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1 John 1:1-4 New England Series
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1 John 2:1-2 1 John 2:3-6
1 John 2:7-11
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1st John 2:7-11

 

“Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning.  The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.  He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.  He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.  But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:7-11).

 

“Let’s turn in our Bibles to 1st John chapter 2.  If you’re visiting with us this morning, it’s a pleasure to have you with us.  There are little information cards on the back of some of the seats, you’re welcome to fill out a little information about yourself if you’re new and visiting [or if you’re visiting this website, be sure to do the same by signing our Guestbook].  Maybe you’ve been coming here for awhile and consider this your church, and want to let us know that you consider this your home church now, you might want to fill out one of those cards and let us know.  Remember, too, after the service we have ice cream Sundays downstairs.  We’re just trying to get little creative ideas to just hang out with each other and spend some time together before we run off and do our things on Sundays.  So something you can take part in downstairs before you run off…Let’s say a word of prayer.  ‘Lord, as we look at your Word today, we just simply need you to speak to our hearts.  Of course it’s great to have a Bible study, it’s great to learn, to have our knowledge of your Word increased.  But it’s so much more important just hearing your voice speak to us.  Lord we want to be closer to you, we want to please you and honor you, so speak to our hearts.  Holy Spirit we need you so much.  So we ask very simply that you’d be upon all of us, and upon me now as we go through your Word.  We ask that you’d bless the study and teaching of your Word.  And we ask this in Jesus name.  Amen.’ 

          So far, we seen in 1st John, the apostle John has made things real clear for us, that’s for sure.  He writes in such a manner that you and I would have absolutely no doubt as to where we stand with God.  Do we know God?  Are we in the light?  Are we in the faith?  He writes in a way that we can answer those questions with 100 percent assurance.  But not only does he want us to know whether we are truly Christian [or Messianic believers in Yeshua], but as you’ve seen he also wants us to know, those of us that are believers, he wants us to know where we are as far as in our present fellowship in relationship with God.  Are we believers presently in close communion with the Father?  Or is there darkness presently in our lives that is hindering our fellowship with the Father?  As John has been clearly demonstrating to us, it is vital for us to also know the answer to those questions.  And so as we make our way today through 1st John a little bit further, we’ll continue to see this two-fold effect where John wants us to know he’s just confirming to us our position, whether we’re in or outside of the body of Christ, but also he’s revealing to us as believers, our present depth in our relationship with the Lord.  Our last study had that two-fold effect, as you remember we studied verses 3 to 6.  He gave us a very clear test to determine whether or not we truly know God.  He wrote ‘If we know God, there is going to be this obedience to the commandments of the Lord, there’s going to be this heart within us to want to please God, our ambition is going to be such that we want to please him and walk with him, and glorify him in our life.’  So, he wrote in verse 3 “we know that we know him, because we obey his commandments.”   So that test—am I in Christ, or am I not in Christ?—will be proven by whether or not I obey his commandments, not perfectly, but even more as we talked our heart, our heart will desire to obey those commands.  But at the same time, speaking to the believer, if I am truly abiding close to God as a believer, you’ll see more and more of Jesus Christ in me.  I’ll be walking just as he walked, doing the things that he would do.  Of course Jesus lived to please the Father.  So, abiding close to him, you’ll see more and more of that type of heart in me as a believer, just wanting to abide close to the Lord.  But then, on the other hand, if you look in my life, and I am believer in Jesus Christ, and there’s compromise in my life, then clearly I’m not abiding close to the Lord.  My relationship is being hindered by darkness that is presently in my life.  So there’s that two-fold effect.  We saw it in last week’s study, we’ll see it in this week’s as we continue to look at verses 7 to 11.  So may the Lord just open our hearts, and may things become all the more clear to us.  John will be very straight forward again in his teaching style, his delivery.  He’ll cut right to the chase this morning, leaving very little question.  Here again is just a very simple outline as we go through these verses.  (1) First point, foundational to the Christian faith; (2) Second point, fresh in experience; (3) Third point, flame in the darkness; and (4) fourth point, false profession; (5), then we have fulfillment of the law; (6) and the sixth point, futile experience. 

