Light and darkness. Truth and falsehood. These concepts and realities are becoming more clear every day. As the world spirals downward toward its oblivion that will be marked by the 7-year Tribulation, the difference between those things which are God-given, and those which oppose all that He is and does, is growing greater. The apostle says that believers can and should know the difference. In 1 John 1:5-6 he states:
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. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
The issue comes down to one of fellowship with the Father through His Son Jesus Christ. We can claim all we want that we are Christians. But words mean things; they can also be deceptively used. The real question is whether we live out what we proclaim. Are we exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit that is definitely a marker regarding our relationship with the Lord? True fellowship with God should result in the characteristics and virtues Paul lays out in Galatians 5:22-23:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…
Can someone not born-again exhibit these qualities? Probably some of them. But isn’t there something indefinable about each one of these in a person who is saved? Because a Christ-follower should also be concerned about those around him in the community of believers, as well as for those who don’t know Christ, perhaps that hidden aspect of these attributes is the focus. The believer should have a wider, more encompassing outlook for the welfare of others, just as Jesus did. These properties should be altruistic in their reach, not just practiced for one’s own gratification. If an unbeliever is kind or gentle, is the purpose through selfish ambition or selflessness?
Is this partially what John is getting at regarding a claim of fellowship with the Lord yet walking in darkness? The light of God is overwhelming and eventually all-encompassing. Currently in the world, believers have the privilege of reflecting His light, but we are limited. We’re like that tiny candle in the darkness. Through our obedience in walking with God, we dispel the darkness, but it’s still black and chaotic beyond where our light shines.
A day is coming that the light of the Lord will completely eliminate darkness. We’ll get to bask in that light. In the meantime, the church, which is supposed to be the bastion of illumination in the world, is generally failing in its task. It’s been compromised and has become, not simply in this world, but of it. This is the lie that John speaks about. The church isn’t practicing truth. As a result, it has no fellowship with God.
In fact, 1 John 1:8 tells us this very thing:
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
Churches that pretend to be holy places yet don’t call out sin, in fact embrace it, are prime examples of this. How can a church say it belongs to Christ but places homosexuals in the pulpit? How is it that these places that should call out sin and demand repentance for a true relationship with God, tell people that God loves them and doesn’t require them to change? They don’t believe sin is sin. This is exactly the problem as 1 John 1:10 declares:
If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Surely these are churches that deceive themselves because the truth is not in them. This encompasses everyone there from the pastor to the people sitting in the pews. Anyone in such a church who truly desires to live for God should run from that place.
John declares that forgiveness is possible, even for those in the midst of this darkness. He says in 1 John 1:9:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
What a gracious promise! If we seek the light, the Lord will bring us out of the darkness. Through this cleansing we are then able to stand before a righteous God – our Savior and Lord.