When I was a teenager, we played a game called “sardines.” Has anyone every heard of that one? The basic premise of the game is that one person goes and hides. Then one-by-one others go and try to find the person hiding. Oh, did I mention that you play this in the dark? The church where we played this had a basement with no windows. I’m not sure how they managed to get a basement without window to pass fire inspection. One person would descend the stairs into the blackness. There were several classrooms, storage rooms, closets, a furnace room, and two restrooms where someone could hide. As I went in for the first time, I was amazed at the utter darkness in that part of the church. I couldn’t see a thing. I held my hand in front of my face, and I couldn’t see it. Even after several minutes I still couldn’t see anything. You had to be careful. There was this one particular wall where there were hooks on the wall, and if you weren’t careful you could get injured. There were also several other people wondering around in the dark, so you had to be careful not to trip over or bump into someone else. There were also walls, chairs, and other obstacles, especially in the nursery.
After stumbling around for a few minutes, you would bump into someone. “Is that you Scott?” Groups of people would form. I guess for some reason, we thought that 4 or 6 eyes were better than 2. People would start laughing and giggling. Finally, someone, quite on accident, would bump into the person hiding. Someone else would come along and bump into the group. Everyone would start laughing, and the game was soon over. When the game was over, someone would flip on the light switch, and we would all have a great laugh about the bumping and tripping. It would be pointless to play the game in the light, but then it is a pointless game.
How much does that relate to life? There are people stumbling around in the darkness everyday. People try to find their way around with no success. They run into things. They get hurt. They can’t find their way. The answer is the Light.
Turn with me to 1 John 1
Read 1 John 1:1-2:2.
There are three problems presented, with the solutions. They all relate to walking in the darkness. The first problem is that we lie to others. The second is that we lie to ourselves. The third is that we try to lie to God.
John writes in verse 5 “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” This sets up the rest of the passage. God has nothing shady or hidden. Like I mentioned, playing sardines in bright light would have been pointless, because it would have been impossible to hide. Light reduces the likelihood of hiding. That’s why with the war in Iraq, the military attacked mostly at night, because the darkness has the effect of being a shield. So we understand that we can hide nothing from God. Also, the light of God exposes things we may be hiding.
The first problem that John presents first is the act of deceiving others. Verse 6 says, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” It is an out and out lie to claim that we walk with God, when our life says the opposite. If we claim to be in the light our life should reflect the light.
There are many people who claim to walk with God. Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m a good person. I don’t beat my wife or kids. I don’t steal or murder.”? There are tons of morally good people out there that are lost in the darkness. There are others who say, “Well, I met Jesus back in 1947 so I’m okay.” It might as well have 1647, because they are as lost in the darkness, as anyone. It doesn’t matter when we walked in the light. The question is, “Are you walking in the light, right now?”
When we played “sardines,” many people claimed to know which way to go and how to find the person hiding. Give me a break. No one could see anything. About the only thing that would have helped would be those night-vision goggles.
It also didn’t matter that five minutes earlier we had been in the light. We couldn’t bottle up light and take it into the darkness. How silly.
To say we walk in the light when we don’t is a lie.
Verse seven starts off with a big word, “But.” “But” is a big word. It is followed by a bigger word, “if.” “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.” In this verse, John offers us the solution to the problem of verse 6. It is simple, “Walk in the light.”
There is something comforting about light. How many of you were scared of the dark when you were a child? How many still are? Light is comforting. I hate to try to do something when there isn’t enough light. Have you ever tried to change a tire in the dark? Even a simple task can be complicated by darkness.
We might have expected John say that we have fellowship with God when we walk in the light, but he says, “we have fellowship with one another.” It is assumed that we have fellowship with God because he is the light. Since we are walking in the light, we are walking in God. What is cool about the light is that it allows us to have fellowship with others who are in the light. Have you ever noticed that there is very little fellowship in dark places, like movie theaters? There is just something about the light that allows us to have a relationship with others. We are not able to hide things in the light. When we are in the light of God, we cannot conceal things from others.
When we played sardines, we could lie to others about who we were because no one could see. We could be deceptive. The person who was hiding could deceive those who found him, because they couldn’t see. Darkness has that effect on people. When the lights came on, there could be no more deception about who was who.
The light shows us our sin. As a result, we allow Jesus to clean us up. He cleans our sin and makes us new in him.
