Last night I continued with my Radio programming. I was extended to 30 minutes, but the time flowed by fast while I discussed Chapter 2 of 1 John. Here is a summary of the transcripts.
Love and Hate; Light and Dark
Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
1 John 2:7-11
In these verses, John gives one more comparison and contrast. This time it is love and hate, light and darkness. If we are in Christ, then we must love our brother and sister. If we claim to be in Christ, yet we hate out brother or sister, then we cannot be in Christ; I think this is a fair summary of John’s point.
You will recall from the last few posts that John made the point that if we are in Christ, we must live our lives like Christ. In fact he has made this point several times in various ways, but recall in particular 2:3-6. Where in the Gospels can we find any indication whatsoever that Jesus ever hated anyone? Far from it! We see Him showing love in all cases, even when He let the Pharisees have it with the seven woes. Remember, right after that, Jesus is lamenting the fact that despite all that God has done, they insisted on turning against Him; Jesus was clearly grieved by this. (Matt. 23:37 ff.) When you reduce the Christian faith down to its simplest form, and I am a fan of doing this, its central idea is love God; love your neighbor. There is no room for hate in that formula.
Our brother may irritate us now and then, he may also let us down. In truth, our brother may well be every bit as imperfect as we are, but we are to love him anyway, just as he is to love us anyway, just as Jesus loves all of us anyway. Remember that love means that we put the interests of the other person ahead of our own.
To this message from John, I’d like to add my own observation: How much damage do you suppose has been done over the years to the Gospel by people calling themselves Christians, who fail to demonstrate His love to others? How many thousands have said “no” to Christ because of some so-called believers, who show an attitude of hatred for other people? How many have left the faith because of this behavior in the church?
Those who hate rather than love can call themselves whatever they like, they may fool many people, but they cannot fool God, and I would respectfully suggest they repent, and do so quickly.
I Write to You Because…
Today, we have an amazing text, one that I have never really appreciated until about 10 minutes ago. It just hit me: Wow!
I must have been a victim of my training, because this is a transitional passage between John’s introductory section and the rest of the letter. In verses 1:1-2:11, John has been going through this comparison and contrast that shows his readers who is and who is not in Christ. Great section, lots of insight! Now, he is giving the reasons he has written the letter, and after this he gets into some very deep thoughts. We often just blow by this little transition and wade into the content that begins in verse 15, but hold on a minute; the transition is amazing!
I am writing to you, dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, dear children,
because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God lives in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.
1 John 2:12-14
Do you see what this is? It isn’t so much the “who” John is addressing, it’s the “why” that is important, contrary to so much that has been written and discussed over the years! Let’s restructure these verses:
If you are in Christ, John is writing to you BECAUSE:
1. YOUR sins have been forgiven on account of His name.
2. YOU know Him who is from the beginning.
3. YOU HAVE OVERCOME THE EVIL ONE.
4. YOU know the Father.
5. YOU know Him who is from the beginning.
6. YOU are strong.
7. The Word of God lives in YOU.
8. YOU HAVE OVERCOME THE EVIL ONE.
Did you notice the tense used here? Each of these “because” statements is either in present or past tense, indicating that they are facts at this very moment, not something to come in the future. I’m sure that I need not mention that there are no “buts” in any of these statements. Now, as for the “who,” there are three “who’s” in the passage, “dear children,” “fathers” and “young men.”
“Dear children” as we have already seen is one of the ways that John addressed the community of believers; it is an inclusive term. “Fathers” can either be literally a father of children, or it can refer to the head of the household, and in Scripture this is often the case; certainly it is when referring to a patriarch. In those cases, something that is true of the father is true of the household. It seems to me that here, because of the inclusive reference at the beginning, the inclusive meaning is also true of fathers, particularly since there is nothing in the text that would indicate specificity of intent. “young men” are the heads of households yet to be born, and I think we can take this reference to mean that not only are these things true in believing households of today, but they will also be true of future generations of believing households. You might wonder about a household of one, but remember that in John’s day, households of one were extremely unusual if not non-existent; they are actually quite a modern development. Looking at the list of statements again, it seems that we can take them to refer to all of us who are in Christ. That is also the context of the previous and following sections…
Notice that there is some repetition. Numbers 2 and 5 are the same, but 2 comes after a reference to the Son, while 5 comes after a reference to the Father. If you know Jesus, then you also know the Father. Having overcome the evil one is mentioned twice also, numbers 3 and 8. Both are directed to young men, and it seems to me interesting that it is repeated the second time in a series of three statements made to young men. Now if we have an accurate understanding of “young men,” then let’s consider these future heads of household. They are the future, but they are also young. They are the ones who need encouragement and the mentoring of the Elder Apostle the most, and so they, who will bear the spiritual battle in the future need a little more instruction that those who are experienced, the veterans we might say. Here, John gives an extra assurance that they are strong, filled with the Word, and have overcome. I would guess that this is as much comfort to John’s “young men” in their day, as this whole list should be to us in our day. This is particularly true when we get into the rest of this letter; John is getting his readers prepared for what is coming.
