5. Walk in the Light

Meditations in 1 John : 5 :  Walk in the Light

1 John  1:6,7   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.

In the early part of this twenty first century crusading atheists have attacked God and the Church and one of the key prongs of their attack has been based on poor examples of Christianity, people whose lives have not lived up to the call of Jesus. There is in these verses a call to a great separation and it is a call to every believer.

Now it may be that John was speaking out in these verses against those who purported to be believers in that time, yet whose lives could hardly be distinguished from the rest of the world. Some religious groups said it was all right to live how you wanted. It was the argument that Paul went against in his letter to Rome:What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? ….. Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” (Rom 6:1,15)

John is a great one for calling Christians to live godly lives, lives that are pure and righteous. He does it by contrasting light and darkness. We have already touched on it in the previous verse meditation. Referring to Jesus in his Gospel, John wrote, “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (Jn 1:5) and “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” (Jn 1:9)

John uses light and darkness to describe right and wrong living, because the analogy is so clear – light and darkness  cannot exist in the same space at the same time. If you go into a dark room and turn on the light the darkness disappears. It is as simple as that. So, says John, Jesus is light and if you claim to be united with him in fellowship, and yet carry on sinning, that is proof that Jesus’ light is not in you, you are not in fellowship with him and all you say is a lie about being a believer.

When we talk about becoming a Christian we talk about inviting Jesus into your life. Now if you do that – genuinely – then his light will prevent you from sinning. Another way we put it is to talk about the Holy Spirit coming to live in us. He is light and if He genuinely lives in us and we fellowship with Him, then darkness cannot remain in us, sin cannot remain in us. The key word is ‘fellowship’. In his Gospel, John remembered Jesus, at the Last Supper speaking of similar things: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.” (Jn 15:5) Remaining in, or, as the older versions had it, ‘abiding in’ simply means living in harmony with Jesus, fellowshipping with him.

Sanctification – that change of life to become more like Jesus – is both an instant and a gradual thing. It is instant and starts from the moment we come to Christ and he places his Holy Spirit within us. At that point the goal of our life, all of our aims, changes. From that moment living for God becomes the all-important thing; that’s what we mean when we talk about surrendering our lives to Him. From that moment on, His will is the all-important thing for us, but the trouble is that often there are things we haven’t realized God wants to change and, in fact, the change will take years and years. But whenever we recognize something that is not right, we must deal with it immediately – for it is darkness and it can no longer exist within us.

When we fellowship or commune with God, He lets us know when they are obvious things that need dealing with. He takes away our peace and we become aware that here is something that must change. How many Christians, I wonder, never commune or fellowship with God? I wonder how many just hold him at a distance in their lives? When you do this you can tolerate wrong things in your life – but be warned, that has spin-offs!

If we hold God at arms’ length, then we don’t fellowship with Him and if we don’t fellowship with Him it means we don’t fellowship with other believers. It is the Holy Spirit within us who enables us to fellowship heart to heart, spirit to spirit, with other believers. But on the positive side, when we do fellowship with Him and with one another, that is how His life in us is supposed to work and that is the outworking of His salvation that He wants in us. That is why John appears to ‘tack on’ this reference to the blood of Jesus, his Son, which purifies us from all sin. It is the outworking of our salvation is to be practical, not merely theoretical.

So often we seek to separate off references to our salvation and being cleansed from our sin, from practical living, but practical living is the outworking of what Jesus has achieved on the Cross. It wasn’t simply that our consciences can be cleared; it was also to enable us to live new lives and that newness involves interacting with other believers at a deep and meaningful level. If we sin and hold darkness in our lives, that prevents fellowship taking place – fellowship with God and fellowship with other believers. We will have an appearance of a Christian faith, but it will not be what God has for you, it will fall short of that. That is how significant these verses are!

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47. Limited Anger

God in the Psalms No.47 – God of limited anger

Psa 30:5 For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

In these meditations we have already considered the God of Anger, but here there is something more that needs taking in.  Do you ever remember times when, as a child, you did wrong and there came a division between you and your parent who was angry with what you had done? The separation was the thing that hurt you more than any smacking you may have received, the fact that your parent thought badly of you and didn’t want to know you. Well that, almost certainly, is how many of us were brought up, and in a day of no smacking, the only punishment seen by many is banishment, and psychologically that is far worse that smacking which is over in a moment.

David knew this about God. Yes, He did get angry when it was justified, but that anger was a temporary thing, something that only lasted for a moment. Yes He does bring discipline (see Prov 3:11,12, Heb 12:5,6) but it is a momentary thing in the scheme of things. Yes, it may leave you weeping for a night, but it will only be for a night (all right, a ‘night’ may not just be a few hours, it can be days, depending on the depth of work the Lord has to do in us!) It will only be for a limited period and mostly it is only a very limited period.

