3: Light as Life (John 1:4)
3: Light as Life: The Healing Power of Confession
“In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.” (John 1:4)
We have seen that John equates life with light. He is specifically talking about God who is life and His life brings light to people.
What does he mean that His life is light?
Primarily he means it literally. “God is light”.
John starts his first letter, 1 John 1, in almost exactly the same way as he starts his gospel. However he expands on the wonderful theology of John 1 and makes it practically real.
“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 — 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 — 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. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” (1John 1-4).
He begins by talking of Jesus in the third person. Now instead of being the Logos, he is simply referred to as “that” and not identified as Jesus until the third verse. This is not meant as an impersonal introduction to a removed being, far from it. But John does want us to know that there is a mystery and wonder about this wonderful Person that sets Him apart and above everyone else.
John starts his first letter, again like his gospel, with the fact that Jesus is from the beginning, but he “warms” the relational dynamic of who He is. Rather than being “with God”, as in John 1, He is identified as being “with the Father”.
This is where John now takes his first letter further than his gospel. Powerful theology becomes practical reality. Not only was He (Jesus) with the Father, but He has come from the Father to be with the disciples. He made Himself known and available to them so that they could get progressively closer to Him.
They first of all heard Him. Then they saw Him. Then they gazed upon Him. Finally and in a very real and intimate way, they touched Him.
“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,” (1John 1)
John had touched Him, the dearly beloved disciple who lay against Jesus at the last supper before His death.
But now John brings this glorious truth closer to all of us. Not only was Jesus sent from the Father to be heard and seen and gazed upon and touched by the disciples, but he has come for that sort of progressive closeness with all of us. God the Father sent Jesus so that we could all have a deep, beautiful, close, intimate real relationship with Him.
“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.”
The word for fellowship is the Greek term “koinonia”. It means a shared life. John is telling us that we can share in the very life of eternal and all powerful God. A life not just shared with God as individuals, but shared with each other. The fulness of God’s life is meant to be experienced in community with others who are also sharing His life.
This is true life and true life brings real joy. John reiterates Jesus’ own promise that in Him we can have completeness, fulness of joy.
“And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” (1John 1:4)
True life is found in intimate relationship with God the Father, through Jesus Christ and in experiencing His joy-giving, deep, shared communion, koinonia, fellowship, with others who are also sharing this life. This sort of koinonia is not really experienced with people who merely believe in the story of Jesus, or who have simply made a decision to receive salvation. It can only be experienced with people who are living and loving Jesus, the life, the true life.
Living in that life, says John in verse 5, is like living with the light switched on.
“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.” (1John 1:5)
Living in that life is living in the light. Light is life and life is light because God is both, and both are lived in by those experiencing a real relationship with the Father and His Son Jesus.
But how do we practically walk in that light? The next verses tell us.
“If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another” (1John 1:7)
There it is. The Logos is life. The life is light. When we walk in that light, we share His life in koinonia with others.
It is not that we have His light and that leads us into fellowship with others.
No, when we receive that light we automatically and instantly become part of God’s eternal community with the Father and His Son and with each other by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is true positionally whether we experience it or not. We have been brought together in Christ for rich, soul satisfying fellowship with Him and each other and this is the fulness of life that He is offering us in John’s gospel.
If we live in this reality then “the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin” (1John 1:7). This does not mean that we have to be actively participating in true fellowship with other Christians in order to have our sins eternally forgiven. However, it does mean that we can only receive the full cleansing benefits (for now, in this life) of the shed blood of Jesus if we are walking in the light with our brothers and sisters.
What does “walking in the light” mean? We often interpret it to mean being honest, transparent and open with other followers of Christ. Getting beneath the surface responses of “I’m doing ok”, or “fine thank you”, to deeper vulnerability and trust. In the context it clearly implies a confession of temptations and sins, as that is what it takes sometimes to restore fellowship and it requires the cleansing blood that the verse offers.
Some people struggle with that interpretation, believing that after we have come to Jesus and asked Him to forgive our sins, then they are forgiven and we no longer have to confess them, especially not openly to eachother. Jesus taught us to pray “forgive us our trespasses” in what was clearly supposed to be a daily template for prayer. For instance, the prayer Jesus taught His disciples includes “give us this day our daily bread”, which is obviously meant to be prayed every day. Therefore it is a reasonable assumption to believe that we should be daily praying forgiveness of sins committed since the last time we prayed.
All these sins, for a Christian, are covered by the once for all sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and in that transaction we have received the righteousness of Christ. Our sins for His righteousness. That is how our Father in heaven looks at us, righteous in Christ.
However, our old flesh is not quite dead yet, while we still live and breathe on this earth. We still have daily temptations that need to be guarded and prayed against, “lead us not into temptation”. And we still sin, probably daily for most, if not all, of us.
