And he uses a variety of terms to represent the same idea, each of which sheds a different light on the concept. As I read last night, I was pondering the various possible meanings of Light and Darkness in the first chapter . . . and one I hit on flipped a lightswitch for me, pun intended. (I'm writing this out for my own benefit -- and hoping it benefits someone else, too.) Starting in verse 5:
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light (truth, honesty, openness . . . light reveals everything as it really is); in him there is no darkness at all (no hiding, no lies, no deception, no pretending, no covering anything up . . . He Himself certainly never lies, but more than that, no lies are possible around Him . . . He sees and knows all).
If we claim to have fellowship with him (to be in a relationship with Him . . . a right relationship) and yet walk in the darkness (hide things . . . lie . . . try to deceive Him, or others, or even ourselves . . . pretend to be something we're not . . . pretend that He is something He is not), we lie and do not live out the truth (we don't really have a right relationship with Him, because such things are not compatible with His nature and can't happen with Him).
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light (if we put ourselves out there . . . all of our ugliness, flaws, and failures . . . let it all be seen by the world, by God, and especially by ourselves), we have fellowship with one another (how many relationships with others are messed up by our hiding, pretending, and deception?) and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin (when we stop hiding and denying our sin, we then realize we need someone else to make us clean . . . and we are in the place we need to be for God to apply Jesus' sacrifice to us -- something John expounds on next).
If we claim to be without sin (a sign of walking in the darkness . . . because at the heart of every sin is pride, believing we are more than we are . . . when you say you don't sin, you're deciding what is sin and what is not, making yourself out to be God, something you are not . . . you're lying about who you are and who God is), we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (the truth of the gospel -- that we are incapable of putting ourselves right with God on our own and need a Savior). If we confess our sins (live in the light, putting everything out there, not denying or hiding or deceiving), he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (again, the purifying can only happen if we put our sins out there to be purified . . . as long as we are lying to Him and to ourselves, denying our pride and wrongdoing, hiding it, God cannot purify it . . . He doesn't force that purification on us . . . it is an invitation, a gift, an offer to be accepted . . . but only if we want it, and we have to recognize our need before we will want it).
If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us (reiterating and summing up: if we don't own up to the truth about ourselves, about God, about who we are, about who He is . . . about how we are trying to run our own lives and be our own gods, deciding what is right and wrong for ourselves . . . if we don't face up to reality rather than inventing a reality that we want to live by, with ourselves on the throne . . . we do not understand the message of the gospel and Jesus' sacrifice cannot be applied to us).
God has been teaching me for quite a while that the gospel is not about making us good people -- it's about putting us back in a right relationship with Him, even while we're bad people. And a right relationship with Him is impossible as long as we are deceiving ourselves about who we are and who He is. The first step is accepting the truth.
God will not . . . He cannot . . . meet us in the darkness -- in the place of deception and lies. We cannot make Him out to be a liar. He cannot lie about Himself to accommodate our lies about Him. There is no darkness in Him.