makes it very clear why he is writing.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.
The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 1John 1.1-2 (NIV)
John who also wrote the Gospel of John is not passing on mystical speculation. His awareness of Christ involved the senses of sight and touch. Jesus is not a religious fantasy or figment of his imagination.
He also wants his readers to understand that the one he proclaims as the “word of life” existed in eternity even before he came in the flesh. It’s very close to the way he began the gospel of John.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. John 1.1-4 (NIV)
Here is this letter John condenses this description. He identifies Christ as the “word of life”. Word is logos; Jesus is the living logos! He is the full expression of God in the flesh. He was the visible and tangible Son of God.
John starts this way to refute a church splitting controversy that was contesting the deity and reality of Jesus Christ. It was very much like the liberal idea that Jesus was a great moral teacher and humanitarian but not the true Son of God.
After establishing the reality of the “living word” John states his reason for writing these letters. “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.” 1 John 1.3-4 (NIV)
John’s purpose is to share with us the living word that he has personally experienced. Fellowship is the word Koinonia. It’s used sixty six times in the New Testament. It was commonly used for participation or partnership in the ancient Greek culture. Here it is translated “fellowship”.
John is inviting us to share in his experience of the living word. All who put their trust in the living word are in fellowship with the Father, His son and their fellow believers. John says, “this makes our joy complete”.
Complete joy or fulfillment in this life and the next is found in Jesus Christ. Jesus last words of encouragement were still ringing in John’s ears. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15.11(NIV)Even after years of trail and tribulation John had not lost his the essence of faith in Jesus; complete JOY!
Life is full of joys and sorrows but complete or comprehensive joy, something way beyond happiness, is found in relationship with Jesus.
The apostle Paul put it this way. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Rom. 15.13 (NIV)
With that preface John dives right into his message. God is Light.
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 1 John 1.5-6 (NIV)
Again John claims direct revelation. “We heard this from Him.” He describes God’s nature in terms of moral absolutes. God is light. He is perfect, pure and powerful light. He is free of any and all darkness.
If we make a claim to fellowship (Koinonia) partnership and participation with Him and are living in darkness we are deceiving ourselves. These false teachers were telling their followers that you could believe in Jesus without behaving like Jesus.
John says believing in the light involves living in the light. 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, purifies us from all sin. John 1.7
Obviously John is aware we are not light only God is. There is darkness in us. But when we bring that darkness to the light the blood of Jesus makes us pure as light. Some were claiming that they could have faith in God and not concern themselves with their sinful nature. They were living in denial.
John says, If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. 1John 1.8-10 (NIV)
These liberals thought they could just believe in Christ and go on living any way they wanted because their faith made them pure spirits no matter what went on in their mind and body. This claim tolerated deception, denial, and darkness. They really didn’t know the “living word”.
The truth was not in them. The word had no real impact on their lives.
So what do we do with our darkness? Living in the light does not mean living perfect sinless lives it means living honest and open lives. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
David loved God very much. He also failed God very much. He knew what do with his sin.
“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”—and you forgave the guilt of my sin." Psalms 32.1-5 (NIV)
The opposite of deception and denial is disclosure. When we uncover our sins Jesus blood covers them. Of course it’s much better if we don’t sin in the first place. But given human weakness, God has provided an advocate.
“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2.1-2 (NIV)
To deny that we are sinful and in desperate need of a savior is the worst deception there is. We cheapen Christ’s costly sacrifice for our sins. But when we live in the light, we are constantly sensitive to our sinfulness.
We don’t live in guilt or shame we live in grace. We keep our record clean. The minute we are aware of our sin we admit our need for our advocate. Jesus who is the “atoning sacrifice” comes to our defense. He speaks to the Father on our behalf. He has paid the ultimate sentence. We are free!
Maybe you’re here today and you want to live in the light. You want to live your dream but sometimes if feels like a nightmare. There are two extremes that keep us in darkness.
One is the false idea that all we have do is believe in the light we don’t have to actually live in the light. That’s delusional. The second is that we are so full of darkness that we could never live in the light. That’s disgraceful.
The bible says, Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Rom. 5.7-8 (NIV)