“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, children, because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one. 1 John 2:12-14
Download the sermon slides: SERMON-2014-9-21
I’d like you, this morning, to turn your Bibles to 1John and chapter 2. In our church, our preaching ministry is based on the Bible, that is to say, we preach through the Bible. That’s our goal. Once in a while, we preach the Old Testament then we switch to the New Testament then we switch to the Old Testament, and then the New Testament. So it’s alternating between the Old and the New Testaments.
Today, we are at 1 John chapter 2. If you are joining us for the first time, we are looking at verses 12 to 14. 1John chapter 2, verses 12 to 14. And we are going to look at a very unique passage of Scripture because, in a sense, it does not follow the flow of thoughts in the book of 1John, but it’s a kind of interruption, it’s a kind of interjection so that God’s people may be encouraged. So, turn with me to 1John chapter 2 this morning.
Well, there is a man who is lying on his bed. He’s supposed to get up but he just couldn’t get up. He’s lying there just rolling and rolling and his father came in and said to him, ‘Son, it’s time for you to get up.’ He says, ‘Why should I get up? Give me reasons why I should.’ And the father says, ‘Number 1, you are a Christian. This is Sunday, you need to get up to go to church. Number 2, you are already 50 years old. Don’t keep lying there on the bed. And, number 3, you are the pastor. (laughter). You have to preach. So, please get up.’
Well, we all need reminders to get up in life. Today we are going to look at a passage of Scripture that is about John encouraging the people of God, reminding them of things so that they may keep pressing on for Jesus Christ. This is a passage of encouragement and I think it is so necessary because 1John is a really tough book to read and it’s not easy for the audience of John to say, ‘Wow, you’re saying really tough things about us. You’re saying that if I do not obey the Lord Jesus Christ, I do not have real life. You are saying that if I hate my brothers and I do not love them, I’m not a Christian.’ And so these things are really tough sayings and John, as a good pastor, understands and cares for his flock. He has more things to say about what it means to be a true Christian, even tougher things to say. But before he goes there, he pauses for a moment, as it were lovingly draws his people close to him with his words and seeks to encourage them. So they are all saying, ‘Wah, this is really tough. I’m overwhelmed. I don’t think I can keep obeying, I can keep loving. It’s so difficult.’ John pauses and says, ‘You can. You should.’ Why? Because I see God’s work in your life. Let me remind you of why you should keep pressing on. That’s why we come to versus 12-14 where he says,
“I am writing to you, little children,
because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you overcome the evil one.
I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the Word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.”
So this is a rather unique passage – 3 verses in the midst of all the many verses in 1 John. As I’ve mentioned to you 1John is really elucidating or clarifying the various marks of a true Christian. He’s not someone who just calls himself a Christian. He’s not someone who is born in a Christian home only. He is not someone who was baptized years ago. But he is a Christian and he knows it because he lives a life of consistent obedience. He lives a life of consistent love towards the brethren. And, if he is not obeying, if he is not loving, he may be really not a Christian at all. So again the people, they feel overwhelmed with a strong and tough message like this. And, before he goes on to things such as ‘love not the world’, John pauses and says, ‘Keep pressing on because even though you may feel overwhelmed, I do see the various marks of grace in your life. I see how God has worked in your life. So, be encouraged. 04:45
So here, we are going to look at this in a very simple way. He writes to three categories of people : the children, the young men and the fathers. So that’s what we are going to look at. We are going to look at what it means or what a child looks like, spiritually speaking, what a young man looks like, spiritually speaking, and what a father looks like, spiritually speaking. So we are going to look at all these categories but I hope, at the end of it, to remember why he wrote this. He wrote this to encourage the Christians to keep pressing on. He’s like that father who says, ‘Yes, I’ve spoken tough things. But at the end of the day, I want you to know I am not causing you to doubt your faith. I’m not trying to shake your confidence because I know you. I know your faith. I know your walk. I know who are the children, who are the young men, who are the fathers and I’m saying all this because I love you.’ So let’s look at the first category and today’s sermon will be really short, so you can relax and know that this is not going to be a long journey. Let’s look at
1. The Children.
John here addresses the children. This is not chronological age, alright. This is not a 5-year-old kid or 7-year-old kid. This can be a 70-year-old man. A child of God who has just believed in Jesus Christ can be spiritually immature and he is called a child. So, this does not have reference to the chronological age of a person. It’s about their spiritual maturity. So John first writes to those who are young in the faith. ‘I’m writing to you, little children.’ (verse 12), and then he repeats that again in verse 13, ‘I write to you, children.’ I put these 2 verses together because I want you to realize John actually uses 2 different words for the word ‘children’. It will not appear in your English Bible. But it will be seen if you look at the Greek original. The Bible was written in the Greek, at least for the New Testament. And the two words are as such : I write to you, (this is a word that is in the Greek) ‘teknon’ and then verse 13, I write to you ‘paidion’. So one is a teknon, one is paidion. You say what in the world is that, okay?
First one, teknon. The word ‘teknon’ really refers to a child, or a son, in relationship to his father. So this is primarily about the status of this person. He is a child of God and, no matter how old he gets, no matter how mature he becomes, he always remains a child of God. He always remains a son of God ~ a teknon. I’m now 38 years old. I am a teknon of Mr Lim Choon Huat, my father. And when I’m 60 years old, I am still going to be a teknon. It doesn’t change even if I get older, I have grey hair, I’m more mature; I remain a teknon. So John, here, is saying, ‘I’m writing to you, teknons.’ And this will have application, therefore, not just to the young in faith but to also the mature in faith because no matter how old you grow, or how mature you get, you are a teknon of God. So we are going to see the significance of that in a while.
The second word is the word ‘paidion’. The word ‘paidion’ refers to a young child. So, this is not so much the status but the stage ~ he’s a young man, he’s a young boy, he’s a young baby. ‘I’m writing to you, young ones,’ that’s what John is saying. So, what does he say to the teknons? Again, though I put it under ‘children’, this is equally applicable to the young men and to the fathers. And that’s right at the beginning, in verse 12:
‘I’m writing to you, little children (teknons), all of you because your sins are forgiven for His name’s sake.’ John is reminding his people one thing about a child of God regardless of your spiritual maturity, regardless of how long you have been in the faith, regardless of how many years of ministry you have given to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the unchangeable reality. Your sins are forgiven for His name’s sake. Notice he doesn’t say, ‘your sins WILL be forgiven.’ He doesn’t say, ‘your sins MAY be forgiven.’ He says, ‘your sins ARE forgiven.’ John is saying, if you look at the context, the whole picture, the big picture. He is saying, in your pursuit for spiritual life, yes, it is tough. You may fall, you may stumble, you may not obey God completely, perfectly. There may be times you are angry with your brothers- and sisters-in-Christ even though you desire to love them. There are times you fall. Let me tell you, even when you stumble and when you fall, your sins are forgiven. John is assuring them, reminding them of the deep security they have in God’s forgiveness. You say, why? Because your sins are forgiven for His name’s sake. 10:09
We, today, are a forgiven people, regardless of our performance, regardless of whether we are very obedient or less obedient because our forgiveness is not based on who we are but based on what Jesus Christ has done ~ His name’s sake. Let me tell you something that you may not be very familiar. And that is this : do you realize that God does not love you less when you disobey? Neither does he love you more if you are very mature? If you are truly born again, if you are truly a believer of Jesus Christ, He cannot love you less, nor can he love you more, regardless of your performance. Why? Because he loves you perfectly in Jesus Christ. His love for you is not founded in your performance. It’s founded in what Jesus Christ has done. So, even if the journey of faith is difficult and we stumble and fall, John is saying, you have this deep security and assurance : your God loves you. Your sins are forgiven for His name’s sake.
