************ Sermon on 1 John 2:3-6 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 1, 2019
1 John 2:3-6
"Those Who Know Him Obey His Commands"
Remember what Jesus said? He said weeds grow alongside the wheat (Mt 13:25). He said wolves are among the flock (Mt 7:15). He said not everyone who says, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of the Father Who is in heaven (Mt 7:21). Do you hear what Jesus is saying? He is saying there are imposters in the church and kingdom. The church is loaded with great imposters. Or, another word we often use, the church is full of hypocrites.
Paul warned about these imposters in his farewell address to the Ephesian elders:
(Acts 20:29) I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.These wolves don't attack from the outside. No, they "will come in among you." How do they get away with this? How come they are allowed to get in? Because they look and sound like real Christians. But they are imposters. Some people get so good at deception that they fool everyone around them.
The church is full of imposters. Maybe you are one of them?! However, the purpose of this message is NOT to make you doubt your salvation or question your faith. That's what the Puritans loved to do -- make people feel they are not saved and not elect. The result was people who sank into deep despair. In contrast to this, the Bible tells us repeatedly that God gives His own assurance.
Still, though, there are imposters in the church. People who have been baptized, professed faith, attend worship, say prayers, and put money in the offering plate. American Evangelist, Billy Sunday, correctly said, "Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile."
Jesus and John, you know what they want us to do? They want us to examine ourselves. They want true Christians to make their calling and election sure (2 Pet 1:10). They want false Christians to be fearful. Examine yourself. Are you sure you are saved?
This brings me to the question, how do we know if anyone is a Christian? How do you know if you are a Christian? How do I know if I am a Christian? Throughout his letters John gives us three tests of true Christians: a doctrinal test, a moral test, and a relational test. The doctrinal test asks if you believe Jesus has come in the flesh -- that He was heard, seen, looked at or examined, touched? Do you believe He is the Word of life? Do you believe He is the fulfilment of God's plan for our salvation? The moral test has to do with sin and confession and obedience. The relational test concerns love for brothers and sisters in the Lord, how we treat one another.
Today, we look again at the moral test. Simply put, John says there is no assurance of salvation without sanctification. True Christians, says John, live a life of obedience and holiness.
We see three points about this test of being a Christian in our Bible reading: the test announced, the test applied, and the test modeled.
I The Test Announced
A The test of whether or not you are a Christian is announced in verse 3: "We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands" (2 Jn 2:3).
"We know." John loves the word "know." He uses it 33 times in his first letter. "We know." Not we hope. Not we think. Not we feel. Not we wish. "We know." It is a sure thing. The Greek points to a past action with continuing results. So we can say, "We continually know. We continue to know." We can be sure of salvation because of a past act. And what is the past action that lets us know? "If we obey his commands."
"We know." When we first started to look at this letter I told you that John was fighting the beginning of a heresy known as Gnosticism. The Greek word "gnosis" means "know." Gnosticism is all about knowing. Gnostics believed they had a true and elevated knowledge. It was a system of salvation by knowledge that they attained by reason, by their minds, by philosophy, by thinking about the world. Gnostics know. They know more and they know better than the common people. Theirs was transcendent knowledge. Now get this: in their system of philosophy the mind is everything and the body is nothing; what counts is what you think and not what you do. The result: theirs was a philosophy with no moral standards. What Paul says about the enemies of the Gospel applies to them:
(Titus 1:15-16) ... both their minds and their consciences are corrupted. (16) They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.The Gnostics know -- or claim to know -- but lived such wicked lives.
(Rom 1:22,24,29-32) Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools ... (24) Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another ... (29) They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, (30) slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; (31) they are senseless, faithless, ruthless. (32) Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
John tells us that knowledge, true knowledge of God, changes conduct. You can't claim to know God if it doesn't show up in the way you live. The only ones who really know God are those whose knowledge of God leads them to holy living. The only ones who really know God are those whose knowledge of God leads them to obedience.
B The people of Israel should have been an illustration of this principle -- that knowing God leads to obedience. Israel was distinct from all the peoples on earth in that they claimed to know and worship God. Yet, God continually judged them for their disobedience. God proved by His judgment that while they claimed to know Him, they didn't know Him at all. To know God, to know Christ, compels and propels one to obey the Law of God.
Over the years, different charges have been leveled against Trinity URC. One of the biggest ones is that we are legalistic. That's not what I see! You know what I see? I see a congregation of believers who love the Law of God. I see a congregation of believers who know God and their knowledge of God leads to obedience. I see a congregation of believers who have the Law of God written on their hearts. I see a congregation of believers whose obedience shows that their faith, their conversion, their salvation is real. Am I saying or boasting that we are perfect? Absolutely not! For like Paul in Romans 7, we often do what we don't want to do. Like Paul, we say, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Rom 7:24). But still, what we want to do is obey.
