April 13, 2015
1 John 2:3-6
We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time I heard a sermon like this one. John is not pulling any punches.
Here’s a rough paraphrase. “I’m not going to ask you if you “know God.” I don’t need to ask that question because your answer is irrelevant. There’s a way I can find out if you know God and I don’t even have to bother you. I will just start watching you from a distance and see if you are keeping God’s commands. If, in fact, you are keeping God’s commands, I will know that you know God.”
He doesn’t stop there though. More paraphrase: “Now, if you tell me you know God and it turns out you don’t keep his commands then there’s a technical term for you: a liar. You are a liar and your life is devoid of the truth.”
How’s that for an eye-stick? It’s as though John is grabbing us by the shoulders and shaking us a bit. It’s actually a pretty merciful gesture when you think about it. If a person thinks they know God and they don’t, they are self deceived.
O.K., so what does it mean to “keep God’s commands?” As we will see, John brings it back to the issue of our relationships and the presence of love therein. I’m getting some push back (which I always appreciate) on this issue of “Love,” with claims that this is flimsy, soft, relativistic and that I’m “missing the mark” when it comes to the way I’m defining sin, which incidentally means, “missing the mark.”
So I ask you, what is the “mark”? I think the “mark” is the Holy Love of God.
When I talk about love I get the impression some think I’m going “soft on sin.” I’ll grant you that the word “love” has been decimated in the present age, but I don’t think there’s a better word. In order to make a distinction, I am using “Holy” alongside “love” to indicate virtuous activity of another order entirely. The way I mean to talk about love has nothing to do with love being “soft.” No, quite the contrary, love is hard. Look at how the second half of today’s text describes it.
But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
This is not about playing “nice.” We are talking about nothing less than taking on the supernatural nature of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit in order that we can live a new life. The ongoing reality of salvation is not about W.W.J.D. It’s more like, H.D.J.D.I., “How did Jesus do it?” The reality of the Resurrection means the resources available to Jesus are now available to us. Because Jesus died for our sins, we are dead to sin. Because the Love of God raised Jesus to Life, we are alive to Holy Love. Love is not an emotion. It is a supernatural power always creating the possibility to overcome sin by the holiness of God. It’s why John writes, My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.
Some have suggested I am mingling my own words with the Word of God on this point. If I am, please point it out. I welcome critique. Please note that I never bold my own words; only God’s words. My words are at best highly fallible approximations of the truth. Like you, I’m doing my best to take the Bible seriously and on its own terms.
Stay with me. ;0)
J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get the Daily Text delivered to your inbox fresh every morning. Subscribe HERE.