And it’s from this solid ground, this solid assurance that you and I would have that confidence, and joy, and courage to pursue holiness; to keep walking in the light and obeying God. So that’s what John is saying to everyone. He is saying, ‘I know you guys. Yes, I have spoken hard things but I want you to know, little children, young men, fathers, your sins are forgiven.’ This is the beautiful reality.
So, this is applicable to all teknons but there is a word reserved for the paidions, the young ones, and he says, ‘I write to you paidion.’ How do you know it’s pi? Remember this circumference? What’s the formula for circumference? Circumference is 22 over 7 pi. Is it? I’m wrong, huh? Ha ha. You remember the ‘pi’ thing, alright? Go back and research if you forgot, like me, forgot. But this is ‘pi’ in the Greek and so is the word ‘paidion’. It refers to a young one.
And what does he say about a young child? There’s not a lot to say about a young child, in a sense, a young child doesn’t know a lot of things. A young baby, a young toddler, he does not know current affairs. He cannot spot danger. He may not know a lot of people. He cannot react to a lot of circumstance. But I tell you what a young child knows. A young child knows his papa. My son, 2-year-old Matthias, he may not know a lot of things. He does not know what is happening on the computer screen when it’s full of words. He doesn’t know when someone may want to abduct him. He doesn’t know that eating ice cream all the time is not a good thing. He doesn’t know a lot of things but he knows his papa. He knows his mama. That’s what a child knows. Can you imagine when Papa comes home and the little child’s eyes light up, ‘Papa, Papa’. And he stretches forth his arms. He runs to Daddy. He knows Daddy’s smiles. He knows Daddy’s touch. He knows Daddy’s words. He knows Daddy loves him. That’s what a child knows. And, if you are a believer of the Lord Jesus Christ today, you may be a very young Christian but this is what you will know ~ you know the Father. You know His forgiveness. You know that he is your Abba, Father. How do I know that? Because Paul says, ‘And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6 ESV)
Christianity is not mere intellectualism. Now, you must engage the mind when you worship God. We must. In spirit and in truth. The knowledge of God involves thinking. It does. But it is not just thinking. There is a deep sense of assurance within. That’s what this verse is saying ~ that you know your God as your Abba, Father. There is a delight in God. There’s a relationship with God. There’s a joy and a hunger and a thirst for God. That’s what a child of God will experience. And John, in saying those hard things about the marks of a Christian~you need to keep obeying, you need to keep loving~he is saying, ‘I also know you. I’m not saying these things to shake your confidence. I’m not saying these things to cause you to doubt. But I know you guys. Some of you are young children and you do know the Father. I want to remind you that there is divine grace evident in your life. So, don’t give up. Keep pressing on.’ So, that’s John’s intention here. A true child of God really knows the Father because he knows forgiveness. 15:25
I like what Spurgeon has to say. He says,
‘All the philosophers in the world do not know so much of the Father God as a forgiven sinner knows!……’
You know something? Everyone in this world who studies religion, who seeks to know God, will not know as much as a child of God who has known forgiveness from God. That’s what Spurgeon is saying :
‘if you’re really forgiven, you know God in a way that nobody else can.’ Why? Because it is ‘the Father’s heart that comes out most fully and expressly when He says, ‘Bring forth the best robe, put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. For this, my son was dead and is alive again! He was lost and is found.’
Spurgeon is alluding to Luke 15 the parable of the lost son. The lost son who wasted his life and who later repented and came back to God and received this amazing, lavish forgiveness and embrace from the father. This lost-and-found son knows a lot about the father. Far more than anyone else would. He has seen forgiveness and grace.
“Then, as he looks up through his tears and sees the ineffable smile of the Father’s affection, the forgiven child knows the Father!
The very least (young) child of Grace, having received the forgiveness of sins, knows the Father in this most important sense.”
I know the Father. He has forgiven me. I see it in the scripture. I see in what he has promised. I see that Jesus, His Son, was sent to die for me. He has forgiven me. I can cry out, I want to cry out and I do cry out, ‘Abba, Father’. I am forgiven. So John says this is what characterizes the young in faith. Not a lot more you can say about them. They’re very young, just came to know Christ. They know they are forgiven. They know their Father.
2. Young Men
But Christian living is a journey. It’s whenever there is life, there is growth. And the next stage of spiritual growth, according to John, is when you arrive at ‘young men’. By the way, this does not exclude ladies. So ladies, please don’t switch off. This is just you know what he is saying. Children refers to both young men can refer to ladies as well. But this is against spiritual maturity level 2, if I may say. Young men, people in the prime of their life, they are strong, they are full of vigour and vitality. And John says, ‘young men are people who have overcome the evil one.’ So no more the image of a child, a baby, a toddler, but now an image of a soldier. He is at war. He is in battle. And he has not only gone to battle, he has actually overcome the evil one. The word ‘overcome’ is the word ‘Nikao’ which is the word you get Nike from. It is a word that means ‘to conquer’ or ‘to overcome’.
So, a spiritually more mature man is able to overcome the evil one. He’s able to overcome the devil. In what ways? In the temptations he brings, in accusations and in the deceptions, discouragements, the devil seeks to strike. He is able to stand, he is able to overcome because he is more mature. He’s stronger. And that is given to us in verse 14 : ‘I write to you, young men, because you are strong.’ Now, the baby is not strong, isn’t it? The baby is weak. The baby is defenceless. The baby cannot fight. He does not even discern. When food is on the ground, he grabs and eat. He doesn’t have any idea. So he is defenceless against attacks. He is defenceless, in a sense, he has no discernment. But, when you’re a young man, you are different. You know what is right and wrong and you are able to defend. You are able to fight. You are able to overcome the evil one because you are strong.
Now, why are they strong? Why are they strong? Why are young men strong? What’s the secret between a babe in Christ and a soldier of Christ? You are strong because the Word of God abides in you. So John is saying this is spiritual growth stage 2. Stage 1, he knows God, he knows forgiveness. But as he feeds upon God’s Word, as he not only studies but he lives out. He obeys. He trusts in God’s Word. He lives by God’s promises. He becomes strong. ‘As newborn babes desire the sincere milk of the Word that you may grow thereby.’ (1 Peter 2:2) 20:22
And you remember how Jesus was able to resist the advances of the devil? This is what he did. He said, ‘It is written, it is written, it is written.’ How was it that Jesus is able to overcome the devil? He had God’s Word abiding in him. So, this is spiritual maturity level 2. You are strong because the Word of God abides in you, not just knowledge but you believe God’s Word. You live it out. You obey and therefore you are able to overcome the evil one.
And John again, bringing it back to the context, he’s saying, ‘why do you want to give up? I see this work of grace in your life. You are no more a child. You know you are forgiven. You cry out ‘Abba, Father’. And look at this : look at how you have waged war and have victory over the devil. Look at the way you have grown in your love for others. You used to be so self-centered, but you have overcome the evil one. You’re living a life of love, not lust. Look at your temper. You used to be fiery but now you are so controlled. Look at the deceptions you used to believe in, the way you live for the world but now you are living for Christ. So look at the way you have overcome the evil one and keep pressing on. Why? Because God’s grace is clear in your life. So don’t give up.’ That’s again his main point.
