May 25, 2023
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Lovers and Haters Manuscript

DATE: 5-28-23
SERIES: 1 John
SERMON: Lovers and Haters
TEXT: 1 John 2:7-11 ESV

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WELCOME

It’s a joy to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And there’s one thing I want you to know — and this is true if you’re worshiping with us for the first time or are joining us at our North Main Campus — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too. And now that we’ve heard from folks in our community — on the topics of love and hate — including some of you — let’s open up our Bibles to First John chapter two

ANNOUNCEMENT

And — while you’re finding First John chapter two — a quick invitation. You all are invited to come hang with the Hansons in front of the post office tomorrow for Findlay’s Memorial Day parade. For years now, a group of Gateway folks have gathered in front of the post office to enjoy the parade together. So — if you’re gonna be at the parade anyway — come enjoy it with us. And we’ll all get to scream real loud and embarrass our director of ministry — Laura Moore — who’ll be walking in the parade as a recent graduate of the Hancock Leadership program. 

SERIES INTRODUCTION

Alright — let’s get to First John. If you’re new to Gateway, we’re taking our time going through this short letter written by John who was a disciple of Jesus. And there’s a specific reason why John wrote this letter. He tells us in the fifth chapter when he writes, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” - 1 John 5:13 (ESV)

Now — if you’ve been with us in previous weeks — you’ve probably noticed that every week I’ve reminded us of John’s purpose. We’ve read the thirteenth verse of the fifth chapter every week and there’s a reason for this: I don’t want us to forget why John wrote this letter. You see, it’s easy to get in the middle of a letter — or in the middle of a preaching series — and forget why the letter was written in the first place. And John tells us that the reason he wrote this letter is so that those who believe in God can know that they have eternal life. And since we know this is John’s purpose — everything we read is in some way linked to his purpose. John wants his readers to know whether or not they have eternal life. He wants them to have confidence that they’re true believers of Jesus Christ. He wants them to be assured that their love for God is genuine.

And this goes for us too. By studying this letter, each of us can know with certainty whether or not we have eternal life — whether or not we genuinely believe — whether or not we truly love God.

And — now — let’s turn to the words found in First John chapter two — beginning in verse seven.

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. - 1 John 2:7-11 (ESV)

SERMON INTRODUCTION

Some of you know that — back in the day — I served in the Army. I headed off to basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in November of 2001. From basic training I moved on to Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia. And then on to Infantry Officer Basic Course — also at Fort Benning. I did a few other courses in the military but I bring up these three for a particular reason. They covered something that will help me illustrate a theme found in our text.

One week — in basic training — we practiced land navigation — and it was pretty much a joke. We worked in teams and didn’t really know what we were doing. But Fort Sill — being flat and open land — made it easy to see the markers we were trying to find. And — in basic training — we only did land navigation during the day when it’s easy to see where you’re going.

When I moved on to Officer Candidate School — or OCS — things got a bit harder. The woods of Georgia aren’t as forgiving as the flat, open terrain of Oklahoma. Unlike basic training — in OCS — every soldier was on their own. Now you had to actually know how to read a map and the terrain of the land — you had to know how to use a good pace count to know how far you’ve traveled — and using the compass was a must — we weren’t allowed to use a GPS. And — in OCS — we had to do land navigation at night as well as during the day. But the good news was that — at night — you didn’t have to find very many markers and you had a lot of time to find the minimum requirement in order to pass.

Then came Infantry Officer Basic Course. I’m still in Georgia. I’m still on my own. I still have to use the map, read the terrain, trust my pace count, and use the compass. I still have to find markers during the day and at night. But now I had to find more markers and I had less time to find them. So the pressure’s on. And land navigation at night was the worst — because we weren’t allowed to use any source of light while on the move. 

Now — if you’ve ever been out in the woods at night without a flashlight — I’m sure you can understand why this was difficult. It feels like you’re walking around blind. And with cadre out — pretending to be students — trying to catch you cheating — I didn’t want to risk using my flashlight.

So imagine you’re with me. It’s dark and I’m moving quickly to find my final point in the dark. I’ve been moving fast and I’m ahead on time — things are looking pretty good. I’ve got a good read on the direction I’m headed in. My pace count is solid. The terrain is following the map. Sure — it’s been raining most of the day and things are a muddy mess — but the situation is manageable. And the rain has stopped — so things are looking good.

And then it happens. I stop to do a quick map check and — as soon as I stop moving — the worst sound imaginable happens. The sound of rattlesnakes — and sound is too close for my comfort. Now because it’s dark — I’m blind —  I can’t see anything. And I can’t tell exactly where the sound is coming from. So I did the only reasonable — and what I thought was the safest thing to do — I backtracked — gave up on finding the marker — and went off for a different one. 

