I heard recently about a mother who put her son to bed on the night before his fifth birthday. And she was trying to communicate the whole birthday idea to him. She said, “Kevin, this is the last night that you will be 4 years old. Do you understand that?”
Kevin was trying to use his hands to get it all straight. For the past year, he had shown people how old he was by holding up four fingers, and now he was ready to add a thumb. His mother said, “When you go to sleep tonight, you’ll still be 4-years-old. But do you know how old you’ll be in the morning, when you wake up?”
Kevin nodded. He added a thumb to his four little fingers and he said, “Tomorrow, I’ll be a handful!” So, Cora, when people ask how old you are, just hold up your hand say, “I’m a handful!” For all those mothers who have their hands full, we celebrate Mother’s Day this morning.
And it’s a wonderful thing that God’s Word has so many messages for moms, messages for parents really, for moms, dads, and grandparents. Those messages also mean something to those of you who are not yet parents but someday will be. And they even have meaning to those of you who are single adults because all of you such have a profound influence on the children in this congregation.
The title of this morning’s lesson is “A Letter to Mom,” and the letter we’re going to be looking at is 2 John. Now, compared to most of the other letters in the New Testament, this is a relatively short letter. Chuck Swindoll calls it one of the “New Testament postcards”, but it was probably the normal size for a personal letter in those days. It would have fit quite nicely on one standard-sized piece of papyrus.
In the first verse, we read that this letter was sent from the apostle John to “the elect lady and her children” (2 John 1). We don’t know exactly who this lady was. In fact, there is some disagreement about whether this is an actual woman who had children or whether this is symbolic language referring to a church and its members. But I tend to believe this was an actual mother and that will be my assumption in the lesson this morning.
We don’t know what this lady’s name was, but we do know that she was a mother who was trying to raise her children in the faith. So, as we read through this letter, I’m going to be especially talking to those of you who are mothers with children at home, because you have such an awesome privilege and responsibility given to you by God, to raise your children in the Lord, and 2 John gives some wonderful instruction in this regard. But whether you’re a mother or not, there is much that we can all learn from this letter because we all have opportunity to influence the children around us.
There are two words that make up the theme of this letter – truth and love. We know from this letter that there were some false teachers in that day who were traveling from town to town and leading people astray. And so, John was very concerned about “truth” in this letter, and he lays out three things that are important for every Christian mother to remember (and for the rest of us as well).
1. Know the truth (verses 1-3)
Beginning in the first verse, “The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever: Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.” (2 John 1-3)
The first step in raising your children in the truth is to know the truth yourself. In other words, you can’t raise your children to know Christ unless you know him first. Now, it’s obvious that the lady John is writing this letter to is a Christian. She is someone who knows the truth.
He refers to her as an “elect lady”, or some translations have a “chosen lady.” Those are terms which are used in Scripture to refer to Christians. For example, in Colossian 3:12, Paul calls us “God’s chosen ones”. In Romans 16:13, Paul calls Rufus, “chosen in the Lord”. In I Peter 2:9, Peter says we are a “chosen race”.
And that’s an appropriate term to describe a follower of Christ, because long before we made the choice to follow him, God chose us first. Before we were born, before God even created this world, God chose to make a way through Jesus Christ for us to be reconciled with him. He chose to save us. We a chosen people.
John says here that he loves this chosen woman “in the truth”. And not only does he love her in the truth, but so do all who know the truth. In other words, there is this bond of love between all true believers. Those of us who are Christians have experienced the truth of who God is, the truth of who Jesus Christ is, and the truth of his salvation in our lives. And so, when we meet someone else who knows and shares and believes that same truth, we’re just naturally filled with love for them.
Verse 2 says it is “because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever.” You see, truth for a Christian is more than just a set of teachings. Our truth is centered in Jesus Christ who abides in us through the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ, who promised he would be with us forever. Jesus Christ, who is himself the Way, the Truth and the Life.
If you’re here this morning and you don’t know Jesus, if you don’t yet know his love and his forgiveness in your life, Jesus invites you to come to him in faith, to receive him as your Savior, to take hold of eternal life in him. And when we receive Christ (look at verse 3): Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.” When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, God’s grace, mercy and peace will fill our lives.
But, back to mothers. Moms, the application here is clear: you can’t begin teaching your child to know the truth unless you know it first yourself, and knowing the truth means knowing Jesus. The second essential after knowing the truth is to…
2. Practice the truth (verses 4-6)
Beginning in verse 4, “I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father. And now I ask you, dear lady — not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning — that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.” (2 John 4-6)
There is no greater joy for a Christian parent than to know that your children are walking in the truth. Walking in the truth means putting it into practice. It means living out what you believe.
Like all parents, Sueanne and I had many hopes for our children as they were growing up. We hoped to see them grow and mature, enjoy good health, gain knowledge and skills that would help them in life, get an education, find someone to love and be loved — but none of that would mean anything if our children don’t know the truth, if they aren’t walking in the truth. So, mothers, I hope that you will pray for your children to know Christ, to serve him with their whole heart, to follow him all the days of their lives.
But understand that your children will not automatically walk in the truth. Children need prayer, but they need more than that. So, how do we ensure that our children will grow up in the faith? We start by setting the example ourselves. We need to walk in the truth if we hope for our children to walk in the truth.
