Walking in the Light: Fellowship Through Forgiveness

Sept. 20, 2013 Elyse Fitzpatrick

Session Transcript

Elyse Fitzpatrick: I'm going to go ahead and pray, and I'd ask you to join me. Would you, please?

Lord God, we are amazed that You have promised that nothing can separate us from Your love. In my own heart I know that there are many things that would separate me from Your love, and yet Your love remains constant. Not the least of which in my own heart is my own unbelief, which I confess openly unto You that You would help me believe. Help us all. Help us all believe that You love us and that You're that good. Help us to remember that it was Your love that held You there until it was accomplished. We are amazed. We are overwhelmed. We are grateful, God. Grant us faith. Help us to believe we pray, in Christ's name, amen.

I've really enjoyed this conference already so much and really enjoyed being with Nancy and getting to hear Nancy and getting to hear Paul. I just wanted to correct one thing, Paul. Paul said that he was the only person in the room with a moustache. (laughter) Just keeping it real, that's all.

I have to say that, you see, because I'm standing under a spotlight on the Jumbotron. I want to talk about walking in the light, and actually standing in front of these spotlights is a really good illustration of what I want to talk to you about tonight. To begin with I would like to read with you from 1 John 1, and I'm going to read 1–10 of 1 John 1 and this is the ESV. This is God's Word.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands [you know who he's talking about there, right?] concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest [was made evident], and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Precious words there, yes? Precious?

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

How much unrighteousness are you cleansed from? All. All unrighteousness.

If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

See, standing as I am here before you in a spotlight with my face on the Jumbotron, (laughter) that light reveals things about me, which I'll be honest with you—I'm not really happy that they're being revealed. (laughter)

I want to use that as an analogy if I can. I want to use that as an analogy of what it means to walk in the light. I think that there is some confusion, at least there has been in my mind for a number of years, and I'm just proud enough to think that everybody's just like me. There's enough confusion, I think, about what it means to walk in the light, that I'd like to spend a little bit of time talking about that tonight. What it means in part to walk in the light means that we allow ourselves to be known. Now, I'm going to be honest with you, that's not easy for me. Is it easy for you? I mean, just to let yourself be known?

I have been going through a difficult time in my life recently. And what was going on was that I did not have faith, was struggling to have faith, to believe that God would provide for our household. Now, I would like to say to you, because I wrote a book entitled Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety (laughter) that that basically means I've got that down. I don't. I wake up in the middle of the night terrified. Terrified. Can you relate at all? Right? Yes?

Waking up in the middle of the night terrified, and as I was going through this I thought, Well, maybe I could find a book to read on it. (laughter) Really, this is the truth. I lie not. So I downloaded onto my iPad a copy of Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety. (laughter) I was reading it, and it was as though I had never read it at all or written it. and it was the same thing. I'm reading the things I'm struggling with as I write that book, and I'm still doing it.

Now, what I would like to do is stand up before you tonight and move over here to a part where there's not so much light and say, "I got this." I'm not sure that encourages you. It's very helpful for me when people that I know and love like Nancy talk about how she has to cry out for help. That's very helpful to me because otherwise I'm very tempted to give up, to be discouraged, to fall into despair, and to think somehow I ought to be farther along down this road. I mean for crying out loud. I got saved forty-something years ago, which is longer than those of you who are going to meet with Nancy tonight have even been alive. (laughter) And Nancy, I just got to tell you, I am so impressed. You're going to talk to somebody at ten something at night? That is wonderful! So good. I'm going to talk to my pillow, that's who I'm talking to. (laughter)

I'm so encouraged, and please don't misunderstand me. I am so encouraged when I hear people whom I love and respect, who I know love Christ, who are following hard after Him, who confess to me that they're struggling with the same things I am. Can I say this to you? Most of you are women's ministry leaders. Listen to me. The women who relate to you don't need you to be perfect. And you can say, "Thank God for that." Right? They don't need you to be perfect. They need you to be a sinner with a Savior. That's what they need.

So we want to talk about what it means then to walk in the light. I want to walk in the light and have fellowship with you and enjoy the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ my Savior. I want to do that. What does that mean?

