God Is Love, God Is Light. III. Walking in the Light

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but 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” (1 John 1:5-7; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

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As mentioned in the last two posts, the Bible uses the term “God is” before several attributes. While “God is love” is an important one to remember, the Word of God also says things like “God is holy,” “God is perfect,” “our God is a consuming fire,” and “God is light.” All are aspects of His nature. None tells the complete story. However, the apostle John links love, life, and light as interconnected divine qualities. He writes that Christians must walk in the light.

We walk in the light by walking in love:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 5:1-2).

If our lifestyle manifests hatred or self-centeredness—if we are not seeking “the best interests of another person regardless of reward to oneself”—we are not walking in love, nor are we walking in the light. According to John, this means we do not have “fellowship with Him” (or “a personal relationship with Jesus,” to use the popular modern evangelical teaching).

We also walk in the light by being honest with ourselves and God. Immediately after introducing the idea of walking in the light, John wrote:

“If we say that 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. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).

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If we say that we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar. We commit blasphemy, insulting the Lord. Elsewhere Scripture says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). All of us fail sometimes. Even worse, sometimes it is not really failure. We intentionally did something that violated God’s will and succeeded in rebellion. We need forgiveness. We must acknowledge our need for forgiveness.

Many Christians accept the idea of “confessing that you are a sinner.” I still have not found that taught in the Bible. The Bible frequently urges us to confess our sins (the ones we have actually committed), not the abstract notion that we are sinners. If we want to walk in the light of God’s love, we have to be honest: We have to acknowledge to Him how we have failed to live up to His word and will. Twelve-Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous urge their members to take a searching and fearless moral inventory of themselves and then “admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Whether we make this confession to a pastor (as in some traditional churches) or to a trusted mature brother or sister in Christ who will protect our secrets, this is a powerful step in finding deliverance, experiencing the power of forgiveness, and walking in the light. To walk in the light, we need to identify and dispel the darkness.

Walking in the light keeps us in fellowship with other believers. If we are walking in God’s light, we are walking in love. We are connected to the Body of Christ, sharing our victories and defeats, joys and sorrows, strengths and weaknesses, so that we may grow in faith, love, and light.

Let us walk in love. Let us walk in the light as He is in the light. Light, love, and life are essential qualities of God, and He is eager to impart them into our lives if we are willing to receive them.

I would like to hear from you. What are some ways you can walk in the light? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes, God's Nature and Personality, Love of God | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

God Is Love, God Is Light. II. Creation and Christ

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but 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” (1 John 1:5-7; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Photo by Porfirio Domingues, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The previous post introduced some of the thoughts of William Law (1686-1761), a British theologian who shared some interesting insights into the idea that “God is Light.” While many modern Christians emphasize the idea that “God is love,” Scripture identifies several other divine attributes: God is light, God is holy, our God is a consuming fire, etc.

Light plays a significant role in the Word of God. According to Genesis, God created light before anything else:

“Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Genesis 1:3).

Law has an interesting perspective on this verse:

“When God said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light,’ no change happened to eternal light itself, nor did any light then begin to be. But the darkness of this world then only began to receive a power or operation of the eternal light upon it, which it had not before; or eternity then began to open some resemblance of its own glory in the dark elements and shadows of time. And thus it is that I assert the priority and glory of light, and put all darkness under its feet as impossible to be anything else but its footstool” (William Law, The Spirit of Love).

From the moment that God said “Let there be light,” creation manifested His glory.

“The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Psalms 19:1).

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Many of the divine attributes are associated with light. John’s Gospel begins by drawing a connection between light and life. The interconnectedness of light, life, and love permeates John’s writings.

“In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:4-5).

Throughout his Gospel and letters, John frequently associates light with love, life, and goodness. Likewise, he ties darkness to evil, sin, suffering, and death. When he told his readers that they should “walk in the light as He Himself is in the light,” he was calling them and us to live in a way that radiates God’s glory, as the sun declares the glory of God by beaming its life-giving rays upon our planet.

The next post in this series will offer some thoughts about how we can walk in the light.

I would like to hear from you. What do you think the Bible means when it says that “God is light”? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes, God's Nature and Personality, Love of God | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

God Is Love, God Is Light. I. Light as an Attribute of God

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but 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” (1 John 1:5-7; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Photo by Porfirio Domingues, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Some Christians think love is God’s only or primary attribute. For them, “God is love” (1 John 4:8) is a definition: “God equals love; love equals God,” and this excludes all other attributes or definitions. However, the Bible uses the phrase “God is” with other adjectives: God is holy, God is merciful, etc. The statement that “God is love” must be balanced with other definitions like “our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29).

