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The Message: God is Light
By David A. DePra
This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that 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 us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10)
I have known Christians who are so doubtful of God’s forgiveness for them that they continually confess sins – not because they are guilty of them, but because they just always, "feel guilty." Doing so, to them, somehow appeases God – even though God never put the kind of guilt they are feeling on them to begin with. Obviously, this whole pattern is not the outcome of conviction of the Holy Spirit. Rather, it is the outcome of not seeing or believing Jesus. Their confession is the OUTCOME of unbelief, rather than the solution to it.
This is a terrible irony. God wants us to confess unbelief. But instead, our religious confession of sin is often the product of unbelief, and not of faith. And we cannot see the difference.
I have also known professing Christians who NEVER confess any sin. There just doesn’t seem to be ANY sense in them of what they are, save the grace of God. Some of these folks have bought into the modern gospels of self-esteem. They don’t believe that once you are saved that you need to mess with this sin business anymore. It’s too, "negative." They would rather talk about all the blessings God has for them – which, ironically, they will probably never experience until they actually come to terms with what they are, save the grace of God!
In the epistle of I John, we are given the clear Truth on this matter. John talks about the necessity of confession, and why we are to confess. The teaching is clear as a bell.
God is Light
Catch the significance of the first sentence in the passage. John begins by saying, "This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." WHAT is the message? God is LIGHT. And in God there is no darkness. THAT is the message. So unless we understand the rest of the passage is based on THAT MESSAGE – indeed, unless we understand that the whole epistle is based on THAT MESSAGE – we are going to take it out of context.
God is LIGHT. In one sense of the Word, this takes us right back to the first few sentences of the Bible, where God said, "Let there be light." (Gen. 1:3) In Genesis, these are the very first recorded words of God given to us in scripture. They represent God’s first creative act. It all started with LIGHT.
Now, that ought not be surprising. For isn’t LIGHT the very first necessity if God is to deliver us from the realm of darkness, back again to Himself through Jesus Christ? Absolutely. If a person is to come to Christ and be saved, they must first be given LIGHT. They must be given some basis for choice, and for turning to God.
Never confuse God-given LIGHT with salvation. They are not the same as they pertain to God’s call to Christ. John also wrote, "This is condemnation, that LIGHT is come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." (Jn. 3:19) People can refuse light. God must initiate to give light, but we must respond TO that light that is given. John tells us that if we choose to love darkness rather than light – a choice that requires light to have been both given and then refused – that THIS IS condemnation. Thus, LIGHT brings accountability and choice. Without it there can be neither. With it, it is too late to say that I have not seen. I have. God has said to me, "Let there be light."
So just as God came upon the dark earth and said, "Let there be light," so He must come upon us and say the same. God is LIGHT. THAT is the message. THAT is where the message begins. THAT is where conversion starts.
Of course, the statement, "God is light," tells us much about God Himself – and this is really what John is getting at. He wants his readers to see something about God, and then takes us down a road that is supposed to be the OUTCOME of seeing that Truth. He says, "God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all…..THEREFORE….." The whole passage is based on the Truth that God is light, and realizing that Truth will always have an impact and outcome upon our relationship with God.
And what does the statement, "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all," really mean? It means that to have fellowship with God will expose all things as they really are. If you stand in Christ, you are going to be exposed for what you are, and HE is going to be revealed to you for who HE IS. And from that, everything else will become clear. But it all starts with GOD IS LIGHT, and our need to come into HIS LIGHT.
Do you want the Truth? Do you want light? Well, you will never know it unless you come to God and stand in HIS light. Doctrines won’t do – doctrines can tell you that God is light, and can describe what you will see in the light. But doctrines cannot substitute for seeing God Himself. And if you see God Himself, then your doctrines, if they are Biblical, will be proven to be correct descriptions of God.
Hebrews says, "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." (Heb 4:13) The fact that God is light – that His nature, and the nature of our relationship with Him – can be likened in that way, really IS THE MESSAGE.
The reality of God as LIGHT is all wrapped up in His Son. John writes, "In him was life; and the life was the light of men." (John 1:4) And Jesus Himself said, "I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." (John 8:12) The LIFE of Christ – Christ Himself -- is the source of all LIGHT. To have LIGHT, you must have LIFE – His life in you. To put it another way, if you want to know God, and know the Truth, really, about anything, you must not only KNOW Christ, but you must come UNDER the Lordship of His life.
