Change Brings Change (2)
1 John • Sermon • Submitted
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Change Brings Change
Change Brings Change
When October arrives on our calendars we usually expect something to happen; there is a noticeable change in the weather. On the other end of the calendar we expect a change when the end of March, first of April comes along; we expect a change. When the calendar changes the weather changes. When a drastic event happens in someone’s life we expect to see a change in them; the death of a loved one or a marriage (have you ever wondered why we always lump those together; death and marriage?) or even the birth of a child in the family including grandkids. When those kinds of things happen there are changes in lives. Sometimes the changes are subtle and sometimes they are dramatic. Even if we don’t see the change in others there are still changes in the way they think or emotionally respond. I guess my point in all of this is that changes bring changes. It is almost like Newton’s third law of motion – for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Now that does not carry over exactly into the Spiritual conversation but the fact that action or change brings action or change is true.
Today we are going to look at and see that John lays out three tests by which you can know that you know God and a bit of encouragement. Let’s pray.
3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. 7 Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. 8 Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.9 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. 12I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. 13I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father. 14I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.
In verses 3-5 John gives us the first of the three tests to determine whether one really knows God. He makes the statement very clear in verse three before he goes on to make a few things more definitive. “Now by this we know that we know Him,” John is clearly pointing out the first “question” to the test: “If the train leaves the station in Detroit going 35 mile an hour…” No, he doesn’t really ask a question but he makes the statement that this is how you know that you know; if we keep His commandments. Jesus had said in “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” And in He told the Pharisees that were harassing Him that if they were His disciples they would keep His commandments. If you love Him and if you are His disciple then you obviously know Him. John goes on in verse 4 to say: “He who says he knows Him”. We need to realize that anyone can make that claim. The most pious adherent to the person of God and things of God can say that and the person who knows nothing of God can say that. We will see this again with the other two tests of knowing God. Verses 4-5a 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. If you say you know God and you really do not then you will not keep His commandments and you are nothing more than a liar and the truth of God, the truth that God saves His people, the truth that God is light and in Him is no darkness, the truth that Jesus cleanses His people of all sin is not in you. But if you say you know Him and your life is marked by the fact that you keep His commandments, His word, then you do in fact know Him. And when that is the case what shines the brightest is the love of God that is perfected in you.
Let me stop here for just a moment and comment on the commandments, the word of God, the Law of God. We often look at the Law as being restrictive, it is limiting and it holds us back from enjoying fully the things that make us happy; it is simply God telling us what to do and what not to do. That is the default condition of man to think that way. When we come to a wall we think the wall is there to stop us but it could be there to protect us. The truth about God’s Law is this: God’s law is rooted in God’s love. Look back to the garden and the fall of man. God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil not as a restriction based on Him being God but it was because He knew His creatures and knew that the moment they knew good and evil they would choose the evil over the good. Look at what they did, they hid from God, they blamed someone else, Adam blamed his wife and God, then Cain killed his brother out of anger and blamed God for his misfortune. And from there it went downhill. We could go further in the history of redemption but I think we can see that the Law of God is rooted in the Love of God and when we know God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) then that love is made complete, whole, perfect in us. We not only love God and one another but we learn to love those outside of our fellowship.
The bottom line of these three verses (3-5a) is that if you know God then you are changed. The love that He has loved you with is perfected in you in such a way that you now long to keep His commands. However if you do not know Him, yet say that you do, you are no more than a liar. Let that sink in as we move on.
Let’s look at verses 5b-7. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. 7 Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. The last part of verse 5 introduces the second test of knowing that you know God. “He who says”…as we noted before anyone can say anything. If you say you abide in Him then the results would be that you would live as He lived; walk as He walked. Jesus had quite a bit to say about abiding in Him and what it produces. You can read about it in but let me just give you an overview of the fruit that is produced when we abide in Christ. We are made clean, justified by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ making us able and desirous of producing fruit. We who abide in Him continue in Him and are never cast out. When we abide in Him His words abide in us and His desires become our desires so that whatever we ask of God are already His desires. And when we abide in Him this fruit He bears in us glorifies God. God being glorified is fruit. If we indeed abide in Him then we will do what He did. And what did He say that He did? He kept His Father’s commands. If we abide in Him then we will live morally clean, pure, lives. We will walk as He walked, pleasing the Father.
John goes on to say in verse 7 that this is not a new commandment, it is what you heard when you first heard the gospel. Repent and believe, walk in a newness of life as Paul says. John is not giving them a new burden to carry, in fact he is simply reminding them of the old, old story; God saves His people and He changes them by having fellowship with them because they abide in Him. The message that those who abide in Christ will walk as He walked is nothing new to the first readers of John’s letter nor is it new to us. If you abide in Him you will walk as He walked.
