Thursday, February 19, 2015

"Out From Us"




 
John 2:18-23 (18) Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. (19) They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. (20)  But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. (21)  I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. (22) Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. (23)  Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

 
John has been presenting the grounds for one’s redemptive assurance through the “test of fellowship.” Fellowship with God, fellowship with Christ the Son, and fellowship with the indwelling Holy Spirit. Now he is going on to present even the test of lateral fellowship, the fellowship with one’s spiritual body, the church community. Truly assurance concerning one’s Christian faith can be drawn from the nature of the enemies he encounters. And herein John is exposing these enemies and calling upon us also to expose them for what they are.

There is no doubt these enemies of ‘God and truth’ are dangerous and believers need to understand such and how to deal with them. To avoid spiritual deception, we must learn to discern both people and doctrine; to be aware when something “smells bad” and to confirm status before plunging forward. The way to develop such discernment is to abide in the Word and in the Spirit. This is all so important because some actions cannot be withdrawn and sometimes cannot ever be repaired.

Paul too warned us of such: “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” (Acts 20:29-31) I have watched up close to folks being conned by such wolves, and lacking the spiritual discernment necessary they fell prey to made-up self-serving stories, false doctrines, and an “easy Jesus” belief system. It’s a stunning display! Encompassing ego stroking, false promises, and emotional deceptions. If it had music it would be an opera.

We all probably have a little info on this “antichrist” thing…although perhaps only from Hollywood and other such media. Back in the late 70’s there was a series of movies called “The Omen.” Scary stuff. However it only added to our already misconception that this antichrist will be this overtly terrible dude that we’ll see coming a block away. Wrong. The one antichrist will fly under the radar for many years without suspicion. And these other “little” anti-christs, will often do the same.


Note again Paul’s plea in Acts 20…these “savage wolves” will “come in amongst you.” Therefore it is safe to assume we won’t have to go looking for them in the foggy woods of Transylvania. And if they actually looked like ‘savage wolves’ no one would be fooled because no one would go anywhere near them. No, they will look normal and will appear often quite upright. Eventually however, such folks do indeed show their colors. I‘m not even personally convinced that in all cases they actually know they are a wolf! They just explain away why they, on occasion, have ‘sheep in their teeth.’ And the best cover of all is to use smoke and mirrors to point to others as guilty of doing what they themselves are in fact doing. The picture would be of an overgrown child holding a gas can and matches, with a burning village in the background pointing to someone else outside the picture frame.


Verse 18 says it is the “last time” or the “last hour” or even rendered “last days.” Such language is invariably spoken of in negative and scary terms, so much so that it seems to call for foreboding music in the background when such is verbalized. But let us remember that much is going to happen in those ‘last days’ and not all of it negative. Check out Acts 2:17… “and it shall be in the last days” God says, “that I will pour forth my spirit on all mankind.” Hmmmm. That sounds awesome huh? However there is also no doubt that things are going to get ugly too. The ‘gap’ between right and wrong…holy and unholy…faithful and wicked, will grow exponentially. It will become increasingly hard to hug the ‘middle ground.’ And that can only be a good thing!

In 2 Timothy 3 Paul says “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  having a form of godliness but denying its power.” And how did Paul tell us to deal with these folks? March to vote the bums out of office? Write an internet blog to take them down? What? Paul says in verse 6 there “from such people turn away!” Turn away…live different…live separate…be a different kind of person. And God will deal with these that “resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith”…and Paul says in verse 9 there in Timothy that eventually “they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all.” And we have witnessed that often and even recently, have we not?

But for sure in the last days “difficult times will come.” (2 Tim 3:1) Let us never fail to acknowledge that or we will not take our walk seriously and somehow just slide into a lifestyle that says, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation." (2Pe 3:4) 

Warren Wiersbe : "Since the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God is doing a "new thing" in this world. All of Old Testament history prepared the way for the work of Christ on the cross . All history since that time is merely preparation for "the end," when Jesus will come and establish His kingdom. "The last hour" began back in John's day and has been growing in intensity ever since. There were ungodly false teachers in John's day, and during the intervening centuries they have increased both in number and in influence. "The last hour" or "the last times" are phrases that describe a kind of time, not a duration of time." (Matt 24:42) “Therefore, be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming."

