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Unless indicated otherwise scripture is quoted from the New Living Translation of the Bible.
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Have you ever taken a personality test?
These are instruments designed to give you an indication of how you are wired as a person.
A few years ago I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – which was a very enlightening experience.
I found out that I am an ENFJ.
The E in ENFJ tells me that I’m extraverted – but only slightly so.
The N says that I tend to perceive life intuitively – seeing possibilities, relationships, and the meanings of experiences rather than the immediate, real, and practical facts.
F says that I tend to make decisions on a feeling level instead of a thinking level.
I "subjectively and personally weigh values of choices and how they matter to others."
The J in my ENFJ says I live by judgment – (not judgmental but judgment) that is, in a "decisive, planned and orderly way."
I prefer planned events over spontaneous -- not that I dislike spontaneous. It’s just that I tend to enjoy a well planned party slightly more than a spontaneous get-together.
Now, I know that most of this psycho-babble is pretty meaningless to most of you – unless of course, you’ve done the Myers-Briggs type indicator. And if you ever get a chance to do that, it’s well worth it. You can actually do a mini test just to introduce the ideas at
I bring the whole thing up because taking this test was a helpful experience. It gave me a point of reference for looking at my life.
And this is exactly what St. John is doing in 1 John 2:3-11 – laying out a bit of an instrument to give us a point of reference for our lives – albeit on a significantly different level.
That is, John is giving us a test to help us see where we stand in relationship to God – who we are, what we’re like.
Myers-Briggs tells us about personality type. John tells us about fellowship type. Perhaps we could call this section John’s Fellowship Type Indicator.
You recall from our study these past few weeks that 1 John is a New Testament book that’s about fellowship – the glue that bonds us with God -- the God of light. And we need to relate to him as light, says John.
Well, how do we know if we’re doing that? How do we know if we’re relating to God as we should?
"Well, let me give you a little test here", says the apostle. "This is a test that will help you better understand where you stand with the God of light."
Now, I know that over the years people have come up with a lot of tests for knowing if you’re relating to God in the right way.
The false teachers that John is opposing – they were advocating an esoteric experience of religious enlightenment test. That was their litmus test.
If you’ve been enlightened in the right way, they were saying, it doesn’t matter what you do with your life or how you live. You could be Osama bin Laden or Adolf Hitler – and it wouldn’t matter because what you do
is irrelevant to true life.
What really matters is that you’ve had this enlightening religious experience. That experience was the test – the indicator for them.
These days there are many tests floating around.
One test that was pretty popular 50 years ago says that you know you’re in good with God if you don’t play cards, smoke, chew, or go with girls who do.
Another version of the test says that you know you’re in good with God if you vote for the PC candidate. If you’re in an oldline church the PC candidate is usually a democrat tottering on the edge of socialism.
But if you’re in an evangelical church the PC candidate is most likely a Republican with at least some resemblance to Rush Limbaugh.
Another indicator of modern spirituality is the Sincerity Test. (And this is a best-seller in our culture). What you believe or don’t believe doesn’t really matter.
The only thing that matters and truly indicates that you understand God is that you are sincere and accepting of everyone else who is sincere. Unless they sincerely don’t accept you.
There are lots of God tests floating around -- some of which are rooted in an element of truth. Others are just bogus to the core.
So John says, "I want to clear this up once and for all. Here are the things that really count when it comes to being in fellowship with God."
And John lays out three key indicators. We’re only going to touch on two this morning. The third one comes later on but here in 1 John 2:3-11 he spells out two tests by which you can know that you are in the light and in fellowship with God.
#1--THE TEST OF OBEDIENCE
SCENARIO: You’re in charge of two workers who are assigned to file reports in your office. You carefully explain the system and offer to help if they have any questions.
Worker #1 says he understands and that he appreciates how clearly and precisely you’ve explained the task.
However, when you turn your back and return to your own work he proceeds to file in a way that is completely opposite of the way you thought you had taught.
Worker #2 says that she thinks she can do it although she admits that she may make a few mistakes. "That’s okay" you say, "just follow the system and it will eventually workout."
After you leave she does exactly that. She files reports in the instructed manner. Yes, she makes a few mistakes but they are easily corrected because she is following instructions.
Which of these workers is in sync with the office and the reality of your company?
● Worker #1 who says he knows what he’s doing, loads you down with adulation but creatively ends up doing his own thing?
● Worker #2 who hesitantly moves forward, makes a few mistakes, but follows instructions?
