“If we walk in the light as He is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7.)
I’ve come back to this verse because I’ve often often pondered it: it seems back to front, as I would have expected walking in the light and having fellowship with one another (ie true relationship in integrity and genuine love) to be a consequence of being cleansed of all sin by the blood of Jesus, and not for it to be the other way round. But John puts the cleansing of sin as a consequence of walking in the light. I understand it like this:
Jesus said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) Walking in the light is quite simply following Jesus. We go where the light goes. The entrance of His word brings light, (Psalm 119:130) so when we let His word enter our lives and do what His word says we are in the light. And since He is both light and love, we have to be walking in Love if we are walking in the light. Consequently we will have fellowship with one another. That seems straightforward enough. Not easy, but straightforward!
Walking in the light is a discipleship decision. If we are surrounded by the darkness of the world we simply mustn’t take our eyes off the light of Heaven. Just as there is no darkness in Jesus, there is no light in the World that isn’t from Him. If we are not following the way He shows us we are going to stumble, but (as I wrote in the earlier post) if we are walking in the light, we will discern the darkness in us whenever the flesh rises up, and we will bring it to the cross for cleansing. Because the flesh does rise up, and therefore we need to die to it, and we can’t die to the flesh if we’re not walking in the light. That’s why it’s a “living sacrifice” that we have to bring to the cross daily, as Paul urges in Romans 12:1. Because the flesh is alive, we have to keep sacrificing it. Jesus is fully in the light because He is the Light, whereas we walk in the light with him but bring the darkness of our flesh along with us.
Some Bible teachers will say that walking in the Light is to do what Jesus would do and manifest the fruit of the Spirit in our daily lives, and they point to the Sermon on the Mount as our set of guiding principles. And yes, the Sermon on the Mount is the manifesto of the Kingdom of God; it gives us the bullet points of the Spirit filled life, and if we let those principles guide us we will be blessed. And yes, to walk in the Light is to manifest the character of Jesus: kindness for cruelty, mercy for revenge, purity for pollution, generosity for meanness etcetera. However we cannot do this on our own (well, I certainly can’t anyway); we cannot be living examples of the Sermon on the Mount unless we’re conscious of the Holy Spirit illuminating the scene that is before us.
Temptation comes, in whatever area of personal weakness it is that the “prowling lion” (1 Pe 5:8) has spotted, and our flesh wants to yield to it because it is only by the light of the Holy Spirit that we discern it as sin, or as Jesus puts it Himself (John 16:8) it’s only the Holy Spirit that can bring conviction. If I feel slighted by someone, for example, I will fall into the sin of a negative reaction unless I see a beam of truth from the Holy Spirit showing up that reaction for the darkness that it actually expresses. Once I see my piqued emotions as wounded pride I can make a decision take it to the cross for cleansing by the blood of Jesus, and I can keep my heart pure instead of giving sin a voice. It’s simple discipleship; it’s 1 John 1:7.
My choice is always simple: as I’ve said it might not be easy, but it’s simple. Do I charge ahead in the darkness, driven by my emotions and circumstance; or do I pause at every step, check that I am following the light, and respond according to His direction? Do I follow Jesus, or do I go my own way? If I want to walk in the light as He is in the Light I have to make a decision to dwell in His presence all the time. It isn’t being guided by a set of principles; it’s making a daily decision for step-by-step discipleship. There is no other way, no other truth, no other life.
“Plant the good seeds of righteousness and you will harvest a crop of my love. Plough up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.” (Hosea 10:12 NLT)