Hospital moving dirt around…
Over by where I live, a new hospital is being built. It’s been in the planning for quite some time. And it seemed to me that for the longest time, all they were doing was just moving dirt around. Nothing was actually being built. In fact, only recently within the last few months has any actual building structures begun to take shape. But most of the months upon months since the construction fences went up, all I’ve really seen them do is push dirt around from one spot to another. They appeared to be digging everything up, putting pipes and concrete and columns into the ground, and then covering it all back up again. They’ve spent the better part of a year only working on foundations.
Maybe for those of you in the engineering profession this would be pretty exciting stuff. But for someone like me all it looked like was lots of big trucks moving dirt and burying stuff. For all I could tell, they weren’t actually building anything at all. But now that I see the size of the hospital building as the steel beams go into place, I understand a little bit about just how important some very carefully placed foundations are essential to the building. It took a long time. And hopefully they didn’t take any shortcuts, but did the job right. Any building that’s going to stand properly for a lifetime must have carefully placed foundations.
As we are going to see from the Bible today, the same thing is true in our faith. To have a faith that stands properly for a lifetime must have carefully placed foundations.
If you have been with us for the past few months here at Horizon, we have worked our way through the letter of 1 John. And we just wrapped that up last week. Today we are moving on to take a look at the letter of 2 John. It is the shortest letter in the New Testament. The entire letter is just 13 verses. So, we can look at the entire letter of 2 John here in one message.
Before we read the letter, it might be helpful to have just a little background. Scholars pretty much all agree that the three letters of John are all in chronological order and are all connected. In other words, 2 John was written as a follow up to 1 John. The apostle John, who wrote these letters, very much seems to assume that his audience in this letter has all the background information of what he wrote earlier in 1 John. So, since we have spent a few months going through 1 John, we have the background information. When we read 2 John, it is assumed we have already read 1 John and have all that information already.
Light of truth | love one another
In case you haven’t been with us, here’s a quick 30 second refresher on 1 John? We saw themes such as walking in the light of truth, and avoiding darkness of false beliefs. We saw John’s instruction to love one another as God loves us. John is encouraging his church to stay unified together in love because there are those seeking to tear this church apart with teachings and beliefs that are twisted and self-serving and not in line with the true message of the gospel of Jesus.
Apparently, by the time we get to this second letter, the situation in John’s church is getting worse. Those who are leading these Christians astray continue to infiltrate the church and create division. We can almost read a tone of desperation in this letter as John gives some pretty stern instructions. Let’s take a look.
2 John (NIV)
2 John (NIV)
1 The elder,
To the lady chosen by God and to her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth—2 because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever:
3 Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.
4 It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. 5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.
7 I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 9 Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. 11 Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.
12 I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
13 The children of your sister, who is chosen by God, send their greetings.
In some of our recent messages from 1 John we touched on the teaching of Gnosticism that was invading the first century church. It is these gnostic beliefs that John is railing against here again. It was a group of traveling teachers who would come into one of these first century house-churches, gain their hospitality, and then spread their gnostic teachings that Jesus was never actually a human being in the flesh—that he only appeared human, but was actually a spiritual being.
John says to those in his church, “throw them out!” These teachers are the antichrist. They are invading the church with their message that sounds so good and so appealing, but denies the gospel. This is what is tearing the church apart in John’s day. This is why he uses such strong language. This is the background of what John is addressing in these letters.
Laying a foundation
Laying a foundation
So, what’s the strategy of his response? I think this is pretty important stuff for us today. Maybe we don’t face divisions in our churches because of things like Gnosticism anymore. However, our churches today most certainly do face divisions. That is certainly something that has never gone away. And let’s push it even one step further from the church. We don’t just live in a culture where Christians are divided. I think we all pretty obviously know that we live in a world where communities are bitterly divided by all kinds of things. And in times of shifting unrest, it is only natural for us to search for stability. We all need some kind of foundation to stand upon. We all need some place to throw an anchor and know it will hold fast.
Anchor, stability | GenX vs Millennials | shifting foundations
I’m in my 40’s. So, I am a part of what is known as Generation X—or Gen X. One of the popular hashtags of my generation is to label and identify everything that Millennials are killing. Entire industries are going out of business and being blamed on Millennials. For example, some are saying that Millennials are killing fabric softener. Meaning, Millennials are not buying fabric softener for their laundry the way that generations above them have done. But if you ask a Millennial, they would say that the world is changing and that there are some things that just need to go away—apparently, like fabric softener. They don’t need it, so they don’t buy it. Fabric softener is not foundational to their methods of doing the laundry. Millennials are cord cutters, meaning, they don’t subscribe to cable television packages. Millennials are killing cable and satellite TV. But they don’t need it. It’s not one of those staples of everyday necessities for the way they live like it has been for other generations.
For people in our world today, there is a shifting of what we are seeing as foundational necessities for the way we live. We all have foundations of different types in our lives. Maybe for some of us we have a secure foundation of a strong family. Many of us here do not see our families as a place of strong foundation. Others of us see our careers as a solid guarantee that provides a foundation for what we do. Then there are those here for whom a career has not been secure. Maybe some of us have life-long friends who have always been there through thick-and-thin. Others of us might have been betrayed by friends and don’t find a solid foundation in our relationships with others. Here’s the point. We’ve all had times when we have felt secure on foundations of some kind. And we have all had times when we have had to shift and search around for our footing when things that we thought were secure seemed to give way beneath us. We’ve had to search for foundations from time-to-time.
