• Download

Walk As Jesus Walked

Stonebrook Community Church https://www.stonebrook.org

That You May Know—The Epistles of John
1 John 2:3-17 Walk as Jesus Walked

I just finished reading a fascinating biography of a former U.S. President. The focus of the book is the President’s faith.
What his spiritual and religious background is. What he says he believes. I’m reading this wondering, “Is this President a true believer in Jesus Christ?” Some of his statements say an emphatic “Yes.” Some of his statements say, “Hmm, not so sure.” Still others say, “Definitely not.”

I relate that story to the story of our lives. We all need to start with ourselves first. Am I a true Christian?

Like Dave Bovenmyer asked last week, “Who are the real Christians?”
I greatly appreciated his sermon, introducing us to a letter written by the Apostle John.

We are in Week 2 of a series looking at John’s 3 letters. Probably written 50 years after Jesus Christ ascended into heaven.

A major theme John addresses is looking at who is a real Christian, and who is not.
The goal is not to be judgmental and critical. The goal is to, first, for ourselves to be assured we truly do know Jesus, and we do have forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
And also, this letter helps us to be wise and discerning. We are surrounded by all kinds of people, and we hear a wide variety of messages in the world. We have to sort out the truth from the lies. We have to have our faith founded deep into the truth of God. We have to know who to listen to and believe.

John’s letter does this.

Turn to 1 John 2.

While you are turning there, I will introduce myself to those whom I don’t know.
I am Brad Barrett, one of the pastors here. I have been a part of Stonebrook for 40 years, since my sophomore year at Iowa State. Before that, I was a wild, partying, engineering student. A proud young man who was trying hard to ignore God. But over the course of a few months in the summer after my freshman year, largely through the influence of my dear mother, God broke through my hard heart and gave sight to my blind eyes. He saved my soul, and life has never been the same since.
Ask me more about it. I would love to tell you.

1 John 2:3-17

Turn to 1 John 2. We don’t know for sure who the original recipients of this letter were, but it may have been a group of churches in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey).

Last week Dave took us through chapter 1 and 2 verses in chapter 2. What is the mark of a true Christian? How do we know real from false?

Today’s passage continues on that theme.

1 John 2:3–17 (ESV)

Vs. 3-6
3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.
4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,
5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:
6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

Throughout this letter, John contrasts truth and error. Back and forth. In fact, 70% of the letter is contrasting this.

He starts by saying, “You can have assurance that you really know God and his Son, Jesus, if you keep his commandments.”
The word “KNOW” is key here. “You KNOW that you KNOW him if you obey him.”
To “KNOW” God in the way John is describing is far more than simply knowing about God. Knowing facts and information.

This is true even in human relationships.
Tonight is the Super Bowl. (Go Rams!) The Patriots quarterback is Tom Brady. I know facts about Tom Brady, but I don’t really know him. His wife knows him. His children know him. His crusty old coach, Bill Belichick knows him. But I don’t.

It’s like that with God. John is really equating “knowing God” with “believing in God.” How do you know you have believed and you now belong to God? If you follow his commands.

John is NOT saying that your works save you. The NT is clear that we are saved by faith, not by works. And John himself makes that clear in this letter.
John’s point is: “True faith looks like something.”
It’s visible. Obvious. Demonstrated.

What is true in the heart manifests itself in the life.

And then in verse 4, if we claim to KNOW God but we don’t follow his commands, we are LYING. Those are very strong words. You know in your heart what you believe, and you are saying the opposite. Therefore you are a LIAR.

Basically John is saying, “What you say you believe and how you live ought to be aligned.” For some, John says, they are mis-aligned.

Vs. 5a
5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected…

This is challenging to understand what he means. I think he is saying this: Whoever keeps God’s word…whoever obeys him and follows him… to that man, to that woman, something glorious happens. God’s love in your hearts and your love for others blossoms. It grows. It is perfected and completed. More and more as you follow Jesus, you will know and believe God’s love for you. And you will love others more from your heart.