Why? Because to continue walking in the darkness would’ve been dangerous — it’d be foolish — it had the possibility of being deadly. 

And this is the picture John gives us in our verses. There are people stumbling around in darkness — blind to the reality of the danger they’re heading towards — and — there are others who do not stumble — because they walk in light: This is a truth we were introduced to a few weeks ago.

But what John’s going to show us today is that — as a result of this reality — of there being people who walk in darkness and others who walk in light — in this world there are lovers and haters. In our world — even in the church — there are lovers — people who walk in the light — and there are haters — people walking in darkness. And John’s going to demonstrate the difference between lovers and haters.

THE OLD AND NEW COMMANDMENT

But John begins by reminding us of the commandment he’s been highlighting throughout this letter. But — now — John tells us two features of the commandment which seem contradictory. 

John begins by telling us that the commandment is old. Look with me in verse seven. 

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. - 1 John 2:7 (ESV)

John tells us that the commandment — he’s referring to isn’t new — it’s old. He says something similar — in one of his other letters — when he writes, 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. - 2 John 4-6 (ESV)

In both letters John says this isn’t a new commandment — it’s something old — it’s something you’ve heard from the beginning. What beginning? The beginning of their faith. 

When John’s audience first heard the gospel — this commandment was spoken to them. And though John doesn’t give us the commandment in our verses — we know from the rest of his letter what commandment he’s referring to: the commandment to love one another. This is something all Christians have heard and it’s something all of us are prone to drift from — thus we need to be continually reminded that our faith in God is proved genuine by our love for one another. 

But this commandment is even older than when you first believed. In fact, this commandment goes all the way back to the book of Leviticus — where Moses recorded God’s words, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. - Leviticus 19:17-18 (ESV)

So this commandment isn’t new — it’s a really old commandment — which makes John’s next point somewhat confusing. For the next thing he tells us is that the commandment IS new

At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you. - 1 John 2:8a (ESV)

Well that’s confusing! John said the commandment isn’t new — it’s really old — and — now he’s telling us that the commandment is new. So which is it John? Old or new? 

Yes — it’s both old and new. And — what seems like a contradiction — is resolved in Jesus’s words as recorded by John. Jesus said, 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. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. - John 13:34-35 (ESV)

How does that resolve the old or new confusion? Jesus says, “In the way I’ve loved you, I command you to love each other — I command you to obey this really old commandment in a new way — my way.” This is what John means when he writes that the commandment is “true in him and in you (1 John 2:8a).” The commandment to love others was fully expressed in Christ. And Jesus has shown us how to — in a new way — obey this old commandment. 

And John gives this congregation the most heartfelt, loving, and — honestly — amazing compliment: He tells them that this commandment is true in them. John tells this imperfect group of believers that their love for one another is true — it’s legitimate — it’s genuine — their love for one another is fulfilling this old and new commandment. 

What a testimony to the heartfelt concern they have for each other. What a witness of their sacrificial love for one another. What encouraging words for them to hear.

What these Christians “heard in the beginning” is producing fruit in their lives as individuals and as a congregation. Jesus’s love for them has changed — and is changing — the way they love one another — his love is the fuel that empowers them to obey this old and new commandment.

Finally, John connects this old and new commandment with imagery he’s previously used in the letter. He tells us that the reason why this commandment is being obeyed — the reason why they’re loving one another — is because the light is conquering the darkness. In the last half of verse eight John writes, “the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” - 1 John 2:8b (ESV)

In John’s writings, darkness often means sinful behavior — or the place in which sinful behavior is most prominent. So when John uses the word darkness — he’s not meaning physical darkness — he means spiritual darkness. Sin. Evil. Rebellion and opposition to God.

Earlier he wrote,“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. - 1 John 1:5-6 (ESV)  

And — in our verses today — he writes, At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness…11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. - 1 John 2:8-9, 11 (ESV)

So darkness — for John — means the realm in which evil reigns. And what does John say is happening to the darkness? It’s passing away — why? Because the true light is already shining. 

And John’s specific here. He uses present tense verbs — meaning that the passing away of the darkness and the shining of the true light are ongoing activities — they’re happening right now. This started when Jesus — who is the true light — came into our world and defeated the darkness which had prevented men and women from loving one another. And by shining his glorious light into our world — by giving the light of life to men and women — and in setting them free from the darkness — obeying this old and new commandment is now — not only possible — but the desire of those who are his people of the light. 

