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1 John, Part 3

06.23.19 Nathaniel Wall

  1. 1 John, Part 6
    07.14.19 40m 56s
  2. 1 John, Part 5
    07.07.19 43m 06s
  3. 1 John, Part 4
    06.30.19 43m 50s
  4. 1 John, Part 3
    06.23.19 40m 15s
  5. 1 John, Part 2
    06.16.19 40m 44s
  6. 1 John Introduction
    06.09.19 41m 46s

1 John, Part 3

06.23.19 Nathaniel Wall 1 John Series

We’re going to jump in the of 1 John and I want to start off in chapter one, because I think, just back up just a little bit so you remember the foundation of where we were as we dive into chapter two together. We’re not going to go all the through chapter two, we’re going to look at the first 10 verses of chapter two this morning.

But, if you remember 1 John, John is writing this end of his life, I mean, he is probably close to approaching 100 years old. He’s maybe early 90’s, into a 100 years old. And he’s writing this letter to the church. And John, at this point of his life, there is nothing John wants from you. But there is something John desires for you. And I think he’s sharing this book, recognizing, you know, the church has battles. We always have battles. And he’s looking at the battle before the people in front of him and he realizes what he desires for the life of God’s people is clarity on who the Lord is and walking in light of that.

And we’re going to talk about that as we dive later into chapter two and three, just the identity of Jesus and the truth of which we stand for as believers, but what John says to us in 1 John 1:4, he says, “I’m writing to you that your joy may be complete.” John desires not just to see you in the Lord, but to really find your life satisfied in all that he is.

And then he begins to describe this conflict for us as you get to verse six and seven. He says to us, remember he described God, we talked about last week, as light. And then he begins to describe what this journey is with this God who is light. He says, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

What you see here is a God that desires a relationship. And I love the terminology he uses to describe that relationship. He talks about it as a journey or a walk. I think that’s a beautiful description of our relationship with God. I think sometimes you see Christians, when they first come to the Lord, they start off with this passion like they’re more in the 100 meter dash rather than thinking about this as a journey where God wants to meet with you every day. And you just kind of burn fast, but eventually you start to burn out because you’re burning the fuel too quickly. But the way that John chooses to describes this, he’s like, “Man, I’ve been through this, I’m a 100 years old. I know what it means to walk with God through the good and the bad. But what this is more than anything, it is a walk. It is a journey of which we are on.”

And he describes in this conflict that we’re seeing, he talks about the fellowship with the darkness or the fellowship with the light. And we want to walk in the light as he is in the light. And he knows that we’re not going to be perfect on this journey. But he wants us to enjoy the journey with God, and the thing that battles with our journey with God is sin. How do you avoid sin, or how do you keep from sinning, right? I mean, that’s an important question. And I want us to know, in a religious mindset, the way that we would think about not sinning, is to not sin, right? But the problem with that is, if in your mind you think, “Okay, I’m sinning when I do this, I’m just going to not do this.” And that becomes your goal, what you’re going to do is end up filling the void in your life with something else that’s just as sinful.

John’s answer to avoiding sin in our life isn’t to stop sinning, it’s to walk with Jesus. I heard a young guy ask an older believer once, “How do you not sin?” And the older believer was taken back, but I don’t know that they really had thought about it much in life, but he says, “You know, I don’t really worry about that much. I just really want to walk with Jesus.” That is the answer. If you want to avoid sin, it’s not really the goal about avoiding sin, it’s about walking with Jesus. Because when you’re in the light and your life is about the light, the darkness diminishes.

Finding your joy in that relationship, John is interested in these moments for a follower of Christ, a disciple in Jesus, to go on this journey with God. So, if you’re at that place where you say, “You know, I want that journey with the Lord,” well, the beginning of chapter two starts off for us in explaining what this looks like. This God that desires this relationship with you.

