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Last week we looked at some contrasts between the anti-Christs and those people in the church. The church has the incredible promise of eternal life, but the anti-Christs do not. We are to abide in the Spirit and He abides in us and leads us to truth. This morning, John begins a new section in his letter.
I hope you’ll look at 1 John 2:28-3:1 with us.
The first thing you see is the love of a shepherd. John’s love for the church comes across clearly in v. 28. He gives them another word of encouragement. This is really the conclusion of the previous section, but he also begins a new train of thought. He calls them little children just as did in 2:1. The encouragement once again is to abide – to remain in Christ. Amidst all the false teaching of the Gnostics, hang in there with the truth. Don’t waiver; don’t bend; don’t compromise from what you know to be true. Abiding in Christ gets us ready to see Christ. In an effort to help people decide between doing or not doing something, the question is often asked, would you be ashamed if Christ appeared and found you doing that? Abiding in Christ gives us confidence to, “Not shrink away from Him at His coming.” The idea is when you are actively engaged in an intimate, growing relationship with Christ, you can have confidence. Your understanding of Christ deepens, your love for Christ deepens, your desire to please Him deepens, and your confidence in Him deepens. Don’t shrink back from what you know to be true. Don’t shrink back from the Word; don’t shrink back from Christ. “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38) You might say, I’d never be ashamed of Jesus, but when you have an opportunity to take a stand for Christ and don’t, by default, you’re shrinking away. When you feel like you’re distant from Christ or you’re not hearing from Christ like you should or like you used to, it’s not because Christ is different. He will never leave you. He will never forsake you. In John 15:4 Jesus said, “Abide in Me and I in you.” We can have confidence in Christ because of who He is and His proven track record.
How can John say have confidence and don’t shrink away? He says in v. 29, “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.” It’s really a statement of fact. John has used the word know 14 times in the 29 verses of Chapter 2. The people in this community of believers know a lot and John uses that to encourage them to once again, walk holy. It’s not enough just to know it. What is the standard of righteousness? The standard is Christ. Webster defines righteousness as the characteristic or quality of being right. My Greek English lexicon defines it as the act of doing what God requires. Righteousness is doing what is right in the sight of God. How do we know people are saved? They practice righteousness. That’s in the present tense. They practice righteousness and that is a clear indicator of salvation. It is the righteousness of Christ that sets apart the one that has the knowledge and has made the life changing decision of a new birth. They’re not engaged in habitual sin, they’re not walking in sin. Remember, it matters little what we say. It matters what we do. “Everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.” This is a spiritual birth, not a physical birth. John loves this concept of new birth. In his Gospel it is the experience of a new birth. In his letters, it is the evidence of the new birth. In John’s mind, you can’t have the experience of salvation without the evidence. John Stott said it this way, “A person’s righteousness is thus the evidence of his new birth, not the cause or condition of it.”
Don’t miss the significance of this new birth in the first phrase of 3:1. “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God.” We’re children of God because we have experienced a new birth. That gives us the privilege and honor to be called a child of God. John says, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us.” That’s a command. Once again John points out how much God loves us. The phrase, “how great” occurs only seven times in the N.T. God’s love is incredible; it is immeasurable; it is unearthly, it is unimaginable. When you reflect of God’s love for you, it should drive you to your knees in awe and wonder and praise. “Bestowed” is a perfect tense verb. That’s significant because the perfect tense means something that happened in the past, but has permanent consequences for today. He bestowed His love and we are called children of God. What’s even more incredible is that His love knows no bounds. His love is the same for the crack addict as it is the church goer. His love is the same for the drunk as it is for the deacon. His love is the same for the blasphemer as it is for the Bible study teacher. His love is the same for the prostitute as it is for the preacher. But that doesn’t mean He wants you to stay the way you are. We are children of God.
In certain circles today, names still mean something. In political circles, being a Kennedy is synonymous with Massachusetts, being a Daly – Chicago, being a Bush – Texas. In sports, it is the Mannings with football, in racing it is Petty, Earnhardt, and Andretti. In Hollywood, the names are Douglas, Southerland, and Baldwin. In church circles the names are Graham, Falwell, and Stanley. As children of God, we share the name of the One whose name is above all other names, that at the very mention of His name, “every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:10-11) There is power in that name! But even beyond sharing the name of God, we actually become God’s children – a member of God’s family. That is how great a love God has for you.
Why is there such a separation in the world? John tells us in the last part of v. 1. “For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” Remember John’s command from 2:15? “Do not love the world nor the things in the world.” World in 3:1 is the same Greek word meaning the secular, humanistic society that surrounds us. It is a society that is collectively against God and His Son. The world does not, cannot understand why we are the way we are. It doesn’t understand how we can stand unwaveringly for truth. It does not understand biblical morality. It doesn’t understand the idea of putting others first. To finish this out, read John 15:18-25 and see what Jesus says.
So when people hate you for your stand with Christ, know that the world hated Jesus before you. The world has an opposition to Christ so you need to expect there will be opposition to you; at work, at school, at Wal-Mart, and sometimes at home. Rejection by the world is an indicator that you are a child of God. John 16:33 says, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”