April 28, 2023

People of Darkness; People of Light Manuscript

DATE: 4-30-23
SERIES: 1 John
SERMON: People of Darkness; People of Light
TEXT: 1 John 1:5-10 ESV

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It’s good to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And there’s one thing I want you to know — and this is true if you’re worshiping with us for the first time or are joining us at our North Main Campus — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too.


We’re in a series going through the letter of First John. Why? Because we love God and we love his Word to us, so we spend time going through the Bible together to better understand who God is, who we are, what he’s done for us, and what he expects of us.

And — in this particular letter — the truth we’re discovering is this: Those who believe in God can know that they have eternal life.

In fact this is nearly identical to John’s theme verse. In First John chapter five verse thirteen we read, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” - 1 John 5:13 (ESV)

And in realizing this is John’s purpose in writing this letter — everything we encounter is in some way connected to his goal. John wants Christians to know that they have eternal life and — as we’ll see today — John wants people who don’t believe to know that — as it currently stands for them — they don’t have eternal life. You see, the gospel message is the means by which people either receive or reject eternal life. And the gospel is to be proclaimed for all to hear — so that others might believe and know that they too have eternal life. 

Which leads us to our verses for today. We’re in First John chapter one — beginning in verse five.

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 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. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” - 1 John 1:5-10 (ESV)


Something that was new for me — in moving to Findlay — was the crazy fog we get around here this time of year. I’d never heard of school being delayed — or canceled — due to fog before moving here. Growing up in Florida, we didn’t have “fog days.” Just this past week there was a school delay due to fog. Same thing happened a few weeks ago — but I needed to get to the office and my drive in was quite surreal. 

As I drove down the street I couldn’t see street lights or traffic lights or even McDonald’s golden arches until I was right on top of them. Getting on the interstate is a bit uncomfortable when you can’t see if cars are there or not. It’s all pretty strange.

But what’s also crazy about the fog is that — just when it seems like the darkness will not lift — sunlight penetrates through the fog. And — then it’s not long before everyone’s like, “What were they thinking in canceling school today? It’s such a beautiful day outside.”

It’s an amazing change, isn’t it? Sun rays breaking through clouds. Headlights shining through fog. Light penetrating the darkness. 

This is the picture John gives us in our text: light and darkness. And — in the opening verse — John tells us something very important in regards to our Christian faith. What’s that? John tells us that God is light. 


And what John challenges us with today is this truth: Since God is light, those who believe in him walk in his light.

Remember our theme verse. John wants those who believe in Jesus to know they have eternal life. He wants you and I to know with certainty that our faith is real — not some false faith masquerading as true faith. And — in our verses — John tells us one of the ways we can know that we believe in God: Since God is light, those who believe in him walk in his light. 



So let’s begin by defining what John means when he tells us that God is light — look with me in verse five. John writes, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” - 1 John 1:5 (ESV)

Now it should be noted that when John wants to tell us how we can know that we’re true believers — he begins with something about God that we should be believing. John doesn’t say “Here’s what you need to do” — he first shows us who this God is that we’re responding to. Why? Because right thinking leads to right living. Right beliefs about God lead to right living for God. And — in this verse — verse five — John tells us that God is light. And this idea is meant to take us back to the Old Testament. 

For example, one way that light is used in the Old Testament is to describe God’s purity. For instance — in the life of Moses — we see God’s purity and light coming together. Moses has fled from Egypt and has spent many years living the life of a shepherd for his father-in-law. And in Exodus chapter three we read...

“Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. (This is the burning bush story you may’ve heard about.) He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he (that’s God) said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is (what? It’s…) holy ground. 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” - Exodus 3:1-6 (ESV)

This flame in the bush — this light — is God’s presence. And God’s presence makes the place where Moses is standing holy. So what? Well — to be holy means to be undefiled — unblemished — it means to be completely pure. And God — being light — is completely pure. There’s no evil in him — there’s nothing blemished about him — nothing imperfect either. 

But notice what God’s purity — or holiness — stirred within Moses. It stirred fear in him. Why? Because when impure people encounter the perfectly pure God we realize how unholy and unworthy we are to be in his presence. For the God who is light is the God who is pure.

Additionally, light is also used to describe God’s Word in the Old Testament. The writer of psalm one hundred and nineteen often uses the word “light” to describe God’s Word.

The psalmist writes, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” - Psalm 119:105 (ESV) 

Later we read, “The teaching of your word gives light, so even the simple can understand.” - Psalm 119:130 (NLT)

The gospel of John begins by telling us that it was God’s Word that spoke light into existence. And we see that the Word of God is “the light that shines in the darkness.” - John 1:5 (ESV)  

This Word of God is what John the baptist testified about being the light. And — it’s the Word of God — Jesus Christ — who is the light the darkness cannot overcome. 

