Text:1 John 2:7-11 — 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. 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 and the true light is already shining. 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him, there is no cause for stumbling. 11 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.
Opening: An old couple, married for sixty-two years, went to the doctor so the man could get his yearly physical. Unfortunately, the eighty-five-year-old had lost much of his hearing. The doctor explained that the first thing he was going to check was his eyes. The old man asked his wife, “What’d he say? What’d he say?” And the wife responded, “He wants to check your eyes.” Then the doctor said, “Now, I want you to get on the table. I want to check your vital signs.” And the old man again asked his wife, “What’d he say? What’d he say?” The wife replied, “He wants you to get on the table so he can check your vital signs.” The last thing the doctor said was, “Finally,I need two things from you: I need a stool sample and a urine sample.” For the third time, the old man turned to his wife and asked, “What’d he say? What’d he say?” His wife looked at him with a big smile on her face and said, “He wants to check your shorts…”Well, what can I say? Getting a check-up is very important but it’s not always neat and tidy.
This is now the third message in our preaching series I’ve entitled, “Vital Signs.” Two weeks ago, we looked at the first twelve verses of the Apostle John’s letter to the churches in Asia Minor. Because some suspect teachers had infiltrated their ranks and were spreading false doctrine, teaching things that were contrary to the gospel that John and the other disciples had received from Jesus, the apostle began with a review of the essentials of the faith that went something like this: Jesus is God incarnate (God in human flesh). John knew this to be the case because he saw Jesus with his own eyes, heard the words He spoke and even touched His body attesting to the fact that He was a real human being. Jesus came into our world for the purpose of making a way for mankind to have fellowship with the Father by sacrificing Himself to satisfy God’s holy wrath that would otherwise be poured out on all of us as deserving sinners (Romans 1:18 — The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men). Through faith in the Lord, we could be forgiven of our sins and reconciled to God. But anyone, including the false teachers, who claimed fellowship with God, yet walked in the darkness and denied the presence and occasionally controlling the influence of sin over their lives was not a part of Christ’s true church. Then, last week, we looked at 1 John 2:3-6. We saw that the Apostle John provided us with something I’m calling a VITAL SIGN. I know you’re familiar with the term. If you go to the doctor, a nurse will take your vital signs (blood pressure, pulse, respiratory rate, and body temperature) as a way to determine how healthy you are at that very moment. Here in this short letter, we discover that just as there are physical vital signs that provide a way to measure your body’s well-being, so there are other kinds of vital signs that reveal the spiritual health of someone claiming to know God. And the first one according to the Apostle John was a moral test– By this we know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commandments. We discovered that this involved obeying God, loving God and behaving like Him. Now in our passage for this morning, John provides us with a second vital sign by means of a social test– Whoever loves his brother abides in the light. It stands to reason, by the way, that keeping God’s commandments and loving each other would be so closely linked. Listen to these words by our Lord in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Did you know that love is meant to be the motivating factor behind all of God’s commandments? In fact, the first four(No other Gods, no idols, not taking the name of God in vain and keeping the Sabbath) were given to Israel as ways of demonstrating their love for God. The last six(honor your father and mother, do not murder, do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false testimony and do not covet) were given to show their love for one another. So, we can see that love is the fulfillment of all ten commandments. Now here in verses 7-11, John, known as the apostle of love, shares three thoughts about this second vital sign.
It was first delivered (to them) as the gospel of love(1 John 2:7 — 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). What John is talking about is the gospel message as it was first received by those to whom he sent this letter. He’s reflecting on the very beginning of their Christian lives. They heard the good news that Jesus died for them and they responded to it. And, as we all know, whenever anyone becomes a believer, the Bible tells us that God makes us into new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). Our bodies became the temple of the Holy Spirit – who is sent by God to mold us into the character and image of Jesus Christ. Before we entered into a relationship with Him, we were, by nature, self-centered people (Titus 3:3 — At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another). But then we put our trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord, and love for one another became one of our primary concerns. That’s why it says in 1 John 3:14, “We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brothers.” This old commandment is so central to the Christian life that twelve times the phrase “love one another” is found in the New Testament. There’s no getting around the idea that God has called us to love each other the way He loves us. And the only way for that to happen is for us to be so full of God’s love that it overflows to everyone else. Let me illustrate what I mean. (Pour some water from a pitcher into a clear glass sitting in a cake pan.) This is what people who don’t know the Lord experience. Because of something called common grace, they are able to realize a little bit of the love of God whenever He does something good for them. But as long as they choose to be their own masters, they will always have a deficit of love and continually thirst for more. But listen … this happens not because God’s love is unavailable to them, but because they reject the means by which they can receive it, which involves becoming a child of God through faith in Christ. Anyone who turns from his or her sin and becomes a Christian now has the potential to be completely filled with the love of God. In fact, the Lord is ready and willing to so lavishly give His love to His people that it overflows into the lives of others who are also blessed by it. But it all starts at the very beginning…with the good news that Jesus came to save sinners.