But let’s go finally to the fathers. I said this message will be short and I think it will be. Fathers. Fathers here, again, is not about age. There are some people with lots of grey hair but they are not very mature spiritually. And there are some people who look like kids but they can be very mature spiritually. I think Spurgeon was a preacher when he was 16, pastor when he was 19, is amazing. So, this has nothing to do with chronological physical age. This is about spiritual maturity. Let me ask you, before you look at the Bible, what will be the key characteristics or what will be the few key characteristics of a spiritually mature man? What would you think? What do you think it will be? He is mature. Why? Because? What are some of the things you look for? I would have thought a spiritual, mature person would be someone who has touched many lives, reached many souls, have a big ministry, have a big church. And maybe John may write something like that. But John has a very simple way of looking at spiritual maturity. He says in v13 and v14,
‘I’m writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning’ (verse 13)
‘I’m writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning’ (verse 14)
Anyone can tell me the difference between verses 13 and 14? With regards to this phrase ‘because you know him who is from the beginning’, there is absolutely no difference. John, you are very ‘cheong hei’ (long-winded), very repetitive. No, John is not ‘cheong hei’. He is saying this is that one thing I want you to catch. What does it mean to be a father ~ spiritually mature man? A lot of accomplishments? No. A spiritual father, a man who is mature, is someone who knows Him who is from the beginning ~ very, very focused; very, very precise. The question is : Who is this ‘who is from the beginning’? Some of us may guess it’s God the Father, and so on and so forth. But I suggest to you, it is given to you to know ~ in chapter 1 verse 1.
If you look at the Bible, chapter 1 verse one, it says that which is from the beginning, that which we have seen and heard, looked upon and touched, concerning the word of life. Who is he talking about? He’s talking about Jesus Christ who came in the flesh; was manifested before us. So John is saying, a spiritually mature man or woman is someone who knows deeply, experientially and intimately Jesus Christ who is from the beginning. That’s the mark of a spiritual man. Let me bring it back to summary. It says here ~ 3 stages. Of course there are overlaps and continuums. We all understand that. But in generalization, we see that there is ‘Children’, there is ‘Young men’, there is ‘Fathers’. How does one grow from being a child, paidion, to become a young man, a soldier of Christ? 25:21
What is the key thing? Well, what he needs is that the Word of God will abide in him. But that’s what we read earlier so he needs to know the Word of the Lord. Let me ask you, then, what does it take for a young man to be a father? Well, let me just suggest to you a very simple way of looking at it ~ just flip this around :
Children —— Young Men —— Fathers
Young men to fathers are people who know the Lord of the Word. I actually wanted to say, ‘Children to young men know the Word of the Lord. Young men to fathers know the Lord of the Word through the Word of the Lord’ but I thought you all too confused already. So, I just kept it as such but please do understand I don’t mean a mystical kind of relationship with God where you are high up in the mountain and just wait for God to fill you. No, no, no. You know the Lord of the Word through the Word of the Lord. That’s what 2 Corinthians 3 tells you.
We see Christ in his Word but what this, I think, is highlighting to us is that there is a way of reading and studying the Bible that does not lead us to knowing Christ. If merely studying the Bible, without a clear intention to do so, will lead you to spiritual maturity, the Scribes, the Pharisees and Sadducees would have rocked. It would be the best. But they studied and missed Christ.
A spiritual father is someone who not only knows the doctrines, the precepts, the teachings, the promises of the Bible but he has such a single-minded focus to say, ‘I want to know Christ. That’s my goal in life. This is my one all-consuming passion to know Him.’ I didn’t say that. Paul did, didn’t he? He says, ‘this one thing I do, this is my life that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings.’ This is Paul’s heart and Paul is a spiritual father. I’m writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. You know Christ. You have a deep, intimate, experiential knowledge of him through his Word. I see the likeness of Christ in your life. You see, if you really know someone, and if you really know Jesus Christ, it is a life-changing relationship. You will be made like Christ. And John says look at your life. It’s amazing. Not only do you have forgiveness, not only do you know the Father, not only have you had victories over the evil one because you’ve been consistently obeying and applying God’s Word but you know Christ in such a deep intimate way, I see Christ in you. So, be encouraged and don’t give up. I refer you to what Paul has said :
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…..(single-mindedness)
that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death.” (Philippians 3: 8,10 ESV)
Christian living, in its pinnacle, is a single-minded focus on Christ, and Christ alone. That is a mark of a spiritual man. He does not just know the Word of the Lord. He knows the Lord of the Word through the Word of the Lord. Again, I want to refer you to Spurgeon. I think, he puts it across just so well and I thought it’s worth considering, even though it may be a bit long. He says :
‘Now, a babe in Grace knows 20 things ~ a young man in Christ knows 10 things ~ but a father in Christ knows one thing and that one thing he knows thoroughly!’
Now, a babe in Grace knows 20 things. You know when people are born. I know my kids like to show off how much they know, lah. Do you know this? Do you know this? Do you know this? Wah, they know a lot of things, lah. And a babe in grace, a spiritual child of God, may know 20 things. As he grows, he says, Wah, I know this verse, I know that doctrine. A young man in Christ knows 10 things. But a father in Christ knows one thing and that one thing he knows thoroughly! Now that doesn’t mean he is ignorant of everything else, alright, so you must take it in the right context. But this is one thing he really, really knows well. 30:17
‘it is very natural for us, at first, to divide our little stream into many rivulets, but as we grow gray (grow old, grow mature) in Grace, we pour it all into one channel ~ and then it runs with a force efficient for our lifework.’
This is what powers our life. ‘I trust,’ he says of himself, ‘I trust I know many doctrines, many precepts and many teachings ~ but more and more my knowledge gathers about my Lord even as the bees swarm around their queen!
May it come to this with us all ~ ‘I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.’
May all our knowledge be focused as with a burning glass (the magnifying glass) upon this one point! May the adorable Person of Him that was from the beginning fill the entire horizon of our thought! Oh, to have one heart, one eye, for our one Lord and for Him alone!’ ~ Spurgeon
This is a spiritual father. This is what Christianity should shoot for. It’s not attendance in church. It’s not just how many times you have preached, how many people you have led to the Lord. I think all those who come as a result of someone who knows Christ. This is the source. This is the origin. So, this passage is about being encouraged. It’s interesting. This is like a hamburger, you know. John says, ‘obey’. John says ‘love’. Then later on he is going to say ‘love not the world.’ But right in the middle, very interestingly, he inserts these verses, 12-14. Why? Because he is a pastor who knows people can be overwhelmed and he wants to encourage them by reminding them God has done a divine work in your life.
You, young ones, you know Christ. You know God. You call him ‘Abba, Father’. Your sins are forgiven. You, young man, not only have you had all that the babe in Christ has experienced, you have a practical reality of victory over the evil one. And all you fathers, look at you, look at your life. You’re so much like Christ. You’re pursuing Christ. So why give up? Let me tell you next week what it means to be a Christian in not loving the world. But that will be another time.
