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Intimate Fellowship Impacts Our Whole Life

By Mark D. Roberts | Friday, August 14, 2009

Part 8 of series: What is the Christian Life?
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A couple of weeks ago I was working away on a series entitled “What is the Christian Life?” I got about two-thirds through that series when I was distracted by other things, including my most recent series on “Grief and the Christian Life.” I’d like to circle back and finish up my series on the Christian life before moving on to other issues.

Let me briefly review what I had explained before. Based on the opening verses of the first letter of John, the Christian life is koinonia, a Greek word often translated as “fellowship.” Yet “fellowship” misses the depth of koinonia, which is related etymologically to our word “communion.” I suggested that we translate koinonia as “intimate fellowship.”

According to 1 John, the Christian life is first and foremost intimate fellowship with God. But when we enjoy this kind of relationship with God, we are also drawn into intimate fellowship with God’s people. We are adopted as children into the family of God, where we have lots of brothers and sisters. Thus, the Christian life can be seen as intimate fellowship with God and God’s people.

In today’s post, and in the others that will finish this blog series, I want to show how this kind of intimate fellowship impacts every part of life.

Walking in Darkness

Sometimes I like to walk in darkness. I’m speaking literally here, not confessing my sin. There’s nothing quite like the quiet peace of a late night ramble. When I’m in the woods at midday, I can race along to achieve my hiking goals. But at night, when the light is limited, safety demands a slower, calmer, more soothing pace – a ramble rather than a race.

One of the things I love about my new life in Texas is living on the edge of the country. On my street there are no street lights. And my town has very few. Thus, when my wife and I walk our dog at night, we enjoy ambling along, with our path lit only by the moon or stars.

Sometimes, however, safety suggests that it just isn’t good to walk in darkness. Many years ago I was enjoying one of my nighttime strolls while staying at a camp in the mountains above San Bernardino, California. The path was paved and the moon provided just enough light to keep me from going astray. All of a sudden the tranquil quiet of the forest was interrupted by a faint rumble, then a grunt, then the distinct sound of a curious nose sniffing the air. Squinting in the darkness, I could just make out the distinct outline of a large black bear. I knew that forest rangers recommend calm, not panic, in a situation like this. They encourage us not to run, but rather to seem unimpressed. I also knew that black bears, the only kind remaining in California, rarely killed humans. (Photo: A black bear at night, like the one I met on the road.)

As the bear and I scrutinized each other, I felt glad that I hadn’t tried to smuggle some food from the camp dining hall to my dorm. The bear’s acute sense of smell confirmed the absence of snacks hidden somewhere on my person, so the beast moseyed off to find more a promising source for a midnight meal. Finally, when the bear had disappeared, I allowed myself to feel the fear that had been hiding in my heart.

“Sometimes,” I thought, “it isn’t good to walk in darkness.”

John would certainly agree. 1 John 1:6 speaks literally of “walking in darkness.” “Darkness” is a common metaphor for evil, found throughout ancient literature, including the Bible (for example, Ps 23:4; Prov 4:19). The verb “to walk” refers to the cumulative actions of a person’s life. How we walk is how we live, what we do day after day (for example, Ps 15:2; Prov 4:14). When John mentions “walking in darkness,” he’s not envisioning a late night ramble, but a lifestyle of sin.

For John, therefore, the implications of walking in darkness are much more life-threatening than an encounter with a bear:

This is the message he has given us to announce to you: God is light and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness. We are not living in the truth (1 John 1:5-6).

Since God is pure light, living in darkness, which is to say, living a lifestyle of sin, will never follow from intimate fellowship with God. In fact, if we claim to have fellowship with God while continuing in sin, we lie, deceiving ourselves and any who would believe our claim. Our words and our actions are inconsistent with true relationship with God.

In my next post in this series I’ll finish looking at what it means to walk in darkness . . . and light.

Topics: Christian Life |


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