The Lord's Day Evening
June 12, 2011
“Living in the Light”
1 John 2:7-11
The Reverend Mr. William F. Joseph III
If you have your Bible, turn with me to 1 John chapter 2. And as we come to hear God's Word read, let's pray.
Father in heaven, You are gracious and good and You are glorious and majestic in all Your works and we praise You. Your glory fills the heavens. The wonder of You when we know of who You are, Father, causes us to marvel at You — to marvel at Your goodness, particularly Your goodness in our Savior, the Lord Jesus. We also marvel that You would not only through Him, save us, but through Your Spirit, dwell in us. And so, as we come to Your Word tonight, we must confess that we need Your Spirit. We need Your Spirit to teach us and to instruct us that we might indeed know You, our God, love You, follow after You, and serve You. So bless us by Your Spirit this night. We ask in Jesus' name, amen.
Hear the Word of God from 1 John chapter 2. 1 John chapter 2, beginning at verse 7:
“Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
Whenever I get to preach I've been working through 1 John. And so let me remind you of the context of the passage that we're looking at today. If you go back to 1 John chapter 1 verse 3, we read this: “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” So the overall theme is this fellowship with Jesus Christ and with the Father, and the byproduct of that is the joy that we have in that fellowship. But we're reminded in 1 John chapter 1 verse 5 of this: “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” The immediate context, before we get to this very passage in 1 John chapter 2, is these words: “And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.”
I wish you could be with me in the Inquirers’ Class on a regular basis. We have taken the Inquirers’ Class and moved it to be an inquirers’ class where people ask questions. And this last Inquirers’ Class we had two Roman Catholics and two former Jehovah's Witnesses, so we had lots of questions! Ligon preached one day and mentioned that when he got to heaven he wanted to ask, I think it was Nathaniel, what he was thinking about under the tree. And that day after he had preached that, we got to Inquirers’ Class and the question was, “How do you know you’re going to be there to ask him? How do you know that you trust Christ and that you will be in heaven? How do you know that you are a believer?” And that's one of the things that John is writing about: how you and I, as believers, know that God has saved us; how we know that He has begun a good work in us; how we know that He is transforming us; how we know that He is in us. It's talking about assurance.
In our passage that we looked at before, we saw that these words, “and by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” One of the ways that you and I who trust in Christ know that we know Him is because we want to keep His commandments. This passage that we're looking at today, talks about living in the light. What I want to do — it's divided basically into two parts. You have first, verses 7 through verse 8, 7 and 8, where the light is described. And then the living in that light is described in verses 9 through 11.
A Description of the Light
Now what is important here is that you understand that John is writing to people who have Bibles but they’re not like your Bibles. Did you notice that? Did any of you, as you read it, think of another passage of Scripture as we read about the old commandment and the new commandment? Did you remember the gospel of John where Jesus talks about the new commandment and the old commandment? Did you remember that the old commandment was that which is found in Deuteronomy and Leviticus — “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” The Leviticus passage says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” These are the summary of the Old Testament. You know as the young ruler came to Jesus and asked, Jesus said, “What do the commandments teach?” and this is what the young ruler said, that “we are to love God with all that we are.” John, as he writes this, puts in a little kind of confusion for you and me. He talks about, “I'm writing no new commandment,” the ESV says, “but an old commandment.” And then in verse 8, he says at the same time, “a new commandment I'm writing to you.” What he's doing is, he's reminding his readers of their Scripture found in John, where Jesus said, “A new commandment I give you.” That commandment being that we are to love one another even as Christ loves us.
Now think about that new commandment for a moment. It's important that you think about it because the commandments are what constitute the light that you and I are to walk in. The commandment to love God — what does that mean? 1 John chapter 4 tells us what love is. “This is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and gave His Son as a sacrifice for our sins.” The Singles and Doubles all sitting here today, they heard it all this morning. But here's the reality of what that means. As a propitiation, as an atoning sacrifice, Jesus shielded us from the wrath that was due to us, covered us, so that the wrath of God would not come to us. Instead of it coming to us, it was placed — not really placed; that's kind of a light term, isn't it? It was thrust; it was pounded upon Jesus. You and I by ourselves could not have withstood the justice of God, but Jesus, as our propitiation, as our atoning sacrifice, He took that penalty for us. He took God's wrath. He took God's anger. He sacrificed Himself in light of what God wanted for what was good for us, that we might be His children, His brothers, that we might be those who follow after Him. That is what love is. Love is that God sacrificed His Son for us. Loving means sacrificing.
If you go to the older commandment, you’re to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” It means that you’re to sacrifice what you want for what God wants. That's what it means to love God. that's why it's so difficult, if you want to know, is because you and I want to be God and instead of sacrificing what we want for what God says is right and good and pleasing to Him, we please ourselves; we do what we think is right. We do what we want to and therefore we don't sacrifice. We please ourselves and thus our love of ourselves supersedes what should be our love of God. And when we love our neighbor, is it not the same? That we are to sacrifice what we want in relationship to our neighbor for what God declares is best and right for our neighbor? We’re not to be guided - if we obey the old commandment, we're not to be guided by what we want but by what God says, by His revelation. And it should guide us when? In everything.