Let’s look at verses 8-11. 8 Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.9 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. There is a little bit of a difficulty between verses 7 and 8 based on the fact that John says he isn’t writing a new commandment in verse 7 and then says that he writes a new commandment in verse 8. I believe part of this is strictly literary. It is just a way of moving from one subject to another. I am going to attempt to paraphrase verses 7 and 8 for us to see what I think that John is trying to make clear. Let me be clear that I am not adding to or taking away from Scripture, I am simply trying to explain something that on the surface is difficult. The following is my paraphrase: “I am not telling you anything new in telling you that you are to live holy lies as Jesus did; walk as He walked. You already knew that. But I am telling you something new when I tell you to walk in the light as He is in the light (). You are in the light because He is in the light. The darkness is passing away because authentic, real, genuine, true light has come into the world and is shining brightly.” That is the end of my paraphrase and I think we can see the reason John used the old commandment and the new commandment when we look at it in that way. John told us in his gospel, In Him was life and the life was the light of men. And the light shines into the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. John goes on in verse 9 to say that if you say you are in the light (anyone can say that) and yet you hate your brother then you are still in the dark. John talked about this in His gospel as well: 19And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. You can say whatever you want but if you hate your brother you are still in darkness because your deeds are evil. But if you love your brother then you are in the light and there is no reason in you for stumbling. That last phrase “in him there is no cause for stumbling” can be taken two different ways. Either there is nothing in you that causes you to stumble or that there is nothing in you that causes another to stumble. Since you walk in the light and because of that you love your brother therefore no one is going to stumble because of your love. You are not going to trip up in loving your brother and you will not trip anyone else up in loving your brother.
In verse 11 John hits that “hate your brother” concept again. I don’t know why he did so but it is interesting and we shouldn’t miss that he makes a clear connection that if you hate your brother your life style is one that exhibits the descriptors we talked about last week of darkness; Sin, ignorance and rejection of God, death, bad or evil behavior, secrecy or deceptiveness, falsehood or lies, the kingdom of Satan or the world. And the thing is you are blind to the fact that you are in darkness because the darkness blinds you. I am going to say this and it might cause you some discomfort but the truth is a lost person, someone who walks in darkness, does not know they are lost and they are completely content staying that way. This whole concept of hating your brother and walking in darkness is much more important than you may think it is. If you look down on someone, in essence hating them, because they are different than you, whether that is racially different, ethnically different, politically different or my favorite regionally different, and you do not struggle against that sin, and yes we will call it what it is, sin, then John says that you are walking in darkness and that darkness has blinded your eyes. And we know that if you are walking in darkness you are not walking in the light as He is in the light. You are in darkness until now.
Let’s run through verses 12-14 very quickly. 12I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. 13I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father. 14I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. There has been much written concerning who it is that John is talking to; is there three groups, two groups or is he talking to all of the people he is writing to. I will tell you what I think and you can come to whatever conclusion you desire. I believe John is addressing one group, everyone who read this letter. Whether you are a child, an old person or a young person, whether you are a baby in the faith, a new but growing believer or one of the fathers or leaders of the church John is speaking to you. But I think that what John is doing or saying in these verses is much more important than who he is saying it to. John had written or published for their consumption three tests or means by which they could test whether they know that they know Him (God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit). The tests can be somewhat harsh as we just saw but he wants these people to know that he knows them and that he knows from their lives that their sins are forgiven for His (God’s) sake, they know Him who is from the beginning, they have overcome the wicked one and they know the Father and that they are strong because the word of God abides in them. John is basically saying; I know you and you have passed the test. The last thing John wants to do is leave these people feeling defeated because they may have fallen, sinned from time to time. He wants them to know that they walk in the light as He is in the light.
Let me take us back to the beginning. If something happens in our lives it changes us. Change brings changes just like the calendar and the seasons. Therefore since your sins are forgiven, since you know Him who is from the beginning, since you have overcome the wicked one because you know the Father and since you are strong and the word of God abides in you, you can know that you know Him. Because you know Him you can keep His commandments and you want to keep His commandments. Because you know Him you will walk as He walked with a life that exhibits a desire for purity, holiness and obedience. Because you know Him you will walk in the light loving your brother causing no one, including yourself to stumble away from God.
But if you do not keep His commandments and if you do not walk as He walked and if you do not love your brother then you can also know that you do not know Him and you walk in darkness and that darkness has blinded you. Let’s pray.
 The New King James Version. (1982). (). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 The New King James Version. (1982). (). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.