1 John 2:7-14 December 2016
THE NEW COMMANDMENT
Last week I pointed out that according to chapter 5:13 John wrote this letter to those who believe in Jesus so that they might know that they have eternal life.
And in this letter he gives us 4 proofs by which we can know that we are genuine believers.
- The moral proof that we looked at last week which states that if we are genuine believers we seek above all to obey God and please Him.
- In this passage we look at the social proof that we are genuine believers and that is that we love our fellow believers.
The other two proofs are the theological proof and the experiential proof and we will look at those when we come to the appropriate passages.
This morning we are going to look at the passage we have just read under 3 headings:
The command to love v7-8
The refusal to love v9-11
The need to grow up v12-14
THE COMMAND TO LOVE V7-8
When John wrote to the believers he called them “Beloved”. When you read the letter you see that John had some pretty tough things to say to them. If you don’t obey God you can’t be a true believer, if you don’t love your fellow Christian you can’t say you belong to Christ, if you go sinning you are still living in moral darkness. And yet he calls them beloved. He loves them.
I have often said to those who are involved in preaching and teaching, “If you don’t love the people you minister to, you have no right to preach or teach them.”
Ill. Two well-known Scottish preachers Andrew Bonar and Murray McCheyne, met together one Monday, and Andrew said to Murray, “Yesterday I preached about hell.” Murray replied, “Did you preach it with love.”
A tourist was visiting the church where Murray McCheyne was pastor and on the pulpit was the very Bible that Murray preached from. The tourist noticed that some of the pages had water stains on them and he asked the caretaker why the pages were so badly water stained. The caretaker pointed out that whenever Murray McCheyne preached from passages that spoke about God’s judgement or sin he couldn’t stop weeping because he loved the people so much and couldn’t bear the thought of anyone going to hell.
And that is why John calls his readers beloved. He loved them, but he loved them too much to hide the truth from them.
John says here that the commandment to love one another was not a new commandment. In fact God commanded His people in Lev 19:18 that they were to love one another as they loved themselves.
But it was also a new commandment because Jesus showed us how God really intended us to put it into practice.
The Jews took the commandment to love your neighbour yourself to apply only to your fellow Jews. You can love your neighbour and hate everyone else. And they did. They hated the non-Jewish people.
Jesus took the commandment to love your neighbour as yourself to a whole new level not only in His teaching but by His example. In the story of the Good Samaritan He showed that our neighbour is our fellow human beings regardless of their race, gender, beliefs, etc.
He taught us and practiced that we are to love not only those who are kind to us, but to love our enemies, to pray for them and bless them.
He taught us and practiced that we are not just to love our neighbour as ourselves, but to love them more than we love ourselves. To put their needs before our own and be prepared if necessary to lay down our lives for them.
The love that Jesus taught and practised unconditional. No matter what people thought of Him, said about Him or did to Him, it didn’t stop Him from loving them. And His love was sacrificial: He laid down His life for us.
John says that Jesus practiced this unconditional sacrificial and so were the believers he was writing to.
It was this unconditional, sacrificial love practised by the early church that made such an impression on the culture of the day. This love was unheard of before Jesus came. The culture was very cruel and uncaring. It was a ‘dog eat dog’ society where everyone was out for themselves. A culture marked by oppression, cruelty, violence, corruption, greed, racial and class hatred, bigotry, pride and prejudice. The only love that existed was love for your own family and friends.
In the midst of this culture a growing group of people appeared who loved each other to the point of sacrificing their lives for one another. A group who showed unconditional love, compassion and practical care for those around them regardless of race, class, creed, or gender. People who loved, forgave and blessed those who hated and persecuted them. People who reached out to the poor, the underprivileged, the outcasts and rejects of society and treated them like family.
This kind of love was so foreign to the people in those days that it was the major factor in bringing people to Christ. Never before had they seen anything like it.
Ill. A similar situation occurred in the Japanese POW camp in Burma during the 2nd WW. The conditions of the camp were so bad that the prisoners were only concerned with keeping themselves alive. Those who contracted contagious diseases were dumped in what they called the death ward and left to die. All the other prisoners steered clear of that place except for two deeply committed Christian men: Dusty Miller and Dinty Moore.
