I John 1:5-10-Sermon for Sunday, August 4, 2013-“Walking the Light”

A quintillion is a word used to designate a number equal to 1 billion multiplied by 1 billion. The particles that make up light, physicists say, live as long as a quintillion years. Life does not just illuminate or make warm. Light lives. And, apparently, it lives and lives and lives.

One of the “first of the last books” of the Bible, the circular letter written by a man named John, is called a “Pastoral Letter.” In it, John explains the nature of God to people who already believe in God. In fact, they believe in God at great personal risk to themselves and their families and, to some of them, at great personal cost. Though they already believe in God and His Christ there are gaps in their knowledge, which John, the Good Pastor tries to fill in his writing. He wants to tell them, among other things, that God is light; illumiinative, warming and long lasting. In a pre-scientific age, John may not know the length of a quintillion but he does know the depth of darkness and the goodness of light.

I

   God is light, John tells his readers, I John 1:5. God is light, not like light,  or represented as light or resembling light. John declares the Christian message to be this, “God is light and in God there is no darkness.”

   The writer James agrees at this point, though he and John are set at variance on other issues. James tells us that “every good and perfect gift comes down from above, from the Father of Lights, in whom there is no variableness or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Therefore, two witnesses at the scene, investigators near the Source, both report the goodness of God and express God’s goodness as light. James even says all generous acts and good gifts come from the God of light, regardless of the earthly giver.

God is light. This is the second of the three word definitions of God found in Scripture. Since there are only actually a few of these three word definitions, we may assume they are closely related, even synonymous with one another. What is a famous three word Biblical definition of God? Here is one;  that “God is love” (I John 4:8). John, the Good Pastor, is a master of telling us how to focus on God’s True Nature in ways we cannot mistake. God is light, God is love, God is life. The Good Pastor knows God and declares God to us.

The nature of God which we are to take as our guide and thus become our nature is pure, holy, sinless. God is not One who does evil or who leads others to do evil. We should forgive every man his sin by grace, as God does, but we should also discipline ourselves to live apart from rampant evil. We must imitate God in holiness, as well as imitating the work of God in grace to all men.

How can we Grace (offer grace) to people who live in darkness (by divine standards) without hauling out our “Better than You” card? We have to point to SomeoneOtherThanUs,  John points to God. John refers to God as Light. John wants his Believer/Readers to shine a light on God for themselves and for those who live without direct knowledge of God. John is right, for God is light.

 

II

   The Good Pastor hurries on to remind us about our own clay feet. Religious people, in whatever metier or mien, may tend to use their religion as a transaction. That is, religious souls may want a settled barter that does not move. We want to be able to look back on our religion and say, “I made that deal. I struck that bargain. Now, I live as I wish.”

   John, the Good Pastor, pushes believer/hearers to the Wesleyan Ideal (long before either Wesley) of Progressive Sanctification, what many call Perfectionism. In this Ideal, we acknowledge the grace that reaches out to us long before we know to call for grace. God intends our salvation because we need salvation so and intends that we work on our salvation in cooperation with God. We hold our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12).

   And that is where the Light enters. Light dwellers, believers, cannot happily live in darkness and claim the Light. God changes believers, daily, transforming us into the Image of His Son, that His Son might be First Born of many (Romans 8:29). Believers cannot be God as God as God but we can be Man as God intends.

   In becoming ManAsGodIntends we live in the God-Light and so graciously.

   On a particular day in a particular small nation during WW II the Nazi conquerors announced that all Jews in the country would start to wear a yellow Star of David sewn on their clothing at all time to mark them as Jews. This emblem designated the wearers as persons against whom discrimination could be practiced in the worst ways. On the announced day and time, virtually all the non-Jews in this nation sewed a yellow Star of David on their clothing to make it impossible to distinguish between the Jews and non-Jews. They identified with the lowly in order to protect them from the mighty.

   This is what it means to walk in the light. Risk, cost, sacrifice; God is Light and if we imitate God, we walk as Light in the Dark World.

III

      John the Good Pastor includes himself with all others, notice, saying, “If we say…” I John 1:6, and then instructing us how to tell the truth by word and deed. Our walk and our talk should be simultaneous and similar. If we are to live in light and so under grace, it is our natural obligation to offer both light and grace to all.

   So, we may not walk habitually in sin. The verb form for walk here is present subjunctive. No, I don’t care, either, but it is the tense of habitual action. Addiction to sin is a very human trait but one we must ward against. Habitual sin is durable and, in Scripture, durable, habitual sin requires a prophetic word to fight against it and a prophetic act to bring it down.

   Sin, Darkness-Walking, is equal parts bigotry, hatred, fear and frailty. Out of Darkness Walking comes all our phobias accompanied by all our faults. The Light that is God must discriminate against the darkness, thus bringing light into the lives of Dark-Walkers.

   And believers, the Good Pastor says, must take care to walk in the Light, forsaking the dark. We must be habitually practice Light-Walking, I john 1:7, requiring confession of sin, I John 1:9 and so we are protected against the sin problem of hypocrisy, or leading oneself astray.

   What is a hypocrite? John knows. A hypocrite is an actor, one who pretends to be something he is not though he may very well wish to be. None of us wants to be false. John tells us how to be real. Know our need, he says, and face up to the God who meets our need.

   Shakespeare was once thought to have written two plays in each one, you know. One play was for the High Boxes in his theater, where sat the nobles and  learned persons. His other play, within the play, was for the poor Groundlings, the audience that crowded the stage for a half-pence, so close they were often part of the play, so coarse the writer had to write down to their level, with whispered asides to appeal to their lower state.

    John, the Good Pastor, writes one play for all. All men, all believers, all of us incast as one with all other man, suffer sin and its damage. God offers Godself to each of us, alike, not akin. God is Light, and no man is too high for Him, nor too low for God’s notice. The grace that is the Light of God saves and keeps us. The Law of God is hard and real and grace the syringe by which the serum is injected.  It is available for all and necessary for each of us.

 

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