The picture — here — is of a world once trapped in the darkness of night. Where it’s always winter, but never Christmas — as CS Lewis put it. But the first rays of the dawning sun began to shine when Jesus was born. And he would one day say, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” - John 8:12 (ESV)  

And as God’s gospel goes forth — changing the hearts of men and women — more and more areas of our world are lighting up. And the light is getting brighter — for the darkness can’t keep the light hidden. Are there still dark places — deep in the shadows? Yes. But there are places of brilliant light and this is where true disciples of Jesus are found.

And — the implications of this truth are found in passages like, Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. 11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. - Romans 13:8-14 (ESV)

And passages like, For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. - Ephesians 5:8-16 (ESV)

And For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. - 1 Thessalonians 5:2-11 (ESV)

In all of these examples — there’s a clear distinction between people of light and people of darkness. And the assurance we have — the confidence God’s Word gives us is this: The light is winning — the light is conquering evil. People of the light are now experiencing — and will experience — for all eternity — the defeat of darkness.

THE HATERS

Which leads us to the people of darkness or — as John calls them — the haters

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. - 1 John 2:9 (ESV)

A few weeks ago we saw the difference between talking the talk and walking the walk — and the theme is here again. For — this hatred — is an ongoing hatred these people have in spite of what they say. And — though other verses speak about hate for unbelievers — this verse speaks of a present tense, ongoing hatred for people in the church. And their hatred demonstrates that they’re in the darkness. 

As John later writes, “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” - 1 John 4:20-21 (ESV)  

It’s not what the people of darkness say that’s important — what’s important is what they do. Because what we do demonstrates if we’re a person of light or of darkness — if we’re a lover or a hater. And what does John say people of darkness do? In verse eleven he writes, “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 2:11 (ESV)

John’s concerned with a person’s actions — not their words. Words are important — but actions prove if our words are true. And the actions of the haters prove that their words are not genuine, that their faith is lacking, and that their beliefs have not changed them.

Anyone who claims to follow Jesus while they hate a fellow Christian walks in the realm in which sin and evil dominate. And their own sinful behavior — their hatred toward others — blinds them from seeing the truth of their own hypocrisy. They’re doing land navigation at night — without a flashlight — in the deep woods of Georgia. And they’re so blind that they’re unaware of the dangers all around them. They’ve stopped moving, and the noise of rattlesnakes is all around them, and they’re completely unaware of the serpent’s trap they’re caught in.

And — though this should disturb them — they’re comfortable in the darkness, because the darkness is where they live. In verses nine and eleven, John tells us that these haters are “in the darkness,” that they “walk in the darkness,” and that the “darkness has blinded their eyes.” Why? Because the darkness is their home — it’s where they’re comfortable — the prince of the darkness is who they serve. And their prince is a liar, a thief, a deceiver, and one who hates God’s people. And the people of darkness follow their prince’s example. 

As Matthew Henry wrote, “Those who walk in hatred [toward] believers, remain in a dark state. Christian love teaches us to value our brother’s soul, and to dread every thing hurtful to his purity and peace. Where spiritual darkness dwells — the mind and the conscience will be darkened and will mistake the way to heavenly life. These things demand serious self-examination and earnest prayer — that God would show us what we are, and where we are going.”

Examine your heart — right now — for hate towards others. Don’t deceive yourself with neutrality — for there’s no such thing in our relationships. Just as we can’t be neutral with God — we either love him or hate him — there’s no neutrality between us. Either you’re actively loving your fellow Christians or you’re hating them. And be careful in your evaluation. Examine what Jesus says it means to love each other. For example — according to Jesus — we give our lives for those we love. There’s one standard to evaluate your love for others. Take Matthew Henry’s advice and self-examine and pray that God would show you if you’re walking in the light or if you’re blindly wandering in the darkness.

THE LOVERS

There are the haters but — thankfully — being a hater isn’t our only option. For John compares the haters with lovers — and those who obey God’s commandment are lovers. And — like the haters — John tells us what lovers do. He skips over what lovers say because — again — John’s primarily concerned with actions — not with words. 

Whoever loves his brother abides in the light. - 1 John 2:10a (ESV)

A few weeks ago we learned that — to abide — means to live. So a lover lives in the light. And living means — not just avoiding the things of darkness — to live means to obey God’s command. And what’s the command John’s referring to? The command to love one another. It’s not just the absence of hate — or neutrality — it’s the presence of love that’s the difference between the people of light and of darkness.

John wants us to see that the life that abides in the light is characterized by acts of love. And this love will be seen in the fellowship of the church. And just as the word “darkness” means the realm in which evil prevails — the word “light” is the realm in which God prevails. Light is a place where things of the darkness flee from. It’s where dark things are unprotected. The light is where evil things in our lives are exposed so they can be repented of, confessed, and turned away from — so we can be forgiven and cleansed.

