If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (I John 1:6-7).
The purpose of this speech is to teach and admonish us concerning our witnessing the word of life unto others whom we meet in our daily life. My speech this morning emphasizes not the boldness of our faithful witness of God’s word, nor the need to understand who the receivers of our witness are, but it emphasizes you: the giver, the communicator, the witness, the one who must hold forth, or shine out with, the Word of Life in your confession and walk of life.
Successful witnessing is not how many souls you were used by the Lord to bring unto repentance and conversion and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The repentance and conversion of some might be the fruit of your faithful witnessing, but that itself is not the success of witnessing. Successful witnessing is the faithful witness of the Word of Life to those whom God places upon your pathway so that he may be glorified, regardless of what kind of fruit that he is pleased to give your witness. Who of himself is sufficient for that faithfulness?
We rejoice to know that our heavenly Father is also faithful to provide his blessing and grace to his saints, even saints in their youth, through the instruction of his word so that we may walk in his light unto faithful witnessing.
The Consistent Activity
Walking in the light is the activity of someone embracing the light and of rejecting the darkness. Now, what are these opposites of light and darkness?
Darkness is the lie and wickedness of enmity against God. Remember, darkness is something that we have in common with the world because of our old nature. We were born with it. It is natural. It is our total depravity. Of the darkness within we must be keenly aware.
The darkness has developed in the world into many sorts of idolatry: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Confucianism, Taoism, Shintoism, and many other religions that serve idol gods of man’s invention and serve his carnal lusts.
In the sphere of the church institute, darkness has developed in the form of the false church, false prophets, false Christs, and false Gospels, such as theistic evolution, universal atonement, well-meant offer of the Gospel, conditional salvation, good works and obedience as a condition unto covenant life with God, post-millenialism, and antinomianism.
In society in general, darkness has developed in the forms of materialism, sports worship, selfishness, abortion, euthanasia, the wicked belief that men can decide what constitutes a lawful marriage, and the wicked belief that individuals can decide what their gender will be.
The antithetical opposite of darkness, of course, is light. The light is the Word of Life. God is light. Jesus Christ is the light. The light is full of righteousness, holiness, and truth. The light is the true knowledge of sound doctrine and the truth of the word of God over against idol worship, wickedness, heresy, and false teachings. It is the word that sets out for us the path of a true confession of faith and a walk of life in the light of God’s word.
Now, who determines what is darkness and what is light for us today? Who determines what is truth and what is the lie? Does each of us individually decide what is the light and what is the darkness, what is the truth and what is the lie? Who sets the standard of light and darkness, truth and lie, right and wrong?
The darkness would like you to decide what is right and wrong, light and darkness, for yourselves. The individual decides because, the darkness declares, there are no absolutes. Right and wrong depend on the individual and the circumstances in which he may find himself.
However, the Lord teaches in 1 John 1:6–7 that he is the absolute standard of truth and lie, light and darkness. He teaches this in the words: “… as he is in the light.” God is not only light (vs 5), but we must walk “as” God is in the light. We must walk according to the standard that God is light.
What determines the path for you to walk? What determines what you must confess and how you will live daily? God who is light! You find that standard for all of your life in the Triune God. And, God is pleased to give us himself as the standard in his infallibly inspired, Holy Word. Further, you and I are blessed by the Lord to have that standard of the holy scriptures taught and expounded to us in our Reformed confessions. Thus, with the word of God and the Three Forms of Unity, you are equipped to do what your baptism requires of you and admonishes you to do: walk in the light as he is in the light.
By doing so you will hold forth, or communicate, the Word of Life to those around you. Believing and living according to the word of God, you begin a life of faithful witnessing in your daily life: shining as children of the Light in the darkness of this present world. Not only will you be witnessing personally, but you will become more and more interested in and supportive of the work of the church in her mission work wherever the Lord sends his harvest laborers to shine as lights in the darkness of this present world in mission fields.
According to the standard of God himself in scripture, you must not merely say that you are walking in the light of the word of God, but also be walking in the light of the word of God by true faith. In other words, we must seek a consistency in our witnessing.
We communicate much and, surprisingly sometimes, over long distances by several things, and communicate in some ways without having to say a word to anyone. We say a lot by our church membership and our activeness in our church membership. We witness by our schools that we attend. Much is witnessed to others around us by our behavior at work or in the neighborhood. Much is said by our clothing or lack thereof. Much is communicated by our entertainment preferences and choices. Much is said by our interaction and communication with our parents. Much is made known by our regularity in worship and our sabbath observance. Much is communicated through our likes, photos, and comments on social media, such as Facebook, which can be read by friends and many others worldwide. Much is communicated to others, for example, by what we do before we eat our meal at a restaraunt or in cramped seat on a very long overseas flight. We communicate to others in the seats near and behind us by what we do and watch on the seatback video display or various electronic devices on an airline flight.
