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How's Your Walk with Jesus?

July 1, 2018 Speaker: Omar Johnson Series: Stand-Alone Messages

Topic: General Epistles Passage: 2 John 1:1–1:13

2 John

“How’s your walk with Jesus?”  “How’s your walk with Jesus?”

If you’ve been a Christian for any amount of time, I’m guessing you’ve been asked that question or some iteration of it.

“How’s your relationship with the Lord?” “How are you doing spiritually?”  “Do you feel like you’re growing as a Christian?”

Often when we hear the question, we think within a specific set of parameters: we hear, “How often am I reading my Bible?” “How frequently or fervently am I praying?”  “How much am I sharing the gospel?”  “How many people am I meeting up with to disciple?”

And while all those things are good, and should mark our lives, I wonder if they blind us to some more basic, more fundamental, though perhaps less quantifiable, actions that better serve as gauges of our spiritual health.

What does a genuine Christian life look like?

The book we’ll study this morning helps us thing about and answer that question.  Helps us to have some criteria by which to judge how our walk with Jesus is.

This morning we’ll be in the little book of 2ndJohn. And as we go through this book we’ll find the Apostle John pointing us to two specific aspects that mark a genuinely healthy Christian life.  

Let’s read this book together and discover what those two areas are. Turn with me in your Bibles to the book of 2 John.  If you’re using one of the pew Bibles, you can find it on page 1025.

[1] The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, [2] because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever: [3] Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father's Son, in truth and love. [4] I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father. [5] And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. [6] And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. [7] For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. [8] Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. [9] Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. [10] If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, [11] for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. [12] Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete. [13] The children of your elect sister greet you.

So what are those two aspects that John emphasizes as marking a true Christian?

Truth and love. Love and truth.

So here’s what I think is the main point of this passage:  Genuine Christians progress in love and remain rooted in the truth.  Genuine Christians progress in love and remain rooted in the truth.

The two parts of that main point will serve as the two points of this sermon:

Point #1 – Progress in love

Point #2 – Remain in the truth

  1. Progress in love (vs. 1-6)

One of the first things we notice in this text is the rather strange greeting at the beginning. “The elder to the elect lady and her children”.  We only find that expression here in 2 John.  What does it mean?

Well one, I think we see that the Apostle John is so well known to the recipients of this letter that a title is sufficient enough to introduce himself.  “The elder”. It could simply mean “older man”, but it seems to denote a more significant role, one of authority, denoting some kind of pastoral oversight over these recipients.

And who are these recipients?  “The elect lady and her children.” I don’t think it means a specific woman and her offspring.  Rather, it seems to be a symbolic reference to the local church and her members.  We see the apostle Paul in a similar way using feminine metaphors in Ephesians 5 to describe the church.  “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed herby the washing of the water of the word.”

The lady is the church and her children are the members.  In referring to the church as a lady, I think the Apostle John is meaning to convey a fundamental truth in just these beginning words: God loves you.  How do you know?  He chose you.  You are the “elect lady”.

Now, we hear the word “elect” or “election” and all type of feelings start to bubble up.  We just had primary elections last week.  Which I trust were far less contentious than the presidential election two years ago.  Now when we elect someone for office, we look at their inherent qualities or abilities, we look back at what they’ve done, their track record, and we look forward to what they promise to do.  But those are not at all the criteria by which God chooses.  God’s choosing of a people is based off one determining factor: his love.

Moses reminded the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 7, “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you.”

“In love”, the Apostle Paul reminds the Ephesians, “he [chose you] and predestined you for adoption as sons”.

Saints, when is the last time you thought hard about why you are a Christian?  Why there are other Christians?  About why this church exists?  The answer to all those questions is grounded in God choosing a people.  And God’s choosing a people is grounded in God’s loving a people.  So look around you. Who are these people to you?  Most fundamentally, they are people whom God loves.  What, then, is your attitude towards them?

John proclaims in verses 1 & 2, well, “I love them”, “in truth”…truly.  “And not only I, but also all who know the truth.  Because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever.”

