Lesson 4

Walking in the Light: Keeping His Commandments

(1 John 2:1-11)
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Introduction: One of my tasks as a lawyer is to prove the "elements" of my client's case. When I am litigating religious accommodation cases, the first element is to prove that my client has "sincere religious beliefs." How would you do that? How do you prove to a judge, who does not know your client, what is in your client's heart? I use my client's actions to prove what is in the client's heart. Is my method God's method? What relationship do our actions have to what is in our heart? Let's jump into our study and find out what God says about this!

  1. The Goal


    1. Read 1 John 2:1. Last week we learned that those who "walk in the light" have sin in their lives. ( 1 John 1:7-8) Does that disprove my actions = heart theory?


      1. Is that sin okay with John? How about with God? Is it appropriate to walk the trail of light packing this load of sin along?


      2. What does John say is the goal? ( 1 John 2:1: "I write this so you will not sin." The goal is to leave sin behind.)


      3. Is this a realistic goal? What happens if we miss the mark? (John says we have Jesus to defend us. Sounds like a lawyer!)


    2. Look again at 1 John 2:1. How does Jesus "defend us" before the Father? By arguing that everyone sins, and God should not be so particular?


      1. Is Jesus arguing that what we did was not really sin?


    3. Read 1 John 1:10. What kind of people did we decide last week were identified here? (These are the two extremes: First, those who claim they have reached perfection and they have no sin. Second, those who say they are not sinning now and they have never sinned because sin does not really exist for Christians. It makes logical sense that Jesus would not be repeating a variation of these two false and extreme arguments.)


    4. Do you think the people described in 1 John 1:10 are the same people John is addressing in 1 John 2:1? (No. John starts out "my dear children." He is not still talking to the same group of people he was talking about in v.10. He said the verse 10 people were making God out to be a liar and God's word had no place in their lives. John has turned to a new group of people who are seeking the truth. These are people who are walking on the light trail. These are people who want their heart and their actions to match.)


    5. Now that we have discussed what we think Jesus might argue, let's read 1 John 2:2 and see if we can figure out what He is actually arguing. What argument does this suggest that Jesus is making on our behalf?


      1. Assume you are hauled in front of a judge and you are charged with committing a crime. As you are standing there trying to look your best (and your most innocent) you hear your lawyer start his argument: "Your Honor, my client is guilty, very guilty...." What would you say?


        1. Is that Jesus' defense for us? (Yes! His defense is that we are very guilty, but He has already paid the penalty. He is not arguing against our guilt. He is arguing against the penalty being imposed on us.)


      2. In light of Jesus' (your lawyer's) argument , how do our efforts to cover and deny our sins really look? Imagine the judge's reaction if you started interrupting your lawyer with an indignant, "I am not guilty! I live a perfect life! Any problems I may have are not my fault. It is the fault of the genes I got from my father and mother!"


    6. We decided a few minutes ago that 1 John 2:1 is addressed to "those on the light trail." Is this consistent with 1 John 2:2? (Jesus' sacrifice is "for the sins of the whole world." His sacrifice might not be accepted by all, but He gave his life for everyone.)


    7. Consider this: Why does John characterize Jesus as having to defend or advocate our position with God? Does God the Father need to be convinced? Is this some sort of debate which we hope Jesus wins?


    8. Read John 16:26-27 where Jesus says, "I don't have to ask on your behalf, the Father loves you ...." How is this consistent with needing a lawyer? (Jesus' defense is against the demands of the law, and not the hostile (to us, as opposed to sin) demands of the Father. What Jesus has done for us is beyond words, and the very fact that Jesus steps forth on our behalf makes our defense clear.)


  2. Knowing God


    1. Read 1 John 2:3-4. From time to time someone will ask me if I know someone important. (Actually, it is generally the reverse, I'm anxious to tell others if I know anyone who is remotely important.) What does it mean to "know" someone? What does John mean when he writes of us knowing Jesus? (Knowing someone means you know something about them.)


      1. If this is true, then why is obedience to God's law the "reality check" for knowing God? (Logically, it must mean there is a strong connection between knowing Jesus and knowing His commands.)


      2. Does this verify my courtroom approach: that my client's actions tend to show whether the client "knows" Jesus? Has a heart for Jesus?


    2. Why does John say we obey Jesus? What is our motivation? (We know Him.)


      1. Why doesn't John say we obey because we know the rules?


      2. Why doesn't John say we obey because we fear God?


      3. Why doesn't John say we obey because we know the downside (the sizzle) or the upside (the temperature-controlled mansion)?


    3. Is this a universal principle? That we obey what we know?


      1. If you say, "yes," ask yourself how much time you spent knowing God last week as opposed to knowing the dragon speaking through the television?


    4. If you say, "It's not true, Bruce, that I obey every thing that I know," then why does knowing God mean we obey Him? (This says something mind-boggling about God. His love and character are such that knowing Him compels us to want to obey!)


    5. Friends, this is killer stuff: we cannot obey God unless we know Him. The other side of this equation is equally sobering: we do not know Him if we do not obey Him.)


    6. Read 1 John 2:5. What do you think John means when he says that God's love is made complete in anyone who obeys? (Christianity is not merely theoretical. It is not some abstract knowledge of rules that make no practical difference in our lives. God's love becomes complete in us when we let His will transform our actions.)


    7. Read 1 John 2:6. What does it mean to "walk" as Jesus did? Does it mean:


      1. We have no money?


      2. We have no spouse?


      3. We preach? (John is systematically, relentlessly, driving the point that obedience is essential. He is not talking about the specifics of Jesus' life, he is talking about Jesus determination to obey His Father and reflect the will of His Father. Our heart and our actions are linked.)


  3. The Results Of Knowing God.


    1. Read 1 John 2:7-8. Is John reminding us about an old command or telling us about a new one? John starts out with what sounds like he is stumbling: "I am not writing you a new command, but an old one. Well, maybe it is sort of new." Which is it? (It is an old command not clearly recognized before because new light allows us to see it.)


      1. Have you ever found an old antique, cleaned it up, and thought it looked completely different? Completely new?


    2. Read 1 John 2:9-11. What is this refurbished old command? (To love our fellow Christians.)


      1. How did it get refurbished? What is the nature of the new light? (You do not understand how to love, John says, until you have seen how Jesus loved! Jesus "cleaned up" the old love and obedience idea to give us an example of what was really intended. Consider two examples: 1) Withered hand healed on the Sabbath (Matthew 12); and, 2) Jesus discussion about the importance of what comes out of the mouth rather than what goes in it (Matthew 15).)


    3. Friend, how do you rate on the reality check of 1 John 2:9-11? What do your actions say about your heart? Do you hate anyone? Do you hold grudges? What is your attitude towards the family of God? The answer to these questions shows whether you are on the "light" trail or the "dark" trail.


  4. Next week: Walking in the Light: Renouncing Worldliness.

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