|“And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”|
1 John 2:3-6 ESV
Let’s pray. God, keep us far away from error. It says in your word not many of you should become teachers my brothers for you know that we could teach will be judged with greater strictness. God, your word here in first John is saying something that is so easy to distort or to ignore. So I pray by the power of your Spirit that we would hear rightly what you are speaking to us in Jesus’ name, amen.
We’re back in first John today, and I wants to start off by explaining why my normal default is to preach a book of the Bible verse by verse. If you ever hear me in this pulpit say anything that does not agree with the Bible, it’s your responsibility as a church member to say something. I’m not taking about secondary doctrines like Premillennialism or Postmillennialism, but the core of Christian truth, the gospel. Paul said it in Galatians, and I say the same, that if you hear me preach a different gospel, let me be accursed, and definitely implied in that is to be removed from this office. The only thing that must be heralded from the stage is the word of God, not the words of a man. That’s why we preach the Bible.
But the reason why we preach the Bible verse by verse, is that it’s a big temptation for preachers to only preach things that they want to preach about. And We could find the versus inside of the Bible that we enjoy most and only preach those. Also, we would never have to learn anything new, because if we preachers don’t understand a passage, we can always skip it. However God has called us preachers to proclaim the whole counsel of God. And that means I don’t get to choose what we’re going to be hearing, but instead God is the one that decides it. And the safest way to ensure that that happens is by having the normal default preaching schedule to be verse by verse, book by book, so the Bible sets the agenda not me. And of course, we should not hold this too tightly, for the Spirit can lead us to specific passages, as already has been the case. So that’s why we will be preaching verse by verse, book by book, as our normal default mode.
HYPOCRISY IN OUR CULTURE
And I see this, this Sunday because this passage addresses a huge problem inside of the church, one that our church is not exempt from, because we are sinners too. One that would be more comfortable not addressing. It’s been a problem since the beginning and will continue to be one until the end. The problem Is hypocrisy. People who say that they follow God but their lifestyle is in clear opposition to him. In my assessment, this is the strongest argument against Christianity, the lack o f holiness in God’s people.To our shame we must admit this. How many people say I’m not going to the church because it’s full of hypocrites? Perhaps you have thought the same thing yourself. I would venture to say that that is the number one reason why people give up on the church. And if you currently still think this, or are very prone to think it time to time, I first want to say thank you for still coming. And, I want to agree with you that that is a problem.
RESPONSE TO HYPOCRISY IN OUR CULTURE
And yet we need to be careful saying what precisely is the problem. Because, just because somebody says that they are Christian does not make them one. The Bible is full of warnings and pleading for people to consider their ways to assess if they truly are a Christian. At the end of 2 Corinthians, Paul says, Therefore examine yourselves to see whether or not you are in the faith. Jesus said, many will come to him on the last day saying Lord, Lord, did we not do all these great works in your name? Built hospitals, fed the poor, gave meaning and purpose to peoples’ lives, delivered them from bondage and sickness, even speak the Word of God to others in your name? And he will say to them, I never knew you. Depart from me you workers of iniquity.
YOU DON’T MAKE YOURSELF A CHRISTIAN BY YOURSELF
You see, the reason there are so many people who claim to be Christian but really aren’t in the world is because so many people think that becoming a Christian is something you do, but when it is something God does to you. The Bible calls it the new birth, and just as you cannot give birth to yourself, you cannot make yourself a Christian all by yourself. It must be a work of God in your heart.
THE EXPECTATION FOR HYPOCRITES
And if there really is a devil who is called the deceiver, it makes sense the the closer you go to the truth the more and more deception there will be. Why would Satan bother fracturing the Muslims religion with so many different denominations? The whole thing is under his jurisdiction anyways. The reason why Christianity has so many offshoots is because Satan needs to put more and more deception in order to confuse people away from the truth. And so seeing so many “Christian” in hypocrisy actually is very consistent with what we would expect given all the other propositions of the Scriptures.
BUT WHAT ARE YOU EXPECTING INSTEAD OF HYPOCRISY?
