************ Sermon on 1 John 2:7-11 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 29, 2019
1 John 2:7-11
"An Old Yet New Command"
There was a politician who filled assembly halls and churches with his inspirational speeches. He was dynamic. He had charisma. The man was a phenomenon. He was also a sexual predator who killed those who were a threat to his power.
There was a painter who achieved worldwide acclaim for his paintings while he was still alive. Millions were paid for his works of art at auctions. He wasn't a nice person -- domineering, demanding, temper tantrums.
An athlete trained and practiced the fundamentals of basketball. Over and over again. Multi-year multi-million dollar contracts were the result. He was not a team player. He hogged the ball, he never passed the ball, everything centered on himself. His team had the talent to win the championship but his selfish and self-centered attitude didn't get them past the first round.
A scientist worked his entire lifetime to find a cure for a crippling disease. When the man was almost sixty, he found the cure which had eluded him for so long. His story appeared in all the leading magazines. Soon an inoculation was developed; the disease he fought against was conquered. He received a medal of honor. He was so devoted to his task that he cared little for his wife, and his children never knew him.
A preacher who read the Bible very carefully decided to start his own church, convinced that all other preachers were dead wrong about doctrine. Often, right in the middle of the worship services, he would thunder against those who didn't believe exactly what he preached. Everywhere he looked he found enemies. All of them, he claimed, were children of Satan.
There was a church known for its deeds, its hard work, its perseverance in the faith. It didn't tolerate wickedness. It endured hardship. It did not grow weary in defending the faith. This church was orthodox, adhering faithfully to the historic Creeds and Confessions. It defended the faith of the fathers and admonished those churches and individuals who slipped from the truth. Sounds like the perfect church, doesn't it? But it left its first love.
The politician, painter, athlete, scientist, preacher, and church all were gifted with talent and power. All did great things. But all fell short, way short! Because all were without love.
As we have been going through John's letters, I've been telling you that John gives us tests, proofs, of being a Christian. There is the doctrinal test: the opening verses tell us true Christians confess Jesus came in the flesh; and, later in the book, we see true Christians also confess Jesus is God. There is the moral test: true Christians admit they are sinners and they strive to obey God. Today we look at the relational test: true Christians love one another.
In some ways love is the supreme test of the Christian. Keep in mind what is said in 1 Corinthians 13:
(1 Cor 13:1-3) If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (2) If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (3) If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
It is evident that John has love. He repeatedly uses terms of endearment for his audience: dear children, dear friends. John is the apostle of love. He is filled with tender affection for those around him. He wasn't always this way. Early in His ministry Jesus nicknamed John and James the "Sons of Thunder" (Mk 3:17). Do you know why? Because they wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy a whole village of people who didn't respond the way they thought they should to the Lord Jesus Christ. But, because of the grace of God in his life, John became a tender-hearted, loving, caring man.
I An Old Commandment
A We start with the old commandment John mentions in verse 7 of our Bible reading:
(1 Jn 2:7) Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard.
What is the old command? It is the command to love.
Why is it old? Because we find it early in the Old Testament, in Leviticus 19:18 -- "love your neighbor as yourself."
After reading from the Law this morning, I also read the summary of the Law in Matthew 22.
(Mt 22:37-40) "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' (38) This is the first and greatest commandment. (39) And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' (40) All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."Did you hear that? The Law and the Prophets hang on the command to love. The Old Testament hangs on the command to love.
"Love your neighbor as yourself." John's audience has heard this before. If they are Jewish, they have heard it their whole lives.
So John begins by stating the command to love is nothing new. It is not something he is inventing or pulling out of thin air. He is not writing something they have not heard before. It is the old, old command we find throughout the Old Testament.
B "Love your neighbor as yourself." Among Jews this is the old, old command. But among Greeks and Romans, among the philosophies and world-views of the Ancient World, it was non-existent. None of them had anything to do with morality. Men would write about the world and the realities of life and yet their lives were filled with immorality. By the way, this continues to this day -- philosophy without morality, world-view without love.
John approaches things very differently. He says if you are a Christian you don't live just any old way. You have been changed, you have been born-again, so you live a different kind of life -- a life of love.
C Not only is loving your neighbor part of the Law, but loving your neighbor also fulfills the Law. Listen to how Paul states this in Romans 13:
(Rom 13:9) The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself."The command to love covers every single human relationship.
"Honor your father and your mother." If you love them, you are patient with their failings, you give them time and attention, and you don't talk badly about them.
"You shall not murder." If you love someone you don't slander their name, you don't hold grudges, you don't refuse to forgive, and you don't do anything that harms your neighbor.
"You shall not commit adultery." If you love your spouse you are not going to sleep with someone else.
"You shall not steal." If you love your neighbor you are not going to steal from them, you are not going to defraud them, you are not going to take advantage of them.
"You shall not give false testimony." "You shall not covet." Those who love their neighbor do not do such things.
