This week, a friend and I went exercising. We would walk for a while, and then run for a while. We are exercising, because we want a better life. There are things in our life that are not the way we want them to be, and we believe that making better life choices will lead to a better life.
But as I study 1 John, I question the concept of self-improvement. In 1 John, I only see two descriptions of lives. The first option is a life of one walking as Jesus did in the light and love of God and becoming righteous because Jesus is working on our behalf, and the second option is a life of one who loves the world and all of the darkness and evil that it has to offer. And if you are not in the first group, then you are in the second. There doesn’t seem to be a middle. Often we think of life as a scale with one end being evil and the one end being good, and we consider ourselves to be somewhere in the middle, and we are striving to be closer to the good end. According to 1 John, there are only two options.
I don’t like that there are only two options. I know that I don’t want to be included in the second group, but I often don’t feel like I am good enough for the first group. There are times that I don’t do all that God has command of me. There are times that other people drive me crazy, and I fear that it would be easy to hate them. Even after trying to follow Christ most of my life, I still sin.
But the great thing about these groups is that our position is not dependent upon feelings. Those who are in God are in His light and are included in the first group. It is that clear.
There is an interesting thing about light that I noticed while my daughter and I were playing with a flashlight in the darkness of the bathroom with the lights off. Because we did not turn off the flashlight, the flashlight was consistently producing the same amount of light. When my daughter would cover the flashlight, the room became darker. When she would let it shine, it would seem brighter. It wasn’t until she pointed at the mirrors that the room was bright.
We cannot make the light of God shine any brighter. Our only options is to cover the light, let the light shine, or reflect the light. For the most of my life, I have found myself being one of the Christians who try to make their own light, rather than realizing that light only comes from God. The book of 1 John gives us a few clues how to live reflecting the light of Jesus. 1) We enjoy fellowship with one another (1:7). 2) We confess our sins, and receive Jesus’s purification (1:9). 3) We come to know Christ so that we can obey His commands (2:3).
Notice, I didn’t say we should obey all of God’s commands, rather I said we should know Christ who will transform us into obedient followers of God. Many Christians get the goal confused. We try to be on the good end of the scale of life, but that is impossible. We must stop trying to be perfect, rather we should get to know the one who is perfect.
So maybe the next time I go running, I should run so that I can know God better, rather than to make myself better. Maybe the point of exercising should be to gain a greater understanding of God how strengthens us. Maybe the point is to build perseverance so that I can persevere in my search for God. Or maybe I will just have to run more to understand what God is revealing to me through exercise.
My guess is that when I exercise to “know Christ better,” my attitude would be more Christ-like. I wonder what other activities would be more interesting if I change my motivation to “knowing God better”?
Do you struggle with the wrong goal (being obedient rather than knowing Jesus)? What daily activity should you do with the attitude of “how can God use this activity to reveal Himself to me?” How would changing your motivation to pursuing God change your attitude?