We live in a dark world. We may hear other words used to describe it: lost, broken, evil, etc, but probably one of the most common ways to view the world is in terms of darkness and light. We see examples of this no matter where you look.
If you look at popular films, tv shows and books, you see this theme. There are bad guys and heroes. Usually, the heroes are associated with the light and the bad guys are associated with darkness. They show a connection in different ways, reinforcing the idea that darkness is bad and the light is good.
In the old days, you might watch a cowboy film, and they would use the black hat to symbolize who the bad guy was. When you saw a man wearing a black hat, you knew he was going to be the bad guy. Another example would be in Star Wars, you have Darth Vader. He used the dark side of the force. In the films, the dark side of the force was very bad, even turning good people to bad, if they weren’t careful. I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about these things, but I think we can agree that these kinds of examples are very common, and not just in entertainment.
I can remember an example years ago in Turkey that one of the political parties used. The main party in Turkey is the ‘light’ party and they use a light bulb as their party symbol. One of their opponents tried to use this against them with an ad that used two pictures, one of a lightbulb all lit up with a white background and the other with turned off in a dark background. The ad said, “Today light, tomorrow darkness.” They wanted to imply that voting for that party would ultimately lead the country to a bad place. It was a clever ad, but in the end it didn’t make a difference.
This is just a general principle. Darkness is considered to be associated with evil or something bad. The Bible uses this meaning as well. When you read through the Bible, you will find many different examples of the use of light and darkness. John used it as much as any author, but there are examples in both the Old and New Testaments. Today, we are going to look at a few of those example, 1 John 1:5-10:
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice 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 cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
There are several points I want to highlight from this passage, but I’ll start with the big one, which should be obvious to all of us. God is very different than we are. We are human. Me, you, all of us. There is nothing bad in God. There is no darkness in God. While Jesus was on this earth, even though he was fully human, he did not sin. He did nothing wrong. This is because he was also fully God.
We aren’t like that. We are all sinners. These verses explain it very clearly. If you say you have no sin, you’re lying. That is the truth. While living in this world, I’m a sinner, and so are you.
Paul writes about the same thing in Romans. In Romans 3:23, he writes: “23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” then later in 6:23, “23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
These are very important verses that affirm universal truths. We are all sinners. Because of that sin, we all deserve to die. This translation uses the term wages. A wage is given for something you’ve done. We all deserve to be paid in death for our sins, but praise God, the verse doesn’t stop there. After that Paul tells that there is eternal life in Christ Jesus. This is the greatest news for all of mankind. But it is important to remember, even after we receive that free gift, we continue to live in a dark world.
1 John 1:7 explains a path for us, as followers of Jesus. “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 cleanses us from all sin.” Every Christian should want to follow this path. As long as we continue to live in this dark world, if we follow the path that Christ lays out for us, we will experience daily the presence of Christ and the fellowship of others who are also on that path.
My main question of the day is “How do we walk in the light?” Fortunately, the Bible doesn’t just leave us hanging, but it provides a great deal of help for us to understand how it is possible. The greatest help is God’s Word.
Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
After giving your lives to Christ, you have the Holy Spirit with you and generally the greatest and most common way that God continues to lead us is through His Word, the Bible. How does He lead us? Actually if you read the entirety of Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, it provides many details about this. Today, we won’t look at it together, but I would suggest you set aside time this week to read the entire chapter. You will be encouraged.
Paul writes about this topic in the book of Ephesians as well, which we also read earlier. Chapter 5 verses 8-14.
8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
This passage uses a few helpful descriptive terms to put a picture in our heads of what it means to walk in the light. He first challenges us to walk as children of the light. Children come from their parents and they continue to represent their parents even as they go out in the world. We are to walk as products and representatives of the saving light of Christ.
Paul also talks about fruit. The fruit of light and the unfruitful works of darkness. That is another helpful picture. Apples grow on apple trees, bananas grow on banana trees. The kind of tree or vine determines the fruit. We bear fruit according to our connection to either light or darkness. Paul also talks about exposing the unfruitful works of darkness.
That is a fitting picture. Our sins, hate the light and love the darkness. They love secrecy. They are afraid of the light.
You know this. Every person knows the sins of others. They look at their friends and neighbors and the people around them and can easily find what they are doing wrong. Isn’t that true? But when it comes to our own sins and mistakes, we want to keep them in the darkness.
