They Say That They are Christians, but Don’t Believe Them! – September 30, 2022

Greek mythology contains the account of a ten-year siege of the city of Troy. The Greeks (from the rival city of Sparta) grew weary of the siege and devised a plan to fool the Trojans into opening their gates. Over three days, the Greeks built a giant horse to gift the Trojans. On the night of completion, the Greeks pretended to sail away in defeat. On the horse, they inscribed, “For their return home, the Greeks give this gift.” Yet, the gift was not as it seemed. It was a false gift. Inside the cavernous body of the horse, a remnant of the Greek army hid. Believing they had won, the happy Trojans opened the gates and pulled the giant horse into their city. However, mythology also claims that some in the town warned against this as a trap. However, their warnings were ignored.

That night, when the city fell to sleep, the Greek army hidden in the horse exited their hiding place, opened the gates to the rest of the military (who had not sailed away), and defeated the city of Troy. From this mythology, we get the idea of the Trojan Horse. Something that appears lovely but is a falsehood and a trap. It is the same lesson John presents as he begins 1 John 4. John reminds us that not everyone who claims to speak the truth on behalf of God does indeed speak the truth on behalf of God.

Whenever we come across a sermon, message, book, video, or music which claims to be Christian, we cannot simply take it at face value. Satan loves to counterfeit the things of God. Just because the word “Lord” or “Jesus” appears does not make it righteous. For this reason, John wisely instructs us: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. The idea of testing the spirits is to try them by a trial. Put them to the test to see if they are true.

Just because someone says that they claim to speak for God does not mean that indeed they speak for God. Just because a preacher is famous or a best seller does not mean that he speaks for God. Often, if the World loves that preacher, your warning bells should go off. We must be cautious about what we listen to because Satan constantly attempts to infiltrate the church.

The test of truth is the Word of God. If an individual’s message proves to be faithful to the Word of God, then that person is speaking for God. The only reliable way to test any teaching is to measure it against God’s revelation in his infallible, written Word. Peter agrees with John in 2 Peter 1:19. In this text, Peter was speaking out against those who would claim that they had some new Word from God. These individuals claimed they were modern progressive minds with a better message. Peter taught the church that the most important message was fidelity to the Word. Today, in an ongoing effort to be relevant to the world around us, we are tempted to put our eggs in the basket of modern worship or updated inclusive beliefs. However, Peter and John challenge us not to worry about relevance but instead to worry about fidelity (faithfulness) to the Word of God.

On the other hand, any message that is not faithful to the Word of Truth proves that the message is not from God. Unfaithfulness to the Word of Truth disproves a message. From the beginning, Satan sought to distort the Word of God. Why? Because the Word of God contains the power of God for humanity. John MacArthur notes,

Satan’s basic strategy for attacking the truth first became evident in the garden of Eden, where he mounted a three-pronged assault on God’s word. First, he cast doubt on what God had said about eating the fruit of the tree of life. Second, he denied outright what God had sent to Adam. Finally, he added a distortion to what God had specifically told Adam.

As a result, John gives us three tests to see if the message is from God. First, the message must confess Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. This is more than simply stating that Jesus existed. This is saying that Jesus is the Messiah, the Lord of all, and that he came as flesh for all eternity. As a result, this Lord has all rights to my life and demands absolute fidelity. Second, the messenger must manifest evidence of the fruit of the Spirit. John states that these false messengers are from the world. This phrase indicates that they act like the world. There is no difference in their lives. This lack of difference demonstrates that they are false. Finally, the messenger must be committed to the Word of God. John continues that they speak from the world. Worldly philosophy fills their message. God’s Word does not fill their message.

Sadly, much that claims to be Christian today is not Christian. Observing the lives and messages of the various false teachers reveals that they are not God’s children. From the scandals at Hillsong and Bethel to the foolishness in the books surrounding “girlfriend theology” to the prevalence of “Christian nationalism” to the moralistic diddy presented by pastors, many Christians are being led away from God in the name of God. We cannot afford to be naïve in the world today. We must test everything against God’s Word to stand firmly on the truth. Become people of the Word!

