About That "Walking together" Relationship


"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"--I John 1: 7. This passage is a source of great relief and comfort to Christians. The complete reading of I John 1: 5- 2: 6 gives us much confidence in our "walking together" relationship with our Lord. It also gives a yardstick by which we may measure that preliminary "if"--are we keeping the commandments of our Lord?


The entire passage is written in a present perfect tense. It describes our situation with God and Jesus in the here and now as something complete and ongoing. It is not about something in the future. Beginning with an "if", it is a conditional statement. "If we walk in the light . . ."


Our denominational friends sometimes make light of our good-faith efforts to walk in the light with our Lord. They characterize us in the churches of Christ as playing a high stakes game of "spiritual burnoff" with God. Zing! We sinned. Zoom! We prayed to God and got our forgiveness. Then Boom! we sinned again and if judgement comes before we get off another prayer, supposedly we'll be lost. Spiritual burn-off!


I played burn-off with boys and girls when I was growing up. But in almost fifty years in the church I have never met anyone who seriously thought his salvation operated in such a flighty way. The main reason I haven't is that Scripture doesn't describe our salvation that way either. God's not playing tag.


You see, what we have with God is not a high-stakes game, but a relationship--a friendship--with God. (You remember that Abraham was called "a friend of God.") And friends forgive friends. Friends understand shortcomings. We will never have to forgive God for anything or understand any of His Shortcomings because He has none. But as long as we are in the process of keeping His commandments and confessing our sins to Him and asking for forgiveness frequently, it is as if God was writing down the tallies for our sins in the book of deeds (see Revelation 20: 11-15) with his left hand and wiping them off simulataneously with the eraser in his right hand. We don't have to worry about being caught with a sin on the books and no chance to pray before a sudden, catastrophic death. God's ongoing grace will cover us in such a situation.


Now before we get too carried away with all of this re-assurance . . . .


We said this was a relationship--not a game of burn-off. All relationships have rules. I can be friends with you as long as the way I swing my arms doesn't include the radius that includes your nose! And that's only one rule. Well, our relationship with God has some rules too. That's much of what the Bible is about. It's about how to be friends (not buddies! not equals!) with God. In our relationship with God, we need to listen to Him, just as we would need to listen to earthly people with whom we want to deepen a friendship. We listen to God by reading His Bible. His Bible is inspired (2 Timothy 3: 16, 17). We are supposed to study the Bible so we know the truth and care share it with others (2 Timothy 2: 15; 1 Peter 3: 15). And God wants to hear from us. Yes, He already knows we have sinned (1 John 1: 8-10). But we need to confess our sins to Him--it does good for us--and God will continually forgive those sins. We are to "pray without ceasing" as I Thessalonians 5: 17 says. If we do our part in working at the relationship to keep it going forward, God will do His. Relationships never stand still. We are either getting closer to God or we are drifting further away. James said "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you," James 4: 7-10. Draw near to God through communion with His Son each and every Sunday. Remember what Jesus said about Him being the vine and us as individual followers being the branches. John 15:4-11--"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full."


We need to keep God's commandments to the best of our ability. We won't know the commandments if we don't read and study them. We need to love and prize the things God loves. We are to "hold fast to what is good (I Thessalonians 5: 21). The Christian who is walking in the light won't even think of missing church services. The Christian who is walking in the light will be the city on the hill, the light that will not be hid, the salt of the earth (Matthew 5: 13-16). THEN let God's grace take care of the parts that we cannot do.




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