The next thing that John tackles is worse. Self-deception is bad because we can begin to believe the lie. John says in verse 8, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
I look at this like a con man. Con men are notorious for deceiving others, but many come to the point where they begin believing their lies. It’s not so much that they believe the lie they are telling, but they begin to believe that they can get away with anything. They become so self-deluded that they cannot see that they are habitual liars.
What John is talking about is the fact that, in his day, some people thought that they had no need for the cleansing from sin. They had no need to walk in the light.
Today, there are people like that. They are the ones who think they have arrived at a state of salvation from sin that they can’t possibly go back. They are saved, sanctified, and petrified. They come in all different shapes and sizes. They are from all different theological persuasions. Sometimes we are critical of those who believe a “once saved, always saved” theology. But many times, within our own theological thought many people claim to have been cleansed once and for all from sin, and therefore they no longer need to worry about anything.
John says this is nonsense. We have not “made it” at any point. We must continue to walk in the light. Verse 9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Again we encounter that word, “if.”
The word “confess,” means to agree with the charges. Someone who is a accused of a crime can either deny it or confess to it. To confess to a crime means that you agree with the authorities that you did it. If I steal Matt’s wallet, and the police catch me with the wallet, I can do one of two things. I can either confess it or deny it. To confess means, “Yes, I took it. I’m guilty.”
To confess our sins to God means, “Yes, God, I know that I’m a sinner. I have done wrong. I have rebelled against your will.” We agree with God that we have sinned, and that we need help. The old adage goes, “Admitting the problem is the first step to getting help.”
Whenever you talk to someone who has battled an addiction, they always tell you that they denied that they ever had a problem. They were lying to themselves. They thought that they could manage it. They thought they had control over the situation on their own. They didn’t need, much less want, help. It was only after they came to terms with the fact that they had a problem that they could confront it.
It is only after we come to terms with the fact that we are sinners that God cleanses us from all sin. He is “faithful and just.” God has said in his Word that he will forgive our sins if we confess them.
This goes one step further than the forgiveness of verse 7. John says that we can be cleansed “from all unrighteousness.” We can be cleansed of that inward desire to sin. We are all born with that inclination to sin. If you don’t believe it, spend a day with a two-year-old. We all have that in our nature. We are all born with the desire to do wrong. We want to control our lives. But, God desires to control our lives. The truth is that when we think we are in control, we really aren’t. There is something that controls us. We can’t control ourselves.
When we confess that we are sinners, God cleanses us from the sins we have committed. He can also cleanse us from the desire to sin. That doesn’t mean that we have arrived at some super-spiritual state of understanding. It doesn’t mean that we don’t continue to grow in our Christian walk. If anything, we have greater responsibility for growth after that. It doesn’t mean that we can’t sin. We certainly can sin.
Lying to God
John then comes to the next step, lying to God, which is calling God a liar. Verse 10 says, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” We can lie to others, and successfully deceive them. We can even lie to ourselves and begin to believe our own lies. We cannot deceive God. To attempt to deceive God in relation to our sinful nature is call him a liar.
If I tell the police that I didn’t steal Matt’s wallet, I am calling them liars. The thing is that they could be wrong. It may have been someone else. When someone makes a claim about us, and we deny it, we are calling them a liar.
Do you remember The People’s Court with Judge Wapner? The premise of the show was to help people resolve minor legal disputes. Someone would claim that someone else had failed to pay for a car repair. They would go back and forth. Someone would always say, in response to an accusation of the other party, “Your honor, he is lying.” They were denying the accusation that had just been made, and they were calling the one who made the accusation a liar.
God has said that all have sinned. To deny that is to call God a liar. It is to say that his statement is false. Here we come back to verse 5 where it says, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” To say that God is lying is to say that he has a dark side.
God is not a liar. God does not have a dark side. We are to walk in the light of God.
John continues in chapter 2, verse 1 by saying, “My little children [which is a term of affection], I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” John is stating that the aim of the Christian is to not sin.
There are some that teach we sin every day in word, thought, and deed. And I say to you that does not have to be the case. We can live a life where we are not trapped by sin. Jesus has taken care of that. That was done when he died on the cross. “He is the propitiation for our sins.” Now the word “propitiation” is a big, hairy word. It means that Jesus has paid the penalty for our sin. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. The gift of God is the death of Jesus that paid for our sin.
Are you walking in the light? You can lie to others, and get away with it. You can even lie to yourself. You cannot lie to God. It doesn’t matter if I think your walking in the light or not. It only matters if God knows you are walking in the light.
Bow you heads. If you need to confess something to God, just slip your hand up. No one else will see. I will pray for you.