Now we're turning in our Bibles again to the second epistle of John, and if you missed the last week that we were here, you may have missed the fact that we have now changed our studies from 1st John - which we've now concluded - to 2nd John. This is, as I've said, our second study in it - and, God willing, perhaps the next time we meet, the week after next, we will be able to finish this and then go into 3rd John. So do pray to that end, so that we can complete John's works this season.
So we're turning to 2nd John, and we'll take time to read the whole epistle - there's not much of it. Verse 1: "The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; For the truth's sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever. Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father. And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen".
Now if you were with us in the last study, where we had a kind of introduction to this second epistle of John, you will remember that we asked certain questions of this very brief epistle. The first question we asked was: who is writing it? That may seem an obvious question, but the answers that men give today are not one and the same - but we concluded, and if you want to know what those variant answers are you can get the recording, we'll not go into them tonight, but we concluded, we believe correctly, that the author is the elder John, who is one and the same as the apostle John, the last surviving apostle who was with the Lord Jesus Christ during His ministry. That is the same man who wrote the Gospel of John, the first epistle of John that we have studied, and the last epistle of John, 3 John, and the book of the Revelation, the Apocalypse - the same man, the elder, the apostle John.
The second question we asked was: to whom was this letter written? Of course, we have the answer in verse 1: 'the elect lady'. Of course, there are various interpretations of that. Some interpret it metaphorically as meaning the church, and I even heard after the last study that an interpretation I didn't mention was that some see it as Israel. I think all those things are stretching biblical interpretation somewhat. We believe that this was indeed a literal Christian lady in whose home the church probably met, and that church was made up most likely of some of the members of this lady's family - that's why it is addressed not only to her, but to her children whom John says he loves in the truth.
Then the third question we asked was: what motivated the writing of this epistle? We found that it was a Christian custom in those days that there was widespread itinerant ministry - that is that people, evangelists, teachers and New Testament prophets would have moved around assemblies ministering the word of God. As they moved around in this itinerant fashion, they would be accommodated by the saints in their homes. Now, religious charlatans, we believe, began to abuse this hospitality and they exploited it as an opening for teaching their heresy. It is possible, though it is conjecture, reading between the lines, that this elect lady wrote to the apostle John asking for guidance to discern who was a true teacher among these itinerants; and if she found that a certain teacher who was asking admittance into her home and into the church was false, how should she handle him.
So we find the answer to that question in the fourth question that we asked last time: what is the message that is contained in this letter? The message that is contained is: how to know who is true, and how to handle those that are false. So John tells us: it is those who know the truth, those who love the truth, and those who walk in the truth regarding the Lord Jesus Christ, of course, who should be admitted for fellowship. But whoever does not manifest those criteria and attributes, are to be rejected and refused fellowship in the assembly, and indeed in her home - because the assembly met in the home.
Now last time we looked at verses 1 to 3 answering those questions, but we really looked at objective truth concerning who Christ is, that is the incarnate Word of God, the Son of God come in flesh. We also looked in verse 3 at how Christ saves us, look down at it - it is by grace, through God's mercy, He imparts peace to us 'from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love'. So this truth, the subjective gamut of the Gospel that we believe, and that must be the only grounds of fellowship and admittance into church fellowship, is the truth concerning Christ: who He is, that He is God manifest in the flesh; and what He has done; and how He can save us by His grace.
Now in verse 4 - we're going to look at it right through to verse 6 tonight - John begins to write about subjective truth. What is that? That is the incarnation of truth in the personal experience of the individual Christian. The objective truth of our faith is that Christ, the Son of God came in human flesh, our flesh apart from sin. But now he's looking at the subjective truth that there is to be an incarnation of the truth of Christianity in the personal experience of the lives of Christians. In other words, the subjective truth of the Gospel ought to be manifest in the walk of the Christian.
So not only does John say that we ought to know the truth - the truth about Christ, who He is, what He has done, how we can be saved - but we ought to be a people who love the truth, and not only have a passion for the truth, but we ought to walk and practice truth. Now right away, just like 1 John, we see that 2 John, as 3 John, are epistles all to do with fellowship. So John's primary theme of importance is that fellowship must always be on the grounds of truth. Truth is of prime importance. But now John is telling us from verse 4 on that if truth is real, it will be loved by Christians, and it will be lived by Christians.