So how do you do that? John says, “[it is] not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning — that we love one another.” John says we practice the truth by loving one another. And John tells us this isn’t a new commandment. This isn’t some strange new-fangled teaching; rather this was the teaching of Christ from the very beginning — love one another.
Mothers, commit yourselves to create a loving environment in your home. Do your best to make sure that each person in the home is loved, valued, respected and heard. Don’t allow unkind remarks. Seek to foster a team spirit where each person encourages and supports the others. Set the example of loving sacrifice for your children, so that they will learn to sacrifice for others.
And if you’re not sure what a loving home environment looks like, look at verse 6: “And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.” In other words, we can’t separate love for God or love for each other from obedience to God’s commands. So, we need to learn, follow and teach God’s commands in our homes.
Spend time every day in God’s Word and share that with your children. God’s Word contains the blueprint for a happy, loving home, and as we teach the truth to our children and we live it out in front of them, they too will learn to walk according to the truth. Practice the truth.
3. Guard the truth (7-11)
Know the truth, practice the truth, and then finally, guard the truth. John knew that false teachers were common, and so he writes to this lady and her children to warn them about the danger of letting go of the truth. Look at verse 7: “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.”
The false teaching in John’s day had to do with the nature of Jesus. The Bible teaches that Jesus was fully God and fully man. But there were some false teachers who were going around denying Christ’s human nature, and that was heresy because if Jesus wasn’t human, then he wouldn’t have been able to die for our sins. So, John calls such teachers “the deceiver and the antichrist”, which is very strong language.
So, what are some of the false messages that our children hear today? They hear things like: “Truth is relative. Lie if it’s convenient. Pleasure comes first. Win at all costs. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you don’t hurt anyone.” The list goes on and on, because the world around us finds a lot of ways to deny Christ and his teachings.
Listen to the messages that society is feeding your children. Know what your kids are watching on TV. Listen to their music. Be aware what they’re learning in school. Your home is the first line of defense. If you don’t protect your children, then who will?
Then John says in verse 8, “Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.” In other words, don’t lose your children to falsehood. Satan would love to destroy your children with the lies of the world. Guard the truth! Don’t let your children be deceived. Be diligent, pray, teach and live out God’s truths so that you may know the full reward of a child who walks in God’s truth.
And let me take just a moment to address the children who are here today, both young and old. Some of you were raised in the faith. Your mothers taught you well, not perfectly because none of us is perfect, but they taught you well. You know the truth. The important question is, are you walking in it? You see it’s not enough just to be raised with the right teaching. You’ve got to live it out in your own life.
In verse 9, John says, “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”
John says if you don’t continue in Christ’s teaching, then you don’t have God, which again is pretty strong language. Perhaps some of you there this morning have been running from God your whole life. If that’s the case, let me encourage you to come back to Him today. That would be the greatest Mother’s Day present you could possibly give your mom. Don’t let your mother lose what she has worked for and prayed for in your life. Remember that a Christian parent has no greater joy than to know that their children are walking in the truth.
And then finally, look at verses 10-11: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.”
John was talking about not letting any false teachers into your home. You see, the false teachers in that day would travel from city to city, and they depended on people’s hospitality so they could stay in their homes and then use those homes to set up a “home base” for their operations. John says, “Don’t let them into your home. Don’t give them a platform for their message. If you do that, you’re sharing in their work against the truth.”
Now we may not have traveling false teachers who come into our homes today, but I believe we can apply this verse by saying: “Don’t bring anything into your home that speaks against the truth. Make your home a safe harbor for the truth of Christ and his Word.”
But, you know, sometimes we teach our children the truth from God’s Word, but then we allow ungodly influences into our home which speak against that truth. Without thinking or discernment, we make our living rooms available to whatever message Hollywood chooses to broadcast on any particular evening. Does what your children see on the screen teach the same message you are trying to teach them? Or is it possible that you’re letting someone else undo all the good work you have done?
Mothers, guard the truth in your home! Protect your home from falsehood and ungodly influences.
And then, John ends this letter by saying there’s a lot more he’d like to say but he’d rather do it in person. Beginning in verse 12, “Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete. The children of your elect sister greet you.” (2 John 1:12-13)
And, again, we don’t know if John is referring to an actual flesh and blood sister, or if he’s talking about a “sister’ congregation. But either way, we’ve seen some powerful applications for mothers (and all the rest of us) in this letter.
- Know the truth. Come to know Christ in your life. Come to know the Spirit of truth who lives within every child of God. Come to know God’s grace, mercy and peace.
- Practice the truth. Nurture a loving environment in your home. Teach your children God’s Word and live it out yourself.
- Guard the truth. Protect your children from ungodly influences. Teach your children how to discern truth from error. Make your home a sanctuary for the truth. Don’t allow anything into your home that would undercut the teachings of Christ. Be careful that you don’t lose what you’ve worked for. And may you all come to know someday the wonderful, joyful reward of seeing your children walking in the truth.
Perhaps some of you are thinking, “This message is too late for me. My children are grown, and I no longer have this kind of influence on them.” And it is true that our greatest influence comes when our children are younger, but even when they get older, we can still follow these same steps. 1) Know the truth — know Jesus and draw near to him. 2) Practice the truth — set a godly example for your grown children. 3) Guard the truth — pray for your children, pray that they will follow the truth that you love so dearly.