SERIES: 1 John
SERMON: Walk the Walk
TEXT: 1 John 2:1-6 ESV
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As always 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.
If you have your Bible — please turn with me to First John chapter two. If you’re a guest with us — a few weeks ago we began a journey in First John. Why? Well you’re among people who love God and his Word — the Bible. So we spend time going through it together so we better understand who God is, who we are, what God’s done for us, and — also — what he expects of us.
And — in our letter — First John — the truth we’re growing in understanding is this: Those who believe in God can know that they have eternal life.
In fact that’s nearly identical to John’s theme verse of his letter where 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)
And since we know this is John’s purpose in writing his letter — everything we read is in some way linked to his purpose.
And this goes for us too. By studying his 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. John wants people who do — and who don’t — believe the gospel to know where things stand for them. For the gospel message is the means by which people receive or reject eternal life — thus the gospel is to be proclaimed for all to hear, so that all might believe and know that they too have eternal life.
And — now — let’s turn to the words found in First John chapter two — beginning in verse one.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. - 1 John 2:1-6 (ESV)
We live in a day and age that’s quite amazing. You can find information on just about anything online — and who knows what’s going to come of all of this AI stuff. And — though there’s a tremendous benefit to the accessibility we have to all of this knowledge — there’s a danger as well. The danger is that everyone thinks they already are — or can become — an expert on anything.
For instance, I’m not a handyman. In fact, to even refer to myself and the word handyman in the same sentence is a joke. “Surely it’s not that bad, Josh.” Well for years my toolbox was a plastic baggie. Or maybe it was the cardboard box I kept the baggie in — I’m not sure — either way — you get the picture.
Now I’ve upgraded my toolbox to an actual toolbox. In fact, a few weeks ago I managed to accomplish a home handyman project. Our house is older so — when it gets warmer out — we put window AC units in the upstairs bedrooms. And I’ve been wanting to build wood frames for them — instead of just putting them in the window and hoping the little accordion doors keep the rain and bugs out — which they don’t.
So I did what we all do and googled how to frame in a window AC unit. A YouTube video came up, I watched the video, and I made a judgment call: If this guy can do it — surely I can. Carsten — our tech director was present — he saw me do this. I have a witness to my success. Sure it took me way too many trips up and down the stairs to get the cuts right — but — hey — I did it. All because I had knowledge from the Internet. There’s my success story.
Now — before you think too highly of me or think I’m bragging — here’s another “Internet and me” story. As you may know — I have a heart abnormality. I was born with it, but didn’t know I had it until I was in my 30s. Now — once my abnormality was discovered — I did one of the dumbest things a person can do. Do you know what I did? I googled my abnormality. And do you know what Dr. Google told me? That I was dying.
Now, am I dying? Yes, we all are. But it’s amazing how Dr. Google’s diagnosis was so different from my cardiologist’s diagnosis. But — because I was an internet expert — I was stressed out while I waited for my cardiologist to get the results from some tests he had me do. I was anxious because I’d become an “expert” on all things related to the heart because I had access to knowledge on the Internet.
What do these two stories have to do with First John? Well what I just shared — in both my success and failure — is something that happens when it comes to matters of religion, faith, and — particularly — to Christianity. Knowledge is part of our Christian faith, but a person can know the right things about our faith and still not be a Christian. A person can be an Internet expert in knowing Bible facts and not be changed by the facts they know. A person can know all of the details about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and still not truly believe in him.
Knowledge isn’t what separates believers from unbelievers, Christians from non-Christians, or people of the light from people of darkness. What separates disciples of Jesus from everyone else is this: True disciples don’t just talk the talk; they walk the walk. Meaning true disciples don’t just know stuff — as if being a theology expert makes you a Chrsitian — it doesn’t — true disciples do stuff because of what they know. They live differently because of what they believe. They don’t just know God’s commands — they obey his commands — because — true disciples walk the walk.
So — let’s connect what we know with how we live — for this will give us another test — another marker — another way we can examine our lives to see if we really believe in Jesus. And please know that these tests are passable — meaning they’re not meant to be discouraging. Challenging, yes. Eye opening, certainly. But they’re also meant to encourage those who believe because you will see — “though I don’t do this perfectly, I do see this in myself” — if you’re a true Christian — which should encourage you in knowing that you do believe and have eternal life.
So what do disciples know and how does their knowledge change how they live? One truth a follower of Jesus knows is this: Disciples of Jesus have a defense against sin.
Last week we saw that one difference between Christians and non-Christians is that Christians know that sin is real, that they have sinned, that they do sin, and that they must confess their sin. People who aren’t Christians do the opposite. They don’t believe in sin, or think they don’t sin, and they definitely don’t see a reason to confess their sin.
