No Middle Ground

No Middle Ground

1 John 2:3-6 NKJV Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God [a]is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

Seems pretty clear cut. The foremost background issue in this letter is the problem of false teaching about salvation in Christ and its operation in the believer. Doctrinally, heresy being taught denied the deity of Christ or that Christ came in the flesh. PJay talked about this two weeks ago. Go and listen. Ethically, false teachers taught that obeying Christ’s commands and living holy lives separated from sin and the world were not necessary in the Christian life. Tonight we will discuss the later.

Belief and behavior and inseparably woven together in John’s letter. This letter is different in that it is not addressed to a certain person or church, as most of Paul’s letters were written to specific churches with specific issues/problems; this letter was written as a circulating letter to all the churches over which John had apostolic authority, much like Revelation. John sets forth the characteristics of true fellowship with God and reveals “tests” that we may know that we are in Him and have eternal life: (1) the test of apostolic truth about Jesus; (2 weeks ago); (2) the test of an obedient faith that keeps the commandments of God, (tonight); (3) the test of holy living, separation from sin, (in the weeks to come); (4) the test of love for God and the brethren; (5) the test of the Spirit’s witness

John concludes that we may know and have full confidence that we know Him when the fruit of these five areas are evidenced in our lives. John defines the Christian life by using very stark and contrasting terms and allowing no middle ground between light and dark, truth and lies, righteousness and sin, love and hate, loving God and loving the world, and the children of God and the children of the devil.

“He that says, “I know Him” and does not keep His commandments , is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” John uses a very harsh phrase. He does not say a man “is lying”, but that a man “is a liar”, not very “PC”. This is the phraseology in the original. John wants us to know that we cannot say “I love God” and disobey His commands at the same time. John was contending against a misunderstanding of the doctrine of grace and salvation. He opposed antinomian (anti-law) teachers who taught that forsaking a life of sin was optional for the believer, not unlike today’s heretical messages. These false teachers taught that one can legitimately know God and be in a saving relationship and at the same time be indifferent to God’s will and His commandments, and disobey them. Those who make such a claim are liars.

Benson Commentary on this verse:  “The Nicolaitans and Gnostics, notwithstanding they lived in an habitual course of the most criminal sensual indulgences, boasted that they were the objects of God’s love, and sure of obtaining eternal life, merely because they possessed the knowledge of the true God, and of his mercy in forgiving men’s sins. In this boasting the apostle declared them liars” 

CONFESS. Allow me to give you a simple Greek language lesson. Jesus said this bold statement, 

“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” Matthew‬ 10:32-33‬ 

Paul says more of the same, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans‬ 10:9‬ ‬‬

“Confess” is an interesting word in the Greek. It doesn’t mean just to say the words, “I believe in Jesus”, which is what most think it means. No, it’s much more than that. It stems from two different words that rendered together are defined as “something said, thought, reasoned, motives” plus “a like-minded covenant, harmonious”. This compound word is “homologos”: “homo”- same and “logos”- word.; being in the same place and time as the Word, a rough translation. The words of our mouth must line up with the desires and affections of our heart. Therefore, to confess “Jesus is Lord” means to live a life, including your actions and your words, that is in full agreement with Him, as He is the Word of God. 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John‬ 1:1‬ 

Confession is more than mere words, it is a life lived in harmony with Jesus. “Homologos” means we “confess” or “deny” Jesus by our lifestyle. You can’t love Jesus and love the world just as you can’t love Jesus and love your sin. We do not just talk the talk and say, “I believe in Jesus” as most modern day Christians believe and live life on their own terms, but we walk the walk of obedience to the Word. 

2 Timothy 2:19 Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of [a]Christ depart from iniquity.”

Because a transformation has taken place in the heart; we live a life of righteousness and holiness. There is no middle ground. Not because of anything we have done, but because He is righteous and holy. This life is a life lived on the narrow path, the afflicted and straight path that most will refuse because He commands humility and obedience. 

The opposite is to “deny” Jesus, which translates as “to contradict”. Therefore, it is not only to reject Him as did the Jewish people of His day, but to live a life that contradicts the words of your mouth. This was most of the history of Israel; they honored God with their lips, but their heart was far from Him: 

“Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” (Matthew‬ 15:7-9‬) 

“But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God [a]is perfected in him.” 

John affirms that if true love exists in the heart, it will be carried out in the life; and that love and obedience are parts of the same thing; that one will be manifested by the other; and that where obedience exists, it is the completion or perfecting of love. John does not say that either love or obedience would be in themselves perfect; but he says that one cannot fully develop itself without the other. Is this not the same commands that God gave through Moses to Israel?

Deuteronomy 6:1-6 “Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. Therefore hear, O Israel, and [a]be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the Lord God of your fathers has promised you—‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’ “Hear, O Israel: [b]The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.

Jesus tells us more of the same: John 14:15 “If you love Me, [a]keep My commandments.

So we see that love and obedience are inseparable, contrary to what others have taught you. Profession involves an obligation to act up to the profession. “He who says that he abides in God is by his words morally bound to walk even as his Son walked.” 

