Unstopping the Wells of Revival: Walking in the Light, Sin & Confession
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 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[b] sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.1 John 1:5-10
In his letter, John writes about related doctrines that are vital in the spiritual lives of Christians and of the church. That John begins his letter this way indicates that these are doctrines core to real Christianity; standing at the very heart of the lived experience of vital Christians. In other words, they are recovered and rediscovered experientially in every revival.
For many of us, at first glance, the doctrines are so simple that we pass right over them. Some of us learned them in Sunday school and feel we’ve moved on from them. Or they are so simple and basic that we don’t bother to teach them in church. They also stand in contradiction to the implicit creed of our post-Chrstian, secular age. Talk about them for any length of time in a room full of secular New Englanders and you will feel uncomfortable.
Whatever the reason, these doctrines have been covered over by the rubbish of the Philistines. And we must recover them, rediscover them, and live them. The Holy Spirit will honor this by releasing wells of living water and causing our cups to run over with the life of God.
Here they are:
- God is LIGHT and we SIN. John tells us “God is light,” and expands by saying, “in him is no darkness at all.” In our current moment, we have utterly lost sight of the absolute holiness of God – but look at any instance in the scripture where human beings came into contact with God – be it Israel at Sinai, or Isaiah in the temple, or shepherds and the Angels (not even God…just messengers) and you will see holy reverence and fear. The brightness of the glory of God immediately reveals the dinginess of our own lives. Isaiah cried out, “woe is me, I am undone for I am a man of unclean lips…and my eyes have seen the King.” (Isaiah 6). So often, we are comfortable with our sin. The reason for this is that we have not fully understood the utter holiness of God. John Calvin begins his Institutes by telling us that the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves are interrelated. It is only in light of the holiness of God that we can actually understand ourselves.
The rubbish of the Philistines has covered over both the holiness of God as well as our own darkness, brokenness and sin.
In 2015, Sarah and I experienced a season of personal revival in our lives. The Holy Spirit was poured out. Our walk with God went to a new level. Our passion, hunger, longing, faith, and obedience went up several notches to a new normal. But what interests me is what happened before this season of revival in our lives. It was an increased revelation of sin in our own lives. Things that had just seemed normal to us before came into the light of God. Stuff that was hidden, stuff that hadn’t seemed that bad. Pride. Coarse joking. Cynicism. Addictions. All of the sudden, it laid us flat. We actually wept over sins that hadn’t even bothered us before. This was the Holy Spirit. It was the light of God increased in our lives. The first thing the light did was reveal sin in our lives that we had been ignoring, overlooking, or unconscious of. This was preparatory work for revival in our lives. On second thought, it wasn’t really preparatory at all. It was revival.
Here is what Norman Grubb writes in Continuous Revival about this. “The obvious main function of light is to reveal things as they are…Light is very silent, does not push or drive anyone away, but is inescapable to any honest person. You can’t lie to light. If you hit your toe against an object in the dark, you may mistakenly say that it is a table. But when the light is turned on in the room, you can no longer continue to say that it is a table if it really is a piano. Light just exposes the lie. God is Light. Silently, inexorably He shines on and in us, revealing things just as they are in His sight. Have you ever noticed the pivotal place given, even in salvation, to our response to the light? In John 3, we are distinctly told that men are not lost because of their sins (because they have already been atoned for) but they are lost for refusing the light.”
And so at the heart of revived Christian experience is walking in the light. Allowing the light of God to shine on us, even on our sin. Coming into the light and staying in the light.
John says, “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” We live in a world that is living in a state of constant truth suppression about human sin. In the post-modern culture in which we have been discipled, human beings are not viewed as sinful. And in our culture, we do not need to confess sin, either to God or to each other. As long as I haven’t hurt anyone else…it doesn’t count. But when we walk in the light, we are honest with ourselves and God (and others) about the sin in our lives as it is revealed to us. Grubb writes:
“Sin is a revelation. It is God who graciously shows us sin, even as it is He who shows us the precious blood… GOD shows us sin. We do not need to keep looking inside ourselves, This is not a life of introspection or morbid self-examination. We do not walk with sin, we walk with Jesus; but as we walk in childlike faith and fellowship with Him step by step, moment by moment, then if the cups cease to run over, He who is light, with whom we are walking, will clearly show us what the sin is which is hindering–what its real name is in His sight, rather than the pseudonym, the excusing title, which we might find it more convenient to call it.”
- CONFESSION – As sin is revealed. The next step of walking in the light is simple: confession. Many of us see the practice of confession only in the movies, in the empty church, with the killer and the priest in the confession booth. But confession must be recovered by the church as a regular practice. We have to confess our sins to God, (and yes…to each other, in appropriate ways). Because when we do – when we agree with God about our lives…it restores us to a right relationship with God. Our sin has already been atoned for. Jesus died on the cross to forgive it. But when we pretend we have not sinned. When we deny our sin, we essentially turn our backs to God. We are no longer face to face with him in communion.
When our kids were little, we had a liturgy in our house every time there was need for discipline. When the kids would do something egregious, they would get a timeout. We would tell them, Noah or Silas, you are getting this timeout because you did X. After the timeout, we would have a liturgy of restoration and reconciliation. We would ask them, Silas or Noah, “why did you get this time out.” They would respond…and when their response was accurate, we would ask them the next question. “What do you say?” They would say, “I’m sorry.” And then our response would be, “I love you and I forgive you.” We would hug and then we’d say, “now go and play.”
We did this because we wanted to train them to understand that life with God is a life of walking in the light. We sin. We will sin repeatedly. If we want to have fellowship with God that produces revival and overflow in our lives, we must walk in the light. This means admitting, confessing and repenting of sin regularly, and being restored to face to face intimacy with our Father.
Are there sins or patterns of sin in your life that are unconfessed? Do you have a regular space in your day to “keep accounts with God” and confess sins as they come up. Think of a relationship with a family member…it is always better to deal with sin or issues as they come up, without allowing them to fester and erupt eventually. Same with God.
Are there unreconciled relationships in your life? Is there a next step toward reconciliation that is in your power that you have not taken? Please note, reconciliation takes two to tango…sometimes it is not possible for us to move forward if someone else doesn’t want to. But it is important that we do what is in our power and control.
Are there sins you need to confess to another person? James 5 says, “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other that you may be healed.”
Pray for the church (ourselves included) to walk in the light. Ask for the Holy Spirit to graciously search us and reveal to us anything that is not holy or in line with the light of God (Psalm 139).
Ask for the same kind of revelation of sin that has happened in the church before and during every past season of revival. Ask for a revelation of the holiness of God and also of the preciousness of the blood of Jesus – which fully atones and covers over our sin.
Let’s thank God for dealing, once and for all, with all sin, past, present, and future. Let’s pray for the church to move into unhindered communion with God as our sins come into the light and are confessed and repented of.