When I become a Christian, if I am a Christian, I follow the old, old command of love. Realize, dear friends, realize that to be a Christian requires a commitment on your part to love those around you -- starting with the people in your family and in your church family.
D "Love your neighbor as yourself." John proclaims this old, old command as part of the Gospel message. You don't and won't hear this in many churches today. Preachers talk about God's love for us, His grace and mercy, but don't tell people they need to love the people in their lives. The apostles didn't feel this way. John certainly didn't feel this way. The call to love is part of God's message since the beginning. To be part of God's covenant of grace means you love your brothers and sisters.
II A New Commandment
A John says in verse 7 the command to love is an old command. And then in verse 8 he seems to contradict this by saying it is a new command: "Yet I am writing you a new command." Huh?! What is going on? How can it be old and new at the same time?
Recognize that "new" needs to be understood in the right way. There is new in time -- like, we have a new baby; or, new charges have been laid against President Trump. And, there is new in quality, in essence, in character -- as in, you try a new recipe or read a new author. John is stating something fresh, something new in quality, something exciting -- even though it is the same old thing as mentioned by the Old Testament.
B So what is new? What is different? What makes it fresh and exciting? "Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him ..." (1 Jn 2:8). In Him? Who is Him? It is Jesus.
"Love your neighbor as yourself." Never has this command been so clearly seen and displayed as it is in Christ. No one, absolutely no one, loves their neighbor the way Christ does. Love for neighbor is perfectly seen in Christ.
Let's start with the foot-washing. Do you remember how John introduces this episode in the life of our Lord?
(Jn 13:1) Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.He took on the role of a servant, a lowly servant, the lowliest of servants. He showed them His love by washing their feet. Because people were barefoot or sandaled back then, feet had to be washed before eating. Let me remind you that people reclined -- not sat -- at the table with their feet sticking out behind them. You can't have dirty, stinky feet sticking out from the table. Someone has to wash them. Jesus got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, wrapped a towel around His waist, poured water into a basin, and began to wash His disciples' feet, drying them with the towel. That is love.
Not just then but during His whole life on earth Jesus showed love. And, this love reached its culmination on Good Friday. Why was He betrayed and hit and whipped? Because of love! Why did He go to the cross? Because of love! Why was He cursed by God? Because of love! Why did He suffer and die? Because of love!
Love. Love that is new in quality. Love that is perfect. Love that is beyond anything anyone else has ever shown. That is the love of Christ.
C I almost missed two very important words as I was studying for this message. Two words which explain how else John's command to love is a new command. The two words: "and you."
(1 Jn 2:8) Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you.
What does it mean to be born-again? What does it mean to be a new creation in Christ? What does it mean to be a Christian? The answer: This new love that is in Christ is also in you. In you. When you become a Christian the Holy Spirit parks Himself in your life, He takes up residence within you. And, what is the first listed fruit of the Spirit? Love. Love.
Understand this love correctly. It is not so much your love for God. It is not even your love for others. It is Christ's love in you. Christ's love that fills you. Christ's love that overflows. Overflows and spills onto others. Overflows, goes over the brim of your life, and is showered on others. Not your love. But Christ's love in you. Christ has deposited His love in you. A love whose breadth and length and height and depth is beyond measure.
This love is seen in Him AND YOU. I have seen this love, congregation. I have seen this love in the lives of the saints of Trinity URC. I have experienced this love. Many here have experienced this love. The love of the family of God. The love of Christ in you and me and everyone who believes. Wow. How glorious. How wonderful.
III Darkness and Light
A Love is an old command. In Christ it is a new command. And all of this is happening, says John, "because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining" (1 Jn 2:8).
We all know the darkness. The darkness of sin. The darkness of Satan. The darkness of hatred and murder and disrespect for parents and those in authority. The darkness of adultery and sexual perversions. The darkness of theft and slander and wrongfully desiring what belongs to another. This darkness is in us, around us in the world, and is personified in Satan.
We also know the light. It is Jesus. Remember what He said? "I am the light of the world" (Jn 8:12). How does the light come to expression? How do we know it is there? Love. Love in Christ. Love in you.
B Notice the tenses. Not, the darkness has passed; rather, it is passing. Not, the true light will come; rather, it is already shining. The darkness is still there. It will be there until the second coming of Christ. Yet, light is shining in the midst of darkness. The light overlaps the darkness. And, someday, the light will overcome the darkness. And the darkness will be no more.
There is darkness. And in the midst of darkness there is light. Which means that in the midst of darkness there is love. This new capacity for love, this fresh dimension of love, this experience of love. All because Christ has come.
What is the test for being a Christian? We can express the test negatively and positively. Negatively: if you hate, you live in darkness; if you hate, you don't live in the light and love of Christ. Positively: if you love, the love of Christ has filled you to overflowing and you live in the light.
Are you a Christian?
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