Light, Love and Faith(God is Light - Part 2)
Scripture: 1 John 2:7–2:27
Synopsis: When a plant is placed next to a window, it gravitates toward the sunshine. In the same way, when we have fellowship with God through faith in Christ, we are drawn toward his light. This week we will explore how fellowship with God enlightens love and faith as we are drawn toward Him.
Sometimes late at night, you wake up and need something, but because of the darkness you cannot see very well. You stumble around with your hands out, feeling for the switch that will turn on the light and dispel the darkness.
Over the course of human history, many have claimed to have found the light. That is, the way to make sense of life. Buddhists claim that the light is realizing that all is illusion and you don’t exist. Hindus claim that enlightenment is knowing that all paths lead to the same ultimate reality. Atheist say that applying the scientific method within a godless philosophy shines light on the world. But who is right? Is it even possible to be right? Especially when all of these philosophies rely on the same source: People who stumble in the darkness and try to feel out the big questions of life.
When you try to understand life, does it seem like you are trying to feel your way through a dark room? What is right, or good, or real? Do you look around wondering if there really is a way to make sense of it all, to turn on the lights? Or have you given up trying to understand life and rely instead on blind faith?
Jesus said in John 12:46 “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”
One of the reasons I believe the bible is that it claims a different source than any other religious writing. All others writings come either from people who claim to have figured it out, or prophets who received revelation when no one else was around. The bible however claims to be based on the direct, public revealing of truth by the Creator of all things both to individuals and to crowds. The ultimate expression of this is in the person of Jesus who claimed to be God in the flesh.
According to the bible, a person is given light by fellowship with the only real God through faith in His only Son on the basis of his death for our sin. When you find the light switch in a dark room, you no longer need to stumble around because there is light now and the way is clearly visible. In the same way, when you enter fellowship with God, you no longer walk in the darkness because God’s expectations of you are clearly visible and He causes you to walk in His light.
We are in a series of sermons now that come from this perspective and then look toward some of the different areas of life that fellowship with God brings light to. This light is not just illumination of the big questions, but just as a plant next to the window gravitates toward the sun, when you are in fellowship with God, your gravitate toward His light.
Last week we talked about the how fellowship with God brings light to our lives in regard to sin. Our basic points were that we will not lie to our brethren in Christ by claiming to have fellowship with God when we do not, we will not lie to ourselves by saying that we have totally overcome sin, and we will not call God a liar by saying that we never had sin in the first place. Instead, we will walk in light by confessing our sin and relying on Jesus’ death to atone for us.
Tonight, we are going to explore two more aspects of life that fellowship with God brings light to. The first of these is love.
1. Fellowship with God brings light to love.
Let’s start by reading 1 John 2:7-17
7 Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever 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.
What I mean by fellowship with God bringing light to love is this: God adds truth and knowledge to love. Specifically, He confronts our love or lack of love for people and things. You see, there are some things we do not love that we should and other things we love that we should not. Today’s scripture is not comprehensive on this subject, but does give us two examples of light in love.
The first example is that with God’s love in us, we will love our brothers. There are a couple of things I need to define in this statement. First of all, who are our brothers? To answer this we need to bear the context of this passage in mind. John’s letter was written to Christians. He began the letter speaking partly about how fellowship with God also creates fellowship among believers. Also the word brother is almost always used to mean members of the fellowship of Christ. In this context, I do not brother here refers to all humanity, but more narrowly to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We need to be careful here not to read one passage of scripture to the exclusion of others. God commanded the people of Israel to “love your neighbor as yourself” and Jesus even commanded us to love our enemies. John did not contradict these commands, but in today’s text, simply focused specifically on the love we should have for the fellowship of believers.
Another thing that needs to be defined here is what kind of love are we talking about? The word used in this text is agapao. For those of you who were with us during the series on Luke, this should sound familiar. It is the same word Jesus used when he said love your enemies. It does not mean that we are required to have warm feelings, though that is good. This kind of love means desiring the highest good for a person. Essentially, in this passage we are talking about desiring the highest good for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
So, what is the light that fellowship with God brings to loving our brothers? Look again at verses 9-11:
9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever 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.