Love Assures Us – September 23, 2022

Many have experienced intense pain due to people who were supposed to love them. Sometimes, the people we love say hurtful things, mistreat, or even abuse us. Some walk away. Others slowly drift apart from us. Our experiences with love cause us, at times, to question God’s love for us. As we recognize our insufficiency and sin before God, we begin to question whether or not God will walk away as well.

As John closes out 1 John chapter 3, he gives us a great gift in the form of assurance that God’s love towards us will never cease or fail. Often, when we struggle with our confidence and contentment towards Christ, we pull away from the church and others. We begin to draw inwards and question if the church is for us. However, this is a mistake, for John informs us that our love and service for others brings assurance that our relationship with God is genuine. He is not saying that we are saved by love, but that love is the evidence of salvation.

Love assures us of our relationship with God in two ways. First, love assures us that God will not throw us aside. In essence, John says that we can persuade our hearts that God is content with us when our hearts condemn us. Romans 8:1 reminds us that God will not condemn us because Christ’s blood covers our sins. As you struggle with sin, and as this sin begins to cause you to question your salvation, you can have confidence that God will not throw you out.

Second, this love gives assurance for us to keep his commandments. John states that we keep his commandments and then boils it down to the one commandment that guarantees our salvation: Believe in the name of the Son of God, Jesus. This causes us to love others. Love God, and love others. You cannot love God without loving others. And God’s love grants us the power to love others. This is important because we all have those we struggle to love. Yet because God’s love never fails, we can love others as His love empowers us.

As you question God’s love for you, it is vital that you not pull away from others but reengage. As you demonstrate love for others through God’s power, this action assures your heart of God’s love for you. Service for others is not optional because this is how we demonstrate God’s love to others and ourselves. So, how are you serving others?

Love Like Christ – September 16, 2022

Last week we noted that this world has a faulty view of love. We often think of love as a feeling that we get when we are with or think about another person. However, as we have observed, this faulty view of love results in disaster. In the next section of 1 John 3, we are challenged to love instead as Christ loves. True Christianity is founded on true love. Love is not selfish lust. Love is selfless action. True love can be defined as self-sacrificial, others motivated, and Christlike.

John begins with the observation that we know what true love is because we see it demonstrated by Christ. To love others is the great command given by Christ in John 15:12-14. While Cain sacrificed Abel’s life for himself, Christ sacrificed his own for us. This sacrifice, in turn, motivates us to sacrifice for others. True Christlike love is sacrificial. We are not to love with words or beautiful speeches but with tangible action. F. F. Bruce notes, “When John speaks of love, it is no sentimental emotion that he has in mind, but something intensely practical.” James states in James 2 that the only true love is love that meets others’ needs.

Love must be prepared to meet the needs of others, whatever the cost and self-sacrifice. The world’s need is not for heroic acts of martyrdom but heroic acts of material sacrifice. Often, we describe our church as a friendly church or a church filled with love. But in doing so, we must remember that love is an action. True love acts toward others with tangible acts of kindness. It does not simply state that it loves. It works (often sacrificially) for the good of the other. If you are not tangibly serving your fellow members in ways you can, you cannot say that you genuinely love them.

But how can we do this? Self-sacrifice for others is not natural. If I give up my time, I will not have any time of my own. If I give up my finances, I may not be financially stable. If I give up my abilities, I may be taken advantage of. To which the answer is yes. This is true. But we must recognize two critical passages. First, Galatians 2:20 indicates that the power to love others comes because we are no longer living for ourselves but for Christ. At salvation, we gave our lives to God; they now belong to him, not us. Life is not about pleasure or comfort but God’s kingdom. Second, Matthew 6:25-33 informs us that God will supply all our needs when we seek Christ’s Kingdom.

Authentic believers love one another: not selfishly but selflessly. So they will hunger for Christian fellowship. They do not give up meeting together but love to worship, pray, and talk about spiritual topics. They love to serve one another in tangible ways. The commentator Burge states, “This entire section suggests that the church is to become a life-giving community. It should be a place where men, women, and children are healed, not hurt; where the rich take genuine responsibility for the poor; where lives flourish both spiritually and materially. Conflict, struggle, rejection, community fragmentation – all can lead to despair and doubt.”