When Jesus comes and declares, “A new commandment I give you,” what's different? Well, think a bit. What are all the commands about loving? “Love the Lord your God;” “Love your neighbor;” “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church;” “Love your enemies.” Now it makes sense, you see. If you love your enemy, it means you sacrifice what you want for what God declares is best for your enemy. But what is interesting is, why all of a sudden this new commandment that Jesus gives in John and that John refers to as he's writing this epistle, what is this new commandment? This new commandment, understood even by those who read this was that we are to love one another as Christ loved us. Now is has two new elements that make it new. The new elements are the “one another” and the example of Christ who loved us. We are to love one another as Christ loved us. The difference is, “one anothers.” Now if you want to know who the “one anothers” are, it's really easy! When Jesus gave this commandment, His disciples were the only ones in the room. Now just to kind of ease your mind, one of those disciples was Judas, so it doesn't mean that every disciple there was an absolute believer, but it means all those disciples gathered in that room claimed to be disciples of Jesus, claimed to be followers of Jesus, claimed to know what He was teaching, or trying to understand what He was teaching. And He turns to them and says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.” The new part is the object is different. It's not God, it's not your neighbor, it's not your husband or your wife, it's not even your enemies. It's one another — brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. That is the new commandment that is being talked about here.
And notice what John says in verse 8. At the same time, it is “a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away.” It's true in Him. How do you know that Jesus died for us? The Scriptures tell us. We know that Christ died for us because He loves us. We know that He did die. So that's why we are to love each other. That's why we are to love one another and the one another is — okay, if you want to know — everybody look to your left. Everybody look to your left. Okay, everybody on the end look to your right. Now you've covered one another. It's those who are gathered together. We are proof of it as well, that Jesus has not only died in our place and bought us, but He's bought us so that we would love one another as you understand Christ loved you. How did Christ love you? How much did it take for Jesus to die for you? The suffering that He went through. You read that over and over. We read it every year. We read it constantly, but oftentimes we forget to think through the suffering of what it meant for Jesus to come God-made Man, and then to be born of a virgin and then to live in a sinful world and then to put up with that sinful world and to love that world to the point even dying for sinners. That main, that suffering, was the pain and suffering that you and I deserved, yet Christ did it for us, and therefore the light, the command of God, is that we in turn sacrifice what we want for what is best for each other according to what God says, according to His Word, we are to do this. This is the light that John is talking about here. This is the light, the new commandment, that we are to love one another.
The question is, this isn't just an issue of what the light is, it's also an issue of you examining yourself to see if you know Jesus Christ. If you know Jesus Christ you don't look at the way you love one another. You must look at the way you love other members of First Presbyterian Church. You must look at the way that you care for, that you apply the Scriptures to your relationships with each other, and that is the light. Not just knowing the commandments — many of us know the commandments, but are we like the rich young ruler who does what he wants and turns away because he was wealthy and wouldn't give away all that he possessed so that he might gain Christ? That's the question. When we are dealing with the truth, when we are dealing with the light, we have to understand that it's defined by God's Word. It's defined by God's Word in everything. As we walk in the light, as we keep His commandments, as we, as this says, “love one another,” sacrifice of ourselves - it's not just a blind sacrifice, it's a sacrifice according to what God says. Yes, His Word is light, God is light, and our relationship to Him, we must understand that we walk in the light, we live in light.
Living in the light
But this draws a contrast and begins to show us what it means to live in that light. It's not just that you know what the commandment is, it's not just that you acknowledge that commandment, that you say, “Yes, I know what the Scriptures teach.” It's that it comes to fruition in the way we treat each other. Look at who he puts is. “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him, there is no cause for stumbling, but whoever hates his brother is in darkness and walks in the darkness and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” Isn't it interesting here that as we look at this, we see something very interesting. We see John, as he is teaching us, talking about three sets of contrasts — light and darkness; love and hatred; walking and stumbling. He uses these contrasts to draw our attention not to the fact that we know what the commandment is, but whether or not the commandment is an integral part of our daily living - whether the light is part of our thinking, part of our walking, part of our existence. Is the Word of God applied?