To be or abide in God or in Christ implies an habitual condition, not isolated occurrences of His presence in our lives. Obedience, not feeling, or an experience or a special visitation; is the test of union. EX: I know a man that has long been associated loosely with our church. He visits every time he is in town. Several times, he was found at the altar weeping and even mightily touched and moved by the Spirit; but he would leave here and go back to his old life of sin and disobedience. God touches us in mighty ways, even healing and delivering people from strongholds; but that experience does not mean you know Him. It displays that God is a good and merciful God.

Nothing less than “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” is to be aimed at.

Ephesians 4:13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ

What does this mean to you?

Do you love Him? The measure of your love for Jesus is found in your obedience. IF you are not obedient, you are a liar. There is no middle ground. Does your life line up with Scripture? If I asked others, how would they define you? For me, Jesus is my first love. I have no other hope outside of Him. I cannot go through this life on my own. I have a deep understand of my sin, that my sin was against God and while I was His enemy; Christ died for me. I am incredibly thankful and grateful. He paid a debt I could not. I love Him with all my heart, therefore I obey all He tells me to do. Is obedience always easy? No. I have disobeyed at times and experienced the consequences of my disobedience. It is not just that there are real and sometimes lasting consequences; but more importantly that I hurt my Lord and Savior. Think about when you hurt your spouse or someone you love and you can see the pain in their eyes from your betrayal; I feel that kind of pain when I disobey Jesus. I do not obey because He makes me, or I fear falling out of fellowship. Quite the opposite. While I have a fear of the Lord; I obey because I love Him. Now obedience has brought me great blessings, but if I lost everything like Job; I would still love Him.   When I ask, do you love Him; I am asking “more than these”?

John 21:15  So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of [a]Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I [b]love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”

What are the “these” in your life? Could be spouse, children, family, job, money, position, even ministry. Working for God does not take the place of spending time with Him. Any of these have the ability to draw you away from the Lord with a divided heart. PMatt talked about this on Sunday. He has to be your first love.

Second, you must discipline yourself to keep Him first. There are all sorts of things that are in competition for the altar on my heart. I remember when I was pregnant with Gabe. Matt came to me with tears in his eyes and asked me if I would love our son more than him. It was this moment that I knew that I had to keep Matt first, before our son. And I have done this. I see a lot of women that as soon as children come; that child replaces the husband. This is a marriage headed towards destruction. I have worked hard at making Matt feel like he is my beloved. It takes a concerted effort- a disciplining of the heart and the mind. How much more should we be concerned with keeping the Lord on the altar of our heart? This means the things of the Lord need to have preeminence. Prayer is key. This is my communication. Reading and studying the Word, this is how we learn what He wants and how to obey. Church attendance. Good, solid teaching. Go where the Word is being taught and go often. Bible study attendance. Prayer meetings. Learning from leaders in the faith and following their examples. You have to work at keeping Him as your first love.

Revelation 2:1-7 “To the [a]angel of the church of Ephesus write,

‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: “I know your works, your labor, your [b]patience, and that you cannot [c]bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” ’

This church worked hard at ministry and was committed to good doctrine and obeying the Word. They were unflinching and persevered under a tyrannical government. They refused to surrender and were adamant against false teachers. Nevertheless they were in danger of having their lampstand removed because they lost their love for Jesus. It is a good reminder for us today. What is competing with your first love?

What are His commands? Whatever is revealed in His written Word or that the Holy Spirit leads you to obey. Before anything though, you have to believe in the finished work of the cross. 

1 John 3:23 And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave [a]us commandment.

In Scripture, His commands are His moral laws- such as one man, one woman; honor your parents, do not kill, steal or hate your brother; love your enemies and do good to those who use you; turn the other cheek, do not lie, obey your spiritual authority, do not be drunk, do not covet, love, give and serve the brethren and many more. There are 1,050 commands in the New Testament for Christians to obey. Due to repetitions we can classify them under about 800 headings. They cover every phase of man’s life in his relationship to God and his fellowmen, now and hereafter. READ and STUDY the WORD.

The leadings and promptings of the Spirit can be different for each of us. The Spirit may lead one to go somewhere and forbid another to go to that same place. For me, I do not drink a drop of alcohol. I know the Lord has told me, “Do not touch”. For some, you can have a little wine for your stomach ache like Timothy. If you are confused about obeying a command, or what it looks like; ask someone who is walking the walk and has the fruit of a life of obedience.

It’s OK to mess up. All of us have fallen a few times as we were learning to walk. It is a process. Do not fall into one of these two ditches- legalism and lawlessness. Legalism produces obedience without love. You obey because you think it earns you something. Once you fall into the legalism trap, you become judgmental and accuse others of not being obedient, or obeying in the same ways you obey. Legalism is dependence on your obedience rather than depending on the Lord. It can manifest itself in many ways. Lawlessness is a total disregard of God’s commands and laws. It is living in sin and disobedience and saying, “I am saved by my past confession”. It is what is transpiring in most of today’s church. While there is no middle ground, the cross allows for our weaknesses. In learning to walk as Jesus walked, we may fall from time to time. For goodness sake, do not camp out when you fall. Some people see a fall as a major failure and say, I might as well go back to my sin. By all means NO! Acknowledge your sin to a loving Father and receive His forgiveness through His shed blood. Get back up, wipe the dust off your feet and keep running the race set before you.

Philippians 3:13-14  Brethren, I do not count myself to have [a]apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

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