          Verses 7-11, “Brethren I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning.  The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.  Again a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past away and the true light now shineth.  He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.  He who loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is no occasion of stumbling in him.  But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.”  So, last study John told us that we can know whether or not we’re in the faith by whether or not we keep God’s commandments.  And obedience to his commandments will also show us how closely as believers we’re walking with God.  So he talked about commandments, and now he focuses in, he narrows in, narrows it down even more, simplifying further the heart of the matter by giving us a very practical and very powerful principle—and this is what it all comes down to, basically where the rubber meets the road, and this is the one word love.  He looks at now, one commandment.  This week I was on vacation, and we were staying at a place and there was a swimming pool.  I decided, I had looked at the library two weeks ago, and I had seen a little book in our library downstairs by Jim Cymbala, and I just love to read his books.  And it was a book “God’s Grace From Ground Zero” that he had written right after the September 11th 2001, Attack on the World Trade Center, so I brought that with me as we went on vacation.  And my little kids, they like to swim, so we were hanging out at the pool, and I had been in there already enough, so I was getting a little waterlogged, my skin was starting to itch from being in the water too much, but they just loved to swim.  So I was reading this book beside the pool, and as I was reading this book, Jim Cymbala in his very concise and wonderful way of writing talks about the need for the church after September 11th is not to be judgmental as some have been of our culture, or judgmental of certain groups, but the need for the church in America more than anything is to be Christians filled with love.  So I was reading about this, and as he went on further, [he says] especially there should be a love that moves our hearts to want to share the gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost and dying world. As I was reading this author, you know, wanting to encourage his readers to share the gospel, this family came in, and I was sitting next to the pool, their kids were swimming, and there was Grandma and Grandpa and a Mom sitting there next to me.  We started to talk a little bit.  And as we began to talk, the door seemed to open up for me to share the gospel with them.  But as happens sometimes, I don’t know what it was, I guess it’s pride, I was a bit sheepish and skittish about sharing the gospel, here I am a pastor.  But I kind of tip-toed around and kind of went through it.  Well, anyway as I walked away from that time and went back to our room with my kids, I even told my wife, I was just ashamed.  I mean, I had an opportunity it seemed, to really share the gospel and I was kind of in fear of doing it, and it bothered me.  And here I’m reading a book about sharing the gospel, you know.  I had no excuse.  So anyway, next day at the pool I had kind of repented, and I was reading this book again—‘you give me an opportunity, I’m not gonna miss it Lord.’  And I was asking for another opportunity.  So this family comes in again, comes in to spend time at the pool, and they were sitting next to me.  So now I’m really eager, I’m looking for every opportunity to you know, make things right, and feel better and share the gospel with this family, and I was trying to find ways and throwing out little nuggets and nothing seemed to be happening.  And finally my kids were tugging at my arm, time to go back to the room, they wanted to get back, they were done, and I was running out of time.  So I just decided to get a little bit more pressing with the Mom who was still sitting there, and started to ask her questions about her nursing career that I could use to get into the gospel.  And eventually we got into the gospel.  And I had thought the day before, ‘maybe they are Christians’.  She had said some things to me that sounded like maybe they were Christians, and as they talked it seemed to me that maybe they were believers, Catholic believers.  So I didn’t try to hammer the point too far, but I made the point that it’s about Jesus, it’s about knowing him, about walking with him, about having Christ in our heart, which she totally agreed to.  But as I continued to talk, and talk about her nursing, she made this statement to me, which I agreed to, she says, “Here on earth I think the most important thing is that we love.”  And she talked about working in the cancer ward, and how she would seek, and ask the Holy Spirit how she could just love these people and minister to these people.  And it was a joy in her heart to just share God’s love with a different people that were suffering.  And of course, that’s where John now brings us.  He’s been working this way, narrowing it down to this point, but certainly this is where he takes us.  He reminds us of the commandment to love, the commandment to love [one another], which fulfills all the other commandments, as you remember in the Scripture.  In fact, really, there’s two parts of this commandment to love.  You could say there’s two commandments, or just one.  But it’s the commandment to love.  And it fulfills all the commandments.  [Comment: The first  commandment is for us to love God, and the second, as Jesus stated, ‘is like unto it, to love your neighbor as yourself.’  Both of these commandments are broken down further by the Ten Commandments, the first four defining how we’re to love God, and the last six, how we are to love our neighbor.  But the actual fulfilling power and energy does not reside in man.  The Law, as such, can only be fulfilled by God’s indwelling Agape love, provided by the indwelling Holy Spirit.  So you see where John is headed.  So many people get hung up on trying to fulfill the Ten Commandments (all on their own), and yet the power to fulfill them, and to even love your neighbor only comes from God’s love within us via the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Even our ability to love God without his indwelling Agape love is not within us.]  Now John told us last week, “we know that we know him, if we obey his commandments”, you could say then “we know that we know him, if we love.”  I know that I know God if I love God, I know that I know God if I also love others, and there’s this love in my heart for people, a true love in my heart.  If there’s a lack of love, then that would indicate that I don’t know God, or that there’s something, there’s darkness in my life that’s hindering presently my fellowship with God.  So this commandment of love, tying it back into the previous verses, that if we keep his commandments, we know that we know him—and that means that I love.  Do I love?  Do I love God?  Do I love people?  Do I care for people, do I love my enemies?  If I love my enemies, that says that there’s something happening in my life, clearly I’m a believer, clearly I’m walking in a neat relationship with the Lord if that’s true.  [Remember Jesus expounded on the spiritual intent of the Ten Commandments in Matthew 5?  He said the spiritual intent of the 6th Commandment, which was “Thou Shalt Not Kill [Hebrew: murder]” was that we are not even to hate.  And then Jesus brought this to the  highest level, and said we were even supposed to love our enemies.  What John is saying all fits into what Jesus taught previously.]  Well John as he brings us to this subject in verse 7, he initially refers to it as ‘not a new commandment’, he says “Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment.”  Now why does he say that?  Well, as he explains, it’s an old commandment, not a new commandment because we have had it from the beginning [he says] there in verse 7.  “an old commandment which you have had from the beginning.”  And then he says after that, “the word we heard from the beginning.”  So it’s an old commandment, it’s not new.  It’s something we have had from the beginning.  Now when he says “beginning” there, what is he referring to?  He’s predominantly referring to the beginning of our Christian faith.  And this leads me to my first point, “foundation to the Christian faith.”