Now, what does this tangibly look like? First, We must constantly seek to serve those in our body in need. This may be simple or complex. As we become aware of needs in our body, we should rally to meet them: Working on homes or cars, providing childcare, helping financially or with meals, and so on.

Second, If you have a need, you must let us know. We cannot actively love you if we don’t learn how to love you actively. Often, we suffer in silence because we don’t want to put anyone else out. After all, is this not the American way? And while there is the truth that we ought to work with our own hands and care for ourselves, there are times in life when the burden and need are too great for us. In these times, God has given you a family in Christ to help. So please let us know.

Third, we must give! You are not your own, and it begins with your finances. Everything you have is from God and for God. As a result, you ought to obey God and give regularly. When you fail to give your tithes (a minimum of 10%), you are stealing from God and missing out on his blessing. But when you recognize that everything you have is from God and for God, and you acknowledge that life is for God, and you recognize that God will supply your need, you tangibly love others by giving to the church so that we might serve others. I don’t know who gives what, and I don’t want to know. But I know that if we all gave as we were commanded, we could have an incredible impact on the community around us as we love by using those funds.

Do you love like Christ? Or do you love like Cain? Is your love selfish and all about your comfort? Or is your love self-sacrificial, others-motivated, Christlike love? This is Christ’s command that we love one another.

Don’t Love Like Cain – September 9, 2022

What is love? Today our society emphasizes the idea that love is feeling. Disney’s princess movies drive home this concept as the prince and princess see each other across the room, the birds sing, the music plays, and we conclude that they are in love. However, one must not live long to realize that these stories are aptly labeled fairy tales. Unfortunately, our society buys into this feeling concept more subtly. We speak of people falling in and out of love. As long as I get warm fuzzy feelings when I think of the person I love, I love them back. When that stops, the love is gone.

However, God points to a better way. In 1 John 3:15-24, the Apostle John informs us that love is more than a feeling. It is an action. Love sacrifices for others. Further, true love for others marks genuine Christians. Christ’s message is that we should love one another. John then informs us of the characteristics of Biblical love. Over the next few weeks, we will examine these characteristics of Biblical love found here in 1 John 3.

First, John informs us that love is not selfish. This concept is a concept that flies in the face of how our culture defines love. Today, culture tells us that love is a feeling. You fall in love, and you fall out of love. The relationships you enter into are about your fulfillment. They must meet your needs and desires. And you simply leave the relationship if they are not doing it for you. Love is a chemical reaction in your biology that results in wonderful feelings. But, biblically, love is defined very differently. John begins by illustrating that our view of love is skewed so that we define as love something very different, hate.

John takes us back to Genesis 4 and the narrative of Cain and Abel. The narrative of Cain and Abel provides us with the heart issues behind true Christian love. Cain and Abel brought their sacrifices to God. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice but rejected Cain’s. Abel’s righteous acts provoked Cain’s jealousy, which strayed into hatred and eventually murder. Abel no longer brought Cain the joy he desired, and so Cain ceased to “love” Abel. Cain’s relationship with Abel grew out of a desire for others to meet his own needs. Hate is inherently selfish. Love is inherently selfless.

Yet today, we define love as the feelings we get when someone makes us feel good. We confuse love with lust. Love gives, lust takes. This idea takes us back to 1 John 2:15-17, where we discover that the world’s system centers on lust: the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. James 4 tells us that selfish lust is the source of all conflict. Sinful conflict ensues when someone is not getting what they want or think they deserve. However, the selfish fulfillment of one’s desires is not love but hate.

There are several essential applications we ought to note. Biblical love should mark our speech. We often ridicule, mock, or demean others that don’t meet the standards we set for them. They disappoint us, so we respond with hateful speech. Biblical love should mark our familial relationships. Too many marriages fail because the individuals seek their own pleasure rather than their spouses’ pleasure. We become short-tempered, angry, and demanding when our spouse fails to follow our desire or plan. However, God calls us to serve and sacrifice for our spouse. Often parents damage their children because they respond with anger when the child inconveniences them. Finally, Biblical love should mark the church. Too many follow today’s trend and view the church as a consumer product. We falsely believe that the church exists to meet my needs and provide a way for me to gain notoriety. Yet, God calls us to serve one another in the church without thinking of return. Christ informs us that if we do acts of service so that others will notice, that is all the reward we will get. Don’t come to church seeking what you can get out of it. Instead, come to church seeking what you can put into it. Christians, don’t love like Cain, love like Christ!