When we communicate either verbally or by our actions, the Lord warns us against spiritual inconsistency and hypocrisy. If you say by your actions or words that you are a Reformed, Protestant, Christian believer, but then by your actions say that you believe in theistic evolution, in universal atonement, and see no need to be a member of a local, true Reformed church, you are a liar. If as a confessing Christian you live for yourself, dabble in worldly entertainment, watch fornication and adultery in movies and prime-time evening t.v shows, sing the world’s wicked songs, then you are a liar.
This is the judgment of the word of God concerning you and me, if we are walking in such sin and unbelief: “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” The implied admonition is that from that hypocrisy and inconsistency we must repent, change our ways, and flee the darkness of our own wickedness and unbelief! Walk in the light! Walk in the word of life!
Indeed, before the Lord, we may not merely say that we are a baptized, Protestant, Reformed, Christian believers, but we must seek a spiritual consistency of true faith in which we both say and show that we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ in true faith and that our life is governed by his word.
That consistent witnessing in the light is an active walk of genuine faith. Walking in the light is not first doing something for someone else, although our Christianity requires that we show mercy unto the poor and needy neighbor. Walking in the light is first knowing the light, who is our Father. Knowing the light is the activity of true faith, which in union to Christ, knows certainly and is heartily assured of the truth in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as revealed in his holy word. The witness of true faith is trusting in the Lord for everything: our salvation, our forgiveness, our sanctification, our fellowship with him, our preservation, all things that we need for body and soul to live a godly, faithful life. The witness of a true faith is a living faith, which hates the darkness and what is false, fights against it, but also loves and delights in the light of God’s truth, and defends it from the darkness.
Consistent, faithful witnessing, or shining with the light, arises out of Jesus Christ, the Light, by a true faith. We pray earnestly that the Lord will by his grace and Spirit grant us such faith so that, as we shine in the light of Christ, others will see it in our daily conduct, behavior, and speech.
The Divine Possibility
In order for us to walk in the light, we must be cleansed from our debilitating darkness. The kind of cleansing that we need is a two-fold cleansing. First, we need a cleansing that will wash away the guilt and stain of our darkness so that we are not condemned, but rather justified before and by God!
Second, we need the darkness to be purged and overcome within us. We need a cleansing that steadily removes the darkness of pride, unbelief, immorality, and the evil lusts of our flesh, and then works in us the light of truth, righteousness, holiness, wisdom, and all of the virtues of Christ. We need a cleansing that works in us more and more the light of faith in Jesus Christ unto a life of godliness.
But, can we ourselves provide such cleansing so that we may have peace and life with God which are necessary for shining with the light?
Some world religions think that it is possible to cleanse ourselves from sin by good works and rituals. Some false gospels even tell you that can cleanse yourselves by your free choice, your good works, your obedience, or even because of your act of believing. As a result you can witness people dutifully and sincerely doing their good works, walking great distances on challenging pilgrimages, and fulfilling all of the requirements in order to obtain blessing, health, peace, comfort, happiness, and hope. They are sincerely wrong because man cannot cleanse himself from his darkness by his obedience in order to have fellowship with the Father. Impossible.
However, the glad tidings of the gospel is that only Jesus Christ can and does cleanse his own from the darkness by his blood and Spirit. First, his shed blood washes away our guilt and establishes our righteousness before our Father. He has redeemed us from sin, removed fully God’s eternal wrath against our sin by suffering God’s eternal wrath in body and soul on the cross, and earned for us all obedience to the law of God for us. He established for us by his death and resurrection deliverance out of the darkness of the curse unto the light of God’s blessing. Through our Lord Jesus Christ and because of his atonement, we appear before God as white and pure as the light. That is ours by faith alone. Do you believe that?
Then, Christ also cleanses us by his Spirit. He raises us out of our darkness and establishes in us his light through regeneration. He calls us into the life of his light by the means of grace, chiefly the preaching of the Gospel. He works in us the light, i.e., the knowledge and life of his salvation. Thereby his Spirit removes the darkness of corruption, selfishness, wickedness, immorality, and all the lusts of the flesh and works thereof. He works in us more and more as children of the light, the light of faith, godliness, and truth.
The Light works that faith through the means of grace, chiefly the preaching of the word.
Just as the Lord works in the plant world with the sun, so he works in our salvation. The sun shines and it gives energy to the plants to do that wonder of photosynthesis, and to grow and bring forth fruit. So, also the Sun of Righteousness shines upon you, whom the Holy Spirit has made living plants in Christ, to drink in the light of the Sun of Righteousness. That light energizes you to hate the darkness, flee from it, and to delight in the light and in your new life of fruit-bearing.
