Love Fellow Christians
September 11th, 2022

9 The one who says that he is in the Light and yet hates his brother or sister is in the darkness until now.

We’ve looked at our love for God as measured by our obedience to His commands now we look at our loving relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ as a gauge of our healthy relationship in fellowship with God. Anyone who claims to love God will also have a love for the people of God.

He who says that he is in the light

Have you ever heard the phrase “talk is cheap”?  John’s saying that their claim to be in fellowship with God, and letting that relationship shape their attitudes, actions, and character must be false if they can hate those Brothers and Sisters in Christ, whom God Himself loves. 

And yet hates his brother or sister

This term, “and hates his brother” means hating other Christians.  As we talked about last week, “hate” is a characteristic of worldliness, not godliness.  The only thing we’re ever told to hate is evil, sin.  And we’re even instructed to love our enemies: Matthew 5:44 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Not only are we to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, but we are to love those who make themselves our enemies, trying to do good for them.  This kind of animosity may begin as a dislike or disagreement, but result in actions taken against our brothers or sisters in Christ.  It is worth a bit of self-reflection to see how we really feel about our brothers and sisters in Christ, and let God work to soften our hearts.    

“is in the darkness until now.”

Those who can hate brothers and sisters in Christ are in a state of spiritual darkness.  They are out of fellowship with God, refusing to abide with Him in the Truth of His Word, and trying to maintain worldly bitterness and hatred, blinded to the truth of God’s Word.  The person doesn’t know that they can’t see.  (Example:  Sampson in Judges 16:20 who ended up physically blinded in verse 21).  First sin blinds, then it binds, then it destroys.  We also see this spiritual blindness in the Pharisees (see John 9 vs 40-41, Matthew 15:12-14. Spiritual blindness is the reason that you can preach directly from the Bible to false Christians, and they will still try to find a way that the Word you’ve read is applicable to everyone but them. 

10 The one who loves his brother and sister

Genuine believers love their brothers and sisters in Christ. John keeps repeating “His brother” to emphasize the close relationship that should exist between true believers in Christ. 

 remains in the light

The person who loves his brother is doing so by letting God’s character flow out of him.  This outflowing of the love of God toward our brothers and sisters is proof that we’re truly abiding with God in the light. Walking in the light prevents stumbling, and gives us discernment.  We are protected from the snares of the wicked (see Psalm 141:9, 119:85, 119:10, 140:5. 

The main difference between the false Christian, who is blind, and does not realize that he is walking in darkness, and the true Christian, who is choosing to sin, and not walking in light as they must, is  the presence of the Holy Spirit.  1 Corinthians 2:14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The false Christian will tend not to choose the wisdom of God, but the vain philosophies of men.  The things of they consider foolishness. 

Even true Christians have areas of spiritual blindness where they refuse to allow the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts.  That’s one of the reasons why we’re put together in churches—because our areas of spiritual blindness are different, and so you can help me see the areas where I fall short in my submission to God, and letting the Holy Spirit work on my heart, and I can help you see those areas where you’re falling short, or missing the mark.  So we must serve each other in love by coming along side and helping each other grow.  The true Christian will turn to the Lord for wisdom, at the urging of the Holy Spirit within them (James 1:5).   

Christianity isn’t about feeling good about ourselves, or patting ourselves on the back for our imagined achievements, but about abiding in fellowship with God, and in fellowship with one another. We need to pause regularly to ask ourselves how we really feel about our brothers and sisters in Christ—are we loving them as Christ would love them, or are we just going through the motions? 

and there is no cause of stumbling in him.”

Literally John says, “and there is not a stumbling block in him.” This term, in Greek is something that causes someone to stumble, whether morally or physically.  This word skandalon where we get the English word scandal, describes a snare, a stumbling block, something that causes us to err or sin. 