Take another look at the list of statements:
Would accepting these statements as the facts they are, with no “buts” attached, alter your view of the challenges you face in life?
Is God speaking to you in this text?
If so, what is He saying?
What will you do about it?
What About This World?
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
1 John 2:15-17
Now that we are clear on who we are, and what the realities of life in Christ are, John turns to the world around us. John isn’t referring to the natural world, he’s referring to the world of Mankind; the culture, society, the impulses, the way things are here… in this I don’t mean “culture” in the sense that John is speaking against literature or music or opera or culture in that sense, but instead the impulses and ways of men and society. If we were to say that we live in a “dog eat dog world,” we would be referring to the impulses and ways of this world; that is more like what John is getting at. John is telling us that we are not to love the world or anything in it and if we do, we have a spiritual problem for sure.
The “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” are often cited as the three main categories of sin. Clearly these do not come from God, for as John puts it, they come from the world. If you think about it, so much of what people consider important has more to do with impressing others than with anything else. Why are we so often driven by career advancement? Why do we need some much stuff? Why is your living room fancier than your bedrooms? Why do you need the fancy car instead of the economy car? Must I spend $100.00 on a tie? Why do we want what somebody else has? Our knee-jerk answer to these kinds of questions might be sin. John goes deeper than that; this comes from the world. Jesus nailed the thought down when He said that w prefer the praise of men.
In the final analysis, this world, its ways, and everything in it will pass away, but the love of God endures forever. Our Lord showed us a life that was lived for the love of God. Isn’t that where our love should be? I’ve heard people say that we are here to fix the world, but I must state clearly that this is a mistake. We were never commanded to fix the world, no! The world is passing away! We are commanded to share the love of God through Jesus Christ with people, so that they may be saved from the world’s fate.
Today’s Text: 1 John 2:18-27
So far in this letter, John has given us a reminder of the supremacy of Jesus Christ; who He is, what He is and His nature. John gave us a comparison and contrast of what the “Light” is, and who is and who is not “in the light.” Then John reminded us of who we are in Christ and how amazing that is. In the previous section, John warns us not to love this world, and now John is taking us to the front lines on a battlefield, where it becomes plain why he has taken us on this journey to show us just who we are, and just who “they” are.
Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
1 John 2:18-19
This is the first mention of the term “antichrist” in the Bible. It means someone who is against or in place of the Messiah. In these verses, John mentions twice that we are in the “last hour,” which is interesting when you consider that many will suggest today that there are more hours to come. Whoever these antichrists were, or are, they appear to have been hanging around us, and then to have gone rogue. If nothing else, in these two verses, we can be sure that these rogues were hanging around, but they were never “us.” Recall the descriptions of in the light and in the darkness in vv. 1:5-2:11… these characters were the ones in darkness.
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
1 John 2:20-23
Now we have a little more information: The rogues John is talking about deny that Jesus is the Messiah. That is a bald-faced lie, and those who are in the truth would never make such an assertion, so these guys were not in the light. No person who denies that Jesus is the Messiah is in the Son, and if a person is not in the Son, they are also not in the Father. They are antichrist, and there are many of those in the world.
As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—eternal life.
1 John 2:24-25
These two verses are the warming: Make sure that you hang on to what you know about Jesus Christ. If you do, you will remain in Him and inherit eternal life. Do not listen to the rogues. By the way, this is why I said above that John has taken us to the front lines on a battlefield. It is a spiritual battlefield in a spiritual war, where they anitchrists in our midst will attempt to pry you away from the Truth. Resist, and do not listen to their lies!