The test of obedience.
What you say. How sincere you sound. How articulate you come across. How charming or religious you appear.
It’s all unimportant if you fail the basic test of obedience.
Look at verses 3 - 6: "And how can we be sure that we belong to him? By obeying his commandments. If someone says, "I belong to God," but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and does not live in the truth. But those who obey God’s word really do love him. That is the way to know whether or not we live in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Christ did."
How do we know that we have fellowship with God? We know because we are doing what he wants us to do --obedience.
Jesus said in John 14:15 – "If you love me, obey my commandments.”
John 14:24 – “Anyone who doesn’t love me will not do what I say.”
Now, this doesn’t mean that we gain access to God by obeying him. No, we obey him because we have fellowship with him. Obedience is an indicator.
Nor is this saying that our obedience is perfect. In verse 5 the apostle says that "those who obey God’s word really do love him. That is the way to know whether or not we live in him."
Some of your translations may render this as something like -- “...but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected...” (English Standard Version)
This doesn’t mean that the person is perfect or that his love for God is perfect -- rather that the love of God is perfect. It attains its goal. It fulfills its mission. It’s really happening.
When John says that we know him if we obey his commandments he is talking about that which characterizes our lives.
We can all find instances where we’ve been disobedient. John has already covered that ground in 1:10 -- “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
In 1:9 he talks about how Christians are to deal with the sin in their lives – “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.”
My old and dear friend John Calvin puts it this way:
"He does not mean that those who wholly satisfy the law keep his commandments (and no such instance can be found in the world), but that those who strive according to the capacity of human infirmity, to form their life in obedience to God."
Those, who in their frailty and inadequacy, are giving a serious shot at obeying the commandments – these are the ones whose lives are characterized by obedience.
This means that we take verse 6 seriously –– “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (ESV) – to render it very literally.
“Walk in the same way he walked.”
Walking is a metaphor for living – which is why the New Living Translation is so good here. “Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Christ did.”
And this is scary, when you think about it!
If you say that you have fellowship with God, well, you ought then to be living as Jesus lived! Perhaps dying as he died! As suggested by Jesus himself – “And you cannot be my disciple if you do not carry your own cross and follow me.” (Luke 14:27)
No, you will never be omnipotent, omnipresence, or omniscient. You will never be have the awesomeness of the divine. You can’t live like him in that way.
But that’s not what John is talking about. He’s talking about how you approach life -- with the same compassion, mercy, grace, justice.
He’s talking about extending yourself in sacrifice. He’s talking about the kind of love that you share. Which, of course, leads us right into the second test of fellowship.
The first test is the test of what ____________? And the second is the TEST OF LOVE. (#2)
In verse 3 John introduces the notion that we know God if we obey his commandments. Here in verses 7-11 he summarizes the commandments. And calls us to be serious about them.
Verse 7 – “Dear friends” or even more literally –"Beloved" –
By the way, have you noticed how John is modeling the very thing that he is teaching in the way that he approaches his readers? In verse 1, he addresses them as "My dear children." Here in verse 7 it is as "beloved" – “my dear friends.”
He’s not writing this stuff to increase his royalties or as an ego trip. He is writing because he deeply loves us and wants us to be encouraged. And he wants us to be walking on the right path.
“Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment, for it is an old one you have always had, right from the beginning. This commandment — to love one another — is the same message you heard before.”
“Yet it is also new. This commandment is true in Christ and is true among you, because the darkness is disappearing and the true light is already shining.”
John says, this commandment that I’m writing is very old but it’s also very new. You’ve heard it all before – it’s not new, in that sense. But you need to apply it new because you’re at a new point in time -- a time when the darkness is beginning to give way to the light.
Folks, you can’t say "I believe in loving my neighbor as myself -- I even acted in a loving way once -- I remember it well, it was a fall evening in 1978, I stopped and helped and old guy change a tire."
No – the obedience, the love, that John is talking about is always new. It’s always fresh. It’s always looking for a new channel of expression. That’s why he can say, "yet I am writing to you a new commandment..."
If your fellowship with God is indeed real. And if it is a part of his new age that is dawning -- the age of light – then it will be working itself out in an ongoing and genuine fashion.
Look at verse 9 -- “If anyone says, ‘I am living in the light...’" or "I am enlightened...."
