John wrote his letter to all believers, in all places, for all times. His motivation was twofold: 1) he wrote to protect the early church against heresy, specifically the false teaching of Gnosticism; 2) he's writing to instruct the believers and the Church in the doctrines and practices of the Christian faith. Like his Gospel, John’s letter emphasizes one of the essential truths for all believers: that disciples of Jesus believe in and follow him as God.
As we read this letter, we'll be seeking to identify and apply a Kingdom-mindset and a discipleship lifestyle in three key areas of our life:
1. Spiritual – how do I relate to God in my life?
2. Moral – how can I live in a way that demonstrates Jesus is my God?
3. Social – how do I live in community with God, His people, and others?
but yet thou hast already begun to be illuminated, because
there is in thee confession of sins" [AUGUSTINE]
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.
1. God is the source & starting point of all things light
2. This is the message & nature of Jesus, the Light of the world
3. There is no darkness found in the Light
This is John’s correct understanding of God: that he is Light without darkness; that he is good and pure and undefiled; that he is different from us. And he proceeds from that correct understanding into the reality of our lives - in other words, before we can start examining ourselves and begin working on our problems, we need the correct standard and environment by which to proceed. John teaches that Jesus is the light against which our lives are examined, evaluated and weighed out.
But John also knows that our human nature resists evaluation, that our pride resists judgment; no one really likes to be tested and examined, especially in areas we deem too personal, too private, too secret. John knows this, and so he lays out three responses to this Spirit-driven process and warns us against be fooled into claiming them:
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in 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 have fellowship with Jesus" -- this is the essence of the Christian life. We cannot have fellowship with Christ if we are walking a completely different path than he is. Jesus is the Light; either we are walking & living in the light or we are on our own.
- Walking in the Light means that we are living under Jesus' authority, in submission to his teachings and direction. It means that we are living with our sins forgiven, not indulged.
- It means that our lives have been cleansed and that we have been changed.
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 us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
- Sin here refers not to an individual action/inaction, but to our state of being which is corrupt, tainted by sin, and given over to our human nature
- In Christ, we are being sanctified and made righteous and holy by the Spirit, and our objective is to be free from sin, to be holy – John mentions this in ch.2 - but that does not mean we are immune from our corrupted, sinful nature
- When we sin in action, word, thought – that sin flows from the “old nature” still in us
If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
- This is when we convince ourselves that we are good people, with good lives, and we start to think that what we can offer God is actually good enough - righteous, holy and pure enough - to be acceptable to God.
- But our best life, our best offering, is exposed as flawed and speckled with darkness when examined in the light of God. The author of Ecclesiastes said it best, "Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins." (7:20)
But there is hope. There is always hope.
That confession can come corporately in the fellowship of God’s people
It can come privately in your prayers and conversations with God
It acknowledges our sinful nature and our struggle with sinful action & thought.
It leads us to the humility and the unity of being in fellowship with God's people.
It allows the Holy Spirit to convict us, to work in us, to transform us.
Confession leads us back to Jesus is God.