I don’t know if you ever went desperately looking for your keys. I hear myself saying, “Where did they go?” In my case it is not necessarily because I have mislaid them. Sometimes that is true but when there are multiple drivers in one house, keys can vanish from sight rather easily. After yelling out about missing keys, I might hear, “Oh, are they yours?”
Why are keys so important? Keys unlock the potential of the item associated with it. One might come home on a cold winter night, but what good is it if the door is locked and you cannot enter. What good is that new sport’s car that you own if you don’t have the key to start the engine? Keys are important because they unlock the full potential of the item concerned.
John has just shared about the most wonderful fellowship in the world. John has just shared about the most wonderful fellowship in the world. If I would summarize the words from the first few verses, I would say something like this
“The church is the greatest place to be in the world. Only in the church can one fully know and experience God through Jesus Christ. Jesus is so real and so good. You need to be part of the fellowship of God along with His peoplethe church!”
To many people, including Christians, it seems locked. They hear about the church but they are far from being able to find its full glory. For them, church or fellowship, is on Sunday morning. Once there they are looking to leave rather than to stay. The church, John says is in fact a fellowship with God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ and many other individuals. When we fully enter into this fellowship the potential joy of being part of this special group becomes yours. You are no longer an outsider but an insider. Before you did not belong but now you belong. It is eternal life, like a garden that never has to face winter but always can grow.
Perhaps in your mind you are wondering why as a professing Christian you seem to be so distance from that joy mentioned here. You are missing out. This seems to be a special opportunity for you. It is this very reason John writes so that you can find the full and glorious meaning of being part of God’s family. He says it this way, “We write so that our joy may be made complete.”
I have come to the conclusion that people who have a wrong understanding of the church have a wrong understanding of Christ. Those who don’t understand Christ do not have a proper understanding of their own lives. But there is something even more fundamental. A person can never understand him or herself rightly unless he or she has a proper understanding of God. That’s right. A person will never find his or her full potential in life as long as they have a wrong understanding of God. A right understanding of God largely shapes our views of self, life and the world.
Do you know what a right understanding of God is? How would you explain God to a Muslim, a secularist or atheistic professor? How can we understand God so that our lives will begin to make full sense? John who met God through Jesus Christ will take us on a big adventure in this passage of 1 John 1:5-2:2. It of course starts with giving us the right understanding of Godthe key.
Is your heart full of joy? Are you committed to being with and loving God’s people? Do you love God with all your heart? If you aren’t quite able to say ‘yes,’ then perhaps you can profit by gaining a better understanding of God.
This might sound like an oversimplification of a very confusing set of problems, but if you stay with John, I think you will find why it is important to think rightly about God. If our foundation is only a little bit crooked, the whole house is crooked.
· What we believe about God greatly influences our view of self.
· What we believe about our sin nature shapes our need of a Savior.
· What we believe about Savior has everything to do with our joy in life and the way we view the church.
Of course we don’t want to stop with an understanding of God. Having a good understanding of God is just the beginning of the journey. If we think wrongly of God, then there is no hope for us in the end. This is why John starts with a right understanding of God and then leads us along on how to rightly respond to Him.
So let’s say, that the key to a strong and good life is rightly understanding and responding to God. With this key in place, we can move on in our journey of life with great confidence. We will ask three important questions to get a good grasp on how we can take hold of the fullness of joy.
A) What is God Really Like? (1 John 1:5)
And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
It might seem that John has got off track with describing the joy of the koinonia fellowship but in fact he has not. Our understanding of God greatly influences our concepts of the church, Christian life and the place Jesus Christ has in our lives. What we believe about God is critical. Would you put a ten thousand dollar investment into a house that is crooked? Would you buy a house that has a poor foundation? Of course not. This is why John establishes our faith by first explaining who the Lord is.
Notice the flow of the message: from God > we heard > to you (that includes us). This is the message; the key to unlocking a right understanding of life that brings eternal life. Let's summarize verse 5 with two different approaches
The Message: Light then Love
First of all, let me ask you, “How do you think most people would describe God?” If you would say, “God is love,” I think you would be right. It is interesting that John does not do this.
Surely John, nicknamed the Apostle of Love, above all men is well acquainted with the great love of God. In fact John will spend a great amount of time addressing the love of God later in this book. John in 1 John 4:8 actually even says that ‘God is love’. But significantly John does not start describing God this way. This is not the main message John heard or was to communicate with others. John counters modern thought by stating that we need to understand God’s light before we can understand God’s love. In other words, unless we understand God’s righteous standards and judgment, there is no way to understand His love.
The results of modern thinking are easily seen around us. Wherever Love has been substituted for Light, Christianity has been reduced to shambles. In fact, it is no longer Christianity. By rejecting the importance of God’s holy light, they reject God Himself. Let me give you two illustrations. Modernists or post-modernists who still have a bit of optimism generally believe that love solves all problems. If there is a problem, just love more and all will be well.
(1) Let’s first think of a modern couple. These two individuals who make their supreme affection the basis of their relationship, whether in or out of marriage. They don’t want standards to hold back their loving relationships with laws and their associated restraints. Love is supreme. In their mind these individuals justify their position by stating that God is love. Unfortunately, it is these very relationships that end up in the dirt leaving ugly paths of bitterness and hatred.