If you keep your life in the light, you face little risk and little concern of having what you’ve done exposed. But if you walk in darkness, then you will always fear the light. Our sins and the things we’ve done that are wrong always want to stay secret, to avoid being exposed. Wherever you look, you can see the same kinds of things. Someone is doing something wrong and they are trying to keep it covered up. They want to keep it in the dark.
Christians are called to live a very different life than that. As Christians, we should have no fear of the light. If you live your life according to the teachings of God’s Word, you have no fear of man, because we stay in the light. Practically, how do we stay in the light?
Actually, if we’re honest with ourselves, we usually know the answer to that question. Did you know that every bad decision you’ve ever made has one thing in common? It’s you, you were there for every one of those bad decisions. Sometimes you might have thought, “I didn’t have any other choice”, but that probably isn’t true. It may have seemed that way in the moment, but before that moment, many others came before.
When I was trained to be a counselor, we saw people who had addictions. Addictions to drugs, alcohol and other life destroying things. Addicted people slowly give away all of their freedom. I’ll give you an example. There is a man, he’s an alcoholic. He might say, “On the way home from work, I went to the market. I went to the aisle where the liquor was and bought some. I took it home and brought it out when no one was there. I poured it in the glass in front of me, and counselor, I just wasn’t strong enough, I had to drink it.”
Now that might not be a lie. In that moment, maybe he didn’t have enough strength, but how did he come to that moment? Step by step. This is the way we bring ourselves into the darkness.
We make a choice. That choice may not seem too bad, but it isn’t really good either. But that choice is a small little step turning away from the light. Turning away from God. We continue to make similar choices, step by step. None of them very big, none of which seem to be very significant, but in the end, we reap the fruits of darkness.
Think about your past. When you look back, do you see those kinds of steps, small little steps that led you away from God? Maybe when you look at them you think, “If only I had made a different choice!”
To walk in the light is to avoid those steps toward the darkness. It is a holy way, but this holiness is not dependent on us. In our own strength, we have no capability to obtain holiness. That can only come from God. I remember hearing some verses that I found surprising not long after becoming a Christian:
- “Be Holy” – this command is found throughout Scripture in both the old and new testaments.
- Matthew 5:48 – You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Do you know yourself? I know my heart. I know my thoughts. When I first read those verses, I always thought the same thing. “Holy, me?” “Perfect, me?” If you know yourself and are honest with yourself, these are logical questions. I can be holy in the moment, maybe even for a few days, for the whole day, but every moment and every day is impossible.
Paul writes about this struggle in Romans 7:14-20:
14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
Verse 15 is a good summary of Paul’s point – For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
Paul understood our situation very well. We live in this dark, fallen world and we are sinners. That is reality. To say I’m not a sinner has no benefit. To say this world is good and people are naturally good has no benefit. We have the same problem that Paul is describing here, but we are to be holy. We are to be perfect.
How can this be?
To get the answer, we’ll go back to the apostle John, but this time we will look at the Gospel of John, chapter 1.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
And verse 9 – 9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
This is the source of our hope. It is not based on our own strength. Jesus came. He was God and man and He lived on this earth. While living in this dark and fallen world, He was still holy. He was perfect. He was without sin.
Jesus showed us a way. He made a holy way for mankind. We can learn that way by looking at His life and His teachings.
Our first question was how do we walk in the light?
The answer is to look to Jesus. His way never departs from the light. It never enters the darkness. When we go with Jesus, we always stay in the light.
This is the way, but while we are in this world, we are still weak. We still “do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate”
We can know the true way to live, but still have difficulty staying on that path. So what can we do?
We need each other. God is enough and it is in His strength that we find the answer and He will help us, but He didn’t stop there. He gave us His Church. Christ designed the church to provide help for one another. We can get the help we need for living in this dark world and sometimes we can receive the correction we need as we start to stray. With God and with His Church we can stay on the path of the light.
By doing this, that is how we live as children of light. This way is much better for us. By staying in the light, we can make better decisions. We can live with fewer regrets. We can live a more meaningful life. Everyone should want this and with the help of the Lord it is possible.
As you look ahead in the future, you can choose to walk in the light. The first step is to give your life to Jesus. If you don’t know Him, you don’t know the light. Today is the perfect day to give your life to Him.
If you are a follower of Christ, think about your future. What kind of future do you want? Do you want a future in the light or in the darkness? What’s past is finished. Maybe you have many regrets about the past, but from this moment on, you can choose a better path.
Choose to walk in the light. Choose to be children of the light. It is a much better life. God knows what is good for us, far better than we can ever know. Do you trust Him? You need to trust Him. He is much more trustworthy than ourselves.