Consider the usual order of events in these things today: you do something wrong, the Holy Spirit within you convicts you, and you are sorry.  What has been going on in heaven?  The Father sees the sin and is angry – because He is with sin. He stirs His Spirit within you and you respond. Now what happens?  At that moment Jesus intercedes on our behalf: “Father, I died for them, I died for that sin, it’s been dealt with.” (1 Jn 2:1,2), and the matter is instantly closed.   What may happen is that in the earlier stages you may take longer to respond to the Holy Spirit’s activity within you. Like Jonah (Jon 1:1-4) we try to ‘run away’ from God and pretend it didn’t happen, so it takes a little longer for the Lord to bring us to our senses so that we repent, but the moment we do, the above conversation in heaven takes place.

There is an important principle here: God’s anger against a sin last only until you repent. The literal interpretation of our verse above which says weeping may remain for a night” is actually “weeping will come in at evening to lodge”. It’s the picture of a lodger who comes to stay overnight. You may not yet see the significance of this, so let’s say it again: God’s anger against sin lasts only until you repent.  It doesn’t carry on holding the failure against us after it’s been dealt with.  Some of us feel God will keep on harbouring it against us. No He won’t; once it’s dealt with it’s over. That’s how any punishment with children should be. When our children were little we had a saying, “After smacks come cuddles.”  The practice of pushing our children away is psychological manipulation which is harmful. The controlled smack without anger after a clear warning, followed by hugs, says this is dealt with and is now past history that can be forgotten. It is interesting to note that under the Law of Moses, incarceration (prison) was not an option. The options were death (for major crimes, which became few) or restitution. In other words, there was no long, prolonged punishment, but reconciliation as quick as possible into society.  God is looking to bring favour and blessing, but we’ll have to leave that to the next meditation.

Walk of Separation

WALKING WITH GOD. No.10

Exo 19:3 Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain

Walking, as we have observed it in some of the other meditations, suggests an ongoing relationship. Walking with God suggests a time of communion and mutual sharing. For the Christian it is a time of receiving from God, a time of receiving revelation. Yet we have also seen the analogy of walking extended to wandering – times when there seems little purpose to life, but they so often become times of encounter with the Lord. We also saw in the previous meditation how there is the walk of investigation to find out what is going on. Now we consider what can only be called a climbing walk.

Once Moses had led Israel out of Egypt, the Lord led them through the desert until after about two weeks they arrived at Mount Sinai. Anyone who knows their Scripture, knows that Sinai was the place of encounter with the Lord, and where Israel were constituted a holy nation (19:6), and Moses received the Law from God. The question for any of us wanting to understand more the ways of God, is why did God need Moses to walk and climb a mountain to speak to Him? After all, Moses had spoken with the Lord again and again after the burning bush incident, and during the Exodus process, so why Sinai at all?

The answer is in the text. We have already commented that the Lord was calling them to be a ‘holy nation’ (19:6), and the Lord says He will come and speak out of a dense cloud, so the people can hear Him (19:9). Then He instructs the people to consecrate or wash, cleanse and commit themselves to Him (19:10) and keep at a distance from the mountain (19:12,13). On the third day He came with thunder and lightning (19:16). Finally Moses has to go up and meet with God (19:20). Everything about this speaks of God’s holiness, His different-ness, His separation from the people.

But we have already seen that Moses has been up the mountain previously, and in reality it seems he was going up and down the mountain a number of times (19:3,20 / 20:21 / 24:9,13 / 32:31). Every time Moses was taking a walk of separation. Every time there was a sense that to have close encounter with the Lord – and this was probably the time of greatest revelation in the life of Israel – it was necessary to separate from the ordinary world and climb ‘up’ as if towards heaven.

In a day when, through Christ, we know God as our loving heavenly Father, we tend to forget the wonder of what Christ has done, what can only truly be perceived in the light of Sinai. God is holy, so different, pure and utterly righteous – and we are not. We will never truly understand this until we get to heaven where, if God’s grace allows, we will look back and see ourselves as we truly were and, more importantly, we will see God’s activities and know that He never said or did anything we could criticise. The Cross of Christ has bridged the gulf between, so now today we can know this holy God as Father. How amazing!