Several times in the New Testament we are called upon to "be alert"...to "take heed" concerning these days. Matthew 25:13, Mark 13:33, etc. Certainly this is not a time to play it loose and fast! Matt 24:11-12 tells us that “ …many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.” We need to understand all of this to the best of our ability. While a false Christ is merely a Christ pretender, the Antichrist rather “goes against Christ by feigning support for Him and His cause, and proposing to do what he asks, while truthfully and factually denying Him.” An antichrist, then, is one who opposes Christ under the very guise of Christianity.


And to hold our ground on this matter is not easy, is it? When so many of those all around us claim the mantle of faith and yet adhere to a compromised version of Christianity, what is a person to do? How do we avoid sounding judgmental and accusatory, self-righteous even, and yet still walk according to the pages of scripture?  Remember that we must be aware of the context of this passage in light of the whole of the letter thus far.  We see that persons who love the world and its pursuits (1Jn 2:15-17) have placed themselves in opposition to Christ and therefore are herein called antichrists. This is not speaking of some sort of deep larger-than-life players for whom operate in world government  and politics far away from us, but rather speaks of the 'back-yard' of each one of us. But it's hard to think of such a title and label up close and personal in our lives and world, isn't it?

And yet there will indeed one day come THE Antichrist. While John is the only writer who uses that particular term; other terms are used in other parts of Scripture;—the Idol Shepherd, the Lawless One, the Willful King, the Son of Perdition, the Man of Sin, the False Prophet, and the one who shall come in his own name. These different terms describe the same person, the one who shall arise in the days of the great tribulation and lead guilty apostate Christendom and Judaism farther away from God than they are (even) at the present time. (HA IRONSIDE)

Steven Cole - The false teachers rise up within the church and present a system that subtly presents something instead of Jesus Christ. The false teacher may use the same label, “Jesus Christ,” but he will not be the same Jesus that is presented in the Bible. If a gullible person takes the bait, he is led farther away until finally he is in total opposition to Christ. These false teachers, whom John labels antichrists, did not carry pitchforks and wear red suits with horns and a tail, or T-shirts saying, “Warning: I am an antichrist!” Rather, they arose in the churches. Some of them may have been elders or pastors, who for a while had taught the truth. Paul warned the Ephesian elders, “from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). False teachers invariably adopt Christian terminology and posture themselves as being Christians, but they are not. They usually begin within the church (1Jn 2:19) and at first, their teaching is orthodox. They often have attractive personalities and they build a following of people who seem to be helped by their teaching. But, eventually, they begin subtly to veer from the truth. (Avoiding Spiritual Deception, Part 1 - 1 John 2:18-23)

1 John 2:19  "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us."

This passage describes the 'sifting of the church', the separation of the genuine from the counterfeit, the professors from the possessors. In Matthew 13:25-30, Jesus tells us that the wheat and the tares "would grow together until the harvest," and the counterfeit nature of the tares will not be apparent until the final harvest.

They went out from us refers to the antichrists that John has been speaking concerning. We can gather then that these antichrists were once in fact members of the community of believers, but had now departed from it, which proved they were never genuine members of the community. John does not say these antichrists were thrown out but that they went out voluntarily. Furthermore, when they went out it was not simply a matter of leaving one church to join another. They left the church, much as Judas left the fellowship of the disciples, indicating his betrayal of Jesus and denial of the faith (Jn 13:30).

They were not really of us - The fact is, there were and are today those in the Body of Christ who absolutely look like authentic, genuine believers. Yet they have never been born of God's Spirit (Jn 3:3-5). They say the right things, pray the right words, but their heart is not changed and they are not redeemed in Christ. There are of course blatant pagans out there who make no attempt to mask their position on God, but there are also those who pass amongst us that are, bluntly said, merely religious fakers right in the midst of God's community of true believers. In passages such as Matthew 11:21-24  Jesus Himself warned that these folks who have experienced great exposure to truth and light, will suffer much greater condemnation and pain because of their denial. They will truly be "without excuse" when they stand before their Creator.


All of this is a matter of great anguish in the hearts of true believers. This is not to be an issue of spite or condemnation, but rather something that should cause all of us to weep at their loss. It is a hard thing for us that are in love with Christ, to grasp such a action. Because for so many of us, the thought of departure from Christ and the body of believers is unthinkable...impossible. For us, we have drank deeply the grace and love of God and can't imagine living apart from it. We are like Peter in John 6:68  who when he was asked by Christ if he wanted to depart also like so many had done said  “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life." And, invariably, those that do depart try to recruit others from within the church to join them.