John continues his thoughts about sin when he writes, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” - 1 John 2:1 (ESV)
Disciples of Jesus have a defense against sin — that’s what John’s telling us when he says “so that you may not sin.” If you believe in Jesus, you have a defense against sin. So how does this knowledge change the way we live? I’ll sum it up this way: Don’t sin, but when you do… Meaning, disciples of Christ strive to not sin — but — when they do — they have a plan of action.
So our defense begins with a striving to not sin. And why do we do this? So we live a holy life that’s pleasing to God. And this is only possible by reorienting your life on Jesus and living out of the identity he’s given you. As I’ve preached before, when you know — and by that I mean, truly believe — that Christ gave his life so you might live — what you do in response to this knowledge matters. And — biblically — the expected response to this knowledge is to live your life for Jesus. How does this relate to fighting against sin?
What you know changes how you live. And God’s people strive to not sin.
But — when we do sin — because even in our striving we will all still sin — so when we do sin we know that Jesus is our Advocate.
Verse one again says, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” - 1 John 2:1 (ESV)
Last week we read, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” - 1 John 1:8-10 (ESV)
So a disciple of Jesus has a plan of action for defeating sin and a plan of action for when we fail to defeat sin. For — even when we fail — we’re still in the fight. Our sinful nature still clings tightly to us — so we’re aware that we often fail in our fight against sin. But we’re not defeated — instead — a true disciple of Jesus confesses his sin, acknowledges her sin, a disciple doesn’t ignore, or cover up, or justify, or defend, or pretend as if they’re not a sinner.
A true disciple lives as if the only hope they have in this world is that they have an Advocate — Jesus Christ — pleading his case to our Father. And when God hears Jesus say, “My life for this one’s life — my death for their death — my perfection for their imperfection.” When God hears Jesus say, “This person is mine,” we trust that the Father hears his Son. Our trust is not in our striving to not sin — our trust is not in how good we’ve been at obeying God’s commands — our trust is in Jesus being our Advocate and our propitiation.
We see this in verse two where John writes, “He (that’s Jesus) is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” - 1 John 2:2 (ESV)
Propitiation is a big, fancy word which means that Jesus made an offering to God — the sacrifice of his life and death — to satisfy God’s wrath towards our sin. And — in doing so — God now has a favorable attitude towards those who believe in his Son. So propitiation means that Jesus’ sacrifice — as our substitute — satisfied God’s wrath against us and he now looks favorably upon those who believe in his Son.
You see, the reason why Jesus can say “this person is mine” to his Father — thus saving a guilty sinner from the eternal wrath of God — is because Jesus offered himself as an atoning sacrifice. What does that mean? Well our sins had to be paid for and we — in having sinned against an eternal, perfect, and holy God — deserve the just punishment for our sins — eternal judgment.
Yet Christ — in being our propitiation, in being our sacrifice, in being our substitute — satisfied the punishment we deserve so that — through our faith in him — we’re welcomed into Jesus’ eternal reward. And this is good news. Jesus did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He satisfied God’s wrath for us — thus we no longer need to fear punishment — even when we sin — because we have an Advocate who’s purchased us with his life. Thus — through faith in Christ — we know that we have eternal life as our reward and this changes how we live in the present.
Disciples of Jesus have a defense against sin. They fight to live a holy life empowered by God’s Spirit. And they have a plan for when they fall into temptation. They confess their sins, trusting in their Advocate Jesus Christ who is the propitiation — the atoning sacrifice — for their sins. When Jesus says you are his — you are his. Trust him.
What else do disciples know that changes how they live? Disciples know God.
We’re in verse three. “And by this we know that we have come to know him (that’s God), if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.” - 1 John 2:3-5a (ESV)
Disciples know God and this changes how they live. But how?
First — because they know God — disciples keep his commandments. We see this in verse three where John writes, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.” - 1 John 2:3 (ESV)
We live in a world where anyone can claim to be a Christian — which should cause us to ask: If anyone can claim to be a Christian — is there a way to be certain that you are a Christian? John tells us there is.
A person who truly knows God has a heartfelt desire to obey his commands. Another way of saying this is that our Christian faith requires conduct that conforms to God’s will and his commands. And — in our day and age — where we’ve built a world based on the idea of freedom of choice — obedience to God’s commands is a true test if our faith in Christ is real.
