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1 John   •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Intro

We’re going through the book of first John, and as I said last week, there are a few things we’re going to cover throughout this letter. Some what we talk about will deal with fellowship, some of it deals with love, and a lot of it John talks about us knowing. John wants us to know and to be sure that we know Jesus. There are two important qualities that we need to have as followers of Jesus: obedience and assurance. If we aren’t sure that we know Jesus, then following him is nearly impossible. Why follow someone you aren’t sure that you know? Why live the life that Jesus tells us to live if we aren’t sure that we’ve been saved by him? This morning, we need to ask ourselves “Do I know Jesus?” And, thankfully, John gives us a test of assurance. Tests are terrible. I’m an awful test taker. In undergrad, I spent three days cramming for an accounting mid-term. The night before I stayed up until 4:00 AM, then woke up at 6:00 AM to cram some more, and I drank a ton of coffee before my 10 AM exam. I got into the class room, and at this point I’m shaking from all of the caffein and lack of sleep. I look at the first problem, and my mind just goes blank. It was like a curtain came down over my brain. I pulled it together enough to scrape by with a D. So when I think test, I think of that accounting final. The last thing I want to preach about is a test, but here it is… and this is a test that is vital for us to take, because it allows us to see if we’re truly following Jesus.

Scripture

1 John 2:3–6 NIV
3 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.

If We’re Saved, We’ll Obey God’s Commandments

The test that John gives us is one of obedience. The word “know” occurs 4 times in this passage. God wants us to know something. Our salvation is not something we have to wander about or guess at. We can know if we’re truly saved. We can know if we follow Jesus. We can know if our lives are really surrendered to him. We shouldn’t ever have to wonder this. God wants us to have assurance that we belong to him.
The first “know” in verse 3 is in the present tense in Greek. The idea is a progressive knowledge that is gained by experience. The sense is, “we are continually being able to know that we have come to know God.” The second “know” is in the perfect tense, emphasizing that we have come to know him in a real, genuine, and complete way. One writer interprets it as: “This is how we maintain the awareness that we have come to know him fully.” God wants us to know that we know him.
But what does John mean by know? To know God doesn’t just mean to know facts or truths about him. If you were to ask me “John, who’s your dad?” And I responded with “He’s 5 ft 11, 60 years old and has brown hair.” You’d probably conclude that I don’t really know my dad. Knowing God is this concept that covers more than what we know about God; it includes a personal relationship with God that begins with faith. It also includes an ever-deepening relationship and fellowship with God, that is evidenced or made known by our love for him and obedience to him.
John says that we know that we know him “if we keep his commands.” The word keep is in the present tense, and it means to continually do, to regularly do. We need to be in constant obedience to God’s commands. If you have no desire to obey God, then it’s likely that you don’t know him. There are seasons where our desire is weak, but if there’s never or rarely a desire to obey the Lord, you probably don’t know him.
But what commands? What is John talking about? Because he doesn’t list and commands right after this. If you look at verse 5, John uses “obey his word” synonymously with commandments. So when John says keep his commands, he means in one sense everything Jesus ever talked about and commanded, and then in the context of this letter, he means the command to love one another. We’ll get to that next week or the week after. But the important thing for this morning is keeping Jesus’ commands. Doing what Jesus said to do. Living how Jesus taught us to live. And Jesus, when he summed up the everything said “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Every command Jesus ever gave dealt with loving God and loving others. And I’ll talk about this a lot more over the next few weeks, but John wants us to know that we know that we know who God is. And that’s tied to keeping what he commanded us to do. And the way that the word know is used indicates a progressive knowing that only comes through experience, through the experience of being obedient to the commands of Jesus. So, you can know that you know Jesus, but as you do what he says, you’ll continually be drawn into a deeper relationship with him, and you’ll be assured that you know him.
The word keep that’s used here literally means to look upon something as your treasure and therefore guard it as your treasure. The way we view God’s commands should be to treasure them. And to keep God’s commands involves the outward act and the inward attitude. As we live as followers of Jesus, what we do outwardly should flow from what is going on inwardly. It’s possible to be obedient to God with the wrong motivation. When we do things, when we’re nice to people out of an obligation, or a fear of letting others down, or anything that isn’t from the love of Jesus in us, then we’re hypocrites. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day did good things, but they did them so that others would see them in a certain way, they did them so that they would be glorified. Not because of a work that God was doing in them. If God is working in you, then you’ll follow Jesus’ commands. So again, we have to check our hearts: are we motivated to obey because of the work that God is doing in us, or is our motivation fear? or is it so we look good?

