Am I Walking In Darkness – Austin Gonzales

So when we’re saved from sin, we are supposed to repent, right? We need to change from our wicked ways; and when we learn that we’ve been doing something wrong, correct it. Okay, that sounds great. But no one is perfect, so obviously it must be a continual cycle of renewing this commitment. Okay, well that’s doable. But what about the days when we fail to make that commitment, and we can feel the guilt of what we’ve done – at what point might Jesus’ blood cease to cleanse away our sins?

1 John 1:6-9 says, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice 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 cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

So according to this; as long as we are walking in the light, Jesus’ blood continues to cleanse our sins away. But that is kind of our question, isn’t it; at what point are we walking in the dark, rather than the light? Well one point is in the next sentence. The Lord will forgive us if we confess our sins, but if we pretend that we simply have no sin – keeping ourselves “in the dark” – then that’s one case where we no longer have forgiveness. This makes sense, because how you one repent of something that you don’t believe needs to be repented of?

Another situation in which Jesus’ blood no longer cleanses us is if we try to live by the Old Law. Galatians 5:2-5 says, “Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.”

Why is this? Well, keeping in mind that no man is perfect – a fact backed by Romans 3:23 – James 2:10-12 explains this for us: “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.” Then, even if somebody could follow the Mosaic Law perfectly, Hebrews 10:4 tells us that “…it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” After all, it was Jesus Who died once for all (Romans 6:10).

The last example that I could find of walking in darkness is in Hebrews 10:26-29. “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?”

This third situation is obviously a blatant rejection of God’s commands and of His sacrifice, after receiving grace previously. This is when a brother or sister has ceased to believe in the Lord, or when they have given up the attempt to turn their life around for God. Applicable here are also the verses about church discipline; giving multiple chances for a brother in sin to change his ways before deciding to reject him (Matthew 18:15-18). I suppose that included in this category would be a divisive person or a false teacher, causing havoc and heartache in the Lord’s church.

So, rather than walking in darkness, “…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

It Starts with You

In Acts 1:8, Jesus told His followers, “you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

These instructions paint a picture of widening concentric circles spreading out to cover the globe. And indeed, the influence of the church spread out all over the Roman Empire and to the ends of the earth, and it continues spreading to new places to this day.

The church here in Mankato would like to see this as a model for our own efforts to spread the good news. Start in this city, then spread out all over the state, the country, and the world.

But there are times when the Bible would teach us to think smaller for a moment, instead of always thinking big.

In Philippians 2, Paul told his audience to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Some translations even say “work out your own salvation,” in order to emphasize the fact that this is a personal task for the Philippians to think about themselves.

The church has a lot of work to do, but we must make sure that we know where are we are going before we try to lead others there.

In Luke 6, a parable of Jesus is recorded: “A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit? A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”

If we go out to halfheartedly spread a gospel that we ourselves have not been transformed by, we risk succeeding only in converting people to the same apathy and hypocrisy that we are practicing.

If we go out with logs in our eyes trying to remove specks from the eyes of others, we may succeed only in making matters worse.

This is exactly what Jesus accused some of the religious leaders of His day of doing in Matthew 23:15, “You travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”

Consider also the common scriptural illustrations of salt, light, and leaven. Salt can be spread out all over a large peace of meat in order to preserve it, but what if the salt loses its unique quality? A lamp can shine out on a hilltop for all to see, but what if a bushel is placed over it? Leaven can spread out to affect an entire loaf of bread, but what if the leaven is dead?

Let’s be a light in our city, our state, and our world. But let’s also be a light in our local congregation, our own homes, and even when we are alone in our rooms with the door shut. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, then go and share what you have found with the world.

 

 

Do Christians Have Blind Faith?

A Biblical definition of faith is given in Hebrews 1:11, “now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

It is certainly true that Christians feel sure of many things, even though they have not yet come to pass, and that we are convicted of many things that we cannot currently see. Take Christ’s resurrection from the dead for instance. We have not physically seen this event, but we are sure that it happened. For that matter, consider the very existence of God. John 1:18 says plainly enough of humanity, “no one has seen God at any time.” And yet we believe.

So does this mean that Christians have blind faith? After all, you would have to be pretty stupid to believe something without any evidence, right?

Not so fast. There is a big difference between not being able to see something, and not having any evidence for it at all. Did you see George Washington in person? Yet we believe he existed based on historical evidence. Can you see gravity? Yet we believe in gravity because we can see its effects all around us.

Very well, someone might say, but we can prove those things and you cannot prove that there is a God.

