Posts Tagged 'knowing god'

Knowing God

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How does a person get to know God?  There are those who think God is unknowable; that we create God in our image and give Him our characteristics.  But God is not a subjective fantasy.  He is an objective reality who may be known personally.  John, writing to his friend, Gaius, explains how this is possible.

If you want to know God, you must obey His commandments, 1 John 2:3—14 

If you are intent on getting to know God, the first thing you’ll have to do is know what He expects of you.  However, God is not to be confused with a Cosmic Cop, whom you blindly obey.  God’s commands are different because they are designed for your benefit, not your punishment.  Living in obedience to God’s Word guarantees the best life possible for you and as you get to know what His commands are (and what they are all about), you will be getting to God. 

Living as Christ did, verses 3—6 

And how can we be sure that we belong to him? By looking within ourselves: are we really trying to do what he wants us to?  Someone may say, “I am a Christian; I am on my way to heaven; I belong to Christ.” But if he doesn’t do what Christ tells him to, he is a liar.  But those who do what Christ tells them to will learn to love God more and more. That is the way to know whether or not you are a Christian.  Anyone who says he is a Christian should live as Christ did.

How we humans acquire knowledge isn’t as simple as you may think.  As far as the Greeks were concerned, knowledge came through rational, reasoning contemplation.  The more you sit around thinking, the more knowledge flows into your head.  But to the Gnostics, knowledge was gained in a mystical, magical fashion.  Think:  Timothy Leary and his “turn on, tune in, and drop out” philosophy.  But to John, a great thinker in his own right without the aid of LSD, concluded that ultimate knowledge is the knowledge of God in Jesus Christ gained through salvation.  How does this happen?  When we are saved, we read God’s Word and learn about the right way to live.  The more we take on Christ’s characteristics, the more like Him we become, the more we get to know God.  David Smith observed:

To know about Christ, to understand the doctrine of His person and work is mere theory; we get to know Him and to know that we know Him by practice of His precepts.

“Practice of His precepts” is the ten dollar way of saying:  do what He tells you to do.  Of course, there is always the danger that our faith might become a matter of doing only or of learning only.  That’s an unacceptable imbalance addressed by Paul Moon:

Emotionalized religion without discipline becomes sentimental, and intellectual religion becomes sterile.  Moral discipline is the path to Christian character.

Noting a new commandment, verses 7—11 

Anyone who says he is walking in the light of Christ but dislikes his fellow man is still in darkness.  (1 John 2:9  TLB)

To some of John’s readers, some of his ideas must have sounded revolutionary.  He needed to assure them that, unlike false teachers, he was not running around peddling new-fangled ideas.  His teachings were as old as, well, the Old Testament!

This ancient idea of “loving one another” really is the acid test of one’s Christian faith.  We can talk all day long about the love we have for people, but if we are never getting involved with them, how can we say we love them?  Indeed, how can we say we love God?   There must be consistency between your confession and your conduct.  In other words, if you claim to be a Christian, you had better live like one.  And nobody can do better than he knows.  How does a Christian live?  He reads the Word of God to learn, and then he lives what he has learned.

These are strong words for the so-called “apostle of love.”  A believer cannot walk in the light if he harbors hate in his heart.  It just can’t be done.

Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples.  (John 13:35  TLB)

Now, it should be noted that both John and Jesus are referring to the love between believers.  This does not mean Christians are off the hook in terms of caring about the non-believers all around them.  A consistent teaching throughout the New Testament is the absolute, non-negotiable necessity of “loving your neighbor.”  However, that must begin with loving fellow members of the Body of Christ.

Love God, not the world, 1 John 2:15—19 

The admonition in verse 15 to “stop loving this evil world” seems to be odds with the whole notion of living as Christ did.  What do we do with the famous John 3:16—

For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  (TLB)

This apparent contradiction vanishes when we read 1 John 2:15 in context.  Christians are to aspire to a higher standard of living, and this can only be accomplished if we end our pursuit of the dark things of this world.  This certainly can’t include sinners!  God loved sinners so much, He sent His Son to save them!  If God loved them, we must also.  No, what John is referring to are set forth verse 16—

…all these worldly things, these evil desires—the craze for sex, the ambition to buy everything that appeals to you, and the pride that comes from wealth and importance—these are not from God. They are from this evil world itself.  (TLB)

Anybody who claims to have never struggled with the things John listed in verse 17 must be dead.  There isn’t a Christian who has ever lived that didn’t wrestle with temptation, sometimes night and day.  And sometimes, like the runner who stumbles and falls because every muscle in legs aches, we stumble and fall.   C.S. Lewis comments—

God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome.  What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them.