Finally — we see throughout the Old Testament — that light also refers to God’s salvation. The author of psalm forty-three writes, “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! 4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. 5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” - Psalm 43:3-5 (ESV)

In an earlier psalm we read, “The LORD is the light and my (what? My…) salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” - Psalm 27:1 (ESV)  

And in another psalm we read “For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down. 28 For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness.” - Psalm 18:27-28 (ESV)

Or as Isaiah prophesied, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. 2 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. 3 And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” - Isaiah 60:1-3 (ESV)

In this vision of the future — Isaiah sees God’s light shining forth through a thick darkness that’s covering the earth. And God’s glory will be seen by the nations as they’re drawn towards the light of God. 

  • This is God’s salvation going forth to the ends of the earth. 
  • Which results in God being worshiped by people from every nation, tribe, people, and tongue as his light is seen by those he’s drawing to himself. 
  • This is why we emphasize going here at Gateway and tell you “you are sent” each week. We go so that more people might see the light of God and be drawn towards the radiance of his glory — and might experience the exceeding joy that’s found only in Jesus. 

God is light and in him is no darkness at all. 


Which leads us to something disturbing that our text shows us. There are two kinds of people in this world — people of darkness and people of light. 

As Job chapter twenty-four says, ““There are those who rebel against the light, who are not acquainted with its ways, and do not stay in its paths. 14 The murderer rises before it is light, that he may kill the poor and needy, and in the night he is like a thief. 15 The eye of the adulterer also waits for the twilight, saying, ‘No eye will see me’; and he veils his face. 16 In the dark they dig through houses; by day they shut themselves up; they do not know the light. 17 For deep darkness is morning to all of them; for they are friends with the terrors of deep darkness.” - Job 24:13-17 (ESV)

Now John highlights for us two distinguishing marks of the people of darkness and contrasts them with two characteristics of the people of light. So let’s look at these two different groups. 

We’ll begin with the people of darkness. What are they like? What do they think? How do they live?

First, John tells us that people of darkness think they have fellowship with God. People of darkness think they have a relationship with God even though they’re living in darkness. 

We see this in verse six where John writes, “If we say we have fellowship with him (that’s God) while we (do what? While we…) walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” - 1 John 1:6 (ESV)  

Apparently — back in John’s day — there were individuals who claimed to have a relationship with God even though they weren’t living according to God’s commands. It seems as if these individuals believed that the Christian faith was all about what you think or believe and — how you live — didn’t matter. But John tells us that we can’t divide up our lives this way. 

  • For example, God is good and he expects us to be good. Really believing that God is good results in living a certain way.
  • God is holy and he instructs us to be holy. 
  • God is loving towards us and he’s commanded us to love others. 

What we believe about God should influence how we live. 

  • Do you believe that he’s the Creator of everyone and everything? Then live as one of his creatures. 
  • Do you believe that he's the King of kings? Then live as an obedient subject. 
  • Do you believe that God’s given his Son so that you might live? Then live for God and not for yourself. 
  • Do you believe that God’s been generous to you? Then be generous as he expects of his disciples.

People of darkness — many times — will claim to be Christians — they'll claim to have faith in God — but their lives demonstrate what they truly believe. They may not say out loud, “I’m a person of darkness,” but they live it out loud. People of darkness lie and don’t practice the truth of the Christian faith — they practice the things of darkness. 

Second, John tells us that people of darkness believe they have no sin and that they have not sinned. We see this in verse eight where John writes, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” And in verse ten, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” - 1 John 1:8, 10 (ESV)

Now — my commentaries are split on if these are two different beliefs — that the people of darkness have — or if this is one belief said two different ways. I lean towards it being one idea said two different ways because — as we’ll see — for every people of darkness characteristic — John gives us a people of light characteristic — all except in verse ten. So I take verse ten to be a restatement of verse eight.

  • John tells us that people of darkness deny that they’ve sinned or that they are sinning. 
  • They believe that they’ve done nothing wrong, that their lives are unstained by sin, and that there’s nothing that they need to be forgiven of. 
  • Some may have acknowledged that they sinned prior to believing in Jesus — but now they think they no longer struggle with sin. 
  • This is the person that can’t admit when they’re wrong or that they’ve made a mistake or — even worse — that they’ve sinned when it’s obvious to everyone else.And this is twisted, ungodly thinking. 
  • And yet we live in a world full of people who do not think they sin — thus they don’t see a need for repentance. 
  • We live in a culture where darkness is approved of and behaviors that were once unthinkable are now accepted and defended as a person’s rights.
  • And the darkness has so overwhelmed our culture that we don’t know what to do when we’re confronted with things that are really dark. 