Eighteenth-century theologian William Law (1686-1761) was fond of the image that “God is light” and described it as one of His essential attributes, if not the most essential one. His writings are often mystical and complex, so one should read the following quote with that in mind. Also, it is part of an extended discussion of the nature of God. Before reading false teachings into this passage, I would urge you to read The Spirit of Love in its entirety:

“Light as it is in itself is only in the supernatural Deity; and that is the reason why no man or any created being can approach to it, or have any sensibility to it, as it is in itself. And yet no light can come into this world but that in which God dwelt before any world was created. No light can be in time but that which was the light of eternity. If, therefore, the supernatural light is to manifest something of its incomprehensible glory, and make itself, in some degree, sensible and visible to the creature, this supernatural light must enter into nature, it must put on materiality” (William Law, The Spirit of Love).

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The following two quotes, from some of Law’s other books, expand on this idea about light:

“This is the state of all creatures, whether men or angels; as they make not themselves, so they enjoy nothing from themselves; if they are great, it must be only as great receivers of the gifts of God; their power can only be so much of the divine power acting in them; their wisdom can be only so much of the divine wisdom shining within them; and their light and glory, only so much of the light and glory of God shining upon them” (William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life).

“All that is sweet, delightful, and amiable in this world, in the serenity of the air, the fineness of seasons, the joy of light, the melody of sounds, the beauty of colors, the fragrancy of smells, the splendor of precious stones, is nothing else but Heaven breaking through the veil of this world” (William Law, An Appeal to All That Doubt, or Disbelieve the Truths of the Gospel).

God is love. God is holy. God is light. These are all attributes of God, along with other qualities we have discussed over the last couple of years. While no one quality is a complete definition of God, Scripture shows us that each of these qualities finds its fullest definition in Him. God is more than love, but to truly understand love, we must know what His love is like. God is more than holy, but we only understand holiness by knowing Him. Likewise, God is more than light, yet perhaps we need to understand God to truly understand light. There may be a spiritual reality about light that physics, with its discussion of waves and photons, cannot explain. At the very least, any spiritual or symbolic description of light must in some way draw its meaning from God Himself.

The next post will look at the light of God in creation and the life of Christ.

I would like to hear from you. What do you think the Bible means when it says that “God is light”? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes, God's Nature and Personality, Love of God | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

God Is Love: Biblical Love and the Secular Perspective

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Photo by Wingchi Poon, under a Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

God is love. Entire books declare God’s love. Some preachers have based all of their theology on this statement. It is true, but it can be distorted, especially if we assume that it is the only attribute of God. Many people, even ones who claim to be born-again Christians, think so. They say “God judges nobody,” despite numerous Bible verses that speak of a final judgment. They say “love wins,” or even “love is love,” without defining love.

Biblical Greek had several words that are usually translated as “love.” “Phileo” describes the kind of love between friends. “Eros” often speaks of romantic or sexual love (think of our English word “erotic”). The word most frequently used for the love of God is “agape,” which Thomas Aquinas defined by saying “to love is to will the good of another.” Agape love seeks the best interests of another person regardless of reward to oneself.

Psychologist Carl Rogers (1902-1987) coined the phrase “unconditional positive regard” to describe the attitude he believed a therapist should express toward his client. Being strongly secular, he avoided biblical terminology, but his definition is worth considering when we ask how we, as imperfect humans, can express agape love. One writer describes unconditional positive regard like this:

“According to Rogers, unconditional positive regard involves showing complete support and acceptance of a person no matter what that person says or does. The therapist accepts and supports the client, no matter what they say or do, placing no conditions on this acceptance. That means the therapist supports the client, whether they are expressing ‘good’ behaviors and emotions or ‘bad’ ones” (Kendra Cherry, “Unconditional Positive Regard in Psychology”).

Everyone we come into contact with will have weaknesses, shortcomings, and failures. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; everybody needs forgiveness. Everybody has needs. Everybody needs help sometimes.

I share Rogers’ terminology here partially because it has seeped into many Christians’ thinking. Many believers seem to be following Rogers when they speak of love. However, the Bible gives a detailed description in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

I suspect Dr. Rogers would agree with many parts of this passage but disagree with a very significant point.

Love is patient. It does not lose its patience with those who make mistakes or are not growing “quickly enough.”

Love is kind. When love sees someone in need, it tries to help.

Love is not jealous. Love is happy when someone else succeeds, prospers, or excels. It does not get upset because somebody has done or received something you have not done or received.

Love does not brag and is not arrogant. It does not tear others down to make itself feel better about itself.