If we don’t obey, we’re liars

Preaching the Word: 1–3 John—Fellowship in God’s Family Obedience to God’s Commandments as a Test for Genuine Salvation (vv. 3, 4)

Look at verse 4. Here is somebody who claims in summary “I have come to know Jesus.” The one who says that and yet does not with some sense of regularity keep God’s commandments John calls a liar! Some may read this and think, “I don’t always keep the commandments of God. I wish I could, and I try, but sometimes I fail. In fact I failed just this week. Does that mean I’m not a Christian?” That’s not what John is saying. We should not take John’s statement and press it too far in either direction or we will get into something that is false that he is not trying to say. He doesn’t say, “If you keep God’s commandments perfectly and flawlessly, then you can know you’re saved.” Every Christian is going to fail to keep one of God’s commandments in word, thought, or deed at various points. No one has reached sinless perfection. John has already made it clear that we will commit sin along the way. When we do, we have to apply 1 John 1:9 to our lives.

1 John 1:9 NIV
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Preaching the Word: 1–3 John—Fellowship in God’s Family Obedience to God’s Commandments as a Test for Genuine Salvation (vv. 3, 4)

Christians are not immune from sometimes breaking God’s commandments. We are not immune from “cracking” one on occasion either! When we do, we need to practice 1 John 1:9. What John is talking about in verse 4 is a consistency of life and a direction of life that is characterized by obedience. If I fail to love my fellow Christian while claiming to love God, I am a liar, because it is not possible to do both at the same time.

Preaching the Word: 1–3 John—Fellowship in God’s Family Obedience to God’s Commandments as a Test for Genuine Salvation (vv. 3, 4)

A Christian will have a trajectory of behavior that is characterized by obedience to God’s commands. The word “walk” in verse 6 signifies a pattern of behavior. Although there will be times when you stumble, the basic trajectory of your life will be one of obedience to God if you are a Christian. On the other hand, if the trajectory of your life is away from God, you may still do some good things along the way. You may get a little prickly in your conscience and go to church one Sunday. You may do a little good work here and there, but the problem is that the trajectory of your life is away from God. So the question is: what is the trajectory of your life? That is why John employs these present tense verbs. If the trajectory of your life is disobedience to God, yet you claim to know God, you are lying about it! You are self-deceived, and “the truth is not in [you].”

Liar seems pretty harsh, but it’s dead on. So many people who claim to be Christian, who claim to follow Jesus, are morally indifferent. To those people, it doesn’t matter how they live or what they do because they’ve taken what Jesus has done and say “Jesus died and forgave me. I can do what I want.” Or, if they don’t actually say it, they live that way. Some of us do this. I’ve done this when I was a younger Christian. But to do so makes us liars, and it proves that we don’t really know God.
Keeping God’s commandments is evidence that you love him. If we love God, we’ll forgive, if we love God and we’ve hurt someone, we’ll make it right, apologize, and as for forgiveness, If we’re gossiping or complaining or talking smack about others, and we claim to know God, we have to stop. If we’re addicted to technology, or buying things (this ones for me), then stop. Are we hypocritical and claim to follow Jesus yet disobey what he says? Then we must repent. We must confess and repent and turn away from the way we’ve been living. Bring it all to Jesus, every broken piece, every sin, every frustration, all of it. He forgives, heals, restores, and sets us free from all of it.
Allen, D. L. (2013). 1–3 John: Fellowship in God’s Family. (R. K. Hughes, Ed.) (pp. 68–69). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.
Preaching the Word: 1–3 John—Fellowship in God’s Family Obedience Illustrates Mature Love for God (vv. 5, 6)

In verse 5 John employs another one of his favorite terms: “love.” He turns from the negative expression of verse 4 to the positive of verse 5. “Whoever keeps his word” is a phrase that means “whoever is in the constant habit or lifestyle of keeping his word.” That word “keep” is a military term that means “to guard.” It means essentially to obey God’s word. Notice how John talks about God’s commandment and God’s word. Is there any difference at all between God’s commandments and his precepts, between his word and his promises? Not one iota. They are all from God. They are all the word of God. His positive commands, his negative commands, his precepts, anything that God teaches you from the Bible are all from God. Our responsibility is to obey.

John says, “whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.” What does the phrase “the love of God” mean? It can mean “God’s love for me,” or it can mean “my love for God.” In this case context helps us. The context here is about our obeying God’s commands because we love him. Therefore, the phrase “love of God” means our love for God. It is our love for God that is perfected.

