Many years ago in the beginning of our time in ministry, we made a move. Early in our marriage - and actually even 23 years into marriage - I had so much to learn about the balance between life and ministry. I convinced myself, and I suppose I convinced my bride, that the Lord was moving us to a new place of service. I was wrong, and the error was immediately evident. Karen stayed in Panama City to finish out the school year, and I moved to what I thought would be a new and exciting challenge. My own foolishness got the best of me, and I ached to go back home. For the last four years, Panama City had become the place we both would forever feel a closeness to, and the people in that place had become family. I couldn't let it go, and as a result, I fell further and further into discouragement and depression. I was trying to function in two worlds that would never and could never meet. The Lord used our time in this new location in many ways to teach me about my own insufficiencies and about the danger of trusting in our own understanding. Daniel was born during that time, so obviously the Lord was at work. The burden was heavy because I was trying to do what no one can do. I was trying to survive with mixed allegiances. Living in two worlds and torn between sticking with the decision I had made and knowing that I had made the wrong one.
The struggle of living in two worlds is a theme of 1 John. John writes to help us understand that Jesus calls us to live with Him and to totally lay aside anything that takes our attention away from intimacy with Christ. He knows Jesus, and he wants us to know him, as well.
Two worlds. Darkness consumes one world. Light consumes the other world. The pathway between the two worlds keeps us from crossing between the two. Thick walls that cannot be seen separate the darkness from the light. Those in the darkness know that the world of light exists, and those who are in the light have come out of the darkness, not of their own doing but by the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
People who walk in darkness often have moments that resemble the light, confusing them at times into thinking that they have found a secret doorway into the light other than through Jesus. Moments of kindness and compassion, acts of generosity and goodwill, loyalty to friendships. All of these good deeds can fool those in the darkness into thinking that the message from John's letter has grown old. The enemy will use human efforts to strengthen his hold on those who are in the darkness by making them believe that the darkness does not condemn us. 1 John 1:6 tells us that no matter what we may say about having fellowship with God, if we are still in the world of darkness we are simply living in a make believe world.
In the same way, those of us who are in the light often fall prey to moments of darkness that resurface from our old lives. In moments of weakness, the enemy will work to make us believe that the light is an insecure place and that we are always in danger of crossing back over into darkness. In essence, the enemy wants us to believe that darkness holds the primary position of power in creation when in reality the Kingdom of Christ stands now and forever as the dominant Kingdom in the spiritual world. First John 1:8-10 addresses the need to identify and confess the weakness that would deceive us into believing we are living in the dominion of darkness and light at the same time. Colossians 1:13 and 14 tell us that "He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whose we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." The spiritual world has no dual citizenship.
John's letter addresses the rationalization among many that Jesus' teachings provide moral lessons but that Jesus does not provide the only way from darkness into light. Many in John's day convinced themselves, like many in our day, that Jesus could not have been 100% God and 100% man. They could not comprehend this truth, so they denied its reality. John wanted his readers, and the Spirit through John's letter wants us as well, to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is who He claimed to be and that we can have a full relationship with Him. Having a full relationship with Him means that we have fellowship with Him and with other Christ followers that transcends any fellowship those who still live in darkness may ever have with each other.
The reality John wants us to deal with demands that we declare citizenship in one of the two worlds. Do we reside in darkness with moments that mimic the light or do we reside in the Kingdom of Christ (light) with moments that mimic the world from which we have been delivered? If we know that we have been transferred from the "domain of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved Son" we can begin the transformation process that brings full fellowship with the Father by faith.
It took a year for me to realize, with the help of others, that our move from Panama City was simply not going to work. We tried to move back, but the Lord had other things to teach us. Sometimes He makes us live with the consequences of our poor choices until they are fully cemented in our minds. Spiritually, I recommit myself to one citizenship in heaven with Christ forever. No room for the darkness and no trips back to the dark side. I pray for the Lord to help me know how to live fully in the light and to love completely as He has loved. Perhaps you'll join me over the next few weeks for a closer look at John's letter and for a closer walk with our Savior.