Like the corrosive effects of my mother-in-law's diabetes that slowly took her eyesight, John warns here that when a believer allows hatred to simmer and fester inside his heart, he might think he's none the wiser, but in reality he's slowly losing his spiritual perception and insight and his path is growing more and more dangerously dark. One of the subtle dangers of losing your spiritual passion is that it happens slowly and when things change slowly over time, it's difficult to recognize. The change from one day to the next is very minor, but after a long period of time, the total loss of passion is significant.
We need a criteria to know if we're drifting and one of the key markers we can use to help us know that we're living correctly and walking wisely is how well we love. Stephen has more to say on this topic in today's lesson that he's calling Love is Not Blind. After a bit of review, Stephen will conclude this message he began last time. Luke's Gospel recorded the prophecy that the coming of Jesus Christ would be like the day spring from on high. In other words, the biblical language for the sunrise is going to take place and he goes on to say, and the light of Christ will shine upon them who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.
Luke 1, 78 and 79. The birth of Jesus Christ marks the sunrise of the light, eternal life, true light, the Gospel. Now there's still darkness, yes, we know that, we're surrounded by it, but as the light of the Gospel permeates culture, darkness has to flee when the light shines. So to John, love and light are part of the Gospel. We would like to say, hey, we're in the light, we got everything right. He says, what about the love?
Others would say, I got love, but I don't worry about the light. Both are part of the Gospel message. Now notice the warning in verse 9. The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. Now there are some who would say, oh, now John has changed his perspective, he's now talking about an unbeliever. That would actually be a convenient interpretation. I mean, there's no way a Christian can hate somebody else.
Perish the thought. The word John uses here for hate actually means to detest. It has this underlying attitude that despises somebody else.
It moves over to the other side of the hallway or other side of the street. Is it possible for a Christian to detest someone else? No. So John is talking about all the sinners out there. I like that interpretation. No, that isn't what he's saying, is it? In fact, the problem with that view is that it isn't consistent with John's audience and even his vocabulary. Look again in verse 9. If he despises his whom? Brother. He doesn't use the generic term for the brotherhood of man. He isn't talking about a biological sibling. He's referring to someone, one Greek scholar brought out, who has an affinity of character by being members of God's family by virtue of the new birth. He's actually talking about us, brothers and sisters. He's specifically saying that if we, brothers and sisters in Christ, detest one another, hate one another, act hatefully toward each other, despise each other, we have virtually gone back into the shadows of the darkness. We represent the darkness, not the light.
No, by the way, we end up doing more harm than good not only to other people but to ourselves. He's effectively saying here, beloved, none of you belong in the shadows. Get into the light that is demonstrate the light of Christ by demonstrating the love of Christ.
Get out of the shadows of hatred and unforgiveness and bitterness and jealousy and all those things that belong in the dark. Found an interesting illustration of this in the life of Corrie ten Boom. Her family, remember they were caught by the Nazis and sent off to prison camp for hiding Jews in their upstairs bedroom. My wife and I toured that home and saw that upstairs closet they created by building a fake brick wall and they would hide Jews as they would shuttle them from one safe house to the other.
They were caught. After Corrie's release in the end of World War II, she sensed the Lord leading her to just simply travel as a single woman sharing the gospel in her testimony and she did that. And early on, in fact, soon after the war, she was invited to come to a church in Germany of all places and share testimony.
So she agreed. As she stood before that congregation and shared her testimony, she recognized a man sitting in the audience. He was one of the most brutal guards in the Ravensbrück concentration camp where she and her sister had been placed.
The same concentration camp where her sister would effectively starve to death. She wrote that it was one thing for me to talk about God's love and forgiveness and another thing entirely to be asked to demonstrate it. At the close of the service, she writes, much to my dismay, that man came to the front and stood in line with the others to meet me.
His hat and dark brown overcoat washed over my memory and I could still see him in his black overcoat wearing his cap with its skull and crossbones emblem. My blood ran cold. When his turn came, he moved toward me and quietly said, I have become a Christian. I have asked God to forgive me for all the cruel things I did in that camp where you were and I have come tonight to ask you to forgive me too. She writes, how can I forgive this man when my sister's emaciated face seemed to appear in the memory of her cruel death lay an icy hand upon my heart. The former Nazi guard held out his hand and the seconds seemed like centuries. The indwelling Christ prompted my response and I reached out and took his hand and immediately supernatural warmth flooded my heart and with tears coming down my cheeks I said to him, I forgive you my brother. What do you do with that? This is what John is talking about.
He blows the world's minds and ours too, frankly. This is what it means to leave the shadows of hatred's darkness behind and in certainly much less dramatic ways. Here's the point. This is for us too. We face decisions of darkness and light every single day. Will we choose to walk in the shadows or will we choose to walk in the sunrise is the question. Now with that, John provides at the back end of this paragraph two timeless principles of truth to live by in these next two verses.