Have you ever heard the term “tip of the iceberg?” If you don’t know, it comes from sailing in icy waters. When you see some ice sticking up out of the water, there is a good possibility that what you see on top is just the tip of a very large piece of ice floating in the water. We tend to use this as a metaphor for the idea that what you see on the surface is just a small indication of something much larger.
That’s the idea in these verses. Our love or lack of love for our brothers and sisters in Christ is an indicator of something much larger on the inside. In verse 9 we are given the example of a person who says he is in the light, that is, in fellowship with God. The problem is, his lack of love for a brother in Christ exposes that this is a lie.
Remember at the beginning of chapter 1, John said that Jesus created fellowship with his disciples who in turn expand that fellowship to others. How can a person who hates the people who are in fellowship with God still claim to love God?
Not only that, but hate for a brother gives indications of an even worse situation inside that person. Verse 11 tells us that he is not only out of fellowship with God, but he walks in darkness so deep that it has utterly blinded him to the light. In other words, he is not even able to find his way toward fellowship with God. His hate for his brother is just the tip of the iceberg.
On the other hand, love for our brothers and sisters in Christ is also just the tip of an iceberg. Verse 10 tells us that this love is an indicator that someone is actually walking in the light, that is, they are in fellowship with God.
On top of that, it is an indicator that there is no cause for stumbling in that person. The word here that is translated ‘cause for stumbling’ in the ESV often also translated as cause to sin. We could read then that the person who desires the highest good for all the fellowship of believers shows that he has fellowship with God and does not cause others to sin.
The second example of light in love that John gives us is found in verses 15-17. Once again, we will observe the iceberg effect when it comes to love for the world.
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
I spent a large portion of my childhood in Arizona. I used to joke that almost everything in Arizona would either prick you, poison you, eat you, or roast you alive. This was referring to the thorns on cacti and trees, the poisonous venom of some animals and plants, the mountain lions and bears, and of course the dry, hot, burning sun.
We have lots of stories in Arizona about unfortunate tourists who came to visit not knowing that you must have water with you at all times, especially when hiking. Or who didn’t heed the warning not to try and feed the baby bears. Or didn’t know that snakes and scorpions like to hide in shady places.
There is a certain cactus we call the teddy bear cactus. It is a short barrel shaped plant that has long, hooked thorns, but these thorns are covered and disguised by what looks like fluffy, white hair. One story I remember particularly well was told of a little boy whose family was on vacation and saw this cactus. He thought it looked like a loveable teddy bear and gave it a big hug.
The danger of love that is not enlightened by knowledge is that you could love the wrong things.
In the case of verses 15-17, love is misplaced on the world. Now, when John talked about the world here, he was not talking about people, but the system and values of the world. In the gospel of John 1 the world is defined by darkness and characterized by sinful desires, envy, pride, and greed. Basically, everything in the world that is against God.
Let’s look specifically at the examples of the world’s values that John gave in verse 16: He said “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions [are] not from the Father, but from the world.” We could paraphrase these as lust, envy, and materialism.
The world tells us that there is nothing wrong lust, and unnatural attractions are just part of who you are. The world tells us that envy, being unsatisfied and desiring what others have, is a good motivational tool. The world tells us that the more things you have, the happier you will be. John warns us that if anyone loves the world, the love of God is not in him.
Last week we talked about how fellowship with God changes us so radically that we have to use phrases like ‘born again’ and a ‘new creation’ to describe what has happened to us. One of the mast basic elements of this change is that we no longer love what the world loves or desire what the world desires.
Fellowship with God brings light to love, by exposing those who are not in true fellowship by their lack of love and their love for what is evil. Also by enlightening us to the things that are worthy of love, like our brothers and sisters in Christ.
The second aspect of life that fellowship with God brings light to is our faith.