Responsibility of God’s Children – September 2, 2022

Many Americans have a strange fascination with British Royalty. If you have followed the royal family in the last few years, the news exposed you to the expectations of the royal family. Recently a young American lady married into the family and quickly came face to face with those expectations. It does not seem to have gone well. The British people and Queen Elizabeth hold specific standards for the royal family simply because they are royalty.

Last week we examined the reality that we have been adopted into God’s family. However, as the Apostle John continues the discussion in 1 John 3, he quickly points to the fact that God expects specific standards from his family. F. F. Bruce notes, “Behavior is of unsurpassed importance in the Christian way. Believers are indeed justified before God by his grace, which they accept by faith; but those who have been justified will show it by their behavior. Righteousness is as constant with the character of Christ – since he is righteous – as soon as constant with the character of the Devil, who has been sinning, rebelling against God, ever since the beginning.” God expects his children to hate sin and live righteously.

First, God’s children should see sin for what it is. John informs us that sin is lawlessness. Sin makes us criminals against God. One need not sin egregiously to stand guilty. James 2:10 tells us that breaking God’s Law in a single way makes us guilty as if we broke all the laws. Further, sin is of the Devil. When we sin, we act following Satan’s desires. God’s children should never seek to live in Satan’s ways.

Instead, God’s children should remember Christ’s work on the Cross. Christ died for our sins. When we sin, the price is Christ’s life. While my boys were little, my wife and I sought to drive this idea home in their hearts. As we sat on their bed to discuss why they were in trouble, we always asked a series of questions. “Why are you in trouble?” Through this question, we wanted them to identify their sin. “What does God call that?” The answer to this question is always sin. Through this question, we wanted them to be honest about sin. And then, most importantly, “What happened because you sinned?” And the answer is that Jesus died. Suddenly my angry retort to my sibling takes on a more profound impact. We must all come to the place where we understand that our sin cost Christ his life.

But he did not die and rise simply to do it. Instead, through these actions, he makes us righteous. “John is not suggesting that the child of God will not commit a single act of sin. Instead, John is describing a way of life, character, and prevailing lifestyle. Here the present tense verb contextually depicts linear, continual action. In other words, the believer will not live a life characterized by sin (Danny Akin).” So as God’s children, we must seek to flee sin and live righteous lives.  

We Are God’s Children – August 26, 2022

Big Mike grew up in a very troubled home. A child of drug addicts, Mike quickly ended up in foster care. However, with every new family, he was placed with, Mike ran away, usually ending up on the couch of some friend. As Mike got into Jr High, both his parents died. Over time a family took notice of Mike, Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy. Over time they began to take care of Mike until, finally, one night over dinner, they asked him an important question. Would he like to become a part of their family? They wanted to adopt him. They wanted to make him their son.

Similarly, 1 John 3 reminds us that we have also been adopted. However, the family into which we have been adopted is far greater. For, we have been made children of God. Verses one and two inform us that we are privileged to be God’s children. This fact should stir a sense of awe, wonder, and excitement within the believer’s heart. Danny Akin notes, “God’s love is foreign to humankind in that we cannot understand the magnitude of such love. It astonishes, amazes, and creates wonder within those who properly reflect upon it.” This ought to engender these reactions because of what is accomplished through this privilege.

First, through the adoption by God, we have a different family. Adoption gives the child all the rights of a natural-born offspring. We have all the rights of God’s children through God’s adoption. Further, we have been made a family together with all God has adopted. Thus the church becomes more than a social gathering; it is now a family reunion. Adoption also means that we have been removed from the world’s family. It is no wonder the world does not know or understand us. We are no longer in their family.