While such situations are painful and unpleasant, John’s words here should prepare us not to be surprised when it occurs. Many of these folks have been given the label of 'backslider' when, in reality, they never have been Christians at all. Like those that Peter speaks of, "They prove the truth of this proverb: 'A dog returns to its vomit.’ And another says, 'A washed pig returns to the mud." (2Peter 2:22). They were never actually  sheep, though they were thought to be. And to treat them as if they are just backslidden can be a real disservice to them. We must be careful to never give false assurance to one is such a position. By doing so we can inadvertently...often under the worldly version of love, usher them through the gates  of hell. Let our love be constant but always and forever honest.


1 John 2: 20: "But you have an anointing from the Holy One..."

What is this anointing? Nothing less than the power and infilling of the very Holy Spirit of God in possession of a life. It is impossible to believe that the Spirit of God...Creator, liberator, redeemer, and healer would be able to come inside a living being and not cause radical transformation. "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come." (John 16:13) Thus under the power of the Spirit of God there is a new and inexplicable "knowledge" that is endued. So we could rephrase 1Jn 2:20 like this: “You have the Holy Spirit from God in you and so you know the truth.”


Later John explains in chapter 4 verse 13 that "By this we know that we abide (are at home) in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit." In His Upper Room Discourse, Jesus tells His apostles that "when I go, I will send Him (the Spirit) to you." In Acts Jesus explains that His disciples would "receive power when the Holy Spirit" had come upon them (Acts 1:8) Thus the Holy Spirit is to be our supernatural Source of power for supernatural ministry, including the discerning of good from evil as well as true from false, as in the present context of false teaching about Christ.


When Paul wrote to the saints at Rome, he said - "And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another. But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God." (Ro 15:14) So just as with the believers John was writing to, the believers in Rome needed not so much to be taught new truth but to be reminded of (and to live out) old truth they had already been taught. Yes…even the hard and uncomfortable stuff.


Isn't this true with us? Even if we have walked with Jesus for a number of years? Our greatest failures are often a result of failing to remember and/or obey truths we were taught years ago! Our prayer should ever be the hymn writer's words "Prone to wander Lord I feel it, here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above." Amen!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

LOVE NOT THE WORLD







1 John 2:15-17  (15) "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (16)  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (17)  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but  he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

 "There is nothing better, there is nothing higher, there is nothing more precious than what this earth can give you: its money, its pleasures, its fame. You had best eat, drink, and be merry, for there is no nobler life than that."  (Ray Stedman quote concerning the world in article  “The Enemy Around)  This is the mantra of the world we live in.

John continues with this clarification concerning the “test of our faith.” While verses 15-17 are a culturally familiar passage to most Christians, little can be said as to any real significant effect it has had upon us as individuals or Christendom in general. Sadly, as the last passage instruction not to hate is often answered with “well, I don’t LIKE that person but I don’t HATE them…”, this instruction is often answered in kind with “well, I LIKE the world but I don’t LOVE it…”.

This is certainly one of the most dangerous practices in our lives, where we rationalize and justify and excuse ourselves from the standard we are called upon to produce. We generally don’t know ourselves and our hearts because we truthfully do not want to! The heart of man is wicked and is like a deep dark well that nobody wants to look down for fear of what they might find! So we adopt a predominately moderate view of who we think we are. We aren’t “saints” in the classic sense, but hey…we aren’t wicked heathens either! We are just…well, somewhere in the middle! We’re “pretty good people!”

The fact remains…if you love what is passing away, you will pass away. In other words if your life is composed of loving the desires of the world which are passing away, so too will you!

If you love God you cannot set your heart on what is not of God! Jesus taught the same principle in Mt 6:24 explaining that one cannot love God and money.  Love of the world will displace love of God. And conversely, love of God, will displace love of the world. So many in this world desire eternal life and absolution of sin’s guilt upon them, but yet still fail to love Christ or trust in Him. This naturally causes unease and absence of personal peace. Their response to such a dilemma is to then move into the realm of charades…where they pretend and masquerade their faith…not merely in attempt to persuade others concerning who they are, but also to try to persuade themselves!

