This Little Light of Mine
Text: 1 John 2: 12- 14
Proposition: Be aware that there are many things that can be a smudge over the light of Christ in you, resist these and you will know all things to the glory of Christ.
Introduction: For over 10 years Marci and lived in the Yukon in places that often had no electricity or running water. We used lamps that were basically cotton wicks that had one end immersed in a reservoir of kerosene and the other upper end of the wick in a glass globe that you lit. But kerosene was expensive and we quickly learned that you could use diesel fuel as a substitute. The thing about diesel oil lamps is that they burn with all kinds of impurities that create soot on the inside of the globe which blocks any light you were trying to create. So you had be really careful, keep the wick trimmed and the globe cleaned if you’re going to push back the darkness.
In the passage we’re going to look at today the hope is that as much as possible we would have light as Christians, no matter how young or old we are in our faith. It was the Apostle John who wrote this little letter called 1 John that we are about to read. John was once a hot head, a man ruled by reactions and shortsightedness. He once saw the rejection that the Samaritans showed towards Jesus and John’s response was, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” (Lk 9:54) Now John is much older, likely in his 80’s and he has grown in his relationship with Christ, his tone now is that of a grandfather. You could say he has learned the importance keeping sin trimmed back and the smudge wiped off his heart and mind. In the first verse of chapter 2 John starts with his main point, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin.” That’s the outcome he hopes for them, that more often than not they would respond to the challenges in their lives in a way that lets the light of Christ in them shine through. Have a look at what John writes in verses 12 to 14.
I. Little Children, Grow In Your Love For God. When you read verses 12 to 14 it seems as if John has written in a poetic style that is distinct from the rest of the chapter. He not only speaks of three types of people, he repeats the refrains to them altering them to reflect a deeper truth. You see this most clearly when read Proverbs or the Psalms, poetic devices being used to project truth. Sometimes it was by repetition, sometimes by hyperbole or exaggeration, sometimes in elevated restatement. John was raised in Hebrew culture and the Scriptures were well known to him so perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us when he suddenly uses poetic device. He uses the metaphor of age to describe different levels of faith, he uses restatement, elevated restatement, progressive degree, all to encourage the church to beware of the smudge of sin. He begins by addressing the little children. It could certainly be literally little children or also metaphorically people who are brand new Christians. They are just discovering the the ability to read Scripture and have it make sense for the first time in their lives. Before they may have tried to grasp the significance or purpose in the Bible but it was like trying to break into a locked vault. Now, as people who have been saved by faith in Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, they see. And what they see is the key wonder of the Gospel presented again and again. They grow in their faith even as their hunger for the Word grows, “Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.” For His names sake you are reckoned as righteous as Christ is. The wonder of Jesus purchasing for us forgiveness of sin, not just for one sin but for all and for all time is at first all most too wonderful to accept until you come as little children do.
In Matthew 18 it describes a time when the disciples were arguing about who was the greatest. So Jesus calls a little child to Himself and with the child right before Him, Jesus says, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” To be converted means to leave one king and choose to serve another. It means to seek hope and life and shelter in God alone. It’s why John restates this in verse 13, “I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father.” Everything that an earthly father was meant to be, our heavenly Father completes. The security, the affirming love, the correcting hand, the gracious forgiveness and the steadfast integrity matched in wisdom and knowledge, that’s our heavenly Father and it is the thirst of every soul. When you first know, and not just know about but really know your heavenly Father, you are able finally to ‘Be still and know that He is God.’ This simple beginning will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.
II. Fathers, Grow In Your Love For the Lord. Perhaps what catches your attention is that John’s progression seems wrong. Instead of children, young men, fathers he puts young men last. By the way, though he is using masculine terms here it is a reference to stages of faith and thus to all people, men and women, young and old. But still, why the shift to fathers in the poetic sequence of things. Matthew Henry in his response to this writes, “The apostle immediately passes from the bottom to the top of the school, from the lowest form to the highest, that those in the middle may hear both lessons, may remember what they have learned and perceive what they must come to…”.
In 1 John 2:13 he writes, “I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.” And if we were to miss the point he uses repetition and writes exactly the same thing in verse 14. What is the significance of this statement that John wants to underline? I suppose it could be interpreted in two different ways. ‘From the beginning’ could refer to when they first came to Christ, a reminder to remember, to reinforce their faith with their testimony of His presence in their lives. In the English translations from the original Greek, the words, ‘who is’, are often in italics meaning they have been added for clarity but weren’t in the original Greek. That being the case it literally reads, “I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him from the beginning.” Yet again ‘from the beginning’ could also refer to God, meaning that from the beginning of all things, in eternity past, God was. For the fathers, or mature believers both men and women, the eternality of God is a core doctrinal truth. It means there is no beginning with God the Father or God the Son or God the Holy Spirit, three persons in One God head. That means that before the incarnation of Christ Jesus was, before the world was created… Jesus was. Do you remember that prayer of Jesus in the upper room before they went to Gethsemane on the night of His betrayal and arrest? In John 17:24 Jesus prays, “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” Why is that something that John points to as a belief of the mature Christian? It points to the sufficiency of Christ in all things, it points to the efficacy of His work on the cross, for in Him we too have an eternality in the presence of the Father who loved Jesus before the world was and now loves us in Christ in that same way. It points to the timelessness of His grace and the extent of His forgiveness of sin. And it also holds out the opposite truth of the timelessness or eternity of hell if you reject Christ and commit cosmic rebellion. It fore arms and also fore warns. This is the Christ Who is from the beginning, Who willingly entered into humanity and willingly presented Himself to father as the propitiation for our sin.
III. Young Men, Know and Grow in Your Love For Jesus the Christ.
The young men refers to Christian men and women who know and are growing in their faith. They are the church in its prime, the church that is in a way different from the little children and different from the fathers. They are in the thick of the fight, in the front lines of battle. Look at how John describes them, “I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one.” In verse 14 John uses the poetic device of elevated restatement, “Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you and you have overcome the wicked one.” You who are raising families, who are in the challenges of balancing budgets, who wrestle with career, family and friends and husbands who snore, you are being attacked by the enemy of your soul in relentless ways. Know and grow in your love for Jesus the Christ. It is in His strength and in the power of His might that you will be made able to stand. By His body and blood on the cross we have been made more than conquerors. The Chinese General SunTzu in about 470BC wrote The Art of War. In this he describes tactics that I believe Satan has become adept in using against all people and especially against Christians. Listen to how this describes Satan’s schemes against you.
“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder and crush him. If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.”
That describes in part the way that the wicked one comes after the ‘young men’, the men and women on the front lines. But you are strong, the Word of God abides in you, that’s where the strength is rooted. The Holy Spirit uses it in you, the church calls it forth out of you.
Men and women of the church… overcome the wicked one in the strength of the Lord! Beware lest you either make too much of Satan or that you minimize him into a cartoon. Beware of his bait, beware of the temptation that is common to all people and know that God has provided a way for each temptation to be neutralized. Beware of the way he will seek to divide you, husbands from wives, brothers and sisters in Christ from each other, even you from being part of a local church. Watch out for how the enemy can appear when you least expect him, be prepared for his deceit and put on the full armor of God. It’s given to you in Ephesians 6, know it, use it and stand firm therefore!
“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”