So we have an example of this in verse 4. John says: 'I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father'. The apostle is expressing personal joy at having found, in these children of this elect lady, truth. But not only a knowledge of it, or even just a love of it, but a practice of it - they were walking in truth! I wonder how many of us it could be said of tonight are 'walking in truth'? I'm sure that most of us know the truth, maybe we even love the truth, but do we walk in the truth?
Now whether John actually met these children in his travels, or perhaps just heard a report of them, he was rejoicing - ecstatic - to realise that this subjective incarnation of Gospel truth was being seen in the members of this church, and possibly the members of this lady's family. Now notice it does say in verse 4: 'of thy children', which could literally be translated 'some of thy children'. That may imply that not all who met in this house, or used to meet in this house, were walking after truth - perhaps some of them were beginning to follow the false teaching of these false preachers. But John's joy, note, was a positive thing: he wasn't concentrating on the negative, those who were following error, but he was rejoicing in the manifestation of truth in the life of these believers. They were obedient, and it brought great joy to this old apostle. He expresses the same thing in the third epistle and verse 4, look at it: 'I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth'.
Now there is an obvious application of verse 4 to us all, because if you're a leader in the church, an elder or a pastor, which is one and the same thing, when church members walk in truth it brings great joy to the heart. I think sometimes we fail to appreciate this. Also the converse is true: that when church members don't walk in the truth, it brings, or at least it ought to bring pain and heartache to the heart of an elder and a pastor. We thought yesterday morning in our ministry of the frustration that our Lord Jesus experienced at the disciples in Luke 9 verse 41 because of their faithlessness, unbelief, and their failure in many spheres. He said, exacerbated with them: 'How long shall I put up with you?'.
I wonder have you ever considered that this is one of the occupational hazards of an elder and pastor? It is being frustrated at times at the lack of progress among God's people, the fact that they don't walk in truth as they ought. But do you know what is worse than breaking an elder or a pastor's heart? It is grieving our Heavenly Father's heart. Now of course the glorious alternative is what John is emphasising, and we don't want to miss that: that it brought joy to this elder's heart and, we believe by inference, God the Father's heart that they were walking in truth. So this is how you bring joy to the heart of God: to walk in truth.
Right away we're seeing that John is defining, maybe redefining truth for us all. He's saying: 'Look, this is not something that you just believe in your head as a doctrine or dogma, or an item on a list of basis of belief. It's not even something that you hold in your heart alone, but God's truth is something that ought to be lived out in the life, it ought to be manifest in everyday behaviour' - and that is what truly brings joy to the heart of God! I'm sure all of us would concur tonight that it's easier to talk about truth and preach about truth, and even perhaps debate and argue about the niceties of truth, rather than actually living it. It has to be said that some zealous Christians disobey the very truths that they strenuously defend. But here is the bottom line, John is saying: if your walk does not measure up to your words, your words are worthless! That's serious stuff, especially in evangelicalism, because we're big on words and the Word - but how does our walk measure?
A Doctor of Divinity was living in the same house as his son who was a Doctor in medicine. One day the phone rang and the maid answered, and the voice on the other end said: 'Is the Doctor in?'. She replied: 'Which one do you want? Do you want pills or prayer?'. On another occasion she answered the phone, and she was heard ask: 'Do you want the one who preaches, or do you want the one who practices?'. But that's a serious question, isn't it, to us all? Are we only preaching, or are we practising? You see, we fail to see at times that though we believe with all our heart in the incarnation of Jesus Christ the Son of God, we fail to see that the whole plan of God's Gospel is a constant incarnation. Just as Jesus, the Lord, was the living embodiment of Truth down here on earth, He expects us, His followers, Christ's-ones to be living testimonies of truth today in the world!
That's why in 1 John 2 and verse 6 that we looked at some time ago, John said: 'He that saith he abideth in him', that is Christ, 'ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked'. To walk in truth is to walk as Jesus walked, to walk in Christ-likeness! So how do you walk in truth like Jesus walked? Well, he tells us in 2 John verse 5 through to verse 9. Now what John seems to do there is give us a short summary of three themes that he has repeated over and over again in his first epistle. Those are the tests of life, how you can know that you're in the faith, the manifestation of the eternal life within. Of course, we've seen it many times over the last number of weeks, but here we have it in verse 5: we see love mentioned, the commandment that we've had from the beginning. In verse 6 he speaks of obedience, obeying Christ's commands. In verse 7, we've already seen it in the first three verses but we'll see it again in verses 7 to 9, there is the doctrinal test: what we believe concerning Christ and the Gospel.
