Summary: Learning to Walk in the Light of God
Intro—As we come to 1 John 2 today, we are continuing our series on how we can learn to walk in the light of God, and John wants to tell us about another positive step we can take to make sure we actually are living in God’s will. In a nutshell, John says that we need to respect God’s authority and follow His orders if we want to live in the light. For most modern Americans, saved or unsaved, this is a pretty tough message to hear and digest.
If you think about it, for decades we have been steeped in a culture whose battle cry is “think for yourself and question authority!” (Timothy Leary). Don’t trust your parents, don’t trust the government, don’t trust your boss—don’t even trust your spouse. And the idea of trusting anyone enough to simply be obedient to what you are told is laughable. From the baby boomer generation down to preschoolers, our national motto seems to have become, “You’re not the boss of me!”
This has become a real problem for the church today—or let me put it this way; we have allowed it to become a real problem. Many churches are throwing up their hands and saying, “We can’t call on people to live under the authority of God and the Scriptures… they’ll leave and go somewhere else!” So the response to this perceived problem has been to try to make the church more “user-friendly”—My son recently tried attending a large “Baptist” church in Rochester, where he was basically told, “We don’t care what you believe or how you live, we just want you to come to church.” Commitment, accountability, doctrine and membership are passé; inclusiveness, diversity, open-mindedness and “seeker-friendliness” are “in.”
The problem with that approach is that it’s not God’s approach. We think this is a modern problem, but the reason John is finding it necessary to write about respecting God’s authority and following His orders all the way back in First John is because that’s exactly what people back then didn’t want to do either… their attitude was just like attitudes we see today—I will accept the gospel on my terms, and then I will live however I please.
So what is John’s answer? Seeker-friendly services? A jazz ensemble? Sermons delivered out of the Readers’ Digest instead of the Bible? No. John calls for authentic Christians to live as authentic Christians, not just out of a sense of responsibility, but because the benefits of walking in the light of obedience to God far outweigh the costs.
I. What are the benefits of walking in the light of obedience? First of all, John tells us that obeying God gives us peace about our relationship with Him. In verse 3, John tells us that, if we want to “know” that we know God, we’ll keep His commandments. There is more to the gospel, there is more to Christianity, there is more to having a relationship with Jesus Christ and with God the Father and the Holy Spirit than just mentally accepting Jesus as your Savior—If you really know God, you keep His commandments…not so that you will be saved, but because you are already saved and you want to please Him.
In Matthew 7:17, Jesus told His disciples that every good tree bears good fruit, and every bad tree bears bad fruit…then He said that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven—but he who does the will of the Father.
Think about that for a minute—Jesus says (and I am in Matthew 7, verses 21-23 now)—Jesus says some people are going to be really surprised that they don’t enter the kingdom of heaven—and Jesus is going to say, “you did what you wanted to do, in My name, but you didn’t do My will in My name…depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” If we want assurance and peace about our relationship with God, we find them by doing His commandments.
That doesn’t mean creating and following a list of dos and don’ts as the Pharisees did in John’s day, having rules and regulations for every imaginable circumstance of your life—It means studying the Scriptures to discern God’s will and then looking at your circumstances and applying God’s word to your life on a daily basis. If you’re asking, “how can I do that?” the answer is that God has sent His Holy Spirit into every believer—if we really have a relationship with God, the Holy Spirit will guide and direct us in our walk of obedience.
II. The second benefit of walking in the light of obedience is found in verse 5—The love of God is perfected in us if we keep His word. Now, what does John mean when he says the “love of God” is perfected in us? “Love of God” could mean our love for God—John could be saying that, when we do God’s commandments, we demonstrate the love we have said that we have for God, and so in actually living out our profession of faith, we show that our love for God is real.