In chapter two, verse one, love the way John says this, because if you remember last week, we started in chapter one and I said one of the things that I’ve struggled with in my life and trying to answer in chapter one, and I told you if you come up with an answer that’s better than mine, please come tell me. But one of the things I’ve struggled with in chapter one, as I’ve read John, is like, is John writing to Christians or not? Because when you read the epistles, I mean, the epistles in scripture are written to believers, but what I think John’s doing in chapter one, he’s starting off with a group of people that could be confused. And he’s saying, “Look, there’s light and there’s darkness, and clarity of who Jesus is matters. And we’re not going to be perfect, but God wants you to walk in the light. Now, is this you? Is this where you are?”

And then I think in chapter two, verse one, he finally starts to address the believers that are like, “Okay, this is what I want to do. I want to go on this journey. I want this walk to be a part of my life.” And so, chapter two, verse one, love what he says here. It starts off, the idea of discipleship being rooted in identity. The followers of Christ rooted in identity.

He says, “My little children.” Now, I think when John’s using this title, he’s referring to his position over the church that he is navigating through these difficult times. But I think he’s only using this title because he understands the greater identity for which we have in Jesus. We’re all a part of the family. If you’re in Christ, you’re a part of the family. In fact, the book John, chapter one, verse 12, which John also wrote, he refers to us as those who have put their faith in Christ are a part of the family. It says, “As many as received him, to them he gave the right to become the children of God.” It’s not to assume that everyone belongs to the Lord. It’s not to assume that everyone is a child of God. But he says this way, the caveat, “As many as received them, to them he gave the right to become the children of God.”

And so, if you’re coming to 1 John 2, you’re like, “Okay, I want to walk in the light, I want this journey to be my life.” John then starts on the idea of identity. And this is so important in anything that you do in life, right? I mean, when you go into a job, your job in your company, the bigger the company the more fine tuned your position is, right? If you’re the only one in your company, you wear every hat and do it all. Right? But understanding your title defines what it is that you’re supposed to do. The same is true with those that belong to Jesus. The most popular term that we use in referencing ourselves is Christian. But can I tell you, probably the least used term in the New Testament to refer to you is Christian. Three times it’s used in scripture, one time it’s bad.

The more popular terms used to describe you in scripture? Disciple, follower, ambassador, priests, a royal priest at that, child, bride. That identity helps communicate the purpose for which you have been created in Christ. That identity matters and when you begin to understand that identity in Jesus, what we see as believers is we work from our identity, not for it. Everything that we have is not because of us, everything that we have is because of Jesus. The grace of God being made known in our lives. And that becomes paramount in the Christian faith, because what that creates for us is not this religion that wears us out, but a place of rest in our identity in him, so we can live it in joy.

Religion serves God to be loved. Christians serve God because we are loved. Religion serves God to feel important. Christians serve God because we are important. Religion serves God to find acceptance. Christians serve because you have acceptance in Jesus. Religion serves because God needs us. Christians serve because God wants us. Religious people serve so they can look good to God. Christians serve because God is good.

My little children, what you see in chapter one is this God that cares. Light coming into the darkness for you. And he says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Not this place of penance, but this place of honesty before him, which he embraces us. God desires that relationship with you. Never ending love, I love the way my kids’ children’s Bible talks about never ending, always moving forward love, unconditional love for us.

I remember one of my kids, early on, when they got in trouble, I remember the disappointment and the failure they felt like they had and me talking about it with them. And then I just gave this caveat at the end, I just said, “I want you to know despite all of this, I’m never going to stop loving you.” And I remember the first time those eyes looked up at me and locked and the question, “Really, dad? Really? This doesn’t affect my relationship with you?” No, I’m not going to stop loving you. Nothing’s ever going to change that.

That’s what this title represents. God knows when we begin this journey, it’s not perfect. In fact, what you see after this is that description of the identity of God wrapped around his children that no children are perfect. I mean, look at this. He says, “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” Look, we don’t want to sin, we’re not walking out of here like, “I just want to sin!” Right? This was actually a battle in John’s day when people were like spiritual is godly, the physical God doesn’t care about. It’s evil, so we can do whatever we want, right?

So he says, “I’m writing these things to you, disciples, followers of Christ on this walk, so that you may not sin. But, if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

This verse in scripture describes for us two places on the identity of God. So, you think about what we’ve seen about God in these first couple of chapters, right? God is light. We talked about that last week. This pure, this is powerful, this idea of holiness comes out of the form of light. That’s important to understand. And at the same time, we see this God who is forgiving and gracious.

