“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in him. If we say, ‘We have fellowship with him,’ and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. 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. If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” — 1 John 1:5-9
The same light that exposes us heals us.
We get a picture of this in those early pages of the Bible, right after the fall. As Adam and Eve are called to account, do you remember what the LORD does? They had covered themselves in fig leaves—just like we do. And he covers them instead with something else: “The LORD God made clothing from skins for the man and his wife, and he clothed them.”
They had brought death into the world, and he’s showing them that only death will cover them now. And this is perhaps the first foreshadow of Christ’s sacrifice for us, shedding his blood that covers us from all unrighteousness. They came into the light, were exposed, despite their own coverings, and God covered them with a sacrifice. “If we walk in the light,” John writes, “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.”
We have to understand just how much this sacrifice has purchased! Christ’s shed blood has delivered us from the domain of darkness. His blood speaks the better word of justice accomplished. His blood declares pardon for us, cleansing for us, and—as John Calvin helpfully reminds us in his commentary on 1 John—this cleansing pardon is “gratuitous and perpetual.”
Christian, you are never not covered by the blood of Jesus. So: If his blood has covered your sin, why are you still walking in fear and hiding?
You know, the one place I finally felt “at home” I got eventually got chewed up in and spit out of. I’ve had a pretty good life, but I’ve also got some pretty good reasons to keep entirely myself and never let you or anyone else in. That would be the safest and—to some extent—most understandable way for me to live my life.
And yet here comes my Savior, who ought not to be embarrassed by anything, who has no sin. And while I’m piling up as many fig leaves as I think it might take to impress you and distract you, Jesus is exposing himself to all the hurt, all the pain, all the weakness, all the condemnation that I am desperately trying to avoid. You cannot be any more exposed than Christ was on the cross. And he went there. For us.
And here is what else John means by “the light”—he means a vision of the glory of God, the radiance of his loveliness exemplified in his cross and resurrection and ascension. The illuminating vision that captivates sinners desperate for salvation. In the early verses of his Gospel, John writes:
In him was life, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it . . . The true light that gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
Shortly thereafter he records John the Baptist crying out in his Gospel, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Or, as Isaiah says, “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”
You can’t even see clearly when you’re hiding! But when you’re found? Suddenly we see.
Paul uses this same vision talk in Colossians 3, when he says, “If you’ve been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” And then he says —in what’s become one of my all-time favorite Bible verses, Colossians 3:3—“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
Oh, to be hidden with Christ in God! See, the gospel isn’t trying to expose us to shame us. The good news is that Christ was exposed for us that we can confess without fear and find our refuge in him. If we are hidden with Christ in God, we have nothing left to hide! It may cost us a little something, but the reward for walking in the light far surpasses keeping whatever it is we’re trying to protect.
One of my favorite scenes from Lewis’s Narnia stories comes from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where Eustace Scrubb—who is about as cuddly a personality as his name would suggest—finds himself in a scaly predicament. Eustace comes across a great treasure; overcome with greed he begins to imagine all the comforts of life he could enjoy with this treasure. He goes into “hoarding” mode. Eventually he falls asleep and when he wakes up, he discovers he’s become a dragon. Why a dragon? Because dragons are hoarders. They protect their secret fortunes at all costs. And they also physically represent this kind of protection, right? Heavy, scaly skin. They are covered in fleshy armor.
Eustace doesn’t quite understand how he’s gotten into this situation but he becomes afraid. The gold bracelet he was wearing constricts his dragon arm and it hurts—just like our secrets will eventually—and he realizes that as a dragon he’s been cut off from humanity—just our like our hiding will do to us eventually. And then Aslan comes. And Aslan leads Eustace the dragon to a garden where there’s a well, and Eustace just knows if he can get into the water in the well, he will be healed. But he can’t get in the way he is.
“Then the lion said—but I don’t know if it spoke—You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it. “The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was jut the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know—if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy—oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.” “Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off–just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt–and there it was lying on the grass, only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly—looking than the others had been. And there was I smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me–I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on—and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. . . .”
Walking in the light may sting a little, but it is far preferable to life in the dark. And on top of that, it is the only way to healing.
“If we walk in the light, his blood cleanses us.” You know, Jesus only deals with us on the playing field of reality. So come to him as a sinner. You cannot hide from God’s gospel anyway. Come as a real person to the family God’s gospel has made. We must not hide from each other. Come and be cleansed by his blood and hidden forever in the safety of Christ himself.