When the Lord shines by means of the preaching of the word, the Light does his work. The light of Christ does not make everyone to grow in his light, because his light also causes many to reject him, turn away from him, and to persecute anyone in whom his light shines. This happened to Jesus in his own earthly ministry, and continues to occur even today wherever the faithful preaching of the word goes forth.
But, in the righteous, the Lord works his light: true knowledge of him and his word. By the power of the light through the Holy Spirit, we learn our only comfort in life and death: our three-fold knowledge of Christ in the Scriptures. We also learn consistency between the truth and life, between doctrine and godliness. We learn the beginning of that new life of daily repentance from our darkness and true believing in Christ alone. Believing in true faith the word of God and living in daily conversion, we do shine forth with the light, the truth, of Jesus Christ to others around us at church, at home, at school, at work, in our neighborhoods, on vacation, and wherever we are led in life.
Walk in the light, and there will be very definite and clear results in your personal witnessing.
The Desired Results
In response to your witness, there may be those who refuse to walk in the light at all, or those who continue to walk as hypocrites, saying that they walk with the Father, but actually walk in darkness. Such will reap to themselves miserable results. Their walk in unbelief is a path of misery that leads to bitter destruction. In that path, Lot walked and gained only misery to his soul, and lost all. If we would persist impenitently in that path of hypocrisy, then we may not expect to inherit the kingdom of God. Those who walk in the dark path of hypocrisy may not expect God’s blessing and approval upon such wickedness. Such may go to church falsely thinking that they can walk with the Father and the world and then conclude all will be well with their souls. However, God is not deceived. He who is not only merciful, but also righteous, will not let such unbelief go on, but he will judge such spiritual inconsistency.
God makes his displeasure against a hypocritical witness known by bitter fruit. For example, those who do not walk in the light consistently, rejecting the admonition of scripture to do so, set forth a religion and faith which is false, selfish, dishonoring to Christ, and unbiblical. An inconsistent witness will bring shame upon the church. Such a witness is easily an offense to new converts to the Reformed faith who have come out of the darkness and with a zeal embrace the light of God’s truth and set before them a grievous stumbling block. It can only deserve the judgment mentioned by Christ, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:6). That must be our righteous attitude toward an unbelieving, hypocritical witness that has the potential to offend the little ones, whether the youth or new converts, that are led by the Spirit to believe in Christ.
But, to those who daily seek the Lord for his sustaining mercy and so walk in the light, they will see blessed results. They will enjoy fellowship with other saints for encouragement, for correction when necessary, for instruction, for guidance, and for mutual help in pursuit of the worthy things of the kingdom of heaven. Their Reformed confession and godliness will be spiritually magnetic and attractive, for the building of healthy friendships like Jonathan and David’s, or Mary and Elizabeth’s. In this age of deepening and threatening darkness, you and I need such encouragement for perseverance in the path of the light. Such fruits of fellowship in the light of Christ are truly priceless.
Moreover, the light will shine out to others who are yet in the darkness of unbelief and wickedness. On the one hand, we may expect that faithful witnessing will result usually in persecution from the darkness. “Yea, and all that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). There are many such clear examples of persecution in the New Testament church recorded in scripture and in church history books. We may expect and must prepare for it ourselves.
On the other hand, we may also expect that faithful witnessing results in others, who are known to Christ from eternity as his sheep, being delivered out of the darkness of their unbelief into his marvelous light. We may be privileged to be a tool in his hand for their conversion, for their faith, and for their baptism into the church and fellowship of Christ. Sometimes we may be used by the Lord, but may not meet in this life the people that the Lord has brought to the faith and his church by our witness in speech, conduct, or writing. Nevertheless, we believe and rejoice that the Lord in his mercy and grace is pleased to use our feeble witness however he wisely determines to bring his other sheep into his light through repentance and faith in him.
Finally, faithful witnessing is personally encouraging in our battle against our own darkness. As we walk in the light by faith with the Father in worship, in prayer, in singing, in the reading of his word, and in meditation thereon to his glory, we are encouraged unto faithfulness over against the reality of our own ever-present darkness and unbelief until our death. Although our walk with the Father now is ruined with much of our own darkness and unbelief, yet we have by faith alone in Christ Jesus the beginning of his life of walking with the Father, and the sure hope of sinless perfection. In that sinless perfection, we with all of God’s saints will walk in the truth of the fullness of Christ’s holiness and know God face to face everlastingly.
In that blessed hope, walk in the light and hold forth the Word of Life for the glory of God foremost and for all those whom we meet in life, both believing and unbelieving.