And he uses these terms of advocate and propitiation. What does that mean? Well, an advocate starts to create the idea of a courtroom. God is the judge, Satan is the accuser, you’re on trial, you’re guilty, and Jesus is your defender. And when he makes his defense for you as an advocate, how does it describe it? Then he goes and says he is the propitiation. Meaning everyone knows you are guilty, but in the guilt of our sin before a holy God, Jesus, propitiation means he satisfies the wrath of God and turns it to favor for you. Why? How? Because of the exchange of his own life, he sacrifices himself in your place, so that when God looks at you, he sees the righteousness of Christ in your life. Jesus’ payment is sufficient.

And some of us live haunted by things in our past. And some of our favorite words that can be communicated about the identity of God is both advocate and propitiation. So, when you think about this picture that John’s created about God, this is an incredible picture of God because this gives us security as believers. You need both of these pictures of God, the light of God and the gracious forgiveness of God and his advocacy and propitiation for you. Because if you don’t have the holy, pure, great powerful God, no matter how loving you see him, when it comes to sin that comes against you in life, this God doesn’t have the authority to do anything about it. He’s a wimp.

So, it’s the light of God, his holiness, that wrath against sin that brings the goodness of God, makes the goodness of God known in our lives. It is humbling, but it is important. Because when it’s matched with the grace of God in your life, and that grace of God is made known, and his propitiation is poured out over you, Jesus, that holiness of God doesn’t come against you. But rather fights for you.

And the beauty of that God is one in which we can rest secure. Because when it comes to his identity, or let me say it this way, our identity, our identity is only as secure as his identity. The goodness of who he is. That’s why verses like Malachi 3:6, “I am the Lord, I change not,” becomes important to us. Because it’s on the authority of his position that he has granted our position. And understand the magnitude of what this God before us becomes the very place that when we take a stand in our identity, that it has any foundation at all to rest in.

And so, when it comes to the idea of being a disciple, a disciple is all about identity and that identity is wrapped up in the truth of who God is. Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” That is crucial to the foundation of our lives. And resting in the security of what that is.

And so, as John communicates this to us, the identity for us as it’s wrapped in the identity of Jesus, in what he has done for us as our advocate and propitiation, he then talks about not only living in that identity as a disciple, but now living out that identity in our lives. So, when you think about discipleship, discipleship in this point of living it out, it starts on this platform of intimacy and builds.

He says this, “And by this, we know that we have come to know him if we keep his commandments.” This word “know” is more than intellectual exercise. In John’s day, remember we talked about gnosticism, a religious teaching that was growing at this time. Gnostics believed the more knowledge they became, the more spiritual they became. Gnosticism is secret knowledge, that was what they taught. You just learn more and if you know more, you became more spiritual. So, it was all about just the training of the mind. And they separated the spiritual from the physical, and they wanted to pursue this secret knowledge. And it didn’t matter how they lived their lives.

And so, what John is saying in this is if you know him, not just intellectually, but personally. Look at this next verse, he says if you know him, if you keep his commandments, whoever says, “I know him, but does not keep his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him.” Knowing him should reflect in our lives, because when we personally know him we begin to care about the things that he cares about.

It’s like this, if you want to know what you’re like, just show me who your friends are. You sort of become like the people you hang with, right? You have the same enjoyments, the same pleasures in life. And it’s saying the same thing about the Lord, that when you really connect with God and when you grab the heart of God and you know that, you know what he’s about and you know him, you can’t help but care about the same things that he cares about. And you walk in the way that he walks, which are his commandments. We’ll talk a little bit about that in just a moment. But that’s what we pursue, what Jesus cares about. When you know him, you know the things about him, and you love the things that loves.

So this idea of knowing is more than just this intellectual exercise, spirituality is not determined by how well you can pass Bible trivia tests. I’m glad people know the Bible, the Bible, the truth, is where transformation happens in our lives. But when it doesn’t reach our heart and lead to application, there’s no point in just letting it rest in the mind. It’s intended to transform the life.

