Fellowship with God
Walking in the Light
1Jn.1 :7 "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin."
The Christian faith is not an intellectual faith. To be sure it does address the mind and will stretch the most intelligent of men and women but it is far, far more than that. The Christian faith involves the complete transformation of a spiritually dead, hell-
To have such fellowship involves sharing things in common. We refer to a cup of tea after the service as an opportunity for fellowship and we can easily imagine that drinking our tea together is what fellowship is all about – but it is not! Fellowship is about deep, relevant and significant sharing – with God it means sharing in his life, light, truth, ends and goals.
John wrote his first letter to Christians and one of the reasons he did so was to share some of his eye witness testimony and extraordinary first-
Our text this evening begins with the word "but" – John wants to draw our attention to a contrast, to an important difference. He wants us to understand that to walk in the light is by no means the same thing as to walk in darkness – these are two alternate ways of living with correspondingly different outcomes and consequences.
In the opening lines of his letter John is concerned about the theme of fellowship with God:
v.3 "indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ."
When he expresses his desire that his readers might have fellowship with him he has in mind this fellowship with God.
Then in vv.6+7 John declares that there are certain conditions that must be fulfilled if a person is truly to have fellowship with God. Firstly, in v.6, he declares that to walk in the darkness is incompatible with maintaining fellowship with God and then secondly in v.7 he states that to enjoy fellowship with God it is absolutely essential to walk in the light.
Why is it so important to walk in the light? John tells us here that it is because God himself is light and that there is not the slightest darkness in him. Light and darkness are mutually exclusive. And yet fellowship has to do with sharing as we have already said. Nor are we to imagine that it is the Father alone who is light. Elsewhere John also records Jesus speaking about himself being "the light of the world" (Jn.8:12).
There are straightaway some important conclusions to be drawn from these statements:
Firstly, if someone purporting to be a Christian arrives and perhaps begins to teach or to exert an influence on others (the context is about teaching and sharing God’s message) but is himself not walking in the light, whatever else he might be he is not in fellowship with God! Thus warning bells should immediately start to ring.
Secondly, we must understand that the way in which we live has an important impact upon our own experience. "Walking in the light" is something that we must do and is not that the Christian unthinkingly and automatically does – if it were then we would have no need of the many injunctions and exhortations to take care about just how we do live. If we do not take care to walk in the light then quite simply we will have neither genuine fellowship with God nor with our fellow believers.
What does "to walk" mean?
The Bible often refers to the way in which a person conducts (or ought to) conduct his life as a "walk". It refers to the lifestyle that has been (or ought to) be adopted and the values which underlie and determine the actual practice.
To walk in the light means to walk in God’s truth. We will be both hearers and heeders of God’s word. We will be concerned to follow the example left for us by the Lord Jesus himself and in following Jesus in this way we will walk in the light. We’ll need to say more about this in a moment.
On the other hand to walk in darkness means to walk in ignorance and/or rejection of that same truth. How can someone who is resolutely ordering their life in such a way imagine for one moment that he is enjoying fellowship with the one he is so flagrantly opposing? It is an impossibility – but sadly we poor sinners can try to convince ourselves that it doesn’t really matter and so we need the Scripture to speak and to make us see how things really are.
God’s plan and purpose for the Christian is that he should live his new life walking in the light and thus enjoying fellowship with both God and his fellow believers. Indeed Jesus highlighted this when he told his disciples that they were the light of the world. They would of course only become that as they followed him and thus would have the light of life shining in them.
The Christian believer has already by conversion undergone the most radical transformation imaginable and we would do well to remember just what changes God has wrought for us as he saved us by grace through faith in Jesus. We once belonged with the rest of humanity to the realm of darkness but our citizenship has been totally altered:
Col.1:13 "He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,"
1Pet.2:9 "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light."
