Thank you for listening to the Foundations Podcast this Thursday. Today our Bible focus is 1 John chapter 1 v 5-10. Throughout this week we have been thinking about the question – “What does my life proclaim?”
In the past 2 weeks, I have been to both Birmingham and Newcastle University, as my eldest son tries to decide where to go after his A-levels. He’s thinking of studying psychology. At Birmingham we took part in an experiment about the ability of eyewitnesses to identify suspects in a line-up. I don’t know what it says about my psychological make-up, but I wrongly identified a young girl, and claimed that she had committed a crime, when in fact she was innocent! At Newcastle, there was a presentation about why people confess to crimes that they did not commit, and we watched a video of a police interrogation where an innocent teenage boy admitted murdering his sister. It was all fascinating stuff, and it returned to my mind in preparing this podcast, because it is the complete opposite of what John is writing about in today’s passage.
Rather than innocent people being wrongly identified or accused, in verses 5-10 John is writing about the problems that arise when guilty people claim to be innocent. It’s a passage all about falsely proclaiming things about ourselves and our relationship with God.
The first false claim John addresses is when our mouths proclaim one thing, but our lives declare another. When we say we have a relationship with God, but we continue with certain behaviours, actions or attitudes that we know are sinful. John makes it clear that if we live in darkness – in sin – then it is just not possible to experience true fellowship with God, because God is light. Light and dark are total opposites, totally incompatible. If we believe anything else then verse 6 says “we lie and do not live out the truth.”
However, for each false claim he tackles, John also presents a promise or a truth. The first promise is found in verse 7. If we make it our aim to walk in the light, then God promises to walk with us. And the truth he shares is that we all need community with other Christians, in order to help us live life in the way Jesus intended us to.
The second false claim John unpacks is the belief that we have no sin in our life. The way John writes, it’s as if some of those listening have heard his first point and responded by saying “Oh no! That’s not me. I don’t walk in darkness, because I have no sin in my life at all.”
As a parent this reminds me of those times when you are telling one child off for something they have done wrong, and your other child suddenly becomes the most perfect angel ever known to man. They volunteer to do jobs, they say please and thank-you, they eat their food without complaining, they tidy their toys away without being asked. They might just as well say, “Look at me Mummy! I’m always such a good/kind/helpful child…….unlike my terrible sibling walking in darkness over there!”
Those of you who are parents may well recognise this type of false claim, or maybe some of us know that there are times in our own lives where we have declared ourselves to be permanently innocent and, as Mary Poppins would say, “practically perfect in every way.”
John’s response to this proclamation of permanent perfection is clear. If we believe we have no sin then “we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
The key question here is why this is important.
If we have not confessed our sin to God, then we will never be able to fully experience his true character. God is faithful, just, forgiving and purifying. Only when we confess our sin will we come to learn that God is always faithful in keeping his promise to forgive us, he is always just because he will never deny us this forgiveness, and finally only through confession can we experience the purification that enables us to enjoy a right relationship with God. Looking back to yesterday’s passage, we remember that it is this fellowship with God that makes our joy complete – that’s the second great promise to hold on to.
The final false claim that John seeks to debunk is that we have not sinned. Verse 10 relates to the view that although people claimed not to sin in the present, they also believed they had not sinned in the past either. John’s rebuke of this belief is perhaps his most serious: a false claim of this nature makes God out to be a liar. If we say we have never sinned then it means that God’s message, His Word, is not needed. If we have never sinned then God would be lying when he said that we all needed to be rescued. Jesus’ death and resurrection would be pointless.
And this is where we reach the cliff hanger moment…..because the promise that John gives in response to this false claim is written about in chapter 2, and we don’t get to that until tomorrow! Make sure you listen to Friday’s podcast to complete the picture.
But to finish today’s podcast, what is God saying to us through these verses in 1 John chapter 1?
When we think about the question “What does my life proclaim?” we also have to address the issue of any false claims that we make in our relationship with God.
Are there any areas where we actually still live in darkness?
Do we have un-confessed sin in our lives that prevents us from experiencing the true forgiving nature of God?
As we do this, let’s hold on to these great truths:
Firstly, that God promises to walk with us,
Secondly that community with other Christians is vital in helping us to live in the light of Christ,
And finally, that experiencing the forgiveness of sins leads us to fellowship with God and makes our joy complete.
Lord God, send your Holy Spirit into our lives today. Forgive us of our sins, and help us to walk in your light. Amen.
READING: 1 John 1:5-10
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out 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.
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. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.