John summarises again for us - now maybe you're sitting here thinking: 'Here he goes again, these three tests! You're repeating yourself an awful lot in these studies, David!'. Well, it's not me, it's John is repeating himself! May I remind you that it is the Holy Spirit of the Living God who is repeating Himself through the inspired writer. If I could be as bold as to suggest the reason that it is repeated: it's that we might get the point! John is asking us: have you got the point yet? Well, have you? Huh, we've been studying it for some time, but have we got the point? What is it? That it is so important to know the truth, doctrinal test. It's important to love the truth, it's important to love our brethren, but it's also important to obey the truth - that is, walk in it. If you haven't got the walk, it's not worth anything! It's about life, that's John's point: this Gospel is about life and living!
Well, have you got that point after our study in the series of 1 John? Are you aware, personally, of manifesting more and more these signs? Understanding more about Christ, understanding more about what He has done in His Gospel. Do you find a greater love for your brothers and sisters in Christ having studied God's word? Do you find a greater capacity to obey God's commands? Or is it, has it been just another Bible study? Filling your head full of more knowledge - that's another frustration of the preacher! Sometimes you feel that you don't get much return on your expenditure, that is that there's little effect and people don't get the point! Now this is why John keeps repeating over and over again these themes, and summarises them again in his second epistle: so that we might get the point and not miss it! I want us tonight to reassess our own position as John recaps on these tests - we'll only get two of them done this evening, we'll look at the doctrinal in greater depth next week.
Here's the first, the apostle's first appeal is found in verse 5, let's read it: 'Now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another'. Now what is John's first appeal? It is this: to walk in truth means we walk in love. Truth is the ground of fellowship, but if we have that fellowship the proof of it, that we own the truth and are fellowshipping in it, is that we walk in love. This is a commandment that is not new, we've had it from the beginning, and I believe he speaks there of the fact that in John 13 verse 34 the Lord Jesus said: 'A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another'. It's not new to these Christians, because they've heard it already from the Lord Jesus Christ - he is repeating it. But it's also new coming from the lips of the Lord Jesus, because though the law gave a command to love your neighbour and to love strangers that are within their gates, it wasn't until the Lord Jesus Christ came on the scene that that agape love of God was perfectly incarnated, perfectly manifest. He alone fully and completely exemplified brotherly love.
Now here's John's point in the New Testament context: if we are inhabited, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, if God lives in us by the Spirit, we are enabled to walk in the same love, to walk as He walked. So, to walk in truth means that we walk in love. Didn't Galatians 5:22 tell us: 'But the fruit of the Spirit is love'? Romans 5:5: 'The love of God', ought to be at least, 'shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us'. Now there's a great debate concerning biblical love - what is it? Well, some people say you can't command someone to love another, love is not something that you can command someone to do. Well, I take issue with that because here we find that John is actually reiterating a command of the Lord Jesus Christ, that we love one another. Now you would think today, when you hear couples that say: 'Oh, we have fallen out of love now', you would think it's something that you can't command. But I believe the problem around today, even in Christian circles, is that we have lost the real definition, biblically speaking, of what love is. When people say 'We have fallen out of love', what they mean is, without realising it, 'We've fallen out of infatuation', or perhaps 'We've fallen out of lust' - maybe it was lust brought them together in the beginning.
Here John says: 'Yes, this is a command we've had from the beginning, Jesus taught us to love one another'. Here's our problem, even as Christians: we think of love on an emotional level, we think of love as being a religious feeling that somehow supernaturally enables us to reach out and accept other people. Now let me say that emotion is part of love, and there is a strong emotional aspect even to the love of God, but essentially as love is defined in the Scriptures it is not emotional in its essence, it is an act of the will - an act of the will. It is to determine to treat other people the way that God treats you. Now I'm asking you tonight: do you do that? There's a lot of harsh treatment goes on among God's people, a lot of people who are deeply hurt because of the way they have been treated by so-called brothers and sisters in Christ. God commands us to love one another, to do it whatever problems we have about it, we've got to do it!
Now there are those even in the church who we're not naturally attracted to on a human level, maybe even people that we just don't like, things that we don't like about them - but the Bible teaches that we can love them! We can love them because God loved us when we were in sin, though He was angry with the wicked every day, He still showed His grace and love toward us. The reason why we can do it is because Christian love is not an affection, it is an attitude. It is manifest in our actions, not in our affections.