Never think you can know Christ without submitting to Him. Never think that you can know the Truth as mere INFORMATION without knowing Jesus through REVELATION. Make no question, in order to have LIFE in Christ, you must carry your Cross and see DEATH to you. And if you do, that LIFE that is released will carry LIGHT. You will know, not because you have brains or information. Rather, you will know because God has you.
Think of knowing Jesus Christ as being in a room filled with light. You cannot SEE until you enter in. The, "entering in," is submission to Christ – even before I see. But once I submit, I’m in the room. NOW I can see. If you are waiting to see before you submit to Christ it is futile. For if you are debating, you already know enough to submit – in fact, we might say you already see enough to enter into the room.
All of this is simply a matter of stepping into the LIGHT. Sure is. Step into the light of God – in other words, unconditionally open yourself to God; unfold yourself to God. No more games, agendas, fears, hesitations, or religiosity. Especially if you are a Christian, and you will note that John is writing, not to unbelievers, but to the saved – especially if you are a Christian, step into the LIGHT.
Most of us are afraid to step into the light. We are afraid of what God will see – or afraid of what we will see. We think that if we stepped into the light of God that what God would see will be so bad that He will either be displeased with us, or reject us, or even condemn or punish us. Well, let’s ask a question: Doesn’t God know everything about us anyways? I mean, for Pete’s sake, do we think that the light is for God’s sake? – that God needs us to step into the light so that HE can find out the Truth about us? Pretty silly isn’t it?
Some won’t step into the light because they are too prideful. Well, you can have your pride, or you can have the freedom. Take your pick. God won’t force us.
The fact is, the LIGHT is for US – it is for our sake. God isn’t blind. WE are blind. WE need light. God doesn’t need light – God IS light. WE need to step into the light to see Jesus, and to see how much we need Him. We need to step into the light so that we can be set free and be able to fellowship with God.
Christians are afraid to confess sin because we think it will merit punishment from God. We are afraid of the ramifications of coming into the light. But ironically, the very thing we fear is the very means of God’s blessing. The light of God does not bring CONDEMNATION for a Christian. It brings ILLUMINATION.
Failure to come into the light will result in a Christian life that is really either gray or dark, as far as the Truth is concerned. We will fence off areas of ourselves from God. We will be open to deception. Again and again, the Holy Spirit will seek to bring LIGHT. At some point, we are going to have to choose.
John says, "THIS is the message that we proclaim – God is light and in Him there is NO darkness." What a statement about God! God is open, clear, and coming to Him brings illumination. And because there is no darkness in God, there are no games, no confusion, and no double talk.
Another terrible irony comes into play here. If we are not in the light, then the darkness that is in us will be the stuff out of which we create our god – we will see God AS dark, because of the darkness that is IN US. If you want to know why people have crazy ideas about God, this is the answer – it is not because there is darkness in God. No. It is because there is darkness in them – even if it is nothing more than ignorance.
God is light and in Him there is no darkness. Thus, if you want Truth, if you want Light, and want to be free of darkness, you have to come to God. You won’t find light in yourself. You and I are NOT light, and in us there IS much darkness. THIS is the message.
Fellowship With God
Fellowship with God is not merely a conversation with God. People can talk to God plenty, and have little fellowship with God. But real fellowship with God is an ONENESS with Him. When I say ONENESS, I am not referring to the fact that if we are saved, we are ONE with Christ. No. I am saying that there needs to be an active, livable ONENESS. In short, we must be one with God in motive, intent, and goal. Obviously, this oneness is not the product of a deal we make with God. Rather, it is a product OUR of surrender to Him.
If you don’t think you are one with God in life, surrender to Him. You may not even have an issue over which to surrender. But that is not necessary. Surrender YOURSELF to Him even if you don’t have an issue. Say to God, "I am coming into the Light. I am giving myself to You. Do whatever it takes to make me truly one with You."
This is what we have to do to come into the Light. Anything else is short of the glory of God. In fact, John tells us directly that unless we are in the light – open and accessible to God – we are NOT in fellowship with Him. "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth." (1 John 1:6) This makes walking and living in the LIGHT the basis for all fellowship with God.