 

Foundation to the Christian Faith

 

Love is, simply put, foundational to the Christian faith.  It is where it all begins for us, it is the very beginning of the Christian [or Messianic Jewish] life.  When I became a Christian, something very powerful happened to me.  We talked about this already in 1st John.  But when I became a Christian, the Holy Spirit came into my heart.  And the fruit of the Spirit is love.  [cf. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8; Galatians 5:22-23.]  So my heart, when I became a Christian, was filled with love.  As Paul shared with the Romans in Romans chapter 5, verse 5, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which was given to us.”  He says, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts.  When I became a Christian, the Holy Spirit came in and the love of God entered into my life.  So, in that sense, this commandment is an old commandment, meaning, when I became a Christian, foundational to the Christian experience is this aspect of love, the love of God in my heart.  Paul told the Thessalonians “But concerning brotherly love, you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.”  Holy Spirit, in me, teaching me, moving me, filling me with his love, this love for God and this love for others.  So as a believer, love is foundational, it’s part of who I am.  Before Christ [came into my life] I didn’t necessarily have that love.  Of course, I didn’t have that love.  I might have had a love for my brother in a Philio sense, or an Eros sense there might be that kind of love [i.e. romantic love between husband and wife], but this Agape’ love, this unconditional love, the word that he uses here, was something new, something that happened when I became a Christian, a love for God, a love for others, even a love for my enemies.  So it’s part of the Christian experience, it’s foundational to a Christian life.  Now when John writes in that verse, he says “the word which you heard from the beginning”, you also think of Jesus’ words in John chapter 13, verse 34, where he said to the disciples, and he says it to you and I too, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”  So Jesus gave the commandment to the disciples.  So it started right there at the beginning of the church, the first group of the disciples, this commandment to love one another.  Of course, that term “love one another” appears many times in the New Testament.  In fact, it appears at least a dozen times.  But truthfully, also, that command to love goes back to the Old Testament, to the beginning of the Law, the people of Israel.  Deuteronomy chapter 6, verse 5, God told the people of Israel “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”  And then in Leviticus chapter 19, verse 18 he said, “You shall not take vengeance nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the Lord.”  So when he says it’s not new, it’s an old commandment, it goes way back even to the Law.  It’s at the beginning of the Christian experience, it’s part of my life.  But also it goes back to God working with his people.  So the command to love is not a new commandment.  Now when John says “new” in verse 7, he uses the Greek word kainos [Strongs # 2537, kainos, new (esp. in freshness)], which does not mean new in time, but new in qualities, something different.  And of course there’s no new commands, there’s no different commands being added to God’s Word.  Revelation chapter 22, one of the last verses of the Bible, warns about adding to God’s Word, we have the whole deal.  So there’s no qualitatively new commands, so love is an old commandment, and it is certainly foundational to the Christian life.  In fact, I’ll quote to you from one writer who is summarizing 1st Corinthians 13.  He said it this way, “The Christian life without love is nothing.”  So it’s an old command, it’s from the beginning of my experience as a Christian.  It is foundational to being a Christian.   And without love the Christian life is nothing when you look at 1st Corinthians 13. 

          But then we get to verse 8.  John seems to contradict himself in verse 8.  He writes, ‘you know, I don’t write a new commandment, I give you an old commandment’.  And then he uses the very word, that word kainos in the Greek, when he says “But a new commandment, a new commandment I write to you.”  Now, that seems contradictory.  Seems kind of confusing.  I mean, sometimes it’s tough enough to study and to understand.  Why is he doing that?  Why can’t he be straight forward?  What does he mean?  Is he contradicting himself?  Is he saying it’s old, and then he’s saying it’s new, what does he mean?  What he means is this, it’s not a new commandment in the sense that it’s been there, he’s not adding anything to the Word, it’s an old commandment.  Been there from the start.  But it’s new in its meaning.  It’s new in that it’s fresh.  It’s new in that it’s dynamic.  What he’s talking about here is not something that’s stale.  It’s something that’s very vibrant, it’s something that’s alive.  So it’s new in it’s meaning.  So this brings us to our second point.  We have Love is Foundational to our Christian Life, now we have our next point: Fresh in Experience, and that is true.