Do you believe that other minds exist outside of your own? There is actually no way to prove it. Do you believe that the past actually occurred? It is impossible to prove that the entire universe, including the memories in our brains, did not pop into existence one second ago.

Faith is the conviction of things not seen. But it is also a conviction that is based on reasonable evidence.

Romans 1:20 states, “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” We may not be able to physically see God, but we can see all of the signs that are pointing in His direction. Signs pointing to God are all over our world, in nature, human history, science, philosophy, art, psychology, personal experiences, and the Bible.

Of course, if you do not want a God telling you what to do, there is always a way to convince yourself that He either does not exist, or does not care what you do. John 3:19-20 puts it this way, “this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”

When you point out that the universe is fine-tuned for human life, atheists theorize that there are actually an infinite number of universes, so one of them was bound to be just like ours without a creator making it that way.

When you point out that life could not have arisen from non-life without a creator, they suggest that aliens may have put life on earth, but certainly not God.

When you point out that objective morality is evidence for God’s existence, many admit that they believe murder and rape are not actually objectively wrong, they are merely unpleasant and unhelpful.

When you point out that consciousness is not explainable by physical phenomena, they insist that consciousness is really just an illusion.

Yes, there is always a way to get out of believing in God if you want to. But you will have to be an Olympic level mental gymnast to jump through the necessary hoops. In the meantime, the God who is love patiently offers you His hand.

Let the Bible Speak

Psalm 119:105 states, “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” In this simple metaphor the psalmist communicates a very important idea: God’s word is an outside source of knowledge and guidance, over and above our own feelings and opinions.

Isaiah 55:10-11 says “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

If indeed God has sent His word out to accomplish His purposes, we ought to let it speak for itself rather than twisting it around to say what we want it to. We must resist the temptation to simply assume that Bible affirms what we want it to affirm. We must be willing to listen with open hearts.

Acts 17:11 says of the Bereans, “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”

The test that the Bereans used to determine the truthfulness of an idea was not how it made them feel, or how popular it was in the current political or religious climate, or what their families had always believed, but rather what the Scriptures said.

Consider one final passage, 2 Timothy 4:1-5, written from the experienced apostle Paul to the young preacher Timothy.

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

Notice a few key points from these verses:

  1. Paul considers this instruction so important that he charges Timothy in the presence of God and Jesus, who will judge us all one day.
  2. Paul tells Timothy to reprove, rebuke, and exhort. In other words, be deeply concerned with the truth of scripture, even if that truth is not popular.
  3. There is a real temptation for us to only listen to people who tell us what we want to hear. This is a destructive tendency.

Whether you consider yourself “doctrinally conservative” or “doctrinally liberal,” or don’t necessarily really know or care how you would be categorized, the scriptural plea to all of us is this: let the Bible speak.

 

1 John 1:7 May Not Mean What you Think it Does

1 John 1:7 is one of the more well known verses in the Bible. It gives us comfort because it helps to answer the questions, “how can I know if I will go to heaven when I die? Could my sins keep me out of heaven, even though I try to be a good Christian?”

When these questions are raised, we remind each other of John’s words: “if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” This verse is thus repeated quite often in the context of questions about the security of the believer, with a focus on the fact that the blood of Jesus cleanses us when we walk in the light.

But in focusing exclusively on this one part of the verse, especially when plucking it from the wider context of 1 John 1, we may have neglected to properly consider another part of the verse. Specifically, we may have misunderstood what John means when he says, “we have fellowship with one another.”

While studying 1 John 1 together this past week, myself and many in the church here discovered that “having fellowship with one another” appears to refer NOT specifically to fellow Christians experiencing unity, but rather to the individual in question having fellowship with GOD HIMSELF. Look at the context even just of verses 5 through 7 and see if you do not agree.

 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

The passage states plainly enough that fellowship with Him (capital H) is impossible in the darkness. Fellowship with Him, therefore, is a benefit of walking in the light because “He Himself” is in the light, and walking in the light is thus walking with Him. Greek scholars tell us that the grammar of the original text supports this reading.

Maybe you have always understood this verse to give this teaching, but many such as myself have come to the verse with preconceived notions for so long that we failed to understand it in this way. This can be a reminder to us of the dangers of “proof-texting” to the exclusion of genuine Bible reading, and the importance of coming to the text with an open mind.

Furthermore, this discovery gives us something new to think about. Fellowship with God Himself! To walk in the light is to walk with God! May we grow in true fellowship with Him.