So John, right here, is displaying a pastoral father’s heart, bringing them near, and saying ‘Cheer up, guys, be encouraged, and press on towards the mark’. I say to all of you, now this passage is not easy, in a sense, but maybe, as you look at your life in the light of these 3 stages, do you see a change in your life? Do you say to yourself, ‘I know the father’? Do you have consistent victory? Do you pursue Christ and are you like Christ? If you do, I say the number 1 response we should have is to praise God, always, because it’s His work. If you don’t, don’t give up. Your sins are forgiven. Keep pressing on because Christian living is a journey. It’s a spiritual growth. Now for those of you who are here and you said, ‘Wow, this whole passage is for a Christian. What about me? I’m not a Christian. I don’t understand what it means to know the Father, to know Christ. How do I start?’ You realize that in this whole passage, the imagery is about life. And life comes with birth. You don’t suddenly decide to be a Christian. Yes, in a sense, you do choose to believe in Jesus Christ but it’s not just about your decision. It is also, equally, in the Bible, a description of how God gives new life. How Jesus says you must be born again.
Friends, if you are here for the first time, this is the first time you hear God’s Word, you’ve never known what it means to be a Christian, I say to you, it begins with birth. And this birth is from the heavens above. It begins with being born from above, being born again, and God is the one who gives you the new birth. Your response today is to see your sin, to see your ugliness, to see your hopelessness and your helplessness and then to see what God has done for you in Jesus Christ. Your sins can be forgiven because of Jesus Christ. God sent His Son to die for your sins so that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. And if you turn from your sin and look to Christ, and ask God to give you this new birth, you can have this new life and you can know God and have your sins forgiven. 35:30
Let’s bow for a word of prayer today. I’d like you to have this time to reflect upon God’s Word, upon John’s exaltation. I want you to reflect, in a sense, that is relevant for you today because some of us may find Christian living just so hard, so difficult, you say. I’ve tried, but I keep falling into sin and I keep being selfish. Am I really a Christian? And you doubt yourself. The intention of the Bible is not to cause a Christian to doubt his salvation but it’s to help a Christian realize, with certainty, Wow! these are the marks of grace and I do know that I’m a Christian because it is evident. And so, if you are overwhelmed, if, over the past weeks you have felt Wow! these sayings are tough and John draws you near to him, puts his arm around you and says, ‘Don’t give up. I write to you, little children. I write to you because I see that you know the Father. I want to assure you your sins are forgiven. I know you. I’m your pastor. I know.’ He brings the young man over and says, ‘look at your life, look at the victories, look at the amazing things God has done through you. Come, fathers, look at your single-minded pursuit of Christ. It’s so beautiful. Guys, if God has begun this good work in you, he will perform it unto the end. So, keep pressing on.’
And for some of us today who do not know Jesus, it begins right here. Would you be born again? Now, you can’t bring about this, just like I didn’t make myself born into this world. My mother had to do it but you need to turn from sin and believe in Jesus Christ. That’s what Jesus said to Nicodemus, ‘Nicodemus, you must be born again’. Today, I say to you, you must be born again because except a man be born again, he cannot see, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. But I tell you God loves you and He’s given His Son for you. The price that is due for your sins is already paid on the cross and He invites you. He calls you. In fact, He commands you to repent and believe in Jesus, His Son, for the forgiveness of sins, in a way that is mysterious to us, in a way that is not comprehensible fully to us. If you turn and believe, he gives you new life. And that’s His promise.
So friends, Gospeliters, if you can’t say in your heart ‘I know the Father’, if you can’t say in your heart ‘I have had a changed life where I have victory over the evil one’, when you can’t say in your heart ‘I have a single-minded pursuit of Jesus Christ’, in fact, I can’t say that I’ve any of the marks that has been spoken of in 1John'; I say to you, today may be the day of your salvation, if you are willing to humble yourself and look to Jesus for what he has done. May God have mercy that none of us will pass from life to death imagining we know him when we don’t. But may this be a glorious day that you are truly saved and truly belong to Him.
Father, we thank you for this time. Would you bless your people in all the various ways you have spoken to us. And we pray that Jesus would really be in our lives and He will shine through our lives. We thank you, in advance, for all the decisions that we make, for all the choices of life that we will make, for all the life-changing relationships we can enjoy with you. We thank you and we pray all this now in Jesus’ name.
“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. 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. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 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.” 1 John Chapter 2 verses 7-11
Download the sermon slides: SERMON-2014-9-14
We are right now, if you’re joining us for the first time, at 1 John chapter 2, and in particular verses 7 to 11. So if you have your Bibles, please turn with me to 1 John chapter 2, verses 7 to 11. I do not know about you, but when I fly economy class, er… from one place to another, one of the most uncomfortable things is to have this insufficient leg room. Is that true for you? Well, I’m a short person so it already is quite uncomfortable. I imagine for those of you who are taller, this is unbearable and it’s because it’s so tight that you don’t really have space, you don’t really can er… you can’t really rest well. It’s worse when the person in front of you reclines his seat, isn’t it? When he lies back, you’re… oh no, I’m squeeze, I’m stuck. You can’t do any work, you are seemingly paralysed.
So what do you do when you’re stuck in such a tight space? What can you do? Well, one of the things is, to beg the person in front not to recline his or her seat. Otherwise, you may have some ways and methods to stop them from reclining. What do people do? Well, some people sleep like that (picture shown). They stop them from reclining. But, that’s not a very good option and I don’t think many of you would do this.
There is a very interesting device, invented by a man who regularly has a problem with insufficient leg room. He invented this thing called the ‘knee defender’. Has anyone of you used it or known…heard about this? Oh, one of you, 2, 3, alright…4, 5. So a few of you have heard about the ‘knee defender’. What’s the knee defender? Well, it…in fact looks very simple, it just looks like this (picture shown). And it’s not very big. It’s held in a hand, as such. And what it does, is that it is like a giant and super strong paperclip. You clip it at the…near the tray area where you have a movement of the trays. And if you clip it here, it blocks this seat from reclining. Brilliant huh? This clip is used to prevent the person in front from reclining. He or she would assume maybe my seat is faulty and give up on it altogether. Well, that’s very…not very nice. So what they do is sometimes, not sometimes, whenever you buy the knee defender, I think it cost 20 over dollars. Whenever you buy the knee defender, along with it, it comes with the knee defender’s courtesy card. Basically, when you use this, you’re supposed to pass this card to the person in front, and to tell him about this knee defender, what it is all about. And you say, unfortunately, my legs are so long that if you incline your seat at all, it would immediately bang into my knees and just to explain it to people. Of course, most of the time, people don’t use the knee defender’s card. They just ‘teh gong’ (Hokkien words meaning pretending to be stupid) we call it, ‘act blur’. Pretend nothing is going on and assume that the person in front would give up. 0:03:07.1
Well, it did not…it does not always work out so well because just about 3 weeks ago, on the 26th of August. This is breaking news in America, alright? (Picture shown) Imagine what they are excited about. Breaking news in America, that there was a New Jersey flight that was diverted over a leg room dispute. What happened is that there was this man, his name is James Beach. He was er… he was having this flight and he wanted to work on flight. And so he puts this knee defender on and he didn’t pass the courtesy card to the person or the lady in front. Now, the lady of course didn’t know, was wondering why the seat was not able to recline. And so she try and she finally bang, she hit…she reclines so hard that it went backwards and the computer was shaken and was almost spoilt. So James was very upset. He says what’s happening? He pushed the chair back up forcefully, jolting the lady and then put the clips on again. The lady of course, was not very pleased. She turns around, took a can of Sprite and pours it on his face and on his computer. So there was a fight, a scuffle that ensued and it was so bad that the plane had to be diverted to Chicago, and er… caused a lot of inconvenience to the passengers and to everyone involved. James, after the incident gave an interview. He says he really feels very bad about this. It’s very silly. Over this knee thing, um…and so he was…he was apologetic, but he said, actually I was not really wrong, because he asked this very good question. This leg room space, this reclining, this space, whose space is it anyway? So he asked, whose right is it? Is that my 4 inches or is that her 4 inches? Nobody could answer him. Nobody knows. Is it your right to recline or is it my right to refuse your reclining? Nobody really knows. But James reminds me, as I read this story. It reminds me: we all are fighting for our own rights. We all fight for our own rights. None of us is going to say, oh, I don’t need the knee defender, I will go and tell the lady: lady, please recline, take as much space as you want. None of us do that. We hope and pray they will not recline but maybe we don’t go to the extent of putting the clips on. But all of us fight for our rights. All of us want things to go our way. 0:05:34.6
That’s why it’s so rare and it is so unique that the people of God, that the church of Jesus Christ, that people who follow Jesus would say, I will give up my rights, to serve you. We are coming to 1 John. 1 John chapter 2 tells us, the marks of a Christian. The mark of a Christian is that, he is willing to give up his rights, to love others and to wash their feet. Everyone in this world is born to fight for my rights.
