Learning to Walk (1 John 1:7)
Would it surprise you to know that I’ve had trouble walking my entire life? Because others in my family have had similar symptoms from time to time, my neurologist said at my first appointment that I had to have something hereditary. He said that there is a great deal of discussion about when life begins, but my DNA was fixed from the time of conception. Think about that in the context of abortion for a second.
Anyway, I have had issues from birth. When I first started walking, my legs were turned wrong. I had to wear braces and I had to have my shoes on the wrong feet (I’m not sure why my shoes were to be on the wrong feet, but that’s what the doctor told Mom).
In elementary school, I was as clumsy as I could be. However, I thought I could run well, and I always signed up for every event on Track and Field Day. The gym teacher would give me a huge head start, but I still would finish last.
In high school, I started having horrible pain in my shins. I could only walk a few feet without getting shin splints. I got sent to a podiatrist who made inserts I was to wear constantly. I had to put them in high top basketball shoes. When I went to college, I got to wear high top basketball shoes with a suit.
But, as with many people, I buried my head in the sand and pretended like there wasn’t a problem, until it became more pronounced. Before we moved here, I had a year or two of having almost no difficulty walking. There was pain, but that was mostly the extent of it. Tammy insisted that we bring my cane and walker when we moved; I was furious, because I was never going to need them again.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had trouble walking or not. You might have broken an ankle or a leg . . . You might have had a sprain . . . Maybe you like to get out and walk in your neighborhood to get some exercise. Maybe you prefer to run. I used to run a fair amount myself . . . My roommate and I would go for runs every now and then. I was skinny as a rail back in those days, too. . . .
What if you had to learn to walk all over again? That isn’t terribly uncommon. People with traumatic brain injuries or strokes or genetic conditions sometimes need to be taught how to walk again. I was sent to physical therapy several years ago so that I might learn how to walk again . . . It made me worse, though.
But, do you really know how to walk? I’m not talking about putting one foot in front of another. I’m talking about how we walk in the light. The Spirit, through John, tells us to walk in the light: “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” (1 John 1:7). If we want fellowship with one another and the forgiveness of sins, we must walk in the light. How do we walk in the light? “We walk in the light by walking like God.” Let’s examine the text and then think about how we practically walk in the light.
Scripture (1 John 1:7)
“If we walk in the light, as he is in the light.”
Notice the conditional nature of this verse . . . John says, “If we walk in the light,” we have blessings. The promises of God are often conditional. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). If you do not believe in Jesus, you shall not have eternal life. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). If I do not confess my sins, I will not be forgiven and cleansed.
In this passage, God offers two tremendous blessings: fellowship and cleansing from sin. Yet, those two blessings are conditional; if we want those blessings, we must be walking in the light.
Notice quite carefully what John does here: He calls on us to be like our heavenly Father. We are to walk in the light. Why? Because God is in the light.
In fact, the context says that God is light. 1 John 1:5-6. What do we mean when we say that God is light? It’s always best when you can look at the immediate context and get your answer. Look at what John writes about darkness and light.
- Darkness and light are opposites. God is light and free of all darkness (1:5). If we claim to have fellowship with God [who is in the light] while we walk in darkness, “we lie and do not practice the truth” (1:6).
- Darkness is temporary (it is passing away) and the true light is already shining (2:8).
- The one loving his brother is in the light; the one who hates his brother is in darkness (2:9-11).
- The conclusion is unmistakable: Darkness is sin and light is holiness. John only mentions the specific sin of hating our brother as putting us in darkness; yet the way John writes about lightness and darkness seems to suggest a holy or sinful lifestyle, rather than a specific act of holiness or sin. The Gospel of John leaves no doubt about that: John 3:19-21.
If we walk in the light, we have two blessings.
One: We have fellowship with one another.
Man needs fellowship, for he is a social creature. “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen 2:18). God created a partner for man, because it wasn’t good that the man be alone.
The early church took fellowship very seriously. Acts 2:42-47. One of the major purposes of Christian fellowship is to help one another get to heaven (Heb 10:24).
When Christians persist in sin, that fellowship is necessarily broken (1 Cor 5:3-5).