Now here's the test whether or not we love one another as Christians in the biblical sense: on what level do you react to other people? This is very practical - answer it: on what level do you react? Most people react on an emotional level, and we're all guilty of this. Something is said to you or something is done to you, and you feel hurt - and rightly so at times. We have all had this experience, but the problems come when we allow ourselves to react on an emotional level, and it is our emotions that dictate our actions. You see, what John is saying is that Christian love is where God's truth regulates our attitude, and that attitude regulated by God's truth determines our actions. I'll be honest with you: sometimes it is true, isn't it, that when people say certain things to us, and do certain things against us, even God's people, sometimes you feel like striking out! Sometimes you feel like saying things that you ought not to say - and our natural reaction is to hate, it is to spit, it is to insult, it is to turn our back! Yet Christ tells us to turn the other cheek, bless those that curse you, pray for those who despitefully use you. You say: 'Well, that just seems impossible', but here's the question: what do we incarnate, what do we manifest? Is it our emotions or is it Christ in our actions? John is saying that when we manifest our own natural emotions it grieves the Lord, but when we manifest the love of God in obedience to Christ's commandment it brings joy to the heart of God.
I heard a story recently - it's years old - but it's about a prestigious church in the United States, some of you have probably been to it, a Baptist Church. They were appointing a new Assistant Pastor, and there was a great disagreement over who it should be, and the members meetings were very lively - skin and hair flying at times! One man was chosen and he was appointed, the day came for the induction service - and for the first time ever a church service in the States was televised, and it was this one. There was great excitement, this had never happened before - such a novelty. In the proceedings after the hymns, this pastor-elect stood to his feet, and one of his greatest opponents couldn't take it any more. He strode up to the podium, planted an uppercut on his chin in front of the whole of the audience who were watching it on air! What do you think that communicated to folk outside in the world? What did it say about the Lord's words: 'By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples'? It turns out that that young pastor's attitude made the difference, because that young pastor was a man called Charles Stanley who has become one of the greatest Bible teachers in the United States. It was his attitude to the action that made the difference.
John says that if we say that we love God and hate our brother, we are liars - but if we obey God and His commandments, His love is perfected in us and we have no problem loving our brother. Now here's the question: how does your walk measure up to your talk? We all agree with this stuff, but it's very difficult to manifest it. While a missionary was addressing a group, a woman in the audience rose and left it, walked out of the building, and then she came back a few minutes later and sat down again. After the lecture the missionary asked her if she had left because she'd lost interest, or didn't agree with something she'd said. She said: 'Oh no, you said many wonderful things, I simply went out to ask your driver if you lived by them. He said you did, so I came back in to listen!'. I believe that this is where there is a great blind spot in evangelical Christianity today in our witness to the world. They are not coming to listen because they're often not seeing walking in truth and love. Do you agree?
We don't love one another as we ought. There are things done and said on one another that should never ever be said or done. A chaplain exemplifies the positive of this. He was given over to the army to minister to them, and he was on the battlefield. He had a Bible under his arm, and he walked across the field and stooped where there were people needing ministry - those who were wounded and dying. He came to one man in particular who seemed to be in great need. He laid down his Bible on the ground beside him, he took off his coat and he made a pillow and rolled it up and put it under the man's head. Then he gave him the last drops of water that he had in his canteen, and finally he even ripped his own clothing up and made a bandage for this soldier's wounds. When he finished doing all that, the soldier said quietly to him: 'Now chaplain, if there's anything in that book you placed on the ground that made you do all those things for me, please read it to me'. He was walking in the truth. He was manifesting love. To walk in the truth, John says, means that you must walk in love - where is the love today in Christianity? Where is it? Where is it in our relationships with each other? Where is it in our relationships to the world? Do they know us as a people who love them? I don't think so.
