1 John 2:3-14
Last week Jeff shared with us about God being Light. Continuing with the Light theme this morning, but focussing on being in a right relationship with God—walking/living in the Light. A little introduction to verses 3-11:
True followers of Jesus will have assurance in their salvation because they know, love and obey him.
Verses 3 & 4 know that you know Him
Verse 5 know His love perfectly
Verse 6 know you are abiding in Christ
Here’s how we can be sure that we know God in the right way: keep his commandments.
Simple fact—keep His commandments! I’m sure we have things we treasure; we look after and guard them well. Now I don’t simply mean objects, but this can apply to relationships too. I’ve been challenged about whether I keep and guard God’s commands with as much fervour and love as I do with things that are precious to me. How precious to me are His commands? How might you answer? To obey Christ is a blessing, not a burden—or at least it shouldn’t be! Obeying Him is my natural, my automatic response to what He has done for me. How about you? It’s not keeping the commands that brings us to know Jesus, but rather it is the knowledge we have of Jesus that leads us to obey the commands. A bit tricky perhaps, but the two do go together. If I, if you, truly know Jesus, then keeping, guarding—as we do with precious things—His commands is evidence of this. But …
If someone claims, “I know Him well!” but doesn’t keep his commandments, he’s obviously a liar. His life doesn’t match his words.
So, if we are not paying attention to His commands, keeping and guarding them as precious, then as Jeff said last week, we are big fibbers. Plain and simple, we would be telling a lie; nothing truthful about it or in us. Someone put it this way: “We are spiritual deceivers, fakers”. You see, we would be claiming to have something we do not really have at all—a right, true and genuine relationship with God. Have you ever wondered if sometimes the rules and regulations, the religious facets of your faith, seem to be stronger than your relationship? You find you are worrying more about what people might think or say, than how God might be feeling and thinking? Are you so busy “doing” rather than spending time with Him? Another challenge for me!
But the one who keeps God’s word is the person in whom we see God’s mature love. This is the only way to be sure we’re in God.
This verse is a positive contrast to verse 4. It also gives an answer. It’s not the one who is disobedient who really knows God, but rather, it’s the one who obeys His word. When keeping God’s word is a habit, a pattern in our life, this shows God’s perfect, mature, complete love. It’s agape love—a sacrificial love that will voluntarily put up with inconvenience, discomfort, even death, for the benefit of another without expecting anything in return. To really know God is to experience His agape love. When we are being obedient followers of Jesus, it is then that we grow in this love until it is mature, perfect, complete.
Growing in love for God is a crucial part of spiritual growth. Love for others is as important, something John chats about a little further on.
Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.
Again, a simple fact—walk as Jesus did. John is talking about remaining in Him. Jesus also talked about this and it seems John mentions it, according to one scholar, 23 times in this epistle. Just as we obey and love Jesus, remaining in Christ is the natural outcome of knowing Him.
I guess it could possibly be put this way: Like Father, like Son; like Saviour, like saint. Do we reflect the life of Jesus in our daily life?
Love one another and walk in the Light of salvation—7-11.
Verse 7 God’s love has been with us since conversion
Verse 8 God’s love is seen most truly in Jesus and His followers
Verses 9-11 God’s love exposes the darkness of hatred
Basically, John is saying the Christian life is to know Jesus, to obey God and love others. I mentioned earlier that John chats about love for others later, and this is where it begins. In verse 5, John was concerned with our love for God, and in verses 7-11 he turns to our love for others.
My dear friends, I’m not writing anything new here. This is the oldest commandment in the book, and you’ve known it from day one. It’s always been implicit in the Message you’ve heard.
Clearly John loves his readers—he has literally, in the Greek, called them “beloved”, which is translated as “dear friends”, and he uses this term many times over the 3 letters. The message heard from day one—the message Jesus gave that they would have heard at the beginning of their faith walk—was love of God and love for one another. Love for God and others is also commanded in the Old Testament—Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 6:5. So, not a new command but an old one. Love is not an optional stage two in our Christian growth, it starts at the beginning of our faith walk.
On the other hand, perhaps it is new, freshly minted as it is in both Christ and you—the darkness on its way out and the True Light already blazing!
The ESV translates the first part of verse 8 as “at the same time” and it might help us see that John isn’t really confused about old or new commandment. The command does go back to Moses, but it takes on a new character with the coming of Jesus. Not the law of Moses but the new era of grace and truth that Jesus ushered in. It’s no surprise if I say our world is in rebellion against God. There is darkness in our world. But, the love of Jesus and his followers—including you and me—is the light that shines in this darkness. Perfect love shown in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus dealt a death blow to the darkness. The King of Light and Love is already reigning. Darkness is on the run—the true Light already shines.
Anyone who claims to live in God’s light and hates a brother or sister is still in the dark. It’s the person who loves brother and sister who dwells in God’s light and doesn’t block the light from others. But whoever hates is still in the dark, stumbles around in the dark, doesn’t know which end is up, blinded by the darkness.
John is relatively black and white in these verses so we get the point. The command to love shows hate the door. Hate belongs to the darkness—rebellion against God. Here’s a thought—if we hate, we don’t belong to Jesus, but to the world. Failure to love is one of the worst accusations of the church in the eyes of the outside world. If there is conflict and infighting within the church, how can we claim to be a people of love? Why should we be believed? We, as followers of Jesus are mirrors of his love. Ok, so we have some cracks and we might not be brightly lit mirrors, but we are mirrors. The likeness to Jesus is clear to those watching us. Living in love means we walk in the Light. We don’t stumble. Love and Light are partners—they go together. Hate and darkness also go together. When we choose to love it may cause us hurt and we may be humbled. It might mean asking forgiveness and letting go of injustices. So, when we feel wronged, perhaps it’s a good idea to think of the ridicule and mockery Jesus endured—all for love. He didn’t retaliate.
I remind you, my dear children: Your sins are forgiven in Jesus’ name. You veterans were in on the ground floor, and know the One who started all this; you newcomers have won a big victory over the Evil One. And a second reminder, dear children: You know the Father from personal experience. You veterans know the One who started it all; and you newcomers—such vitality and strength! God’s word is so steady in you. Your fellowship with God enables you to gain a victory over the Evil One.
These verses are understood to be John’s reasons for writing. John is writing to people who have been changed by God. It’s generally understood that repetition is used to give emphasis and the consensus is that it is so for these verses. John is rather emphatic here, wanting to bring assurance to those who read his words. He has great confidence in the role of the Father and the Word of God in their lives. Satan will accuse us and tempt us. The work that Jesus did for us answers the accusations. The Word of God is the weapon for the temptations. Keep His commandments; walk as Jesus did; love God and others. You are forgiven; you know the Father; you are victors in faith. Let God’s light shine into your life right now and reveal anything that might cause you to stumble. Choose to walk in the Light. Amen.