So the first reason hypocrisy is so rampent is because there are many people who say they are Christian when they are not. And secondly, I would encourage you to think what really are you expecting if you reason for not coming to the church is that there are so many hypocrites in it? Are you expecting that the moments one becomes a Christian for God to zap that person with perfect righteousness? God actually will do this one day. That when Christ comes again he will remove all sin and evil from the world without removing all humanity. He’s going to take the salmon out of our hearts and restore the world to the way that it Was designed to be. And he’s doing that work now, but he’s doing it slowly. He doesn’t want people to come to the church because in it they find a perfect society. He wants people to come to the church in order to find him. Or to say it another way, god designEd salvation to happen this way so that people believe in Jesus, not in the church. A Christian is not one who turns to God in order to receive God‘s gifts, but one who comes to God in order to get God. The good news of the gospel is not that we escape hell, not even that we get to heaven that is the place where there is no suffering, the good news of the gospel is that we get God fellowship with him.
That said, let’s look at our text and see what does God want to teach us today about hypocrisy. We will see two points in this passage first, the danger of hypocrisy. And then the alternative to hypocrisy. Let’s re-read verses three and four. And by this we know that we have come to know him if we keep his commandments. Whoever says I know him but does not keep his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him.
ASSURANCE OF SALVATION IS BASED ON COMMANDMENT-KEEPING
LIVING IN SIN ABASES ASSURANCE
A HYPOCRITICAL CHRISTIAN IS AN OXYMORON
You could see off the bat the seriousness that John treats hypocrisy. In his mind it is an oxymoron a backwards statement that there could be a hypocritical Christian, someone who claims to know God, but does not obey him. Christian beliefs without Christian practices is not Christian. Or to say it another way, we cannot lower Christianity to only the things that we say, it must also include the way we live, the things we do. And John later in this book will say little children let us not love one another in word in speech, but in deed and truth. Saying I love you doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t have actions attached with it. In the same way saying you believe in Jesus without having actions attached to it doesn’t mean anything. We cannot rely on a prayer that we prayed in our past, a decision we made, the card that we filled out and the aisle we walked down in order to give evidence that we are Christian. John says that we can have evidence, but the evidence only is are you keeping his commandments today and now. Remember, John wrote this letter in order to distinguish the differences between real and fake Christianity. The first difference we sign chapter 1 is a living relationship with Jesus. And then here in chapter 2, we see the second big distinction between real and fake Christianity, and that is real Christianity takes obedience seriously.
If you are not keeping his commandments, then you have no business calling yourself a Christian. But don’t take my word for it. Here is what the rest of the Scriptures say about it.
Ephesians 5:5-6 “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience
Romans 8:13 “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
Romans 6:1-2 “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Matthew 7:18-19, “A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Revelation 21:8, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
IS THIS WORKS-SAKVATION?
But I can hear someone say, “Isn’t this the false teaching that I escaped from under the Catholics? It sounds like you are saying that we are going to be judged according to our works, not based upon the righteousness of Christ.” So let me clarify. We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone. So, when the biblical authors say “you will be judged according to your works,” as in Romans 2:6, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Psalm 62:12, 1 Peter 1:17, Psalm 7:8. It is saying that if God truly did a work in your heart, then there will be a changed lifestyle that follows. And in the courtroom of heaven, when the living and the dead are judged, there will be deeds, actions, things done with our mouths and bodies presented as evidence that there truly was a change in our hearts. The good deeds don’t change the heart, but are merely evidence that a change has taken place. In short, as the author of Hebrews says, there is a holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
JUST LOWER THE STANDARD
Let me explain it this way. And Jason you can put the first slide up on the screen. We see here a table that has two levels on it. One is what we say and the other is what we do. What we say we should live like, what we say we are required of God in our living up to. And then the other table is how we actually live. And the vertical dimension is righteousness. So we read the Bible says that you should be this righteous and if we are less than that. You would call the difference hypocrisy. A Christian who says this is the way the Christians must live, but doesn’t live up to that himself. The world’s response to this is to just lower the standard. To say that type of living is not enjoyable. It’s not good. Just lower the standard and everything‘s fine. And the obvious problem with this is that is making men into an animal. It’s saying that a man can be OK satisfying every animal instinct that’s inside of him. Now we know that we are far more than just an animal, we are the only creature created in the image of God. So we can’t accept that answer.