My son Matthias, he learned a word early in his life and that is “share”. “Share, share”, “share, share”, “share, share”. Because whenever brother is playing with something, he says “share, share”. When I’m having something, he wants it, he says, “share, share.” But his idea of “share, share” is “get, get”. (Laughter in the congregation) Because once he has it, you say to him “share, share”, he says, “No”. “No”. For him, “share, share” means to get; and for us, we are born into this world, to grab.
But when you are born again, when you know Jesus as your Saviour, something remarkable changes in you. Instead of fighting for my rights, you say, I’m willing to give up my rights to serve you, to love one another. It’s not my words, it’s God’s Word. It says in 1 John, chapter 2 verses 7 to 11. “Beloved, I’m 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. 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. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 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.” (1 John 2:7-11, ESV) It’s a very simple passage in the sense, that John is saying, if you are someone who has the light, If you are someone who is walking in the light, you’re someone who knows God, then you are someone who will be willing to love and you’ll be actually doing the loving of one another. This is an unmistakable mark of a believer of Jesus. 0:08:08.6
Last week, we look at the first mark of a believer, is that he will be obedient to God. It’s not what he says, what he claims, what he lives out, it’s not his talk, but his walk. Today, we’re going to see a second mark of a believer, is that he will love his neighbour, he will love one another. So, let’s look at this passage in a closer…detail. And he begins first with this commandment; John says this is a commandment. I’m writing to you no new commandment, but an old commandment, that you had from the beginning – the word that you have heard, the old commandment that you have heard. He’s saying, you heard this before, now that I am writing to you, to love one another and that this is an expression of real faith, this is not anything novel or new that you’ve never heard before. You heard it when you were saved, you heard in the beginning when I was with you. And actually, this commandment is a very old one. I did not invent it. It’s so old that it spans thousands of years. Say how old is this old? Well, it began in the times of Moses. Back in Leviticus 19, it is said, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself…” (Leviticus 19:18, ESV) 0:09:28.9
This is Moses, speaking a thousand, two thousand, three thousand years ahead of John. Moses is saying, you shall love your neighbour as yourself and John says, therefore I’m not telling you anything that you have never heard, it’s found in the Old Testament. Jesus himself repeats it again in Matthew 22, you shall love your neighbour as yourself. In fact, he explains that the whole of the 10 Commandments, the whole of the 613 laws of the Old Testament can be summarized into 2 lines – Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and love your neighbour as yourself.
So, this is not a new thing. Hey guys! Little children, I’m writing to you. How do you know you are Christian? The fact that you call yourself a Christian? The fact that your parents are Christians? The fact that you wear a cross? The fact that you have a Christian name? The fact that you’ve been to the church for a long, long time? The fact that you’ve been baptised? No, this is how you know you are Christian. This is an old commandment, given by God, long time ago – you love one another. So, this is not new, as contrasted with the Gnostics who say, let me tell you new ways by which you can know God. No, John refers to a very historical, traditional, biblical reality – Old commandment. But at the same time, he says, it is a new commandment that I’m writing to you. Wah, this John very confusing! How come he talk like that one? He says it’s old and then now he says it’s new! Is it old or is it new? Well, John says, it is both old and new! What… what is he saying?! How could you say that it is old and new at the same time? Well, you got to understand. There was a night that is very important in John’s life. 0:11:28.1
Many years ago, it was one night, when John was having dinner, with his 11 friends. 11 apostles with their master, Jesus Christ. It was the last night that Jesus was going to be with them. And on that very night, just at dinner, they were squabbling and fighting amongst themselves who will be the first in the kingdom of God. They were arguing, reasoning with one another. I should be first. No, he should be first. No, I should be first. And then, in the midst of dinner, Jesus stood up. He took away his outer garments. He took a piece of towel, he wrapped it around his waist. Got a basin, fill it with water and then went to wash the feet of the disciples. Usually this is…not usually, it’s never done by the master. It’s always done by the lowest ranked person. In the culture of those days, Jesus did something that was taboo! How can our master come and wash our feet? Peter protested, of course. But Jesus washed their feet, nevertheless. Every single one, Matthew, Simon, Peter, John, even Judas.
And Jesus said to them, I will be betrayed tonight and tomorrow I’m going to the cross. I’m going to die. This is my last night with you. But I did this because I want to leave you an example. And this is what I leave you with; this is what I want you guys to do. I want you guys, the 12 of you, to fulfil this. This foot-washing was an illustration for His words in John 13. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35, ESV) What is Jesus saying? Jesus says, I give you a new commandment… no, Jesus is not new! Moses said it long ago in Leviticus 19. You yourself said in Matthew 22. Why do you say it’s new? I tell you why it’s new. It’s not new in a sense of its essence or the call of loving one another. It’s new in its manner of expression – as I have loved you. You’ve never seen love, expressed in this way and this is the new standard, the new level of love that you are to aspire to. That you will give up yourself, even if you are to die the next day. To wash the feet of your disciples, to serve the people that are around. Even the people who will betray you, like Judas. It’s new! They’ve never seen anything like this before – as I have loved you. It is also new in its motivation. Obey me, fulfil this commandment. Why? Because I gave my life for you. And now you are to give your life for others, because you have tasted first of my love. 0:14:45.6
I think it’s also new because there is a new significance. A new mark is that they shall know you are my disciples. So Jesus is not giving a brand-new commandment at all. It is an old commandment, but lifted up to a new manner, a new motivation and the new mark. Therefore, it is both old and new, and that’s what John is saying. I’m giving you an old commandment. This is… this is a time honoured mark. This is something that has been from the beginning. The child of God should obey this commandment because it has been from the beginning. It’s nothing new. He goes on then to say, this is true in Him and he knew, this is true for Jesus, Jesus lived a life of love and if you are His follower, it will be true also in you. You say why? Because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. The imagery here is, if Jesus is in the light, and if you’re following Jesus, you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then the light will also be shining on you and you should also be living a life of love. It’s a very simple logic. If you claim to follow Jesus, you will be walking in love. And love is not just that mushy feeling, it is practical action, in putting aside your rights and washing the feet of others. 0:16:11.3
