“Summer of Love” // 1 John 2:12-14
The following is a manuscript of the sermon presented by Senior Pastor Dr. Roger Patterson on Sunday, June 19, 2022 at our West U Baptist Church campus. To view the sermon in full, check out the link below.
Good to be with you, West U. Welcome those online. Hey, Grab your copy of the God’s Word and meet me in 1 John chapter 2.
One of the greatest honors in my life is being the father of Brady, Cooper, and Carson Patterson. If you aren’t a dad, you can’t get your mind around this just yet. But it’s an incredible experience of a lifetime.
I remember my dad saying this to me as a kid, and I heard him say it recently to Cooper. My dad would say, “Roger, you have no idea how much I love you and you really won’t know it until you have your own children.”
And he was right. Dad, you were right. I couldn’t fathom your love until I had my own children.
So, dad, happy Father’s Day and thanks for loving me so deeply.
Today, I want us to see something really profound. I want us to see the natural progression of growth and maturation in the life of the believer. And I want you to understand where you are on this pathway. As you see where you are, I hope to give you encouragement about your next steps. What I want each of us to understand is that our growth as disciples mirrors God’s pathway for the family.
The Progression of Maturity as Disciples
Little Children —to— Young Believers —to— Parents/Grandparents
Let’s take a look at it together in 1 John 2:12-14.
1 John 2:12-14
“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”
Let’s remember the context and the reason for which John is writing this letter.
1St John is primarily written to deal with the heretical teaching of Gnosticism. The word “Gnosis” is the root word here, and it is Greek for KNOWLEDGE. This is one of the reasons that we see the word Know or Knowledge, 25 times in this small letter. Apparently there was a teaching that was being both taught and embraced that proclaimed two core things:
- All Flesh is Bad or Evil
- Salvation is Earned through a Special Knowledge that only a few will be given
That’s why John starts off his letter with a statement that sounds something like this:
I’m about to tell you a bit about what I personally know…I’ve seen, smelled, heard, touched, and walked with the man, who was fully God and fully man, Jesus of Nazareth. I was one of his first disciples and I was in his inner circle of the three. If there is anything that I have KNOWLEDGE of it is this — He was God who came and took on FLESH.”
The implications of their false teaching would lead to a few conclusions naturally:
- One, that salvation is found in a different way, as the atoning death of Jesus wouldn’t be sufficient to pay for our sins.
- The second implication of this false teaching lead many to consider their flesh…the functions and appetites of their bodies in one of two ways. Now, remember their view was that all flesh was evil. Therefore, they would either:
- License: Indulge their appetites of the flesh in all sorts of drunkenness, orgies, and immorality…or…
- Legalism: They would punish their flesh, trying to purge our their evil appetites…acting as if they were imprisoned in their flesh.
This was a major problem, as the out-croppings of this teaching lead to “BONDAGE” — A bondage to license or a bondage to legalism.
So, this is why John is writing. But another thing to keep in mind is that John is between 75 and 85 years of age when he writes this letter.
Last week we saw him address this flock like a grandfather would his grandkids.
1 John 2:1
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
I love that this grandfather isn’t pointing his fingers at his grandchildren. Instead, in his maturation, having lived seasons, he says…
“I know you are going to have your ups and downs. But listen to me. Let me tell you what we have available to us.”
- When a dad corrects, he often points at his kids…You do this…or Don’t do that…
- The Grandfather has enough wisdom and life experience to know that to get his message across, instead of pointing to his kids and saying, “Shame on you, …” he points back at himself and speaks from his own experience.
John is speaking from his experience here and he is speaking as a grandfather.
And what I see is that he is speaking to three distinct groups in the church.
- The first group are his great-grandkids in the faith. He calls them “Little Children.” They are a few generations removed and he hasn’t had the time and life experience with this groups of babies in the faith like he has his children and his grandchildren. And life is like that, isn’t it? Great Grandparents don’t have the interaction with their Great Grands like parents or grandparents do.
- The second group is actually the first generation of believers that he was able to bring to faith and disciple…he calls these “Fathers.” These were mature believers in the faith and they were the parents or grandparents in the faith.
- The last group is his grandkids in the faith. They are the “young adults” of the faith. He calls them “Young Men.” They most likely have been won by the first group of believers that John won and has worked to disciple through his life and ministry.
Let’s spend a minute looking at each group and what he wants them to know.
I. Group #1 – “Little Children” — New Believers in Jesus – (vs. 12-13)
1 John 2:12
“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.”
1 John 2:13c
“…I write to you, children, because you know the Father.”
He says, “little children” and “children” here affectionately as a grandpa. This term isn’t necessarily about an age, but a stage. He’s reflecting on those who are new to following Jesus. Maybe that’s you here today/tuning in online today.