A simple test of your faith is to ask yourself, “Am I obeying God’s commands?” Before you answer too quickly — do you even know God’s commands? The commandment John brings up throughout this letter is that Christians are to love fellow believers. Again, I’m not asking if you perfectly obey God’s commands — but is it your desire to do so? And — when you don’t obey — when others point out ways you’re not obeying — when the pastor asks a question in his sermon that upsets you because it reveals disobedience in your life — how do you respond? For the true believer there’s only one response — repentance of their disobedience. Second thought — there’s a second potential response: thankfulness to God for their obedience to his commands — but never smugness or pride or self-condemnation for how well or not so well that you’re doing. This is how you can know that you have eternal life and I hope this is an encouragement to you who believe. “I’m striving to obey — which is a gift from God — and — when I fail — thank God — for I see that repentance is how I respond.” Is this you? I pray that it is.
Second, disciples know the truth. We see this in verse four where John writes, “Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” - 1 John 2:4 (ESV)
Truth is an interesting word when you look at how John uses it in his writings. For instance — in his gospel — John tells us that Jesus is truth. “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” - John 14:6 (ESV)
John records Jesus’ words telling us that the Holy Spirit is truth. Jesus says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” - John 14:16-17 (ESV)
Finally, John reminds us that the Word of God is truth when Jesus says, “Sanctify them (make the disciples holy) in the truth; your word is truth.” - John 17:17 (ESV)
Jesus is truth. The Holy Spirit is truth. God’s Word is truth.
Now — back to our letter — John tells us that people who don’t keep God’s commandments are liars and the truth is not in them. And — having seen what John means when he uses the word truth — we can safely say that — for those who disregard God’s commandments — the truth is not in them. And — by truth — John’s wanting us to know that the Word of God is not in them. The Holy Spirit is not in them. And Jesus Christ is not in them. Making the opposite also true.
Those who keep God’s commandments have the truth in them. The Word of God is in them. The Holy Spirit is in them. Jesus Christ is in them. And this truth is to encourage his people and change how they live. For they’ve been transformed by knowing God’s Word — by knowing God’s Spirit — and by knowing God’s Son.
Finally, we see that disciples have a perfected love. Look with me in verse five. “Whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.” - 1 John 2:5a (ESV)
When a person discovers God’s limitless love for them — in response to his love — they love God and live for him. And their love for God is expressed tangibly by their obedience to his commands. Why? Because obedience and love for God are inseparably linked — they’re bound together. Obedience is proof that your love is genuine. Obedience is evidence that your love for God is real. Obedience is proof that your love for God has changed who you are. Obedience doesn’t earn God’s love — it’s a response to his love.
And a disciple’s love for God is being perfected — meaning — it’s being completed. And — when you compare a disciple’s love with someone who merely claims to love God without obeying him — well — differences become apparent. For — the person who truly loves God — obeys his Word which demonstrates that his or her love for God is true and complete. Those who claim to love God — but really don’t — don’t obey his Word.
True disciples of Jesus know lots of things — but they don’t just talk the talk — they walk the walk by demonstrating their love for God by obeying his commands.
Which leads us to our final point.
Disciples walk like Jesus. Beginning in the last half of verse five we read, “By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” - 1 John 2:5b-6 (ESV)
The “him” — being referred to — is Jesus. And John says you can know that you’re a true disciple by the way that you walk. And how does a disciple of Jesus walk?
First, they live in him — a disciple of Jesus lives in him. John uses a word that’s a bit foreign to most of us — the word abide. To abide in Jesus means to live in him. So not only is Jesus in us — but we’re in him. We’re joined to him. We’re part of his body, his temple, his reward.
The Bible says that when Christ died — those who believe in him died with him. And — more amazingly — when Christ rose from the dead — we rose with him. And — even more amazing is that when Christ ascended into heaven — we ascended into heaven with him.
Right now — if you’re a Christian — you’re presently here — and in Heaven — at the same time. You’re presently here on earth — but your permanent residence is in Heaven with Christ — your primary residence is in Heaven. How amazing is this truth? If you believe — you’re a citizen of Heaven — an ambassador of Heaven — who’s temporarily living here in this sin stained world. And this amazing truth — when you believe it — will change how you live. Meaning our lives — our daily walking and living — should be shaped by our being in Christ.
Are you living in Christ or are you living in the world? Are you living as a resident of Heaven or as a resident of this present world? Are you obeying the commandments from Heaven or the commandments of this world? This is how you can know that you believe and have eternal life.
Additionally, disciples of Jesus follow him. Disciples follow Jesus.
Jesus is the perfect example of what it means to love God and to love others. And you can know that your fellowship with God — your faith in him — is genuine if your life imitates that of Christ. Obviously, we won’t do this perfectly. But there’s a difference between living an imperfect imitation of Jesus and living no imitation of him. Jesus is our Savior — he’s our Lord — he’s our King — and he’s our example. And he said, “As I have loved you, go and love others.” So — if you’re not sure how you’re supposed to love others — follow Jesus’ example. For he said, “Follow me.”
