October 10, 2011

Revolution: Light and Confession 1 John 1:5-2:2


The message series we are in is called Revolution of Love, and we are looking at 1 John. We said that 1 John is really a book about love...John uses the word love 36x. That is more than any other book in the Bible. So in 5 chapters and 22 minutes of reading...you have read the word love more times than you would if you read any other book in the Bible.

And so today we jump right in and begin exploring our next passage. Let’s read this together.

1 John 1:5-2:2
“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.

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—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.”
John begins his discussion by focusing on the character of God...“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” It is interesting that John uses the word light to describe God.

Light

Light is very important to our lives..and it is really cool to study. I posted a video introduction of light on my blog yesterday you should check out. Did you know that light exerts force on things? It is very small, but if you took 30million laser pointers and aimed them at a penny...the penny would move!

Light is also bendable. Gravity can bend light as it passes around a plant or star or black hole. We know this thanks Albert Einstein.

It has always been thought that the speed of light was constant...at 186,282 miles per second. That means that is takes about 2 seconds for light to travel from the Moon to Earth. But a little while back some scientists were able to slow the speed of light down to 38 miles per hour by forcing it to pass through a special form of matter at a super-cold temperature.

There are a lot more really cool things science is still teaching us about light. We could spend a long time talking about light and it’s properties, but if we have a 1st grade level science knowledge of light we will be just fine.

Light is a scientific thing, but as a spiritual, philosophical, literary metaphor it has been around for a long time. It ranks up there with love and hate, good and evil...this metaphor of light and darkness has been around.

It is has been around a long time because the metaphor and the connections it makes for us helps us take something very complex and put handles on it so we can understand it.

When John says, “God is light” he is making a statement about God’s character that we can learn by looking at the commonly recognized properties of light.

Light dispels darkness.
All we have to do is turn on a switch and instantly electricity pushes through the wires, heats the element in the bulb, or in this case electrifies a gas trapped in the glass tube, and we have light. And when light enters the room...darkness goes away. John didn’t have electric light. He had oil lamps and daylight, but it was still the same application. When light entered darkness was dispelled.

So John uses this very simple concept to point out that when God enters a situation darkness must flee. God’s character is light...so wherever He goes...light goes with him, and there will be no darkness. They cannot exist together.

Light also reveals things hidden by darkness.
Light, even a little bit of light reveals things hidden in the darkness. If you take a small pen light or use your cell phone screen you can see a lot stuff. If you take a Million Candle Power flashlight...you can see a lot more.

So when God enters a situation hidden things are revealed. For those who have pursued the Christian life...you know that God continually shines a searching light into your life and you are confronted with sin and problems on a regular basis that you either handle through Him or refuse to handle and cease to be part of the light.

Light also gives life.
Have you noticed that stuff doesn’t grow unless it receives the proper amount of light? Our moods also change if we stay inside too much or there are too many consecutive cloudy days? That’s because light has a life giving quality to it. It is built in to the system of living things. We need light.

So when God enters a situation...He brings life. There should be an aliveness in us that is not seen in others.

These properties of life...dispelling darkness, revealing hidden things, and the giving of life are all part of this light and darkness metaphor that John is tapping into when he says, “God is light...”

When God enters a situation darkness is dispelled, hidden things are revealed, and life is made available. When God enters our life our darkness is dispelled, hidden things are revealed, and life is made available to us.

The Church John is writing to is dealing with an early heretical teaching called Antinomianism. That mean “Against Law.” This was the belief that our spirits operate separately from our bodies. They believed that as long as your spirit was right with God it didn’t matter what you did your body. So you had people claiming to be followers of God...claiming to be Christian...but their lives were sinful.

So as John as writing to this church he challenges them on this point...“If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.” Because those who are followers of Jesus will walk in the light.

This isn’t the first time John has used the metaphor of light and darkness. He also uses it in his Gospel.

John 3:19-21 he says, “Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

Genesis 3

And I think this leads us to see where problems begin to show up. Thanks to Adam and Eve and the actions of Genesis 3 we are all born separated from God. We have this sin nature in us that loves darkness and rejects or hides from the light.

