Introduction: One of my tasks as a lawyer is to prove the “elements”
of my client’s case. When I am litigating religious accommodation
cases, the first element is to prove that my client has “sincere
religious beliefs.” How would you do that? How do you prove to a
judge, who does not know your client, what is in your client’s heart?
I use my client’s actions to prove what is in the client’s heart. Is
my method God’s method? What relationship do our actions have to what
is in our heart? Let’s jump into our study and find out what God says
- The Goal
- Read 1 John 2:1. Last week we learned that those who “walk
in the light” have sin in their lives. ( 1 John 1:7-8) Does
that disprove my actions = heart theory?
- Is that sin okay with John? How about with God? Is it
appropriate to walk the trail of light packing this
load of sin along?
- What does John say is the goal? ( 1 John 2:1: “I write
this so you will not sin.” The goal is to leave sin
- Is this a realistic goal? What happens if we miss
the mark? (John says we have Jesus to defend us.
Sounds like a lawyer!)
- Look again at 1 John 2:1. How does Jesus “defend us”
before the Father? By arguing that everyone sins, and God
should not be so particular?
- Is Jesus arguing that what we did was not really sin?
- Read 1 John 1:10. What kind of people did we decide last
week were identified here? (These are the two extremes:
First, those who claim they have reached perfection and
they have no sin. Second, those who say they are not
sinning now and they have never sinned because sin does
not really exist for Christians. It makes logical sense
that Jesus would not be repeating a variation of these two
false and extreme arguments.)
- Do you think the people described in 1 John 1:10 are the
same people John is addressing in 1 John 2:1? (No. John
starts out “my dear children.” He is not still talking to
the same group of people he was talking about in v.10. He
said the verse 10 people were making God out to be a liar
and God’s word had no place in their lives. John has
turned to a new group of people who are seeking the truth.
These are people who are walking on the light trail. These
are people who want their heart and their actions to
- Now that we have discussed what we think Jesus might
argue, let’s read 1 John 2:2 and see if we can figure out
what He is actually arguing. What argument does this
suggest that Jesus is making on our behalf?
- Assume you are hauled in front of a judge and you are
charged with committing a crime. As you are standing
there trying to look your best (and your most
innocent) you hear your lawyer start his argument:
“Your Honor, my client is guilty, very guilty….”
What would you say?
- Is that Jesus’ defense for us? (Yes! His defense
is that we are very guilty, but He has already
paid the penalty. He is not arguing against our
guilt. He is arguing against the penalty being
imposed on us.)
- In light of Jesus’ (your lawyer’s) argument , how do
our efforts to cover and deny our sins really look?
Imagine the judge’s reaction if you started
interrupting your lawyer with an indignant, “I am not
guilty! I live a perfect life! Any problems I may
have are not my fault. It is the fault of the genes
I got from my father and mother!”
- We decided a few minutes ago that 1 John 2:1 is addressed
to “those on the light trail.” Is this consistent with 1
John 2:2? (Jesus’ sacrifice is “for the sins of the whole
world.” His sacrifice might not be accepted by all, but
He gave his life for everyone.)
- Consider this: Why does John characterize Jesus as having
to defend or advocate our position with God? Does God the
Father need to be convinced? Is this some sort of debate
which we hope Jesus wins?
- Read John 16:26-27 where Jesus says, “I don’t have to ask
on your behalf, the Father loves you ….” How is this
consistent with needing a lawyer? (Jesus’ defense is
against the demands of the law, and not the hostile (to
us, as opposed to sin) demands of the Father. What Jesus
has done for us is beyond words, and the very fact that
Jesus steps forth on our behalf makes our defense clear.)
- Knowing God
- Read 1 John 2:3-4. From time to time someone will ask me
if I know someone important. (Actually, it is generally
the reverse, I’m anxious to tell others if I know anyone
who is remotely important.) What does it mean to “know”
someone? What does John mean when he writes of us knowing
Jesus? (Knowing someone means you know something about
- If this is true, then why is obedience to God’s law
the “reality check” for knowing God? (Logically, it
must mean there is a strong connection between
knowing Jesus and knowing His commands.)
- Does this verify my courtroom approach: that my
client’s actions tend to show whether the client
“knows” Jesus? Has a heart for Jesus?
- Why does John say we obey Jesus? What is our motivation?
(We know Him.)
- Why doesn’t John say we obey because we know the
- Why doesn’t John say we obey because we fear God?
- Why doesn’t John say we obey because we know the
downside (the sizzle) or the upside (the temperature-controlled mansion)?
- Is this a universal principle? That we obey what we know?
- If you say, “yes,” ask yourself how much time you
spent knowing God last week as opposed to knowing the
dragon speaking through the television?
- If you say, “It’s not true, Bruce, that I obey every thing
that I know,” then why does knowing God mean we obey Him?
(This says something mind-boggling about God. His love and
character are such that knowing Him compels us to want to
- Friends, this is killer stuff: we cannot obey God unless
we know Him. The other side of this equation is equally
sobering: we do not know Him if we do not obey Him.)
- Read 1 John 2:5. What do you think John means when he says
that God’s love is made complete in anyone who obeys?
(Christianity is not merely theoretical. It is not some
abstract knowledge of rules that make no practical
difference in our lives. God’s love becomes complete in us
when we let His will transform our actions.)
- Read 1 John 2:6. What does it mean to “walk” as Jesus did?
Does it mean:
- We have no money?
- We have no spouse?
- We preach? (John is systematically, relentlessly,
driving the point that obedience is essential. He is
not talking about the specifics of Jesus’ life, he is
talking about Jesus determination to obey His Father
and reflect the will of His Father. Our heart and our
actions are linked.)
- The Results Of Knowing God.
- Read 1 John 2:7-8. Is John reminding us about an old
command or telling us about a new one? John starts out
with what sounds like he is stumbling: “I am not writing
you a new command, but an old one. Well, maybe it is sort
of new.” Which is it? (It is an old command not clearly
recognized before because new light allows us to see it.)
- Have you ever found an old antique, cleaned it up,
and thought it looked completely different?
- Read 1 John 2:9-11. What is this refurbished old command?
(To love our fellow Christians.)
- How did it get refurbished? What is the nature of the
new light? (You do not understand how to love, John
says, until you have seen how Jesus loved! Jesus
“cleaned up” the old love and obedience idea to give
us an example of what was really intended. Consider
two examples: 1) Withered hand healed on the Sabbath
(Matthew 12); and, 2) Jesus discussion about the
importance of what comes out of the mouth rather than
what goes in it (Matthew 15).)
- Friend, how do you rate on the reality check of 1 John
2:9-11? What do your actions say about your heart? Do you
hate anyone? Do you hold grudges? What is your attitude
towards the family of God? The answer to these questions
shows whether you are on the “light” trail or the “dark”
- Next week: Walking in the Light: Renouncing Worldliness.