Second, through the adoption by God, we have a different future. When we were saved, our futures were radically changed as well. Ephesians 2 states that we were children of wrath, destined for eternal hell. We are children of God, destined for a new heaven and earth. This future is something that we cannot even begin to comprehend. 1 Corinthians 2:9 informs us that man’s heart could never imagine the glory in store for us. Charles Wesley stated it well, “And if our fellowship below in Jesus be so sweet, what heights of rapture shall we know when round his throne we meet.” As a result, death loses its sting (1 Corinthians 15). Before salvation, we had nothing to live for but were scared of dying. Now we have everything to live for, but we welcome death.

As you live each day, consider the glory of your family. You are now the child of God, the Creator of the Universe. And one day, you will live with him for all eternity in perfection if you have placed your faith in Christ.

The Holy Spirit’s Ministry to the Believer – August 19, 2022

Suppose you ask any believer what role the Holy Spirit plays in the believer’s life. In that case, you will undoubtedly get a variety of answers. Some will be pretty exciting. In response to the Pentecostal excesses, many Christians swing to the other end of the spectrum and ignore the Holy Spirit. Yet, the Apostle John informs us that the Holy Spirit’s evident work in the believer’s life is a sign of spiritual life. In 1 John 2:20, John states, But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. He further elaborates on this statement in verse 27, where he states, But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

To understand the Holy Spirit’s work, we must first understand what this anointing means. John here is not speaking about something that happens in the future after salvation, but rather what has already happened. Scripture teaches us that at redemption, you are anointed, indwelled, and sealed by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 12:4, 13; 6:19; 2 Cor. 1:20-21).

What then does John state happens as a result of this anointing? Let’s begin with the phrase to which your eyes were probably naturally drawn. John here states that they (and we) do not need anyone to teach us. What in the world is he saying? After all, is teaching not what John has been doing throughout the book and even now with this statement? So what could this possibly mean? Danny Akin comments, “John is not denying the importance in place of human teachers. The mere fact that he wrote this letter is sufficient proof. This claim that they have no need of someone to teach them echoes the promises that Jesus made in the gospel that the Paraclete would lead them into all truth (John 14:16-17, 26; 16:13). The ministry of the Spirit works through the apostles (not the heretics) to bring the message of salvation that is found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Here was the reliable truth that they were taught. Additional revelation was not needed; indeed, it could be deadly.”[1]

If someone comes claiming special revelation from God, they are to be rejected. We have the Holy Spirit who illuminates us. The Baptist concepts of the Priesthood of the Believers and Individual Soul Liberty relate to the idea that we don’t need anyone to teach us. The idea of the Priesthood of the believer is that all believers have equal access to God. We do not need to go through a human priest to approach God. When Jesus died, the temple’s veil was torn so that, according to Hebrews 4:16, all believers may come boldly into the Holy Place. The idea of individual soul liberty is that every person has the right in matters of religion to choose what his conscience says is right, and he answers only to God. In other words, you do not need some person with secret knowledge. You need the Bible. The sufficiency of Scripture builds on the concept that we looked at last week that any authority a pastor, preacher, or teacher has is derived from the Word of God.

John then says that the anointing means the Holy Spirit teaches us. This is the concept of the illumination of the Spirit. What the Spirit caused to be written, he will inform us as to what it means (Jn 14:16, 26; Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 6:19). Jesus promised to send another (the Spirit) who would help us remember what God has taught us. He would illumine us and bring the Word of God to our minds when we need it (Jn. 16:13-14). However, not only does the Spirit bring the Word to mind, but he also teaches what the Word means and how it applies to us. He guides us in all truth. When we need to speak the gospel and defend our Christian beliefs, the Holy Spirit will help us know what we have to say (Lk. 12:12; 1 Cor. 2:12-15; Eph. 1:17-19).

John further expounds that the Spirit taught us that we abide in him. I believe that this is referring to the Spirit’s sealing work. When you are saved and place your faith and trust in Christ alone for salvation, the Holy Spirit seals you. The concept is that of an ancient letter. The seal of the sender or the ruler was placed on the letter and only the one authorized to open it could. Today we might relate this to the idea of branding cattle. Scripture writers use this to illustrate what the Holy Spirit does for us. The Holy Spirit marks us out for God so that we cannot lose our salvation but are guaranteed to persevere to the end (Eph 1:13-14; 4:30; 2 Cor 1:20-22). This sealing is God’s authentic mark on the believer. It means that we are genuinely his, and nothing can change that. Nothing can separate us from God’s love (Rom. 8:35-39).