In Christ we see (as they saw) the embodiment of love (1 John 2:8 — 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 and the true light is already shining). While the concept of love was not new, Jesus caused us to think about it in new ways. That’s why John called it a new command. Think about the ways that our Lord must have challenged the notions of love held by 1stcentury Jews and Gentiles! (1) Jesus loved His enemies and commanded His disciples to do the same(Matthew 5:4 – love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you). After all, anyone can love his friends. (2) He took love to new heights by calling us to lay down our lives for our friends(John 15:13). This kind of self-sacrifice was and continues to be rarely demonstrated by others. (3) He tied love and obedience together(John 14:15 – If you love me, you will obey what I command). The idea being … how much love do we have for someone whose commands we regularly disobey? (4)He called us to love our neighbors and then demonstrated that this was anyone in need of our help by the telling of the parable of the Good Samaritan(Luke 10:27-37). The Samaritan came to the aid of a Jew, who if the shoe was on the other foot, most likely would have passed him by. (5) He said that we were to love others to the same standard we apply in loving ourselves(Mark 12:31). When I’m hungry, I love my body so I eat. When I’m thirsty, I drink. When I need to lie down and rest, I do so. But how many times do I give food to others who are hungry or drink to those who are thirsty or a soft place to rest to those who are weary? Jesus took what most called love and completely redefined it as self-sacrifice for the good of another. He is the light who is already shining and the one who models what love really is.
The church is now identified by the mark of love(1 John 2:9-11 — 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). Notice these three phrases … Whoever says … Whoever loves … Whoever hates. Here’s what John is saying: Anyone can make a claim to walk with God (in the light), but only the person who loves his brother the way Jesus does truly gives proof that he is in fellowship with the Lord. Notice what happens to the person who chooses to walk in darkness (sinful rebellion to God). (1) He lives in darkness(i.e.is in the darkness and walks in the darkness). What a miserable existence that is! He has been blinded by the deceitfulness of sin. Though outwardly, he may confess to loving God and others, he is betrayed by his own hatred. (2) This person will become a cause of stumbling to others. By virtue of his own sinful choices, he can easily lead others into the same kind of lifestyle. This is not the case with the person who walks in the light of God. John says of this person, “in him, there is no cause of stumbling.” This can be taken two ways: First, it can mean that he himself will not stumble into sin because the light is shining, revealing where to walk. It can also be referring to those who might stumble over us as we walk in darkness. Either way, we need to avoid stumbling in the darkness. Illustration: A man was walking down a dark street one night when he saw in the distance a pinpoint of light coming toward him in a rather odd way. His first thought was that maybe the person carrying the light was injured or perhaps drunk. As the light drew closer, the man realized that the person holding it in his hand was also carrying a white cane in his other hand that he used to tap the sidewalk all around him. Discovering that the man was blind, he said, “Sir, if you don’t mind my asking, why would you, a blind man, be carrying a light? Surely the darkness of night has no effect on your ability to get where you’re going.” The blind man smiled and replied, “Yes … of course … you’re right. The light doesn’t help me see in the darkness. The truth is that I carry my light, not so that I can see, but so that I can be seen by others. After all, I can’t help being blind, but I can help to be a stumbling block.”
Applications: The Holy Spirit gives the power to love consistently. When we are filled with the Spirit we are full of God’s love. Have you surrendered your life to the control of God’s Spirit?
Conclusion: Love is self-sacrifice for the good of another. That’s what 1 Corinthians 13:4-8is describing when it says, “Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hope, always perseveres. Love never fails.” Let me provide you with a picture of this kind of love that God gave me as a young boy. I grew up in a somewhat poor family. For the first decade of my life, my mother and father, grandfather, four siblings and I lived in a 40-foot-long mobile home on a half-acre of land that my grandparents gave to my mom and dad when they were first married. Along with my brothers and sisters, I spent most of my summers hanging out with friends, creating games to play in the fields and woods near our home. About the time of my twelfth year, my parents were able to build a home, but had to sink every penny into it just to pay the mortgage. About that same time, my two friends (Bob and Greg) were given mini-bikes by their parents. Since we lived out in the country, there were a lot of places to ride them, and at first, they didn’t mind if I tagged along riding on the back of one of their bikes. But after a while, they started to go off without me. I didn’t blame them. I understood that they didn’t have as much fun when one of them had to double up so that I could join them. That’s when I began to hang out more at home. My mother asked me why and I told her. I wasn’t angry with my parents for not buying me a dirt bike. They were doing everything possible to provide a nice place for us to live and that exhausted their financial resources. It was just a fact I had to live with. That summer, my dad, who was an electrician by trade, started missing some of our family dinners. I asked mom why and she said dad was working overtime because we needed the extra money. For two or three weeks, he worked a few extra hours every day. Then one evening, my father came home even later than usual. I ran out to greet him and that’s when I saw a mini-bike sitting in the back of his truck. I just stared at it as dad lowered the tailgate, lifted the bike off the bed of the truck and set it on the ground. Then, he looked at me and said, “Here boy. This is your dirt-bike. Now get on it and go ride with your friends.” My father was pretty old-school when it came to expressing affection for his children. The truth be told, I don’t really remember a time when he told me he loved me. But … you know what? I never doubted that he did, because he showed me his love through self-sacrifice. If you’re interested in inspecting your own spiritual life, you would do well to check out this second vital sign … our capacity for loving one another. It will tell you a lot about where you’re at in your relationship with God.