It means that, first of all, that I am not going to pretend that I am sinless. I am not going to do that anymore. There may be some women who want to present a persona to other women that they have it together. I'm just going to speak for myself. That doesn't encourage me. What encourages me is when someone like Nancy, whom I respect so much, tells me that she's got to get down on her knees and cry for help, because that is where I live.

So walking in the light does not mean that we are sinless; it means that we are looking for the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, to cleanse us from all sin. You see, walking in the light doesn't mean that we're sinless, because three times in that passage I read to you, John tells us that we sin. He says, "The blood of Jesus . . . cleanses us from all sin. . . . If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." You don't need a Savior if you are not a sinner. And being a sinner is only bad news if there is no Savior. He also said, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins."

I confess to you I'm a sinner, and I sin in all the ways you do. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." Now, right now, all of you who are involved in any sort of ministry with other women, I want you to take a big breath in and then go, "Whew." You see, it's not on you. If you hear nothing else tonight, it's not all on you. The Holy Spirit may use you to work in the lives of others. We pray that He will. But God's kingdom advancing is not all on you. Whew!

So what does it mean then to walk in the light? It means that we live transparently and openly. We walk in the light. It means that we're not hiding anymore. I know many of you are pastor's wives. And I know that the world that you live in is a fishbowl, and you feel like you can't possibly be real because then people will judge your husband. Let me encourage you. First of all, you have a Savior who loves you and who knows your heartache. And secondly, walk in the light. Be transparent.

God is light. And so as we reveal ourselves, we are walking in that light that He is. And by extension, walking in the light is not only being honest and open before the One who sees our hearts. See, I can put on this churchy thing. Walk into church Sunday morning. "Hi! How are you?" I respond, "Fine. How are you?" That doesn't mean I got to back the dump truck up on everybody who says, "How are you?" (laughter) But the days of pretending need to be over. This world needs an authentic Christianity. People who struggle just like they do but have found a Savior who forgives. That's what they need.

You see we are children of the light. We are children of the day. And it means that we are not afraid of admitting our sins, and we're longing for complete transformation at the same time. See, I want to thread this needle for you. Because on the one hand, I don't want to cover who I really am. I am a sinner. I struggle with unbelief and when I am struggling with unbelief, I struggle with being cranky. Now that's a euphemism. My daughter just laughed. That's a euphemism for being sinfully angry and complaining. See that's what I do. That's what happens when I'm afraid and unbelieving.

So on the one hand I don't want to be afraid of admitting that because I want to give you hope that God works in the hearts of old ladies who have walked with Him for forty years and written books about it and still don't get it. All right? You can have hope. On the other hand, I don't want to stay there. I want to move. May God transform my heart so that my nights of being up at two-thirty in the morning or three o'clock in the morning and screaming in terror into my pillow would be over. That would be a good. I want God to transform my heart. He is transforming me. I want to give Him glory and on the other hand, I still sin.

What happened that we have ended up here hiding in the darkness? In the beginning, Eve walked in the light with the Lord and with her husband. There was no hiding, no covering up, no darkness. They were naked and unashamed, because they had nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing to hide. Can you imagine? I mean, think—just let your mind go there for one second. What would your life be like if you had no shame? Can I tell you that in Christ that's what you have? No shame, because He's paid it all already. He already knows it all. He's borne it all. He's forgiven you. He's justified you. What would life be like without any shame or hiding?

John in John 3:19 says, "This is the judgment: that light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil." You see, because we want to hide. Sin makes us want to hide from the very beginning. What sin did was move us into darkness, into shadow. And God is calling us, "Move into the light. Bring your sin into the light." Sin always brings with it forfeiture of transparency, the shattering of relationship; it brings shame.

When we sin, we feel naked and exposed and we try to hide. Don't you? You know you've done something wrong. You know you've said something or done something, and what I want to do is to detach myself. I want to move away. I want to hide. I want to cover myself up. I want to try to make it up. I want to try to be better. I want to try to prove I'm really not that bad after all. That's what I want to do until I can sort of be feeling good about myself again and move out of shame and despair.

