1 John 2:7-11 October 16, 2016
Sermon Series on I John Sermon #5 Today’s Sermon: “The Test of Love”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
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. 8 Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. 2:9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.
I want you to think about the other Christians who are worshiping with you today in this building? Do you love them? Think about the believers in other churches you have been part of. Did you love them? Think about the followers of Jesus Christ who are not like you, in personality. Do you love them? Let me ask the question in a more encouraging way: “How have you seen Christ’s love for other Christians grow and deepen in your heart, over the last 5 or 10 years?”
The Apostle John gives us in his letter a number of tests, to distinguish the true believer in Christ from those who are merely nominal in their profession of faith, or who are false teachers.
Last Sunday, in 1 John 2:3-6, we saw the test of obedience as a mark of a true Christian. In the weeks to come, we’ll see the test of correct doctrine, as a mark of a real believer. But today John presents the test of love as the mark of a genuine disciple of Christ. Whether we love one another in the body of Christ, or we love ourselves and so hate other believers, is a strong test of whether we are walking in the light of Christ!
We might also say that John wants to give assurance and encouragement to those who know and show Christ’s love, and he wants to warn the disobedient and unloving. So in verses 7–11 he lays down the love commandment as the specific test of obedience. The test is virtually the same as 1 John 3:14, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren.” Love is the living evidence of the new birth and of eternal life.
I have four short points that I want you to see, but after we look at the first three points, we’re going to do something different, two short activities that will help you think about how you love others and also give us opportunity to cry out to the Lord for more of His love. Then I will conclude with my last point, to give encouragement and point to us Christ’s love.
- There’s nothing new about the command to love one another
John’s readers had this love commandment from the beginning, when they first heard the gospel. So why does the apostle remind them that in one sense, this is nothing new? Two possible reasons:
First, I think John stresses its “oldness” to distinguish his teaching from the new teachings of the false prophets. The group that had left the church were evidently dissatisfied with John’s old message. So he stressed that the new commandment of love was the same old commandment which they had heard from the beginning. It was part of his original presentation of the gospel, not some later adjustment.
Second, it may be that John wants to encourage his readers, in that he is not loading any new duty on the believers. He is not putting additional requirements on their shoulders. No, it’s the same commandment they received when they first heard the gospel. It was part of the foundational gospel message.
For John, and for you and me, the commandment to love each other belongs to what people should hear from the beginning, when they first hear the gospel! What people should hear when the gospel is preached is that Christ is Savior, Lord and Treasure, AND they should hear that God gives us new hearts, filled with His love, so that we are called to love one another, as his loves us!
This has implications for the horizontal dimension of or gospel message, and it means that the true gospel must challenge any racism, prejudice, and bitterness in our hearts.
2. There is something new about the command to love one another!
If you and I don’t understand how the commandment of love relates to the newness of the light that has come in Christ, then we will either become very discouraged by our failures to love, or we will become self-righteous Pharisees whose love is a sham. For this commandment is not one more rule to obey!
You see, though the command to love was clearly emphasized in the Old Covenant, there are new aspects about it in the New Covenant, in Christ. God gives us new hearts, full of His love, in Christ! He empowers us to be able to love the unlovely. In John 13:34 Christ commands his disciples: “Love one another as I have love you.” In John 17:26 Jesus says to His Father, “That the love you have for me may be in them.” In 1 John 4:12 we read that “If we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.”
Therefore, in the love of God the Father and Christ His Son, the depth and the quality of this love was newer and deeper, as we are to love one another as Christ loves us. The scope or range of this love was wider, as we are to love even our enemies! What an amazing love this is!
Is this true of you? Ask the Lord for more of His love, poured into your heart, through the Holy Spirit.
3. If you hate your brother then you are living in the darkness.
Verses 9–11 apply the test of the love commandment in two cases: a person who loves and a person who hates. Note that John doesn’t seem to recognize any middle ground. John would say, “If you don’t want to love, you are in the class with haters.” We don’t like that. We want to think of ourselves as more indifferent, or apathetic, but not as haters! We would rather think of our attitude towards certain Christians as neutral or detached. We want to be able to rate our love for others on a one to tem scale.
But these verses paint a stark contrast between love and hate. There is no neutrality, no middle ground. I think it boils down to the truth that we usually have a basic predisposition toward each person: either we see them in a positive, loving light, or we view them in a negative and critical light. Don’t you find this to be true in your heart? For example, what is your heart’s response to a person when they come into a room where you are? Are you favorably inclined toward them, or do you have negative feelings? And if we see people in a negative, critical framework, then we will walk down the path of hatred, and that hatred begins to distort our perspective. We become blind and we begin to stumble morally.
God tells us here, through John’s words, that Hatred of other Christians is the evidence of blindness to the light of God, while Love of others is the evidence that sight has been given to the blind. This is the miracle of the new birth. This is the true light that is already shining.