Just so.  The fallen runner gets back up, and so must the fallen saint.

John paints a rather bleak and pathetic picture of the world:

And this world is fading away, and these evil, forbidden things will go with it, but whoever keeps doing the will of God will live forever.  (1 John 2:17  TLB)

Here are two great reasons (as if you needed more!) to not love the things of this world.  First, they are terribly impermanent.  The wealth, the fame, the beauty, the power, all the things men chase after their whole lives are transient.  They, even now, are fading away whether you see it or realize it or not.  The state of the world reminds us these famous words:

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives. 

And second, it’s terribly shortsighted and foolish to expend time, energy, and resources in obtaining temporary things when it makes more sense to pursue the will of God, for it is eternal.

The dreaded antichrist(s), verses 18, 19 

So, it seems like a no-brainer so far.  We can easily pass the tests of the faith.  Right?  Not so!  John warns his readers that there are evil forces arrayed against the Christian with the sole purpose of thwarting his walk of faith.

These “against-Christ” people used to be members of our churches, but they never really belonged with us or else they would have stayed. When they left us it proved that they were not of us at all.  (verse 19  TLB) 

Charles Stanley’s comments on the very people John wrote about are to-the-point:

The best way in the world to deceive believers is to cloak a message in religious language and declare that it conveys some new insight from God.

Isn’t that the truth?  Christians are not necessarily gullible; it’s just that we want to believe the best about people, and when somebody comes to us claiming to be a believer but has new ideas, we may be tempted to think God has given this special person some new insight.  However, we need to exercise some discernment!  We’re not Gnostics!  We need to heed not only John and Charles Stanley’s warnings, but also this one:

And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.  (2 Corinthians 11:14  AV) 

Keep on keeping on…in Christ!  1 John 2:20—29 

There are false teachers all around us.  They are on TV in behind our pulpits.  They look good and use the right words.  Thank God we have help to keep us on the straight and narrow!

But you are not like that, for the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you know the truth. So I am not writing to you as to those who need to know the truth, but I warn you as those who can discern the difference between true and false.  (verses 20, 21  TLB)

We as true believers are not empty like these pseudo-Christians, for we are full of God’s Holy Spirit!  And we can discern the difference between true teaching and false.  Notice that John makes that plain!  Discernment isn’t just a possibility, it’s a guarantee.  This same Holy Spirit has been called the “Conservator of orthodoxy.”  That’s a real fancy way of saying that He will only ever teach the Christian the true, unadulterated truth.

Why, then, do so many Christians fall prey to false teachers?  Corrie Ten Boon’s words of wisdom are so apropos:

Trying to do the Lord’s work in our own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious o fall work.  But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.

Amen and amen!  We fail because we “go it alone” when we don’t have to.  The most foolish man in the world is the Christian who thinks he can live right if he just tries hard enough.  That’s utter nonsense!  Of course, we must expend an effort, but we must also let the Holy Spirit empower us and live through us.  That’s not easy for many of us to do, but if we would walk in the light, live as Christ lived, and honor Him, we must.  The great preacher G. Campbell Morgan wrote:

To the individual believer indwelt by the Holy Spirit there is granted the direct impression of the Spirit of God on the spirit of man, imparting the knowledge of His will in matters of the smallest and greatest importance.  This has to be sought and waited for.

Stay in fellowship with Christ, verses 28, 29 

And now, my little children, stay in happy fellowship with the Lord so that when he comes you will be sure that all is well and will not have to be ashamed and shrink back from meeting him.  Since we know that God is always good and does only right, we may rightly assume that all those who do right are his children.  (TLB) 

These verses remind of what Jesus told His disciples in John 15:4, 5

Take care to live in me, and let me live in you. For a branch can’t produce fruit when severed from the vine. Nor can you be fruitful apart from me.  Yes, I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in me and I in him shall produce a large crop of fruit. For apart from me you can’t do a thing.  (TLB)

Abiding in Christ has nothing to do with joining a church or proclaiming one creed or another.  It’s a living relationship with the Living Word.  It’s living as He lived in obedience to His commands.  And as we become proficient at doing that, we will getting to know God.

(Almost) Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About God

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Everybody seems to have their own ideas about God; who He is, what He does, where He lives, and even what He looks like.  God might well be the most libeled Person ever.  Fortunately for all the people who have ever preached sermons or written books or made movies that defamed God’s character, He doesn’t seek damages.  At least not in this world.

Some people think God is a mystery.  Other people think He is some kind ethereal idea; a nebulous cloud of strange matter that hangs out in the darkest corners of the universe.  No wonder they make up all kinds of crazy things about Him.  Yet, God is not a nebulous “something,” nor is He a mystery.  He is, in fact, a Person, who is knowable by man.  There may be things we may never completely understand about this divine Person, but then the same holds true about our wives.  The fact that (as some husbands reckon) women cannot be understood certainly doesn’t stop husbands from loving their wives!