Once again we see the contrast between light and darkness. Light is oneness and fellowship with God. Darkness is a double-mindedness – a hiding of my true self from God. To say that I have fellowship or oneness with God, and yet actually be living counter to Him, is equal to living a lie. That is what John is saying. I cannot say I am in fellowship with God if I am hiding in the dark, because God isn’t in the dark – God is light.
Christians often fence part of themselves off from God. We decide ahead of time what we will allow God to do IF we trust Him – some of this is habitual, rather than conscious and deliberate. We have our lives all decided ahead of time, and we protect them from God. But even if what we desire in life is good, and even might BE the will of God, this is all unbelief. Anytime we protect ourselves from God, or demand that if we trust Him, that He MUST do this or that – anytime we take these positions we own ourselves. It is the outcome of NOT knowing Him or trusting Him. THAT is the problem. And the only solution is for us to come into the Light.
We cannot know God – know the Truth – unless we ARE TRUE, or at least are in the process of being MADE TRUE. To BE TRUE means that your life – your very being – is totally exposed to God. The light will always make us a true person to God, and thus, if you will not be made a true person, you are NOT fully in the light, no matter what you say. You are at least, in some areas, in darkness. You might teach many true doctrines, and even say you believe them. But if you say you have fellowship with God, but are not true to Him, you lie, and, "do not the Truth."
Can we see that our fellowship with God is dependent upon whether we open up ourselves to God? Can we see that unless we are made true we will continue to see God through our false character? Perhaps the most terrifying consequence of refusing the light is that God will become nothing more than a creation that emerges out of our darkened moral character.
Jesus said this. He said, "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! "(Mat 6:22-23) He is saying that if your moral focus is upon God and His will, the result will be illumination – because God is light. But if your moral focus is elsewhere, you will not know God, and you will be ripe for deception.
This all comes back to moral and spiritual accountability to God. But that isn’t a bad thing. It is a good thing. God has only good for us. The trouble is, we start out in Adam, very bad. Thus, the journey back requires LIGHT – and that we come into that light and confess our condition. There is simply no other way it can be if we want to fellowship with God.
So we see that fellowship with God is impossible unless we stand and walk – indeed, LIVE – in the LIGHT, because God is light.
It must amaze God – if it were possible to amaze God – that we don’t trust Him. For God has nothing in mind for us but GOOD. He has freedom, light, and Truth – and everything else we need. What could be more important, and provide greater blessing, then to be in the LIGHT? And yet because of where we start in Adam – in darkness – this scares us. We are absolutely incompatible with the Light. So this all takes time, and in some cases, much trauma and suffering.
Fellowship is dependent upon LIGHT. You cannot walk with God unless you know Him. Strictly speaking, you really cannot believe and trust God unless you know Him – at least to some extent. Otherwise, upon what basis would your faith stand? It would, at best, be a religious exercise. It would not be faith based on Truth. Come into the Light who is Christ and one of the fundamental results is going to be FAITH. If you walk in the light, faith will be there. Every time.
Christians continually try to generate a THING called, "faith." But real faith cannot be generated from ourselves like a, "force," or, "power." Faith is not a THING. Neither can we muster up belief out of the stuff we are made of through natural birth. No. Real faith COMES – how? Faith comes by hearing (coming under) and hearing comes by the Word of God. In short, God will bring LIGHT – His Word in us – and as we submit to God, faith COMES.
Faith is the product of submitting to God. Faith is not a force you generate to get God to submit to YOU. Faith comes by hearing – submitting to God. Faith does not come by YOU speaking and saying words. Indeed, because faith is the outcome of submitting to God – of coming into the Light -- you cannot have the faith of Jesus for anything but the will of God. You cannot. Come into the Light – and immediately faith will be there for the will of God.
Faith is a relationship word – it speaks of my dependence and trust upon God, and of God’s faithfulness to me. This requires LIGHT – we have to have some knowledge of God to trust Him. But the Bible says that God has already given a measure of faith to each person. If we would believe according to that measure, and come into the light, we would find God. The result would be MORE faith because we have submitted ourselves to God.
Thus, if you want more faith, submit more to God. You and I don’t need more faith to submit to God. We already have enough if we are saved. If God is bringing us light we will KNOW where to submit. Once we do, the faith of Jesus is released in us. Faith comes by submitting to the will of God – just as we are, where we are.
