I John 2:8-28
We are on a journey through the letters in the Bible written by John. So far we have thought about chapter 1 and the first part of chapter 2 of I John.
Some of the points that have been made are that God is light and that when Jesus is accepted as Savior, the one accepting has spiritual light. Light includes forgiveness of sins, which follows confession of sins. It also includes the wonder of being cleansed, which means we will receive from God not only forgiveness, but also the desire and the ability to stay away from whatever sins have been committed. Those points are in chapter 1.
In chapter 2, the goal is that we not sin, but if we do sin, we have an advocate - a helper, a counselor, a repairer, a defender - that being Jesus. That is a promise for those accept Him as the Savior.
In this message, the third on our journey, we will consider some of the rest of chapter 2 of I John, concentrating on three topics - more information on God being light, the challenge that we not love the world, and some information about antichrists.
First, more about God being light. Specifically, how people of God - how Christians - should react to the light of God. That is the point of verses 8 through 11 of chapter 2. Let’s read those verses together.
But first, the points that God is pure, as is His light. That means, as stated earlier on our journey, He is the one absolutely certain to show us the path we should be on, giving us the warmth of His love, promoting our spiritual growth, and getting rid of whatever is dark in our lives.
Speaking of darkness and the need to get rid of it in our lives, let’s read. Again, we are in I John 2. Verse 8 begins with John writing that he is presenting “a new commandment,” which is true, because “the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.”
Let’s pause for a moment. Darkness refers to anything that is sinful. Anything that is against the purity of Jesus.
How good to know darkness is being defeated. It is still around us, but we can survive and be victorious over it. How? By accepting the true light that is already shining, that of course being God’s light seen in Jesus. Jesus became the Savior many years before John’s letters, so it was and still is true that the true light was and is already shining.
The light of God - the light of Jesus - the light we can see with the help of the Holy Spirit - the true light is shining. It is available for all of us to benefit from in the ways of seeing the right path of life and feeling the warmth of God’s love and being helped to grow spiritually. Spiritual light is available to us. We just need to accept it and use it.
However, there is a warning. Let’s read it, beginning with verse 9. “He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still.” And verse 11. “But he who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
We skipped over verse 10. That verse gives the good news that “he who loves his brother abides in the light of God.” For such a person, there is “no cause for stumbling.” That is good news. It is a challenge that we love one another. But may we remember the warning. Put another way, we could say that our actions and attitudes should - must - match what we say. That is a must if we are to avoid slipping into spiritual darkness.
God is light. Jesus is light. We can have light when we accept Jesus. That is part of what John wrote in the second half of I John 2.
As we search for light, as we accept and grow in the light of Jesus, to help that process, let’s slip down to verses 15 through 17. Let’s read those verses together. “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
We need to consider what is meant by not loving the world. That is an important point because it cannot mean hating the world itself because, after all, the world - the earth - is part of God’s creation. Indeed, the world has beauty that is designed to be admired, all the way from changing seasons to rivers and oceans, from mountains to deserts, and such a wide variety of animals, and people. Since God loves people, we should as well.
The world, as in the earth, is gorgeous. I doubt the Lord would ever want us to hate what He has created.
Plus, many of the things of the world have been instituted by God. I am thinking of work to do. I am also thinking of the establishment of various governments. The Bible teaches that those in even governmental authority have been placed there by the Lord. It should therefore be unwise to hate a leader. Disagree, maybe, but instead of hating, the Bible teaches us to pray for those in leadership positions.
However, this, as far as I know, is the point made by John. We are to never place the world or anything of the world above Jesus. As more important than or even of equal importance to the Lord. Whatever we do and think must be done and thought in ways that are directed by and pleasing to the Lord. He, rather than our enjoyment, is to be foremost in our minds.
Concerning the things of the world, verse 16 gives three categories. They are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
The lust of the flesh. Sins of the flesh. They include physical sins like adultery and fornication. They also include, according to the time of John, other desires of the flesh, including gluttony, an overpowering desire for possessions, if in business, cheating customers to make more of a profit. Things like that which take a person away from the teachings of a loving Jesus.
Lust of the eyes. This is described as the practice of seeing things others have and wanting them as well, or maybe instead of who has them. Envy and jealousy come to mind. Lust of the eyes can refer to possessions. It can refer to talents and to positions and to popularity. Lust of the eyes also describes when, if anything that is wanted is gained, flaunting the possessions or talents or positions or popularity, which of course can lead to lust of the flesh, using what is gained to take advantage of others.
The pride of life. Having the desire for position for the purpose of being admired, respected, praised.
Interestingly, the pride of life, at the time of John, also featured the concept of claiming to have possessions or achievements which have not been received or achieved. Every now and then we hear of someone applying for and getting an important job because of an excellent resume, then losing the position when it is learned the person does not have the degrees or the experiences he or she listed. That would be an example of falling to the pride of life.
