Walking in the Light
by Jack Wald | August 3rd, 2003

I John 1:5-10

Genesis 1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.  5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

Revelation 21
I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.  23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.  24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.  25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.  26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.  27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

From the beginning of the Bible in Genesis through to the end in Revelation, God is associated with light. Throughout the Bible, light speaks of truth, righteousness and God’s work to redeem men and women. Light is contrasted with darkness which is associated with error, evil and the works of the devil.

When God created, he created light and separated light from darkness.

When Israel was oppressed in Egypt and Moses came to deliver Israel from the hand of Pharaoh, ten plagues were brought on the Egyptians. One of these was a direct challenge to the Egyptian worship of Ra, the sun god, showing the superiority of Israel’s God..
Exodus 10
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.”  22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days.  23 No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.

During Israel’s forty years of wanderings in the desert they were led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, bringing light into the darkness.

Moses met with God on Mt. Sinai to receive the Law.
Exodus 34
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD.  30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.

When Isaiah announced the coming of the Messiah, 700 years before the birth of Christ, he used light as the image of his coming.
Isaiah 9
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.

When Jesus began to teach, he described himself as light.
John 8
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

And what is amazing is that just as Moses received from God his light and carried it in his face, Jesus taught that we could become children of light.
John 12
Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going.  36 Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.”

Jesus taught us to display the light we receive from him and not hide it.
Matthew 5
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

When Jesus was revealed in his heavenly glory on the Mount of Transfiguration along with Moses and Elijah, light is the dominant image.
Matthew 17
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light

When Jesus was crucified and died, do you remember what happened,
Matthew 27
From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.  46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

When Jesus, God in the flesh, died, the light was extinguished, but then on the third day he rose from the dead.

When Paul met the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus in the middle of the day in the brightness of a noon sun, a light came from heaven that made the noonday sun seem insignificant. In Acts 26 Paul recounted his experience to King Agrippa:
About noon, O king, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions.  14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

When Peter was in jail awaiting a trial before Herod who had just beheaded James the brother of John, light was the sign of God’s deliverance.
Acts 12
The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.  7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.

And so now we come to I John 1, the text for this morning.
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

This is an example of Hebrew parallelism, A thing is stated and then restated in an opposite form. God is light. What does this mean? Look at the opposite statement, in him there is no darkness at all. God is pure light, pure goodness, pure righteousness. In God there is no wickedness. There is no evil in him. In fact, because God is so pure, evil cannot exist in his presence. As a fire burns off and destroys impurities in gold, so does what is impure and imperfect get burned up in the presence of God who is pure and perfect.

How can we comprehend the purity, the holiness of God? How do we get past the concept of the holiness, the purity of God and into the reality of his purity and holiness. We can begin by learning as Israel did by observing the law God gave to Moses.

The Law taught Israel that God was holy and pure. Israel was taught to have respect for God, to fear God.

The Law God gave to Moses contained laws to govern purity after childbirth, purity after diseases such as leprosy, purity after bodily discharges and emissions and purity after death. In each case, there were specific things the person had to do before they could once again be declared to be pure. The point is not that there is anything wrong with childbirth, for example, but the law served the purpose of reminding Israel that God was holy and steps were taken to remind them in the details of their daily lives that God was holy and needed to be approached with respect and awe.

When instructions for constructing the tent of meeting or the Tabernacle were given. The instructions contained details that encouraged Israel to treat God with awe and fear. Hebrews 9 describes this Tabernacle.

Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary.  2 A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place.  3 Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place,  4 which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.  5 Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.
6 When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry.  7 But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.

When the high priest entered the Most Holy Place to make the yearly offering, he went in wearing a robe with bells on the fringe. This way people could listen to the sound of the bells and know that he was alive and moving. If the bells ceased ringing, then the people knew there was trouble and arrangements had to be made to rescue him.

In the wilderness, Aaron learned a bitter lesson when two of his sons were killed.
Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command.  2 So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.  3 Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD spoke of when he said:
“‘Among those who approach me
I will show myself holy;
in the sight of all the people
I will be honored.’”

God determined to teach Israel that he was holy. Among those who approach me
I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.

One more example of God’s holiness that will make a wonderful transition to the good news that is to come. When Moses led Israel out of Egypt, he led them to the foot of Mt. Sinai. God instructed Moses to come up the mountain to meet with him but told Moses to warn Israel not to come near the mountain. The warning was accompanied with specifics. Anyone who touched the mountain was to be put to death. An animal that touched the mountain was to be put to death. And stoning was specified as the means of killing the animal because anyone who touched the animal that had touched the mountain would also be put to death. The animal had to be killed at a distance by stoning.

Israel was taught, sometimes painfully, that God was not one of those gods you put on the shelf and use for your own purposes. Israel was taught that God is holy and to be approached and treated with fear and respect.