“I want you to be encouraged. I’m thinking about you, you’re on my mind today. You’re just starting out following Jesus, just getting started and there is so much that you don’t yet know or understand…and that’s OK. Don’t get discouraged. Here’s what you do know, and here’s what I want to remind you…2 things:
Two Truths for the New Believer
1. You are forgiven!
The bad news is that sin happens…Remember 1 John 1:8-10. Remember Romans 3:23.
1 John 1:8-10
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
All of us struggle. Sin happens.
- But here’s the good news – This grandfather…or this great grandfather in the faith says let me encourage you, even though sin happens and I beg you not to sin (1 John 2:1) – you are forgiven!
- Your debt has been paid. It’s done. God put forward Jesus as the propitiation for our sins – Jesus is the atonement that satisfies the penalty for our sins. And God is not mad at us because of Jesus. Good news! No, you stand in a state of forgiveness before the Heavenly Father. You stand Forgiven!
One Writer says…
The first and most fundamental word of encouragement that John can give to all members of the church is that in the past they were forgiven of their sins and that this forgiveness remains effective in their lives. “Have been forgiven” is in the perfect tense. This forgiveness occurs because the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ made the mercy and grace of God available to those who repent of their sins and believe in the name of Jesus.
“You are Forgiven” means You WERE forgiven because you put your faith in Christ. You ARE forgiven because you put your faith in Jesus Christ. And you Will Always Be forgiven because you put your faith in Jesus. It is an action that stands complete.
People who are young in their faith need to be reminded of the constant state of forgiveness in which they live. Yes, they will sin, and yes, they need to confess their sins and experience cleansing, but because of the death of Jesus and for His glory and name, the Father looks upon us who have put our faith in Christ as standing in that forgiveness. We are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
The second message this grandfather, or great-grandfather in the faith has for this third generation of believers is this truth.
Two Truths for the New Believer
1. You are forgiven!
2. You have a Father!
You know the father. In other words, you’re adopted. Yes, you get forgiveness, but you also get adopted into the Family of God. You’re his kid now because he has adopted you.
And he is perfect, and he is good. Some of you have a dad that reflected the heart of the Heavenly Father. I have that dad and he is an incredible blessing to me.
And some of you, that’s not your story. To be honest, when you think of Father’s Day, it’s tough because of your experience with your dad, or your lack of experience with your dad.
Here’s the good news for you if that’s in your story. When you look to Jesus to save you, you receive forgiveness, and you also receive a perfect and good Father who adopts you through the blood of Jesus.
“…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, …”
So, he says to the new believers – celebrate the fact that you’re forgiven and you have a Father. Don’t get frustrated with where you are and don’t be tempted to run after every new fad of teaching. But be grounded in the fact that through Jesus’ atonement, you are forgiven and you have a Father.
Now, John skips a generation, because I think he wants to get the attention of this next group, in light of the heresy being taught and his expectation of this group.
Let’s look at this middle group, which I believe may be the first disciples of his ministry in Ephesus. He has a high expectation of this group.
II. Group #2 – Fathers — Mature Believers in Jesus – (vs. 13, 14)
1 John 2:13 & 14
“I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning…I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.”
I don’t know about you, but I hear “expectation” in these words. Whether these were some of John’s first converts and disciples, or they were at Pentecost and were saved and discipled there, we don’t know. Maybe some of these were even present in Jesus’ ministry. Again, we don’t know.
But I hear John putting expectation on his kids, just like you do, dad.
Maybe your kids have friends over. And they are pushing the boundaries and your kid is going right along with them. Maybe they want to watch a movie that’s inappropriate. Or their conversations aren’t wholesome. You, dad, get a glimpse of it, you hear it, and instead of rebuking the entire group, you simply call your son or daughter to you. And it is here that you speak to them saying, “Hey, you know better. You know that’s not something we do, or are going to do. Get it cleaned up.”
You put an expectation on your kids to straighten up and get the situation under control.
John has an expectation of these “Fathers” to keep leading and keep being a father in the faith to these younger believers who are being tempted with this heretical teaching.
John wants these mature parents in the faith to keep parenting the younger generations.
And the same is true for dads in their parenting. Dad, listen to me. When you give away your role because you walk away from your family or are just too busy to notice what’s happening in your kids’ lives, you are going to lead your kids to WONDER and WANDER.
Absent dads lead their kids to WONDER and WANDER.
- Why did my dad check out on me?
- Does my dad love me?
- Does my dad see me?
- Does my dad love me enough to discipline me?
Then, after they wonder these things, they begin to WANDER.
- They Wander into drugs and alcohol
- They Wander into violence
- They Wander into illicit sex
- The Wander through life with deep seeded anger issues
And they long for their Father’s Blessing. They long for their Father’s love. They long for their Father’s affirmation. They long for what seems so illusive, as they can never seem to please their daddy.
Dad, listen to me. Don’t ever stop parenting. Don’t stop showing up. Don’t stop affirming. Don’t stop teaching. Don’t stop leading.
Make no mistake, your role shifts.