Let me give you the first principle. A life of love sheds insight on the path ahead. He's going to give us an incentive and even a greater encouragement. Certainly living for Christ, modeling Christ, demonstrating Christ is good. But he wants us to know that when we live a life of love, it sheds insight on our path. Would you like some insight on your path?
I sure would. He writes in verse 10, look, the one who loves his brother abides in the light. What does he mean abides in the light? To abide in the light simply means to live in the light, to walk in the light, to be at home in the light. The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. You want to walk in such a way that light is shed on your pathway?
Well, here's a fascinating discovery. John effectively says love happens to be the light bulb. Turn it on and it sheds light on your pathway. You want insight on the path ahead? Turn on the light bulb of love. I know that sounds like a 60s song, but that's basically what he's saying. And how bright would you like your light on that path?
What kind of love and to what degree do you shed? Ever since a few weeks ago, having our home broken into, now the back of the house lights are more important to Marcia and I than ever. Right there by the back door that leads in from the deck and then over by the door that leads into the bedroom, right in the back.
That matters now more than ever. I don't even, I don't know if I ever thought about it before. Well, the truth is my wife asked me to change the light bulb out there many times, which I didn't do, but that's none of your business. So I went to Lowe's and now I'm interested in light bulbs. They got like a thousand different kinds of light bulbs.
It's ridiculous. Just give me a light bulb. No, you got this kind. This is yellow. This is white.
This is soft. This is bright. You know what kind of light bulb I want? I want the biggest one that I can fit into that thing and I want it to burn for like 3,000 hours and I want it to be so strong that I can grill my grilled cheese sandwiches out there on those panes, right?
I want light shed on that deck and out into the backyard. I mean, how much light do we want shed on our lives, our path? Well, how much wattage are you putting in your love lamp? The brighter your love, the more insight. So the question isn't how little love can I get by with in life toward other people.
It's how much because, man, do I need insight on the path ahead. The more love, the more light. The more light, the less of a chance of stumbling along the pathway of life. Moffett translates this phrase this way, in the light there is no pitfall. It makes sense because you can see them coming. Someone bound up in their little lives, just go from one pit to the next, can't see anything but themselves, begin to love and suddenly the light is shed.
Oh, look at that pitfall coming and look at that one coming. There's a body of scholarship, by the way, that believes. John may be referring to not only avoiding our own stumbling but helping other believers avoid stumbling as well by loving them.
Frankly, I don't think we have to decide. You could have both ideas in mind and both are certainly true. When you love the brethren, you avoid so many pitfalls and when you love others, you end up helping them, don't you? You end up helping shed a little light, maybe through encouragement or insight of your own to avoid pitfalls in their life.
When you choose to see the best in them, when you choose to act in love toward them, you just might be directing their path as well toward something more glorifying to God. That's what John is doing here for us. Some of you may know that Howard Hendricks passed away a couple of weeks ago, literally touching as a professor at Dallas Seminary, so many lives. In fact, I read some of the profiles. I watched the memorial service on the internet this past week. He taught for more than 60 years teaching more than 10,000 students.
I'm so glad God allowed me to be one of them at the end there. I read his profile and learned a few things. He was raised in a broken home. His parents separated soon after he was born and he used to say that he split up the family. His grandmother tried her best to raise him, but he was difficult, to say the least. This online article said he described himself as a troublemaker during his younger years. In fact, his fifth grade teacher in Philadelphia once commented that Howard Hendricks was the most likely student to end up in prison.
She was serious. Now today a teacher could be sued for doing this, but at one point, on one occasion, she became so exasperated by his troublemaking that she tied him to his seat with a rope and taped his mouth shut. Some of you are teachers and you're thinking, I like that idea. I got a few students.
I was that kind of student. His troubled heart would radically begin to change though when he met his sixth grade teacher. When he was introduced to Miss Noe the next year, he said, I never forgot that meeting.
She looked down at me and said, Howard, I've heard a lot about you, but I don't believe a word of it. He said, those words would change my life. Talk about shedding a little light through a demonstration of grace and love on somebody's path.
A sixth grader. One author summed up this verse so well when he wrote, love makes us stepping stones instead of stumbling blocks. It's well said.
Secondly, not only is a life of love shedding insight on the path ahead, but a lack of love diminishes insight on the path ahead. See, John, he's going to hit hard. He isn't just going to tell us the incentives and here's the wonderful thing about it. Oh, no.
Let's turn the coin over. Look at verse 11. But the one who hates his brother, oh, man, we're still talking about Christians. The one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness and does not know where he's going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
Possible for a Christian. John's use of the present tense participle translated hating simply depicts this characteristic attitude. This person, the believer, is known in the assembly for being hateful.