2. Fellowship with God brings light to faith.
18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life. 26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything—and is true and is no lie, just as it has taught you—abide in him.
The first and most important way that fellowship with God brings enlightens our faith is by giving us knowledge of the proper object of our faith. In verses 22-23, answering those whom he calls ‘antichrists,’ John said that the liar denies that Jesus is the Christ and whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. The point here is that faith is not true unless it has the right object and content. Jesus is the object of our faith. That he is the Christ, the Son of God who, as we heard from the beginning, died for our sin is the content of our faith.
John said that ‘antichrists’ went out from us but were not of us.’ In verse 22, he defines the antichrist as anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Scripture also tells us that at some point there will be a very influential figure in the world who will deny that Jesus is the Christ and lead many into error.
In this text, John is dealing primarily with the little antichrists, if I may use such a term. Who exactly was he talking about? One of the things we noted last week was that people who claim to be in fellowship with God and walk in the darkness are liars. The phrase ‘they went out from us’ indicates that even among the disciples (not the 11, but the large number who had followed Jesus) there were people in this category.
I would guess that the antichrists John spoke of were once disciples, but they began to deny the incarnation of Jesus, broke fellowship with the true disciples and went around teaching their deviant message. Whoever they were, it is clear that they were false teachers who were trying to deceive the believers.
One evening while I was going to bible college in Australia, I came out of the market and was approached by two young Korean ladies. They had bibles and asked if they could preach to me. I used to meet plenty of evangelists on the streets in Sydney, but in this case I had a feeling that something was not quite right. They proceeded to show me Matthew 22:1 where it says that Jesus spoke in parables. According to them, that meant the whole bible was a puzzle that needed to be decoded. Then they showed me Luke 8:21 where Jesus said that those who do God’s will are his mother and brothers. From this and many other random passages of scripture they preached that the Holy Spirit is Jesus’ heavenly mother. The next thing they said almost knocked me off my feet: They said we have to worship the heavenly mother, and she lives near Seoul.
Naturally, I tried to show them that that the vast majority of scripture is not a puzzle, but simply means what it says. I pleaded with them to actually read their bibles and not just the bookmarked/highlighted bits. It really broke my heart that the words of truth and life were there in their hands, yet they remained in darkness.
When we have fellowship with God, His Spirit within us gives us a sense of what is true and what is false. Naturally, we need to take the next step to confirm if that was really God’s Spirit informing us, or if it was just …us.
In verse 24, John said “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.”
Where do we find what we have heard from the beginning? We find it in the law that came right from the mouth of God, the words of the prophets, God’s actions in history, and the testimony and instruction of Jesus’ apostles that are all written down for us here in scripture. The only way for me to confirm what is true and not is to hold fast to the word of God.
You see, our faith was never meant to be blind and our fellowship with God was never meant to be apart from the truth of his word. There are plenty of false teachers around us today. Many of them even seem to use the bible to back up what they teach. The greater your knowledge of scripture in combination with your fellowship with God and other believers, the more easily you will recognize the antichrists and all other false teachers.
We have covered a lot today, but at the core of everything is fellowship with God. This fellowship, together with the truth of His word, shines a bright light into the darkness of our lives that completely transforms us. As we walk in the light, we begin to see clearly what is righteous and what is sinful, what is worthy of love and what is not, what is true and what is false.
The challenge for us is to examine ourselves in the light of our fellowship with God and His Word. Do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ or are you stuck in dissension and rivalry with them? Are your values God’s values or the world’s values? How much do you love your things? How much time do you spend wishing you had what other people have? In Abu Dhabi it is very easy to look around and see other people who live better than you do. This is a city that bends over backward for v.i.p.’s. If you share the world’s values, you will envy them.
If you have fellowship with God, lust, the VIP life, status, materialism and much more will hold no attraction for you. These things are at best pale substitutes for the love and fellowship of God, and the satisfaction you can find in Him. Let His light enlighten every part of your life.