 

Fresh in Experience

 

What he is saying in this command as we go on, it should be something that is fresh in our day to day experience.  It is new.  The command to love is new, new every morning, as the Holy Spirit is working in me, it’s new in it’s application.  It’s fresh in its experience.  The command to love has been [in effect] since the beginning of the Law, but now Jesus Christ is also giving me, in this command, he’s given me new meaning, new depth, new insight.  By his example, by his teaching, you know you look at the gospels, you look at his teachings.  When Jesus came he gave a whole new depth and illustration to what this command means to love one another.  Of course you remember even with the disciples, the one day where he took off his outer garment there [at the last Passover supper] and got down on his knees and began to wash the disciples’ feet.  As the Master, he stooped and washed disciples’ feet, and he said “As I have done, you go and also do.”  So Jesus came and gave us a whole new picture, illustration to what loving one another meant.  And then of course he went to the cross, which completely takes love and puts it in a light that’s unbelievable, so wondrous.  So it’s an old commandment, but it’s also a new commandment.  It’s new especially because of what Jesus has done with it, and then as a Christian [or Messianic Jewish believer] now, Jesus has placed the Holy Spirit in me, so now I also have the ability to truly love.  Earlier in the Law, the Israelites, you know, were told to love your neighbor as yourself, but they didn’t have the power of the Holy Spirit in them to fulfill that.  But now I do, I have this work of the Spirit in me, and the fruit of the Spirit is love.  So in this sense, it’s an old command, but also it’s a new command, and fresh and powerful and a new and day to day experience.  I think of my time in India again, giving you different stories.  I was listening to the radio this past week, and I heard somebody, and right off I knew he was talking about India.  He had come back from India, and all he was talking about (he was giving a great study), but he kept talking about his experiences in India.  And that made me feel good, because I tell you a lot about my time in India, because it was a neat experience.  But I was in one Hindu village where just previously the pastor of this little Calvary Chapel, meeting in a small little hut, was getting started, where just previously the pastor had had his leg broken by some Hindu’s there who were very hostile against Christianity in the village.  And then also, he had his motorcycle destroyed by these Hindu’s.  So when we came into this community we were warned, be very cautious, there was persecution.  And so we spent time, we were cautious, just hanging out with this pastor in this little bitty room with this little church, they had it all decorated.  But it was just a little tiny 12 by 12 room, packed in there with 20 or 30 new believers.  But then as we left, too, you could just sense the hostility in the community against what this man was doing.  So we prayed for him.  But why was he doing what he was doing?  As we gathered, he had his leg broken a couple weeks before, he had his motorcycle destroyed, but he was there with his believers, loving them, praying for the community, you know, wanting to be encouraged, wanting to reach out, [wanting to know] how could they share Christ in this difficult environment—why was he doing that?—it’s because of this Christian experience, the love of God in his life, the Holy Spirit in him, new.  He had this love for people, a love to get out the gospel.  We also went to another Christian church, a little Calvary Chapel in another community, the building had been torn down twice.  We were given the little story, and if I remember the story correctly, the last time it had been torn down the pastor continued to minister, he had all kinds of opposition in this community.  It was a slum, but he wanted to get out the gospel, and he was ministering to a leper, and this leper came to Christ, evidently a real radical leper, who then went to the city officials and pleaded with the officials to allow this Calvary pastor to build another building.  And he even worked it out with the official that they were able to build a new building, and it turns out this new building sits right in the most visible place in the slum, as you drive down the highway.  In fact, there was an American not too long ago, in India, wondering whether there was any Calvary Chapels in India, and he drove by this building, and you can’t help but see it next to the road, Calvary Chapel, right at the edge of the slum.  But the pastor had gone through all kinds of difficulties, seeing his building destroyed twice, and opposition.  And when we were there, they reached out to kids with this little school ministry, children’s club thing, and when we were there they had the kids doing little dances, little skit’s for us—but they had a guard at the door because there were at that time hostile Hindu’s outside.  So they had to guard the door and keep it shut so that they would stay away from what was going on.  But they continued to do it.  And why did they do it?  Because there is love in their hearts, there’s no other reason, they’re not brain-dead.  They’re not weird.  But they love.  They love.  So, it’s a dynamic experience.  It’s an old commandment, yet it’s a new commandment.  There’s something very real going on, something moving the heart.  Then the question to you and I, is it true of our hearts today?  John writes further there, in verse 8, “Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.”  And is it true in you?  This is in you, this love, this love for others?  Is it in your heart?  If it is in your heart, that’s a good indicator that you are in Christ because you have that love.  If it’s not, maybe it’s an indicator you’re not in Christ.  Or maybe you are in Christ, but there is darkness in your life that’s hindering your relationship with God, there’s sin in your life.  That’s the way he moves through this Epistle.  Then he says “…which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.”  When he says “darkness” there in that verse, he’s referring to the darkness of the world.  Darkness, he’s using that Greek word skotia, we’ve seen it before.  It refers to the effects and the consequences of sin in the world.  So all the just ugliness and hurt and pain around us, just the darkness around us in the world, that’s what he means.  The darkness is passing away [for believers, not the world right now], which is encouraging.  Time is moving on, and there is light, the light is already shining.  When he says “the true light is already shining”, what does he mean?  Well he uses the same expression that’s in John chapter 1, verse 9, “that was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.”  He says “true light”, same expression here.  He’s referring to Jesus Christ.  The darkness is passing away, but the true Light, Jesus Christ is already shining, his light is in the world [through us, of course], he came and he began to give Light, and then he left and the Holy Spirit is come into the Church, and his Light is in us, and that Light is shining and shining forth.  So that brings us to our third point.  We have this first point, foundational to the Christian life, then we have our second point, which is fresh in experience, now this third point, flame in the darkness.

