1 JOHN 2:12-17
"I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake."
God doesn't save us simply to give us a more comfortable life. He doesn't save us just so we can inhabit the New Jerusalem. He saves us in order to complete the Church which will occupy the New Jerusalem that's going to be suspended between the earth and heaven. That's where we'll dwell eternally with God and where He will display the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us.
Ephesians 4:32 tells us that we should "Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." Here it says, "your sins are forgiven you for His Name's sake." Our sins are forgiven for Jesus' sake, because it was He who died and paid God for all the sins we have or will ever commit. It's for Jesus' sake we're forgiven by the Father.
VERSE 13. "I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father." Here we see the mark of spiritual maturity described as being "fathers." Certainly that is a goal we as Christians want to reach. The church needs seasoned, instructed, spiritual fathers. Men who know the Gospel intimately and are sure that what God's Word teaches about Jesus, God, heaven, hell, and judgment are true. This is what is called "that which was from the beginning" in the verses in the first of this chapter. Mature servants of God, with a deep love for souls and a genuine concern for fellow Christians.
There is a man laying in a bed in the nursing home right now that to me had all these qualifications and I doubt if I see another like him in my lifetime.
God has given us so much liberty today, and we often forfeit much of it. We are commanded to study to show ourselves approved unto God, workmen who need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth. (2Tim.2:15.) Have you ever been embarrassed because you wanted to quote a scripture to someone and couldn't remember it? I have. I wasn't a well studied workman on those occasions.
Paul said, "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know Him. and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death." (Phil. 3:7-10.) The main desire of Paul's life was that He might know Christ in a more perfect way. That's what God wants of us, too, it wasn't just limited to Paul and a few others.
2 Tim. 1:12 Paul wrote, "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day."
To know God and to trust Him completely is to have the desire to do whatever He directs us to. One writer of old said the world has it's dare devils, it needs some dare saints. Which one of us here today would accept God's offer to make us the next Daniel?
The most wonderful experience in the life of a Christian, other than your own salvation, is to lead someone to Christ. The Apostle Paul rejoiced in Timothy's salvation. He also wrote of "my son, Onesimus, whom I have begotten." The Apostle John wrote, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." Every born again believer should be determined to grow in the Lord to where we can lead others to Christ as their Saviour and truly become the spiritual fathers John speaks of here.
Verse 13: "I write unto you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one." You girls and ladies aren't excluded from these messages. In the first century language, all of this was addressed in the masculine gender but it was to everyone regardless of sex. God won't leave anyone out of His plan of grace. "Young men" speaks of those who are saved and growing in grace and knowledge of the Lord and the scriptures. These may not be as spiritually mature as they may be later, but they are as fully saved as the more mature Christian. There are no degrees in salvation, but there are degrees in understanding, service, dedication, and desire to learn of Christ.
These young ones have overcome the wicked one. That means they are saved. They believed God, not Satan. They have overcome the Tempter, not just temptation.
Some people deny that Satan is a person, they say that he's just an influence. Jesus was met and tempted by the Devil in person. The scripture ways, "when the tempter came to Him," not when temptation came. Satan is so real it's scary.
There is no excuse for Christians living defeated lives and allowing sin to have dominion over them. It's when you give in to the tempter that Satan salves your conscience and you do the things you know aren't right for the Christian. The oftener you do them and the more of them you do, the easier it is to rationalize that what I'm doing is no worse than what the other Christians I know are doing. Satan wins that one every time!
You are accountable to God for what you do, and another person's acts have no bearing on what is before and between you and God. The oldest ploy in the world is to blame someone else for what you did, or why you did it. Adam said, "That woman You gave me." Eve said, "The serpent beguiled me." The world accepts that excuse for people's actions today, but God doesn't. Read Exodus 21 and 22. That was given as part of the Law, but that doesn't excuse you in the sight of God since we're not under the Law. That's part of God's moral Law that is still valid today. Here John was writing these verses to those who had been saved and were growing in the knowledge and grace of God, which is the path God wants every new and old Christian to follow.
Then John writes to the babes in Christ. The spiritual babe just born into the family of God knows the Father because the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the heart the very moment we believe in Christ for our salvation. The newborn doesn't know the Heavenly Father in the same spiritual way that fathers know Him, or even as the young men do. But, the opportunity for growth is there, and when spiritual food is sought, growth is inevitable. God wants us to grow in Him continually. No matter how young in Christ or how old in Christ we may be, there is still need and room for growth in understanding God and His Word and His grace to us.
I think we all need to search our hearts and ask ourselves, are we still little children, no matter how long we have been saved? Have we progressed to young men, or are we enjoying being fathers and are we growing even from there? God's growth chart is limitless. The more we study the Bible and pray, the more we understand, and the more we want to know about God.
There are a lot of Christians that are old from a standpoint of years, but they haven't progressed much beyond the stage of babes in Christ in spiritual matters or in their lifestyle. We need a lot more spiritual fathers, and God has made that attainable to anyone who sincerely wants it. A half hearted attempt won't cut it with God, but there are no other limitations in a sincere desire to know Him to the fullest.
VERSE 14. "I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one."
