Summary: What are those characteristics that mark a true follower of Jesus Christ? You may be surprised at the answer.
Well, the new twenty dollar bills have come out and I made sure when I went to the bank this week that I got a brand new one so I could look at it. As you may have heard on the news, the new twenty dollar bills come out and just a few days after they were out the counterfeits had already hit the street with color copies. But if you take out a new twenty dollar bill, it’s really very interesting. They have all kinds of anti-counterfeiting things on it. They’ve got colors. The number “twenty” down here is in a kind of a gold paint. They’ve got a blue eagle over here and if you hold it up to the light you can see another picture of Andrew Jackson over here. It’s called a watermark. Has anybody else seen these? Of course, there’s always the plastic strip that’s embedded up here in the corner or the whole width of the bill, so that a color copier can’t see that. So, if you have a twenty dollar bill and if someone gives you a new twenty dollar bill now you have a lot of ways to tell whether it’s good. You can hold it up to light and if it’s been a copy then you’ll see all kinds of things missing. The true bill has a lot of things on it that you can see.
I’m a fan of Antiques Road Show. Anybody else watch this program on Channel 8? It’s really pretty cool. It’s always hard. One of the hardest things about the Antiques Road Show is when the guy brings in his alleged antique and the evaluator uses that worst of all words, ’reproduction.’ He’s not talking about making babies. He’s saying, "This is a fake. It’s not the real thing." And the way they can tell is there are certain marks. Some people can bring in something that looks like a Tiffany lamp, but unless that little "T" is on there and a date and these different markings, it’s not real. So, there are ways to tell counterfeits and there are ways to tell what’s real and what’s true.
Now, in the first century church, as we have already seen in our brief study so far of 1 John, there were counterfeits. There were people running around who talked a good story, who said the right things, who said things that sounded awfully spiritual. John has already pointed out that there are tests that we can apply, not just to what people say but to what people do. And he goes on with that same idea here in chapter 2, starting in verse 3. He is holding the faith of these people up to the light to see if there are certain identifying marks in their lives that mark them out at a believer. Now this fact, these facts can cut two ways. One, if a person is all talk and no action he is identified, to his dismay, as someone who is out of relationship with God. He does not have, he is not part of that fellowship that John has been talking about since the very first verses - the close communion people with God and with each other, this close communion that has been brokered by the person of Jesus Christ. So, it can be discouraging in that way. But, it can also be tremendously encouraging as we look at our lives and say, "You know, I see these marks. I see that watermark. I see that plastic strip. I see that particular color. I see that particular grain," and find it very encouraging because you know that one of Satan’s favorite tactics is to cause us to question whether we indeed are in fellowship with God.
John’s going to give us some great identifying marks and the first one is this. A real relationship with God changes everything. A real relationship with God changes everything that really matters. It’s easy to look at this passage and say, "Okay, here are the things I need in order to have a relationship with God." But these are marks. These are characteristics, not conditions. These are characteristics that say if you are indeed in a right relationship with God, if He has brought you into His family, these are the things that are going to show up in your life. Look at verse 3, "We know we have come to know Him if we obey His commands." What it doesn’t say is, "If we obey His commands, then we will come to know Him." If that was the case, we would be into a works righteousness. We would be earning our way into God’s family instead of receiving it as a gift of grace and then manifesting the changes that are consistent with that grace at work in our lives.