And so John uses this play on these words here when it talks about knowing him. In Philippians 1, if I cheated for a minute and just turned there, I don’t have it on the screen, but Philippians 1, Paul says this in verse 10, he says, “So that you, being a disciple,” let me start in verse nine, “I pray that your love may about still more and more in real knowledge and discernment so that you may approve the things that are excellent in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ.”

This word “sincerity” for believers, as we grow in love, it tells us verse nine, this word for sincerity literally translates without wax. And what this means is in the Roman days they would make these beautiful sculptures, you guys have probably seen it, they all run around naked. They do these sculptures, but great sculptors, they would be able to use this stone and beautifully sculpt. But sculptors that weren’t so great would mess up from time to time, and they would take wax and they would try to cover their mistakes with wax. And everyone thought it was perfect until the sun hit it. And when the sun hit it, it began to expose the imperfections.

And this is what it’s saying to us about faith and sincerity before the Lord, that when we truly know him, there’s something genuine about our lives that reflects Jesus. And so that walk with him should be demonstrated. And the way that that begins to be demonstrated is through intimacy.

A few years ago, by a few years ago I mean, I don’t know, it’s probably more than decade, but I was on a flight from Columbus, Ohio to Salt Lake City. I had been speaking at a church back east and was flying back. And one of the interesting things as I was flying back, it happened to be the year after the Columbus Crew won the MLS Cup and now they’re in the playoffs again and they’re coming to face the Real Salt Lake. And the year Real Salt Lake won the playoffs, and I happened to be riding the plane with the team.

And I come to meet this guy who was a believer on the Columbus Crew and he’s flying out here, he’s a missionary now actually, but he came out here. We started talking, and we ended up talking all night, probably affected his game the next day. But we end up talking about the Lord together and then when he came out, every once in a while he’d come out and he would call me and he would actually send me a couple of tickets, tell me to go watch them play.

But my wife got so embarrassed by this, he visited here a couple of times, and I didn’t really know him that well, but we united in Jesus, right? So, I just said to him early in getting to know him, I said, “Look, I’ve never been friends with a professional athlete before,” I was like, “do you mind if I tell people you’re my best friend?” My wife was so embarrassed. She was like, “Oh my gosh.” And I probably should have stopped there. I was like, “Hey, by the way, can I put you on video telling people that you’re my best friend.?” I recorded him saying that. I didn’t save the video, I should have done that.

But if you wonder who it is, you can ask him, it’s Jedidiah Zayner, right? He retired a couple of years ago, but it was so funny because I can remember there was a few people here in church, like, any time I got in a circle I got to talk about my best friend. I just named dropped, I’m like, “Oh yeah, you know, my best friend.” We wouldn’t even be on the subject of soccer or anything, I would just be like, “You know, my best friend,” and then I’d just make something up about my best friend here.

But I remember one person in particular used to get mad. They were like, “He’s not your best friend, stop telling them that.” But the reality is, the person was accurate, but I wanted people to pretend like … I wanted to pretend like I knew someone that was just famous. He’s a champion, he won the MLS Cup. But I didn’t really know him that well, right?

And that’s the point of what John is saying here in 1 John 2, it was like, guys, you can say you know God, but do you really know him? Like, Jedidiah Zayner’s my best friend. I’ve got to find a new one, he doesn’t play professional soccer anymore. If you know any professional athletes, please let me know. But truthfully, I don’t really know him that well. And when you claim to know someone, there’s a difference between knowing about them and simply knowing them. I know about him, I don’t really know him.

Well, John wants us to begin to recognize when it comes to living the life of a disciple, it’s not about just knowing about Jesus, but truly spending time with him. He says to us in this verse, “Whoever keeps his word in him, truly the love of God is perfected. By this, we may know that we are in him. Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

I think sometimes we read verse five and freak out. Like, “Ah! The word perfect! That’s not me!” But what he’s saying is it comes to completion, meaning not that you’re perfect, but when you walk with Jesus, there’s something there that’s perfected and what he’s beginning to communicate is when you walk with God, you start to reflect the goodness of who he is in this world. And when you reflect the goodness of who he is in this world, he works through you. And when he works through you, he loves on other people the way he desires to love them. It’s like you become the hands and feet of Jesus and you love on people as if they were Jesus before you. And in that, God’s will is accomplished, it is completed, it is perfected. It’s when we see that demonstrated that the life of disciple is lived out.