A believer who is loving and caring toward fellow believers produces nothing that would cause others to trip up, or others to sin. 1 Cor 8 vs. 7-13.  Even if we have the freedom to do something that would make my brother stumble or sin, or have a guilty conscience, then my freedom is weakening my brother, and may cause them to fall into sin!  When we do this, we sin against Christ, because He died to bring them a life of victory, not defeat, and we are enabling their bondage.  Instead 1st Thess 5:11 11 Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you also are doing.  And again in Ephesians 4:29 — Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  Or as the author of Hebrews said 13 But encourage one another every day, as long as it is still called “today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  And again in Heb 10:24-25  24 and let’s consider how to encourage one another in love and good deeds, 25 not abandoning our own meeting together, as is the habit of some people, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.  That’s our job—to encourage other Christians in the faith.

A second point that John is making is that while in the light there is no cause for the loving believer to stumble. Spending our time helping our brothers and sisters in Christ, and ministering to their needs keeps us out of trouble, because we have less time for mischief. 

And lastly that loving our brothers and sisters and serving them means that if we prioritize our relationship with Jesus, and our fellowship with other believers, then there is nothing in us that will make us stumble.  Rom 8:4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit  God is Good, and the closer we are to Him, the more that we are in fellowship with Him, then we’ll keep our minds where they need to be Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is [g]lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things.   And since we’re continually keeping our minds where they need to be in fellowship with God and each other, not only will be producing the fruit of the Spirit Gal 5:22-23 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 

11 But the one who hates his brother or sister is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

The conduct of their life is walking in darkness, without knowing that they’re lacking the light.  And of course that means that they “do not know where they are going”.  They are wandering around missing the path that God has for their life, disoriented and disillusioned, wondering why their life is so far removed from what they read about in the gospels.  This is where a lot of Christians are today.  Like the church of Laodicea in Rev 3:17, they are unaware of their spiritual state.  And Jesus says to that church 17 Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have no need of anything,” and you do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked,  Light and darkness represent two spheres of existence that a person may choose to live in.  But Jesus will not dwell in darkness with someone.  He commands that they come to Him, come to the light, respond to His call.  And not only that—that we follow Him, and walk with Him, abiding with Him.  

Love one Another; Be the Light of the World
September 4th, 2022

1 John 2:7-8

7 Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you

When we understand what God has done for us in sending Jesus to the Cross, and what Jesus has done in dying for us, for our sins so that we can have relationship with God, then we love God.

We obey God because we understand that God is love, and that following all His commandments and instructions will produce the very best life we can have.  Our obedience also functions as a proof to us that we are saved because we obey God’s commandments.  Since the flesh in no way wants to obey God, then our obedience comes from the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and so proof that we are saved.  We are obedient to God out of love for Him.  The one who lives in obedience, keeping His Word, Truly has a relationship with God.  We love God, and so we want to imitate the lifestyle of Jesus. We have an obligation to walk as He walked, and a desire to do so. 

7 Beloved

John is preaching to the Church, whom he loves as his brothers and sisters in Christ.  He’s talking to believers here, he’s talking to us, reminding us to obey God and His commandments.

I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning;

Since obedience to Jesus’ commands is a primary determinant of our personal intimacy with God, John wants to remind them that they shouldn’t be shocked by His Words.  This was God’s plan from the beginning 1 John 3:11  11 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we are to love one another;   John really wants us to know that loving one another with the love of Christ has always been God’s expectation of us. 

Jesus said in John 13:34-35 34 I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another.” And the again in John 15:17 This I command you, that you love one another.  What was new from the perspective of Jesus’ earthly ministry was now understood to be so foundational to Christian life, that it seemed old to many of the believers, even though John was there personally, when it was first given. 

It helps to understand that Jesus’ original command to love one another was pretty radical, even all by itself.  In the Old Testament, Jews were commanded to love one another as brothers, but only other Jews were considered their brethren.  Gentiles were excluded.  And the implication that the Jewish Rabbi’s drew from this was that they should hate their enemies.  That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 5:43 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’   Jesus didn’t say that God said hate your enemy, but that they had been taught that God had said hate your enemy.  Nowhere in the Old Testament does it say this.  So, Jesus goes on to correct this false teaching by saying in Matthew 5:44 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, So, not only are we to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, but we are to love those who make themselves our enemies, trying to do good for them, and blessing and not cursing them, and praying for those who persecute and attack us.  Quite a difference from what they’d previously been taught. 

the old commandment is the word which you have heard.

