Summary: How do you know if you are a Christian? Well, John lays out three tests and one of them confronts our social lives. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves...and we have a great teacher.
We’re going to continue in our conversation this week looking at 1 John and more specifically, answering the question, “How do you know if you are a Christian?” Two week ago we started looking at how John answers this question and commented that in his letter, John puts out three tests or guides to help discern if in fact, you are a Christian or not. We looked at 1 John 2:1-6 during our last time together and labeled the first test or guide “The Moral Test.”
The moral test was summed up in verse 3 as John writes, “we can be sure we know him if we obey his commandments.” The way that we live our lives, the choices that we make should reflect Christ in our lives. This was not about following a bunch of annoying rules but instead about loving God and trusting that He has our best interests in mind. We compared this to a dating relationship where you are going to put in effort to please your boyfriend or girlfriend because you love them and you want to make them happy. Ultimately, when we make them happy, that is the time when we are most happy ourselves.
Tonight, we are going to move on to the second test that John lays out for answering the question, “How do you know if you are a Christian?” To help us start our conversation I have another movie clip for us to take a look at. This clip is from the Patriot and in it, one of the main characters, Gabriel, makes an announcement to enlist men in the South Carolina militia. However King George was the one who ordered the hanging of the men being memorialized, trying to set an example to the rest of the colonists and trying to get them to give up trying. Let’s see what happens.
***Play video clip***
Often people will make the comment that actions speak much louder than words. In this movie clip this comment is definitely true. The men in the church were men who had complained about the British control over America. They wanted the nation to fight for freedom so that America was a country of its own. They despised King George and didn’t want anything to do with him. But why, then, when it came down to it did these men resist signing up for the war? The war and the freedom it could accomplish was what they said they wanted! Their actions were communicating something very different than their words. Their actions were saying, “We don’t really care that much about freedom.”
As we saw with “The Moral Test” a couple of weeks ago, this issue of our actions speaking louder than our words can sometimes play into our relationship with God. This is precisely what John talks about in 1 John 2:7-11 where he introduces what we will call “The Social Test.” Let’s open our Bible’s there and take a look.
***Read 1 John 2:7-11***
As we read these verses, where do we see this idea that actions speak louder than words? We see it mainly in verse 9. “If anyone claims, ‘I am living in the light,’ but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness.” In other words, if anyone says I have a relationship with God, I am a Christian, but doesn’t love others then they are not really living like Jesus. What does John mean here when he writes brothers and sisters? John is specifically focusing on people who say they have a relationship with God.
Two questions then: First, does that mean that we don’t have to love people who aren’t Christians? Absolutely not. We looked at Christ’s command last week that stated, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This covers all people, not just Christians. So then, the second question we have to ask is why does John focus on Christian’s loving one another? I think John is trying to make a point about the way we treat one another in that we are supposed to be an example to people who don’t know Jesus. Today there are so many people who call themselves Christian but treat other Christians horribly and it makes people who don’t know Christ just ridicule and laugh at us. It is not a very good witness.
Lets go back to verses 7-8 and try to figure out together what it really means to love one another. John starts off verse 7 by saying he is not “writing a new commandment; rather it is an old one.” What does John mean when he says that? The command, to love one another, was not this new, crazy idea that John was suggesting. In fact, all the way back in the book of Leviticus, the third book of the Bible, is where this command shows up for the first time from God to His people. This idea of loving one another was around fifteen hundred years old, so in that sense, John it not talking about anything different.