 

Flame in the darkness

 

And that is, this Light is shining in this dark world.  The darkness is passing away, the Light is shining, it’s counteracting the darkness.  That’s the sense of what is meant there.  And how is that happening?  It’s happening through Jesus Christ in us as the Church.  We as believers have his Light now shining in and through us.  But consistently when you go through and you study in 1st John, when John is talking about love, consistently in those same passages, he refers to life, and he refers to light, he groups the three together.  When you have light, you have love, and you have life.  Those three belong always together.  So when he refers to light here, as shining in the darkness, this light shining now in the Church, shining through the Church, there also is then seen in that love, the love is shining through, the love is seen in the Church.  So we are as Christians presently flames, just a flame in this dark world.  My son and I, my kids, we were at Coast Guard Beach on Cape Cod this last week, one of the nice days, one of the few non-rainy days that existed here in the last number of weeks, it was a great beautiful day.  That happens after a lot of rain and then it doesn’t rain, you have a wonderful day after that.  We had a wonderful day at Coast Guard Beach, but if you’ve been there before in Chatham Massachusetts, there’s a lighthouse.  So as we were driving around the lighthouse and heading to the beach, my son saw the little tower, saw the light going around, and he asked, “What’s that for?” “What do they have that thing going around in there for?”  And we told him it’s a light.  It’s a lighthouse.  And that light serves a purpose.  When people in their boats are out in the water and there’s a storm or it’s night, the light there is a beacon to show them the way to safety.  It’s there to help them.  And he says here, John says, about this light, this true light shining in the darkness, meaning Jesus Christ now in the Church, and that’s what we are now, we’re lighthouses, flames in the darkness, beaming the Light of Christ.  And what’s seen in that especially is the love of Jesus Christ.  I think of Jim Cymbala’s book, you know, just within days he talks about his experience of September 11th [2001].  September 10th he couldn’t sleep that night.  His church is in Brooklyn, New York.  And he couldn’t sleep the night of September 10th, didn’t know why.  Kept getting up.  In fact, he stayed awake until like 4 O’clock in the morning, just could not sleep.  And a Scripture continued to come to his mind, and it was the Scripture that “the harvest was plentiful, the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”  And then also a Scripture from the Proverbs, about the lazy man misses out on the harvest.  So he was up and he was wondering what was going on.  Finally I think he fell asleep about 4 O’clock, a couple hours he got up, and he got up to the reports of what was happening at the World Trade Center.  A number of people from his church worked in the World Trade Center, in fact some of them died in the 9/11 tragedy.  But as he shares and writes in his book just a short time after the tragedy, he writes to the Church because a lot of the Christian leaders at the time were standing up and just passing judgment upon our country, saying “God is judging our country” and saying harsh things about certain groups of people.  You may remember some of them.  I won’t refer to any individual.  But he was writing this book to say that the Church, at this time especially, should just be putting the light out, the light of Jesus Christ in a dark world, especially at this time.  [Comment: From here on out, whenever I use the word Church in capital letters, I am referring to the whole body of Christ that is truly born-again.  All other times, the word church in lower case refers to a local church, or congregation, or perhaps even a denomination.]   And that’s what we see here in 1st John.  John is going to this very point, this point of love.  It’s what the Church is all about, it’s what I am all about as a Christian, this thing of love…Other Christians and their family, they thought they were in the light, they acted as if they were in the light, but clearly John says they’re not in the light, because there was a bitterness, an unforgiving spirit, a hatred towards a brother or sister in Christ.  So, the question is, is this true of you this morning?  Is it true of you?  Do you love the brethren?  Is there unconditional Agape’ love, that’s what he means there, for the brethren?  Can you say “I love the Church, there isn’t anybody, any Christian especially that I’ve got any hardness of heart towards, that I’m bitter towards, that I have anger or hatred towards?  Well if you can say that, then that’s an indication that you’re in the light, and walking close to the Father.  But if you know, right now, there’s an individual, there’s somebody, and you’ve been feeling ‘they’ve done this, I won’t forgive them, former church experience, another Christian member of your family’, and you’re sitting here thinking ‘Yes there’s this issue in my heart, but I’m not going to make any changes because that’s just the way it is’, then know that you’re in the darkness.  You are in the darkness.  You are not in the light.  You can’t defy God’s law or his Word.  And God says very clearly here, “He who says he’s in the light and hates his brother he’s in darkness until now.”  When a Christian is lacking love he’s showing that he’s in darkness, and therefore he does not have the heart of God, and that is certainly a significant issue in the Church.  I just think of this last week, I was listening to WEZE there as I was driving around with my family on vacation.  And one of the preachers I was listening to was talking about Gandhi and his experience, and I’ve heard of this story different ways, and I don’t know exactly which story is totally true, but here’s the story he shared.  He talked about Gandhi early in his career, I guess you could say he was reading the Beatitudes of Jesus Christ every day.  He was really moved by the Beatitudes.  He was curious and moved by Jesus.  