John wants to let them know that Jesus’ command to them to love one another, and all the teachings of Jesus are completely consistent with the Word of God.  They are not only to receive it, but to view it as a command that has always been in force for the people of God, and will always be, so we need to obey it now, in our daily lives.  To abide in Jesus is to keep His Word, and we can only do this out of love for Jesus.  John 14:23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will follow My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our dwelling with him.  This fellowship with Jesus, fellowship with God is based on loving Jesus and following His Word.  We are One in obedience to Jesus, walking in the light, as He is in the light.  And that means that we are one with each other as well.  This is what Jesus purchased for us on Calvary.

It’s keeping His Word that is our life in Him. It’s His Word that’s a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.  Our relationship with Him, the Living Word is also the source of our power.  John 15:7 7 If you remain in Me, and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  So, abiding in His Word by obedience means abiding in His power, and ultimately in the resurrection power that raised Him from the dead.  John 8:51  Truly, truly I say to you, if anyone follows My word, he will never see death.”  That’s why Romans 8:11 lets us know:  11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.  That’s how important this is.  And so John is telling each of them, individually, that they must keep fellowship with God by obeying His Word, and that this shouldn’t surprise them—it’s always been this way, and it will always be this way. 

8 On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, 

So John wants to share with them a new aspect of this old commandment to Love one another with the Love that Jesus has shown to us.  John is giving us a new insight, or greater appreciation of this truth from the Bible, considering the life of Jesus who  has given us this one new command. 

The life of Jesus illuminated the nature of God for us.  He gave us the power to love one another through the Holy Spirit’s work in our heart.   We see this great self-sacrificing love that was “true in Him,”, true in Jesus, our example.   He demonstrated His love through His entire life spent healing the sick, caring for the poor and needy, teaching them the Truth from God, washing the disciples’ feet in John 13, and especially in dying on the cross for our sins, so that we can be saved.  Jesus embodies the new commandment.

because the darkness is passing away

The “darkness” of their old way of life, their former sinful life is passing away.  John is urging us, as Paul did in 2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  Or Col 3:10 And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Col 3:1-3 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  Eph 4:22 To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.  And John is going to tell us in a couple of weeks in 1 John 2:17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.  So we should not walk in in darkness, that we know is going to pass away along with this earth some day, but in newness of life—in light

and the true Light is already shining.

And so, as we follow Him, it should be as true for us as it was for Jesus.  We should express God’s love for people through our loving kindness and self-sacrifice toward them, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Since we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, urging us to continue Jesus’ ministry on earth through us, we can be the vessels from which (and) the true Light is already shining.  And hopefully shining through us to serve others!  As Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5:14-16 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Abide in Love by Walking in Obedience
August 28th, 2022

1 John 2:5-6

5 but whoever follows His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him:

Whoever follows His Word

We know that we are saved because we obey God’s commandments. And we are obedient to God out of love for Him.  We obey God because we understand that God is love, and that following all His commandments and instructions will produce the very best life you can have.  Jesus explained our relationship with God through Him saying, in John 14:21 21 The one who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will reveal Myself to him.” The one who keeps Jesus’ commandments is the one who truly loves Him, and our love for Jesus allows Him to reveal more of Himself to us through the Word of God and through the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts.  In 1st John 2:5, John says that Whoever keeps, or follows the Word of Jesus allows God to bring His love to full expression in their lives. 

in him the love of God has truly been perfected.