In John 5:42-44, Jesus challenged the Jewish leaders saying  I know that you have not the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name and you do not receive Me … How can you believe, (you) who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”

The reason they merely believe of and fail to believe on Jesus is that they simply do not love God. They rather love the world—the praise, the glory of men—instead of the glory of God. They love the things of this world, more than they love the things of God. So Jesus...and John these years later, were effectively stating that where there is no love for God, there can be no saving faith.

As Billy Graham has said "No man can be said to be truly converted to Christ who has not bent his will to Christ. He may give intellectual assent to the claims of Christ and may have had emotional religious experiences; however, he is not truly converted until he has surrendered his will to Christ as Lord, Savior, and Master."

It seems that many of us have attempted to breach the walls of redemption by "some other way" (John 10:1). Jesus said these are "thieves and robbers" because they seek salvation and eternal life while withholding their love, their loyalty, their commitment, and their passions. It's as if we get on that train and then spend the rest of our lives attempting to repeatedly and constantly 'renegotiate the fare.' We are mandated to "come in through the gate," which is Christ and the gospel. We are generally quite willing to share our lives with Christ, but can't seem to make the leap to "all in" ...to "love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength."

Romans 6:22 tells us  "But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life." Does that describe your relationship? How do you know if you are indeed a "slave?" If you are, you will produce the "fruit of holiness." Thank God He is gracious and patient with us in our human shortcomings, but where truly is our hearts? Luke 13:24 call us to "Strive to enter through the narrow gate..."

The fact is, love for the world precludes and even "pushes out" love for God. We can try our best through discipline and self control to not love the world, however the best "antidote" in our fight against this pervasive powerful pull to love the world is to be zealous to love the Father! This is a critical aspect of the very gospel of Christ! It is our love of Christ...the positioning of our lives and passions to look to Him and spend time with Him that shall overcome our desires for the world and the flesh. Please note the emphatic nature of just what John is saying here. He is not telling us to 'not love the world much,' but he takes a far more radical approach by telling us not to love the world at all!

Again, in our 'middle road' moderate approach, we would tend to claim "well, it's not that I LOVE the world...I just LIKE it." But James takes care of that one by saying in his letter (James 4:4 NLT) that "Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God." In light of that clarification, there is not a one of us that stands innocent today. Not one of us is "there." This fact shines a profound bright light on even our activities as believers in the political realm, where whole segments of Christendom today is intensely involved in claiming or at least reclaiming government and earthly organization back to our own, to make "this world" a more palatable place for us to live. How can we rectify these two roads? We cannot.

This "world," as John puts it, is what we might call “the world system.” It involves the world’s values, pleasures, pastimes, and aspirations. John tells us herein as well as in his gospel that the world lies in the grip of the evil one (1Jn 5:19), that it rejected Jesus when He came (Jn 1:10), that it does not know Him (1Jn 3:1), and consequently that it does not know and therefore also hates His followers (John 15:18,19, 20, 21; 17:14).

We need to understand this, as it is evident that such truth is critical to not only our walk in Him but in our very standing with Him. It is not ‘worldly’ to seek a career, to get married, to have children, to enjoy nature, to be involved in earning a living. None of these are what John has in mind by ‘the world’. He is not inferring that we "drop out" of society. How can we do such and remain missional and reach out to a lost world around us? But do we in all things "seek first the kingdom of God" or is such merely a secondary consideration at best? Is our goal in all aspects of life to live for Christ and to seek to further His agenda? Are we in fact becoming like them? Allowing them to set the tone, the priorities and the agenda for our lives? When we try to walk in two worlds at once we are, as James puts it, "a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." (James 1:8). John Blanchard said "Jesus did not pray that his Father would take Christians out of the world, but that he would take the world out of Christians."

That which John is warning us concerning is the "lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." These paint the broad picture of what is NOT of God, and that which we need to evaluate. Boice observes that in this verse John..."is not thinking then so much of materialism (“things”) as he is of the attitudes that lie behind materialism. For he knows, as we should all know, that a person without worldly goods can be just as materialistic as a person who has many of them; and, conversely, a rich person can be quite free from this and any other form of worldliness. John is actually thinking of selfish ambition, pride, the love of success or flattery, and other such characteristics." The writer Robert Law recognizes this in his excellent rephrasing of the apostle’s appeal. He writes, “Do not court the intimacy and the favour of the unchristian world around you; do not take its customs for your laws, nor adopt its ideals, nor covet its prizes, nor seek fellowship with its life.”