God is calling you to walk into light, and what that means is you become honest and transparent. Now, that's not easy. I know that. I know that already. Isaiah 42 describes people as blind prisoners. I wonder how much we are like that—blind prisoners consigned to a dungeon sitting in darkness hoping that nobody will ever actually really see us. And pretending.

The truth is that no matter what sort of position you have in helping other women, you are a sinner and your propensity will be to hide, to cover up, and to keep certain things in the dark. "Not me. I wouldn't do that." (laughter) Can I tell this story?

I was speaking along these lines at one point a number of years ago, and I'm menopausal so I have no Velcro left in my brain. I don't know when anything happened. I know it was sometime in the past. (laughter) So at some point in the past I was talking about being transparent and confessing your sins to one another, and my daughter, Jessica, who is with me tonight was with me at that conference. She got together with a group of ladies and she was... Now she's laughing. And she was talking about how she is embarrassed about confessing her sins to people and that sort of stuff. That's what she said to them. She came back to me and she said, "What must they think of me?" I said, "Right." Right? Yes, I confessed sin to them, what must they think? See that's how we all are, right? It's like, well, okay, we want to confess sins a little bit because maybe that sounds kind of spiritual but not really. I mean, not really.

See that's our natural bent. Ever since the garden we've all been making fig-leaf clothing. We've all been hiding. But what happens is if you give into that natural bent, this propensity will thwart your ability to help others. And it will break down relationships. Do you like to be around people who are Mrs. Perfect? You're laughing when I say "Mrs. Perfect," because you know how you feel about those people. See, the deal is I want to be "Mrs. Perfect" but have you think of me as though I wasn't. (laughter) May God help us to have faith to believe that we can walk into the light of His holiness and His knowledge of us and we can be transparent with one another and that somehow the Lord will use that to bring Himself glory.

Walking in the light means that we stand transparently before God and others. Here's the reality—you are already standing transparently before God. You know that. And I can put on my best "churchiness," but God sees right into my heart. You know what's really shocking about that? He sees right into your heart, and yet He loves you. I mean, get that. He sees your heart. He sees all of the ways you're faking it.

I know why you're laughing. He sees all of the things that you think about that lady that's coming to talk to you again. "Oh, no! Here she comes. Here she comes." He sees that, and yet He loves you. And yet He loves you as though you loved your neighbor. See, that's your record. Your record is that you love your neighbor. That's your record before God. It's what it's called to be justified, right? Just as if I never sinned. Yes, that's really good. Just as if I never sinned. Just as if I always obeyed. That's your record. He looks at you, and He sees a woman who loves her neighbor.

"No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account" (Heb. 4:13). Does that scare you? It should not. Why? Because you are clothed in the righteousness of the Son. "Search me, oh God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts. And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting" (Ps. 139:23–24)!

Lord, show me and then when You show me, God, help me not to fall into self-pity and despair and self-condemnation and unbelief, because that's where I'm tempted to go.

So we want to move out from hiding to stand before the eyes of others. "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed" (James 5:16). Do you do that?

My relationship with Phil, my husband—yes, I guess you should know who that is, huh? Phil is not my beagle. (laughter) My relationship with Phil began to change dynamically when I began to confess my sin and I gave up the moral high ground. Do you know what I mean? Like having to be right. I got to be right, because if I'm right then I can make you do what I want you to do. So giving that up. The most amazing thing happened in our relationship. I began to confess sin and then pretty soon he's confessing sin. That's what happens when you are transparent.

You see, the amazing thing is that the Bible's description of men and women of faith is not very flattering. Why? You know, why doesn't the Bible—I mean beside the Lord Jesus—why isn't there anybody who could be our hero? And you know, none of those people are supposed to be your hero.

Abraham is not your hero. "I don't know her. She's my sister." (laughter) And David's definitely not your hero. You see, those people are not your heroes. Jesus is your hero, and the Bible is very, very honest about the kind of lives those people of faith lived. They had faith, but they were sinners. And that should help you so that you can know that God can use you even though you're a sinner. If God couldn't use sinners, He couldn't use anyone aside, of course, from the Lord Jesus.