And people of the light are continually finding areas in their hearts that are dark. Just like we saw earlier — the light is overcoming the darkness — not only in our world — but also in our hearts. And the Christian life — a life of living in the light — is a life of continual refinement, and much repentance, and is a blessing of ongoing cleansing as the light conquers more of our heart.

And we’re given an amazing promise as to what this living in the light and being a lover is like. For John tells us how people of the light live — and he tells us that they don’t stumble. “I mean, are you kidding me, John? People of the light — people who are lovers — don’t stumble?” Here’s what he says. “Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.” - 1 John 2:10 (ESV)

So what does that mean? The Greek word translated as stumble is found fifteen times in the New Testament. And every time it has the sense of harm being caused to a person. Now — biblically — what’s at the root of all harm caused to us? Sin. So — follow me here. 

To stumble is to cause harm and harm is caused by sin — yet — what John’s just told us is that — for the person who walks in the light — there’s nothing in him that will cause him to stumble. So how is that possible? If stumbling is a result of sin — what sin is John thinking of — because — I don’t know about you — but I’m a Christian and I still sin.

What I believe John’s telling us is that a person who walks in the light cannot sin by denying that Jesus is the Son of God. A person of the light can’t sin by denying that Jesus has come in the flesh. They can’t sin by denying that Jesus is their atoning sacrifice — that fancy word, propitiation — we learned a few weeks ago. And — because of what they believe — they live accordingly. Meaning they can’t deny God’s commands — they can’t disregard them — because — by walking in the light — they’re compelled to obey God’s commands. 

And the reason why I think this is what John means — by not stumbling — is because this is what he’s already written about in his letter — so this is what’s on his mind as he’s writing these words. These truths seem to be the stumbling blocks that the haters were denying, ignoring, and disregarding. The darkness had blinded them to these truths about Jesus — but people of the light believe these truths with certainty. For the light of Jesus Christ is already shining — and the only proper response to living in his light is to be a lover — not a hater. A lover of Jesus. A lover of fellow Christians. A lover of all people.

And — as you walk in the light — you won’t stumble over things that people walking in the darkness stumble over. You won’t stumble over Jesus being the Son of God. You won’t stumble over believing that he came in the flesh — or that he’s your atoning sacrifice. You won’t stumble by denying, or disregarding, or disobeying God’s commands without repenting when you do. Why? Because you believe in the Son of God. Your spiritual eyes have been opened. God has shined his light upon you and — though you may once have been blind — now you see. Though you once walked in darkness — you’re now walking in God’s light.

It’s like beginning land navigation in the pitch black darkness of night. You’re lost. You’re groping around. You’re unaware of the dangers all around you. And then — faintly at first — the sun begins to rise. Light begins to shine. You can now see what’s around you. You can see the direction you’re headed in. You can see the dangers — the snakes, the pitfalls, the stumbling blocks — because you’re in the light and — now — because you’re in the light — you avoid the dark places where evil, ungodly, disobedient things exist.

For as Jesus said, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” - John 11:9-10 (ESV)

And as the book of Proverbs tells us, “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. 19 The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.” - Proverbs 4:18-19 (ESV) 

CONCLUSION

Lovers walk in the light. They live in the light. And they do not stumble. People who know they have eternal life — because they believe in Jesus Christ are lovers — not haters. For — when you experience the love of God — you’re brought into the light — God’s light. And — in God’s light — there is no darkness at all. And — with his light shining around you — you now see what it means to obey his commandments — including his commandment to love others as Jesus has first loved you. Gateway, I pray that we’d walk in God’s light and allow his light to brightly shine all around us. For this will increase our love for God, our love for one another, and our love for all people. Let’s pray.

PRAYER

Father, Son, and Spirit help us to be lovers — not haters. Help us to see that there’s no such thing as neutrality when it comes to our relationship with each other. These are our brothers and sisters — and you’ve commanded us to love one another.

Spirit, shine your light more intensely and more brightly in our hearts. May your light conquer any darkness found in our hearts. Dark things like jealousy and selfishness — greed and pornography — laziness and bitterness and gossip and thinking we’re always right. 

Father, may your light conquer the darkness in our community, in our neighborhoods, in our families, in our country, in this world. Help us to not hide your light, but to display your light in its fullness so that all might see your glory. 

And — Jesus — may your light shine more brightly as we grow in our love for you and for one another as a congregation. May we — as Matthew Henry said — spend time in self-examination of how your light is shining in our lives — so we know — with certainty — whether or not we have eternal life — whether we’re walking in your light or in the darkness — reveal to us if we’re lovers or haters. In your name we pray. Amen.

BENEDICTION

May you go walking in the light — loving one another as Christ has first loved you. Amen.

God loves you. I love you. You are sent.

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