We have been challenged to abide in Christ for the past two weeks. First, we must remember that truth matters. We must value Biblical beliefs. Unfortunately, there is a tendency in some Christian circles to minimize truth and to substitute it for either ethical demands or subjective experiences or simply the obligation to love in place of truth. We must know why we believe what we believe and why we do what we do. And it must be founded in the Word. This takes work and effort.

Second, we must rejoice and dwell in the fact that we have the Holy Spirit. This Spirit teaches us what we need to know from the Word. And the Spirit seals us so we can never lose our salvation but keeps us until Christ returns.

Finally, there are the means by which every Christian should achieve victory over any error in life: the Word of God and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Both are necessary. Without the Spirit, knowledge of the Word becomes but empty religion. Without the Word, the experience of the Spirit can lead to the most unjustified and damaging of excesses. A love for the Word and evidence of the Spirit’s work marks the true believer’s life. 

[1] Daniel L. Akin, 1, 2, 3 John. The New American Commentary. vol. 38. (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holdman Publishers, 2001), 125.

Abide in Christ by Holding to Biblical Positions – August 12, 2022

Last week we observed from 1 John 2:18-19 that we must beware of false teachers. In the following six verses, John informs us that the primary way that we can identify false teachers is by holding firm to foundational Biblical positions. He begins this section by stating that we can have confidence. We will persevere because we have an anointing from the Holy Spirit. He also says that he did not write these hard things because we do not know them, but because we do know them and in verse 24 stated that we should abide in them.

This means Christians innately understand that this relationship in which the Christian remains in God is vital, intimate, and constant. A sign of a true believer is that they maintain foundational Biblical beliefs. This text shows that John is confident that those who belong to God will remain with God and the church.

True believers will hold firm to foundational Biblical beliefs. John then identifies two of those foundational beliefs which were under attack in the churches surrounding Ephesus. Unsurprisingly, Satan is still attacking these truths 2000 years later.

John’s first foundational belief (found in verse 22) is that every believer must believe that Jesus is God. This is an interesting and important statement. Remember 1 John 1:6 – If we claim to enjoy fellowship with God while we walk in darkness, we lie. And 1 John 2:4 – He who says he knows God but disobeys his commands is a liar. We will see later in 1 John that the person who claims to love God but hates his brother is a liar (4:20). But the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is THE liar, the great liar. Sadly, the KJV weakens this significantly by its mistake in translation, “who is a liar.” The Greek construct (ο ψευστηs) highlights that he is The great liar.

“The height of heresy is to deny that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God and Savior. To reduce Jesus to the status of a mere man, or to allow no more than a temporary indwelling of some divine power in him is to strike at the root of Christianity” (Marshall, 159). We see this heresy highlighted through the attempt to separate the historical Jesus (the human person of history in the first century) and the Christ of faith (The Jesus presented in the Gospels). Every Christmas and Easter, these same old heresies are resurrected. But we must hold fast to the truth that Jesus is God because the Word of God teaches it all over.

The belief that Jesus is God in the flesh results in some necessary and vital conclusions that Scripture presents. Jesus is the eternal God who created all things (Jn 1:1-10; Col 1:16-17). He is eternally God (John 1:15; John 8:58). Jesus is equal with God the Father (John 5:23; John 5:26; John 10:30; John 14:9-11). Jesus accepted and will accept worship as God (John 20:28; Phil 2:5-11). Scripture leaves no wiggle room; Jesus is God (Col 2:9; Tit 2:13; Heb 1:8; 1 Jn 5:20).

So, either Jesus was who he said he was, or he was the greatest liar, fraud, and lunatic ever to walk the planet. It is vital that Jesus was God. If he was not God, he could not have been our savior. He would have had to die for his sins and could not die for ours. Eternity hangs on the deity of Christ.

The second foundational belief that John identifies is found in verse 25: Because Jesus is God, He brings life. As God, Jesus promises us life. There is a literal place called heaven, and there will be a literal new earth. And we will gather for all eternity with some from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. This is the hope to which we anchor our lives. It is not a myth, and it is not a legend. It is a reality.