He's known in the community for being spiteful. John says this person is choosing to live in the shadows, to effectively turn off the light and walk a dark path. John even adds his eyes are blinded. That verb records the blinding impact of hatred in this person's heart.
Like the corrosive effects of my mother-in-law's diabetes that slowly took her eyesight. John warns here that when a believer allows hatred to simmer and fester inside his heart, he might think he's none the wiser. But in reality, he's slowly losing his spiritual perception and insight in his path is growing more and more dangerously dark. Hate pulls curtains over the windows of the soul through which God would shine insight and truth.
So what happens to a believer when he doesn't love the brethren? John turns the coin over and he says, look, he lives in the dark. He lives with that insight. Spiritually foolish. He probably thinks he sees better than the rest of us, right? But he's actually blinded by the darkness of his own self-centered hatred, his hateful spirit. See, this is the kind of person who causes trouble in that Bible study you're leading or in that church assembly.
He thinks he is the spiritual giant among them, but he's actually a spiritual baby with little understanding or spiritual perception. And you might have a conversation with an individual like that and you'll walk away and you'll say to yourself, they do not see it. They really don't get it. And they don't. Because their lives are wrapped up in themselves.
So here's the warning from John. Love is not blind. Hatred is. Love doesn't put on the blinders. Hatred does. Love doesn't refuse to see.
Hatred does. Love sees. It opens the eyes of the heart. It pulls back the curtains on the windows of the soul.
So choose to love. You will shed insight on your pathway and the pathway of those around you as they walk with you who need the wisdom and the encouragement of God just as much as you do. In all of the different testimonials that came in from around the country related to the homegoing of Howard Hendricks, one very touching one was written by Chuck Swindoll who was also taught by Hendricks and now serves as the chancellor of Dallas Seminary. And I read his testimonial and I'll start wrapping things up with this. He wrote, after nearly completing my seminary education, four years of intense study at Dallas Seminary, Cynthia and I were almost certain our unborn child would not see life outside the womb.
The financial and personal strain of those seminary years was difficult enough without the anguish of potentially losing our child. I needed a friend to talk to. So late one evening after studying in the library until closing, I thought I would find a professor who might put his arm around me and listen. I went to the faculty building and knocked on a door. No one answered.
They'd gone for the night, of course. I walked a little further down the hallway and knocked on another door and no one answered there either. And then I saw a light shining underneath another faculty door and I knocked. After a moment, the professor, and I knew him, opened his door a crack, just a crack. Yes, he stared at me. Yes, Chuck, what do you want? I stood there with tears forming in my eyes and I could hear though in his voice he didn't want to talk to me. So I said, am I disturbing you? Yes, you're disturbing me.
What do you want? I said, well, nothing. Well, fine, he said, and closed the door. The next morning, Swindoll writes, while still trying to find my way through the maze of emotions and get up on my own feet from my depression and my fears of losing our baby and maybe even losing my wife, I ran into Prof Hendricks. He'd already heard the news and he walked up to me, put his arm around my shoulder and said, tell me what's going on. He listened. He told me of their own miscarriage years earlier and how he and his wife recovered from that tragedy. Swindoll writes, from that day forward, I wanted to learn even more from him because I knew he cared about me. And then he adds a familiar axiom that you may have heard before. He said, I learned then, like never before, that people will not care how much you know until they know how much you care. And I find it fascinating that the Apostle John doesn't warn us that we're in danger of turning out the light and walking in darkness if we don't have our great grammar down.
I'm really glad for that. Or that we haven't memorized his letter or that we haven't been faithful in attending all the services of the church. Or we can check off the boxes on a theological examination.
All those things are wonderful. But he boils it down to this. Is your love lamp burning brightly for others?
So with these questions, I close. What pitfalls are you dangerously close to falling into because you're harboring a hateful spirit toward another? Who is it in your world who would be greatly encouraged by your care? Who is it that could use your insight to help them regain their footing on the path of light? Who is God asking you to selflessly serve? What is God asking you to faithfully commit to all over again? Who is God asking you to love today?
That was a message called Love is Not Blind here on Wisdom for the Heart. Stephen is the pastor of the Shepherd's Church in Cary, North Carolina. You'll be celebrating Christmas next month and we have a resource to help you. Think back over the last few Christmas seasons and then let me ask you, do you struggle to keep your focus on Jesus during the Christmas season?
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If not, tell someone else about it. All the information you need is at wisdomonline.org forward slash advent. Once again, that's wisdomonline.org forward slash advent. In addition to producing these daily Bible lessons, we also publish a magazine. Each issue features a specific topic related to the Christian life.
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