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photo: Martha G. Brady

When I went to write this post, I knew I had done some writing on it earlier.  Sure enough, I found   Today, I’ll have some overlap for sure, but it will have a different twist in addition.  I wrote that post before I knew for sure I would do this series.

 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

and yet walk in the darkness, 

we lie and do not live out 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,

purifies us from all sin.

 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 is not in us.

I John 1:5-10 (NIV)


For thoroughness, I will repeat the Westminster Shorter Catechism (written in 1640 as godly men met to clarify the doctrines of Scripture) definition of GOD here.  It is the answer to the question “What is GOD?”
God is a Spirit,
infinite, eternal, and unchangeable,
in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth. 
(link for Biblical references. )
It sounds simple, neat and brief but hidden behind each word are reams of Scripture and truth that reveal an amazing GOD!  The GOD of Scripture…of both the Old and New Testaments.
We were created to know GOD.  That is part of what being created in the image of GOD means.  Yes, it was horribly marred at the Fall.  We seek after other things to worship beside GOD, but we were created to glorify and worship Him!  That is where we will find our true satisfaction and fulfillment.

GOD is light, in Him is no darkness at all!

One metaphor John gives to help us understand who GOD is, is light.  It is difficult to imagine light so bright that it has no shadows or darkness nearby, but that is what GOD is like.  That is a kind of brilliance we are unfamiliar with!  It is also a kind of holiness we have never experienced.  Doing the right thing all the time with no ulterior motive, no hypocrisy, no deviousness.
It is difficult to imagine isn’t it?  A moral purity that is flawless and goes all the way through to the heart!  Few of us know people like that…certainly not many humans.  And at some point, even they will fail us.  They can’t live up to that standard that only GOD is.  We often have people we want to put on a pedestal and hope they will live up to that standard but it is unfair and untrue.  They are human and only GOD is able to be that.
If you read more in the gospel of John, you will see John’s references to Jesus as the Light (cf.,ff) to say nothing of the many references to GOD as Light throughout the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament.

If we claim fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we are liars

Here John is calling out 3 false teachings of the Gnostics that affected the church of that day.  You will recognize their influence today for sure!  The false teaching?  Religion and ethics are two different things.  You can believe one thing on Sunday and live another thing the rest of the week.  Do these sound familiar?  Then you are buying into the old gnostic teaching in some form.  John said that is a lie!

Life is not separate from religion or theology.  Of course we will fail and sin, but this is talking about a purposeful lifestyle of known sin.  A good example is saying I belong to GOD and living an immoral lifestyle.  It happens all the time.  There is a complete disconnect!  John is saying that isn’t true!  If you are walking in darkness, living in immorality and continuing in it, you are not in fellowship with GOD!

Of course that is a blatant illustration and obvious.  A less obvious one would be continuing to participate in watching porn without getting help to intervene, continuing to hold resentment against a spouse for past/present behavior that you are unwilling to confront them about, continuing to not forgive in a situation you know you are being called to forgive, to name just a few.

Those are just a few more everyday situations.  Not all show you are an unbeliever, but do show you are living like one.  It is a challenge to all of us to think about how much sin and darkness we tolerate in ourselves.  How much we don’t walk in the light.

Walking in the light not only affects our fellowship with GOD,

it affects our fellowship with other Christians.

It’s all part of this basic lie: religion and ethics are separate.  NO, they aren’t.  It not only affects our fellowship with GOD, it affects our fellowship with other believers!

How many times have you heard Christians say, “I love GOD, it’s His people I can’t stand.”  John is here to say that isn’t true.  He is here to say you are going to have to adjust something about YOU because if you are in fellowship with GOD and walking in the light, you will have fellowship with those who love Him.

Are there weird Christians? Yes, there are.  I’ve met many and even been one on many occasions.  I’ll bet you have been too, if you are honest.

Part of learning to have fellowship with each other is learning to be humble about ourselves.  Learning to realize that our interests and preferences aren’t the most important!  That isn’t easy.  For some of us that can be more difficult than for others, but for none of us does it come easy.

Coming to church burdened down and sitting near someone who is burdened over something we think is trivial can be difficult.  To them it is huge.  We learn a lot when we take time to listen to them.  When we give up the opportunity to be listened to and listen to them and genuinely comfort them.  But as we put ourselves in their shoes, we learn a tiny bit about what it means to take up our cross.

Choosing to enter into another person’s pain is part of what fellowship is.  Sometimes we enter into theirs.  At times, they enter into ours.  It never is a perfect match on either side.  GOD makes up the difference.

I can only briefly mention the other 2 false teachings here because I have gone on too long.

False teaching 2: as a christian, sin is now eradicated from your life! vs. 8. This is false.  In this life, sin will not be eradicated either through the gnostic process of enlightenment or through spiritual development.  The final verse makes that clear.

Our hope is in the fact that when we sin, we can always find forgiveness in GOD’s faithfulness and just cleansing of our sin.  Not only does He forgive, He purifies!  Does that give anyone hope?

No longer do we have to deny our sin or try to ignore it.  We have a GOD who is faithful to forgive!

False teaching #3: I have never, ever sinned.  vs. 10. This is the most serious error of all.  In this claim, John says, you are making GOD into a liar by saying this!  WOW!  That is serious.  Not only is the person saying this a liar, but by saying this, they are saying GOD is a liar!

I do understand why it is difficult to face the fact that we are sinners. No one wants that.  It is embarassing.  But if we must face the fact that in the face of GOD, our statement that we never have sinned makes GOD a liar after He has repeatedly warned us and showed us in so many ways how far short we fall?  I don’t think I would want to carry that one around.

This section is a challenge to understand our theology of who GOD is.

Have we paid attention to the breadth and depth of who He is or just accepted our pet attributes?  GOD has these in perfect balance.  Take some time to look up the Scriptural passeges in the link and be encouraged.

It is also a time to look at the 3 false teachings and

see if they are affecting the way we live today.

  1. Are your ethics and theology integrated or are you trying to live a categorized life with them in separate boxes.  John says it won’t work if you are a believer.
  2. Believers won’t reach a point where they reach a time of being sinless…in this lifetime.  If we think we have, we’re liars.
  3. Thinking we have never, ever sinned is a fatal mistake and one that makes GOD a liar.  Are you willing to choose that path?


for more, see by James Montgomery Boice