It is Paul that reminds us this battle is one that we will wage every day -- it is a battle we cannot win on our own but only as we begin each morning surrendering our will to Holy Spirit, and actively and intentionally pursuing a relationship with Christ. "For the flesh sets its desire (present tense = continually!) against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please." (Galatians 5:17) and "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." (Galatians 5:24)

The "lust of the flesh" is more than merely the obvious sexual appetite. The lust of the flesh is the desire to do something, anything apart from the will of God. Thus to avoid such one must by necessity know what the will of God is! Not only for the corporate body of Christ, but for each of us individually! But that is not how most of us operate. We tend rather to stumble through this life and let the world and life itself dictate our directions and our decisions. Rarely do we truly seek God on HIS desire for us and to prayerfully move according to God's specific ordained plan for us as His redeemed slave. Rather we want what we want and seek God to bless our decisions! By doing so we effectively take what would otherwise be a normal and perhaps worldly benign decision and plan and make it merely a "lust of the flesh." Even the most worldly normative move on our part can skew our futures off track and eventually far from what God was wanting for us, what God was calling us to as His child. God wants us to live with purpose. To live intentionally in all we do.

"There are five things that will never happen to the flesh. The flesh cannot be changed, it cannot be reformed, it can never be trained, it cannot be improved, and it cannot be reconciled to God. It is always and ever opposed to God (Gal 5:17). It will never be at peace with God; instead there is constant war. God can never be brought into harmony with that which is out of harmony with His holy and righteous character." (Middletown Bible Church)

Then there is the "lust of the eyes." Achan answering Joshua said "when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, then I coveted them and took them; and behold, they are concealed in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath it." (Joshua 7:21) Note the principle of sin's progression from  passion to possession - "I saw...I desired...I took." We have apparently been plagued by such from the beginning. It was Eve who "saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight (Heb = desirable) to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate." (Genesis 3:6)

Again, should we fight ourselves as to the want of these worldly things, or should we rather seek to change what we want? Would not this tendency never be such an issue if, in love with Jesus, we actually want the things, the ways, the plan, the will of Him who we love? Where therefore should be our battleground? What I want in life has changed dramatically since I got married. I now so much want what my wife wants. Why? Through determination and discipline? No. I just fell in love.

"the pride of life..."  This is living without the critical character of humility. When it's all about me, it is certainly then not about Christ. When I believe I am the center of the world, then Christ ceases to be. And yet once again, we say we are aren't proud, just self-confident...just practicing a little self-esteem! But the problem is one can't even say that without giving themselves away with the use of the word "self!" Are we not rather to be God-confident and practicing God- esteem? The bottom line is, is it about you or Him? We need to acknowledge that pride in a believers life is a killer! It ends everything 'God-in-our-life' before we even start. I have witnessed this insidious weapon destroy countless individuals who looked into this Jesus thing. Behind every sin we commit is the gremlin of "pride!" 

"The world is passing away..." When we love anything more than the true and living God revealed in the Bible, we are worshiping it. Whatever it is, it won't last. And it won't be able to help us when our plans shatter, our health fails, or death comes for us. In 1989, Tom Sine wrote some insightful words that apply just as much now, as then (Christianity Today [3/17/89], p. 52): "Whatever commands our time, energy, and resources commands us. And if we are honest, we will admit that our lives really aren’t that different from those of our secular counterparts. I suspect that one of the reasons we are so ineffective in evangelism is that we are so much like the people around us that we have very little to which we can call them. We hang around church buildings a little more. We abstain from a few things. But we simply aren’t that different. We don’t even do hedonism as well as the folks around us … but we keep on trying. As a result of this unfortunate accommodation, Christianity is reduced to little more than a spiritual crutch to help us through the minefields of the upwardly mobile life. God is there to help us get our promotions, our house in the suburbs, and our bills paid. Somehow God has become a co-conspirator in our agendas instead of our becoming a co-conspirator in His. Something is seriously amiss."