And a Christian — whose faith in Jesus is real — will be able to say — as Paul did — “Imitate me as I imitate Christ. Follow me as I follow Christ. If you do what I do — you’ll be doing what Christ did. Love people like I do — because my love for others is birthed out of Christ’s love — and you’ll be loving others like Jesus loves.” This is the life of a true believer. This is the life of someone who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. This is how you can know if you believe in the Son of God and have eternal life. Do you walk the walk or are you simply talking a religious talk?
Ask yourself, “Does my life demonstrate that I’m in Christ? Does this action — this activity I’m about to do — belong in the presence of God? Is this conduct becoming of someone who has Jesus living in them? Because if I’m a Christian — Christ is in me — and he’s about to do this with me?”
The key is to pause, to be aware, to reflect on what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, who you’re living for, and who or what you really love. And — in our day of easy believism — where anyone can claim to be an expert on just about anything — including being a Christian — where YouTube videos make you an expert handyman or theologian and Dr. Google can let you know that you’re dying or deceive you with religious lies — it’s good to know that there’s a way to know with certainty whether or not you truly believe in Jesus and have eternal life.
John tells us that true believers walk the Christian walk. They fight sin. They know they have an Advocate who pleads their case when they confess their sins. They know that Jesus’ sacrifice has satisfied God’s wrath on their behalf. And disciples know God — and the evidence of this is their love for him — which visibly displays itself in obedience to his commands.
Heavenly Father, help us to know that we have eternal life because we believe in the name of your Son, Jesus. May our lives demonstrate evidence that our knowledge of you is true and genuine through the evidence of our fight against sin, our confession when we do sin, and through our trust in our Advocate, Jesus Christ, who is the propitiation for our sins — encourage the hearts of those who believe.
Spirit, help us to know you and your truth. May your truth fill us. May you reside in us. May Jesus live in us. May your truth — your perfect Word — be in us. And may your truth in us perfect our love for you and for one another.
And Jesus may your love for us and our love for you change the way we live. Walking like you walked when you were on this earth. Help us to follow you — your example and teaching — so we display evidence that we believe what we say we believe — by following our Savior wherever you may lead. Help us to be a people who talk a good talk — who truly know you — and help us to be a people who walk an ever better walk of obedience. In your name we pray. Amen.
One way that we celebrate the good news of knowing that we have eternal life is by participating in communion together as a congregation. Communion is a time of remembrance that we do together as a community. But it’s even more than that for a follower of Jesus. This is an act of obedience.
Communion is the good news. It’s the gospel. This meal communicates the power of God as displayed in the sacrifice of Jesus. Communion is the gospel not written down or spoken in words — yet in this meal Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection is communicated to us.
The bread and the cup. His body and his blood. Wounded for us. Pierced for us. Shed for us. Beaten for us. Bloodied for us. Humbling us by reminding us of the death we deserve. Yet stirring joy in us as we feast on the reward of grace that we don’t deserve, but are able to experience because of our Heavenly Father’s love toward us. Communion is a celebration of eternal life being offered to us in the sacrifice of God’s Son.
The apostle Paul writes it this way in 1 Corinthians chapter 11:23-26.
“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.”
With these words Christ has commanded all believers to eat this broken bread and to drink this cup in true faith and in the confident hope of his return in glory. And — though all Christians are welcome to take communion with us — we must remember the warning that accompanies this command.
“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” (1 Corinthians 11:27-30)
A person who participates in communion while knowingly, blatantly, and unrepentantly rebelling against God’s commands participates in an unworthy manner. Paul says they drink judgment on themselves. For God takes his gift of love to us seriously — for his gift was the sacrifice of his Perfect Son — thus we’re to take God’s gift of love seriously too. So let’s take a moment to examine our lives for present sins that need to be repented of.
- moment of silence -
At this time, I’d like to invite forward those who are going to be serving us. And — while they make their way forward — know that as the bread and cup are passed down your rows, you’re to take the bread on your own — but save the cup — which we’ll drink together. Also — in the trays with the bread — there’s a gluten free option in the center of the tray. Eat the bread on your own — but save the cup — which we’ll drink together.
The blood of Christ, shed for you.
Let’s pray. Father, we acknowledge that you are holy and majestic — and blessed is Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. In Jesus, your Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and he was full of grace and truth. He lived as one of us, knowing joy and sorrow. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, opened blind eyes, and broke bread with outcasts and sinners. Dying on the cross, he gave himself for the life of the world. Raised from the grave, he won for us victory over death. We praise you that Christ now reigns with you and will come again to make all things new. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
May you go — talking a good Christian talk — but more importantly — walking the Christian walk. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.
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