Living in the Light of Jesus | James Stevenson
1 John 1:1-2:2
The incarnation of the Word of life
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.
Light and darkness, sin and forgiveness
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 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.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
2 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
John and the other disciples had met Jesus in the flesh, but now that first generation was dying out. Soon, there would be nobody in the Church who had actually met Jesus when he was walking on this earth. They would only have met him through his Spirit. So John writes his letter to a group of churches, to try to express the truth about Jesus in such a way that they too would really know him.
John makes three clear statements:
- We have met, seen, touched, lived with Jesus, and experienced him as the Word of life.
-We have understood who God is: he is light and in him is no darkness.
-And now we are living in fellowship with God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son.
And wonderfully to those reading the letter: - You too can meet Jesus Christ in the Spirit.
Jesus is alive in his people: the Holy Spirit was poured out in the Church and beyond and has continued to be poured out to this day. The Spirit always goes ahead of the Church, sometimes working in people’s hearts before they ever meet a Christian. Through the Holy Spirit we can meet Jesus, but it is then important that we understand who he is.
John was concerned about wrong ideas that were filtering through the Church at the time, claiming that God only came to Jesus at his baptism and left again at the Cross, so he was born and died simply as a man. Along with this came the idea that God was too pure to be concerned with the evil world, so how one lived – morally or immorally – was of no concern to him.
These ideas no longer resonate today in the Church but other problems do challenge how we think about Jesus and how we live. What John says in his letter still speaks to us today.
He is adamant that Jesus is and was the Son of God, the light of life, and that how we live once we respond to him matters very much. Our understanding of who Jesus is and of what the Cross means will make a difference to how we live. John is clear: Jesus died to set the whole world free of its sin – of all that separated it from God. His sacrifice enables each one of us to be forgiven and made pure in God’s eyes.
This was the one and only way for humankind to be brought back to the Father, and it is such good news that in believing this, we can encounter God’s transformative love. However, there is another viewpoint that has infiltrated the Church: that of pluralism which claims that God stands behind all religious expressions and that none is exclusively right. If that is the case, if Jesus is just one way to God of the many possible ways, why did he have to bear the terrible ordeal and suffering of the Cross?
When we look at the Cross and realise what Jesus’ sacrifice means, it changes how we live. We realise that we don’t have to try hard in our own strength, we can live in his grace and his power.
John says a lot about recognising that we are sinful, but also that we can know the joy of confessing this and finding God’s forgiveness. Living in our individualistic society, we might want to keep this very private. But churches thrive when Christians open up to each other, admitting their brokenness and finding forgiveness together.
As a Christian, will you be open and humble with others, encouraging them to be the same with you?
If you are not yet a Christian, will you try reading a Gospel, talking to a Christian and asking them why they believe? Will you go for a walk and ask God if he is real? Ask Jesus to meet you – he won’t disappoint.
For all of us – once we encounter Jesus, we need to get to understand who he is, and then live out what we discover.