Now the second sign and test that John gives us is in verse 6: 'And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it'. The apostle's second appeal is: to walk in truth is to walk in obedience, not just to walk in love but to walk in obedience. You see, what John is saying is that it's not only doing the truth through love, but truth and love go together with obedience - they are inseparable, they're intrinsically linked. Let me say this: in our modern world and in our contemporary church, this idea of obedience is often seen as legalism. I don't know whether you've heard that or not. If you're in any shape or form concerned about doing what's in the word of God by jot and tittle, you're seen as a legalist. It's perceived, as well, to be the opposite of love. If you're all concerned about commands and obeying the word of God, well then: 'That's legalism, and legalism is the opposite of love, so I'd rather have love! God has a lot to say about love, and John has an awful lot to say about it, therefore legalism goes out the window' - and it always should go out the window, but I believe the contrast is a false one because obedience to God's word is not legalism.
Let me define this for you once and for all, if you're in a quandary about what it may be, and even if you're a legalist or not by other's accusation: legalism is an emphasis on the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. Now sometimes we are legalists in that definition. If you lose the spirit of the law you're a legalist, only adhering to the letter. But it is also the belief that salvation and favour with God is earned by the law, by pleasing God, obeying commands rather than through grace and faith. So legalism is an attempt to earn God's love by works. Now John is not teaching that for one minute - he, in fact, is teaching that Christians ought to obey God in Christ because they love Him, because they have experienced His love and that love is reciprocated in a loving obedience to His commands.
You see, if you love someone you delight to please them, and if you love Christ you'll keep His commandments. Did He not say those very words? Indeed in John 15:10 He said: 'If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love'. In 1 John chapter 5 we read these words: 'For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous'. You see, John is again saying that our walk without manifests the love within! If we love our brothers we'll walk toward them in an attitude of love, but equally so: if we love God, we will obey God's commandments.
How much you love the Lord is directly related to how much you obey His commands. You call that legalism, it is not, that is biblical Christianity and the disciple's life. The lie of the devil is that you can love Christ and live in your sin. I heard about a couple who were not married but were living in a sexual relationship, and they both said that they were Christians. They said to their pastor: 'We love each other and we really love God, and we know that God wants us to be together' - that cannot be! For His commands teach the opposite, and if we love Jesus we will keep His commandments. There's a great confusion: people saying on the one side that there is love, and on the other side there is law, and I know that's true in a sense - but never associate law with doing what is good in God's word, the principles of the New Testament, the commandments and precepts of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you love Him, you'll obey Him.
Someone has rightly said: 'Truth without love is oppression, but love without truth is sentimentality'. You see, John is saying that the grounds of our fellowship must be truth, that's the fundamental. That fellowship of truth will be manifest in two things, it will be manifest in our walk of love and our walk of obedience. Do we have it? It's like a three-legged stool: truth, love, obedience - take one away and the thing topples. Now we've got to get real here, because I know perhaps what you're thinking, and it's the same as me: which of us as Christians does not find it a continual struggle to walk constantly along the path of obedience? It's not easy, especially in the world in which we live. Why is it so hard? I mean, in the verse that we just read in 1 John 5:3, John says that the Saviour's commands are not grievous, they're not burdensome. His commands are not hard in that sense, and yet so often we struggle with them, we wrestle with them, we find it so hard to implement them.
Now, of course, some find these things easy because they don't live according to Christ's commandments, they live according to licence. They say they're saved by grace, and they just go and live as they please. That's not Christianity. Why do so many, like you I believe, that wish to live according to God's commands, you want to please the Lord, you want to do what He has laid down, you want to walk as He walked to bring joy to the heart of God - why do you find it so hard to be obedient? Well, I think perhaps that the main reason why people find that is a struggle is because they make this fatal mistake of separating obedience from love. They make obedience legalism, it is just an adherence to rules and regulations, and they divorce it from love: love to God, love to Christ, and it's not motivated from a passion in their heart but motivated by a sense of duty. Then eventually it becomes a grinding duty, and then a ritualistic keeping of regulations, and eventually you lose heart altogether and you give up the struggle.
Is that, perhaps, where some of you are this evening? I know there's discipline and let me say that some of the Christian disciplines...don't think for one minute that every time I get on my knees in my quiet time that my heart is just bursting out and flowing out of love to the Lord - far from it. Sometimes we have to break the flesh and buffet the body in a first reaction in order to allow the Lord to bring forth, by His Spirit, those blessings. It's not long, when you break through that fleshly barrier, till you get into that spiritual realm. It's not easy, but I'll tell you: it's impossible if you don't love Him, or if you lose your love for Him. Don't divorce love from obedience!
