Summary: In this sermon we notice that John gives his readers both assurance and a warning.
A. One day a group of 1st graders took a tour of a hospital.
1. The person who had guided them on the tour then opened it up for questions.
2. One little fellow asked, “How come the people who work here are always washing their hands?”
3. After the giggles had subsided, the tour-guide gave a wise answer: “They are always washing their hands for two reasons. First, because they love health; and second, because they hate germs.”
4. In more than one area of life love and hate go hand in hand.
B. Today we want to talk about the love that God hates.
1. So far in John’s little letter we have been reminded of the importance of love – the right kind of love - love for God and for others.
2. Today John is going to warn us that there is a wrong kind of love – a love that God hates.
3. And this is love for what the Bible calls “the world.”
C. We will get into what all of this means in just a minute, but before we do let me point out that as Christians we are in a battle.
1. Very soon after each of us becomes a Christian, we discover that the Christian life is not a playground, rather it is a battleground.
2. We are caught in the middle of the struggle of good and evil.
3. God through His Spirit is trying to influence us for good, and Satan and his cohorts are trying to influence us for evil.
4. We, however, have this tendency to want to straddle the fence, having one foot in God and the other in the world.
5. John is going to point out very clearly, that such a position is unacceptable.
6. There is no middle ground in his understanding – either you love God or you love the world. You cannot love both.
7. Jesus taught us that it is impossible to serve two masters (Mt. 6:24), and James said much the same things in James 4:4 when he said, “friendship with the world is hatred toward God.”
8. The famous preacher, Billy Sunday, used to make fun of the term “worldly Christian” – it is kind of an oxymoron. He used to say that talking about a worldly Christian makes about as much sense as talking about a heavenly devil.
D. So, as John tries to address these kinds of issues in today’s text, he is really doing two things: first, he gives some encouragement, and then he gives an exhortation.
I. A Word of Encouragement
A. The challenge that John faces in this section is how does a person put people on guard without making them feel altogether insecure.
1. In Chapter 2, verses 12-14 John attempts to assure those who remained in the congregation that they are in good standing with God.
2. He wants them to know that they have been properly taught, and were appropriately grounded in the genuine faith.
3. These were surely some of the charges being made against the church by those who had left.
4. So, John wrote, “I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. I 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 evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”
B. As we look at these words of encouragement, we notice that there is a wonderful symmetry here.
1. Each of the three groups (children, fathers, and young men) are addressed twice in the same order.
2. And what is said the second time repeats and reinforces what is said the first time.
C. There is some question as to the meaning of these titles.
1. Are we to understand these groups as literal age groups? (literal children, fathers, young men)
2. Are we to see them as symbolic of stages of maturity?
3. Or are we to see this simply as a literary device that actually refers to all the members equally?
4. In my opinion the designation of “children” stands for all the Christians to whom John is writing. “Fathers” refers to the older ones, both men and women, and “young men” refers to the young men and women in the faith community.
5. It was commonplace among early Christians to address the members of the church with family terms. (Using general categories)