Friday, September 9, 2011

Walking in the Light

Warning can be a loving thing. Therefore I want to warn against the theology that claims that we can be saved by a sterile faith – a faith that doesn’t produce any changes in our lives.

The Bible sounds many alarms against this type of “understanding.” About a sterile, unproductive faith, James declares that even the Devil has this type of faith (James 2:19). Clearly, this isn’t saving faith. In so many of His parables, Jesus describes a faith that brings us into a relationship with Him. It’s a faith that visits the sick and the imprisoned, feeds the hungry and clothes the naked (Matthew 25:42-46). This doesn’t mean that we have to be involved in every ministry, but it does mean that a real faith has fruit.

John addresses this issue head on:

• If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 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. (1 John 1:6-7; 2:3-6)

This message is very simple on one level. If we don’t walk in the light, we have neither a real faith nor fellowship with Christ. His purifying blood hasn’t touched us. But to what extent must we be walking in the light? Must we be sinless? Certainly not! In the next verse, John seems at first to contradict what he had been saying about “walking in the light”:

• If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)

Clearly, “walking in the light” is not about being sinless. But how much sin will disqualify us from Christ? This was a question that had plagued me for years. Actually, I was tortured by it. If I could have rejected Christ and found salvation elsewhere, I would have done so. However, I was boxed in and had no other place to go. If Christ wouldn’t deliver me from my sins and condemnation, then I was lost.

What percentile of goodness did I have to achieve? Was it enough to merely achieve a passing grade – 70%? Or perhaps I just had to score higher than 70% of the others. If that was the case, then it was just natural that I would cheer them on in their sin. This would increase my chances of getting in!

However, even though John is clear that we don’t have to be sinless, he never tells us what constitutes a passing grade. I found this maddening. It provoked all sorts of doubt and uncertainty, until I realized that the “passing grade” was to be obtained simply by confessing our sins:

• If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Confession would bring me my “passing grade.” However, I was perplexed. Right before this, John wrote about how Jesus “purifies us from all sin” as we “walk in the Light” (1 John 1:6-7). Now John was telling us that He “purifies us from all unrighteousness” through merely confessing our sins. Which is it?

It later came together for me. Sincerely confessing our sins becomes the basis for everything else – the walk in the light! Confessing and walking go together. There’s inseparable. When we confess our sins and believe that He has forgiven and cleansed us, out of gratitude, we want to please and honor Him, to trust and obey Him! If I trust my doctor, I will take the pills he gives me. How much more so with our Savior! If we trust Him, we will obey Him! A real trust produces fruit. If you fear that you lack this trust, ask Him for it. He will not turn you down (John 6:37; Romans 10:13).

About a forgiven prostitute, Jesus said that because she was forgiven much, she loves much (Luke 7:47). We too need the assurance that we have been forgiven. Once we have this assurance, we will gladly walk in the light. It is the greatest privilege!

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