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Last week we looked at some continuing proof of our Christianity. To say that you’re a Christian carries some significant responsibility to act like a Christian. Talk is cheap: walking in the manner Jesus walked is what is expected of anyone claiming to be a Christian. This morning we’re going to look at some truths that hopefully, we’ll be able to handle.
Take a look at 1 John 2:7-11.
We’re going to look at something old, something new, and something blue. John says he’s not giving them something new. He’s reviewing what they already know. The commandment is the one they had from the beginning. Remember John’s Gnostic opponents believed in the separation of spirit and matter. The spirit was considered to be good and impervious to defilement by anything the body (matter) did. The Gnostics minimized Christian behavior and that’s why John continues to talk about walking the walk of true Christianity. He says it absolutely does matter what you do and this isn’t something new. 1 Cor. 6:9-11 says, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” The key word here is “were.” What caused the change? We were, “Washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” That’s one of the issues we face today. We might tell people how to get saved, but we stop there. As long as a profession of faith is made, we’re happy. Making a real profession of faith involves daily sanctification, daily washing, daily renewing. It involves, real, radical, and complete change. Being an American Christian has been minimized to the destination after death. John is saying that the journey that leads to heaven is something that his readers have known since the beginning.
In the church today, we continue to come up with “new” ideas. Discipleship. Small groups. Lifestyle evangelism. Outreach. John just said he wasn’t giving them anything new, yet he says in v. 8, “On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you.” John isn’t contradicting himself. John 13:34-35 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” The law of love is new in the sense that it was established by Jesus through His death and resurrection. It’s new in the sense that Jesus’ obedience fulfilled the law in ways we never could have imagined. It’s new because for those that believe, it is possible to live a life motivated by the grace of God to fulfill the law of self-sacrificing, Christ-like love. Not fulfill what we call love, but fulfill what the Bible calls love. This commandment is, “True in Him and in you because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining.” John loves using the Light metaphor. 1 Jo. 1:5 says, “God is Light and in Him there is no darkness at all.” 1 Jo. 1:7 says when we, “Walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another.” Even Jesus uses the metaphor in John 8:12, “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” Jesus came to destroy the darkness of sin and death and establish the Kingdom of God which is characterized by light and love. We are to walk in the same manner as Jesus walked and His life was characterized by perfect obedience and submission to the will of the Father. Through His death and resurrection, the power of sin and death was broken once and for all. The transformed lives of His followers provide infallible evidence for this victory. That’s why a life characterized by walking in the Light is so essential. The true Light is already shining. It is shining in us. It’s shining in the church. Even though we have victory in Jesus, the battle is not over. We wage war each day with sin, but we are not slaves to sin. We must take the fight to the streets demonstrating the power of God’s love to a lost and dying world and let people know that there is victory in Jesus.
There’s something old, something new, and finally something blue. John is a man of contrast and he offers up another practical example. Look at v. 9. Brother here is the Greek word adelphos, meaning neighbor. This is consistent with Lev. 19:18, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.” As he did earlier, John is talking about someone who says one thing, yet does the opposite. Titus 1:16 says, “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.” It’s our actions that do all of our talking. It matters little what we say; it matters what we do. Don’t get mixed up and think we’re talking about salvation based on works. When you have the Light of the world living in your heart, you’re motivated and enabled by the Holy Spirit of God to live a life in the Light. We don’t love in order to be saved; we love because we are saved. John is talking about someone in the present tense. They say they’re in the Light, they say they’re a Christian, they say they love God, they say they want to be authentic, but they hate their brother. You’re either in the Light or in the dark. There is no dusk with John. When you’re in the Light, you’re given the capacity to love unconditionally. When you’re in the dark, you’re not able to do that. People that walk in darkness do love something though. John 3:19, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.”
Look at the contrast in v. 10. John is talking present tense, right now. Abiding in the Light gives you the ability to exercise unconditional love. The second part of this verse can be considered in two ways. First, when you abide in the Light, you can see where you’re going and you won’t stumble. Stumble means to trip or momentarily loser your balance. Second, when you abide in the Light, no one can look at you and what you do and stumble because of your actions. So John is giving another example of proper behavior. Christians can walk without stumbling because they see where they are going and because they don’t stumble, they don’t cause others to fall.
John concludes in v. 11. Unethical behavior not only contradicts the claim of being a Christian; it actually contributes to a spiritual downfall. Spiritual darkness is not a passive reality. It goes on the offensive. Darkness is the realm of sin and evil. Darkness attacks those living in it so that they become increasingly trapped in this realm of confusion and blindness. In a real sense what we do is what we become. How we live is who we are. The longer you live in darkness, the more difficult it becomes to see the sin in your life and the less likely it is to see the need for Christ. Habitual hatred leads to more hatred, and the possibility of loving becomes less and less likely.
Once again John provides practical proof that a person claiming to be a Christian must exhibit the characteristics of Christ. Not perfection, but movement to being more and more like Christ. If we say we love Christ, we must walk in the Light.