So, he’s saying, “Whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him. Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk the same way in which he walked.” Let me say this real quick, I didn’t talk about commandments yet, but he tells us to obey the commandments. Some people look at that and wonder, “What in the world are the commandments?” Because if you think about the word commandments and you begin to equate that immediately with the Old Testament, well there’s 613 of those bad boys, so I don’t think you probably want to just jump into all that and start following that, unless that’s what it’s saying here.

But 613, some of them are crazy. Have you ever read the Old Testament commandments? Some of them are just like, I don’t understand the context for which this exists and why this is even a rule today, like there’s one where if two guys get in a fight, the lady cannot come in and grab the man by his male parts and twist. Like, how is that? What is going on in Israel that God’s like, “You know, we should probably cut … let’s make this one 613.” Tack one more on, that is a weird commandment. Or if a woman is going through her time of the month, you can’t sit in the same place she sits. That’s weird. Or if you’ve got two shirts made of two different cloths, can’t do that. All of us are sinners today, I’m sure most of have some shirts with a mix of … it’s just odd, right?

So we talk about obeying commandments, is that what we mean? I tell you, if you want to know the answer, we’re going to talk about it in 1 John 3, but 3:23-24 in this book talk about that answer. But I’ll just give you the short of it, okay? When Jesus came, he went from old covenant, old law, to establishing new covenant, new law. Jesus said we’re not put new wine in old wine skins. What Jesus gave us was something completely new. What Jesus gave us, what we follow now, it tells us in Galatians, is the law of Christ. And when Jesus gave us the law of Christ, it’s this, love God, love others. And in that you fulfill the law of God.

Jesus is interested in how we love God and the way we love God, and that relationship with God is we love God, we learn to love what God loves. And what God loves is people. What Jesus came for is people. So, we don’t run around obsessing about 613 commands, I don’t obey Old Testament law. What I do is I walk in the Spirit. Galatians 5 tells us what that is, “Walk in the Spirit and you will not satisfy the lust of the flesh.” The Spirit, love, joy, peace, patient, kindness, gentleness, that’s the way we walk. That’s the commandment God calls us to.

So, if someone comes to you and says, “Look, add all these extra rules,” I mean, there is not a basis for it in the New Testament. Jesus fulfilled the old covenant. In fact, Hebrews 8:13, you can look at this later, it says Jesus obliterated the law. So when it comes to the Old Testament law, the Old Testament law condemns us. It shows us we cannot be perfect before the Lord. And knowing that the law produces death, Jesus fulfilled it so that in him we can have life. And so, when we talk about obeying, what we’re obeying is we’re surrendering ourselves to Christ, to love him, to know him, and to live for him.

And what John does then in these last two verses, he says this, “Whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. And by this we may know that we are in him. Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” Look what John does in verse six, remember we said chapter one, verses five and six, John is concerned with walking? And now in chapter two, verse six, here he is describing it again, it’s this walk that he’s encapsulated the description of a disciple here, what it means to be beloved. It’s this walk.

I love what John does in verse five and six, he really begins to simplify what it means to be a disciple. Disciple is the practicing of a discipline, in a very specific way, he really describes it in two platforms. In a complicated way I’ll say it like this, your orthodoxy and orthopraxy. But if I were to tell you what orthodoxy and orthopraxy means, I would say it’s what you believe and how you behave. What you know and what you do.

So, as a follower of Jesus, there is what we learn to believe in Christ and then how we learn to behave in Christ. And these two things are driven by your heart. A heart that’s surrendered to the Lord. Some people say it like this, the life of a disciple is about head, heart, hands. What you learn with your mind, how you embrace that with your heart, and how you live it with your life.

See, if we just talk about the mind and your behavior without the heart, it’s dead religious living. But if the motivation for your believing and your serving is driven by the way God transforms your heart, it’s beautiful before God. In fact, I would say in Revelation 2, remember John in this point is living in Ephesus. That’s the church that he’s pastoring in Ephesus. In Revelation 2, written by John, John talks about the church of Ephesus. And in chapter four, he says to them, “Look, this is the one thing God loves, that you are disciplined in the truth. But he has this one thing against you, you’ve left your first love.”

