One of the interesting things about the Bible is the fact that God often emphasizes certain subjects that He wants to talk about within the individual books. A good example of this is found in the book of 1st John where God uses the pen of John the Apostle to talk about something that is just as important today as it was when it was first written. That “something” is how to tell the difference between people who are really telling the truth about God and those who are not.
This emphasis helps give people the ability to identify the truth about God and His Son, Jesus Christ. In fact, you’ll find that 1st John uses many clear and direct statements like “God is…“, “If we claim…“, “This is how…” and other similar terms (which are used over 30 times in 105 verses) to unmistakably describe who God is and what His followers should be like.
This “direct approach” becomes clear right from the very beginning of the book…
“Christ was alive when the world began, yet I myself have seen him with my own eyes and listened to him speak. I have touched him with my own hands. He is God’s message of life. This one who is life from God has been shown to us, and we guarantee that we have seen him; I am speaking of Christ, who is eternal Life.
He was with the Father and then was shown to us. Again I say, we are telling you about what we ourselves have actually seen and heard, so that you may share the fellowship and the joys we have with the Father and with Jesus Christ his son. And if you do as I say in this letter, then you, too, will be full of joy, and so will we” (1 John 1:1-4).
Why should we believe what John says about Jesus in this book? Well, one good reason is that John gives an eyewitness report about the things that Jesus said and did. In fact, the original language used here gives the sense that John closely examined Jesus just like someone might closely examine a specimen in Science class. As we’ll see, this “eyewitness authority” will serve to back up everything that John says about Jesus in the rest of the book.
Next comes this…
“This is the message God has given us to pass on to you: that God is Light and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).
This brings us to the first “God is…” statement that we mentioned earlier: “…God is Light and in him is no darkness at all” (verse 5). In this context, “light” represents truth, goodness and integrity. “Darkness” represents falsehood, evil and dishonesty. These references should be familiar to us because we still use terms like “light” and “darkness” in the very same way today. For example, why is a character like Dracula also known as “The Prince Of Darkness”? Well, that’s easy- he’s an evil bad guy and “darkness” is representative of that.
So if God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all (as it says above), then what does this tell us about the nature of God? Well, two things should come to mind:
1.) The word “God” is used in the singular, which means that there is only one God, not many
2.) Unlike what some believe, the Bible tells us that this one God is totally good and not a mixture of good and evil
Knowing these basic truths about God should definitely have an impact on the way that people live, and that’s the part that’s covered next…
“So if we say we are his friends but go on living in spiritual darkness and sin, we are lying. But if we are living in the light of God’s presence, just as Christ does, then we have wonderful fellowship and joy with each other, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from every sin” (1 John 1:6-7).
Just as we saw earlier with the concept of “darkness” and “light,” the word “walk” used above also has a representative meaning. In this instance, the word “walk” is used to refer to someone’s lifestyle or the way they live their life.
To illustrate this, let’s say that someone claims to be “religious” but is living the kind of lifestyle that is out of line with what God says in the Scriptures. In that case, the verse quoted above tells us that such a person is really lying- they’re lying to themselves and they’re lying to others as well. On the other hand, people who “…walk in the light, as he is in the light…” (1 John 1:5 NIV) can enjoy a real, genuine relationship with God and other people who want to do the same.
Some other very important verses come next…
“If we say that we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth… If we claim we have not sinned, we are lying and calling God a liar, for he says we have sinned” (1 John 1:8, 10).
When you see the word “sin” in the Bible, it doesn’t only mean doing something wrong- it literally means “to miss the mark.” It means failing to live up to the perfect standard that God has established for human beings as His creation. You see, God’s standard for His creation (that’s us) is perfection and He has every right to ask that we live up to this standard because that’s how He originally created us.
Unfortunately, the very first human couple made the choice to disobey God and “sin” came about as a result. The problem is that every person since then has also followed in the footsteps of those first human beings in failing to live up to God’s standard.
Now the phrase, “If we say that we have no sin” might refer to a number of things. For instance, it could refer to someone who believes that he or she is a “good person” because they don’t do “bad things” like rob banks or murder people. While those things may be true, we should remember that “good” doesn’t necessarily mean “good enough.”
Don’t forget that God’s standard is perfection and if you mess up at any point, then you’ve missed the mark and have fallen short of what you should be (see Romans 3:23). In this case, 1 John 5:8 tells us that you’re only kidding yourself if you think that “being good enough” is “good enough.”
These verses could also refer to those who believe that they have reached a state of perfection and have become “gods” themselves. These verses may also refer to those people who are doing things that the Bible says are wrong but still feel that what they’re doing is really OK regardless of what the Scriptures say. Again, if you believe those things, then the Bible says that you are just deceiving yourself.
If you’re willing to accept what God says and be honest with yourself about any areas where you might be falling short, then you can go on to the next step:
“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 NIV).
What does it mean to “confess our sins”? Well, before we talk about what confession is, let’s talk about what confession is not. “Confession” is not something you do because you were caught doing something wrong. “Confession” also doesn’t mean that you simply feel sorry for something you’ve done. “Confession” means that you come into agreement with God and accept the fact that you’ve done something that He said was wrong.
If you do that, then the Bible tells us that God will be…
- Faithful. In other words, you can totally trust and rely on God.
- Just. He will be totally fair towards you.
- He will forgive us our sins. The word for “forgive” there means “to send away.” This implies that God will take all those sins, faults, mistakes, and shortcomings that you’ve confessed and send them all away.
- Finally, He will purify us from all unrighteousness. This means that God will make you totally clean- just as if you never messed up in the first place.
Remember- “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8 NIV). The cold, hard reality is that human beings are not perfect or self-sufficient and we are totally unable to live up to the standard that God has set for us. The good news however, is that God has engineered a way out of this mess for those who are willing to accept it.
The alternative just results in self-deception and that’s never a good option.