One of the deepest longings of mankind has been to intimately know a higher being or to associate with someone of great power. This is seen today in people’s desire to have personal fellowship with prominent and important celebrities or politicians. Yet this longing goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, when the Lord was walking with mankind, but because of Adam and Eve’s sin the fellowship was broken. So, how can mankind’s fellowship with God be restored? If you hang around Christian circles long enough, then you’ll probably hear people talking about their walk with God. But what does that mean? How can you walk with God? In the beginning of 1 John, the experienced Apostle taught people the way.
The One Thing To Know
If you’re going to walk with God, then you need to know God. You need to be very clear about whom you’re walking with. John wanted everyone to know that “God is light and in him is no darkness at all.” The metaphor of light here involves two things: moral perfection and moral perception. In other words, God’s character is perfect and his knowledge is perfect. God’s perfect character moves a person towards him in trust, but his perfect knowledge of sin can move a person away from him in shame. So, once you acknowledge these two traits about God, the tendency is to make one of two errors. In other words, the Christian’s walk with God is down a narrow road, and there’s always a ditch on either side of the road.
The First Error To Avoid
The first error that people are tempted to make is downplaying both God’s holiness and the importance of holiness in a person’s life. John begins by identifying people who were claiming that they were walking with God while they were “walking in darkness.” They were living in a pattern of unrepentant disobedience while claiming to have fellowship with God. John was not buying it. It’s impossible, because if Jesus is walking down the highway of holiness, and you’re walking down the highway to hell, you can’t be walking together, because Jesus never takes that road. For the genuine believer, sin can never break the relationship with God, but John taught that all known unrepentant sin breaks the fellowship with God.
The First Step To Take
John urged his readers to “walk in the light as God is in the light.” A true believer will repent of sin and begin to walk in the light and pursue a holy life. Now, holiness is not some pious religious snobbery and attempting to appease God; holiness is the path of love that pleases God. John reminded these early Christians that they could walk this path because the blood of Jesus cleanses them from all sin. In the tabernacle/temple, the High Priest first went through the altar of sacrifice and the water of cleansing in order to walk in the light of the Holy Place. Jesus is the final sacrifice, and his blood is the way of cleansing that enables Christians to walk in the light. Christians are a royal priesthood who’ve been saved from walking in the darkness to now walk in the light. However, John wants to ensure that his readers do not go to the other extreme, and so he must point out the second error to avoid and the next step that people need to take in order to walk closely with God.
The Second Error To Avoid
If the first error is a denial of holiness, the second error is a denial of sin. And this error can take two forms: perfectionism and legalism. Perfectionism denies the principle of sin, that someone no longer has the remnants of the sinful nature. Legalism denies the practice of sin, believing that while the principle of sin may still remain, the person has not actually committed any sins at all. John is quick to point out that if you’re walking with God, it’s impossible to deny sin no matter what form that denial takes. For example, if you wash a glass under a dim ceiling light, you may think that it’s clean, but as soon as you put it up to the bright light of the sun, you begin to see all the dirt and spots. What happened? The glass didn’t become dirtier; you became more aware of the dirt. The same is true in walking with God. God is light and the closer that you are walking with him, the more sin you’re going to see. A Christian never becomes more sinful - they always become more aware of their sin. This should produce great humility, but it should never produce despair, because God has provided the solution for the problem of sin in Jesus.
The Second Step To Take
The secret to maintaining fellowship with God isn’t perfection; it’s confession. And God is faithful and just to forgive all sin that is confessed is because Jesus took the penalty for all sin at the cross. God doesn’t offer this forgiveness and cleansing by setting aside the demands and penalties of the law, but because Jesus has already fulfilled the law. Instead of permanently leaving a stain, the blood of Jesus permanently removes every stain. And this cleansing is always a means to an end - it enables a person to walk with God.