We know that we have passed, out of death into life. John, this is a repeated theme. I want to tell you that John is not written like Romans. Paul, being the writer of Romans, is a very logical person. One point moves to point 2, moves to point 3. I’m not saying John is not logical, okay? But the line of reasoning for John is a circular one. He keeps repeating the theme, like a father would speak to a son. When you speak to your child, you don’t say, point 1, point 2, point 3, they can’t get it. You’ve got to go round and round, give different illustrations, give different angles and that’s what John is doing, in this episode. So you see, he repeats this very important theme again in chapter 3, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers…” (1 John 3:14, ESV) How do you know that you have eternal life? You have been baptized; you…you grew up in a Christian home; you come to church. No, he says, this is how you know – you love the brothers. Some of you have kids, now teenagers and you wonder, are they Christians? Instead of falsely assuring yourself that your kids are Christians because they’ve been with you to church for a long time, and because they’ve sat through all the Sunday school classes, I suggest to you, I ask you to consider making your judgments and assessments on Scripture. Are your kids obedient to God? Do they have a desire to even obey God? Do your kids think about others? Now, I know there’s… there is a process of growth and no kid is born out… Daddy, I want to serve people. No kids grow up like that. He’s weird lah! Unless he’s Jesus. But there must be a progression in his life. And I’m saying to you as parents, please, don’t just sit on that false assurance, on false premises, have a true assurance based on true premises, one of which is, you know that he has passed from death unto life, because he loves the brothers. You know yourself, you have passed from death unto life, if you love your brothers. 0:18:28.1
He goes on to say, everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of Him. So again, he repeats the theme in chapter 5. This is how you know you’re born of God: If you love others who are born of God as well. Love your brothers, and so he says, this is the mark of a Christian. Very clear, he loves the brother. Whoever says he is the light as He is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Doesn’t matter what he says, doesn’t matter what he claims, if his life does not manifest a consistent regard for others, consistent desire to serve others, he’s not walking in the light. If he’s always hating people, he’s always harbouring anger and hatred and bitterness, he is not a believer. It’s very strong! You say, wah, like that…if it is that strong? This is what he’s saying. I’m not saying you hate one time means you are not a Christian. The tense here is that he continuously hates. Then you know he is not walking in the light. 0:19:43.1
The first person in the Bible that commits hatred and murder is Cain. If you didn’t know that Cain murdered Abel, you would have thought that Cain would be a good person. Why? Because he worship God. He brought his sacrifice together with righteous Abel to God, and says God, I want to worship you. But God knew his heart. He didn’t want to worship God. He didn’t. Therefore, God rejected his sacrifice and the true nature in him surfaced. When he was jealous of his brother Abel, and proceeded to murder Abel. The first murder in the world. He looked like a Christian. He looked like someone who has life from God but he wasn’t. He hated his brother, the hatred of the brother shows him up, not to be the true believer, you see. 0:20:33.6
You say, pastor today I’m not like Cain lah. I will never kill anyone because I don’t want to go to jail. I don’t want to be hanged ah, I will never kill anyone. Let me tell you, if you are angry with someone, bitter against people, I tell you, you can be murdering him on a daily basis. You say how? You can murder him like that (picture shown). Okay, murder her like that. And it’s strange but most of the time, the people we hate the most, I say this alright? The people we hate the most are the people closest to us. It’s okay, if someone just cut your lane for a while, you may be angry for a short while, but that’s about it. But it’s very real that you can be hating your parents, your wife, your husband and you may not want to take a cleaver to chop him up and make curry out of it, but you kill him with your words. You kill her with your words. Your verbal abuse. I mean verbal abuse may hurt far…and I think it does hurt far more than physical abuse. These pictures are from this advertisement on…on people suffering in silence and…and it’s true (pictures shown), words can kill. I’m not like Cain, you say. No, we are like Cain. Just that you didn’t realize it. You murder not with a weapon in your hand but you murder with a tongue in your mouth. And that’s why we verbally abuse people because it’s hatred, anger, and some of us are more skilled. Stupid to shout at someone, scold someone right in front of the face, that’s not very skilful. The real skilful one is to do it behind their back. You want to murder, murder quietly lah. You want to attack, don’t attack in front, he can block you. Attack from the back – back-stabbing, slander and it can be very clever slander. It can…as we often say, it can be shrouded in prayer meeting. Can you…can you please pray for my stupid husband (laughter in the congregation), he always do this and it’s not very good. I know I respect him but his…and you…. (chopping sounds) wah… he’s bloody all over. That’s the same for husbands speaking about the wife. Parents about kids, kids – parents. Christians talking about fellow Christians. You know ah, she always like that one lah, never mind lah. Stab…stab…stab. 0:23:08.5
If you really ask your heart, there is bitterness inside. Never dealt with, never brought to the cross, never healed, never washed, and it’s eating you. You know what it shows you, it may just show you, you never walk in the light in the first place. You are like a Cain. You look good every Sunday, offering this sacrifice, but God knows your heart. And he wants you to know your heart today. When you see that you follow Cain even in his murderous intents. This is a word that we are familiar with, 复仇 (fu chou) in Chinese, which is revenge. That’s what we want. We feel that we have a right to be angry and bitter and hateful towards someone because he did that to me first! That’s what justifies our anger. The Bible says, no, I know he did that to you, I know she did that to you, but if you’re walking in the light, you love your brother. Wah… you say why? So unfair, God! It’s so unfair! How can you expect me to forgive him. You don’t know what he did to me! It was unfair for Jesus to go to the cross, but Jesus didn’t retaliate. He didn’t say it is my right now, to show my vengeful wrath on the people today. No, he came to die for us on the cross. 0:24:43.8
That’s why the Bible says, you should not take vengeance or bear a grudge. This is historical, Leviticus 19. This is long time ago. Don’t do it. Don’t bear… don’t… don’t go into this cold war for more than… this is so common in marriage. You bear a grudge because you are Christian, you don’t want to openly fight. You don’t want to. You don’t want to shout, you don’t want to fight. So what do you do when you are angry with your spouse? You go into cold war lah! Okay lah, I don’t talk to you already lah! See what you can do. See how long you can last? But that’s bearing a grudge. Not just in marriage but in the church. That’s what she said to me in S.F., I will never go to S.F. already. That’s what she did to me during the ministry rehearsal, I will never go to that ministry anymore. That’s how we react, that’s what our flesh delights to do. That’s what is natural to us. But God says you don’t do that. You shall love your neighbour. Loving your neighbour means giving up on your bitterness. Giving to God – your anger, your wrath, your hatred and doing what is good for them.
In fact, the demand is so high that the Bible actually says, let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour and slander. And by the way, if you are someone who is told slander, you should ask the person who’s slandering to stop. Because you are just allowing him to murder some more, and to indulge in sin. But this is spoken to those who are angry. Say, stop all that. Put away all that. Instead of doing all this, do this: be kind, be tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you. Pastor, you do not know, I…how can anyone forgive a man like that! You didn’t hear what he did to me! Yes, I may not know all that they do to you, but the rationale for forgiveness is not found in the worthiness of the person, the rationale for forgiveness is found in the fact that God in Christ forgive you. God forgive me not because I was good, God didn’t say, oh Jason actually not too bad lah, can be a pastor, I forgive him. Absolutely nothing like that! He is absolutely unworthy! He is a wretched sinner, but I will forgive him because of Jesus Christ, my Son. 0:27:15.9
You forgive your husband. You forgive your wife. You forgive your brother and sister in Christ, not because he or she or they are worthy, but because Jesus is worth it. And He did that for you. And that’s what he calls you to. Some of you struggle, really today I know some families, couples, you struggle with this issue. And you are always thinking: only if my husband is better; only if my wife is better; only if my church is better; only if my brother and sister in Christ is better. They will not get better. We are all sinners, saved by grace. Maybe in a long time, they will. But till then, recognize forgiveness is based on Christ, not them.