And then he uses a negative example, a positive example, and another negative example. Now, I tend to think that he uses two negative examples because he understands that you and I are sinners - that he uses the two negative examples because he's trying to help us understand that when we understand the light, when we know the light, when we know what God's commandments are, when we want to obey Him, it's going to be a struggle. And notice the first one of those two. “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.” Notice he says one thing — I'm in the light — but hates his brother. The contrast. You find it all through 1 John. In 1 John 1 verse 6 we read this: “If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” I know I'm the only one in here that's inflicted with the problem of lying. I'm the only one so none of you have to worry about this. If we say one thing, if we say that we know God, if we say that we love Christ, and yet hate our brother, we're lying. That hatred may not be an active hatred; it may be just the good old hatred of ignoring. 1 John 2 verse 4 says this: “Whoever says, ‘I know Him,’ but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” Again, it says that if we're saying one thing and living another way, we're liars. But notice that in chapter 3 verse 15 it says something even harder: “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
I remember the first time I was faced with a student who had had an abortion. It was hard. This particular student had helped babysit our children all the school year before. And when the student came back at the end of the summer, I could tell something was wrong. But I started asking questions. And I got some general answers and so I asked some more specific, harder questions. And it came out that she, that summer, had had an abortion. Now I'm going to tell you what my first reaction was. My first reaction was, “I can't believe she's done that.” And I was upset and I was angry. But you know what came to mind? What came to mind was this very verse — “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” Now I've got two brothers. One of them I get along with real well and the other one, we sharpen each other on a regular basis. And there have been times where I knew that I had hated my brother and it changed how I had to deal with that young lady. It changed how I wanted to deal with her, you see? I wanted to take her and shake her and say, “Do you know what you've done? Do you understand how this is going to affect the rest of your life?” That's what I wanted to do. I didn't have to; she knew it! I had to sacrifice what I wanted to do for what God's Word told me was the right thing to do for her. It wasn't easy.
Whenever we are loving one another, it isn't easy. It is difficult to do. Our true nature is to hate others. Our true desires oftentimes are to do what we want rather than what they want, to build a case against them, to find every excuse not to look at our own sin as we deal with each other, to hate our brother. And yet, if we hate one another, we are still in darkness. Now darkness — that doesn't mean much to us who can flick a switch and our whole house lights up. We don't know much about darkness, do we? We don't know what it's like to be in the dark, to be separated, and yet when we hate one another, we are still in the dark.
But look at the positive example that he gives in verse 10. “Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.” Whoever loves his brother, sacrifices what he wants for what is best for his brother. Whoever does that, abides, lives, dwells in the light, dwells in the commandment of God. To dwell, to live, is part of everything that you do. When things get tough, people run home. For some of you older one, “ET phone home.” We want to go home. Why? Because when we're home, there is comfort, there is assurance, there's love. That's the picture here. Whoever loves his brother, abides in the light. Think of that. Not only as you obey God and sacrifice what you want for what is best for your brother or sister in Christ, what are you really doing? You’re abiding in the light, yes, you’re obeying the commandments, but you’re also abiding in eternity. We are going to spend eternity with each other, and we don't start when we get to heaven; we started when Christ saved us. This is our training, as it were. This is our training area. This is where we begin to prepare, this is where we begin to practice, where we begin to work on it. The only problem is that sin is here and that makes it difficult, and so we suffer as we try to love one another the way Christ suffered as He loved us. We will abide in the light.
And then notice — “and in Him, there is no cause for stumbling.” Jesus said, “If you abide in My Word, you truly are My disciples. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” You won't be stumbling about. You won't be knocking your knees on hidden furniture. You’ll see the furniture! You’ll see the difficulties! God's Word points out so many things in our lives to avoid, so many thing in our lives that we ought to long for. It helps us to live and that's its purpose.
But then John ends with a final negative. “But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” You know what's scary about this passage? This person who is in the darkness, walking in the darkness — think of that, walking in the darkness — doesn't know where he's going. This is the person who has said, “I know.” This is the person who has said, “I know what God's commandments are,” but he doesn't live them out. He knows what the commandments are, but he doesn't care, doesn't look at, doesn't pay attention to his brother or his sister sitting right next to him or to her — going their own way, thinking that the darkness is normal. See how normal it looks? They just walk. They don't even know where they’re going. They just walk.
The difficulty is, the hard part is, that when you and I are loving one another we have confidence in Christ that He is at work in us because we know we can't love each other. We know that we serve ourselves more than we serve our Savior. We know what we're like. We know the darkness of our own lives, but we know the light and that light is that we are to love one another because He loves us. This isn't something that you've got to work up in yourself. This isn't something that you've got to manufacture. You've got to say, “Okay, I'm going to love them no matter what.” No, that's not how you approach it. You approach it by acknowledging the darkness of your own heart, acknowledging the mercy and the grace of the Savior who was your propitiation who loved you when you were in rebellion, when you were dead in your transgressions and sins, and who drew you to Himself and saved you. If you know the darkness of your own heart, your own heart, and yet you know the grace of Jesus, why won't we want to love one another?
Father, we thank You for Your Word. We pray that You will continue Your work in us. Father, we confess that our hearts are dark and inclined toward evil almost continually, and when it comes to loving each other and the Church in our fellowship of those who have been saved by Your great grace and mercy, and oftentimes we should see ourselves not as those who walk in the light but oftentimes as those who are stumbling about. O Lord Jesus, forgive us for our sins, our hatred of one another, both active and passive, and cause us, Lord God, to walk in Your light, to live such a way that demonstrates that we understand, that we know that You died for me, a sinner, that You died for me, a person who walks in darkness, who has a dark heart. and therefore now, out of gratitude, I desire, I begin, to live to love those that You have brought into the body of believers. Father, cause us to glorify Your name as we repent of sin and as we acknowledge that in Jesus alone we have righteousness, perfect righteousness given to us by Your Son, in whose name we pray. Amen.
Let's stand for the benediction.
And now may grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, be and abide with each one of you both now and forever. Amen.
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