Walking in the Light
John writes, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin." This is a bit odd, don’t you think, since when we got saved we were forever forgiven for all sin? What is John getting at?
Well, John is not really talking about forgiveness in the salvation sense. He uses the word CLEANSES – twice. Christians are forgiven from all sin forever solely on the basis of what Jesus has done. John knows this. But John himself is also going to tell us that if we think that means we don’t sin we are deceived. No. We do sin. And when we sin, there is a certain effect upon us. We don’t lose salvation. But by definition, sin makes us dirty – morally or spiritually. And we need to be cleansed from that.
You and I know that this is true. The consequences of sin are not condemnation for a Christian – see Romans 8:1. But never say that sin doesn’t have consequences – sin always has consequences. Especially as it pertains to deliberate sin. In the context of I John, sin is a step into darkness – I must at some point shut myself off from the light -- from God – in order to sin. And the consequences are that I will come under the darkness and be polluted by it. Sure. I’ve chosen darkness and darkness is what I will get.
This is not a matter of losing salvation. It is really more a matter of losing fellowship in the light. This is possible for a Christian. And if we sin in this way, we must be cleansed from it.
How can we be cleansed? John tells us. He says, "If we walk in the light" – or, in the case of a person having sinned – "if we come back into the light, we have restored fellowship, and the same Blood of Jesus that saved us is in that light to continually cleanse us from all sin."
This is certainly what John means – he is not saying that every time we sin and repent that Jesus has to get back up on the Cross and die all over again, or that we have lost our salvation and must be saved all over again. No. He is talking to Christians about fellowship with God and growth in the Truth. John knows we sin. He says, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Yet he never questions salvation. Thus, this is a matter of forsaking that sin, coming back into the light, and being cleansed from the effects that this sin had on our spirits, and upon our relationship with God.
Now, notice something vital to see: We don’t confess to GET forgiven all over again, as we needed when we were saved. No. Forgiveness was never withdrawn from us. WE withdrew from forgiveness – we withdrew from Christ. So we confess to return to finished forgiveness – solely on the basis of the finished work of Christ. We were fully forgiven when we were saved, and now we are confessing that we have violated that, and by definition, we are once again embracing the fact that we are forgiven in Christ.
Our confession is a renunciation of the darkness into which we stepped, and is a return to the light. We are telling the Truth about ourselves – we are saying the same thing about our sin as God says about it. God has already finished our forgiveness in Christ. We confess because we know we have stepped aside from it and want to return.
Often we think of sin as a bad THING we do – as a violation of God’s law. It is that. But in order to sin – I am talking about deliberate sins – we had to close ourselves off from God and step out of the light. This is the greater sin – to step into darkness out of fellowship. The act we committed is simply the outcome of this breach of faith. Thus, the only solution is to come back into the light by faith and confess.
What we see here is that we are actually confessing that we have violated the forgiveness of God by stepping out of the light and taking license with it. Our confession is not so much to get forgiven for violating forgiveness, as much as it is to acknowledge our violation of forgiveness. As such, we once again embrace what we violated. And if we do, the Blood continually cleanses us.
You cannot come into the light and NOT confess sin because the light is going to expose sin. In fact, if you refuse to confess sin, you aren’t IN the light. You are still in darkness. Thus, despite the fact that you don’t confess to get forgiven, you will confess if you know you are forgiven.
John says this – he says that if you don’t confess your sin to God you are a liar. He says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." In other words, "say we have not sinned," is a matter of not confessing sin! Can we see that? But if we come into the light we will confess sin – the two go together. We are coming back into fellowship with God and want to clear up what we put between God and ourselves. We will do this on the basis of knowing that Jesus has already forgiven us, and that His Blood continually cleanses us for all sin.
John contrasts LIGHT and DARKNESS, FELLOWSHIP and SEPARATION, CONFESSION and LYING, RIGHTEOUSNESS and SIN, and ties all of these into the fact that God Himself is light. All of this is about our relationship with God, who is light. God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. This metaphor governs so much.
God’s light can be terrifying to some of us – but is this not evidence that we don’t know Him? It is amazing that once a person comes into the light, that they see that being afraid of God was itself a lie – a lie that was born of the darkness in them. We have to get it settled: God is light. But we are born in darkness. Thus, as long as we stay in darkness, we cannot know God. We will see Him through the darkness that is in us. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we will be set free from all that binds us.
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