In fact, it is so independent of the person that Jesus says, love your enemies. This is the worst already. I mean, love your wife, okay. Love your son, okay. Love my daddy, okay. But love my enemies? Enemies who persecute me, want to kill me? Yah, love them, so that you may be like your Father which is in heaven. It’s not based on the people, it’s based on God. Love your enemies, do good to them. Pray for them, wash their feet. Would you do that? Pastor, I can’t because I really don’t like him. Okay, this is another common thing right? I really don’t like him. Every time I see his face, I want to puke. I’m so upset with him, I don’t like him. Now, realise today, God is not commanding us to like them. But let me say this, there is a difference between liking and loving. I think so. You can put that as 2 separate things. Hopefully when you love enough, there will be ‘like’ that arises. But often time, you cannot love, if you’re waiting for ‘like’. If you are waiting for ‘like’, it will never come. Let me try to…in a very simple way, distinguish ‘like’ and love. ‘Like’ is primarily based on emotions. I’ll…I’ll do this for you because I like you. I feel good doing this for you. Love is not primarily about feelings, although it can include feelings, but primarily it’s a choice. It’s a will, it’s about actions. 0:29:47.2
You look at 1 Corinthians 13, it’s not about feelings at all. Love is patient, love is kind. Love bears all things, love rejoices in truth, it’s action words. For God so loved the world. Not that He felt so much that he did nothing about it. But love is that He gave His Son. It’s action. ‘Like’, I suggest to you, is about me. I would do good to you because I feel good about you. I feel good with you. So I’ll do something for you. But love is not about me. Love is about you. It’s nothing to do with me. Love your enemies. Your enemies won’t do anything for you, but still love them. You may not like them but you still do things for them. ‘Like’ is what I can get, love is what I can give. ‘Like’ is what is natural. This is what we are all born to do. Love is supernatural.
Matthias’ “share, share”, “share, share”, “share, share”, “share, share”. Share toy, share toy. No, he doesn’t want to share. He wants to get. It’s only someone who is born of God, who have that supernatural obedience to give to others, for their own good. I share with you about this lady (picture shown), anybody knows who she is? Corrie ten Boom. That… excellent! Corrie ten Boom is a Dutch Christian, She has passed away, I think, in the 1980s. She was used of the Lord to save many Jews, from the Nazis in Germany. But as a result of her efforts, she was imprisoned, and was tortured in prison, together with the rest of her family. But there’s a part in her story that speaks powerfully about loving your enemies, forgiving them and not bearing hatred. I…I…I’d like to read this to you because I don’t think I will put it in a better way than she did. She says, when I was in prison camp, I saw the same guard, day in and day out. He was the one who mocked and sneered at us when we were stripped naked and taken into the showers. He spat on us in contempt and I hated him. I hated him with every fibre of my being. And yet Jesus says, when you hate someone, you are guilty of murder. Now, when we were freed, I left Germany, vowing never to return. But one day, I was invited back to speak. And I didn’t want to go initially, but I felt that the Lord was nudging me. Very reluctantly, I went. And my first talk was on forgiveness. Suddenly, as I was speaking, I saw to my horror, that same prison guard sitting in the audience. There was no way that he could have recognized me, but I could never forget his face, never! You know like Chinese say, 你化成灰, 我都记得 (ni hua cheng hui wo dou ji de). Even if you turn into dust, I can still recognize you. It was clear to me from the radiant look on his face, while I spoke that he had been converted. He had been saved, since I saw him last. And after I finished speaking, he came up and said with a beaming smile, “Ah…dear sister Corrie, isn’t it wonderful how God forgives?” And he extended his hand for me to shake. All I felt as I looked at him, was hate. I said to the Lord silently, there is nothing in me that could ever love that man. I hate him for what he did to me and to my family. But you tell us that we are to love our enemies. That’s impossible for me but nothing is impossible for you. So if you expect me to love this man, it’s going to have to come from you, because all I feel right now is hate. She went on to say that at that moment, she felt nudged to do only one thing. Put out your hand, Corrie, the Lord seemed to say. Then she take…she said it took all the years that I have quietly obeyed God in obscurity to do the hardest thing, that I’ve ever done in my life. I put out my hand. Then she said something remarkable happened. It was only after my simple act of obedience that I felt something like a warm oil being poured over me and with it came the unmistakable message. Well done, Corrie. That’s how my children behave. And the hate in my heart was absorbed and gone and so one murderer embraced another murderer, but in the love of Christ. One murderer because she hated, could embrace another murderer, only because of Christ. She did not act on feeling alone. She acted out of obedience, of choice. She did what was not natural but supernatural because she believed God was with her.
But you say, pastor this Corrie ten Boom so long ago, die already. It has nothing to do with us. I say to you in this church. I’ve seen Corrie ten Boom-like gestures and approaches amongst you. I say this, I…I…I’ve just recently saw, because I knew that two were not together, they were fighting. Two brothers were fighting, at least argued. There was unhappiness but I knew the very next week, one of them, when he saw the other brother come, went right up to him. By the way, as far as I know, it was not his fault. Well, you can never say it’s hundred and zero lah. Maybe 70, 30 lah, percentage of fault. But the brother went up proactively and said…and sought to reconcile. Do you know that’s a very humbling thing to do?
Do you know why husband and wife fight, and they will never reconcile? Because it’s so humbling. Even if you are right or even if you are wrong, it doesn’t matter. It’s very humbling to seek reconciliation. But when I saw the brother do it. I saw that, I said to myself, that is the mark of a Christian. He didn’t run away. He didn’t choose to bear hatred, but he sought to reconcile. That is grace. That is God. That is supernatural. He is walking in the light. And over and over again, it happens in true followers of Jesus Christ.
Is there someone you would rather not meet in this church? You just want to avoid? Maybe something that he said to you 5 weeks ago, 5 months ago, 5 years ago, but you could never let that off. Maybe some of you left your former church because there’s someone you cannot forgive right there. And you came here, but do you know when you left the church and came here, he never left you? He’s still on your head. He’s going to be with you for the rest of your life, until you bring that to the cross. The mark of a true believer, is that he loves, he doesn’t bear grudge, he doesn’t seek to take revenge. Because this is what John says, this is true in him and in you, because why? The darkness is passing away, the true light is already shining. There’s the dawn of a new day, you have a new birth. You wouldn’t act the way that you used to act. 0:37:53.7
And then as we conclude, we look at this. He says, if you are someone who abides in the light, you’re someone who loves your brother, then there is no cause for stumbling. In other words, you’ll not trip, you’ll not fall. You have this ability to walk uprightly. You have this ability to know that you are safe, you walk with assurance and joy. There’s no occasion, there’s no chance of falling. But if you are someone who is persistently hating your brother, it shows that you are in darkness, you walk in the darkness, you actually do not know where you are going, you are blinded. You are blinded by hatred, you are blinded by anger and bitterness and one day, you’ll be like a Cain. You’re shown up that you never really worship God in the first place.
It’s interesting that, John focuses on brother. Brother here refers to brothers and sisters in Christ. Isn’t it true that most of us think that, church is the last place you have quarrels? Aiyah, church is like paradise what, everybody so saintly. Everybody got a halo around the head, everybody so nice, I should never have any arguments in church. I tell you, that is why, it is so difficult to deal with differences in the church. Because expectations are so high. Wah, that guy Christian ah? That guy pastor leh; that guy deacon leh; he can do something like that ah? And it shocks you and that’s why you’re upset.