And it shows up especially in our relationships. But sin interrupts this call to love that John spends the majority of his writing discussing. Sin is first and foremost a relational problem. And light is meant to help, but we love darkness. When light enters our first reaction is to run and hide. We feel shame, guilt, fear. We tell ourselves that we are protecting ourselves, but the problem is deeper than that.

After the sin in the Garden, the Bible tells us that Adam and Eve  realized they were naked and felt ashamed. So they made and wore clothes made of fig leaves to hide their nakedness...I have never tried to sew together some leaves to make clothes, but I’m sure it wasn’t that effective. Their innocence, their vulnerability with each other, their openness...was gone!

Sin brought this shame, and desire to hide things. There was a fear of the other that wasn’t part of God’s original plan. And that same fear and shame and darkness clouds up our relationship even today.

Later when God returns to the Garden for His evening walk with Adam and Eve, they hide. They are filled with shame and guilt. And God calls out the question “Where are you?” God doesn’t need them to tell Him where they are hiding. God is the worst person in the world in the world to play hide-n-seek with...He knows where you are located.

No, God is asking Adam where are you at...here? What have you done?

And then Adam begins a series of denials and explanations and feeble attempts to cover up what he has done...attempts as feeble as trying to make clothing out of fig leaves....attempts that like all our attempts to cover or conceal, or deal with our sins ultimately fail...just like clothing made of leaves.

When God enters our lives He wants us to expose and name our sin...not so we can stay guilty...not to condemn us and make sure we know we have done wrong. His intention is to clean it up and get rid of it. Just like light...He want to chase the darkness away from our lives.

God is light and those who want to have genuine relationship with Him and with others must walk in the light...not in darkness. Just like Adam and Eve our sin stands in the way of real relationships. Relationship with God and relationship with those around us.

John uses the word “fellowship” rather than relationship. That word used there for fellowship is a great word. It is the Greek word Koinonia. It represents a friendship that has intimacy, closeness, comfort, honesty, openness. It is a word that is supposed to describe our relationship with God and with those around us in the our local faith community, but often doesn’t

When we allow God’s light to really shine into our life...darkness flees, sin is revealed, and life begins...But my first reaction is to hide...to feel shame and guilt...to run away. I don’t want to be exposed. I don’t want others to know some things about me. I don’t naturally want to be in the light. We don’t want to be in the light.

When Bri was about 4 years old, she was very eager to help and do things on her own. One night we were sitting in our living room and she asked if she could have a piece of cheese.  Lori asked if she would get her one as well.

This simple task should only take a minute or less, but we realized that we hadn’t seen her for a little while. When we walked into the kitchen she is standing in the refrigerator door eating a piece of cheese. So Lori asked, “Where is my cheese?” And Brianna held up the cheese with the bite out of it and said, “Here it is!”

Lori said, “But you took a bite out of it!”

“No I didn’t,” Bri responded. “Yes you did!” “No, I didn’t it was like that!”

And for the next half hour Bri continued to deny she had taken the bite out of the cheese. So like any good father, I thought, I need to get the video camera. I taped the entire denial. What made this even funnier is that throughout the whole ordeal she had this little piece of cheese hanging right in the corner of her mouth.

She had been caught. She knew she was caught. And, while there were no real consequences for her being caught, she felt shame and guilt and immediately went to denying everything...and it created tension in our relationship.

We are often like the obstinate child who God keeps saying, “Look you ate the cheese. I can see a piece of cheese hanging on the corner of your lips. I even have video!” and we keep saying, “I didn’t eat the cheese.”

We hold on to our sin and our darkness like Gollum holding on to the ring...and it eats at us. Just as it ate at him throughout the Lord of the Ring movies. His sin kept him from having real fellowship with those around him, and our sin will do the same thing.

Maybe we are afraid...Because real fellowship requires vulnerability. It requires more honesty about ourselves than we are often willing to give. We know that people can and will take advantage of our weaknesses and sins and use it against us when we are open and transparent. God may not be as loving and forgiving as we hope.

Maybe it’s pride...Maybe we think we will do a better job running our lives...I think it is a number of things that converge to make us want the darkness more than the light.

Unless we do something about our sin it stands in the way of real fellowship. It will keep us from having fellowship with God and will derail our ability to have fellowship with others.

