1 John 2:1-2

"My dear children..." What a wonderful way for John to write to these Christians who were being diverted from the truth: that Jesus had lived a full, human life and wasn't some sort of spirit - as they were being led to think. John here speaks in such loving and caring tones as a patriarch of the early church.

In the previous section, he had been saying that, if we confess our sins, God will forgive us and purify us. (1 John 1:9) John wanted to reinforce this message and to point out how simple it is to stay in close fellowship with the Father. But he was also aware that some of those reading it might have been tempted to think that sinning was not such a big deal if God was so ready to forgive. He could imagine some saying: "Now we can sin without worrying about it, because God has made a way for us to be forgiven." This is an abuse of God's amazing grace. The apostle, Paul, made the same point: "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey - whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." (Romans 6:15-17) John wanted to help keep his readers from sinning. He had the same heart as Paul for the care of his "flock": "My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you..." (Galatians 4:19)

Feedback and guidance

It is important as Christians that we have someone to whom we are answerable for our behaviour and spiritual growth. Whether we are still in education or have begun work, most of us, these days, are likely to have regular assessments on how we are progressing. These reports generally do not hold back on telling the truth, both positive and negative, about the standard of our work and will give formal guidance on how to deal with weaknesses and promote strengths. We can also consider ourselves to be students in the "Kingdom School" and we need the same input about the progress of our walk with Jesus. Sadly, all too often, we are just left to flounder along, doing what we see others doing and making our best guess as to how we sohuld be living. For example, we know that we should pray or read the Bible, but we are not sure how; we know that people speak about "hearing from God" but what does that sound like? It is so important that we find someone who will help us and guide us in this area so that we are accountable. A good mentor will also "watch our backs" to warn us of subtle, enemy attacks.

This person does not have to be a minister or leader in the church; it can be anyone whose life in Christ we admire and want to emulate. It is important that this person is someone who is willing to be open with us and tell us the truth, if necessary. It's also important that we trust the person and are able to receive whatever is said without storming off in a huff. At the same time, we ourselves need to take whatever advice or guidance we receive, regardless of who it comes from, to the Lord to check that it really is what God is saying and to ask how we can put it into practice. Let's ask God for the presence and direction of His Spirit within us to enable us to be obedient. I highly recommend finding such a person because I have met so many people who are "like sheep without a shepherd". (Matthew 9:36) And we all know what happens to sheep with no shepherd!

An advocate with the Father

Who better to speak up for us than Jesus Himself? He is our perfect defence lawyer or advocate because He understands our weaknesses and all the temptations we have. He experienced ordinary, human life for Himself and yet, when He was "walking this journey", He didn't put a foot wrong. (Hebrews 4:15) Because Jesus Himself is righteous, He is able to stand before God and speak on our behalf. He does not stand before God and say that we have not sinned. He stands there and agrees with God that we are guilty of many sins and should be cast out of His presence and sentenced to death. This amazing advocate then says that He has paid the price for us to go free. He reminds His Father that He offered Himself as a sacrifice and took the punishment of death on our behalf. He Himself was the "atoning sacrifice" for our sins. (Romans 3:23-25) When Jesus finally surrendered His life, as He was crucified on the Roman cross, He said: "It is finished!" This was no exhausted acknowledgement of defeat; it was a triumphant declaration that every sin, sickness and all the work of the enemy had been paid for in full.

This atoning sacrifice was not only for the sins of all believers; it included the sins of the whole world. But neither was it a blanket salvation for everyone, regardless of whether or not they were believers. God is not prepared to force anyone into spending eternity with Him. Although Jesus has paid the penalty for all sins, God still respects the choice that He has given us. We have to recognise who Jesus is, what He has done for us and ask to receive the cleansing of His blood. We have to be willing to turn back from our ignorance of God and invite Jesus to restore the image of God within us. (John 14:6) No gift is of any benefit to us unless we accept it, take hold of it and use it. If we just leave it in the wrapping, it's useless to us. "Atonement" refers to a state of being "at one" with God our Father. It means accepting Jesus'sacrifice: His shed blood as the "Lamb of God" who died to take away the sins of the whole world. (John 1:36) Knowing all this should urge us to reach out to everyone we know because this is fantastic, life-changing, good news!

So, when we make a mistake or miss the mark, let's remember that we have an advocate with the Father: Jesus Christ the righteous one. Let's run to Him. He knows what we are going through. We don’t need to be afraid. He didn’t tear us apart for the sins that we committed before we made Him Lord of our lives, so we can be confident that He will only be merciful and loving, now that we belong to Him. Now that we are reaching out for Him and have a heart for Him, we can hear Him and respond to Him so much more quickly.

There is no need to be condemned by guilt because Jesus has paid for us to be acquitted. There is no need to go on feeling bad or allowing our mistakes to steal any more time or joy from our lives. We are forgiven. (Hebrews 7:25) We rejoice as Christians because, in His mercy and grace, God has provided a way whereby all sinful people can be justly forgiven and welcomed into His presence. We can be sure that we are accepted by Him; that the God of the universe no longer has anything against us. What AMAZING GRACE!

