By J.R. Miller
1 John 1:5 to 2:6
"This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you." Everyone has a message from God to announce to men. John had heard Christ speak in human words. Christ had come from the Father, with a message to the world. His message was the announcement of God's love, and of God's desire to save His lost children. Christ delivered His message--He went everywhere and told it. But especially did He announce it to His disciples. For three years they lived with Him and witnessed His works. Then, among the disciples, John had the closest place. He lived near the heart of Jesus all those three years; he leaned on the bosom of Jesus, and heard even His faintest whispers. In a very special way, therefore, had John learned the lesson which Christ had come to announce. He was well prepared to go out and deliver his message.
It is the duty of every one of us--to go with our message from God to others. Everyone who lives near Christ must hear the whispered word which he is to repeat. We should be ready to tell our message wherever we go. It should so burn in our heart, that we cannot help telling it--this message of God's wonderful love. A minister once climbed the stairs to a miserable garret to see a sick boy who did not know Christ. Bending over him, he said, "My boy, God loves you--God loves you!" and hurried from the room. The boy was startled by the sudden appearing and vanishing again of the stranger--but he could not forget the message. It crept into his heart and stayed there, and changed all his life. We should deliver our message in burning words in every ear.
John's message was, "God is light." Light stands for everything that is beautiful and good. It is pure--God is holy. "In him is no darkness at all."
Light is life-giving. All the life in the world is wooed out and nourished by the light of the sun. A friend asked Tennyson once, "What is Jesus Christ to you?" They were walking in the garden at the time, and, pointing to a rosebush, full of blooming roses, Tennyson said, "What the sun is to this bush--Jesus Christ is to me." As we open our heart and life to Christ, who is the revealing of the love of God, the life-giving influence spreads everywhere, and we grow into whatever things are lovely, whatever things are pure.
Again, light reveals, makes manifest. In the darkness of the night we see nothing; but when the sun rises, all the beauty about us is manifested. A man sleeps on a mountain top, and all is blackness about him. The morning dawns, and the glorious splendors of nature burst on his view. One might walk through a great art gallery at night--and he would not behold anything. At length, however, the day breaks, and he finds himself in the midst of the loveliest paintings. They were there before--but were invisible to him before the light revealed them. So the light of God makes all things visible to us.
"If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness--we lie and do not live by the truth." It is an impossibility to have fellowship with God--if we are walking in darkness. Moral darkness is sinfulness. It is the reverse of light and righteousness. The only way to have fellowship with God--is to be like God, to love what He loves and hate what He hates. If one professes to be God's child, Christ's follower, and meanwhile lives an evil life--it is evident that he is self-deceived, or else is a hypocrite. "Why do you call me, Lord, Lord--and do not obey the things which I say?" asked the Master. Jesus said of His own life, "The Father . . . has not left me alone; for I do always the things that are pleasing to him. " The secret of the fellowship of Jesus with the Father--was unfailing obedience. We must do the things that are pleasing to God--if we would have fellowship with Him. There is no way of being nearer to God, and abiding in His love, except by keeping His commandments.
"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." There can be neither fellowship, nor cleansing, unless we walk in the light; that is, unless we are following Christ. Sin has no true fellowship. It may have its compacts and covenants for evil ends. Pilate and Herod were made friends the day Jesus was condemned--but it was only a rope of sand which united them. Their fellowship was only partnership in the darkest crime of the ages. There may be companionship in wrongdoing--but there can be no heart-union. The only real and indissoluble friendship, is that in which both are in friendship with Christ. Christian fellowship is the only union of hearts and lives possible in this world. Thrice sacred is marriage when, both parties kneel together in prayer, sit together at the Lord's table, and unite in love for Christ.
Cleansing from sin is likewise dependent upon walking in the light. So long as one continues to walk in the filth of sin, one cannot be made clean. A man must leave the gutter--and walk in dry, clean paths if he would have feet undefiled. There can be no cleansing from sin--while we continue living in sin. It is only the forsaken sin--that is a forgiven sin. It is interesting, too, to note closely the words used here. It is the blood of Jesus Christ which cleanses. How can blood cleanse? In a way beyond our understanding, the dying of Christ was the atonement for sin. We are forgiven, because Jesus bore our sin. He was the Lamb of God who bore our sin. "In whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses."
The word "cleanses" is present tense, and tells of continuous cleansing. If we are walking in the light our sins are forgiven as soon as they are committed, and we are made clean and kept clean as we travel along earths miry paths.
"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." No one can get off on the plea that he has no sin. There is no person who never sins. What, then, can we do, since heaven is only for the pure? Here is the answer: we can have our sins, all our sins, forgiven! God's forgiveness puts away not only the guilt of sin--but the sin itself. Notice that we must confess our sins--if we would have them forgiven. Unconfessed sin--is unforgiven sin. But why must we confess? Does not God know that we are sorry? Why need we tell Him that we are? The blessing lies in our opening our heart to God, in our recognition of our relation to Him, and of His authority over us. Hidden and unconfessed sins--are full of curse! They smoulder like the fires in the heart of a volcano. Sins confessed and put away--have lost their power to hurt the life. "He who covers his transgressions shall not prosper; but whoever confesses and forsakes them shall obtain mercy."
We ought to try not to sin. "Little children, I write unto you--that you may not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins." We ought to live a holy and godly life. But the best of us, with the most diligent care, sin, for we are all weak and human, and surely sometimes fall into unintended sins. Is there any hope for us if we do? Yes! We have an Advocate, One who stands for us before God to plead our cause, to make intercession for us. He has a right to speak for us, for He is holy and sinless. Besides, He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins--He died for us. What, then, should we do when we have stumbled into some sin? Should we despair and give all up, and say there is on use in our trying to go on? No! We should flee at once to our Advocate and beseech Him to plead for us, that we may be forgiven. The Father always hears His intercession. If we would live thus, although we sin many times along the way, our sins shall at once be forgiven, and we shall be restored and ever kept in unbroken fellowship with God.
The Scriptures never give us the impression that we can sin with impunity because we are saved by grace, and not by our own good works, or because God is so merciful and forgives so readily. Nothing is taught in the Word of God more clearly--than that faith in Christ always implies surrender to Christ and obedience to His commands. There is no true faith, without obedience. This is made very plain here, "We know that we have come to know Him--if we obey His commands. The man who says, 'I know Him!' but does not do what He commands--is a liar, and the truth is not in him!" 1 John 2:3-4
In the ancient cathedral of Lubeck, Germany, there is an old slab, with the following inscription:
Thus speaks Christ our Lord to us:
You call me Master--and obey me not;
You call me Light--and see me not;
You call me Way--and walk me not;
You call me Life--and desire me not;
You call me Wise--and follow me not;
You call me Fair--and love me not;
You call me Rich--and ask me not;
You call me Eternal--and seek me not;
You call me Gracious--and trust me not;
You call me Noble--and serve me not;
You call me Mighty--and honor me not;
You call me Just--and fear me not.
If I condemn you--blame me not!