And then he gives this threat in verse five, he says, “If you do not return to your first love, God is going to return to you and he’s going to remove your candlestand.” And what that picture is literally saying to us is, God is going to take away the Spirit from your church. Your church may continue to meet and function, but it’s dead. Why? Because it wasn’t driven by what matters and your love for God is what compels everything.

So when we talk in terms of orthodoxy and orthopraxy, what you believe and how you behave, the motivation behind this is driven by the heart. And so, when you’re looking in 1 John 2:5, he talks about whoever keeps his word, this is the truth in which you believe, that’s what helps us to be perfected, to live out that which God calls us to in this world. By this, others may know that we are in him, that relationship is there, but whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked, this lifestyle. So, it’s this believing and this lifestyle.

And he’s saying in verse five, “Others will know that you’re in him.” The only evidence that you truly are for Jesus, that you belong to Jesus, is how you live out in Jesus. You can say it all day long, but if there is no indication your heart is truly changed, do you belong to Jesus?

And then John does something beautiful, I think. I think in these moments he considers the simplicity of where he came to his life and thought about being a disciple. You remember week one, when we talked about John, one of the things that we identified is John was the son of Zebedee, he was a son of thunder. He punched in the face first and asked questions later. He had a temper. And then he comes to Jesus and tells Jesus, “Make me the top dog in your kingdom.” And Jesus tells him that’s not how it works, if you want to be great, you’ve got to become the least. And then Jesus proclaims that he is going to die as the least servant that’s walked the other, as the lowest servant of the earth.

And then something happens in John’s life, John is radically transformed. And then when you get to John 13, Jesus is in the upper room with his disciples. John has this conversation with Jesus right before his crucifixion. And then John goes to this upper room with Jesus and he’s had this transformation of his life. And all of a sudden in John 13, John is referred to as the loved of Christ. What happened? I think John finally understood what Jesus did for him. And so, John is the loved of Christ.

And so, he’s in this moment, when you get to verse six and seven, John now starts to reflect back to that moment of discipleship with Jesus. The last six hours he spent with Jesus, how intimate that was, but how important it was for his life. And it was so important, I think, to John, that John records those last six hours with Jesus in John 13 and John 17 in the Bible, he wants you to know about it to.

And then in 1 John, when he thinks about being a disciple, he goes there. I think the indication for us to see this is really in verse six. He says, “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” This word abide is the same word that Jesus used in John 15, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, and you will bear much fruit. For apart from you, you can do nothing.” John 15:5.

And then John says in verse seven, thinking about that time with Jesus. He says, “Beloved,” now I’m not just referring to him as beloved, but you as well. “I am writing no new commandment, but an old commandment that you’ve had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it’s a new commandment that I’m writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother, is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in light and in him there is no cause for stumbling.”

John 13:34, John’s in the upper room with Jesus, just before his crucifixion, and Jesus says, just like this, “A new commandment I give unto you that you love one another as I have loved you. And by this all men will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” It’s not a new commandment, as John says, but it is a new commandment. And what does that mean?

Well, in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Israel had what they called the Shema that they would recite in the morning and the evening, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.” It’s an old commandment, going back to the old covenant. But now in the new covenant, Jesus comes along and he says, he taught us the two greatest commandments, love God, love others. And he says this, “A new commandment I give unto you that you love one another.” That’s not new. But what is new? “The way that I have loved you. And by this others will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.”

