Sermon on 1 John 2:3-11
Text: We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. 4 Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
7 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. 8 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.
9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 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.
It surely didn’t take long, did it? The Christmas section of the store was quickly changed over to Valentine’s Day. Throughout that section, you find so many different things and ways to say “I love you.” I have a question for you. What is love? Please, define it for me. You might be thinking that it’s a difficult, if not impossible task to do. That’s because love is an emotion. It’s far easier to point to the effects of love. You show love in various ways. For example, if the objection of your affection likes to get flowers, you might go out of your ways to stop and pick up some flowers. If you know that they feel loved when there is physical contact, you might stop and give them a hug as you pass them. All of these are ways to show that you know them and you love them. In some ways, the emotion becomes concrete. I believe that I would be correct in saying that we all love God. Again, what does that mean? As we study our text this morning, we are going to look at that question, “WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO LOVE GOD?” It means that 1. I Do What Is Pleasing To Him and 2. I Love Those Around Me.
The apostle addresses the first part of this sentiment in verses 3-6, “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” John sets things out quite clearly, doesn’t he? He says that those who know him know what things are pleasing to him. The things that are pleasing to him are the commands that he has given in his Word. It’s similar to the situations that I mentioned earlier. If I know that my loved one likes certain things, I will do my best to do them. Conversely, if I know that there is something that is displeasing to them, I will do my best to avoid them. In this way, I show love to them.
In his Word, God has made it abundantly clear which things please him and which do not. So, in thankfulness for all that he has done for and given to us, we say that we will obey. We mean it with all of our heart. We love God and are going to show it by the way that we live our lives.
However, we know that sad truth about this, don’t we? Isn’t it true that we want the Lord to bless us and take care of us and we even do our best in some areas to obey him? Yet, are there places in our lives where we would just as soon God stayed out of? “I enjoy doing this, and I know that God says that I’m not supposed to do it, so God, could you, please just stay out of this part of my life? I’m doing everything else pretty well, so just allow me this one little thing.” What is that one secret spot that you hold onto, that you know is wrong, and just wish that God would stay away from? Quite honestly, this is a form of idolatry. We are making a god of our liking. We want a god that is remote and genial, who makes no real demands on anybody and mostly stays out of our way. If someone should point out that we are doing something wrong, we become angry with them and say that they are not perfect, either. Living in this way shows a lack of love for God. It would be similar to a husband tracking mud across his wife’s clean floor, because he was lazy and didn’t care that she had worked so hard to make the floor shine. It shows a lack of love. I say that I love God, but there are many times when my words speak at variance with my actions.
John speaks about a specific command in verse 7, “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.” John may have been thinking about Jesus’ words in the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday evening. Jesus said, “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) However, John points out that the command of Jesus wasn’t unheard of prior to Maundy Thursday evening. For example, we turn to Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
With that thought in mind, John gives us another area where we can look at our love for God and that how well do we love those around us. “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.” (Verses 9-11) If I hate someone else, I do not love God.
You might think to yourself that you don’t hate anyone. I would like you to take a moment and think of someone who deeply hurt you at some point in your life. They may have said some things that really hurt your feelings. They might not have been there when you really needed them. Whatever the case, take a moment and think of such a person in your life that hurt you. How do you feel at this moment? Is there still a glimmer of anger against that person, a little hatred? Even if you are the most loving and kind person in the world, if you have ever hated anyone, even once, that was a lack of love for God.
Here’s just a side note about hatred. Hatred comes straight from hell, from Satan, the king of haters. Haters don’t get what they want. After that brief adrenaline rush that comes with hating and fighting, the hater is left with corrosive anger, depression, and an increased emptiness because hatred, of necessity, drives others away. Hatred doesn’t make your life better; it makes it bitter. People have limits to their capacity for emotion – the fuller your emotional tank is with hatred, the less room there is for love. It’s never alright for us to hate anyone or to hold a grudge. They are sins, which are a lack of love for God.
How do you feel at this moment? If you are anything like me, I see so many times when I have shown a lack of love for God in the many ways that I have not kept God’s commands and in the hateful thoughts that I have toward others. I want to cry out, “God have mercy on me, a sinner!” Do you know what? He has done just that! He has had mercy on us sinners! Look to Jesus Christ as proof of his mercy and grace. When Jesus came to the earth, he didn’t come on some sort of fact-finding mission. He came to rescue us from the times when we have not loved God as we should. He came to love his Father for us. In his love for his Father, Jesus kept every single one of the commands that were given to humanity. No one could ever accuse him of sin, because he never sinned. He even loved those who showed nothing but hatred and scorn for him. He kept reaching out to them. He even prayed for those soldiers who were nailing him to the cross. Through the eyes of faith, we see what was going on while Jesus was nailed to the cross. He was paying for the sins of all people, including you and me. All of those times that I did not love toward God and those around me were all washed away by the blood that Jesus shed there. Then, in love for us, he rose again. Think of the significance of Easter. By his coming to life, Jesus was announcing that the payment for our sins was completed. Because Jesus rose again, we know that, one day, we will be with him in the glories of heaven for all eternity. God’s love was further shown to each one of you on the day that you were brought to faith. Through this act, God has adopted you into his family. Think about that for a moment. When a child is adopted into a family, it means that their adoptive parents made a conscious decision to have that child become a part of their family. In an even greater way, God made the conscious decision, based on his boundless love, to adopt you, to make you part of his family. Because we are part of God’s family, we have access to the great love of God as he promises to take care of us and protect us. He promises that he will always be there for us and will hear all of our prayers. We thank God for his amazing love.
So, what does it mean when I say that I love God? It means that I want to do those things that are pleasing to him. It means that I want to love those around me, even if they’re not being nice to me. I want to, as our text says, “Live as Jesus lived.” (Verse 6) Will we ever do this perfectly? Unfortunately, the answer is no. We still all have a sinful nature. However, that doesn’t mean that, if we can’t do it perfectly, we shouldn’t strive to do so. We have the greatest motivation in the world to keep on striving to show our love for God and that is his amazing love for us. May God help us, every day, to see his amazing love for us and may we grow in our love for him as we do those things that are pleasing to him and as we love one another. As Christians, we can pray, “Lord, I love you. Help me to show that love as I strive to live for you and love those around me today and every day. Amen.
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