(2) We also see this problem in modern parenting. Modern parents believe that if they love their child, then the child will grow up to be a great person. No parent would deny the importance of love. Every parent wants to love their children. But the parent who utilizes modern parenting techniques really believes that love solves all problems. Just love them enough and the children will come out like gems. These parents try to be patient, affectionate, kind, generous and gentle. But it seems the more these parents try not to spank or reprove their children, the ruder, naughtier and more difficult the child gets. These parents have rejected God’s standards as a base for their family relationship. They try to give in to the wants of the child thinking that it this is love.
John says that the key message is that ‘God is light.’ God is the establisher of all standards of behavior and attitudes. As our Maker He has given us secret codes by which we can function well. When we go against these laws, we do not function well. This is true not only emotionally and physically, but spiritually as well. This is where the ‘fullness of joy’ mentioned in 1:4 comes in.
We cannot understand or appreciate God’s love until we first understand God’s light. Expressions of love always fit into God’s standards. This is the key to a proper perspective of life. Let’s go back to these two illustrations.
(1) A loving relationship is not sharing your body with one that you are not married. God said that is for married couples only. “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4). Young men and women. Never give your bodies to one that you are not married too. God has said it for your protection to preserve for you the very best. Only by keeping this standard, will true love develop. Everything else is a cheap imitation that breaks before you can even use it.
Unless parents set standards and discipline their children, they will become very self-indulgent childrenthe very opposite to being a loving child or even lovable. God clearly states in Hebrews 12 that proof of love is keeping a child accountable to good and high standards. “For those whom the Lord loves he disciplines” (Hebrews 12:6). Genuine love requires discipline which is based on standards.
Standards must always come before feelings. Love is important. Love accompanies light but never replaces it. God has not only set standards, but has kindly dealt with us in Christ. This is the prime message.
Application: Have you esteemed love to be higher than light? Have you in your relationships or parenting put light away in a small unnoticeable corner? It is time to fully live in the light. How we respond to God’s standards is a direct reflection on how we respond to God Himself.
God is all light
You will notice with me that John says, “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” John obviously knows that people have different perspectives of God. Although the modern world in its cultural sensitivities says it doesn’t matter what one believes, surely it does. Let’s see what the different perspectives are and the impact our belief has on our lives. Look at the chart on your right.
I am not sure which best describes your own thinking, but I hope you see that what you believe about God (left column) affects the basis for the decisions you make in life. Let me quickly describe these starting with #3 working down.
3) God is naught. These people really don’t believe that God exists. Or if he exists, He has absolutely no real influence on the world or their lives. They believe they must make the key decisions in life. This describes the modern secular culture we are exposed to. The so-called ‘Christian’ version of this is the Christian who can’t believe God really can be trusted with their life. They are relativists. This simply means that standards are set in reference to their personal value system. In essence they make choices by what they want. A host of problems have arisen because of behavior and attitudes not shaped by God’s standards. The drug companies are flourishing because of man’s unwillingness to live by God’s ways.
2) God is grey. This group of people are quickly disappearing. They are quickly being swept into secularism. They would perhaps agree in fact that God is light, but secretly or perhaps openly they have their doubts about God and His ways. More than often they try to be good but fail at some point. They don’t feel comfortable with the guilt of what they have done. They know they should have made better choices. Maybe they should not have been so angry, not so bitter, or not so covetousness. But history is history. They figure they can’t change so basically they smooth down the sharp pangs of guilt by ‘changing’ God. Of course they don’t really change God. They only change their view of God.
They are sure that God also has some flaws. If they are familiar with the Bible, they will pick out some incidents such as the flood or why God allows war and famine and comfort themselves that God has some moral defects and that the scriptures are not reliable. They of course do not say it this way as it would sound too arrogant, but they believe it because it soothes their consciences. Relativists don’t often come to church. These religionists or moralists believe enough about God that keeps them going to church most the time, that is, when they can. Their guilt keeps them going. Christianity is not fulfilling for them. It is obligatory. But their whole world like the relativist’s is make-believe. God is not like they really think. Their assumption about God is wrong and therefore there is no hope for them. Life does not need to be dry and empty as they have it. John states the way of life.
1) God is light. There is no darkness in light. He is absolute brilliance. There is no evil in Him. He can’t do evil. This is the only presentation that makes sense. We cannot imagine a world without the sun as the relativist suggests, nor can we pretend the sun is grey instead of pure light. We know the sun can’t have darkness in it. Light is a powerful force influencing dark areas. Darkness is nothing. It is the absence of light which means it is the absence of warmth, energy and communication. Darkness takes over when there is no light.
Do you know what a dark marriage is, that is, a marriage without Christ? All the affection is gone. There is no warmth. All the energy is gone. No one feels the energy to do anything. Depression has zapped their strength. Nor do they communicate. They might live together but they only communicate business matters and that sometimes rather impersonal by a terse note. This is not just true for marriages but all of life. Without light, there is no love.
John has met God through Jesus. All his old perspectives were torn down. He had them like everyone, but having come to know Jesus Christ radically changed his life. Now one might think that if Jesus was so loving, which He was, that John would have said other things about God the Father. But again, it is this perfect holy unchanging standard about God that John speaks about. This is the message John heard from Jesus. If you want to know God, then you need to accept His full light. I understand that this is hard to do because it always reflects poorly on our own lives and choices. But the opposite is true too. As we draw closer to the light, three significant things take place: 1) We adopt His standards, 2) We seek His help and 3) we find His love.
The simple point is that a good relationship with God can only be founded upon a right understanding of God. Anytime we compromise our view of God, we fall short in our own life. As one person well described man’s concept of God, “Your ‘god’ is too human.” Application: What do you really believe about God? Does it show in your life? How or how not? Which category do you best fit into? Which would you like to be part of?