When we stop pretending, we begin to walk in the light of forgiveness. Do you know tonight that you're forgiven? If I were to give you a benediction and just say to you, "You are forgiven," what would that do to your heart if you really believed that? That you are forgiven, truly forgiven?

When we stop pretending, when we stop trying to make ourselves presentable with some sort of churchy looking fig leaf... Listen, let me take you back to that story just real quickly. There they are. They're trying to cover themselves up and make themselves look all whatever, not as bad as they were, not naked, give themselves something to hide behind. You know what God has to do? He's got to shed blood and cover them with skins. Who is that? See, the Lord Jesus, His blood was shed and we are covered in His righteousness. We are in union with Him. He covers us. You don't have to hide anymore, because you're covered.

We can drink deeply of the forgiveness that is ours. Do you drink deeply of forgiveness? I mean seriously, every day drinking deeply of forgiveness? I'm waking up in the middle of the night and not only am I terrified, but I'm drowning in my own despair because I really should not be terrified because God has year after year after year been faithful to care for me. And yet I say, "But what about today?" And then in the middle of that feeling guilty. And then making myself remember, "I'm forgiven. Lord God, I'm a sinner." And using my sin to force me to be thankful for Christ. Using my sin to force me to remember the good news.

When I bring my sin out into the light, it loses its power to make me feel condemned and fill me with guilt and hopelessness. See that's what you need to do. You need to bring your sin out into the light. One of the businesses that my husband used to have was like mold remediation, which is really nasty and we won't go there except to say that sometimes you can go into a house maybe that's been wet for a long time and there will be mushrooms growing out of the ceiling. I swear, it's just nasty. See, it's this darkness. There's all of this really awful stuff that grows in the dark. Growing in the dark. See, bring it out into the light.

Because Jesus lived as He did—that which we have seen, that which we have heard, that which we have felt, that human being, that human being, that incarnate God who lived exactly like us. Because He lived exactly like us, He knows what it is to walk as a human. Now He walked without sin, but He fought temptation and He suffered His entire life. He knows what it is to walk in weakness. Do you feel weak? Hello. They've all left, and I didn't know. (laughter)

Do you feel weak? Jesus understands weakness. Hear me. He had to walk by faith and not by sight just like you do. His entire life, He had to walk by faith. And on the cross, at the very moment when you and I would think that He would be vindicated, the heaven is brass and the Father turns away. He's walking by faith. He understands what you're going through. He knows how hard obedience and faith is.

Listen to this passage from Hebrews 4, which Nancy already talked about. "We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses" (v. 15). Are you weak? Do you feel weak? It's okay. You can say it. "We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect [in every respect] has been tempted as we are, [Oh, thank God] yet without sin." And that's so wonderful, because that means He can die in my place and He can give me His righteousness. "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (v. 16).

Oh, glorious good news! You have a husband in heaven, an incarnate man still wearing your flesh, who is there praying for you, interceding for you, waiting for you, providing for you, pardoning you, waiting until the day that our marriage will be consummated. (applause)

This is glorious good news, isn't it? I don't have to hide anymore, because I've got good news. And the good news is there's a man up there. You know, we talk about the man upstairs? There is a man upstairs. Who knew? The man upstairs clothed in flesh waiting, praying, providing, pardoning, bearing you up. And just the time in my life when I think, Oh, it's about time; He's going to give me a whack, because here I am again at 2:30 in the morning screaming in terror into my pillow, He gives me a kiss on the cheek. That's what He's like.

So I can walk in the light of forgiveness. I can admit my sin, and because I can admit it I can ask for forgiveness and move past it. Otherwise I will be shackled to it, afraid that God is angry with me, afraid to come near Him, afraid to be with others. I'll always fear that others will discover what an imposter I am. I'm saying that again. I'm always afraid that other people will find out what an imposter I am. It's like, really? "No, Nancy, you don't want me to speak because I'm an imposter." I'm a sinner. I can walk into the full light of God's gaze because I know He loves me.

