Spoiling the Illusion (9am)

Spoiling the Illusion (9am)

Series: A deep dive into 1 John
Theme: Love and Life
Bible Reading: 1 John 1:5-7
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain

Continuing our deep dive into 1 John – this week we are stepping into the light and seeing what the light reveals. Taking the exegetical approach, this week we will be stepping through 1 John 1:5-7 line by line, and pondering how God is speaking to us through these verses. In particular we will explore the illusions that the world puts up to distract us and how Jesus, the light of the World, can reveal what brings true fulfilment and where we can find real life!

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Today is part 2 of this new sermon series looking at 1 John.  Last week I started this series on the letter of 1 John by talking about the link between 1 John and the Gospel of John.

  • Written by the same person
  • Similar themes and emphasises
  • 1 John in a letter which builds upon, amplifies and clarifies the ideas, concepts, teaching already found in the Gospel of John

The point was that you really can’t read one book independently of another.  Therefore I will be referring to both 1 John and the gospel of John in my sermons.

The reason that Gospel wrote the letter was to tell us that Jesus came to reveal us LIFE, that Jesus came to show us a life which had always been there but we had not yet discovered.

Last time, we learnt two different Greek words for LIFE which talked about two very different things.

Psyche – that things that happened to you – the ever changing aspect of life.  You aspirations, your achievements, your relationships.  They are thing things of your life which by their very nature come and go.  They cause a great deal of stress, but also a great deal of hope and satisfaction.

Zoe – a deeper life.  This word is nearly always coupled with the Greek word Aeon which means eternal.  Aeon Zoe … eternal life.  This is the life that Jesus came to reveal to us.  A kind of life which is indestructible, a kind of life which has no beginning or end; a life is not affected by the ups and downs but instead has this stability to it, a life which is full of joy … a life in all its fullness. 

In the passage today, John introduces some new phrases and ideas which build upon all of this.

1 John 1:5 – This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

This is a theme that you hear a lot in the gospel of John … that God is light, Jesus is Light.  You will find this image many times in the writing of John and much less in other gospels and letters.  Let me give you a few examples of how light is used in the Gospel of John

1:4      In him was the light of all people

1:5      The light shines in the darkness

1:9      The true light gives light to everyone

3:19    Light has come into the world

8:12    I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will have the light of life (Zoe)

12:46 I have come into the world as a light

Light is a huge theme in the gospel of John … the contrast between light and darkness.  Sometime in the gospel of John light is used as a metaphor for purity and darkness a metaphor for evil.  But far more often in the gospel of John light is often used as a metaphor for revealing.  Light reveals something.  Light helps you see.  Light is about clarity and understanding in the place of ignorance and not understanding. 

How do we understand the relationship between light and dark?  We mainly understand this in terms of opposites.  What is the opposite of light?  Dark.  The opposite of dark is light.  We have this image of opposing forces battling against each other – just like in star wars … the light side of the force and the dark side of the force.

There is a problem with that … light and darkness are not actually opposite.  To say they are opposites would be to put them on the same level, on the same footing.  But that is not true.  Light is infinitely more powerful than darkness.  They are in no way competing forces.  Darkness is not the opposite of light … it is the absence of light.  And that is a huge distinction.

Light is light is more powerful than darkness.   You can’t actually get rid of the dark by dealing with darkness.  You can’t go into a dark room and take out buckets full of darkness so that it is less dark.  What is the only way you can get rid of the darkness is to bring in light.    Likewise, You can’t say “I think I might like to bring in some more darkness here”  The only way to make more darkness is to take away light.  It is all dependent on the presence or absence of light.

Why is this important?  Well if you are tired of darkness, find a source of light and the darkness will automatically disappear.  This is so obvious that sometimes we miss the profoundness of it.  Consider this.

Let’s say that you are a person who is struggling with hate.  You can’t help it.  It bubbles up inside of you – strong & consuming. You try and get rid of the hate but it’s hard.  It takes all your energy to get rid of the hate, but even then you frustrated when it doesn’t go away as much as we would like.  But maybe it is like darkness and instead of getting rid of it, we just need to find some light?  What about if we view hate as the absence of love.  Maybe the way to deal with the hate is to add more love.    The best way to deal with darkness is by adding light.  If we are able to find a source of light or love or whatever then maybe our problems might fade.  John writes, “God is light and in God there is no darkness”

Verse 6,7 –

If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out 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, purifies us from all sin.