But then for some reason he traveled to South Africa, I do not know why, and in South Africa he began to look for a church to check out this Christian thing, went to a church, but they did not allow him in because of the color of his skin.  And because of that, he decided at that moment, “If I can’t go in that church because of my skin color, Christianity is not for me.”   So he walked away from the Church.  That’s been an issue in the Church all along, this darkness, really, darkness in the Church—a lack of love.  I was also even watching the news this week, and it was just another example of that.  It was a newscast, and there was one political leader, I won’t give his name, but he was debating another opponent, and they were showing the debate.  They were going back and forth, you know, split-screen on the news, and evidently Judge Moore, there in the South has gotten a display of the Ten Commandments, and he’s kind of resisting the Supreme Court ruling, or making a stand in one way or another, but he’s got the Ten Commandments displayed somewhere around a courtroom.  And this one person who professes to be a Christian, a political leader, was debating with this other person who was saying that separation of Church and State, you know, this was a courtroom, Church belongs in a church building, they don’t belong in a courtroom.  And he talked about there were Christians coming and having prayer vigils and little worship services.  [The other politician] was saying it just doesn’t belong there, it belongs in a church.  Of course I don’t agree with him.  But when I turned off the newscast I was burdened, and that’s because the whole thing was a debate.  And this one person was debating this non-Christian and saying to him ‘You know, we’re going to win this, Judge Moore’s going to win this, we’re going to be able to display the Ten Commandments in that way.’  And the opponent was saying ‘How can you force your Christianity on us?’  And the opponent has a good point.  We can’t force our Christianity on anybody else.  But the whole point of this thing, and the reason why it burdened me, especially, there was no love there.  It was a debate.  It was the Church trying to force issues on society.  And now don’t get me wrong, I think the Ten Commandments should be displayed.  But the real issue is love, is love.  And when the world is saying “You can’t force this on me, you can’t force Christianity into this…”—they’re right.  It’s about love, man.  It’s about loving them and showing the life of Christ, and sharing the gospel.  But we can’t legislate Christianity, that is for sure.  And the world is darkness.  And, well anyway, I was thinking of that, and thinking of the other day, too, coming back from this conference in Maryland and talking to some of the church leaders, it’s an opportunity, as we drive back the 6 or 7 hours to update each other about things going on, and as we were driving, we got into a discussion, you know, when I’m not here we have a guest speaker, and I don’t necessarily know all the things that are said when I’m not here.  That’s not easy to do, unless I listen to a tape after.  And this particular speaker, I listened to the tape anyway, but they were sharing with me how one speaker came, person I respected, person I loved, but they were troubled with the message that he gave.  And as I talked to him [one of the pastors he was riding back with] about it, I asked him, “What’s troubling you about the message that he gave?”  And they shared with me, other leaders in the church [of his denomination], it wasn’t so much what he said, it was how he said it.  What he said was true, but it’s the manner in which he said it.  And then they said, when I asked him to summarize it,  “It lacked love.”  “It lacked love.”  It was a hardness issue, and it lacked love, and it was because of that.  And then considering that, reading Jim Cymbala and his book again, he shared the same experience, one day sitting in church, having a guest speaker, he’s sitting a few feet behind him, and he said the whole message troubled him.  It wasn’t that it was wrong, there was no untruth, it was true what he was saying.  But it was the way it was being taught, it lacked love.  It lacked love.  And you can actually destroy the very work that you’re trying to do.  So, love.  Love is so key, and he nails this in verse 9, saying when there is a lack of love, man, it’s as darkness.  Darkness in my life individually, darkness in the Church collectively.  If there’s a lack of love in the church, he just says there’s darkness, there’s sin, there’s the effects of sin in the church, and there’s not the light.  The light is so needed man, we’re lighthouses.  Well, as John continues, he says “But he who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him” (verse 10).  So he who loves his brother abides in the light, and there’s no cause for stumbling.  What does he mean “there is no cause for stumbling in him”?  I think of Jesus’ words, if you love God and you love your brother, you fulfill all the law.  Loving God fulfills the first Tablet, all those commandments about worshipping God and obeying the Sabbath, if I love God I fulfill that first Tablet, and then if I love my brother, I fulfill the second Tablet of the Ten Commandments, all dealing with my brother.  [As we saw explained in the last transcript, God’s Agape’ love shed into us by the Holy Spirit gives us a love for God’s Law, whether that be the Old Testament application some feel obliged to use, or the Law of Christ given in the New  Testament, which other believers feel obliged to use.  The choice of which set of “laws” is left entirely up to the believer, who then selects the proper denomination that adheres to the “set” of laws, cf. Romans 14:1-23.]   You know, don’t murder, don’t covet, don’t commit adultery, all these different things.  So when he says “he who loves his brother abides in light, there is no cause for stumbling in him”, he means, if I’m loving my brother I’m not going to break the Law [whichever version your Christian conscience leads you to believe applies].  I’m fulfilling the Law.  The Holy Spirit is working in me, I’m just loving, I’m reaching out, I’m doing the right thing, I’m not going to anything that’s going to harm my brother.  I’m not going to break the Commandments of the Lord. 