Now there’s a second danger that we need to avoid. The first one I would call the atheists dilemma to hypocrisy. Just lower the standard. I’ll call this the fake Christian way to solve hypocrisy. Where instead Of calling the difference hypocrisy. You call the difference grace. And he could see how learning that could be. We “Bible verse after Bible verse in order to affirm this for all have send and fallen short of the glory of God. Shirley there is not a single righteous man on earth who continually does good in every sense. And so we can be tempted to think that this difference is OK. This is what grace is. But let me explain why this can’t be the case. You see the atheist is somebody who is spiritually sick and doesn’t know it. The religious person knows that he is sick but can’t fix himself that we tries. It’s the Christian who’s found the doctor. But if the Christian remains sick, you must either conclude he’s never going to see his doctor personally or he needs a new doctor. This is the point that I’m making. A Christian is a person who is had a real encounter with Christ that changes him. Or let me give you a different example. Those who have found the bread of life are no longer hungry. A village responds very differently to the boy who cried Wolf the first time he did so in the 10th time he did it. Or is the author to Hebrews says, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Hebrews 10:26-31 ESV
These passages are smelling salts to the Christian living in sin. You cannot live this way. You must not live this way. Oh how wide is the gate that leads to destruction. Milwaukee is filled with people who bear the name Christ but live in open rebellion against God every day. They will come to him on that day crying, Lord, Lord, did we not do all these things in your name? And he will look them dead in the eye and say I never knew you. Depart from me you workers of iniquity. You will know a tree by its fruits. Christians must bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
RIGHTEOUSNESS OF MAN AND THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD
So what is John advocating here? We established the last time we were in John that it isn’t sinlessness. He who says he is without sin is a liar and the truth is not in him. So what is he advocating for instead? Let me Tell you how Martin Luther solved this problem. He talked about the difference between the righteousness of God in the righteousness of men. In Philippians three Paul posts of his standing before God not based upon a righteousness that comes from the law, but the righteousness of God that depends on faith. And that he saw a very clear difference between the righteousness of God in the righteousness of men. The righteousness of God is the only thing that will suffice to appease God’s righteous standard on humanity. That is, you must be as righteous as he is. Anything less is a level of wickedness. The righteousness of men however is attainable by you and I. Not fully, that is all the time without exception, but truly, having a general conformity to the will of God.
THE ALTERNATIVE TO HYPOCRISY
The solution to hypocrisy is not lowering the standard nor being content with the difference like nominal Christianity. The solution to hypocrisy is nothing new. It is the doctrine called progressive sanctification. It is seeing and savoring the righteousness of Christ. You see, if we put these categories of righteousness of man in righteousness of God on the chart you’ll see how it changes things. It’s off the charts. The righteousness of men could never married salvation. Isaiah says in chapter 64 verse six all of our deeds are like filthy rags before you we have all become like one who is unclean and like a leaf or iniquity sweeps us away. The Catholics then would say it is your faith plus this righteousness of man that merits your salvation and the historical pure protestants Christian teaching is no, instead you are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves you is never alone. It necessarily follows that you will do good works. And so if the works are there, we don’t respond like the Catholics two of saying you better get your button gear, we don’t response like the heretics of first John and say the difference is fine, we don’t respond like the atheists of saying just lower the standard, the Christian response is do you really know him.