Love does not act unbecomingly. Many translations (including the NIV, NRSV, and ESV) translate this by saying that love is not rude. It is polite and respectful.

Love does not seek its own. It is not self-centered or greedy. Instead, it seeks to bless and help others. The King James Bible frequently translates “agape” in 1 Corinthians 13 as “charity.” We usually use that word to describe freely giving to people or groups in need, even if we do not know who they are or if we will receive no personal benefit from the act.

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Love is not provoked. In the words of the NIV, it is not easily angered. It does not lose its temper every time things do not go its way or people do not do what it wants.

Love does not take into account a wrong suffered. It does not hold grudges. It does not seek revenge.

Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. Here, Carl Rogers and the Bible part ways. In the name of unconditional positive regard, Rogers would encourage a person to seek “self-actualization” even if it meant making choices that contradict the Bible. When personal choice and Scripture conflict, a sincere Christian will side with Scripture. True biblical love does not celebrate sin. Instead, it desires the repentance, restoration, renewal, and redemption of sinners.

Love rejoices in the truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” Love rejoices in Jesus. It does not betray or deny Him. Love conforms itself to God’s will, not to the ways of the world:

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

If God’s love lives in our hearts, we will not conform ourselves to the world. We will be transformed by the renewing of the mind—through the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Love bears all things. It would rather suffer than sin. It accepts challenges and difficulties that God allows in our lives.

Love believes all things. It especially believes that God can accomplish His perfect will in the lives of those around us.

Love hopes all things. It waits with patient expectation for God to accomplish His will in the lives of others. Christian hope is not an “I hope God does what He said He would do” attitude. It is a confident patience that waits to see every promise come to completion.

Love endures all things. It never gives up.

Whenever you see the word “love” in 1 Corinthians 13, you can substitute the names “God” or “Jesus.” Can you substitute your name, though? First John 4:8 says that the one who does not love does not know God. Do you truly know Him? How often can you honestly substitute your name in place of “love” in 1 Corinthians 13?

True biblical love seeks the glory of God and the blessing of those around us, whether they deserve it or not. It does not ignore God’s other attributes, such as righteousness, justice, and holiness. However, God’s love provides a foundation on which those other attributes can stand.

I would like to hear from you. How do you define love? How does this affect your perception of what God is like? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes, Love of God | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Thoughts on the Love of God by St. Augustine

“Incomprehensible and immutable is the love of God. For it was not after we were reconciled to him by the blood of his Son that he began to love us, but he loved us before the foundation of the world, that with his only begotten Son we too might be sons of God before we were anything at all” (St. Augustine of Hippo).

All St. Augustine quotes are from The New Encyclopedia of Christian Quotations, compiled by Mark Water (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000).
A young St. Augustine with his mother, St. Monica. Painting by Ary Scheffer (1795-1858), photographed by Johann Dréo from Chartres, France, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

August 28 is the Feast of St. Augustine in some churches. The following thoughts commemorate him while also providing an introduction to a forthcoming series about God’s Love.

St. Augustine (born November 13, 354; died August 28, 430) is arguably the most influential Christian author since the apostles passed away. His writings not only influenced Roman Catholicism, but also perhaps the two most significant Protestant reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin. If you follow the teachings of Luther or consider yourself a Calvinist, you are a de facto Augustinian.

Some may find his theology heavy-handed; his views about morality were strict, perhaps legalistic. Raised by a Christian mother and pagan father, he spent his youth as a rebel. During early adulthood he sought truth: followed Manicheeism (sort of a proto-New-Age fusion of Christianity and Eastern mysticism), had a son out of wedlock, became a professor of rhetoric, and eventually became a Christian. Interested readers may want to check out his biography, the Confession of St. Augustine. Although he lived over 1600 years ago, it is easy to relate to him. His Confession reminds us that times may change, but people are essentially the same.

In the coming weeks, I will share a few thoughts about the love of God. The Bible tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8); it is one of His most important attributes. If we do not have the love of God in our hearts, our faith is not genuine.

I would like to close with a few more quotes by St. Augustine about God’s love. Reflect on them and rejoice in the incomprehensible, unchangeable love that God has for you!

“O Love ever burning and never extinguished caritas, my God, set me on fire.”

“God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love.”

“People are renewed by love. As sinful desire ages them, so love rejuvenates them.”

“The single desire that dominated my search for delight was simply to love and be loved.” (Augustine sought satisfaction in several premarital sexual relationships before surrendering his life to Christ. Like many people today, he found that he was “looking for love in all the wrong places,” as a popular song from the 1970s said.)

I would like to hear from you. Does one of Augustine’s quotes really speak to you in a special way? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, God's Moral Attributes | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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