Here’s an example that I hope won’t be too controversial — meaning — instead of the idol of politics — we’ll go after a different idol this time. I find it odd that our country shows outrage when NFL players are caught beating their girlfriends or wives — or have constant run-ins with the law. Here’s why I find this odd because that’s all horrendous, right? I find it odd because we somehow fail to connect the dots that we pay these athletes millions of dollars to do what? To be violent! In fact, the more violent they are on the field — the more money we give them — the more we cheer them on — because the more our team wins. 

Violence on the football field is OK — violence off the field shocks us. I’m gonna say that again but I’ll change one word. Darkness on the football field is OK — darkness off the field shocks us. That’s just one example. Can we see how we’re approving and being entertained by behaviors that’s creating a culture that’s only growing darker all around us? From TV shows and movies to video games and porn. 

Back to our letter — do you see what John says people are ultimately saying when they deny they’re walking in darkness or that they approve of darkness? He says that not only do they lie but — ultimately — they make the claim that God’s the liar! And — to say that this is dangerous territory to be walking in is — well — an understatement. 

You see, God is truth — he doesn’t lie — the Bible tells us. And people of darkness are so depraved in their thinking that — instead of admitting that they’re the liars — that they’re the sinners — that they approve of dark behaviors — they make God out to be the liar. 


And — now — John shows us that there’s a counter to the people of darkness — the people of light. And people of light — in many ways — are the complete opposite of the people of darkness — which makes it quite easy for us to know with certainty whether or not we’re living in light or in darkness.

For example — as opposed to those who say they have fellowship with God while they walk in darkness — in verse seven John tells us, “But if we (do what? 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.” - 1 John 1:7 (ESV)

Do you see what John just did there? The people who walk in darkness claim to have fellowship with who? With God, right — we see that in verse six. So we’d expect John to tell us that those who walk in the light — not only claim to have fellowship with — but actually have fellowship with who? God, right? 

But who does John say people of light have fellowship with? One another. So here’s the first characteristic of the people of light: they have fellowship with one another. People who walk in God’s light have fellowship with — are in community — are connected to other people who are walking in God’s light. 

And — not only do they have fellowship with one another — a second characteristic of the people of light is that they're cleansed from their sin. So two characteristics of people who walk in the light. They have fellowship with one another and their sins have been forgiven.

Now why did John highlight fellowship with one another as being evidence of people who walk in the light? Well think about it — what’s one of the first things to go when darkness dominates a person’s life? Community goes, right? Friendships. They distance themselves from others. 

So look at what John’s done. He’s drawn a straight line from personal spiritual integrity — “do you really believe what you say you believe” — and the quality of the community that you’re personally engaged in. Why? Because walking in the light always results in genuine love for others. Why?

  • Well — in the light — we realize we’re all equal sinners who’ve been graciously forgiven. So there’s no need for egos among the people of light. Because none of us are better than others — and especially not so superbly spiritual that we don’t need each other. The light connects you to a non-optional community.
  • And — in the light — we prioritize connecting to one another because we believe that all of our sins have been cleansed by the blood of Christ and our faith in Christ has united us together. Meaning, none of us believe that Jesus died just for me — he died for his people. Not just for me — he died for we.
  • As — living in the light — we make being together a priority because we believe that God has first loved us and has commanded that we love one another — and this command requires others to be in our life. You can’t love others if there are no others in your life, right?

Thus our individual walking in the light manifests most visibly in Christian community. Which begs a few questions to be asked. 

  • Are you actively involved in Christian community? And — by that — I mean more than just gathering here on Sunday mornings. Jesus did say follow me and — from what we read in the gospels — he spent a lot more time with others than just an hour once a week.
  • Are you walking alongside fellow believers in life? Are people walking alongside you? 
  • Do people know you? Your sins, your struggles, your hopes, your story? 
  • Do people call you to repentance? 
  • Are there people who you — not only need to forgive — but who you ask for forgiveness? 
  • Do you have people in your life who experience your love and who love you? 
  • This is what happens when you’re a person of the light.

Earlier — I sidestepped controversy — not this time — everybody’s favorite subject — COVID. Something strange happened with COVID that relates to all of this. Early on there were folks really pushing for us to keep everything open — “in person, face to face, is what church is” — they would say. And — now — years later — those folks are some of the most disconnected at Gateway. I’m not talking about those who’ve left Gateway — but those who’ve stayed — sort of. You’re gone for weeks at a time. You’re comfortable catching worship services online now — because it’s convenient. You video into your Life Group now — but when no one really knew what was going on in early 2020 — these were the anti-video everything people. 

“Josh, why are you bringing this up?” Because — if this is you — I’m calling you back to us. Repent — stop what you’re doing — stop traveling down the path you’re on — a path of disconnectedness — a path of church on your own terms — turn around and turn back to the path of light — the path of being connected to one another. 