C "We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands" (2 Jn 2:3). "Obey." It means observant, watchful obedience. It means to guard the commandments -- guard because they are so precious and important. This is no mere lip service John is talking about. This is not marginal obedience. Those who obey want to avoid sin and they want to do what is right and good and holy.
The Greek points to continual action. It is not an on-again, off-again obedience. It is a continual obedience. It is a matter of lifestyle.
D "We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands" (2 Jn 2:3). "His commands." Whose commands? What are the commands John has in mind? In mind are not the laws of Moses that we find in the Old Testament. John is talking about the commands of Christ. I read some of them this morning in place of the Law. Jesus emphasized the importance of His commands in the Great Commission:
(Mt 28:19-20) Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.Notice, Jesus didn't say, "teach them to obey everything Moses commanded." No, "teach them to obey everything I have commanded."
So, how do you know you are a Christian? Those who are Christians are devoted to obeying Jesus. Those who are Christians are devoted to following Him. Those who are Christians pursue holy living. When Jesus is truly your Lord and Savior, you submit to His authority.
Let me mention something I have seen more and more during the years, something I witnessed again this past week. A father chose family over obedience to Christ. Behavior that no godly parent would ever engage in themselves becomes acceptable if it is done by their kids or grandkids.
Parents, grandparents, beware of selling out your principles for the sake of family. Beware of approving godless behavior done by family members. Those who are Christians pursue holy living even if it puts them into conflict with family or friends.
Realize, congregation, realize the biggest difference between believers and non-believers is that believers strive to be obedient to Christ. At all times. In all things. At all places. Not that any of us are ever perfect. Not that any of us can even be perfect. But yet this is what we aim for and strive for.
II The Test Applied
How do we know someone is a Christian? Obedience to Christ is how we know. John applies this principle in verses 4 & 5:
(1 Jn 2:4-5) The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (5) But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him:
These two verses both say the same thing. Verse 4 says it negatively. Verse 5 says it positively.
Verse 4: You can't say you have fellowship with Jesus if you walk in darkness (cf 1 Jn 1:6). If you walk in darkness, which means you don't keep His commandments, you are a liar and the worst kind of hypocrite. You claim a fellowship with Christ that does not exist. Your claim to know God has no basis. You are nothing but a liar. Strong language. But John wants us to know that to deceive ourselves and those around us about our walk with Jesus is despicable. John says there is no real fellowship with God on the part of those who walk in darkness. John says there is no knowledge of God where there is no desire to obey Christ. Simply said, a claim to know God without a life of obedience is nothing but a lie.
So John exposes the pretense of those who thought, who claimed, to reach a higher knowledge.
Verse 5: If a person keeps the Law, the Word of God, his love for God and Christ is shown to be real and genuine. It is the real thing. People who are in the Kingdom, people who truly love Jesus, people who truly are Christians, obey Jesus. "This is how we know we are in him" (1 Jn 2:5).
Born-again believers are in Christ. They are one with Him. In them you see the mind of Christ. In them you see the holiness of Christ.
III The Test Modeled
A This brings us to verse 6 and our third point. The test announced, the test applied, and now the test modeled:
(1 Jn 2:6) Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
John mentions those who claim to live in Jesus. Another translation uses the word abide: "Whoever claims to abide in him." They claim fellowship with Christ. To know Christ. To abide in Him. Like the branches of John 15, they draw their life from Christ. They are saying they are a true branch connected to the vine. That Jesus is the source of their life.
Again, the Greek emphasizes continuing action. Their claim is that they continue to live in Jesus. They abide in Jesus. They remain in Jesus. They continue to draw life and nourishment from Jesus. They continue to produce fruit in Jesus. Nothing superficial. Nothing temporary. Something permanent. They claim to continue in the faith. That they hold fast and do not let go. They claim, then, that they are not like the disciples of John 6 who turned back and no longer followed Him (Jn 6:66). They claim they are not like Judas who only pretended to be attached to Jesus the vine; his, as you know, was no life, no fruit; so he was cut off and thrown into the fire.
B If this is your claim, if you claim to be in Jesus, if you claim to get life from Jesus, then you "must walk as Jesus did" (1 Jn 2:6). Walk. What does that mean? Walk is a metaphor for living your life. If you are a Christian, a real Christian, you are going to live your life the way Jesus lived His life. You will be Christlike.
When we look at the life and ministry of Jesus, what stands out about Jesus' conduct? Listen to what Jesus Himself says about His life and ministry:
(Jn 6:38) For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.What stands out? Obedience. Obedience. Obedience. Jesus obeyed. Jesus obeyed the Father. That's the pattern He modeled. That's the pattern we need to follow. IF, IF, IF we know God.
(Jn 8:29) The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.
(Jn 14:31) but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
How do you know you are a Christian? Well, let me ask, is it the deepest desire of your heart to obey Jesus? Is it your desire to live the way He lived, to walk the way He walked? If your answer is YES then you are a Christian because Christians obey His commands.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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