Spurgeon said the following, referring to the dayfly which lives only one day - "He is so short lived that he scarcely attains to years, but exists by the day... whose birth and death are both seen by the self same sun. His life is only like to a shadow, which is in itself a vague resemblance, an absence of something rather than in itself an existence. Observe that human life is not only as a shade, but as a shade which is about to depart. It is a mere mirage, the image of a thing which is not, a phantasm which melts back into nothing. How is it that the Eternal should make so much of mortal man, who begins to die as soon as he begins to live?

So I leave you with this crucial question, for which your answer will determine your very state of salvation: Who, or what do you love today? Because everything of this world is fading away, and most of all, we are...


 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

"Evidence of the Light"


1 John 2:1-14 (1) My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (2) And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (3) Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. (4) He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (5) But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. (6) He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (7)  Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. (8) Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. (9) He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. (10) He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. (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. (12) I write to you, little children, Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. (13) I write to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, Because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, Because you have known the Father. (14)  I have written to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one.

“My little child” literally means “my born ones.”  The idea therein is that John is addressing himself to those who are truly born again in Christ. So at least in the immediate, John is talking to and about the factually redeemed. That’s important as we proceed now into the second chapter of 1 John.

John begins this chapter saying that he is writing this letter because he desires very simply that the readers…that’s even us today, …that we do not sin. We can often lose our way in high concepts and difficult ideas in living out our post-salvation faith when frankly it boils down to a much more unvarnished and unpretentious concept; “Stop sinning.”  We read late in the last chapter, that John has little patience for  the “professional perfectionist,” but he appears to have even less tolerance for those want to claim redemption and spiritual membership and yet still engage themselves in wholesale trespass.

John isn’t being accusatory or overtly judgmental.  He seems to be addressing the issue of sin as much as the actual sinner. But in that subject, John is cutting no slack. As already established in chapter 1, there will never be any of us in this life that will walk in sinless perfection. But that is not in any way to say that sin…even a single offense…is a light issue or something to “let slide.” He isn’t saying “I am writing all these things to you so you sin as little as you can.” Or “so you will sin just a little.” Let us never forget that God’s standard is perfection. The grace we receive for falling short of such is provided through Jesus Christ and the cross. Without that, we too would be held to the status of perfection in order to ever be in God’s presence. Which essentially means you and I would be in serious trouble.

Thus with God there is no place for sin. He calls upon us to “be holy as I am holy.” Every sin is an offense to God. Every sin an affront to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  We are given no room to wiggle. No excuse. No ‘special dispensation’…no special ‘permission.’ There never is a ‘good reason’ to sin. When it comes to sin, the ‘line is drawn.’ There is no allowance for sin, but a perfect provision in case we do sin: no need to sin, no right to sin, no compromise with sin, no license, but a provision in case we do.

When we do fall short of that perfect standard, God is quick to be there to restore when there is confession and repentance. But we need to realize that our actions even therein do not change the nature of sin! The sin doesn’t change, just our relationship with our God. And we must know that God’s desire in such situations is not merely to “erase the offense from the books.” He aims to take that error and turn it into a “teaching moment” to make us leaner, meaner, and more faithful. To take us to a place where we grow stronger and able to endure temptation more successfully. Always forward…always upward. Always toward a greater degree of maturity. We don’t crash our cars because we have seat belts and airbags. But they are there in case we have an accident and aren’t we all so very glad they are!

Steven Cole says - Every time I see the bumper sticker, “Christians are forgiven, not perfect;” I want to add another line, “But, they’re striving for holiness.” As it stands, the bumper sticker seems to say, “God accepts me, faults and all, so you need to accept me, too!” Okay, but please give me some assurance that you’re working on things! As the author of Hebrews states (Heb 12:14ESV), we are to “strive for…the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Holiness is not an optional accessory that you may add to your Christian life at some point, if you so choose. Holiness is essential. If you are not striving to grow in holiness in the sight of God, you need to examine whether you know Christ as Savior at all. Every blood-bought child of God desires to please the Lord Jesus who gave Himself on the cross to save us from our sins. (1John 2:1-2 The Key to Holiness)

John is telling us that we cannot allow ourselves to become apathetic and complacent about sin, as if it is no "big deal." We must not drift toward a passive approach and think we can just confess to God (1Jn 1:9-note) and we're "good to go." We can have too low a view of sin, because we have too low a view of the holiness of God and the effect of sin on the Father's heart …not to mention the grieving of His Spirit!