 

The Fulfillment of the Law

 

So, my fifth point is the fulfillment of the Law.   Fulfillment of the law to love, to walk in the light, to love my brothers, it is the fulfillment of the law.  Now the Greek word there for stumbling is the word skandalon [Strongs 4625: dr. of 2578; a trap-stick, snare:--occasion to fall (of stumbling), offence, thing that offends, stumblingblock.]  which means, literally, offense.  Scandal or trap.  It means the trigger in a trap, which when activated kills its victim or makes him a prisoner.  I think of like a bear-trap.  Saw one on TV the other day, one of these animal programs, they found this big bear trap in the woods.  And they were showing, if you just touch that little trigger, man, those claws just come together.  Put a piece of wood in there and it just clamps down.  And that word for stumble has that same kind of sense.  It denotes the conduct of an individual who deceives himself or another into thinking that what one is about to do would be beneficial, but when it isn’t beneficial.  They either think it’s beneficial for them, or they’re deceiving another, saying ‘This is beneficial for you’ and it isn’t.  So they stumble, they stumble themselves, and they cause others to stumble.  So that trap has been set, thus a believer, sees another believer engaging in a particular sin, and since he seems to be doing well in spite of it, he too [feels] he can benefit from the same behavior, so the trap has been set and he has been caught.  That’s what he means by stumbling.  But he says there’s no being trapped if I’m loving, I’m not going to be deceived, I’m not going to be trapped.  I’m not going to stumble myself, and because I’m loving my brother I’m not going to cause others to stumble.  You can’t help but think of Paul in 1st Corinthians and Romans—we do this for those that minister in our church—people that minister on-stage, we’ve laid it out that there’s freedoms that we have in Christ, but the greatest is love.  So as a pastor I put aside certain things in my life, things that I believe I have freedom in my life to do, such as partake in alcohol.  I believe I have the freedom, I don’t think it would be a sin for me to drink alcohol, Scripturally there’s freedom.   Yet, there’s love that goes above that.  And as a believer I don’t, as a pastor especially, I don’t want to be a cause of stumbling in anybody’s life.  [And these churches he’s a part of minister especially to people who have alcohol and drug addictions.]  I don’t want somebody who struggles with alcohol to look at me and say, ‘Well, if Pastor drinks, so, I guess it’s fine to drink, and they stumble because they’re weak.  So I go without, meaning, I do that for the sake of love.  So we have people who are in visible ministry, [and they’re required to maintain the same standards out of love for the brethren], it’s love, man.  It’s love.  We don’t want to be a source of stumbling in any way in anybody’s life.  Warren Weirsby in his commentary gives this story.  I think it’s a cool story.  A man was walking down a dark street one night, and saw a pinpoint of light coming toward him in a faltering way.  He thought perhaps the person carrying the light was ill or drunk.  But as he drew nearer he could see a man with a flashlight carrying a white cane.  Why would a blind man be carrying a light, the man wondered?  And then he decided to ask.’  So you got a blind man carrying a flashlight at night.  The blind man smiled.  ‘I carry my light, not so I can see, but so that others can see me.’  ‘I cannot help but being blind’, he said, ‘but I can help [from] being a stumblingblock.’  So a blind man carrying a flashlight so others would see him.  I mean, going that far to make sure that he isn’t going to be a stumbling to someone else at night.  I think that’s kind of neat, a neat picture.  That’s the heart of what’s here in verse 10, if I love, you know, I’m carrying a flashlight, making sure you can see your way.  Making sure nothing that I’m doing is going to cause you to stumble.  Well then we come to verse 11, “But he who hates his brother is in darkness, and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”  He who hates his brother is in darkness, he walks in darkness.  What he’s saying there, there’s like a double sense to it, meaning ‘he’s in darkness, he’s not in the light, but not only that, the darkness is in him.’  Even if you took him potentially out of the dark, the condition, and you put him in the light, he’s still in darkness, it’s in him. He’s in the darkness, but the darkness is in him.  So he says, “he does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”  It’s effected him.  There’s those fish in the Echo Cave, in the Mammoth Caves in Kentucky, there’s these fish, they’re always in the darkness, and maybe you’ve heard about them, and they have eye-sockets, but they don’t have eyes.  That’s the way they developed, they’ve got the sockets for eyes, but they don’t need eyes, so they don’t have eyes.  And it’s like that picture here, in darkness, the darkness has effected him, because it is in him, he doesn’t know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.  And that leads me to my last point, futile experience.