As we have worked through this section of 1 John for the last two weeks, there are two distinct takeaways so far. First, we must be very careful listeners. Our spiritual lives are too valuable. Just because someone claims to speak for God does not mean they do. Judge preachers. Judge them harshly. If they do not remain faithful to what the Word of God says, they are to be rejected. The title of pastor holds no authority. The authority flows from the Word that the pastor is to be preaching. Don’t settle for lousy preaching. Don’t allow your soul to be famished and starved by unfaithful, untrustworthy, or lazy preachers.

Second, we must hold to and live out our faith. This means that you know what you believe. Why do you believe what you believe? Is it your faith or simply your church’s faith? You must study on your own. There are not enough hours for your pastors to teach you everything. You must take the tools they give you and use them to feed yourself. Read the Word, meditate on the Word, ask questions of the Word, seek answers from the Word, and live the Word out.

Next week we will look at the second mark found in genuine believers, which this passage provides. We do this so that you may look in the mirror and check your life to ensure that you are of the faith.

Abide in Christ – August 5, 2022

I came across an article a couple of years ago about Aaron Rogers, the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. I had passed over the article with no intention of reading it until I came across it a second time. However, this time it was attached to the name of a former preacher who abandoned the faith, Rob Bell. So, I took the time to peruse it. What I read was tragic. Aaron Rogers was raised in a pretty solid Christian home. He grew up espousing Christianity. However, he had some questions about it. After winning the Super Bowl six years ago, he still felt empty and unsatisfied. It was at that time that he met Rob Bell. This man began funneling books to Rogers, which undermined his faith. The article detailed Bell’s journey to denying the Christian faith and espousing a blend of modern self-help and eastern mysticism. Sadly, because Aaron Rogers did not abide in Christ, he also appears to have departed the faith.

Why does this happen, and how can we avoid it? This is the message that John next tackles in the book of 1 John 2:18-29. It would be best to start this next section towards the end. Sometimes, to understand the context of the passage and the purpose, you have to look at how it concludes. This text is an example. 1 John 2:28 – And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.

But how do we do that? How do we abide in Christ? With all that is happening around us, how do we avoid the same fate as Rogers and shipwrecked our faith? John gives us two ways we can Abide in Christ. These reasons appear in the subsequent two tests of life to see if we are a true church and a genuine believer.

The first way we can abide in Christ is by valuing Biblical beliefs. We must make sure that what we believe is right. We find this test in verses 18-26. Through this passage, we learn that, to value Biblical beliefs, we must beware those who depart from those beliefs because many false teachers exist.

John states that many anti-Christs have appeared. Now John is not referring Prophetically to the one he identifies in Revelation as The Anti-Christ (the one who seeks to replace Christ). Instead, he refers to false teachers who speak against what Christ taught. They do not follow the correct orthodox doctrine of Scripture. Sadly, many of these men exist. And many of these men pose as preachers of the Word of God.

Just because someone with the title of Pastor, Preacher, or Reverend says something does not make it right. You ought to judge your Pastor. And you ought to Judge any man who claims the title or Pastor or the privilege of preaching. We will see in Chapter 4, verse 1, that we are to test the spirits. That verse says that we are to test the teaching and lifestyle of these people to see if what they are saying aligns with the Word of God. If it does not, you run.

Why is this important, because numerous false teachers exist who mangle and misuse the Word of God for their gain. Too many preachers exist who are unwilling to put in the hard work to study and prepare a sound biblical feast for their flock. Beware false teachers.

While some of these false teachers start as false teachers, many come from within the church. So what happened? John gives a powerful statement about them in verse 19:  They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

These false teachers departed from the true Christian faith. They went out because they were never really in the faith. When someone leaves the faith and begins to teach false doctrine actively, it is a sign that they were never a child of God in the first place. How can this be true? How can John make such a strong judgmental statement? Because this is supported by passages throughout the Word of God like Matthew 13:13, John 10:27-30, Philippians 1:6, Colossians 1:21-23, 2 Timothy 2:19, and Hebrews 3:6-14.