We are invited to step out of the darkness and walk in the light.  Actually John says that when we are walking in darkness we do not live out the truth – but when we walk in the light,  we live out the truth.

Let’s focus on the word truth for a moment.  In our society the word truth has taken a battering over recent years.  Truth has become objective, abstract.  That’s your truth but it is different from my truth.  Maybe a better word to use in exploring 1 John is reality.  Truth is abstract but reality is concrete.   Reality is something you can actually touch.  It can be proven.  Is it real. 

In the Greek worldview where John was writing his letter, the idea of truth and reality was the same thing, and they mean reality.  So when John uses the word truth, he is actually after something which is concrete, verifiable, something which you know to be correct and certain.  So if we were going to understand this verse 6 in the way that John intended it to be understood when he wrote it, we would need to say, “If we want to walk in the light, we need to live in reality”. 

But what does John mean by that?  Don’t we all live in reality?  How else could we live?  The issue is that we live in a world and a society where reality often is distorted.  We can be tricked into seeing or not seeing things that are right before us.

Let me show you a video clip… (America Got Talent – Kevin James)

Ok, so this was an illusion … he is an illusionist.  It is not actually real.  The thing that makes an illusion an illusion is that is looks real but it is not.  But illusions are not just on the stage; they are all around us.  As I said earlier, we now live in an era where the world is trying to convince us that a particular view is the truth, is real.  Illusions are all around us and we need to work out what is real and what is not.

For example, there is an idea that if you have lots of money you will be happy.  Is that true or is it just an illusion?  I’m sure having money is nice, but we are not sure if the premise money = happiness is reality.  But people get caught up in the illusion and work ridiculous hours or take enormous risks to make money believing that it will bring them happiness. 

Not all illusions are bad.  Most of us live with the illusion that the people we love will live to a certain age.  We have an expectation that everyone will live at least until they are 80 or so.  But that illusion comes crashing down is when a person dies before that time, and the illusion is shown to be just that … an illusion.  While the illusion is up and running, it is helpful, it brings us a sense of peace; but it is not reality … and if that illusion fails, it can bring a bunch of questions, disillusionment and suffering. 

John says we need to be careful and not get taken in by an illusion.  John says it is like walking in the dark.  We will not find the fullness of life that Jesus is offering in the dark.  Instead, we need to step out into the light, to walk in what is real. 

Jesus came so that we didn’t have to live in a life full of fake walls and misguided hopes.  Jesus came to shine a light on what is real.  A life in all its fullness – Aeon Zoe. 

Jesus came to reveal to us that often these illusions are empty … don’t get distracted by the little man running around … that is just the magicians sleight of hand … John is clear …

Verse 6,7 –

If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out 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, purifies us from all sin.

One last point – the Greek phrase for “live in reality” can also be translated “practice reality”.  I find this so helpful, that this process of spoiling the illusion and walking in the light is not necessarily something that happens overnight.  It is something that we work at, to practice, to get used to this new reality of Zoe Life. 

An image to finish with … Imagine we are standing on a beach and there is a gorgeous sunrise.  Which way would you be facing?  It would be silly to stand with our back to the sun looking at our shadows.  And yet, some people do.  They are worried about the darkness of the shadows, the length of them, the shape of them.  How long they have been there and how long they will stay.  They are so worried about the darkness and forgetting about the light.

But if we just turned around …  we would see a gorgeous reality – an amazing sunrise in all its glory and beauty. 

Now if we were facing the sunrise … looking towards the sun standing in the light, so to speak … are the shadows still there? Probably, but it doesn’t really matter.   The reality of the sun is so much more enlivening than worrying about the shadows.  As we stand with the light streaming down on us – we feel the warmth, we feel love, we experience the fullness of life.  That’s what it means to walk in the light. 

It is gloriously wonderful. 

Life isn’t about managing the darkness; it is about living in the light.

I encourage you to always walk in the light of Jesus and as we do this we will be discovering what Jesus has come to reveal to us – Zoe Life.  A life in all its fullness.