Vs. 5b-6
5b …By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

He repeats himself in a slightly different way. John wants to assure us: we can be confident we truly belong to Christ if we are walking in the same way Jesus walked. Said in the negative: We cannot claim to live in him unless we behave like him. That is hypocrisy. That is lying.

Now let’s pause here for a minute. At this point, after hearing vs. 3-6, if we’re paying attention and thinking about our own lives, we might find ourselves uncomfortable right now. We hear what John says, and we begin wondering about our own lives:
“If I know Jesus, then I will obey Jesus.” That sounds good. But what about my life? I mean… I think I know Jesus. I believe in him. And I do obey him. But I don’t always obey him. I still sin sometimes…. even far more than I care to admit.”

And we might be thinking, “Well, what about some sins that I have a very difficult time breaking free from?”
My lust. Pornography.
My anger and rage.
My bitterness and unforgiveness.
My self-centeredness. Laziness.
My fear of people.
So what now? Am I truly a Christian? Do I truly know the Lord and love him?
If you are asking questions like these, then you are paying attention. We should ask such questions.

First, we can’t read this passage in isolation.
We looked at last week in chapter 1 that the mark of a true believer in Christ is someone who acknowledges they sin.
1:8 “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
1:9 “If we confess our sins…he forgives our sins and cleanses us…”

The true follower of Christ knows he sins. He wishes he didn’t. He prays and strives not to.
And John himself doesn’t want us to sin. In 2:1 he says, “I write to you so that you will not sin.”
John writes this letter to help us not sin. As Jesus followers, we don’t want to sin. That’s our heart.

But then look at vs. 2:
“But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate in heaven… our Defense Attorney, Jesus Christ.”
John knows we’re going to sin. So what do we do?
When we sin, it’s like we are in a heavenly courtroom. God is the Judge. Jesus Christ is by our side as our Defense Attorney. Across the room on the opposing side at the table, accusations are being brought against us by Satan, the Prosecuting Attorney. And even our own conscience accuses us. And the accusations may very well be true. And we may have committed the same sin for the 100th time. And the guilt and shame is crushing. We want to hide.
But John says that Jesus defends us. And Jesus declares to God the Father that he himself has paid the price for our sins. The Father slams the gavel down, and says, “My Son took your crimes as his own. He was punished. You are acquitted and free to go.”

By the way, vs. 1:9- 2:2 ought to become some of your favorite verses. Like John, I don’t want to sin, and I don’t want you to sin. But we will. And when we do, we should think like John wants us to think.
• We freely and humbly admit our sin, like in 1:9. We don’t hide them. We admit them. Confess them.
• We acknowledge the guilt and the shame.
• We rejoice that God forgives and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. We feel dirty, but Jesus cleanses us.
• Then in vs. 2, we remember that Jesus Christ is our Advocate. Our Defense Attorney. He defends us before God Almighty on his throne. We are free!

Let’s step back for a moment. It seems to me that John is trying to accomplish at least four things in this letter:
1. Warning
2. Assuring
3. Discerning
4. Calling

FIRST: John is WARNING those who are deceived and lying and faking. Those who are denying Jesus and truths about Jesus. They deny they sin. They don’t follow Jesus.
He is WARNING them: You do not know God. You do not have eternal life. You are not forgiven.

SECOND: He is ASSURING the true believer: Rest and rejoice. You truly do know Jesus Christ. You do have life. You have overcome. You sins are forgiven. You are cleansed within.
This is very, very good news.

THIRD: He is DISCERNING and helping us to DISCERN. We have to know the conditions of people’s souls. Not to be critical or judgmental. Rather, we have to discern between Truth and Lies. We must not be ignorant and naïve. We need to know whom to listen to and follow, and not be duped.
John is helping us separate the sheep from the goats.

FOURTH: John is CALLING us to a greater walk with Jesus. Greater love. More consistent obedience. Day-to-day holiness.

Vs. 7-11
Here John will contrast light and darkness. And he contrasts love and hatred.