We might not think we struggle with some of the more obvious outward sins, but how often do we fall into murmuring and complaining, or fear of the future (which is a form of unbelief), or we simply lose our place of simple trust in the Lord and start relying on our strength and wisdom. These sins are cleansed and “under the blood” as Christians, but when we get into a daily practice of acknowledging them, bringing them into the light, it has some powerful benefits.
• Confession is an act of humility, which always opens the door for more grace because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.
• Confession keeps us in reality, which is a foundational necessity of any true fellowship. It is impossible to have true fellowship with someone who puts up a front, or puts on a show, someone who can never really be themselves with you.
• Confession grows us in community. When we walk in the light we are walking like God does, we are partakers of His character and learning to walk in His ways. God does not need, obviously, to confess His sins, so walking in the light does not mean confession for Him. However, He is utterly transparently truthful and if we want to walk in fellowship with Him, we need to grow in doing the same.
As we grow in community with God that means that we ought to be growing in community with other believers. If we confess to God then we should learn and grow in confessing to other trusted brothers and sisters in Christ, because they are part of the community of God. We fellowship with Him when we fellowship with each other and vice versa.
• Confession releases liberty. “And the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.” There is a cleansing of the conscience that happens when we confess our sins, it releases us from the ongoing grip of any guilt or condemnation. There is a cleansing of our heart as we expose sinful motivations that will continue to trip us up if we do not expose them to the light. There is the cleansing of our minds as thoughts and images that are brought into the light are erased. When we grow in trust in God and each other enough to bring our temptations into the light, it prevents them from growing into sin in the first place. Telling the truth sets us free.
I have been “walking in the light” with my pastor, Ron and my brothers in the eldership at Gateway Church for 24 years. I can say with absolute integrity that every time I have brought a temptation into the light and had them pray with me, whether over the phone or in person, I have been instantly released from the grip of it. Every time.
This scripture is adamant that if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we WILL have fellowship with each other and the blood of Jesus WILL cleanse us from all sin. This cleansing therefore goes beyond being positionally clean before God. The blood of Jesus practically cleans and releases us as we continue to walk in the light with each other.
Those who have benefitted greatly from addictions programs understand this. You start to break the pattern by bringing it into the light, not just with God but with others.
This freedom and the release that comes, brings healing with it.
“Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed,” says the apostle James (James 5:16).
I have known people healed from stomach and intestinal issues because they first confessed their fear and unbelief. I have known people healed from heart issues because they confessed unforgiveness.
Unconfessed sin is dangerous stuff. It can be deadly. So confess your sins to each other so you can be healed.
Before praying for healing now, we are training each other to stop and ask the Holy Spirit, “Lord is there any unconfessed sin that needs to be brought into the light?”
I have been in many situations where the one being prayed for doesn’t hear anything from God, but the one praying for them does. “Can I just ask, is there any unforgiveness in your life?”
Sometimes the one praying has not heard the Holy Spirit accurately and it comes to nothing. That is not a problem, we are all growing in our capacity to hear God.
However, sometimes the one praying has heard God accurately and it is received. At that point there are often tears as the release of the unconfessed sin brings relief to a troubled conscience and a suffering body.
Sometimes the one praying has heard the Holy Spirit and the one being prayed for hardens their hard to hide their sin. “No, I don’t have trouble with that.” They leave with their unconfessed sin and their sickness and it is going to get worse not better till they learn to walk in the light.
I was praying for a lady recently who was visibly crippled by pain. We asked the Holy Spirit if there was anything He wanted to say. She heard nothing. I had a thought (which is mostly what hearing from the Holy Spirit feels like to me) that she had been hurt by churches in the past. I asked her. She began to tell me her story, it was a sad tale of hurt and pain that she felt she had received at the hands of the church.
I asked her if she had forgiven those churches, even though what they did was probably wrong. It wasn’t their possible sin that was causing her sickness, it was her unforgiveness. Her heart was already softened and she agreed to speak out her forgiveness and be free of her bitterness. Instantly the tears started to flow and I led her to a couple of the women in the church to pray it through with her.
Walking in the light sets us free.
This is the power of walking in the light. Grace, fellowship, community, cleansing, healing, freedom.
You see that all these benefits cannot be gained by just walking in the light with God alone, they are the benefits of walking in the light in God’s community, which includes our brothers and sisters in Christ. John simply cannot separate the two.
1John 2:9-11 “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
How we relate to each other can either stop us from getting the benefits of walking in the light, or else release us into the full potential of this promised life.
“In Him was life and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4).
If we want the full benefits of that life and light, we need to walk in open, honest, vulnerable relationships with His family. If we don’t, then not only are we robbing ourselves of true freedom and our brothers and sister of true fellowship, but we are also robbing the world of seeing an example of how to live that attracts them to Jesus. We are robbing the world of life and light too.
Ask the Holy Spirit: Am I truly walking in the light with you and others?
Then ask Him how you can grow in that.
Who does He want you to share with and what does He want you to share?Posted on: February 1, 2017Peter Todd