Two: The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
The verb “cleanses” is a present active indicative; that refers to continual action.
People will sometimes ask, “What if I commit a sin just before I die?” The fact that people would ask such a question may well indicate that we preachers have done a miserable job discussing the vast grace of God. God’s grace can never be a license for sin. “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom 6:1-2). However, there is a huge difference between living in sin and committing a sin. Let us put away sin and follow Jesus! Let us follow Jesus with the full confidence His blood allows!
You need to learn how to walk. John prescribes the manner in which you’re to walk: “We walk in the light by walking like God.” Let’s think about how we can walk like God.
In all honesty, however, there is only one way to walk like God: You must live like God. Throughout Scripture, we are urged to live like God. “I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:44). “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48). Don’t you absolutely love how we treat this verse? We’ll read this verse and say, “perfect” means “mature” and we move right on. Talking about the definition of a word is easy; becoming like God is difficult. We must not forget that Jesus tells us to become like our heavenly Father. “Be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph 5:1). “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 Jn 2:6).
How can we go about becoming imitators of God?
First: You need to understand who God is.
You cannot strive to be like God if you do not know who He is.
God has revealed Himself to man in two ways:
God revealed Himself to man in creation (Ps 19:1-6).
As you look at creation, you can notice God’s power, His orderliness, and the glory that is due Him. Creation itself teaches us about the moral character of God. Romans 1:18-20. The “Moral Argument” is a very powerful argument for the existence of God. Across the earth societies are going to accept specific acts (e.g., murder) as wrong. If there is no God, why would people — who have no concept of God — believe things are right or wrong?
God revealed Himself to man in the Word (Ps 19:7-11).
The revelation of God in Scripture is a light to help us walk in the light. “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (Ps 119:130). “The commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light” (Prov 6:23).
Search Scripture to see the character of God. See His compassion, see His grace, see His holiness, see His justice. See God for who He really is.
Two: You need to examine yourself.
As you look at Scripture, lay your soul bare before Scripture. “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?-unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Cor 13:5). “Let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor” (Gal 6:4).
Take a careful look at your heart and ask the question, “How much like God am I?” Are you acting like God when you blow up in anger? Are you acting like God when you help the family down the road get groceries? Are you acting like God when you promise to pray for a coworker’s child? Are you acting like God when fudge your income taxes just a little bit? When you look at your heart, do you see Jesus?
Three: You prepare yourself.
Christian growth does not just happen. I have known Christians who were still babes in Christ years after they became Christians.
We can grow when we plan to grow. You must count the cost of growth (Lk 14:28-32). Think of Jesus’ example. “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Lk 9:51). It wasn’t going to be easy, but Jesus set out with Jerusalem as His goal.
When you set your face toward becoming more like God, what do you need to do? Do you need the prayers of your brethren? Simon did (Acts 8:24). Do you need someone to bear your burden? Some in Galatia did (Gal 6:2). Do you need to make new friends? Some in Corinth did (1 Cor 15:33). What plan do you need to become more like God?
Four: You act.
There is no need to learn about God and to examine yourself and to plan to grow if you never do a thing with it.
God wants people who will keep their words. “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Lk 9:62). “As the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (Js 2:26).
Planning to walk in the light is not going to make me closer to God; carrying out that plan will. Just like the relationship between faith and works, my intentions without works is dead. How will you walk in the light this week?
Even preachers need to learn how to walk more fully in the light. A couple years ago, I sat at Polishing the Pulpit listening to Glen Colley speak about the preacher as the leader of his family. For whatever reason, that has always been a struggle for me: Leading my family in private devotionals. Glen convicted me, and I knew I needed to make some changes.
Let me explain how I was able to change.
- God’s character: He is a Father, He desires people to know His will, and He has communicated His will understandably to man.
- Self-examination: That took place at Polishing the Pulpit.
- Preparation: I have a friend who has posted several family devotional ideas on his website. I looked at them and decided on one we’d use.
- Action: It’s now something that we do on a regular basis.
Do you need to walk in the aisle this morning to help you walk in the light of God?