God’s people reflect God’s character.  As God loves, so we love.  That is, if we know the truth.  Now knowing the truth is more than just knowing a few Bible verses, knowing the truth is more than knowing sound theology, knowing the truth is more than knowing how to precisely articulate the gospel. Knowing the truth is knowing a person – Jesus Christ, the one who said “I am the truth”.  To know him is to love him, to submit your life to him, and to live as he lived, to love as he loved.  To know him is to be indwelt by His Spirit, enabling us to do so. This language in verse 2 of the truth abiding in us and being with us forever sounds a lot like Jesus’ words in John 14:16-17, where he tells his disciples that “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth…He dwells with you and will be in you.”

How do you know that you know Christ?  His Spirit dwells in you. Romans 8:9 says, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him”.  And how do you know you have the Spirit of Christ dwelling in you? John says here, you love. “I love you and all who know the truth love you BECAUSE of the truth that abides in us.”  Love is the evidence of supernatural life, is the evidence that you’ve been born again, that you’ve trusted Christ and have his Spirit indwelling you and empowering you. Love is the evidence of true conversion.

And this love is evident in this Christian community, at least in some of its members.  Moving beyond the greeting into verse 4, we see John rejoicing greatly to find some walking in the truth, just as was commanded by the Father.

Walking or living in a way that accords with God’s commands, that demonstrates God’s character, that evidences supernatural life. This “walking in truth” includes both right belief and right practice.  Chiefly, a right belief about who Jesus is – God’s Son, come into the world to save sinners like us by his perfect life, sacrificial death, and resurrection from the grave. A belief that was being challenged in the church, we’ll see that in a moment. But that right belief is always accompanied by a right practice of loving other believers in a true Christian’s life.

It’s hard to miss John’s emphasis here in verse 4 that somewere walking in this way. Which seems to imply that there’s some division, some friction in the church.  Some are living a truly God-pleasing life while others are living inconsistently.  But notice, there’s reason to rejoice even for the some. I wonder if you find yourself more critical of what’s wrong in the church than encouraged by what’s right.

John here gives us a mature picture of Christian love.  Love stubbornly looks for evidences of God’s grace.  And where it finds them, it calls them out and rejoices over them.  For what they are: evidences…that you belong to God.  That He has saved you and His Spirit lives in you!  That’s amazing…it’s a miracle!

If that doesn’t bring you joy, I wonder what does? It could be something as godly as seeing the Lord’s work in your own life. Praise God for that.  But a mature love especially rejoices over God’s work in others’ lives.  These are the men you want to consider as elders and deacons, these are the sisters you want to hold up to the congregation as models to follow – those who love to see others grow in the Lord, who are genuinely concerned for and labor for the spiritual welfare of others.

But this others-oriented life isn’t for elite Christians, it’s for all Christians.  And so John calls the entire church to join in on this life of love and care for one another.

We see that in verses 5 and 6, “And now I ask you, dear lady, (or church) – not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning – that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.”

This love for others is at the heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  John says this is no new command that I’m inventing, but one you’ve had from the beginning.  At the very foundation of Christianity is the command to love others.  Jesus gave this command on the night before he was crucified 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.”

So John is saying, I’m not asking you to do anything new.  I’m only asking you to do as Jesus commanded.  That’s just another demonstration of love isn’t it?  That’s what Christians do – encourage each other to obey Jesus.  To do as he commanded: and what has he commanded?  That we love one another.

It’s interesting isn’t that there’s such a thick emphasis on loving one another. I mean, we might expect more far-reaching goals: loving our neighbors, loving the nations, loving the poor, loving the lost. While the Scriptures do give us instructions to love those groups, the main emphasis is on loving other Christians in our local church.  The Scriptures take the concept of love out of the abstract and call us to act in love among the people we see and know and live with.  Which means the Scriptures expect the lives of church members to be so bound together that the greatest opportunities to love and the most practical ways to love will be towards each other.

To call each other to repentance and holiness. To serve each other when needs arise. To forgive each other when sin is committed.  To bear each other’s burdens and sorrows.  To rejoice with each other over God’s good gifts.  To guide each other in the ways of righteousness.  To guard each other from sin and error.

This is what it means to love one another.  Now, guard your heart against the temptation to kind of scan that list and note all the lapses in love in your time as a member here.  Perhaps replaying instances where others have failed to love you in these ways.  Instead, examine whether you’ve been obedient to this command.  Perhaps you need to shift your mindset from a consumer to a provider of love.  Have you loved the other brothers and sisters here? What would they say?  What would God say?