Earnest Gordon was sent to the death ward suffering from malnutrition, beriberi, malaria and tropical ulcers. His fellow prisoners didn’t believe he would survive. However, Dusty and Dinty gave him 24 hour care, treating his ulcers until they healed and to everyone’s amazement Earnest survived. Earnest was so impressed particularly with Dusty’s firm faith in Christ and how he never showed resent ment or anger when cruelly treated by the Japanese. Through their self-less and sacrificial love Earnest gave His life to Christ and so did many of the men in the camp.
Ernest survived the war and when the prisoners were liberated he wanted to find out what happened to Dusty. Two weeks before the end of the war Dusty had been crucified by a Japanese guard who was frustrated because Dusty refused to retaliate when abused and persecuted.
This kind of love has had a powerful impact on the western world and that is why we see so many examples of this in our culture. The influence of Jesus life and teaching has affected our thinking far more than most people realise.
And that is why John said, “The darkness is disappearing and the light is already shining.” The darkness of hatred and indifference towards others is disappearing as the light of God’s love is shining through those who follow and obey Jesus.
THE REFUSAL TO LOVE v9-11
Once again John is very up front with the people he is writing to. He says, “If you claim to living in God’s light and yet hold resentment and forgiveness towards your fellow Christian, you are still living in moral darkness.
If you are a Christian you are not encouraged to love your fellow believers, you are commanded to and to refuse to love your fellow believers is to disobey command and to live in rebellion.
If we are holding resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness towards a fellow believer John says
We are living and walking in the darkness.
We will cause other believers to stumble
Spiritually and morally blinded to the truth.
We are living and walking in the darkness.
Listen friends it doesn’t matter how justified we feel in holding grudges against other Christians, when we refuse to love and forgive them as Jesus does, we are placing ourselves in a very dangerous position. Under the power of the one who rules over the darkness.
When we refuse to obey God and love our fellow believer, we rebel against God and we give Satan a foothold in our lives.
Eph 4:26 “When you are angry, do not sin, and be sure to deal with your anger before the end of the day. Do not give the devil a foothold in your life.”
If a fellow believer upsets us don’t sin by letting it develop into resentment and bitterness. Do what Jesus said and sort it out ASAP. Because if you don’t Satan will work on it to grind you down and bring you under his power.
I know in the past whenever someone has offended me and I haven’t sought reconciliation, Satan has kept bringing it up my mind and encouraging me to wallow in resentment and self-pity. It’s like having festering sore that you keep going back to it and picking the scab off it so that it never heals.
When we refuse to obey God and love and forgive one another we rebel against His leadership and place ourselves under the power of the Prince of darkness.
We cause others to stumble
When another Christian upsets or offends you what do you normally do? Do you go to them and point out the offence with a view to restoring the fellowship?
That is what Christ commanded us to do, but heaps of Christians don’t do this. They go to others and tell them their side of the story and get them to sympathise and agree with them. They draw other believers into their resentment and bitterness. To put it quite bluntly, they cause them to stumble and sin.
So often the offence was never intended. So often the offended person has misinterpreted the actions, words and motives of the one who offended them and they have formed a conclusion that is not even the truth.
They have caused others to criticise and judge on the basis of their assumption, their misinterpretation without giving the other party a chance to explain their side.
When we refuse to love and forgive. When we hold onto hurts, resentment and unforgiveness and share our one-sided version with others, we can cause them to stumble, to sin by getting them to take on our negative resentful, attitudes.
Proverbs 18:13 puts it perfectly: “He who forms a conclusion before hearing all the facts is foolish and shameful.”
We are spiritually and morally blinded to the truth.
When we hold resentment and forgiveness towards our fellow Christians, we are so focussed on what
their offence that everything gets out of proportion. Our judgement is impaired so that even the smallest offence becomes so serious and so big in our minds that we will not forgive. And our resentment is so deep that we refuse to believe that we may have over-reacted or even got it wrong.
The fact is that if we resent someone, that resentment will colour everything they do or say. We will read into their every word and action things that were never intended. The resentment will blinded us to their good points and all we see are their faults.
Not only that, but because we are so focussed on their offence we are blinded to the fact that we may be at fault in some way. In fact resentment towards others blinds us to our own faults. We become in effect self-righteous. If we truly acknowledged and addressed our own faults and failings we wouldn’t be so hard on others.
Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 5 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
I want to say something personal here. 90% of the hurts and offences we experience were never intentional. It is generally all to do with the way we perceive them, interpret them because of our own emotional issues or past experience and so we jump to the wrong conclusions when someone says something or does something. We claim to know what they were thinking and what their motives were, when in actual fact we don’t. Only God knows that.
I can honestly say that in the time I have been here
I have never consciously or intentionally done or said anything to hurt or offend anyone. I know I sometimes say silly and stupid things without thinking of the possible consequences, but I don’t mean any harm by it.
However, if anyone has felt hurt or offended by anything I have done or said, I am truly sorry and I would really appreciate it if you would come to me and let me know so that I can learn from it. I am teachable and open to correction and when Christians have pointed out things to me that I they found offensive I have thanked them for their honesty and have taken it seriously and sought to address those things.
Please don’t allow those things to turn into resentment and bitterness, if you do, you will rebel against God and do more damage to yourself than anyone else.
Romans 12:18 says “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone”
THE NEED TO GROW UP v12-14
In v12-14 John speaks to 3 groups of people in the church: Those who are very new Christians, those who are young in the faith, and those who are mature believers.
To those who are very new Christians, John says, “Your sins are forgiven and you know the Father.”
The universal declaration of human rights tells us that our greatest needs are things like, justice, freedom, basic physical needs, equality, employment, safety, education.
But the Bible tells us that our greatest need is forgiveness because without that we will load ourselves up with guilt and condemnation in this life and be separated from God in the next life.
When you come to Jesus who paid the penalty for your sins at the cross and receive the forgiveness of God it is the most amazing experience you can know. Your sins are forgiven, the weight of guilt is lifted, God’s Spirit enters your life, the peace of God fills your heart, you are truly set free and reconciled with God for time and eternity.
Ill. When one of Britain’s worst criminals gave his life to Christ in his prison cell and experienced God’s forgiveness, he wrote, “I felt a completely different person, like being born again and this is the great work Jesus has done in my life. I was really cleansed inside and out….For the first time in my life I am a free man, free from the filth and sin that has been inside me for years. The truth has made me free, the truth being the Lord Jesus Christ.”
This is a mark of a brand new Christian. They are just blown away by the fact that God loves them and has forgiven them and brought them to Himself.
As move on in our Christian life may we never ever lose that sense of gratitude, are and wonder.
To those who are young in the faith John says you have won the battle with the evil one.
It’s very common in the early days of our Christian life to be so excited and thrilled with our new life in
Christ, but soon will come the time of testing. Just as Satan tried to bring down Jesus at the beginning of His ministry so Satan tries to undermine the faith of new believers. Jesus warned us that this would happen in the parable of the sower.
But if we remain true to Jesus and come through the time of testing we will become stronger in our faith and grow.
And John says in verse 14 “I write to you, who are young in the faith because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”
To those who are mature in the faith John says, “You know Christ and you know the Father.”
To know God in this sense is more than just knowing about God.
A lot of people can tell you all about God from what they have read in the Bible. The Greek word here for ‘know’ is to know from personal experience, to know God intimately, personally.
Ill. And older pastor told reflecting on his life said, “When I was in my 30s I wanted to build a big church, when I was in my 40s I wanted to be a great preacher, when I got into 50s I wanted to know God.”
A mark of spiritual maturity is that you have developed a close relationship with God. And that relationship impacts everything you do, say and think. That relationship means more to you than anything else in all the world.
Ill. When the Catholic authorities threatened Martin Luther with taking away his family, property, freedom and even his life. They said to him, “Then where will you be, Luther?” “Then I shall be where I have always been….IN THE HANDS OF MY GOD.”
If we really know God it will be evident in our behaviour, attitudes, our reactions and particularly in our love for others.
It may be this morning that you are sitting here and you are holding a grudge, resentment, forgiveness towards a fellow believer. You are actually rebelling against God – refusing to love and forgive as you have been loved and forgiven by God.
You are in a very dangerous position because unloving attitude will damage you more than you realise and will be used by Satan to drag you down.
If you claim to be a Christian, God doesn’t give you an option, it is His command – you either obey or remain in rebellion. For Christ’s sake, for your own and for the reputation of His church – address it and deal with it before you take communion today.