So, what's the answer? This is what we come back to again and again and again: we need to get back to our first love, the Lord Jesus! That's the answer, He is the answer to everything in the Christian life! It is to get a fresh love for Him, it's to focus our eyes again on Him and Him alone! It is to say, as we sang: 'Lord, it is my chief complaint that my love is weak and faint, and yet I love and adore - but O, for grace to love Thee more' - but the secret is realising the love that He has for us. In 1 John 4, we studied it in verse 19, John said: 'We love, because he first loved us'. You say: 'How can I learn to love the Lord more? How can I obey His commandments by loving Him more? Where can I get a greater capacity to love the Saviour?'. It's very simple, the only way you'll get it is by dwelling on His love for you: God's love in the word of God - being saturated and soaked in the Bible, soak yourself in seeing God's being, God's attributes, God's character as they are there, and especially the great love that the Father has for the Son, and the Father and Son have for all of us.
How do you get it? Go back to Calvary where God showed His love most accurately and clearly and graphically and descriptively in that sacrifice for sins forever, when He was made sin for us, and He bore in His own body our sin on the tree. See it there and remember, as Paul said in Galatians, that the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me. If that doesn't pour the love of God into your heart, I don't know what will! That is what Jude calls 'Keeping yourselves in the love of God' - do you do that? Do you keep yourself in the love of God?
Derek Jackman, the commentator, says this, and I quote: 'When the love of God is not a present reality to us, we need to take that medicine three times a day after meals until our spiritual appetite begins to pick up and we begin to respond in awe to God's overwhelming grace. We need to take some of our New Testament's great affirmations of the unfailing love, the limitless grace, and the keeping power of God; and read ourselves into them personally by name'. Like Romans 8:31-39: 'What can separate us from the love of God?'. Ephesians 1 and verse 3: 'We're blessed with all spiritual blessings, chosen in Christ', and so on and so forth. First Peter 1:3-9 - that we have an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for us. That is the medicine for the soul.
When was the last time you meditated on a verse like Jeremiah 31:3: 'I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee'? That's why the Lord Jesus, when He was asked Himself: 'Of all the commandments, Rabbi, which is the most important?', He responded 'The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these'.
Do you know what our problem is? We don't take the medicine. We don't take time, because these days we're so busy - but because we don't take time, do you know what happens? We get sick, we lose touch with the love of God, we lose touch with a love toward our brother, and we begin to get to an extent where we don't walk properly any more! Sure, many people think that reading through the Bible in a year is legalism and it's a huge task, when in theory all it takes to read through the Bible in a year daily is 15 to 20 minutes maximum. I vouch to say that you, with me, would consider a television programme 30 minutes long a short one. We're not taking the medicine. We fill our lives with rubbish, and then we neglect to keep ourselves in the love of God - and then we wonder why we're not walking as He walked.
John says: what a difference it makes when you live the truth, because when you live the truth you manifest the One who is the way, the truth and the life - and others around us would see Him! A brilliant preacher aimed his sermons at a godless intellectual who attended his services regularly. When the series of sermons were over, the sceptical sinner was converted. The preacher was ecstatic, he came to him and he said: 'Which one of my lectures brought conviction to you?'. His gratification disappeared with a chilling smile from the convert when he answered: 'My dear Sir, it was not through your lectures that I was converted, I slept through most of them. It was an old woman who used to hobble up the steps of your church, limping and leaning on her crutches, and between every thump of the crutch on the stone steps she exclaimed 'My blessed Jesus, my blessed Jesus''. He said: 'As I looked at the poor disabled woman, and saw the genuine content and peace on her face, and found out that she lived a consistent life in the face of poverty and loneliness' - listen to this - he said 'I saw a living book to which I could not reply, so I wanted the Christ whom she professed'.
John says we should be living books to which there is no reply, then people will long to know the Christ that we profess.
Lord, we want to thank You for Your love - but 'That I may love Thee too, O Lord, Almighty as Thou art; for Thou hast stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart', is amazing. Lord, we have such reason to love You, and yet our love is so weak, so feeble - but we pray that more and more, we would keep ourselves in the love of God, and get a fresh glimpse of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Beloved. As we begin to love Him again more and more, may we manifest His love to others, our brothers and sisters and those who are lost. May we manifest an obedience to His commands, that others may look on us and see that we don't just know the truth and love it, but we live it - that others would look at us and see Jesus. In whose name we pray, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the nineteenth recording in his '1, 2 and 3 John' series, entitled "Walking In Truth" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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