Genuine Christians walk in, progress in love.

Genuine Christians remain in the truth.

  1. Remain in the truth (vs 7-11)

Those two: progressing in love and remaining in the truth are tied together.  I think we see that in verse 7.  That little connecting word at the beginning, “for”, links verses 1-6 with verses 7-11.

Love one another, walk in love, “for” or “because” deceivers are coming.  They’ve gone out into the world, John says, and where they find a church fractured, a church lacking in love, they’re drawn like a shark to blood.

And so a thick community of love, where the truth about Christ is preached and practiced, is a solid defense against deceptions.

Now these deceivers have a very specific belief system, one which they hope to convince others of: they deny that God became a man; that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh.  This was a major heresy threatening the 1st century church.

And you can see why it’s easy to deny.  I mean, it’s unbelievable. That God who is perfect and pure, became a man, that he took on human flesh – something associated with uncleanliness.  I mean, think of all the things you do in the body.  You sweat and you stink, you get dirty and you bleed, you vomit and you go to the bathroom – how vile, how putrid to think that God would take on flesh!

“No, no, that’s primitive teaching” – these deceivers would say – “enlightened minds understand that God just seemed to become a man, he never truly became a man – I mean how could God stink and sweat, how could Godsuffer and bleed, how could Godstoop so low?!”

That’s a good question.  How could God stoop so low?  But the Bible considers it not merely from the angle of how could God take on a material body that is itself unclean.  But rather how God could take on a body that takes on the uncleanliness of His people.  You see, the vilest thing about us, isn’t our material bodies or what comes out of them. The vilest thing about us is what’s in us.  Our sinful souls, our rebellious hearts.  That hate God and that demonstrate that hatred by our actions and our attitudes towards him.

“From within”, Jesus says, “out of the heart of man come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, lying, slander.  [All these things come from within] and defile a person.”

The question the Bible leaves us to marvel at is how God could stoop so lowto save a people so utterly defiled, utterly unclean, utterly sinful? But this is no hypothetical situation.  This is what God actually did.  God indeed became a man.  He took on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, and dwelt among us.  Jesus lived a perfect life of love and obedience and laid down his life for us.  He bore our sins in his body, dying in our place, so that we might be saved through him.  Three days later he rose from the grave, showing that his physical death was sufficient payment to satisfy the demands of God’s wrath towards sinners.  And now he offers life – eternal life to all who would receive him!

This is the central truth of Christianity.  Anyone who opposes this teaching is the antichrist, John says.  Their opposition is opposition to Jesus.  You don’t move beyond, progress in this doctrine of who Christ is and what he has done. That’s why John says in verse 9, everyone who goes on ahead and does not remain in this teaching does not have God. Take out God becoming a man (becoming incarnate) and you have no other doctrines to stand on.  To deny the incarnation, is to deny the crucifixion, is to deny the resurrection, is to deny God and is to dive headfirst into destruction.

Friend, if you’re here this morning and you’re not a Christian, I wonder why not.  What has you denying Jesus, either with your lips or with your life?  Is it that it’s too bogus for you to think that God could become a man?  That Jesus is God in the flesh.  That he died and rose again? Well the Bible says he did.  Who’s wiser, you or God?  Who’s truer, you or God?

Are you denying Jesus because following him would require you to give up too much?  Well, let me ask you – what do you have that’s so worth holding on to?  What do you have that’s so precious, if you don’t have God?  What can it provide you – I mean not now, but in the end?  Be aware that denying Jesus now has repercussions later.  Jesus said “everyone who denies me before men, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.”  Would you turn from your sins, trust what the Bible says about Jesus, and place your trust in him today for salvation?  He would have you this morning, and you can have him for eternity.

For those of us already trusting in Christ, John has a word of warning for us.  Look at verse 8, “Watch yourselves”. “Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.” Saints, don’t be so arrogant to think that you could never be deceived, that it couldn’t happen to you! “I’ll never deny Christ!” Well, Peter made that boisterous claim too, and within hours denied Jesus three times. Faithfulness today, doesn’t guarantee you won’t fall tomorrow.

