Take your Bible with me once again, and turn back to the book of I John. This is our fourth in a series of messages through the book that I’ve entitled “Back to the Basics.” You’ll remember with me that John is ministering to the churches in Ephesus, and is countering a false teaching known as pre-gnosticism. As he does so, he provides a series of tests designed to distinguish real disciples from the heretics that are entering into the church. As we consider this little paragraph in I John 2 this morning, the topic of love is unmistakably moved to the forefront. John understands that true disciples of Jesus must be characterized by love.
Parents dropped off their children in Newton, Connecticut this week, only to be faced with the cold, harsh reality that the joys of their lives had been gunned down by a senseless maniac named Ryan Lanza. The tears would flow, and the dreams would be crushed as people came to understand that people struggle to love each other. But this isn’t a new problem…
Sadly, this struggle to love each other has crept into the church, and yes, it’s probably even in our youth group right now.People are engaged in “church-hopping” at a rate unprecedented in recent years, as they choose to flee from their problems instead of rectifying issues that they have with other believers. People struggle to love each other. Christian teens confess their love for their parents, teachers, and authorities, but see no problem with bashing them when their backs are turned.You might even erect barriers around who you will associate with, the friends that you will hand out with, or even the people that you feel have wronged you.
The unloving attitude that pervades our society, and has sadly seemed to creep into our churches is an attitude that the apostle John clearly wants nothing to do with.
People struggle to love each other. Even though this sad truth is a reality, John’s argument in I John 2:7-11 is very clear, and it is incredibly strong.
Proposition: Because true Christians are identified by love, you must love others.
Because true Christians are identified love, and must love others, John draws the attention of his audience to three distinct places that you must look to when it comes to a consideration of love.
I. Because true Christians are identified by love, you must look to the Scriptures and see the mandate for Christian love (v. 7).
John begins his paragraph with the word “beloved,” which is striking in it’s context. In urging them to love each other, John assures them of his love for them. The first test that John as talked about in this chapter is a moral test – If you say that you love me you must keep my commandments. The second test initiated here is a social test – If you say that you love me, then you must love one another! As John begins to talk about the love that he is referring to, he makes it clear that this is not something that should be new to them. Why? Because true Christian love is clearly taught in Scripture!
A. Christian love is enduring (It has always been).
John wants it to be clear to the people that he is not asking them to do anything that they should not know to do!
Have you ever had an expectation placed upon you that was forgotten and then reiterated? That’s the idea of the passage. Just because you forgot it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold true, or that it’s “new.”
As we consider this topic of love, some of you need to pick up your Bibles and understand that nothing we’re saying today is new! Love is enduring and it has always been expected that followers of Christ would love one another.
B. Biblical love is important (it is completely natural)
So how do we know that Biblical love is important from this text? Well, John says that this is a love that you have had “from the beginning.”
When people start to act in weird ways, it freaks us out! If cats barked, if dogs meowed, if fish ran on the ground, it would be weird. All the same, if people started to claim Christ but didn’t love, it would be weird.
Guys, Biblical love is important, because it identifies you as a follower of Christ who has agreed to the claims of the gospel! As you look to the Scriptures for your mandate, you encounter the undeniable truth that true followers of Christ love others. It’s something that you have understood from the beginning! And yet some of you would rather do anything other than show real biblical love towards each other. John would caution you to be careful. He points you to the Scriptures and shows you the mandate for biblical love which proves that this is nothing new, and it is assumed upon recognition of the gospel.
II. Because true Christians are identified by love, you must look to Jesus, and see the example of perfect love (v. 8).
On the surface, it seems that John is contradicting himself with “I am” in verse 8, verses the “I am not” that was expressed in verse 7. So which is it, John??? It is unequivocally both! The commandment to love is not new – it has always been. But the quality of love that is displayed by Jesus, and is to be displayed by his followers is completely new!
Fresh in QUALITY, not fresh in KIND
A. The life of Jesus displayed His perfect love.
Even though the OT taught the primacy of love, never before had love been perfectly displayed as it was in Jesus. John 13:1 – “Now before the Passover when Jesus knew His hour had come, having loved His own He loved them until the end.”John writes that this kind of love is new in Jesus, and that as a follower of Jesus it must be new in you! How did Jesus display this perfect love in His life?
In John 13, Jesus knows that his time to die has come. He gets together with his disciples for dinner, and begins to do something completely weird to them! He washes their feet! Remember how Peter protests? What does Jesus say? “If I, being your Lord, wash your feet, then you ought also to wash each other’s feet.”
