Pondering on 1 John… by Greg Mattson
“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. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 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. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:5-10
Society has and always will continue to elevate people based on what the world considers valuable. In the world of entertainment this is evident by the importance we give to world class athletes like Lebron James or Tom Brady as well as actors, politicians and musicians. In the business world the likes of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Bill Gates draw rave reviews. Even professions are falsely elevated like medicine as evident by the elevation of Dr. Fauci in this world of covid, who continues to make decisions – right or wrong – that affects us all. The higher one is elevated the greater the fall.
I would like to think that as Christians we are exempt from this practice but unfortunately you don’t have to look far to see the elevation of certain speakers, theologians or musicians. Personally, I held Ravi Zacharias with high esteem for his ability to communicate the truth of the Gospel and to defend the faith. This all came crashing down with the recent evidence demonstrating his ongoing sin and walk in darkness, leaving many injured and suffering in the wake of his recent death. I can’t begin to imagine the pain his family and ministry is left dealing with.
Ravi Zacharias is only one of many prominent theologians that have taken the fall from grace and unfortunately there will be many more to come. The secular world loves to use this to claim that Christians are hypocrites, often saying one thing and doing another. The secular world is finally arriving at the moment of truth concluding that churches are full of sinful imperfect hypocrites! Charles Spurgeon wrote in regards to the church “If I had never joined a church till, I had found one that was perfect, I should never have joined one at all.”
Currently we find ourselves in Acts and seeing the formation of the early church formed by the likes of tax collectors, fisherman who have a propensity for stretching the truth, prostitutes, and outcasts. The people held in high esteem by the culture of that day, such as the pharisees and the outwardly religious, weren’t included. The church was united around Jesus from Nazareth.
Today, it seems to me that many contemporary churches have lost their first love, Jesus, and are struggling with an identity. What unites them? Has something replaced their first love? Is it a denomination, a pastor or a desire to be accepted by being “woke”? Today even the question of what is truth is up for debate in the church and leads to division.
John clearly points out that God is truth/light exposing the sin/darkness. By walking in truth and avoiding the darkness we are united in Jesus which ultimately leads to fellowship with each other and forgiveness of our sins. If you walk away from Jesus as your first love, you’ve walked away from light towards darkness and deception, into a void that will be filled with what the world considers good.
Now many people, particularly in the secular world as noted above, suggest that born again Christians are hypocrites because they remain sinful, but scripture points out that the process of sanctification is an ongoing work. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
So, if God commands us to be holy or set apart from the world but we remain sinners as those in the world, what is the difference between followers of Jesus and the world? Here’s the difference: John states that people walking in the truth confess their sins and then trust Jesus, who is faithful and just, to forgive their sins and to cleanse them from all unrighteousness. Therefore, we do not look to man or governments to save us as the world does; instead, we put all our hope in the work done by Jesus on the cross and the ongoing ministry of His Spirit in us. This is the light that exposes the darkness – or put another way by John Piper – the true light shining in our hearts reveals the dreadfulness of our remaining sin and the abundance of God’s grace.
In Christ, Greg