I find it paradoxical in my life. Okay, I’m not sure about you. In my life, I don’t think I have as many conflicts outside the church, as in inside the church. Been in church for 20 years, pastor for 8 years. I think, I’ve more conflicts in this church than anywhere else. Har? I think…is I suggest it may be true for you. If you’re really committed to the body life of the church. Because we are all sinners, still saved by grace. That’s all. And if you cannot accept that, if you think that this church is going to be the perfect haven for your soul. John wouldn’t have to write this. To John, it’s real! In the church, you will have occasions where, hatred can start and breed and grow. But he says, don’t do that. Don’t do that.
So this is John’s advice. He says, love one another. It’s a very practical thing. And…and John is called the apostle of love, because he speaks extensively about loving one another. There’s a legend, not sure whether it’s true at all, but a legend that goes like this: John the apostle, he was the last apostle to remain alive, on the face of the earth. He will be carried on stretcher to church assemblies. He will be carried to the house for Christian gatherings because he’s so old, he’s so weak. He can’t sit up at all, so he’s on a stretcher. And when he comes, people will ask him, what do you have to say to us? I mean the last of the apostles, of course you asked him. And John would say, love one another and then he will go off because he’s so weak. The next time you get John back as your guest preacher, John, what do you have to say to us? Love one another and he will go off again. And it goes on time after time, until someone says, er…excuse me, is there something else you’d like to say to us? It’s a bit boring that you say love one another every time. And John says, no, there’s nothing else I want to say to you. Love one another is the commandment of the Lord Jesus Christ, and if you do it, it is enough. I think etched in the mind of John, is this scene on the last night Jesus was betrayed. He could never forget that. He could never forget this example of love. That the King of all kings would lay down His glory, pick up that basin and that towel, to wash the feet of disciples. That Jesus would wash the feet of someone who would betray him. He would wash the feet of people who would flee from him and forsake him. He would wash the feet of someone even though he was going to the cross tomorrow. John could never forget that. And he says, this is what we are called to do, that people may know we are the disciples of Jesus Christ. 0:42:37.9
My friends, this message is a very simple, practical one. I don’t think it’s anything complicated. The question is, for you today. Love is not a feeling, it’s an action word. Are you doing anything about it? Is God bringing to your mind, even as you hear the sermon today, people, faces that you have had harboured hatred and bitterness against? Is there someone you need to bring to the cross, and ask God to give you grace to forgive? And I say to you, would we be a church that would be characterised by serving others? Would we love others? In a way, we’re building a building at Punggol. By the way we want the building to look nice lah. We want modesty, but we also think the building should look pretty decent. It shouldn’t look ugly and tattered and torn and so on. That’s certainly not the intention, but much as we want to make it presentable, that’s not the church. Not at all! Not at all! Where is the church? Right here. We say we need to have a beautiful church, so that people could come and hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are not talking about the beauty of the building, we are talking about the beauty of the people, of you and I.
How can we be beautiful for Jesus Christ? When we are all willing to lay down our outer garments, pick up the towel and wash the feet of people. I’ve seen many foot washers in this church and I praise God for every single one. I…I’ve seen grace in your life. I’ve seen God in your life. I see that when newcomers come, you don’t just sit on your own chair, and you sit further and further away. But you…you reach out your hand and you welcome. I’ve seen many of you do that. That’s washing feet! That’s giving up your right for your own privacy, so that you can reach out to someone who may be new and is struggling to find out what this is all about. I’ve seen many of you give up your own conveniences, your time to serve people. I’ve seen that and I pray I will see more of that, in many more of us. How can we prepare for Punggol? Well, yup, there’re…there are people who need to build the building, but Punggol preparation is about soul. It’s about life. It’s about us. It’s about serving one another as Jesus did. This is what Jesus left his apostles with. Will you be someone who follows the words of This Jesus Christ today? 0:45:11.1
Let’s bow for a word of prayer together. A pastor was once counselling a lady. She said I could never forgive. I hate him too much. I would never be able to forgive. And the pastor said to her, if you don’t forgive, it may just mean that you were never saved, you were not walking in the light. That shook her because she paused for a moment and said, pastor, I think you’re right. I have been deceiving myself that I can’t forgive, and I won’t forgive. I know I’m a Christian and I will forgive. And that’s what she did.
Are you saying to yourself today, folks, I can never forgive him? I know you preach the Bible, I know you’re looking at 1 John chapter 2, but I can never forgive him or her, I can’t do it! My friends, it is God’s command. And the true child of God obeys God. A true child of has the grace of God in his or her life. The Spirit of God to pour out His love, to enable you to do so. It lies with the choice of your will. Would you do that? Maybe today it’s your wife, it’s your husband, it’s your S.F. member, It’s your church mate, it’s your father, your mother, your in-laws, I do not know. Maybe your colleagues in the office. It has messed you up because hatred messes you up. Hatred is like burning a whole house down to kill a rat. And you want to kill him, but it has also killed the soul. You’re walking today in darkness, you are blinded and God doesn’t want you to stay there. Would you today lay all at the foot of the cross? Tender-hearted, being kind, one to another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you. I ask you today, how’s your service life? Christianity is not about how much you know about the Bible alone, yes it’s important, but what do you do with what you know? Are you living out God’s Word? Are you serving? Are you willing to pick up the towel today? Friends, we are not going to Punggol, we are not going to a new realm of ministry because we have a building. We’re going there because God wants us to serve and…and that means you and I, we got to be ready to serve. We got to put aside our outer garments, to fulfil the stewardship God has given to us. Would you do that? 0:48:03.0
Maybe you’re here today for the first time and you say, wow, this message is really tough because I can never forgive him. I could never do that, I can’t! I say to you, if you have not known Jesus, that’s not God…what God wants you to do right here, right now. Because obeying these commandments, doing these things, are not the means to get to God. God knows better. We are absolutely incapable of doing it anyway. But herein is the grace, that while we were yet enemies of God, while we were yet sinners, worthless, hopeless, helpless, He did it all by sending His Son and dying for all our sins. What does God want me to do today, you say? He wants you to recognize your utter unworthiness as a sinner. He wants you to see that you’re absolutely unable to save yourself and he wants you now to entirely trust that His Son has done it all for you. He wants you to repent and believe in Jesus Christ. He wants you to taste of His love. He doesn’t want you to manufacture love, you can’t! It’s supernatural! But if you’re willing today, to humble yourself and come to the foot of the cross, then like that amazing Niagara Falls, the love of God is poured out into your tiny little heart. And as it overflows, you would experience the grace and the ability to love others as Jesus loved. This is the Christian message: God to us and through us. Would you turn from sin and believe in Jesus today? He loves you so, while you were yet sinners.
And so Father this morning, we thank you for this time, we could look into your word. And I pray that we will all take a very, very good look at our own lives. Allow us today, to be freed from the root of bitterness. Freed from bitterness, anger, hatred that kills our soul. Help us to choose to obey, to love, to serve, to wash the feet of those around us. I pray that this will be the true mark of Gospel Light Christian church. There will be that light of love, through every single individual. And God is there are people today, who have been awakened to the reality that they may never really have trusted Jesus as yet, I ask you dear God, to humble them, to help them come to you afresh, anew, for salvation and life. May none in this room, passed from death, from life to death, assuming we are saved, when we really are not. But everyone would make our calling and election sure, trusting in Christ alone. So bless your people, this morning, we asked and pray all this, in Jesus’ name. Amen.← Older posts Newer posts →