How do we know that we are truly following Jesus and His ways? The writer of 1 John tells us that one of the tests of authentic Christianity is that all those who claim to follow God can be found walking in the light (1 John 1:6–7). John wrote this to believers because of false teachers claiming to believe in God even though they were walking in deeds of darkness. In summary, he points out that when someone’s life is characterized primarily by sin, we have good reason to assume that his profession is not genuine.
At first glance, this seemingly creates an issue for us. Is John teaching that unless we are sinless and perfect we do not truly belong to Christ? How righteous do we have to be before we know we are truly in the light?
The key passage we will consider sheds light on these questions by letting us know that even true Christians will continue to struggle with sin. John tells us in 1:8 that if we claim to have no sin, we have deceived ourselves and the truth is not in us. Even as a Christian grows in holiness, it will not be until after our deaths when we will be completely free from sin.
It appears that the false teachers John has in mind were not only unconcerned with the dark deeds they were performing they were claiming to be without sin altogether. The clear truth of 1 John 1:8 makes such a claim of sinlessness only further evidence of a lack of authentic faith. John strengthens his argument by telling us that the Christian life is in one sense a life lived in tension. On the one hand, believers will live such good lives that it can be said we walk in the light (vv. 6–7). On the other hand, truly walking in the light will clearly reveal to us the reality of remaining sin, reminding us of our need for repentance and forgiveness (vv. 8, 10).
The conclusion is that true Christians will walk in the light of God’s will and avoid sin, though never perfectly. Because we still struggle with sin does not mean we lack true faith, for God is always faithful and just to forgive us of our sins if we turn to Him in repentance (v. 9). Walking in the light does not mean we will be free from sin. Rather, it means we are no longer slaves to sin (Rom. 6:17–19). The evidence of this is as we, striving to be more conformed to the image of Christ, become distressed whenever we do sin and thus repent and turn to the Savior for cleansing.
Father, I thank You that You are a forgiving and faithful God. I cry out to You today and ask that You will forgive me of all my sins, knowingly and unknowingly, that they may be wiped clean. Strengthen my spirit that I may walk in the light and not submit to the desires of my flesh. I pray that the desires of my heart shall be your will, so that I will not sin against you, Amen.