Jesus says the same thing to the disciples that John is saying here when he says that the new commandment is in Jesus and in you. You are to love with the same love that Jesus loved you with. Are you doing that?
B. The love of Jesus defeats sin.
The second half of verse 8 provides the basis for the claim made in the first half of the verse. It should be read like this: “The darkness is passing away, and the true light is shining.” Here again, John is using the analogy of light and darkness to illustrate the two kingdoms that are at war.
We are in that “All ready, but not yet” phase that John is talking about. We’re already seeing the power of love over darkness, but we haven’t yet seen the total transformation. Some of you wonder why you fall to temptation so frequently. The answer is really quite simple. You must anchor yourself to the unchangeable love of Jesus that drives out darkness. Your lack of love effects more than just the people that you don’t love. It effects yourself as well. We look to Jesus and see our example of perfect love in his life that defeats sin!
We have seen first that you must look to the Scriptures and see a mandate for biblical love, and second that you must look to Jesus and find the example of perfect love, but John draws our attention to another place in the final three verses of this paragraph…
III. Because true Christians are identified by love, you must look at your life, and see if you possess Christian love (v. 9-11).
In each of the final three verses of this paragraph, John includes a sort of test that you need to consider. He wants you to look at your own life and see if this love really is present. These three verses must be understood against the backdrop of the secessionists and their claims against John.
A. The presence of Christian love in your life is all or nothing (v. 9).
Here again, John is addressing directly a claim made by the secessionists – I can be in the light even while I don’t love people! John probably particularly felt this claim as it was levied against him! Specifically, John wants to make it clear that you CANNOT be a genuine member of the community of faith while hating others.
Many times we try to categorize our relationships in the body of Christ. There are those that we feel free to show real love to, and those that we could care less about. We may not actively say that we hate them, but we don’t give a care at all about them. Take, for instance, the garbage man.
John’s point is clear – Even the garbage collector must be the object of your love! Listen, guys, there really can be no middle ground! Some of you have perfected the art of not caring about those round about you.
B. The presence of Christian love in your life will keep you grounded (v. 10).
You know the pattern by now. When John give a negative example, he is usually quick to follow up with a positive example. That’s exactly what he does in verse 10.
If the presence of Christian love will keep you grounded, it can be easily assumed that the absence of Christian love will make you easy prey for the devil. Some of you are really, really frustrated right now because you can’t understand why you fall all the time. – You don’t have love. Some of you are so unstable in your Christian life that you never stay consistent in your devotions, and you never find any real victory – You don’t have love. You must take a hard look at your own life and see if you have the Christian love that is promised to keep you grounded!
C. The absence of Christian love in your life brings great danger (v. 11).
John revisits the person who is in darkness by hating his brother, and he ups the ante a little bit.There is a big difference between being in darkness (v. 8), and walking in darkness (v. 11). Now, the person who possesses no love is living in danger and without any lasting satisfaction.Not loving your brother not only contradicts the true claims of Christianity, but it contributes to spiritual downfall. At the beginning of the book, John emphasized the presence or absence of sin when dealing with genuine conversion. Now he goes a step further to the presence or absence of love. The person who possesses no love is living in danger and without any lasting satisfaction.
THE GOSPEL IS FAITH EXPRESSED THROUGH LOVE
Have you ever seen anyone who is in great danger and they didn’t even know it? Stephen Davenport sent me a video of a guy who almost gets hit by a train – He didn’t even see it!
Spiritually speaking, that’s where some of you are today. You claim a cheap form of Christianity due to a supposed confession of faith as a child, but you’re Christianity is shallow, and your confession can’t save you. If you don’t love, you walk in darkness, and you are in danger of losing it all. Why? Because a true follower of Christ always expresses love towards others as a natural outflowing of his conversion.
People struggle to love each other. But because true Christians are identified by love, you must love others.
It’s difficult to wrap our minds around the hatred that fills our world. Events like yesterday’s leave us sad and speechless, and they should. But as sad as the events of yesterday’s are, they shouldn’t really surprise us. The kingdom of darkness is characterized by hatred.
We should, however, be surprised at the lack of love that is shown in the so called “church.”
The argument from this preacher this morning on the basis of John’s writings is this – If you don’t have love; active, growing, Christ-like love, then you don’t have Christ. True Christianity is always characterized by love.
ChAd's Greek Outline of 1 John 2:7-11
Chad's handwritten Outline and Commentary Notes for 1 john 2:7-11
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