“…if anyone sins.” John uses the aorist tense here, which would lead us to see that he is picturing the act of sin as an isolated one, not as one's normal state. It is often described in Christian circles as a ‘stumble.’ But if you are constantly physically stumbling and falling over and over again, not only are you going to be perpetually black and blue, but eventually you would have to consider that maybe there is a more serious issue to consider besides being clumsy and you would go see a doctor.  But is that what we think when we are finding ourselves spiritually on our face again and again?

"And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world."

Propitiation is a big biblical term which essential means "payment." It means to be a sacrifice, a covering, a satisfaction, an appeasement for sin. It means you and I owed a great debt, and Jesus paid that debt and satisfied an unfathomable standard of holiness to approach our Creator. Notice the ever important last words in that verse, "not for ours only (the sins of those born again)but also for the whole world." That means the payment has been made and the door for man to go to God is wide open. If such is fact, then how can some be therefore lost eternally and bound for hell? Such a question is crucial, because many will take a stance that because of such an act of Christ, all will be saved in the end, or at least that we are saved through intellectual belief alone...that nothing is required on our part. If that were true, could not scripture be boiled down to a one verse version, this verse alone? No, there remains our participation in such! We must enter through narrow gate.

Luke 13:23-27  Then one said to Him, "Lord, are there few who are saved?" And He said to them, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. "When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ "then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ "But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’

As this passage in Luke tells us, as well as verse 3 of our text herein, we must "know" Him. We can say that we know Him but according to scripture we prove we do indeed know Him by "keeping His commandments." Thus any attempt to "wash our hands" of any personal and individual responsibility and/or participation according to verse 4  is to reject scripture and make ourselves into liars.

John chapter 15 speaks into this issue in depth. It calls upon us to "abide" in Him. Such means we remain and remain faithful. We, the redeemed, are the branch that is grafted onto the vine. And having done so, we are called then to "produce fruit." It is a scriptural fact that if we are connected, we will produce fruit. This is further exemplified in the fact that John tells us that any branch that fails to do so is "taken away," ultimately to be "gathered up and burned."

So let us resolve herein to not be deceived by those who would try to tell us differently. James 1:15-16 says that "...sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren." Verse 5 of our text reminds us that "...whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him."

Verse 6 goes even further to call upon us that claim to love Christ to "walk as He walked." Can there be a more clear and yes daunting verse in all of scripture when it comes to the living out of our faith? I know a pastor who claims you do not have to be a disciple in order to be a Christian. I'm not sure what he does with this passage! Was Jesus a disciple of Father God? A disciple is "one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another." Such denotes a principle of commitment and by default mandates dedication and a living priority in 'all things God.' What does having the love of God perfected in us mean, unless it means quite simply we are really born again Christians? To be one is to seek in all ways to "walk as He walked." Think about the impact of that truth! Suddenly it seems the field of players just got a lot smaller.

Does such mean we are to don a robe and sandals and live as homeless evangelists? If so, what did Paul mean when he said in 1Corinthians 7:24  "Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called?" And why did Jesus not let the healed demonic do so, the one who had wandered the tombs as a crazy man until Jesus freed Him? In fact, Jesus told him rather to "Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you." No, the answer is not to mimic the physical lifestyle of Jesus in a day that such was not so bizarre, but rather to take upon ourselves the spiritual walk and 'sold-out' living of Jesus. For Him there was no half-way...no compromise, and no excuse.

So take a deep breath and ask that "elephant-in-the-room" question: "Am I really seeking to walk as Jesus walked?"

John emphasizes that what he was saying herein was not a new concept. Those who are uncomfortable with what he is so plainly saying will even today claim that John was operating on the fringes...that he was speaking in hyperbole. But John apparently saw that coming and reminded them that he was not alone in this principle: That he was just reiterating what was already said, and we have declared as much with the words of Jesus in John 15! With such a defense established, John goes back in for more, declaring that in fact, "He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now."

So let's see if we understand just what he is saying. John is declaring that if one claims to be a Christian, and hates his brother...literally detests him, he is lying about his position in Christ. That he is not a Christian! Now what I find here on this fact is that those in the hot seat will invariably say that they don't actually hate the brother, but that is an extremely dangerous game to play! To many of these I would say "well, with friends like you, who needs enemies?" Ironically this book is all about avoiding being deceived and to be spiteful, abusive and hostile towards a brother or sister and then claim that hate is not implied is the height of self-deception! 

