1 John 1:1-2:2
We announce to you what existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have seen and our hands handled, about the word of life. 2 The life was revealed, and we have seen, and we testify and announce to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us. 3 What we have seen and heard, we also announce it to you so that you can have fellowship with us. Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that our joy can be complete.
5 This is the message that we have heard from him and announce to you: “God is light and there is no darkness in him at all.” 6 If we claim, “We have fellowship with him,” and live in the darkness, we are lying and do not act truthfully. 7 But if we live in the light in the same way as he is in the light, we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin. 8 If we claim, “We don’t have any sin,” we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from everything we’ve done wrong. 10 If we claim, “We have never sinned,” we make him a liar and his word is not in us.
2 My little children, I’m writing these things to you so that you don’t sin. But if you do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. 2 He is God’s way of dealing with our sins, not only ours but the sins of the whole world.
Our passage this morning are the words of a passionate follower. The disciple, John, has a passion for Christ and a passion for those following Christ. He is aware of the power of the church that is determined to follow in way of Christ. As he opens this letter, he wants to get his amin point across quickly. Hear the repetition in what he says. The words “seen”, “heard”, and “announced” are used four, three and three times respectively in these short twelve verses. He is relying on tangible proofs of what they all know. In essence, he says that what we’ve experienced in the Easter Miracle needs to be lived and shared. It is a clarion call to witness to the resurrected Christ with integrity. To live in the light of God’s amazing miracle. We are not visit the light, remember the light, but to truly live in the light. It is when our mind and heart are coupled with our actions – are borne out in our action – that that the miracle of resurrection and God’s salvation is lived out in us.
John says the results of this king of all-in faith will be greater fellowship and strength in the body of Christ. Our greater fellowship with God through Jesus Christ leads to deeper fellowship with all believers. That kind of fellowship breeds strength and effectiveness.
So, what are the challenges to living in the light? In the first century people were challenged by busyness, inattention, competing priorities, preoccupation with merely living, a society that either ignores or ridicules faith. The list is expansive. Whether it was meager resources or living under the heavy hand of Roman rule, life was hard. It was difficult to live this counter-cultural way of life. If they didn’t focus their attention on the salvation and hope of the risen Christ it seemed to fade into the background and get lost in the worries of the world.
Don’t you suppose that our day and time is not much different? Making a living, raising a family, dealing with health issues … just getting caught up in life and living takes our focus off the Risen Christ. It doesn’t take too many steps before we are out of step with God and going our own way.
The setting for 1, 2, and 3 John holds the key to what John is trying to convey to his people and to us. There was a congruence issue among believers. From what we can gather from the text, John seems to point to people claiming righteousness and faith but not living it. Many years ago there was a series of bumper stickers, each one growing from the previous one. “I found it!” was the first one. As I recall it was relating to finding the real life. I believe it was originally a Christian bumper sticker. Then came, “I lost it!”. This one seemed to be a cultural response to the Christian claim. The last one I remember was “I am it!”. That one always evaded me. It almost sounded self-centered. They all seemed to indicate a state of being or an acquired possession. Like a scavenger hunt, once you find it you mark it off the list and move on. Fellowship was broken by this kind of self-centered and fractured living. The people’s relationship with God and with each other was suffering. John’s call was to sharpen our focus, keeping first things first.
Our musical meditation in the 10:30 service this morning, “10,000 Reasons,” begins with, “The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning. It's time to sing Your song again. Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes.” I confess, the first time I heard it I presumed the song he was referring to was “my” song. But the composer was careful to capitalize the word “Your” indicating that we are to be singing the Lord’s song again. It is our life’s work to sing God’s song no matter what we do for a living, where we live, our struggles or triumphs. The sun comes up, let’s sing the Lord’s song.
Joseph Bayly wrote a book called “Psalms of My Life”. In it he writes the following.
“A Psalm of Singlemindedness”
“Lord of reality
Make me real not plastic, synthetic, pretend phony, an actor playing his part.
I don’t want to keep a prayer list but to pray.
Nor agonize to find your will but to obey what I already know.
To argue theories of inspiration but to submit to Your Word.
O don’t want to explain the difference between eros and philos and agape but to love.
I don’t want to sing as if I mean it. I want to mean it.
I don’t want to tell it like it is but to be it like you want it.
I don’t want to think another needs me but I need him or her else I’m not complete.
I don’t want to tell others how to do it but to do it.
To always have to be right but to admit when I’m wrong.
I don’t want to be a census taker but an obstetrician, not an involved person, a professional but a friend.
I don’t want to be insensitive but to hurt where other people hurt.
Nor to say I know how your feel but to say God knows and I’ll try if you’ll be patient with me and meanwhile, I’ll be quiet.
I don’t want to scorn the clichés of others but to mean everything I say including this.”
A powerful statement of wanting to live in the light, wouldn’t you say?
Living in the light – with singlemindedness – puts the power in our witness to the world. Just in case we didn’t catch on, John gives us some real-world examples that he has seen. Verses 6, 8, and 10 each begin with the phrase, “If we claim …”. Verse 6 - “If we claim, “We have fellowship with him,” and live in the darkness, we are lying and do not act truthfully.” Verse 8 – “If we claim, “We don’t have any sin,” we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” And verse 10 – “If we claim, “We have never sinned,” we make him a liar and his word is not in us.” He is talking about discrediting ourselves and God – making our witness not only ineffective but counter-productive. Broken fellowship, living in darkness and discrediting God – these are tough words, but a necessary examination if we are to maintain the mission of Jesus Christ in the world. Do you remember Good Friday this year? The choir sang a song entitled, “Is It I, Lord”, based on the section of scripture where, after Jesus statement that one of them would betray him, each disciple asked themselves the question. “Is it I, Lord? The possible exception of course is Judas, who knew of his agreement with the Temple officials. Maybe he believed it wasn’t a betrayal, but a well placed nudge for Jesus to claim the throne and depose the Romans. Or maybe he just asked the question just to fit in – because everyone else was asking it.
Authenticity is the soil of our witness. Authenticity is not having all the answers. Nor is authenticity having no doubts or questions. But it is being real, authentic – what I’ve heard and seen, struggled with and discovered, learned and the mistakes I’ve made. These are the elements of living in the light. When we are authentic w/ God and others, we will be living in the light. When we share honestly and deeply with the body of Christ, the church, we are opening the door to a greater witness among ourselves, and a more powerful witness to the world.
So, my questions are, “How am I doing at living in the light?” and “Where do I most need to grow?” The gracious and loving presence of the Risen Christ is here to live with us, to move through us, to be a blessing by us..
Pastor Paul Grossman