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Faithlife

The Love Connection - 2

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THE LOVE CONNECTION

1 John 2:1-11

As the title of this series suggests, 1 John is a book of Assurances.

It tells us what God wants his people to know.

There are so many uncertainties in this life, so many things we don't know about the future, the past and, certainly, the present

Its good that John has specified the things that we can know about our relationship with God.

In the second chapter John tells us that what we know is connected to what we do.

In the time that he was writing this letter there was a heresy moving through the church called Gnosticism.

Gnosticism comes from the Greek word gnosis, which means knowledge.

One of the many dangers of Gnosticism is that it taught, in effect, that spirituality was a matter of what you know.

They taught that there was a separation between the physical world and the spiritual world.

 A relationship with God, they taught, is a spiritual relationship, and we can be connected to him spiritually regardless of what we do with our bodies.

They used this not only to justify sexual sin, but to ignore other foundational principles of the gospel as well, such as caring for the poor, the hungry, the widows and orphans.

John's letters were written, in part, to refute the teachings of the Gnostics.

That's why he makes it clear in chapter two that what we know is connected to (or, perhaps, proven by) what we do. He says...

(v. 3) We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.

Even today there are still those in the church who think that spirituality is more about doctrinal accuracy than it is about holy devotion to Jesus.

Doctrinal accuracy is important, so don't misunderstand me. But it is no replacement for obedience.

Jesus never said, "You will judged according to your knowledge of the facts."

He said, "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)

This is why James said, "You believe there is one God? Good! Even the demons believe that -- and shudder." (James 1:19)

This is the point that John is making in chapter.

John wants you to know, because God wants you to know, that as far as your spiritual life is concerned, religious talk is not good enough.

It’s not good enough just to come to church

It’s not good enough just to sing the worship songs

It’s not good enough just to listen to the message

It’s not good enough just to stay awake during the message

I could go on and on but you get the idea.

John says...

(v. 4) The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

Then he goes on to say...

(v. 5-6) This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

What does that mean, to walk as Jesus did?

John shows us in this chapter.

He's not talking about sinless perfection, and he's not saying that we have to be able to walk on water.

He's talking about imitating Christ - walking as Jesus walked - in the way we relate to others.

This is what he's building up to.

(v. 7) Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning...

(v. 9) Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in darkness.

He's condemning empty religious talk again.

Then he goes on to say...

(v. 10) Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.

Walking as Jesus walked begins with loving others.

We have tried to make Christianity more difficult than it really is.

We've made it about church membership,

or having a particular theological persuasion,

or being baptized a certain way with exactly the right words being spoken during the ceremony,

or using the correct vocabulary.

John makes the progression unmistakably clear:

We know that we know him if we obey him;

obeying him means that we walk as Jesus walked;

walking as Jesus walked means that we love others.

Three things happen when you start loving others.

First of all...

1.     You find yourself living a life that makes sense.

John says, (v. 10-11)

"Whoever loves his brother lives in the light...whoever hates his brother walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him."

When you love others, it's easy to find the purpose for your life.

Loving others gives you direction.

Love brings light into your life, as opposed to hatred, which brings darkness.

Have you ever known someone so full of hate, so set on revenge than he or she couldn't see straight?

I recently read the story of a man named Michael Zwick, who lives in a Chicago suburb.

His neighbor put up a new fence that Zwick decided he didn't like.

He had his reasons for not liking it, but the neighbor had not broken any kind of zoning regulation.

She did ask him, however, not to put his recycling bins on the public parkway in front of her house because they were killing the grass.

He continued to put his bins there, and began to blow leaves back onto her property, let weeds in his yard grow a foot high, and he aimed a fake security camera at her yard.

She had to buy new shades and draperies for her windows to regain her privacy.

The city finally ruled against Zwick, telling him not to put his recycling bins in front of his neighbor's home.

He defies the ordinance and continues to put them there.

He was given more than 10 citations, and paid over $1000 in fines—all over a fence and some recycling bins.

He didn't like the fence because it created a dark area behind his garage where he was afraid hoods might hang out.