In this new status and position it is the most natural thing in the world for a Christian to walk according to the light but, and it is an important but, such walking is not automatic. In other words one of our goals in living the Christian life is to become what we are! We are now children of the light and we must ensure under God that our lifestyle demonstrates that fact. We are responsible for how we live and so we are responsible for not living our lives in a careless manner. If our conversion was real we cannot go on as before or pretend that somehow our lifestyle doesn’t matter.
And so we find exhortations and commands scattered throughout the NT that urge us to "work out our own salvation" knowing that God is at work in us:
Here the apostle John uses the language of walking in the light.
Jesus spoke of how the eye lets light into our heart but that if we look in the wrong direction there won’t be light in our hearts but darkness (Mt.6:23).
Paul eagerly called for Christians to "cast off the works of darkness" (Rom.13:12) and "to take no part in" them (Eph.5:11) instead he called upon them to walk in the light as children of the light precisely because they were no longer darkness, but had become light in the Lord.
So we are to walk in the light and then, what joy, we will enjoy fellowship with God!
What does walking in the light look like?
A short answer to that question would be to say "Like Jesus" and John does actually say as much in the next chapter:
1Jn.2:6 "to walk in the same way in which he walked."
That Jesus is the great example to which Christians are to aspire is clear in Scripture:
Firstly Jesus affirmed it to be the case:
Jn.13:15 "For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you."
And following his lead the apostles too:
Firstly Paul wrote:
1Tim.1:16 "But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life."
1Pet.2:21 "For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps."
You will find the same truth repeated frequently with an expression like:
"as Christ...", "as the Lord...", or even "as he..."
To complete the answer as to what walking in the light looks like we should take note of the following:
Rom.6:4 "we too might walk in newness of life."
Rom.8:4 "walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."
Rom.13:13 "Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarrelling and jealousy."
Eph.5:2 "And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
Col.1:10 "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God."
1Thess.2:12 "walk in a manner worthy of God,"
This is the kind of lifestyle that the child of God should seek to adopt and to put into regular practice – the rewards are great too – fellowship, deep satisfying fellowship, with God is the prize.
But is it possible?
Failure is overcome
It is all too easy for us to begin to think that if I have to be like that in order to enjoy fellowship with God and true fellowship with other believers then the bar is simply set too high for me. After all we know our frailty and our weakness – we know too that we have already failed so many times in the past. Is such intimate fellowship simply for others but not for me?
In other words how does this all relate to failure? Do I need to be perfect from now on?
And to ask the question really should begin to put us on the road to finding the answer. John answers the troubling question in the words of our text.
v.7 "and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin."
The reference of course is to the sacrificial death of our Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary but do you see what verb tense John uses as he refers to it? It is the present tense. This means that John is not limiting his application of Jesus’ death to pre-
Now when we go astray we usually want to try to make amends by doing something ourselves. The Roman Catholic church built up a whole system of penances to make people think that they could do something to rectify what they had done: pilgrimages, hail Mary’s, genuflexions or prostrations. The RC church does not understand that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin but says the believer has to make retribution himself for sins committed after baptism. While we might not share that church’s doctrine we may still find our own hearts to be rebellious – we want to be able to do something ourselves and so we think perhaps we ought to feel bad for a while, or we have to try harder. But the death of Christ cleanses from ALL SIN.
None of us have yet reached the state of perfection but God has already provided fully for us in the death of Christ. We can indeed walk in the light knowing that when we look towards the shadows or when we stumble and fall that he cleanses us and we can walk on again. The answer is neither to give up nor to pretend that we don’t make mistakes but quickly to confess our sins believing that he was telling the truth when he declared that he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins; beliving him that the blood of Jesus does cleanse from all sin.
Don’t be afraid to press on walking in the light because you have slipped up in the past – you are meant to walk in the light and every provision has been made to enable and encourage you to do so. And as we corporately seek to walk in the light we draw closer both to God and each other.
May God be honoured as we walk in his light and as we value fellowship with him!