7 Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard.
8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.
9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.
10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.
11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

John begins this section on love by calling the Christians, Beloved. As he is about to command them to love, he tells that they are loved. He loves them. The Lord loves them.

Then in vs. 7-8 it can get a little confusing. Old command. New command. Which is it? Well, it’s actually both.

I believe John is talking about the command to love. Specifically, to love one another. To love our brother.

The true light, Jesus Christ, has already been here, and he is coming again. The light is already shining.
It’s like its night time, but the sun rise is coming. We can see the eastern sky light up. I love that time of morning. And this winter, I find myself looking forward to an earlier sunrise every day.

This command to love one another is born out of the light. God is light, we learned in Chapter 1. God is love, we will learn in Chapter 4. Anyone who is in God is in the light and is in his love. So it’s just natural, we will more and more live as people of light and love.

Then in vs. 9, John is warning those who were claiming to know Jesus.
If you say you are in the light—you believe in and are walking with Jesus—but you hate your brother, you are in darkness. Not in the light. You have no part of God’s kingdom of light.

Then in vs. 10, John gives assurance: If you do love your brother, then you are living in the light.

Again, we think of John’s FOUR GOALS in this letter:
1. Warning those who are pretending to know Christ. If your lives are filled with hatred—with pride and anger and bitterness and feelings of superiority—then you are part of the kingdom of darkness.
2. Assuring those who do know Christ—shown by their love for others—that they are indeed in God’s kingdom of light.
3. Discerning: Helping the true Christians know who are the sheep and who are the goats. Be alert. Don’t be naïve.
4. Calling: John is also calling us to love one another.

Vs. 12-14
Before we read this, I have to confess something.
When I began studying this passage two weeks ago, when I read vs. 12-14, I thought to myself, “I don’t think I like this section that much. It doesn’t make much sense. I’m not going to spend as much time on this as on the other verses.”
Well, I’ve changed my mind. This is a beautiful passage.

Let’s read it:
12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.

I write to you, children, because you know the Father.
14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

John addresses three groups:
1. Children.
2. Fathers
3. Young men

John could be addressing actual children in the church. Actual young men. Actual fathers.
However, I think he is addressing people in the church based on spiritual age and maturity, not physical age.
So young believers, older mature believers, and those in between.
So in a way, then, he is addressing everyone in the church.

The other point to notice is that he repeats himself. He addresses all three groups twice.

And to fathers—to the older Christians– he says virtually the identical statement: “I write to you fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.”

Why? I think John is simply repeating himself for emphasis. Say something once, we can miss it. Say something twice, you pay more attention. Parents understand this, don’t you. (And sometimes you say something 10 times, and you may wonder if the kids are getting it.)

Let’s look at this by groups:
FIRST, he writes to children, those who are newer believers in Christ, regardless of physical age.
1. Your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
2. You know the Father.

Young believers need to hear this message over and over again (and I do too): Your sins are forgiven.
To forgive means to “Pay off a debt.” When we sin against someone, we owe them a debt. An apology. Something.
If that person forgives us, they are paying off that debt FOR US. They are taking the debt for us. We OWE them, but they pay it. That is what Jesus Christ has done. What a message!

Then he tells the children: You know the Father.
One of the more glorious truths of the gospel is that we were once children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3), but God has so forgiven us and loved us, that he has adopted us into his family, and we are now children of God! This is stunning!
And if we are his children, that means he is our Father! God Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, the one who reigns on his eternal throne in glory, the One who always has been and always will be, is now so intimate that we can call him Abba, Father.
Many of us feel worthless. Discouraged. Hopeless. Without purpose or value. Read John’s words and stop doubting. Simply believe. God Almighty is your Father. This should make us weep and dance.

SECOND, he writes to fathers. Those who have walked with Jesus for many years and are mature in their faith.
“You know him who is from the beginning.”
The expressions in both verses are identical (except for the tenses of write).
I think John repeats this for emphasis. He wants the older believers to know and believe this.

There is something deep and rich and glorious about this simple statement. “Him who is from the beginning.”
I believe John is talking about the Lord who existed before the beginning of the world.