Just as the person who only claimed to have a relationship with Jesus, claimed to walk with Him, but practiced disobedience was a liar, the one who lives in obedience, keeping His Word, Truly has a relationship with God.  We have a relationship with God, and knowing how much God loves us, and what He has done for us, in sending Jesus to the Cross, and in Jesus dying for us, so that we can have relationship with God, then we love God.  And since we know that He wants what’s best for us, we obey Him.  If our obedience to His Word and Commands is incomplete, then our love for Him is also incomplete.  But as we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us, our love is made complete, even as we are conformed to the image of Christ.  Our obedience also allows God to express His love for us more fully in our lives, since His blessings won’t be as likely to result in pride, or greed, or other harmful sins. 

Fellowship with God is not made complete when we are saved, it is a relationship, and so must be maintained, if its benefits are to be realized. Jesus Himself tells us that His experience of the Father’s love was contingent on His obedience.  He says in John 15:10)  10 If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love.  If Jesus can say this about His own relationship with God, as a man who lived a perfect life, and who never sinned, then we can be sure that our obedience also affects our relationship with God. 

By this we know that we are in Him

It is by means of the love that we have for Him, resulting in obedience in our lives that we know that we are abiding in Him.  We know we are in Him because we see that God’s love is working in us to bring us to completion, and the evidence of the process is obedience.

“In Him” means remaining in an abiding relationship with God through Jesus.   We read in John 14:20 that Jesus explains that they will understand full unity with Jesus and God the father when they get to heaven.  20 On that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I in you. 21 The one who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will reveal Myself to him.” So following God in obedience to Jesus results in a greater revelation of God, the lover of our souls.  We understanding God, and His love for us by obedience.   We see in verse 22  22 Judas (not Iscariot) *said to Him, “Lord, what has happened that You are going to reveal Yourself to us and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will follow My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our dwelling with him. 24 The one who does not love Me does not follow My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.  So, being in abiding relationship with God the Father through Jesus causes God to abide in the believer, fellowship with us closely, by making him or her their “abode”, their dwelling place.  Jesus follows this up in the with the parable of the vine and the branches in John 15:1–7.  Jesus lets us know that this abiding relationship with God through Jesus also makes our lives bear the fruit of the Spirit  saying in John 15:4-5 4 Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself but must remain in the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; the one who remains in Me, and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

John knows what he’s talking about.  Living in relationship with Jesus for all of those years had caused this fruit in his own life.  John’s great understanding through experience of God’s love through Jesus, made possible by the work of the Holy Spirit in his life is probably why John writes so often about this love that God has for us, and it’s result of producing the same kind of love in us.  John is often called the Apostle of Love for how often He writes of this in his gospel and epistles.  John probably didn’t start out that way.  If we look at the picture we get of John in his early years, we can see the change that Jesus made in him.  In Luke 9 beginning in verse 51, when this young Apostle of Love wants to call fire down from heaven on a village for not showing Jesus the proper respect.  But when he is old, he writes so much about love in this epistle especially, that it gives us evidence of the Power of God to change a heart.  The apostles continually remind us that love for our brothers and sisters in Christ is evidence of our love for God  (see Romans 12:9, Romans 12:10-12,  Gal 5:13–14, Eph 5:1–9, 1 Pet 1:22–2:1).

John continually emphasized that we must demonstrate our love for other believers by serving them.

6 the one who says that he remains in Him ought, himself also, walk just as He walked.

Abiding in the love of Christ involves habitual obedience to God and His commandments. It is a life lived like Christ lived. Though habitual obedience is not automatic in the life of the believer.  We have an obligation through what Christ has done for us to habitually imitate Christ.  Ephesians 5:1-2 says 5 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.  The one who says that he abides in Him, to have a relationship with God should imitate the character and the lifestyle of Jesus, who always and only did the Will of the Father, continually serving God and meeting the needs of others. 

Our walk is our manner of living, our ongoing conduct of our life.  A true understanding of how much God loves us, and what Jesus has done for us will result in an obedience out of love, and a desire to imitate the lifestyle of Jesus.  This produces a “What Would Jesus Do” mindset, a longing for continued Unity with our Father in Heaven, a love for Him, and a desire to always and only do His Will.  Unlimited devotion to God should be what drives our every action, attitude, word that comes out of our mouth, and thought that we have.