Summary: God is more concerned about where you aim, than where you land.
How many of you have ever watched someone do something really well and wished you could do it too? As followers of Christ, just like we sometimes fantasize about being great athletes or performers, sometimes we see what appears to be deeper levels of spiritual commitment and dedication in other people and we think, “Yeah I’d like to be that committed, but that will never be me.”
Last week I talked about how my goal for us individually and as a church this coming year is that we would experience “forward motion,” which I defined as experiencing spiritual growth in our own lives, and then seeing God use that growth to affect and influence the lives of other people. So what I want to look at today picks up from there and hopefully, gives us an encouraging grid and perspective through which we can better understand and make sense of how God sees our spiritual growth over time.
If you were here on the first Sunday of last year, you might remember that I gave this same message. I wasn’t planning on doing it again, but the same things that motivated me to do it last year kept nagging at me this time so I’m doing it again. So turn in your Bibles this morning to 1 John 2. The book of 1 John was written by the apostle John, one of the 12 disciples that accompanied Jesus during his three-year ministry, and one of the 11 that Jesus commissioned to carry his message to the world. John was known for his volatile temper and eventually ended up as the pastor of the church in Ephesus, in modern-day Turkey. Because Ephesus was a port city—a commercial center—it was also a cultural and religious melting pot and John’s church reflected that cultural and racial diversity as well. There were Jews who came into Christianity with a strong, sense of religious tradition and there those who came from the pagan mystery religions where the moral code was almost antithetical to the teachings of Christ. John had to work hard to communicate his message in language and terms that would make sense to people who struggled with a broad spectrum of challenges—just like we do—to experience God’s plan for their lives. What John is trying to accomplish in this passage, beginning with verse 3 of chapter 2 are several things I think are right in line with what God wants for us in our lives. The first is that…
True spirituality means knowing God and obeying God
Look at 1 John 2:3 where John writes,
3 And how can we be sure that we belong to him? By obeying his commandments.
That phrase “be sure” is from the Greek word gnosko. It’s a word that described one’s knowledge of something through exposure to both information and experience—meaning that you understand something not just because you know about it, but because you deal with it in some way. What it means here is that you can obey God without knowing him and you can also know God and not obey him. But true spirituality—an ongoing, life-changing relationship with God, can’t be experienced without both knowing and obeying. Jesus said,
“For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)
If someone claimed to be your friend, but knew nothing about you and rarely, if ever, spoke to you, or wasn’t interested in what you’re all about, would you consider that a meaningful or important relationship? No. Worshipping God in both Spirit and truth helps us to see how both knowing God and obeying God are interdependent components. God doesn’t want you trying to obey him without knowing him anymore than he wants you to know him but not obey him. However, what we’re going to see is that the one who knows God, but struggles to obey is heading the right direction more than the one who obeys God’s word, but has no relationship with God inwardly. And the way I want to help us understand this is by using the image of a dartboard to represent our spiritual journey and to see how…
God cares more about where your dart is aimed than where your dart lands
Look at 1 John 2:4-11 where John says in verse 4,
4 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.
This is a scripture that has been misused often to make people who struggle feel guilty and discouraged and to feel like giving up. But when you really understand what it meant as John wrote this to his church, I think you’ll begin seeing completely differently. That word obey is from the Greek verb tereo. Greek was the trade language in the middle East during this time, which is why the New Testament was written in Greek instead of Aramaic, which was language they actually spoke to each other.