God has revealed as much of Himself to man as man needs to know in the here-and-now in His Word, the Bible.  If a man thinks God is a mystery, it’s only because that man hasn’t picked up a copy of the Bible and read through.

Part of God’s self-revelation to man are the names by which He is known.  In the Old Testament, there are several names for God, each name pointing to a different aspect of His character.  Here is a handful to give you an idea:

  • Elohim.  This name of God is seen over 2,000 times throughout the Old Testament and paints a picture of God’s fullness and majesty.
  • Yahweh.  This God’s proper Name, often erroneously translated as Jehovah.  It appears some 6,000 in the Old Testament.  In Exodus 3:13, God refers to Himself as “Yahweh” in the phrase, “I Am that I Am,” meaning simply God is an eternal Person.
  • Adonai is a popular Old Testament Name for God, and means “Lord of Hosts.”

There are many, many more Names for God in the Bible.  But Names aren’t they way God has revealed Himself to man.  Let’s look at some Scriptures that will help you understand more about our God.

Genesis 1:1 

Going back as far as we can go, we read this about God:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  (Genesis 1:1  NKJV)

Here the name in behind our English word “God” is Elohim.  What was our majestic, glorious God doing in the beginning?  He is seen working; specifically, Elohim is seen creating the material universe.  This is an important verse—maybe the most important verse in the Bible because it tells us, (1) where everything came from, and that (2) Elohim, the majestic Creator is the One responsible.  Of course, Moses, the man who wrote Genesis, doesn’t tell us how or when this work of creation took place.  The purpose of Genesis 1:1 is not to give us all the answers, but to introduce Elohim to us.  God is referred to as Elohim 35 times in Genesis 1.  Why?  Because Moses, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wanted his readers to understand something about God, so he used the name, Elohim.  In the Creation story, we see Elohim in action:  God demonstrating His infinite, unstoppable power by bringing the material universe into being simply using the power of His Word.  He didn’t need anything else.  God is so majestic (Elohim), that He is able to make something out of nothing.

That’s an amazing aspect of God.  Imagine how powerful He must be; to be able to bring an orderly universe into being.  If God was able to do this, what can He NOT do?  He can bring order to your chaotic life.  He can create solutions to your problems out of nothing.  This truth about God raises two questions.  First, why do some people have so much trouble believing in a Creator; a Personal Being behind the creation of a perfectly ordered universe?  And, secondly, why do some Christians have so much trouble trusting in God to help them?

Perhaps the easy answer to each question is one of accountability.  If you truly believe in Elohim, a Personal, all-powerful God, then you will be accountable to Him, some day.  People, even Christians, don’t like that.

Exodus 15:11 

Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods?  Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?  (Exodus 15:11  NKJV)

In the book of Exodus, this verse occurs within a “song of deliverance.”  It was Moses’ song, sung shortly after the Hebrews left Egypt.  After so much time in bleak bondage, with no hope for the future, to suddenly be set free by a glorious action of God, no wonder Moses wrote such a song!

The first thing we discover about God is that He is unique.  There is no one like Him.  Remember, these people had lived for generations in a land with many “gods.”  God, with a “big G”, wanted His people know that all those “small G” gods were merely pretenders to the throne; that He was and is the One true Sovereign in the whole universe, and He backed that up with action.  He and He alone set His people free and the Egyptians were dumbfounded; they couldn’t stop the Hebrews from walking out.

God is portrayed in a most heroic fashion in these verses.  But more than just a hero, God is seen as supreme over all.  Put yourself in the Israelite’s sandals, as you watch the Red Sea parted by the power of God.  Then marvel as you see the mighty, fearsome Egyptian army drowned by that same power.  God, majestic and powerful, dispensed of the enemies of His people.  But even more than supreme over nature and people, God is “glorious in holiness.”  That’s a profound attribute.  God is glorious because He’s separate from and not part of any aspect of this world.  Stop reading, and think about that for a moment.  God is not bound the laws of nature.  Seas don’t stop Him, the darkness doesn’t slow Him down, and the greatest armies of man are as nothing to Him.  This is because God is holy—separate and distinct from everything.  But this doesn’t mean He is “all by Himself”!  You and I, like the believing Israelites, are also holy; just as separate from this world as God is.