I think we are all committed to the idea of karma, that what goes around comes around and if I pay it forward enough times good stuff will happen to me. One of the things that I love to do for exercise is I swim laps. And at the Y where I swim laps, there are frequently more people than there are lanes. So if I see somebody standing there waiting for a lane, then I always invite them to come into my lane. And I swear to you, in my mind what I think is, Well, then the next time that I come and they're swimming, they'll invite me in, too. I can talk all I want about grace, but still I am sort of tied to this idea of karma. You'd better pray karma's not right. I don't want what goes around coming around. (laughter) Do you?

I can walk into the full light of God's gaze, because I know that He loves me and has already judged Christ in my place. He's already judged Christ in my place. And we can walk into the light because we are hidden in the Son and the Son is in the light. Yes, I am a desperate sinner, but I've got a glorious loving Savior. "In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines into the darkness, and the darkness [listen to this] has not overcome it" (John 1:4-5). Your darkness can't overcome His light. He said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness" (John 8:12). How can I not walk in darkness? Because He frees me. He makes me free to walk into light.

"And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed" (2 Cor. 3:18). See, unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed. Where does transformation come from? It doesn't come from me hiding in the dark pretending to be something else. It comes from me. It comes from the Spirit working in me to go to the light, with my sin to go to the light, with my fear to go to the light, with my unbelief to go to Him—and then He transforms me.

"We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another." You see, this light transforms us from prisoners in a dark dungeon. "Long my imprisoned spirit lay, Thine eye diffused a quickening ray. The dungeon flamed with light. I rise, went forth, and followed Him." See, out of darkness into light.

The light transforms us from prisoners in a dark dungeon into well-beloved and intimately known sons and daughters.

I have three children and six really adorable grandchildren, and I have the microphone so I get to say that. One of my adorable grandchildren is here with me. Her name is Eowyn Elyse Fitzpatrick. She's very precious. She actually lives with me, because her dad is in seminary, and so I'm trying to help them get through seminary. And she comes into my house and she feels like it's her house, because we're related. Exactly. And my daughter can just walk in and open the refrigerator and "What's up?" And you know, right? Because we're related. We don't have to stand on ceremony.

There's an analogy there. Get it? When I get home from traveling, my grandchildren will run and hug me and say, "Mimi's here! Mimi's here!" And they hug me and jump me. And they don't generally look to make sure their hands are clean or anything like that. Why? Because they know I love them. They're welcomed in relationship. That's how you are! That's who you are. You are the beloved bride of the Son. That's who you are. You don't have to stand on ceremony.

We are transformed because we are freed from the guilt and fear that kept us shackled to our former sins. As long as I'm hiding my sin I'm not going to deal with it. Seriously. So you come out. Just come out from the dark. Mushrooms are growing in there. You don't want to be in there. Mold. Come out. Come out into the light. And then other people will be encouraged and we will know that if God, listen, if God can use... Say in your heart, If God can use somebody as weird and messed up as Elyse, I know He could use me. You can have hope. You are loved. You are forgiven. You are righteous. Walk in the light.

Walking in the light eventuates in your holiness. See, one day, "Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we may be called the sons of God. And we are, but then one day we will be like Him for we will see Him as He is" (1 John 3:1–2, paraphrase). The closer we get to Him, the more transparently we stand before Him, the more we walk into that light, the more transformed we will be.

I'm ending with this. Here's how I want you to think about yourself. We become more and more like our husband. Who's your husband? Yes, Jesus. Phil, no. He's the beagle. No. (laughter) Who's your husband? We become more and more like our husband, the Lord of Light. He's the Lord of Light. Do you know what that makes you? Ladies of the light. You are ladies of the light. That's who you are. That's good news, isn't it? Yes. That's good news. And you're ladies of the light because of His work—because of His Work. His work.

You know we can stand before the throne of God, right? We can stand before the throne of God, and we can stand there transparently knowing that He sees us and yet He loves us. Let me pray for you now.

Father in heaven, give us faith to believe that we can stand before Your throne and behold You there, You who have borne all our sin, all our sorrow, all our suffering, and You love us. Help us walk as ladies of the light. We pray in Christ's name, amen.