Back to basics of faith | command to walk in love
This is exactly what John is calling his church to do. He is calling them back to the foundation of their existence as a church community. He is reminding them of what it is that gives them such a secure place to stand together. He is urging them to be diligent in identifying those who seek to move them away from the foundations that hold them tightly. He’s not building a new foundation. He’s recreating something for them. He’s calling them back to the basics of their faith that have always been there from the beginning; that’s what he is saying in verse five.
And what is this foundation for the church which John sees as so important? A command to love. Continue from verse five into verse six. What is love? Follow God’s command. What is his command? Walk in love. This is foundational. The command to love others is what everything else is built upon. It is God’s love for this world which laid the foundation for what Jesus did at the cross. This is the foundation of all that we are as a church. It is this love that forms the command for us to follow. We have built everything upon this. And anything that we ever do as a church apart from this foundation is off the mark. Jesus summarized it when he was asked about the law. Love God and love neighbors. Everything hangs on that. Not some things. Not most things. EVERYTHING is built upon that command to walk in love.
First priority because God’s first priority
John’s church lost that. They lost the foundation of love, and it was tearing them apart. His remedy for a church that was barely holding itself together was a remedy to return its attention to the foundation upon which they stand. Get back to the basics. Get back on your foundation. Get back to walking in love. That is your first priority. In fact, that is your ONLY priority. Why is this our priority as a church? Because this is God’s priority. God made an ultimate priority of extending love to a lost and broken world. God made such a priority of this love that he was willing to sacrifice everything to see it through. Jesus gave his life because this priority of love for this world is so important to God. And that’s why this remains so important as our foundation yet today.
Building upon a foundation
Building upon a foundation
foundation needs a building | not an option
A foundation by itself is pretty useless. If all we ever do is lay a foundation, and nothing beyond that, then we don’t have much. Foundations are meant to be built upon. Something has to go up. If that worksite by my house just moved dirt around and poured columns, and then just left, it would still be pretty useless. There has to be a building as well. But here’s the thing. It’s pretty essential that the building take shape in a way that the foundation can securely hold it up.
Our call from God today is a reminder to be held secure upon a foundation of love. But this foundation needs something built upon it as well. Jesus did that. His life and sacrifice on the cross were actions built upon the foundation of walking in love. We have been called as a church—as disciples of Jesus—to build upon that foundation of love as well. John makes it pretty clear that this is not an option. It’s not something we get to choose to sit out. It’s not something we get to relegate off to others. It’s not something in which we get to say, “I did my time, now it’s someone else’s turn.” Each one of us receives this word from scripture today as our command.
So, what are you contributing to what is being built? What is your piece of this? How are you doing something that shows love for God and love for others as part of this church? This is an individual exercise for each one of us. What is being built up in your life that comes from a foundation of walking in love? It has to take shape. It has to show up somehow in this world.
What God does - those who need most - sacrifice
Let’s remember how it took shape for God. Our triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—could have been perfectly content to remain in their perfect triune love together for all eternity. But instead, our God bent his love down to a world which did not earn it or deserve it. Our God identified and targeted those who needed his love the most. And then our God sacrificed in order to bring that love down to us. God shows his grace in extending his love to those who need it the most. And God extends that grace in a way that costs him something—it comes at a sacrifice.
Now, it might be tempting to find an easy answer for us. I’m asking today, what are you doing to build upon the foundation of love? It might be an easy answer to let ourselves off the hook with answers like, “I try to be friendly and nice towards other people.” Maybe other people see what a good, well behaved person I am, they experience my niceness; and maybe this is the thing that I use to communicate love. I’m telling you right now, that’s wrong. You haven’t asked yourself the hard questions.
Q1 - Who in my world needs God’s love the most right now?
So, let’s do this today. Here’s the first question you need to answer right here and right now. Who in my world needs God’s love the most right now? Maybe a neighbor. Maybe a coworker. Maybe a distant family member. School just started up again, maybe there is a new student in your class who hasn’t made a lot of new friends yet. Who is it in your world who needs the love of God the most right now? You’re not allowed to skip this question. You’re not allowed a free pass. Remember, John is telling the church in scripture today that this is a command. It is not an option.
Q2 - What can you do to show love to someone who needs it most?
Then the next question. What can you do to show love to someone who needs it most? This is an act that asks for sacrifice. Remember, in order for Jesus to show his love to those who needed it the most, it required sacrifice. If your acts of love never come at a cost, then it’s time to ask if you are really building anything upon a foundation of love. The kind of love that God shows, the kind of love that God calls for his church, is the kind of love that comes at a cost. So, what can you do to show love to someone who needs it the most?
not foundation of guilt or coercion
Let me be careful here for a moment. I’m pressing pretty hard. It’s not my intention today that you feel guilted or coerced into this. Because that would lose the foundation. If our response to the command to love others only happens because we feel guilty if we don’t do it, then we’re not building upon a foundation of love. And without the foundation, whatever you build will not stand up long. Don’t lose sight of what the Bible is actually telling us today. All of this must be built upon a foundation of love in order for any of it to stand.
Wise & foolish builders
Jesus preached a very famous sermon that is recorded in the gospel of Matthew in chapters five, six, and seven. And he ends this teaching with a story.
Matthew 7:24–27 (NIV)
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Know this today. God has provided himself as the rock. He is our foundation. His grace and his love give us the stability this world so desperately needs. And his command for his church yet today is to build upon that foundation by walking in his love.