Abortion? Homosexuality? Divorce? These days, it’s common to see Christians having completely divergent views on questions that would never have been a point of contention a century ago. How did we get to this point?
I have come to see that some of these choices and beliefs find their roots — not in our personalities or cultural backgrounds but — in a lack of a knowledge of who God is or, even more concerning, a lack of a relationship with God. How else can we explain why Christians hold completely different views on so many fundamental issues?
Unfortunately, by doing this, we go against the very unity in faith that believers are meant to have, and it affects our obedience to the Word of God. So, the main point of concern here is the understanding that Christians have of what it means to follow Christ and to be obedient to Him. I’ve been reading through 1 John 1:1-10 with another Christian and it really struck me that John was very clear about what it means to follow Christ. Let’s look at the passage in question, and see if it can offer us some much-needed reminders today:
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
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.
1. Jesus is the only One that matters (vv. 1-2).
Jesus is not a nice myth found in some ancient text, or revealed by a vision to someone in a cave. He is a real person that John (amongst other disciples) saw, heard and lived with. John writes of Jesus as a first-hand witness to the life of this seemingly unremarkable, itinerant Jewish teacher. But what was his testimony of Jesus? That He was not just some rabbi or enlightened teacher — but the One in whom was eternal life and Who was with God before the world began.
The Jesus we follow is not just a messenger with a message, but the One who is described as ‘Eternal Life’. He does not bring eternal life — He is eternal life. In other words, He is the only source of eternal life. And yet, He chose to be born as a human for our sake. If we don’t see Jesus in that light, we don’t really grasp who He is.
Jesus does not merely bring eternal life — He is eternal life. If we don’t see Jesus in that light, we don’t really grasp who He is
2. True unity is found only in Christ (vv. 3-5).
The eternal life that Christians share in is found in Jesus who, in unity with the Father and the Spirit, saved us by atoning for our sins. If we are in Christ, it is only in Christ that we can have our true blessed bond. All other bases for unity, be they political or cultural, are shaky grounds for true Christian fellowship. We need to be sure that when we build relationships, they are grounded first on Christ and His truth, as opposed to any fad or philosophy we fancy.
John goes on to talk about God being the true Light and how there is no darkness in Him. This is a reference to God’s truthfulness, righteousness and holiness — and the fact that they are found in Him alone and no one else. Everyone else who peddles ‘truth’ is actually peddling falsehood and darkness. How serious are we in guarding our hearts from ideas that are against Christ?
3. Being united to Christ transforms our lifestyle (vv. 6-10).
Building on all that has been established so far, John goes on to make the logical conclusion that we must be lying if we say we are walking with God when we are, in reality, indulging in sinful ideas and actions. It’s easy to compartmentalise our beliefs from our lives when we find them inconvenient — but this is what John considers “walking in darkness”.
Darkness is not just a season of life; rather, it is the actual state of our condition when we are indulging in sin. But our God is gracious and, in Christ, He stands ready to forgive us our sins on the basis of our repentance and trust in the cross.
Darkness is not just a season of life; rather, it is the actual state of our condition when we are indulging in sin
John wants to give us a way to identify whether we are in Christ or not. He keeps it simple by presenting the idea of light and darkness to represent the ones who repent of their sin and the ones who do not. The key difference between the two is repentance.
Could it be that there are sins or blindspots in our lives that we have not fully been obedient in addressing? This is where we reveal who we are. As we encounter such areas in our lives, the repentant ones are those who confess their sin, diligently submit themselves to the authority of Christ as found in Scripture, and trust God.
To follow Christ simply means to live a life of repentance — and the more we come to understand and apply that truth, the more we’ll find peace and unity with each other but, most importantly, with Christ.
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