GOD PERFECTS LOVE IN YOUR HEART
Look at how first John says it. The very next verse. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. Where does the perfecting work come from. It can’t be from us. This is called a divine passive, but that means it’s a passive verbs so the person who’s doing the action is not identified in the sentence, so it is God who is the one perfecting the love that is inside of our hearts, in other words when we see a lack of righteousness inside of our own hearts are in others, the Christian response is to say have you really encountered the love of God. Do you trust the love of God? His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. Where does the perfecting work come from. It can’t be from us. This is called a divine passive, but that means it’s a passive verbs so the person who’s doing the action is not identified in the sentence, so it is God who is the one perfecting the love that is inside of our hearts, in other words when we see a lack of righteousness inside of our own hearts are in others, the Christian response is to say have you really encountered the love of God. Do you trust the love of God? If you really knew him, you would love him. And if you love him, you would obey his commands, because you know that it’s what will make you most happy. Isn’t that the real reason why we struggle with obedience? Because we don’t trust that if we live life gods way will be happy.
WHY WE DON’T OBEY*******
We don’t believe it will make us happy.
The cross ensures for us that obedience will always pay off for us.
FREEDOM FROM THE PENALTY AND POWER OF SIN
Friends, let me comfort you in this. God commands obedience out of you, but when Jesus died on the cross, he didn’t just deliver you from the penalty of sin, he delivers you from the power of sin. Titus 2 says it this way. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,”
Titus 2:11-12 ESV
God did not save you onto unrighteousness but it saves you unto righteousness. For you are God‘s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God prepared before hand that we might walk in them. When Christ died on the cross he took the penalty for your sin and he bought with his blood the power and gift and promise of the Holy Spirit to be poured upon your life so that you may live in righteousness. For we are buried with him in baptism and raised in newness of life.
In other words, you are not going to be alone. When we leave and temptations arise on all side to live the easy life, Christianity as the world presents it, God will be there with you. He bought your sanctification as well as your justification at the cross. His Spirit will guide you into all truth.
A PLEA FOR ACTION
John ends this passage in verse six by saying and by this we have come to know that we are in him whoever says he abides in him up to walk in the same way as he walked. It’s not you doing it, it’s him a biting in you doing it. What is Paul says in the Philippians to work out your own salvation you do it, because it is God who is at work within you both Will and to do for his good pleasure.
Friend, I urge you today, Whatever wicked deed you are contemplating giving yourself unto, please turn from it. Are you honoring the Sabbath by keeping it holy? Are you honoring your father and your mother without qualification? Are you hating someone in your heart committing murder? Are you Being sexually enticed to another, committing adultery in your heart? Are you stealing, either by downloading goods without paying for it, under paying people who work for you, overcharging people you work for, or celebrating in stolen goods? Are you lying, either to avoid punishment, or to avoid confrontation? Are you covetous, envious, or jealous? Now, we cannot attain the righteousness of God fully obeying each of the ten commandments all the time, but we can have the general track record of growing in each of them. Do you fanaticize about being with another women? That would be a fire that would burn as far as Sheol and would burn to the root everything you have gained. Are you considering overcharging a client for a job or finagling a way to underpay someone? Your gold and silver have corroded and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. Friends, if you have trusted in Jesus as your Savior, you must also submit to him as your Lord.
So practically what does this look like? Identify what command is it that you are failing to obey him with. Identify it, and renounce it. Say aloud if you must, God I turn from my sloth, despair, and pride. And plea for help in prayer, using the Scriptures. Isn’t this the way Jesus fought temptation in the wilderness? Ask him when temptation comes lurking, I have made a covenant with my eyes, how then can I look at a virgin. Help me! Or I have purposed my mouth will not transgress. You’ve commanded me that no one house and talk come out of your mouth but only such as is good for building up as fits the occasion so that they give grace to those who hear. Oh God, I don’t wanna grieve you, help me to only speak words of life. Or say that old prayer of Saint Augustine. Give me the strength to do what you command, and command whatever you will. And then, find a promise. I will never leave you nor will I forsake you. He is granted you in the midst of temptation a means of escape. Or one of my favorites that has brought me through many a temptation. “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
And then go, leaning on the Spirit to empower you. And whatever the outcome, thank him for the vestiges of righteousness he did in you.