In their early days, you are their position coach…calling every single play. They are looking to you to understand all the ins and outs of being a kiddo and what is right and wrong. You are down in the trenches with your babies during this phase of life.
As they are about halfway through elementary school until about age 12, you are the position coach and the head coach. In other words, you step back some on every detail as they step forward in maturity.
At about age 13, they don’t need or want you as a position coach. They still need a head coach, but a head coach who casts vision for who they will be when they stand on their own two feet. They need a dad who says…
“Here is what you need to know and over the next five years, I’m going to do my best to put these things into your life, so that when you leave my home, you will be able to stand on your own two feet.”
Then, dad, you and your kid start calling the plays together. You are the head coach, but they have some real freedoms.
Then, as they leave your home, and as they are able to handle the responsibility, you shift to CONSULTANT. And as the Consultant, you are helping guide them. And when they need you, they reach out. They ask for counsel. They seek your wisdom. They engage you. But they are living the life you have coached them to live, standing on their own two feet.
And sometimes they aren’t. And they get carried away and into things they shouldn’t. And there is a tremendous amount of pain. But this is where you keep loving. Keep leading. Keep casting vision. Keep encouraging.
My dad sent me a text the other day and said, “Hey son. Just wanting to encourage you today.” Then he attached a scripture. What a blessing!
He is in his 80s and I am 50, but his heart for me has never changed and it does my heart good to hear from my father.
Further Application to the Church:
Now, let’s bring this into the church.
Church, listen to me. One of the fundamental plays of Satan is to remove the father from the home. He tempts. He deceives. He leads astray. And dads walk away from the home.
So many of those who are in prison are those who don’t have a dad in their life. It’s 80% or greater.
You who are mature believers, we need you to act as moms and dads to the fatherless. The fatherless need a Heavenly Father, and they need a spiritual mother or father that will help guide them, encourage them, direct them, and be available to them. You all are the ones who have “Known the Lord from the beginning.” Help others come to know Him and be rooted and established in their faith.
Now we come to a third group. They are probably those who came to faith after this group of “Fathers in the Faith” lead them to Christ. These are called “Young Men.”
III. Group #3 – Young Men — Maturing Believers – (vs. 13, 14)
1 John 2:13-14
“I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one…I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”
Alan Platt in his book City Changers, speaks of this group of believers that John is addressing here. He says…
“The defining characteristics of a young man are that he is strong, has the Word abiding in him, and has overcome the evil one. He is talking about people who are no longer children but have matured into a position of strength. There is something about the Word that defines them now. Their decisions are guided by it.”
“I think John means that spiritual young men have been able to withstand challenges and temptations. We are not talking about perfection but rather about beginning to have more victories than defeats. This person is growing and maturing.”
I love this word that these have overcome. They have adapted. They have been tempted and tried, and yet they have remained steadfast. John is celebrating the victories he hears about them and has seen in them.
So, how are they victorious?
- They trust in the Work of Christ. Let’s be real for a second – No one can be victorious on their own, no one can overcome the devil in their own strength and with their own power. If that were the case, then there would be no reason for God to send Jesus. The cross wouldn’t be necessary.
John is saying you guys aren’t trusting in your own performance or morality or goodness or strength or willpower to overcome the devil, but you guys have and are trusting in the work of Christ.
- He mentions 1 more thing – They turn to Word of God. 14 – “The Word of God abides in you.”
Quote: Danny Akin says…
“Satan will accuse us on the one hand and tempt us on the other. The work of Christ answers his first tactic, and the Word of God addresses the second. When Satan accuses me of sin, I trust the work of Christ. My debt has been paid, and while Stan can hurl accusations all day long, he has nothing with which he can condemn me. Also, when Satan tempts me to sin, I turn to the word of God.”
 Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary, 1, 2, & 3 John, Danny Akin
And for these young men, walking with Jesus, warring against Satan – he says as you trust in the work of Christ and as you turn to the Word of God, they are strong (vs. 14). He encourages them here, he commends them here.
Let me ask you here, guys: would you consider yourself strong? Are you trusting in the Work of Christ and are you turning to the Word of God? This is where strength is found.
Make no mistake, the work of Christ and the Word of Go is what all Fathers /men need consistently in their diet.
Alan Platt says…
“John’s whole idea is to reproduce a spiritually mature family cycle, where there are always children, young men, and fathers. This is God’s model for discipleship.”
So which group are you in?
The Progression of Maturity as Disciples
Little Children —to— Young Believers —to— Parents/Grandparents
Be encouraged! Celebrate that you are forgiven, that you have a Father, that you KNOW God, that you have overcome and are strong!
John mentions a 4th group in his biography of the life of Jesus. He says as he closes out his book in John 20:31…
“…but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
This group is not the new believers or the older believers or the maturing believers, but for the unbelievers. He urges the unbelievers to consider Christ, to read about him, to think about him, so that they may believe and have life.
Is that you? Would you consider Christ and trust him?