Do not put the world and the things of the world above God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. How do we know that is crucial? We read it. “If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him.”
God is light. Pure light. We need to be in God’s light, displayed in loving our fellow Christians. That challenge is in the second half of I John 2.
We achieve that by loving God more than we love the world. Again, it is OK to love what and who God has created, but we are love God more. We are to love God more than the things of the world.
But now verse 18, which introduces a difficult concept. The concept of an antichrist, defined as the one - as anyone - who opposes the person, doctrine, and kingdom of Jesus. Anyone who is lawless according to the laws of God given to us in the Bible.
Verse 18 begins with the word, “Children.”
As mentioned before, that word was meant to remind the readers of I John that he had been privileged to have heard, seen, and touched Jesus. John was therefore a spiritual father to his readers. The word also was, I believe, written in a kind, gentle way. Again, John was not scolding. He was instead about to encourage his readers, including us today, to be warned and beware of a serious spiritual danger. The danger of anyone who taught or teaches any doctrine contrary to the teachings of Jesus and the teachings of Jesus’ apostles, including John.
As stated earlier on our journey through the letters of John, there were at the time the letters were written, some false teachings about Jesus that had at least begun to circulate among the Christian congregations. Teachings such as Jesus did not really suffer, and that only very smart people can be Christians. Those were false teachings. Those who promoted them were among what John referred to as antichrists. They were and are to be rejected, their teachings ignored, even though some of them had once been part of the congregations affected. Verse 19. False teachers, John wrote, “went out from us.” From the Christian congregations. That may have made them extra dangerous because the familiarity probably caused some to let their guards down. But the antichrists were not and are not to be followed.
John wrote to beware of anyone who denies the Father and the Son, including teaching anything other than what is in the Bible. Know that such a person is an antichrist and must be ignored and avoided.
And yes, it is possible to ignore and avoid false teachers. Verse 20. Those of us who are Christians know “the truth.” We are reminded of the truth by the anointing of the Holy Spirit. With that, let’s read verses 24 and 25 together. “Let what you have heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is what He has promised us - eternal life.”
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One more verse, then a closing devotional.
Verse 28. “And now, little children.” Yet again John reminded his readers that he was their spiritual father, and I yet again sense a gentle, kind tone, as in encouraging rather than scolding.
“And now, little children, abide in Him.” Abide in Jesus, as you know Him to be according to the teachings of His apostles. Abide in Jesus, so that “when He appears [when He returns, which He will one day do, which certainly happens when a person dies because for the one who dies, Jesus appears] we may have confidence.” Spiritual confidence born of staying loyal to true teachings about Jesus and from Him. “And not shrink from Him in shame at His coming.”
How can we know we are staying loyal to Him? By accepting and using the light God has available to all who accept Jesus as Savior. Which brings us to a devotional thought.
The author tells of a time she went to a restaurant. A very nice, lovely restaurant. However, it was very dark inside. One small candle flickered on each table, but that was it. And yes, the light of even one candle disperses the darkness. However, in that restaurant, the candles did not create enough light to see, for instance, what was on the menu or what was on the plates when they were served. The result was that most of the diners used the flashlight apps on their smart phones to read the menus, see what they were eating, and even talk to their tablemates.
Finally, one of the diners quietly pushed back his chair, stumbled his way to the waiter, and asked a simple question. “Would you turn on the lights?”
A moment later, a warm ceiling light came on. The room erupted in applause, along with laughter and happy conversation. There was sense of satisfaction, including being able to see what was being eaten.
The world can be a dark place to be. But it does not have to be dark spiritually. It should not be dark for those of us who are Christians. That is because as Christians, we have the light of God at our disposal. We do not even have to ask for His light to be turned on. He is shining all the time. All we have to do is seek and accept His light. Light that will allow us to love one another, that will help us love the Lord more than anything else, that will help keep us strong against any and all antichrists who teach anything about Jesus that is not true to the Bible, and that will help us to abide in the Lord so that when He appears, we can meet Him with spiritual confidence. Confidence that with Him, we will see Heaven.
The closing song is A Charge to Keep I Have. The charge is made up of many parts - glorify God in all we do by presenting Jesus to the world, ever striving to follow Jesus’ words, watching and praying that we will be able to spot any and all antichrists, then ignoring them so that we will rely on God and God alone, all the while benefitting from His light.
A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify,
A never-dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.
To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfill,
O may it all my powers engage
To do my Master’s will!
Arm me with jealous care,
As in Thy sight to live;
And O thy servant, Lord, prepare,
A strict account to give!
Help me to watch and pray,
And on Thyself rely,
Assured if I my trust betray
I shall forever die.
Lord, thank You for all You taught, including what You taught through the apostle John. Including how to live for our benefit and Yours and including warnings, such as about any and all antichrists we have around even us.
Please keep us watchful. Keep us eager to see, accept, and walk by You and Your light. Thank You for the privilege of that. Amen.