Robert Yarbrough says - "Being in the light means being in fellowship with both God and other believers as the result of the cleansing effected by Christ’s death (1Jn 1:7). It is a condition made possible by the nature of God, who is light (like Christ himself; John 12:46), as the gospel message goes forth and is received (1John 1:5). It is fitting and natural that believers should openly claim their allegiance to the light that is God and Christ; 1 John is itself an extended example of such testimony. But the claim can be bogus....The claim is one thing; the reality is something else....Such a person’s spiritual and practical condition is out of conformity with salvation-historical possibility...and indeed divine expectation. In 1Jn 2:11 John elaborates on this sorry state."

 H A Ironside - "In 1John 2:9-10 the apostle speaks very seriously and very solemnly concerning something that may well convict some of us. “He that says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness even until now” (1John 2:9). If you hate your brother, no matter what you profess, you are still in darkness. Notice he did not say you may be a real Christian who has fallen into darkness; but he said, if you hate your brother you are “in darkness even until now.You have never been anywhere else. You have never been in the light at all. You cannot have divine light or the Holy Spirit or the love of God dwelling in you, and still hate your brother. And yet we often see people professing the name of Christ while showing hatred toward others."         (1 John 2 - Ironside's Notes)

And finally we hear from Pastor Steven Cole: The phrase, “The one who says,” tips us off that John again has the heretics in mind. They claimed to be enlightened, and yet, apparently, they were arrogant and self-centered. They did not love others in a sacrificial way. They were using people to build a following for themselves, rather than building people to follow Christ. So John gets out his black and white paint again, and without mixing them into shades of gray, he shows that these false teachers were not true believers. They do not love; they hate. They are not in the light; they are in the darkness until now (1Jn 2:9). But we should not only use John’s words to identify false teachers. We should also apply them honestly to our own lives. Sadly, there are many that profess to know Christ, but in their marriages and towards their children they do not practice biblical love. Many evangelical churches are torn apart by conflict because certain powerful members did not get their own way. Rather than acting in love, they viciously attack those who don’t agree with them. So John shows that love is inseparable from the light, just as hatred invariably is bound up with darkness. He does not allow for any middle ground, where you can be sort of loving, but sort of cantankerous, too! He makes three points: Your profession of being in the light is exposed as false if you hate your brother (1Jn 2:9). You may be thinking, “Hate is a pretty strong word! While I may not love that difficult person, I wouldn’t say that I hate him.” But John doesn’t let us go there! You either love the other person, which requires sacrificing yourself for that person’s highest good, as Jesus did for us on the cross (John 13:34)—or, you hate him. Writing to a Gentile church situation, Paul contrasts the new way in Christ with the old life before he met Christ (Titus 3:1-3): "Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another." He goes on to talk of how God’s kindness and love transformed us through salvation. The point is, no matter how pagan or unloving your background, if you continue in a lifestyle of hate rather than a lifestyle of love, your profession of faith is suspect. (The Old New Commandment 1 John 2:7-11)

If we lose love then we lose everything. There is nothing left. You can do all the right things, believe all the right truths, but if you do not love other Christians then all is lost. (Guzik) And then John goes on to seemingly "put the period at the end of the sentence" by saying "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." Such would lead us to believe therefore that in most cases it does little to scold or even correct such an individual. He is blind, and cannot see to understand what you are even implying. He is in the dark and has never come out into the light to even understand what light is. How can one explain to a man born blind what light is like? Such is outside of his grasp. A supernatural work must occur first, and that is John's point! And that work is not mine or yours, but God's only. How often we entreat folks to "love others" when we would better to encourage salvation so one might experience and know what real love looks like. It's profoundly easier to love when we have experienced the "author of love."

But let us realize that John was not just writing to us so we might recognize a pretend Christian. He is writing also so we might look in the mirror and confirm that we aren't one ourselves. I will be the first to acknowledge that love does not always come readily in me. I can only love because God has so empowered me to do so, and I have to ask Him regularly for such a love. And that "God of love" is faithful to equip me to do so, but such will not and cannot happen if I am blind and do not know light.  As John stated in the last chapter "God is light and in Him is no darkness at all." The only way to be a Christian...to know love...to know light, is to do so with my "eyes wide open."