But still God reveals Himself in different ways, and at different levels or different intensities. Sometimes there is the quiet whisper of the Spirit that comes in the quiet time, or even in the midst of the busy day, and God quietly speaks. That is one level. Then there are times, usually in worship, when we have a greater sense of the presence or manifestation of the Lord, and such times are equally precious. And then sometimes, at the quiet calling of the Lord, we sense we need to really come aside, to ‘climb the mountain’ and separate ourselves off from our busy, hectic and noisy lives, and go aside to meet God. When we do this, we know the close encounter with God, the greater sense of His presence, and greater revelation. The ‘walk up the mountain’ takes time and isolation. It may be in the form of a week’s retreat, or simply a few days put aside to meet with God. Yes, He is here every day, but this seems to open up a closer encounter that comes after a ‘walk up the mountain’, something most of us can do only rarely. Why not take two or three days out, to separate off from your work life and often active home life, and just go aside, ‘climb the mountain’ and be with God? You’ll never be the same again!

Sin-Bearer Crushed

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Matt. 27:46
    
Consider:
   
On the Thursday night Jesus committed the future of the church into the hands of his disciples.  By late Friday morning he was hanging on the Cross of Calvary.  From midday, for the next three hours, a darkness came over the land (Mt 27:45).   At the end of that time Jesus cried out the words of our verse today.    Those same words start Psalm 22, a Messianic psalm that gives us insight into the human anguish of the Son of God on the Cross.  
    
In that psalm there is a sense of helplessness and anguish that mirrors all of the human feelings of the one being we are considering, who was being crucified.   In v.12 & 13 he describes those who surround him, roaring at him, and then in v.14-17 the physical anguish he felt.   However the sense of verses 12 & 13 seem different from what man has done in the following verses.
   
Could this be the roaring of the powers of darkness, the demonic hoards that gathered to mock and vilify him?  Could the darkness that occurred be a physical expression of the spiritual darkness that was there in those hours?   Perhaps the truth has never been characterised better than in C.S.Lewis’s “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” as the Lion, Aslan, is tied up on the stone table to be murdered by the Witch: “Everyone was at him now. Those who had been afraid to come near him even after he was bound began to find their courage, and for a few minutes the two girls could not even see him – so thickly was he surrounded by the whole crowd of creatures kicking him, hitting him, spitting on him, jeering at him.” Could this be what was happening in those three hours?
 
Throughout the sacrificial law of Moses, is the picture of the one sacrificing the innocent creature placing their hands on its head in identification, with the idea of their sins being transferred to it.   In 2 Cor 5:21 Paul said, “God made him who had no sin to be sin.”    Even if we take the alternative here, “to be a sin offering,” the sense is the same: Jesus had your sin and my sin put on him!    The writer to the Hebrews (Heb 9:28) wrote, “so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin , but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”    If you bear something, you carry it.   The picture is of Jesus carrying the sins of the world as he hung there on the Cross.   Imagine every individual sin as a little bit of blackness, and then imagine every sin that is ever committed in the entire history of the world coming on Jesus in that three hours.    It says that in that time, he was enveloped in the most horrible blackness imaginable.
   
If we put the pictures of the two paragraphs above together, (remember that ‘Satan’ means ‘adversary’ or ‘accuser’), and you are left with a picture of the sin and guilt of the world coming upon Jesus on the Cross, and Satan and all the hoards of hell railing against him, accusing him and blaming him for every wrong thing that has ever and will ever happen.   Next time you hear some unthinking critic say, “It’s all God’s fault!” you can quietly say, “Well He took the blame,” and then you can quietly add, “So are you letting him take the blame for your guilt?”
   
But how does this link, you may be thinking, with our verse today?  Imagine this utter darkness of sin coming down upon Jesus, imagine him utterly surrounded by the hoards of hell.  The Father has not moved; He is still there, nothing has changed, but for the man-God hanging on the Cross enveloped in this blackness, surrounded by the demonic world, it is impossible to see or sense anything else.  All he can sense is blackness and evil.  Do you remember when we were meditating in Isaiah 53, we considered that “he was crushed for our iniquities” and we said then that Jesus, who was so strong in spirit, was totally crushed so that his spirit was so distorted in shape that even his awareness of his Father (which is what the spirit in us does) was devastated.  All Jesus was aware of was the blackness and the evil.   At that point the fullness of Sin put upon him means that his awareness of the Father’s presence (which was still there) was denied to the man so that he cries out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” because that is exactly what it feels like.
  
Imagine the awfulness, if you will, of this.   Ever since existence, the Father and Son have been one in awareness.    Never has there been separation.  In the last thirty or so earth years, the unity has been ‘in the Spirit’, in a sense limited by the human experience, but now, for the first and only time ever, the utter terribleness of separation is experienced as the Son is swamped in our sins and surrounded by the horrors of evil.  In the hearts of both Father and Son must be the most awful anguish and sense of isolation.  Never has the Godhead experienced such a thing – but they did it for you and me.
    
Prayer:
    
Lord in the light of these pictures, I am silenced in awe.   If I say thank you, it seems meaningless in the light of what I have seen, but I don’t know what else to say.