The word “perfected” here in Greek means “brought to maturity.” It is important to notice that the phrase “is perfected” is in the passive voice and expresses the fact that it is God, not us, who perfects our love. Your love is a mature love when you love God, and your love for him is the ground for how you live. There are at least three possible reasons why people do what they do. Some people do things because they have to. Some people do things because they need to. Some people do things because they want to. A slave serves because he has to. A child at home obeys because he needs to—there are consequences if he does not obey. An adult goes to work on time because he needs to—he needs the paycheck. He may not particularly want to, but in order to get the paycheck he needs to. He has to follow the rules of the office, and he does that because he needs to. But neither of these is a mature reason for obedience. Mature obedience flows out of love.

For the Christian, it should not be “I need to,” but “I want to.” Listen to what Jesus says in John 14:15: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Do I keep God’s commandments because I’m afraid of God—that he’ll whack me if I don’t? That’s one reason to keep his commandments. Do students do what their parents tell them to do because they’re afraid that they’ll take away the keys to the car? If so, they don’t obey them out of love for them but because they need to. Do you do the things you do because you love the authority who tells you what you should do? This is what John is saying. He is simply repeating what he had heard Jesus say fifty or more years earlier in that upper room before the Last Supper. John was there as a young man, and he heard Jesus say, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Obedience to the Lord’s commands is the evidence of our love for him. External conformity to God’s commandments should be predicated on our internal desire of conformity based on love for the one who gave the commandments.

Preaching the Word: 1–3 John—Fellowship in God’s Family Obedience Illustrates Mature Love for God (vv. 5, 6)

Don’t say that you love Jesus today if you are not obeying Jesus. If you do, John is going to look you square in the eye and say you are a liar. Don’t say that you love Jesus if you are deliberately living contrary to his principles. If Jesus gave you some command, positive or negative, no matter what it is, if you love Jesus that is reason enough to obey it. You don’t care who else does or doesn’t do it. You don’t care what other people think. Your number one goal is to please Jesus. You choose not to do something or you choose to do something based on what God says merely because God says it. That is the mature evidence of love in the life of a Christian. Some of us are obeying God’s commandments because we have to or we are doing it because we need to, but we are not doing it because we want to. Love that bears the fruit of obedience is mature love. If you don’t obey Jesus out of love, then whatever your love is, it is an immature kind of love. Most of the time when young people marry, their love is real, but it is not mature. Over time in the marriage, we learn how to mature in our love for our spouse. That is the way our relationship to Jesus should be. As we grow in our understanding of him and his love for us, and as we obey him, we grow in our own love for him. Our love for Jesus should be an ever-widening and ever-deepening love.

The principle of obedience can be used in the life of a Christian as evidence of genuine salvation. Obedience is not an avenue of salvation, for that would be a salvation by works, but obedience is certainly an evidence of genuine salvation, which is by grace. This does not mean that you can keep God’s commandments in your own way and receive perfect love from God as a reward for your obedience. Rather John is saying that when God’s love reaches you, it not only brings about your salvation, it enables your obedience. This love, as Leon Morris said, “does not leave people unchallenged or unchanged.”

Therefore John says in the latter part of verse 5, “by this we may know that we are in him”; that is, we know that we are related to Jesus. When John speaks of being “in him,” he means to be in a state of salvation brought about by Christ coupled with being in a relationship with God (and Christ) that is based on faith and expresses itself in a right attitude toward sin and a right attitude toward other believers (love). What does the “this” refer to? It points to the rest of the statement in verse 6: “whoever says he [regularly] abides in him [Christ] ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” What you don’t need to do is to put your religion on a bumper sticker or a wristband. Instead you need to put it in your life. John is saying that if you are a true believer, it ought to be reflected in how you live. Your life should be like Jesus’. You should pattern your life after him. Someone might say, “If I don’t do some of the things they want me to do in my business, I may not be able to advance.” Whom do you fear more—God, the supreme judge of the universe, or your boss? Who do you love more—your boss or God? You see, it all comes down to the issue of, is God real, is Jesus your Savior, and do you love him supremely? Ultimately everything comes down to that. It is not an issue of rules and regulations. It is an issue of love for Jesus.

In verse 6 John speaks about our pattern of obedience. Jesus, by his words and his life, teaches us how we should conduct ourselves as Christians in this world. When John uses the word “walked,” he uses it as a metaphor for our conduct and lifestyle. How did Jesus walk? I think about the Savior’s walk during childhood. He always obeyed his parents, the Bible says. As a man he always lived in obedience to his heavenly Father. His love for people, his unswerving faithfulness to Scripture, his moral purity, his selflessness, his servant heart—all this and much more illustrate for us how we should live. Jesus’ obedience to the Father was voluntary, universal, complete, and based upon his love for the Father (“I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father,” John 14:31). Paul said in Romans 13:10, “love is the fulfilling of the law.”