1 John 2:3-4

We now focus on our walk as children of the light (Jesus Christ). We can test our growth as Christians on a daily basis when we bear in mind and observe how we are reacting to His commands and the daily leading of His Holy Spirit. How well are we getting to know Him and how much better acquainted are we with Him? "Whoever says, 'I know Him' ['I perceive, recognise, understand, and am acquainted with Him'] but fails to keep and obey His commandments [teachings] is a liar, and the truth [of the good news about Jesus] is not in him." (1 John 2:4 Amplified Version) There are three tests for Christians in this chapter:

  1. Do we know who Christ is?
  2. Do we trust what Christ did through His death?
  3. Do we do what Gods' word says?

Obedience and love are directly related and interdependent. John states that we should be people who treasure Gods' word and are bending over backwards to obey every point in His word. This is not out of a sense of legalism, but purely from a heart totally overwhelmed by the love of God seen in His forgiveness. This obedient behaviour also reassures us that we are indeed children of the living God; it gives us full assurance of our place in Christ today and our place in heaven in the future. This is not because of any good things that we have done, but entirely because of Jesus’ amazing sacrifice of His own sinless life.

Although it is good to know where we are in our walk with God with honesty and transparency, it is important not to do a lot of "navel gazing". This can make us very self-focused and liable to feeling endlessly guilty, which is just what our enemy loves because it paralyses our contribution as members of the body of Christ. It is healthy to ask the Father if there is any sin in our life and then listen for His reply. We should wait for a short time and immediately confess and say sorry for anything that He shows us, taking full responsibility for what He says. If possible, we need to make restitution if there is any way of rectifying the consequences of our sin. Again, we need to pray and ask God for wisdom in this, because we do not want to make the situation worse. If we sense a real eye-opening moment, then we can accept that this is God showing us our sin. But, if we feel totally condemned and one sin ends up being several with no sense of relief after confession, this may mean that it is just the enemy seeking to accuse us. (Revelation 12:10) If this seems to be the case, we can turn things around by thanking God that, at this moment, our conscience is clean and we can be filled with the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18) At that point, we can step out - in His power and authority - to go and do the work that He has prepared for us. (Ephesians 2:10)

"Whoever has My commands and obeys them, she is the one who loves Me. She who loves Me will be loved by the Father and I too will love her and show Myself to her." (John 14:21) Why not take a moment right now to absorb all this. If we really believe this truth, we need never be stressed again! If there is any area of our lives where we are not being obedient (which is the only condition of this promise), we now know what to do: just confess and remember the reward of being loved by the Father and His Son - AWESOME!

Assurance of salvation

"But he who keeps [treasures] God's word [who bears in mind His precepts, who observes His message in its entirety], truly in him has the love of and for God been perfected [completed, reached maturity]. By this we may perceive [know, recognise and be sure] that we are in Him." (1 John 2:5 Amplified Version) John’s point here is that, as we obey, His love is being worked out in and through us. This is a sign to us that we are indeed His children and that we are growing up into Christ. We are to "love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with our entire mind and with all our strength." (Mark 12:30)

The apostle, Paul, gives us a practical picture of what this life as a "child of light" looks like and so what our behaviour should look like. "Love never gives up and cares more for others, but doesn’t want what they have, or have a swelled head, or force itself on others. Love doesn’t fly off the handle or keep scores of others' sins and doesn’t revel when others grovel but takes pleasure in the flowering of the truth. Love puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looking for the best and never looking back, but keeps going to the end." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 "The Message" version)

As we follow this "love-walk" through our lives, obeying His direction, we can have full assurance of the salvation that Jesus paid for, knowing that we really do belong to Him. Our "love-walk" is directly related to our obedience to God’s will. Love is such a strong spiritual force that other areas of our life’s journey depend on it.

For example:

  • Faith works through love. (1 Corinthians 13:2; Galatians 5:6)
  • Answered prayer comes from love. (James 5:16)
  • Giving has to be accompanied by love. (Romans 12:8; 1 Corinthians 13:3)
  • Preaching and using the gift of "tongues" need love in order to be fruitful. (1 Corinthians 13:1)
  • The gifts of prophecy and "knowledge" used without love mean nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2)

Is God’s love complete in us?

"Whoever says that he abides in Him ought [as a personal debt] to walk and conduct himself in the same way in which He walked and conducted Himself." (1 John 2:6 Amplified Version)

John is saying that, if we are not sure how to live as Christians, then we just need to do what Jesus did. Not only shall we lead a life without sin, but also more and more of God’s love will shine through us. The more we obey God’s word, the more we open ourselves up to receive and give out the amazing love that was seen in His life and, especially, His death. "Believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another. That is a description of the life God has called us to lead." (1 John 3:23)

"Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ's sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no afterthought. Even though it has only lately — at the end of the ages — become public knowledge, God always knew He was going to do this for you. It's because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God." (1 Peter 1:18-20 "The Message" version)

These verses are a wonderful description of God’s vision of our lives, but what those outside the kingdom of God see of us is so different from the way that Jesus lived. Why? Are doctors at their best immediately after qualification? No, they need to develop their proficiency and skill through experience and will continue to do so for the whole of their careers. We can take an honest look at our lives, assess (with the Holy Spirit’s help) where we are and make the necessary changes. We can also praise God that we are not what we ought to be, but we are further along the road than we used to be.

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