For $50 he could have installed a motion detecting light. Instead, he threw away more than a thousand, and still refused to budge.

This is an extreme example, but do you see how hatred clouds your vision?

Do you see how it distorts your priorities?

Do you see how it brings darkness into your life?

I don't know if Mr. Zwick is a religious man, but I have known people in the church like him—people who seem religious because they speak the right jargon, but they don't really walk as Jesus walked.

John makes it clear:

if you don’t love your brother, you do not know God and you're living in darkness.

On the other hand, if you love your brother, your life is filled with light.

Think of Zwick again, and how much different his life would be if he had chosen to treat his neighbor with love instead of hate.

For one thing, he'd have more money.

For another, he and his neighbor possibly could have become friends.

For another, he could have spent a significant amount of time doing something worthwhile and productive — something to help others instead of tying up the court system.

Which of these two strategies do you think makes the most sense?

Another thing that happens when you start loving others...

2.  You begin to experience stability in your Christian walk.

(v. 10) Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.

Think about this: How much of our sin is the result of not loving others?

Greed. Rage. Deception. Sexual immorality.

These are the result of not loving others.

If you love others, you won't short-change them in business, you won't lash out in anger, you won't lie to them, you won't treat them like a sexual object.

When you begin to love others the way you should love others, sin loses its power in your life.

It also loses its appeal.

Here's why.

When you sin, you're thinking only of you.

Sin is the ultimate act of selfishness.

Not only does it drive a wedge between you and God, it drives a wedge between you and others.

Sin says, "What I want is more important than what you want.

What I want is more important than what you need.

What I want is more important than your feelings or your well-being.

That's because I'm the center of the universe; you're not."

That selfish attitude cannot co-exist with a genuine love for people.

Obviously. So when you start loving others, selfishness loses its grip in your life, and sin loses its power.

That's why Jesus said,

"Whoever loses his life for me will find it." (Matthew 16:25)

Peter wrote,

"Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love another deeply, from the heart." (1 Peter 1:22)

Loving others is foundational to a stable Christian walk.

You will never be consistent in living the Christian life until you learn to love others as God loves them.

As Karl Menningner said, "Love cures people—both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it."

This leads to the third thing that happens when you start loving others.

2.    You help others to experience a connection with God.

This verse can also be translated differently.

In the NIV it's translated "There is nothing in him to make him stumble."

It can also be translated, just as accurately, "There is nothing in him to make anyone stumble."

In other words, when you love others, you create stability in their lives as well, because your actions aren't knocking them down spiritually.

In his book The Twilight of Atheism, Oxford theologian Alister MacGrath said, "What propels people toward atheism is above all a sense of revulsion against the excesses and failures of organized religion."

There's a sense in which the world, better than the church, understands that the church's top priority is to love people.

When we battle it out over insignificant issues, when we define ourselves exclusively by what we're against, rather than the One we are for, they see through our façade.

And they're less than impressed.

The world doesn't want to hear about our faith unless they can see it, too.

There's an old poem that goes:

I'd rather see a sermon than hear one any day
I'd rather one would walk with me than merely show the way.
The eye's a better pupil and much sharper than the ear.
Fine counsel can confuse me, but example's always clear.
The lectures you deliver may be very wise and true,
But I'd rather get my lesson by observing what you do.
(Author Unknown)

Mario Cuomo made a great statement once.

He said, "I talk and talk and talk, and I haven't taught people in fifty years what my father taught by example in one week."

Talk is not enough.

The one who says, "I know him," but does not do what God commands is a liar...but...Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.

CONCLUSION

This series is about knowing what God wants you to know.

He wants you to know where you stand with him.

He wants you to be secure in knowing him.

In order to know this, you have to know something else:

People matter to God more than anything else in the world.

Jesus boiled Christianity down to it’s essence when he was asked by the religious leaders what the greatest commandment was…

Jesus said the Christian Life is simple…

You must love God and You must love people.

If you want to know God in a life-changing way, then you need to learn to love people the way he loves people.

What you know is connected to what you do.

We know that we have come to know him when we obey him; we obey him by walking as Jesus walked.

Walking as Jesus walked begins with loving others.

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