When John speaks of being “in him,” he is using the language of union with Christ. The test of abiding union with Christ is imitation. In all conditions of life we are to conduct ourselves as Jesus lived: controlling our temper, curbing our caustic tongues, dealing with our corrupt desires, serving others, feeding and clothing the poor, standing up for the rights of the disenfranchised—humble, not domineering, a heart of sympathy for others, not one corroded with envies, monopolized by petty interests, or ruffled with small offenses, trustworthy in word, not one who stoops to professional tricks. To live as Jesus lived is to abide in him, keep his commandments, and thus walk as he walked.

How do our lives measure up? Who is your pattern for Christian living? Some people want to pattern their lives after their favorite movie star or entertainer or musician or successful businessman or sports hero or parent, pastor, Bible study teacher, or other Christian. Certainly other Christians can furnish a good example for us, but ultimately our pattern for living must be Jesus. We should seek to imitate Jesus first and not other Christians for the simple reason that they are mere men themselves with frailties that may at any moment lead us astray. Where even the best of Christians “differ from Christ, it is our duty to differ from them. We may not pin our faith to any man’s sleeve, for we know not where he will carry it.” As the author of Hebrews said, we must look to (keep our eyes fixed on) “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

To live as Jesus lived means to commit ourselves to follow him in full discipleship. Though we as Christians cannot duplicate the purity of the life of Christ, yet we can and should intentionally endeavor to imitate him in all walks of life. We don’t have the option of choosing to act according to our own will. To do so “would be the highest invasion of the divine prerogative that could be imagined.” We lack the wisdom to live for Christ on our own strength. That is why we should abide in him and walk as he walked.

Preaching the Word: 1–3 John—Fellowship in God’s Family Obedience Illustrates Mature Love for God (vv. 5, 6)

Don’t say that you love Jesus today if you are not obeying Jesus. If you do, John is going to look you square in the eye and say you are a liar. Don’t say that you love Jesus if you are deliberately living contrary to his principles. If Jesus gave you some command, positive or negative, no matter what it is, if you love Jesus that is reason enough to obey it. You don’t care who else does or doesn’t do it. You don’t care what other people think. Your number one goal is to please Jesus. You choose not to do something or you choose to do something based on what God says merely because God says it. That is the mature evidence of love in the life of a Christian. Some of us are obeying God’s commandments because we have to or we are doing it because we need to, but we are not doing it because we want to. Love that bears the fruit of obedience is mature love. If you don’t obey Jesus out of love, then whatever your love is, it is an immature kind of love.

Preaching the Word: 1–3 John—Fellowship in God’s Family Obedience Illustrates Mature Love for God (vv. 5, 6)

In verse 5 John employs another one of his favorite terms: “love.” He turns from the negative expression of verse 4 to the positive of verse 5. “Whoever keeps his word” is a phrase that means “whoever is in the constant habit or lifestyle of keeping his word.” That word “keep” is a military term that means “to guard.” It means essentially to obey God’s word. Notice how John talks about God’s commandment and God’s word. Is there any difference at all between God’s commandments and his precepts, between his word and his promises? Not one iota. They are all from God. They are all the word of God. His positive commands, his negative commands, his precepts, anything that God teaches you from the Bible are all from God. Our responsibility is to obey.

John says, “whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.” What does the phrase “the love of God” mean? It can mean “God’s love for me,” or it can mean “my love for God.” In this case context helps us. The context here is about our obeying God’s commands because we love him. Therefore, the phrase “love of God” means our love for God. It is our love for God that is perfected.

The word “perfected” here in Greek means “brought to maturity.” It is important to notice that the phrase “is perfected” is in the passive voice and expresses the fact that it is God, not us, who perfects our love. Your love is a mature love when you love God, and your love for him is the ground for how you live. There are at least three possible reasons why people do what they do. Some people do things because they have to. Some people do things because they need to. Some people do things because they want to. A slave serves because he has to. A child at home obeys because he needs to—there are consequences if he does not obey. An adult goes to work on time because he needs to—he needs the paycheck. He may not particularly want to, but in order to get the paycheck he needs to. He has to follow the rules of the office, and he does that because he needs to. But neither of these is a mature reason for obedience. Mature obedience flows out of love.

