Faithlife Sermons

Obedience in the light

1 John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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John says that our knowledge of God contains an “intellectual, moral, and spiritual component”. We must know God, we must keep His commands, and we must believe that we remain in God. It isn’t just thinking about God and developing a “Belief” but through our spiritual relationship with God. But it doesn’t just stop at having an idea about God and spending time with God but also at the aspect of living our lives out for God. Throughout the Bible we see this clearly taught, in the OT we see that Moses knew God and believed in God but he had moments where he did not obey God’s commands. The Pharisee’s in the NT believed in God and followed the law, but they were missing the spiritual side of their relationship with God. Each of us can lean too much on one part of our relationship with God over another. We can think it is purely “believing” in God means that we are saved. We can think because we do the right things we are saved. Or we can believe that because we pray and we read the Bible and come to church that we are saved.
So what does keeping the commandments have to do with being a believer? Isn’t it enough just to “believe. But what John is telling us is that we truly believe in God then we will keep His commands. These three things are intertwined within our relationship with God. You can know your parents and have a relationship with your parents but if you are unable to abide by the rule that they set for you than you do not trust them as your parents. But it is only by having a personal relationship with your parents that you are able to trust that what they say is for your benefit.

The test of obedience

So with this said, the “test” that John provides is that of obeying God’s commands. Essentially he is saying “do you want to know if you know God? Look at your actions”. And if your actions do not line up with your belief then you are a liar. Now you may say “is John saying we have to be perfect in order to be a Christian?!”. No that isn’t his point, his point is do we carefully watch our actions in order to grow in Christ, are we observing the way that we live and seeking to become more mature in our behavior. Or are we knowingly sinning yet showing no signs of remorse or repentance towards our sins? Who are you striving to be?
Now this is confusing here because here is saying “you are a liar if you say you love God but don’t keep His commands” while earlier he said “if you say you are without sin then you are a liar”. So which is it? Well both. The point he is making is that one should be striving to be like God in actions, not that you are perfect. He is saying “if you say you love God but yet you show no remorse of your sin or desire to change your actions then you aren’t showing yourself to be a Christian.” He is saying that if we are rebelling against God, if we don’t repent of our sin and seek to live differently then what we are showing is a desire to live for ourselves rather than for God.
But what commands is John talking about here? Well, we will see in v. 7 that he refers” to an old command that you have had from the beginning” and he talks about “loving one another”. So we can look at Jesus words that we are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and you are to love your neighbor as yourself” as the basis for what He is talking about hear. Jesus says that these two commands summarize the 10 commandments where we see commands that discuss having no God before Him, that we represent Him in our actions and in our words, and that we honor the Sabbath by resting and spending time with Him. Then the commands where we obey our parents, don’t murder or steal or commit adultery, to not bear false witness against our neighbor, and do not covet. Each of these, we can see, deal with how we love our neighbor.
But it reveals to us even further how we are to recognize if our actions are revealing a love for God. Do we live as Jesus lived? Jesus every day went to spend time with His heavenly father, He loved others, even those who it was difficult to love and were the outcasts, and He was obedience to God’s commands even in the most difficult moments and when it was hardest, in the moments where it would be easy just to “do this one thing cause it wouldn’t be that bad”.
But it also tells us that God’s love is “made complete” when we keep His word. How is God’s love made complete by our obedience? Because it “achieves the purpose” of God’s love. What this is telling us is that God’s commands overflow from His love for us, they are not meant to be a burden but rather a freedom to us.
Have any of you seen the movie Rocky? Well if you haven’t, it is about this boxer who is going against the best in the world even though he isn’t very good. And he has this tough trainer, Mickey, who works him hard every single day. But at the end of the movie he tells Rocky “when I leave you, you'll not only know how to fight, you'll be able to take care of yourself outside the ring too. Is that okay?”. Essentially what he is saying is “I’m not just trying to be tough on you to make your life harder, I am trying to make you a better person.” But oftentimes it doesn’t feel that way to us. Doing homework, having chores at home, the rules that are set on you by adults, can often feel like they are just there to “impose” on you rather than help you. Or if you do any type of activity. Play an instrument, a sport, if you are good a certain subject at school. You need to do the hard work that is being taught to you so that you can do the easy work.
But God gives us His law from His love, to bring us peace and joy. That is why, as we saw last week that God’s commands are so that our joy may be complete. Not so that we are depressed and frustrated, but so that we may have joy! But what we also see is that as we are more obedient then we also find ourselves to know Christ. It brings us into relationship with Him, into communion with Jesus.
The more you walk with Christ, the more that you remain in Him, the more you will walk like Him. You know that the people you spend time with will change your habits and behaviors. Relationships build character. A relationship with Christ will build the best kind of character.

The test of love

John then tells them the second test which is. Do they love others like Christ loved others? Do they walk in the light of Christ rather than the darkness of the world?
But this isn’t just any love, this is the love of Christ. How did Christ love? Christ love everyone, unconditionally, but also loved with the desire to help them see the truth and repent of their sins. Christ had the perfect type of love that recognizes when we are stumbling in the darkness and seeks to bring us to the light. If we don’t seek to bring others to the light than we aren’t truly showing love for them. Jesus shows us that our love must be quality (love others as much as yourself) as well as extent (all people are our neighbors) and we are to love as the law calls us to love and not as the world calls us to love. The world calls us to love by solving our problems with money, or by publicly stating on social media our support for an issue, or by agreeing with everything that a person does. But Christ’s love was not in the spotlight, it wasn’t caring for others by giving money or by agreeing with everything they did. Rather it was compassion, it was coming alongside the hurting, it was loving those who others hated or thought were beyond the ability to be saved (the rich, the lepers, the prostitute).
So who do you love? Who do you care for as much as you care about yourself? Can you name someone who you worry about their needs as much as you worry about your own needs? But even more, do you care about someone who doesn’t care about your needs at all? Perhaps a person you would consider an enemy? Someone you just don’t like or you think is self-centered or rude? Someone that you may not have any problems with but you just don’t have any relationship with but you notice how others treat them? Do you love THOSE people?
Are there people that you hate? Someone who disagrees with you on a certain issue? Someone who acts a certain way at your school? Maybe a family member that behaves in a way that you think is wrong?
John says if we hate someone then we can’t be a Christian. “Hatred distorts our perspective. We do not first misjudge people and then hate them as a result; our view of them of them is already led to bias by our hatred. It is love which sees straight, thinks clearly and makes us balance in our outlook and judgments and conduct.”
That in order to be a believer we must remove hate from our hearts. But if you are in the darkness we often can’t love those who we disagree with or who have wronged us. In fact, we feel vindicated in our hatred for others. I will give you some examples “Let’s go Brandon”…and you know what that actually means. You can’t say that and also be a believer because what is behind that statement is a hatred for another human. Or saying you want another person to “die” or “I hope they lose all their money or something bad happens to them”. That type of statement is not one of love, no matter what another person has done. We should not wish harm or desire for bad things to happen to any person regardless of their beliefs or actions. Now, we can hope that justice happens on behalf of others, but we should also know that it isn’t our place to bring justice. That is God’s.
Even more, John says that if we love others than we don’t cause others to stumble with us. Because when we sin and show hatred towards others, we often lead others to do the same. If you say something mean to another person, you can open it up to your friend to also say something mean to that person. If you hurt someone, it may lead them to want to hurt you.
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