"The Word of God abideth in you." If there is a secret to spiritual development, it's to let the Word of God abide [or live] in you. When your first thoughts in a situation are what God approves, that is, when we don't have to hunt up a scripture to tell us what God thinks in a given situation, we are abiding. The Christian life and lifestyle should be what we call second nature. We should rely on God's guidance in every situation and every part of our daily life to the extent that it doesn't require a thought process to know what is the right thing to do.
Mature Christian "fathers" in the spiritual things are Bible believing, Bible studying Christians, but this doesn't happen overnight. First we feed on the milk of the Word, then on the living bread, then on the meat. This verse describes this as becoming strong in the word of God. Most Christians read the Bible, but not too many read it consistently and only a few really study it. God told us to study the scriptures, to get His approval. Colossians 3:16 says "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom."
VERSE 15. "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." In this verse we find forbidden love. We don't become Christians by hating sin and ungodliness, we become Christians by receiving Jesus into our hearts by faith. When we receive Him, the love of God comes into our hearts and there are spiritual negatives that will follow. The Christian life doesn't guarantee a smooth and safe and prosperous life. We will have difficulties just like the unsaved because we are still in this world. Satan is going to try to make the wrong things of this world look awfully good to us. We're told not to love the things of this world.
When we become a believer, the world will do everything possible to hinder our Christian life. The systems of this world are controlled by the god of this world. The world we live in makes it so easy to sin that we sometimes do it without even thinking it's sin. The very body you were born in will take you to hell if you aren't born again. Our own thoughts and actions would take us to hell if God hadn't intervened and provided a way of salvation through His Son.
Another problem we have to face, and it's very real, is Satan. If he can't usher you through this life to hell, he will do his best to spoil your testimony and stewardship. He won't leave you alone until you are safe in heaven with Jesus. As long as you are on this earth Satan will be on your trail, either as a roaring lion, a serpent, or as an angel of light. Whatever form he can take to spoil your testimony, that's what he will do.
Where it says to love not the world, that doesn't mean the beauties of nature and God's creation. It means mans systems that aren't God's way. Anything that alienates us from God, whether it's things or people or methods or influences. The systems of this world are in the hands of Satan and so are the majority of the people. Even though spiritually minded people are in the minority, Christ will take us to victory.
The lighter we hang on to our worldly possessions, the firmer we'll grip our eternal ones. The scriptures make it clear that the world can draw the love of the believer away from the Father. When this happens, fellowship with the other believers seems to slip away and the interest in God's Word goes with it. The worship meeting, Bible hour, Gospel meeting, Prayer meeting and Bible study time all seem less important than most anything else. We won't know exactly when it happened, it will come so gradual. Nobody sets out purposely to give in to Satan. He makes it easy because it's done in a gradual way. Loving our leisure and our possessions is his best way to win us away from serving God as God would like us to.
There are some believers that Satan seldom bothers because they don't cause him much worry. - They don't threaten his program, but strong Christians are his real targets. They cause Satan a lot of trouble when they live and testify for God, specially when they lead others to Christ. Satan has made it more attractive and convenient to go to hell today than ever before. There are many attractions to keep you from going where God's Word is preached today. There are more kinds of "necessary" events scheduled to conflict with church time than ever before. School events and every kind of entertainment and sporting events come first. Satan makes it pretty attractive.
VERSE 16. "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world."
Regardless of what our temptation may be, it comes through one of these avenues: The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life. These things aren't of God, and in verse 15 we're told that "if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in Him." It's possible for us to be attracted to some of the things the world has to offer and still be a believer, but if we are in love with the world, if these things are more important than God to us, we can't be in love with God at the same time. Jesus said; "No man can serve two masters; for he will love the one and hate the other."
I won't go into a long discussion of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. All I will say is it includes a lot more than adultery, coveting, and pride. I'm sure everyone knows Satan's influence covers a lot more than those three things. We're born into a body that is determined to condemn us. God gave up on repairing the flesh in the Garden of Eden and made no provision to do so. Dust to dust, He said. The unregenerate heart is capable of any degree of wickedness. Our sin capability is unlimited in our unsaved state. Even the most spiritual believers have to be on constant guard concerning the flesh, because when we're born again, the flesh remains the flesh, and there is constant warfare between the flesh and the Spirit. Thank God that "Greater is He who is within than he who is without."
Jesus conquered the world, the flesh, and the devil, and we can be more than conquerors if we will look to Him. We can't conquer in our strength alone. Our first parents sold the human race into slavery and death because of sin, and it all happened when "Eve looked." The most spiritual person you know, and it might be yourself, was born a sinner. God had to provide our way to righteousness through the blood sacrifice of His dear Son.
VERSE 17. "the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."God has promised us that the world and all the evil in it is someday going to pass away, but His love will not. 2 Peter 3:10. "But the day of the Lord will come as thief in the night; in the which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." 2 Peter 3:13. "Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
God has made it all so simple in this complicated world. All He asks of us is faith. He asks us to believe that we are guilty and helpless sinners concerning our eternal life. We can't do anything to justify ourselves before God. Then He asks us to believe that His Son died on the cross for our sins. God has accepted that as payment for our sins. What He asks is our simple faith that this is true, and we're saved for eternity. 1 John 5:13. "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God."