For the Christian, it should not be “I need to,” but “I want to.” Listen to what Jesus says in John 14:15: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Do I keep God’s commandments because I’m afraid of God—that he’ll whack me if I don’t? That’s one reason to keep his commandments. Do students do what their parents tell them to do because they’re afraid that they’ll take away the keys to the car? If so, they don’t obey them out of love for them but because they need to. Do you do the things you do because you love the authority who tells you what you should do? This is what John is saying. He is simply repeating what he had heard Jesus say fifty or more years earlier in that upper room before the Last Supper. John was there as a young man, and he heard Jesus say, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Obedience to the Lord’s commands is the evidence of our love for him. External conformity to God’s commandments should be predicated on our internal desire of conformity based on love for the one who gave the commandments.

Don’t say that you love Jesus today if you are not obeying Jesus. If you do, John is going to look you square in the eye and say you are a liar. Don’t say that you love Jesus if you are deliberately living contrary to his principles. If Jesus gave you some command, positive or negative, no matter what it is, if you love Jesus that is reason enough to obey it. You don’t care who else does or doesn’t do it. You don’t care what other people think. Your number one goal is to please Jesus. You choose not to do something or you choose to do something based on what God says merely because God says it. That is the mature evidence of love in the life of a Christian. Some of us are obeying God’s commandments because we have to or we are doing it because we need to, but we are not doing it because we want to. Love that bears the fruit of obedience is mature love. If you don’t obey Jesus out of love, then whatever your love is, it is an immature kind of love.

Preaching the Word: 1–3 John—Fellowship in God’s Family Obedience Illustrates Mature Love for God (vv. 5, 6)

As we grow in our understanding of him and his love for us, and as we obey him, we grow in our own love for him. Our love for Jesus should be an ever-widening and ever-deepening love.

Our obedience is the evidence of our salvation. Don’t confuse this. It’s not how we become saved, it’s evidence that we are saved. It’s evidence that we’re following Jesus. When God’s love is in us it saves us and it enables our obedience to him.
Preaching the Word: 1–3 John—Fellowship in God’s Family Obedience Illustrates Mature Love for God (vv. 5, 6)

Therefore John says in the latter part of verse 5, “by this we may know that we are in him”; that is, we know that we are related to Jesus. When John speaks of being “in him,” he means to be in a state of salvation brought about by Christ coupled with being in a relationship with God (and Christ) that is based on faith and expresses itself in a right attitude toward sin and a right attitude toward other believers (love). What does the “this” refer to? It points to the rest of the statement in verse 6: “whoever says he [regularly] abides in him [Christ] ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” What you don’t need to do is to put your religion on a bumper sticker or a wristband. Instead you need to put it in your life. John is saying that if you are a true believer, it ought to be reflected in how you live. Your life should be like Jesus’. You should pattern your life after him.

What it all comes down to is whether we believe in God our not. Is he real, has he saved us, and do we love him.
Let’s look at verse 6 real quick and then we’ll close: Jesus, by his words and by his life teaches us how we are supposed to live. We’re supposed to live, or walk, in the same way he walked. To live how he lived. To follow the life that he modeled for us. And Jesus was obedient. He was obedient to God the father. Jesus walked in a way that was characterized by his love for people. He stopped what he was doing and healed people. He ate with people others wouldn’t even be in the same room with. He talked with people and lived life with people who were social outcasts. He gave voices to people who traditionally had no voice. He changed our entire paradigm for love. He did so many things, and we’re commanded to live and to act as he did. And we’re able to do this, if we’re truly his followers because he’s inside of us. He makes it possible. His love, which is in us, gives us the ability to live out what he’s commanding, to live how he lived.
Preaching the Word: 1–3 John—Fellowship in God’s Family Obedience Illustrates Mature Love for God (vv. 5, 6)

In all conditions of life we are to conduct ourselves as Jesus lived: controlling our temper, curbing our caustic tongues, dealing with our corrupt desires, serving others, feeding and clothing the poor, standing up for the rights of the disenfranchised—humble, not domineering, a heart of sympathy for others, not one corroded with envies, monopolized by petty interests, or ruffled with small offenses, trustworthy in word, not one who stoops to professional tricks. To live as Jesus lived is to abide in him, keep his commandments, and thus walk as he walked.

So, how do we measure up? Do we pass the test that John the author of this letter has given us? Are we looking more like Jesus, or are we looking more and more like the world? I know obedience and commands and following were talked about a lot this morning. But true, full, abundant life is only found in Jesus. So let’s follow him and do what he says.
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