John is using some of the stock phrases of his opponents here. Again, these people were saying that once you had taken their enlightenment course and gone through the ritual of enlightenment -- then you could do whatever you want to do. You could go about your own business, ignore the rest of the world, or you could nuke the world. It doesn’t matter because you are enlightened. You’re saved and you belong to the new age.
Well, sorry guys, this isn’t how it works, says John.
Verses 9-11 -- “If anyone says, "I am living in the light," but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. Anyone who loves other Christians is living in the light and does not cause anyone to stumble. Anyone who hates a Christian brother or sister is living and walking in darkness. Such a person is lost, having been blinded by the darkness.”
Claim what you will about spirituality or enlightenment or religiousness -- but if you’re not actively loving the brothers and sisters in Christ –
● listening to them as they share the burden of their problems --
● caring about them when their children become too much --
● creatively helping them carry some of the stress that they have from an uncertain future in their companies --
If these or similar things aren’t happening you aren’t enlightened – to the contrary -- you’re blind and stuck in the dark, says St. John.
But the good news is that whoever is busy loving his siblings in Christ --
● praying for them as they look for work --
● taking care of their sick children --
● lending an ear when someone needs to talk --
that person is passing the test demonstrating true fellowship with God.
How are you doing on John’s fellowship type indicator test? How are you doing with walking the talk? That’s what all of this is about isn’t it – WALKING THE TALK?
And this is the main point of the message -- Those in true fellowship with the God of light are those who walk the talk.
These are those who have their story straight. What they say and what they do are consistent.
How are you doing with the test of obedience and the test of love?
Some of you are testing out pretty well. Just like when I took the Myers-Briggs indicator -- It was like a light bulb went on -- O that’s why I do what I do. That’s why I like things done orderly. That’s why I’m inclined to consider relationships over hard facts. That’s the way God created me. IT’S MY PERSONALITY and this test helps me see who I am.
Some of you are looking at the fellowship tests of 1 John 2 and saying: "O that’s why I do what I do. This is why I’m more concerned about helping people in the church out than I am about making a good living.
"Some of the people in my family think I’m irresponsible and misdirected but it’s reassuring to know that it’s all really just a byproduct of my relationship with God. What a wonderful relief!"
Some of us, though, are really struggling because we’re not sure what the tests are telling us.
"Yes, there are some signs of love and obedience in my life but there are also some dark cancerous spots that are really bigger than I thought they were."
"I thought I was doing all right. Never missing church – or at least not much. And being decent and nice to the people around me -- but I’m not sure that I would say that my life is characterized by obedience and love. I’m not sure that I’m testing out so well."
You’re right to be worried. This is a life and death matter.
What should you do? Is there some kind of remedial class you should be taking? Or book you should be reading? Or what?
The answer is simple but not simplistic.
You must decide that you are going to walk with Christ and then just do it. If you choose to walk in the light, God in his grace and thru his Holy Spirit steps in and will lead you along the walkway.
Now, this doesn’t mean it will be easy to follow Christ. Often it’s not but if you continue to choose the light over the darkness you will eventually make it. However, it has to be an ongoing decision -- an ongoing choice. You have to want to walk in the light more than anything else in life. And if that desire isn’t there yet, pray that God would place it in your heart.
I know that this is risky -- but faith requires risk. And you may have some doubts about your ability to follow thru with your ongoing decision to walk the talk -- but you have to move forward anyway.
In a second we’re going to receive the offering – and at the same time we’ll be affirming our faith as we sing together. First of all, though, I want to read the words from the last part of the song.
"We love you Lord because you first loved us; We serve you Lord because you first served us. Our love proves true when we obey, and humbly serve each other each day.
"You loved us, you served us, you gave up your rights, And God exalted you to the highest heights! We love you, we serve you, we seek to obey, And pray for the grace to follow your way." (You First Loved Us by Cheryl Boydston. ©2002 Camino Merced Music.)
Take just a short time and ask the Lord if he might be speaking directly to you this morning -- if his Holy Spirit might be prompting your heart -- then listen.
God of light--flood our paths with the brightness of your presence. Illumine those things over which we trip and which become our excuses to slack off and move with less diligence.
Forgive us for the tendency to look for and to become enthralled with those things which belong to the darkness, and which we know should have no hold on us. We confess that they have a hold only because we allow them to -- and we do so contrary to your will and your guidance.
Slow us down and show us what to do so that we aren’t overrunning the light you shine for us. And by that light show us the forgiveness and the hope that belongs to us through the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. Show us again so that which is old might become new and grant us the grace to follow your way – to the glory of Christ. Amen.