God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

This statement of John, by itself, is a statement that should induce terror because we are people who are impure. We are people who are imperfect. Even the best of us, relative to others, are imperfect by his light. What hope is there for us? How can we hope that we will one day be with God who is pure when we are impure?

Hebrews 12
You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm;  19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them,  20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.”  21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”
22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly,  23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect,  24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

The only hope you have, and I mean this as emphatically as I can say it, the only hope you have is to come to Jesus. As you sit in your pew this morning, let me say with as much love as possible, that you are in great danger, mortal danger, everlasting danger if you are not walking with Jesus.

John, in our text this morning, wrote:
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, purifies us from all sin.

If we walk in the light, John says, the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin. We can approach God who is pure light and we can approach God with confidence, without fear, because it is the blood of Jesus that was shed for our sins that makes us pure and holy in the eyes of God. Although we are impure and imperfect, because of the blood of Jesus we are made pure and perfect and can stand in the blazing purity of God’s holiness without being consumed.

There are two ways in which John says we can miss the mark here. The first is in verse 6:
If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.

When a light is not very bright, there is a lot of darkness and shadow. There are a lot of places to hide something without it being discovered. But as the light becomes brighter and brighter, darkness disappears. If the light comes from only one spot, shadows still exist, but what do you do if you want to hide something and light seems to come from every direction? There is no shadow, nowhere to hide anything.

In this world where we await the return of Jesus who will usher us into the age of the Kingdom of God, we can still hide things. We can come to church and be good Christians and at the same time try to keep hidden what the light has revealed. We can be active in the church and still keep hidden, mostly even from ourselves, what will be fully revealed on the day when we come into the fullness of light in the Kingdom of God. We can sing hymns and twist the truth so things work out to our advantage. We can be elected to be a church elder or deacon and still keep secret our hidden lusts. We can come to church every Sunday and still do what we know we should not do.

Don’t play that game. Walk in the light and open yourself to the light of Christ. Let what you keep hidden be revealed and confess your sin to God. Come out of the darkness and walk into the light.

Ephesians 5
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light  9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)  10 and find out what pleases the Lord.  11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.  12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.  13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible,  14 for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:
“Wake up, O sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

We’ll have the opportunity in a few minutes to confess our sins as a way of preparing ourselves for coming forward for the Lord’s Supper. Take advantage of this time to open yourself to the light of Christ and be cleansed by his forgiveness. Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.

The second way in which John says we can miss the mark is found in verse 8
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

There are those who come to church for a reason that is not always clear to me. My father is one of these. He grew up in the Lutheran church. He attended church during college. Although he went to only one church service during his time in the Navy, he attended churches all his married life, up until today. And yet my father views himself as someone who does not sin. He says that he has never intentionally hurt anyone in his life. And he is a very good man.

But how can he see his sin if he won’t come into the light?

I remember playing on summer evenings, running around, catching lightening bugs, fireflies, insects that give off an intermittent glow. When I was away from the light of the house, it was impossible to see what color shirt I was wearing. It could be blue or grey or red or yellow. I couldn’t tell. Only when I got close to the light was I able to see the color clearly.

In the same way, it is only when we come to the light and are exposed to a relationship with Christ, that we are able to clearly see our sin.

Some sins are easy to see. If I kill someone or commit adultery or abuse someone, it doesn’t take being in the light to see that I have sinned. I have done something wrong. But this verse talks about morally good people who basically have not done anything wrong. It is the sin of pride, conceit, lack of self-control, ingratitude and arrogance that are difficult to see away from the light.

If you hear me talking and find yourself thinking that there is really nothing wrong with you, I encourage you to step into the light this morning. If you do so, you will discover that you have not been able to see yourself as clearly as you thought. You will discover that you need Jesus.

In Revelation 3 Jesus invites you to come to him.
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.  20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

The writer of Hebrews pleads with you.
Hebrews 12
25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,  29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

God is not a figurine you can put on your shelf, decorate with flowers, light a candle in front of it and use it to make yourself feel better.

God is not a benevolent old gentleman who you will be able to charm because of your wonderful personality or your history of being a good person. God will not listen to your sad story of how you have been a victim of this or that and take pity on you. God will not be impressed with your sophistication and knowledge.

See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. Jesus invites you to come to him.

Walk into the light this morning. Bath yourself in his love. Allow God to reveal to you what must be purified and then in our time of confession, confess your sins. Allow God to cleanse you and fill you with his presence.

John said
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

This morning we share in the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion. And it is appropriate that we cleanse ourselves before we come to the table. So before we come forward, we will have a time to pray and for each of you to confess your sins. If nothing comes to mind, just be silent and allow God to speak to you. God will reveal to you your sins. Not so he can beat on you but so he can help you remove the darkness from your life and allow you to be filled more completely with his light.

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Benediction
I Peter 2
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Hebrews 4
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.