At this point in the sermon I want to turn you attention to the bulletin insert, and to the side that has “Ask God to Help You Examine Your Love for Others…” (See below) Take 4-5 minutes to silently and individually ask God to help you examine yourself with respect to the specific one another commands of Scripture. Note where God has helped you, and where you need more help!
Now please gather in small groups of 4-5 people, and spend 5 minutes in prayer: confessing, repenting, and asking for God’s forgiveness and love; praying for one another, etc.
Finally, we will corporately pray a Puritan prayer from the book The Valley of Vision, entitled Humility in Service, on the flip side of the bulletin insert, to confess our sins and to ask for God’s help. (See below)
Now let’s finish up with the sermon…
4. If you love your brother then you are living in the light, (as Christ, the true light, is now shining through you.)
John writes that the true light is already shining (v. 8) What does that mean? Well, God’s people in Old Testament looked forward to a day when God would shine the fullness of His light on the earth, and bring deliverance and victory and light. There would be no more sin and misery. All would be righteousness and joy in the light of God. And now John writes that this true light is already shining in the world! It’s as if John is saying, “I am writing a new commandment of love to you; and the reality of this love is coming true in Jesus and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” Or to put it another way: “Since the true light is already shining, the result is that the love commandment has come true in Christ and is coming true in you.”
The beam of light that shines out from God through Jesus and through us into the world is the beam of love. It’s like the brilliant and highly focused beam of light emanating from a tall lighthouse. One day this light will cover this earth like the water covers the sea. But for now it has already begun to shine in Jesus and in those who have responded to His call. To the degree that the gospel makes headway in the world and transforms people into those who love like Jesus, to that degree the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.
So Jesus is calling you to be the new light of the world. That light first came in Jesus. And now John commands that it come in the life of every believer.
Picture a brilliant sunrise at the shore. The day of light is going to dawn over the whole world. The first rays of that light are the love of God in Jesus Christ. The glorious kingdom of God peeked over the horizon, and one beam of light shot into the darkness—Jesus Christ. He formed redeemed sinners into his Beloved Bride and said, “You are the light of the world.” Or to put it in other words, he said, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
But remember this: when the new commandment of love becomes real in you, it is only because the true light of Jesus is already shining. So our love cannot earn God’s light; it is God’s light. Love becomes real in you because the true light of Christ is already shining—shining in you.
Love can’t earn the light of the kingdom. It is the light of the kingdom—already shining!
Our love can’t deserve God’s love. It is God’s love—being perfected in us! (4:12)
Finally, let us remember the real source and the true origin of all the love we have been talking about. Romans 5:8 tells us that God demonstrated His own love for us, in that while we were still sinner, Christ died for us. Hallelujah!
Ask God to Help You Examine Your Love for Others,
Through this Partial List of the One Another Commands.
Write down how the Lord is helping you lately to put any of these commands into practice,
and/or note areas where you want more of God’s love poured into your heart.
Accept (or Welcome) one another: “Accept (welcome) one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Rom. 15:7)
Admonish and teach one another: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…” (Col. 3:16)
Bear one another’s burdens: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2)
Bear with one another: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Eph. 4:2)
Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)
Encourage one another: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thess. 5:11)
Forgive one another: “…forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Eph. 4:32)
Honor one another: “Honor one another above yourselves.” (Rom. 12:10b)
Be Hospitable to one another: “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Pet. 4:9)
Be Kind to one another: Be kind and compassionate to one another…” (Eph. 4:32)
Love one another: “Love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)
Be of the Same Mind with one another: “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 15:5)
Serve one another: “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” (Gal. 5:13)
Spur one another on: “And let us consider how we may stir up one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Heb. 10:24)
Submit to one another: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph. 5:21)
The Valley of Vision
Humility in Service
I humble myself for abilities misused,
and words ill-advised;
I repent of my foolish and inconsiderate ways,
my broken resolutions,
my unfaithful service,
my backsliding steps,
and my vain thoughts.
O bury my sins in the ocean of Jesus’ blood
and let no evil result from my anxious temper,
my unseemly behavior,
and my provoking resentfulness.
If by my unkindness I have wounded or hurt another,
pour on them the balm of your heavenly consolation;
If I have turned coldly from need, misery, grief,
do not in your just anger forsake me;
If I have withheld relief from the poor and the hurting,
do not withhold your gracious bounty from me.
If I have shunned those who have offended me,
keep open the door of your heart to my need.
Fill me with an over-flowing ocean of compassion;
Make the reign of your love my motive,
the law of your love my rule.
O God of all grace, make me more thankful, more humble;
Inspire me with a deep sense of my unworthiness arising from
the depravity of my nature, my omitted duties,
and your commands which I have violated.
With all my calls to gratitude and joy, may I remember that I have reason for sorrow and humiliation;
O give me repentance unto life; cement my oneness with my blessed Lord,
that faith may adhere to Him more immovably,
that love may entwine itself round Him more tightly, and
that his Spirit may pervade every fiber of my being.
Then send me out to make Him known to others.