What these verses are referring to is something we call the perseverance of the Saints. Here is what they are saying: you cannot lose your salvation when you are saved. And the evidence that you are saved is your living out your salvation (James 2:17). And since you cannot lose your salvation and proof of salvation is living it out, those whose lives are marked by that which is anti-God, by continual unrepentant sin, and the teaching of false doctrine are giving evidence that they were never really a child of God.

We are not claiming that Christians do not sin. We saw that Christians do indeed sin back in 1 John 1. But we are saying that when one has the Spirit of God in his life, he will grow in the Spirit, even if only minutely. The Holy Spirit will evidence His presence in the believer’s life either through distinct spiritual growth or through the Spirit’s chastening. There is no category of Christian who knowingly, continually, and unrepentantly waves the white flag and submits himself to a life characterized and dominated by sin.

So, beware false teachers who come as angels of light. Beware the preacher who presents himself as the all-knowing authority. Beware the preacher who refuses to be questioned. Beware the preacher who is unwilling to back up what he is saying with the Word of God. And beware the preacher who is unwilling to do the hard work to do their own study and prepare a sound biblical feast for their flock.

Motivations to Not Fall in Love with the World – July 29, 2022

Last week we looked at John’s challenge to believers not to fall in love with this world. 1 John 2:15-17 – Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. However, why would someone want to give up the things of this world and sacrifice them for the things of God? Why would I want to give sacrificially in the middle of inflation? Verses 15b-17 hold the key.

First, we observe that loving God is more important than loving the world. We see at the end of verse 15 that if someone loves the world, it stands as a sign that they do not love God. But love for God is the most critical thing in life. It is the chief command: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. In his commentary, John Stott states, “If we are engrossed in the outlook and pursuit of the world which reject Christ, it is evident that we have no love for the Father.”

Why is this true? Because the world is at odds with God. The world’s very nature is anti-God. John tells us that all that is in the world is not from the Father but is of the world. He classifies these things of the world into three categories: Desires of the flesh, desires of the eyes, and the pride of life.

The desires of the flesh refer to the debased, sinful cravings of evil hearts. This would include anything in which humans improperly fulfill fleshly desires (overeating, drunkenness, etc.). We live in a culture that is all about fulfilling the desires of the flesh. This is the very premise behind the sexual revolution. If it feels good to you, you should have not only a right to do it but also an obligation to do it. Love is simply a feeling (not a commitment), so if you don’t feel in love any longer, you end the relationship (even if a marriage covenant binds it). If you don’t feel like you enjoy your job anymore, you find a new one. At all costs, fulfill the desires of your body.

The desires of the eyes refer to lust derived from what we see—those sinful cravings activated by what people see and lead to covetousness. The entire media industry is built on the desire of the eyes. Advertisers place before us everything that looks good. Through the eye gate, temptation enters our hearts and brings about discontentedness with what God grants us.

The pride of life refers to bragging and exaggerating what we have to impress people. If my reputation, my public image, matters more to me than the glory of God or the well-being of my fellows, the pretentiousness of life has become the object of my idol worship.

These temptations are not new. Satan presented sin to Adam and Eve in the garden using this playbook. The fruit was good for food (desire of the flesh), the fruit looked good (desire of the eyes), and the promise to be like God (pride of life). These seemingly ordinary desires are actually tools of Satan to draw us away from God. The motivation is not to love the world because these things move us away from God.

Finally, we must remember that that world is temporal. In his commentary, James Boice wisely notes, “All that is in the world is transitory and therefore headed for destruction. The world is passing away, John states. So are its values and those who were characterized by its values. How foolish, then, to pin one’s hopes on the world system, however attractive it may appear or however rewarding.” John Calvin comments, “As there is nothing in the world but what is fading, and as it were for a moment, he hence concludes that they received their happiness from it, make a wretched and miserable provision for themselves, especially when God calls us to the ineffable glory of eternal life.”

However, when we sacrifice this world’s stuff for the Kingdom of God, we learn that God will always provide for our needs. We need not worry about the provisions of life if we are serving God and sacrificing for him. For he has promised us, But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).

Will you choose to live for this world or the next? Will you value personal time over God’s people? Will you value your toys over God’s church? Will you value your comfort over God’s work? Will you value that which lasts only a lifetime over that which lasts for eternity?