Now, it’s true that genuine Christians will never ultimately fall away – they will endure to the end.  But that’s not because of some innate ability within us. That’s because God will keep us. And one of the means he uses to keep us is his word – including warnings like this that we must take heed to.  And this is not just a warning given to us individually, but to the entire church.  “Watch yourselves” is a command that each member is to pledge to do for each other. “I’m gonna watch you, and watch you, and watch you, and you watch me so that WE might make it to the end, might receive our reward.

That’s what you’ve pledged to do for one another in your church covenant.  To “walk together in brotherly love, as becomes members of a Christian church, to exercise an affectionate care and watchfulness over each other, and faithfully admonish and entreat one another as occasion may require”. Where you think that language comes from?

We see again why John has been exhorting these saints to love one another.  Because a church walking in this kind of love, that cares for each other, that watches over each other, that admonishes each other, puts up a strong defense against deception.  Yes, deceivers may come.  But it’s not just me they have to deal with, but rather a whole community of people standing with me, who love Jesus, who love me, and who are poking into my life to make sure that I’m loving Jesus and following after him.

Now, on the flip side of this.  Most of the people I’ve personally seen fall away, are those whose lives have been closed off from the church.  Whose lives are not transparent, who are not opening their lives for examination and for correction.  Don’t be that kind of Christian.  It’s dangerous.  Do your soul a favor.  Center your life around the church.  Get to know people.  Make it easy for people to know you, to know your struggles and temptations.  Solicit their prayers, entrust yourself to their care. Increasingly fold your life into this flock so that you might not fall away.

Christians have the weighty responsibility to keep each other in the truth. Which necessitates keeping falsehood out.  We see John exhorting the church to do that in verses 10 and 11, “If anyone comes to you and doesn’t bring this teaching (that Jesus is God in the flesh) do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.”  Shut false teachers out!  Don’t welcome them with open arms.  Don’t extend any love to them.

Now when John says “do not receive them into your house”, we need to remember that many of the early churches met in homes. So the exhortation isn’t simply not to let a false teacher at your dinner table, but don’t let a false teacher in your pulpit.  Don’t you dare allow someone to share false teaching about who Christ is and what he’s done in your congregation.

So no we can’t have an interfaith service at Temple Hills Baptist Church.  You can’t have a Jehovah’s witness, or Muslim imam, or Jewish rabbi come share with you. They don’t believe the truth about Jesus.  That He is the only Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father.  Through Him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven; he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary; and was made human.  He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried.  The third day, he rose again, according to the Scriptures.  He ascended to heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.  He will come again with glory, to judge the living and the dead. And His kingdom will never end.

Whoever does not bring this teaching about Christ – whether it be an imam or a rabbi, a Baptist pastor or an angel from heaven, let him be damned.  Don’t open your homes (your churches) to them.  Don’t open your hearts to them.

You may have noticed the sharp difference in John’s tone in this letter.  Whereas with the church he has been gracious, calling out the love that some have displayed, graciously asking that the entire church be marked by such love, expressing his own love for the church.  With these deceivers, he shows none of that.  Wherein the world tells us that to love is to be accepting of everyone and everything.  John says, no – true love discriminates.  It does not love what God does not love.  It does not love those things and those people that are opposed to Christ.  True love is centered around the truth.

But saints, notice this truth is a central truth, an essential truth.  Yes, we must be inhospitable and unloving to those who claim to know God and yet teach falsehoods about Christ.  They are clearly out of the bounds of Biblical teaching.  But there’s a lot of room in bounds for genuine Christians to disagree.  You can be a Democrat and remain in the truth.  You can be a Republican and remain in the truth.  You can be a homeschool advocate or public school proponent and remain in the truth.  You can fight against racial and social and gender inequality and remain in the truth.

There’s enough genuine error to keep us vigilant. Manydeceivers have gone out into the world.  Yes, put your guard up against them.  But put your guard down towards other brothers and sisters.  Hold fast to the truth, and love each other hard through differences, so that the entire church might be built up to stand against attacks from the evil one, so that the entire church might receive her reward – eternity with Jesus.

Progress in love and remain in the truth.

Let’s pray.

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