I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.
1 John 2:26-27
John invokes the anointing of the indwelling Holy Spirit in urging us to remain in Christ in these verses. Consider this: Here is a warning that there are those who try to lead us astray, to turn our backs on our Lord. They are fighting against us in a spiritual war, and this can sound really scary. Oh it’s great in the movies, when their innocent victims are lured into evil by magical powers, having no way to resist. Take heart! John is pointing out to you and I that we have within us, at our disposal greater firepower by tenfold! It is the very Holy Spirit of God, the third Person of the Godhead! If we are focused on our relationship with our Lord, and we take these “battles” to Him, there isn’t even a contest, for “greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world.”
One final thought and that’ll be it for today… You know all those stories and books and movies about evil forces that lead the righteous astray? “The Exorcist” “The Omen” etc., etc…? They really freak people out, which is why they make so much money, right? People become afraid, and being afraid becomes a distraction for some. At the same time, you have in these verses a very simple way to discern who the liars and antichrists are; a third grader can understand it. You also have a solution to defeat the lie that a third grader can understand: stand on the truth of the Word of God, and reject outright the lie.
As simple as this is, many will be so creeped out by the stories and the idea of spiritual warfare, that it almost makes me wonder if these stories of myth, legend and popular fiction are actually part of the lie itself, so that we won’t fight back, and our superior firepower will never be brought to bear on our foe. Hmmm… do you think we need to have a healthy relationship with the Lord?
Continue in Him
And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.
1 John 2:28-29
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I sit back and think about everything involved in flowwing our Lord and it all just seems a little overwhelming. Thinking about who He is, what He is, His love for us, His call to us… and all of the implications of these things… Wow!
I don’t want to mess this all up!
Oh sure, I’m confident in forgiveness for sins, and I understand that He is loving, merciful and not interested in a “gotcha” moment, no that isn’t it at all; I don’t want to grieve Him or let Him down. In the text we’ve been looking at, John seems to sense the same kind of thing. He’s taken us through all of these amazing attributes, and he’s taken us through the facts of life in a spiritual battlefield, and now suddenly, he seems to take a little step back to survey the scene, and just as though he were reading my mind, he writes these two verses.
Wow! What do we do now? John’s answer is “continue in Him.” Yes, that’s right, continue in Him so that when He appears we may be confident and unscathed by this world of ours. By “continue in Him,” I think John means that we should simply keep on living in Christ’s image, as He taught us, doing what He did, following His Father’s purpose and not being distracted. We do know that He is righteous, so then, we do know that everyone who does right is born of Him. By “right,” John must mean that they do the things that He would do, so while Jesus is the Model for all of us to follow, when those around us follow His model, we have someone to show us the way when we are confused.
Wow! Once again, the answer is simple, if not always exactly easy.
Yes, dear reader, let’s just continue in Him…
Children of God
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
1 John 3:1-3
It’s really an amazing thing to read this text and give it a chance to sink in; this is a text to read slowly, prayerfully…
While we were dead in our sinful rebellion against God, He loved us so much, even in spite of our mindset against Him, that he went to extraordinary lengths to redeem us to Himself, and once reborn, we are now His children. There are moments when we may not feel like it, but when God looks upon us, He sees His own children… what more is there to say?
None of us really can appreciate exactly what that entails. It’s like being asked what heaven is like… I’ve been asked this many times, but I must admit that I don’t really know. People repeat certain Biblical passages about heaven, and act as though they know all, but they are kidding themselves, for they are quoting non-literal passages that give indications of certain aspects of heaven, but not details, and do you know how I can say this so boldly? It’s easy; human language does not, nor could it ever, contain the vocabulary to describe fully, accurately and completely those things which no man has ever seen and reported directly – we have no reverences to comprehend. The same is true for being children of God. Much remains “hidden” for there is simply no vocabulary to convey the full meaning. When we see Jesus Christ face-to-face, we will see all! What a glorious hope! It is only natural and proper for us to respond to this by setting aside the old life, the old ways, and to be pure as He is pure to the best of our ability, and according to His leading.