And John, in these moments, is thinking about the success of the church and how is that lived out? Well, if they love Jesus, they’re going to love what Jesus loves. If they walk in the light, they’re going to reflect the light on this world. John’s mind goes all the way back to the upper room in his early 20s as he spent time with Jesus. He thinks, “You know, from the very beginning, I knew what it was to walk with him. To understand that why God calls us in this world, it’s either I love the world or I love Jesus. My love for Jesus, because Jesus has loved me so much, I want to share the passion of that love with this world and the intimacy of what it means to walk with Christ. And that commandment for us that became new in Jesus because it was demonstrated by his own life given for us. Never have we seen God love us that specifically and that detailed as God became flesh and gave his life as our advocate and propitiation.”

and so now John is saying to us in this statement, this new commandment, that we live in light of the love that God’s manifested for us in the way that we love others. Let me say it like this, because when I think about being a follower of Christ, very simple, it’s a heart given to the Lord, demonstrated by what we know and what we do. How we believe and how we behave. Our orthodoxy and our orthopraxy.

But just consider for a moment, in America today, these statistics just came out, in America today, 73% of churches are declining, 73%. And you look at that and people are like, “Man, that’s unbelievable.” And we just shake our heads at that, “Oh, man. Oh, it’s all going to pot.” Whatever.

But you know, you can do something about that. I mean, it rests on the individual to consider what it means to be a follower of Jesus. And what do we do? Well, you know God’s word and then you missionally, intentionally care for relationships around you. We aren’t effective for God when we don’t know his word. Because when we don’t understand the truth, we have no truth to impart. If seeing the church decline was something that really impact us, that we really thought was important, the first thing that we would do is read God’s word. Know God’s word.

Don’t just say, “I think God is this and I think God is that.” No, root it in a verse. “No, God is this because this verse says this.” It’s not just, “I think it.” This verse says it, regardless what I think. Let God speak for himself and let God speak to you through that, right?

And so, when we think about what it means making a difference in this world, well, it starts with knowing God’s word, and then it continues with loving the people around us. And let me be frank with what it means to love people around us. When you look at the lives of the disciples, they went all over the known world for the cause of Christ. And what I mean when I say love is, yes, love your family. Yes, love those that you are with every day.

But understand at the same time, you’re on mission. That when Jesus talks about loving you, he didn’t just sit from heaven and say, “I love you. I love you.” No, he became flesh and he pursued you with the fury of heaven, to love you deeply and intimately. Show his concern and care for your life. And so, when you think about your relationship with God, and then how you emulate that in your walk with the Lord, it’s not about just loving those that are easy to love. But it’s about thinking, “God, you’ve got me in this place of influence with people around me. Man, I don’t want to meet you face to face saying ten years beside this neighbor and I don’t have a clue what their name is and I don’t know one thing about them.” I don’t think Jesus would have done that. I think Jesus cared about them.

I think one of the best things that we could do is when you go into this world, everyone that you encounter, look at them as if they were Jesus. When Jesus says, “What you’ve done unto the least of these, you’ve done unto me.” Jesus cared for all of them. Jesus cares about every soul in this world.

So, it’s not just saying, “I love God, I read his word, and I love people.” Just making it about being easy to love. No, it’s about understanding God called me on this mission, just like he was on mission, to love and care for people around us.

One verse and I’m done. 1 Peter 3:15, we’ve talked about this over the last few weeks in our class, Living In Utah. But listen to this, “In your hearts, honor Christ the Lord as holy. Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for the reason, for the hope that is in you. Yet we do it with gentleness and respect.” We’re not here to malign anybody, we’re not here to prove ourselves better than anybody. We’re here to love people.

I like the way Peter says this, because he says, “Be prepared to give defense to anyone who asks for the reason, for that that is in you.” It’s like this, these disciples are living so radically that people just want to know why they’re choosing to live this way. It’s like a life so transformed in Christ that they begin to ask questions as to what compelled them. Their life is so on fire for Jesus, that the people around them see this demonstrated in their life and they’re coming to them and asking questions.

Can I tell you, I think one of the greatest, most powerful evangelistic tools in the church is the church. When you read Acts 2, when you get to the end of Acts 2, it tells us about what the church did daily. Meeting with one another in the homes, breaking break together, listening to the teaching of the disciples. And it says this, “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

I think what he’s recognizing is they so radically cared about each other, cared about Jesus, spent time together, that when the world saw this, they were attracted to it. They wanted that in their lives. They longed for that kind of love. And the Lord added to their number.

When it comes to being a disciple for Christ, it’s intimacy, there’s simplicity, it’s a walk arrested in your identity in Jesus.