So what is the answer? How do we allow the light to enter our world and dispel and reveal and give life?

Confession

That is John’s answer. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

The word confession has received a bad rap because of our legal system...but it does have it’s roots in a legal system. The word there is homologeo and means “to say the same thing” or “to be in agreement with.”

When we confess, we say to God or the other person, you are right...that’s me. I have an issue with that. I recognize that you are right.

We agree with what God or the other person is saying, and we are not left there...just confessing. We are forgiven and purified. That means that God will forgive the sin and then work to get it out of our lives. This is an ongoing thing. It isn’t a one and done thing.

John says, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”

He writes this because he recognizes that we live in a world that does not function the way God intends. Even at our best, we will sin. The answer is to make confession an ongoing, regular practice in our lives. To be ready at any moment to recognize, accept, and repent of our wrong doing.

And we have to practice it regularly...because we are afraid...because we like to hide. That’s why Jesus includes it in the prayer in Matthew 6...because we need to practice confession regularly. We are filled with shame and guilt when people discover those things about us. When we do something stupid we know we shouldn’t have done. So we start assembling our shoddy clothing of fig leaves to cover our nakedness.

That wasn’t me...someone hacked my twitter account...if you only knew my situation...we sew all our excuses together in an attempt to hide our nakedness and shame before others.

But it doesn’t work...and what works seems like the most idiotic, counter-intuitive thing ever...confessing, owning up, and being transparent and honest in our relationships. Have God’s light shine in every corner of our lives.

Proverbs 28:13 says, “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” We must be willing to say, “I’m sorry. I missed the mark.”

The church throughout history hasn’t done this very well...we haven’t walked the line that says, We must walk in God’s light and live a holy life on this side and says, We are fallen, broken, and in need of confession and repentance over here.

We have emphasized God’s holiness and His call to live a godly life in such a way that we can’t actually do it so we cover up our shame and guilt when we fail.

Or we so minimize God’s holiness and his call to live a godly life because we know we are going to fail...that we make the Christian faith a wishy-washy joke or another form of antinomianism.

John says, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—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.”

He recognizes that God’s call is to live a sinless life...but He knows that as things stand we live in a fallen world. There is a tension there. Even if we spend every moment trying to hear God’s voice...there will be times when we get it wrong and need to confess. But we are not doing it alone...we are not left to manage things under own power...trying to cover our shame with clothing of leaves...No, we have Jesus. The one and only perfect sacrifice that is able to remove that sinfulness from our lives.

Conclusion

So what does this look like?

It means as Jesus’ followers we learn to acknowledge God’s call for us to live holy lives...but we remain humble and transparent enough to acknowledge that we often fall short.

It means we confess on a regular basis. We become people who acknowledge our sins. We call them out. We don’t hide them. It is dangerous and painful and messy to be a church that says we will confess our sins and move more and more into God’s light. But we learn to trust those around us.

This is why small groups are so important. We are currently working to develop more small groups because we need places where we can confess, find love and forgiveness and live in authentic relationships with others. You won’t find deep relationships if you just attend on a Sunday morning...no, we have to get with other people so that relationships can develop.

This morning we are invited to confess. We have sin in our lives that needs to be confessed. We aren’t hiding anything from God he already knows. God is light, and the more His light shines into our lives, the more our darkness is dispelled...our sins revealed...and life made available to us.

It is time for some of us to drop the masks and allow people to come in. We have been holding people at arms length...not allowing them to get close. Not allowing real relationship...real koinonia to develop.

For others we need to drop some false level of expectation of those around us...and allow them to confess their sin and allow God’s light to shine in their lives. We have put some false level of expectation on them...they shouldn’t do such and such...they are not what God is concerned about when He is talking to you or to me. God will work with them.

Some of us need to buck the fear and hurt of past relationships and risk, once again, allowing others to get close.

But It all starts with confession. Being willing to name our sinfulness to God, and allow His light to shine in on us because if we don’t our unconfessed sin will stand in the way of real fellowship with God and fellowship with others.
For more information about Crossroads Vineyard Church in Huber Heights check us out online at www.daytoncrossroads.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/daytoncrossroads

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