He is God Eternal. He is the Timeless One.
I memorized a verse 35 years ago, and the Spirit still encourages me with it today.
Psalm 90:2 NIV84 “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
Think of this. And think deeply. Before this world existed….the mountains, the hills, the rivers, the stars… before it all was here, God was. And after it’s all gone, God will be.
From eternity past to eternity future, the Lord is.

In Daniel 7, the Lord is called “The Ancient of Days.”
In Revelation, he is called the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.
And back to John, he is telling the older believers twice: You know this God who always has been.

We should tremble. We should be in awe. We should be amazed. We should run to him in our need. Who else knows all things?

One author said,
“Time hurries on, but in all generations they find a refuge in him who from everlasting to everlasting is God.”
To you who are older in the Lord, be amazed that you know him who is from the beginning.

THIRD, he addresses young men. Those who are in between. They’re not brand new to the faith, but they’re still younger than the pillars in the church.
John says two things to them:
1. You have overcome the evil one.
2. You are strong, the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
You believers in Jesus: your conflict with sin and the devil has become a conquest. Jesus Christ has won the war. The battle is still going on, but the victory at the end of the war is assured.

In World War II in Europe, in January 1945, the Allied armies were on the march in Europe. It was obvious to everyone that Germany was going down to defeat. The Allies still had 5 more months of battle. But the war would be over very soon.

In this spiritual war we are in, we in and of ourselves are nothing special. We have no power. Our power comes from him who died, who was raised to life, who ascended into heaven, and is coming back soon as the King of king and Lord of lords. And he will reign on the earth with absolute authority.

You are STRONG in Christ. Do not succumb to fear. Great is the Lord, and you are on his side.

Vs. 15-17
Now he changes subjects. He is talking about love and the world.
But he continues to contrast those who don’t know Jesus and those who do.

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.
17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world that he gave his Son.” God loves the people of this world. So is John not saying we should not love the people.

I think it’s obvious from the passage that John has something different in mind.
Instead of “the world” meaning all the people, he is thinking in terms of all the dark and evil ways of this world.
The world’s systems.
The world’s philosophies.
The world’s enticements.
The world’s viewpoints about marriage, sexuality, purpose, religion, hope, pleasure.
The fame, attention, money, entertainment, empty philosophies.
All these things the world espouses, but they are dark. Without light. They are lies. There is no good in them.
It is about such things that John says, “Don’t love them.”

Verse 16 gives three categories of what the world has to offer: desires of the flesh, desires of the eyes, and pride of life.
All the desires that come from our flesh… these sinful tendencies we are hardwired with.
All the desires that come from what we can see.
All the pride and boasting and arrogance—seeking fame, the praise of men, accolades in our careers, in our knowledge and strength, in our fortunes.

The sobering truth from John: If I love any of these things, I don’t have the love of the Father in me.

Why would we love the things of this world? Vs. 17 says the world is passing away. It’s dying. It’s like the Titanic: it’s sinking, so why would we get enraptured by all the pleasures on board?

The Lord wants us to have fulfilled desires and pleasures, but in his way and in his time. I love this verse:
Psalm 16:11 ESV You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
God longs to pour out riches in our souls. But we will not find it by loving the world and its ways.

Action Points

To wrap up, what should we take from this passage? And this entire letter?
Let’s go back to four points that John is addressing. I will leave you with these to consider this week.
Where do you fall? What needs do you have?

WARNING: Are you faking it? Are you saying you are a Christian, but you are really not? Deep down, you deny Jesus and you don’t obey him.

ASSURING: You know Jesus, but you are conflicted at times with doubts and unbelief. God may want you to find rest and peace in him. Be assured. You belong to him. Rejoice in that.

DISCERNING: Are you naïve about eternity, those who have eternal life and those who don’t?
Do you know how to tell?
Do you know who you should listen to and who you shouldn’t?

CALLING: John has some challenging words for us. Will we walk with Jesus? Abide in his word? Love like he loves? Love God and reject the world’s ways?