Which leads to the second characteristic of the people of light: they confess their sins. Where people of darkness say they have no sin — in verse nine — John tells us, “If we (do what? If we…) confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” - 1 John 1:9 (ESV)

People of light confess their sins — and this isn’t a one time confession — but an ongoing confession of sins in their life. Unlike the people of darkness — who don’t acknowledge their sins — people of light acknowledge their sins through confession. 

Now something interesting about confessing sins — interesting to me at least — is that it’s not found that often in the New Testament. In the gospels of Matthew and Mark, confession of sins is mentioned in relation to the ministry of John the Baptist — people came to John to be baptized and to confess their sins. It’s mentioned in James chapter five where James writes, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.” - James 5:16 (ESV)  

It’s mentioned in Acts chapter nineteen verse eighteen, which is the story of people bringing their magical books to be burned in Ephesus — they were confessing “evil deeds” while they burned the magical books. We find the idea in a few verses — relatively speaking — including our passage in First John. 

The second thing I find interesting — about the idea of confessing sins in the New Testament — is that each of the accounts I just mentioned to you is corporate confession — not individual confession. I think — now, maybe I’m wrong here — but I think that most of us — when we think of confession — we think of confessing our sins to God privately. Not, confessing our sins to God publicly or corporately. 

Yet — the New Testament pattern of confession — is that of the people of light confessing their sins to God together. This is why — throughout history — churches have practiced a time of corporate confession in their services. Confessing our sins to each other is a practice the people of light do together. 

Yes, we’re to confess our individual sins to God — but we can’t ignore the fact that we’re united together and are to confess our sins to God together — for this is what people of the light do. And — newsflash — this isn’t something you can do on your own. You can’t do corporate public confession by yourself. This is what makes our gatherings together special and something that should be a priority on our calendars.  

And — when we confess our sins — John gives us a great promise doesn’t he? When we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and will cleanse us from all unrighteousness. How reassuring it is to know that when we confess our sins to God — he’s both faithful and just and will forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.


And how are our sins forgiven — how is our unrighteousness cleansed? It all goes back to John’s theme verse. “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” - 1 John 5:13 (ESV)

What separates people of light from people of darkness isn’t what they say they believe — it’s who they believe in. People of light believe in Jesus and live in his light. People of darkness may say they believe in Jesus — but their lives are lived in darkness proving what they really believe and who they’re really following — not the prince of Light — but the prince of darkness. But the people of light — welcome God’s light. They welcome his purity, his Word, and his salvation. Whereas the people of darkness hide from God’s light. They disregard God’s purity, dismiss his Word, and reject his salvation. 

Which are you? Are you a person of light or a person of darkness? The promise to all of us is that we can know with certainty who we are. 

For those who are certain that you’re a person of light — let me challenge you to get in a “one another” way of living. People of light have fellowship with other people of light. We call these our Life Groups here at Gateway. If you’re not in a Life Group, stop by the Resource Center before you leave and ask for more information. Join a Life Group, gather with people of light, and connect to others in this congregation.

People of light also make our times of worship a priority. For this is a time when we gather together to confess our sins and to experience — corporately — being cleansed from all unrighteousness. Maybe you’re watching at home right now — maybe you’re here in person — today — but it’s been awhile. How has your pattern of gathering with us prove or disprove that you’re walking in the light? It’s no guarantee — I know — but people of the light desire to gather with other people of the light to worship their God who is light. What kind of priority does gathering with us for worship have for you? I’m not talking to those who are at home sick or are homebound — I’m speaking to those who’ve given in to convenience over faithfulness and obedience. 

And for those here today who may be facing reality for the first time as you realize that you’re a person walking in darkness — let me tell you the good news: God loves rescuing people out of darkness and into his glorious light. Jesus himself said that he is the Light of the world. And for all who believe in him — those who turn from the darkness to the light — who put their trust in his saving work of living perfectly on their behalf and dying as a substitute in their place — those who don’t deny their sin but confess their sins to God — can know that God is faithful and just and will forgive you of all of your sins. And that it pleases him to cleanse you of all unrighteousness.

My hope is that all of us will walk towards the light and in the light of God’s purity, and Word, and salvation with one another. For this is one way that we can know that we believe in the name of the Son of God and have eternal life. Let’s pray.


Father, Son, and Spirit — thank you for piercing this dark world with your holy light. As your Word tells us, “the darkness cannot overcome your light” — for your light is powerful. Thank you for piercing the darkness of this world with your light.

Spirit of God, help us to be people who walk in the light — and who walk in your light together with one another. Empower us to love one another as Christ has commanded us — so that the world may see your light shining in and through us. And as your light shines through us may it pierce the darkness of our world with the hope of Christ so that others might believe. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


May you go walking in the light — knowing that you believe in Jesus Christ. Amen.

God loves you. I love you. You are sent.

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