 

Futile experience

 

And where there’s no love man, it’s a futile experience.  You’re in darkness, you’ve been effected by the darkness.  And the truth is, there are people who can even hear a message like this, and because they’re so effected, it just doesn’t even connect in them, because there’s no light there, there’s no light at all.  I pray that isn’t true of any of us.  [This could also be true in churches who may be doctrinally correct, but suffer from dead orthodoxy.]  But man, John is so clear, he cuts right to the chase, he doesn’t mess around.  And we have our six points this morning [one is missing, #4 “false profession” but the text covers that, he just didn’t name it, must have overlooked it].  And it’s all summarized in this word “love”, love is foundational to the Christian life, if I am not showing love and saying that I’m a Christian, I’m not near God, because when I became a Christian the Holy Spirit came into me, and the fruit of the Spirit is love.  It’s just part of it, it’s a Christian, love.  It’s fresh in experience, man it’s an old commandment, been around, God has made it clear.  Love your neighbor, love God.  But then Jesus came and showed me the extent of what that means, it means Agape’ love, man, it means denying myself and loving others.  And also now he’s given me the Holy Spirit [who provides that very Agape’ love within believers].  Foundational to the Christian life, fresh in experience, flame in the darkness—man, the light is shining in the darkness.  That God the darkness is passing away, there is a light, and the light today is the Church.  And when there is light, there is love, there is love.  And I pray all the more here, and in our lives within this congregation that there would be light [shed] into this community, meaning that there would be love that goes forward into the community.  Not judgmentalism or criticism, not a harshness, not a pious prideful attitude, but love.  Well then we saw the false profession, you can say one thing, but if there isn’t love, if there isn’t love, then you’re not in the light, but you’re in darkness.  To walk in love is to walk in the light, and it is to fulfill the Law.  To walk in darkness, how futile it is to be in darkness.  So, man, it’s about love.  At the end of chapter 2 in his book, Jim Cymbala’s book God’s Grace From Ground-Zero” , page 40, he talks about truth and love and the need for the Church to have wisdom.  You need truth, and you need to balance it with love all the time, and he ends his chapter with a prayer, and when I got to the end of this chapter I prayed this prayer out loud, and I’ll share it with you this morning.  “Dear Father, the fields are ripe for harvest, and we want to be workers you can use.  Change the way we think and live.  Fill us with your love and power.  Take away judgmentalism and fear, and make us bold as we reach out in compassion to people for whom you died, do this all for Christ’s sake.  Amen.”  Lord, we thank you.  We thank you that we can study your Word this morning.  We pray that prayer of Jim Cymbala’s to you, Lord.  Fill us with your love, Lord.  Fill us with compassion.  It is our nature to be unloving.  In fact, you said that in the last days men would be lovers of themselves, lovers of pleasure, lovers of all sorts of things of the world, but towards others they will be unloving.  And that is how you describe the latter days in 2nd Timothy.  And Lord we look around, and certainly that is our society.  But Lord, yours is the Light of Christ, and indeed we are lighthouses, that Light is in us, and may it all the more be shining through us—that Light, and with that Light there is always love, love abounding through our hearts.  Lord, we pray you’d just pour your love into our hearts.  And if there is anything hindering us, Lord, anything hindering us from being close to you, from being full and overflowing in the Spirit, reveal it to us even now, Lord.  Maybe it’s an unforgiveness towards an individual.  Man, you make it clear in your Word, it’s a big deal to be unforgiving.  Maybe it’s a lack of love for people.  We’ve just judged them and not loved them.  Maybe there’s a former church leader or former friend we had that was a Christian that we got hurt by and we just have these issues in our heart.  You’ve made it very clear to us, it doesn’t matter what they’ve done, the truth is, today we sit here and we’re in darkness because we haven’t forgiven them.  You made it clear, Lord.  We’ve been forgiven so much, and being forgiven all that we’ve been forgiven, we should readily forgive others.  You made it also clear that we have a responsibility to make things right with others.  So Lord, we pray that you would minister to our hearts and get right with you and that we would not be in darkness but that we would be in light.  May we all the more have that quickening fresh experience, that dynamic experience in our hearts of the love of God, working, moving.  Lord we pray for that boldness that comes with the Spirit to share the Gospel with the love of God to those around us.  We thank you Lord…”  [transcript of a sermon on 1st John 2:7-11 given somewhere in New England.]

 

   

Interesting points brought out by Rodney Stark about the early Christian Church in his book “The Rise of Christianity”

 

There were three major new ideas early Christianity brought to the pagan society that were totally foreign to that society, and which helped revitalize that society.  They were:

 

1.        God loves those who love him.

 

2.        Because God loves humanity, in order to please God, humans must love one another.

 

3.        That love must extend beyond their own “Christian community” out into the community in general.

 

That summarizes pages 211-212 in his book, and they are the very principles brought out by Jesus in the Gospels, and by John in 1st John 2:7-11, as we’ve seen.  There is a two-fold method of proclaiming the Gospel, but one without the other is next to useless.  Just preaching the gospel without showing active Christian love for others—by giving of yourself, even risking and laying down your lives for others less fortunate than yourself—is next to useless.  The two actions must be coupled together. The early Christian church did just exactly that.  See Legacy of Love at http://www.unityinchrist.com/LegacyOfLove.htm to learn how the early Christian churches put John’s Epistle into action.  It’s a fascinating nugget of history that till now  has been almost totally overlooked.

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