Isaiah 40:28—31 

Does God ever get tired?  These verses answer that very question with a resounding “NO!”  The opening of Isaiah 40 sets the tone for the rest of the chapter:

Comfort, yes, comfort My people!”  says your God.  (Isaiah 40:1  NKJV)

There’s not a lot of comfort in the world for God’s people today, so we know that this verse and what follows look forward to the future, to the time when God’s judgments of Israel are past, when Jerusalem will have paid for her sins, and when the Lord returns.  The promised comfort will be possible when the Messiah returns.

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”  (Isaiah 40:3  NKJV)

We know that the New Testament uses that verse in reference to John the Baptist, and it was his job to introduce the Messiah to the world.  Unfortunately for Bible readers, the Old Testament prophets never distinguish between the first and second comings of Jesus; they are always sort of blended together.  Clearly, the prophecies of these verses were not fulfilled at the first coming of our Lord; therefore we know they must be referring to the second coming.  When He returns, they will be completely fulfilled.

The rest of chapter 40 contains some phenomenal descriptions of God’s character and omnipotence.  Some of what Isaiah wrote here sounds a lot like Job 38, in which God questions Job, to set him straight.

Why are you using your ignorance to deny my providence?   (Job 38:2  TLB)

That’s God’s response to Job’s assumptions about God; assumptions he and his friends spouted for over 30 chapters.  Some of what Job said about God was true, some was off base.  Notice God called Job “ignorant.”  That he was—presuming to know all about God when, in fact, he knew very little.  Here’s what prompted God to set Israel straight in Isaiah’s day:

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel: “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my just claim is passed over by my God”?  (Isaiah 40:27  NKJV)

Thinking anything is hidden from God is at least ignorant!  It’s also arrogant.  God addresses their “concern” that He is not listening to them or ignoring them by describing Himself to them.  Specifically, God assures His people that He is on the job and that He is never tired or unaware of anything.

The Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary.  His understanding is unsearchable.  (Isaiah 40:28b  NKJV) 

Not only is God always on the job; not only does He never get tired; He has enough energy and vitality to spread around!

He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.  (Isaiah 40:29  NKJV) 

That’s incredible, isn’t it?  The very people who were complaining about God’s lack, in fact, lacked what they accused Him of lacking!  But God is ever gracious.  He promises to empower the weak, old or young.  However, that promise isn’t for just any weakling.  There is a condition for receiving this supernatural strength:

But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.  (Isaiah 40:31  NKJV)

The key for Israel, and for us, is to wait upon God.  Israel’s problem back then is our problem today:  impatience.  We want what we want from God right now.  Very few believers want to take the time to “wait upon the Lord,” but they want His promises.  When, from their vantage point, God doesn’t come through for them, they accuse Him of not listening or of taking a nap.  The problem, as it always is, rests on man, not on the Lord.

If you need strength, He has it for you.  He has more than you could ever use!  But first, you have to do what He asks of you.

Romans 11:33—36 

The apostle Paul begins the eleventh chapter of Romans with a question many Jews of his day were asking:

…has God cast away His people?  (Romans 11:1  NKJV)

Now, we know the answer to this question, but to Jews of the first century, many of whom where living scattered all over the known world with the ever present threat of persecution hanging over them, this was a genuine issue.  Had God really forgotten all about them?  Had God erased all of His promises?  Of course not, was Paul’s enthusiastic answer.  Israel was not forgotten and it will never be forgotten.  In fact, the exact opposite will prove to true!  Israel can be saved and WILL be saved, as is stated plainly in verse 26:

And then all Israel will be saved.  (Romans 11:26  TLB)

Naturally, it isn’t a “blanket salvation.”  Israel will be saved on the same basis as all people—by responding in faith to the Gospel of forgiveness through the work of Jesus Christ.  Paul’s point is simply this:  other people are being saved, and Israel will be saved, too.  God has not forgotten His people.

This was tremendous revelation to Paul.  Just think about it; God had given Paul the barest glimpse of His eternal plan.  No wonder responded the way he did!

Oh, what a wonderful God we have!  (Romans 11:33a  TLB)

Then he proceeds to write about some of the reasons why God is so “wonderful.”  God has an abundant supply of precious wisdom (sophia) and knowledge (gnosis).   He knows things we could never know and He knows things before we discover them.  Not only that, God’s thought processes, unlike ours, are absolutely prefect; completely objective in every way.  Furthermore, God’s decisions or judgments are perfect and nobody is able to “keep up” with when and how He makes them.  Recall the words of Isaiah:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.  (Isaiah 55:8, 9  AV) 

What Paul seems to love most about God is the very thing that drives most of us crazy:  the seeming mystery of the “how’s” and the “why’s” of God.  This didn’t bother the apostle at all.  He understood something Tersteegen also did:

A God comprehended is not God at all.

If God at times seems hard to figure out and His divine attributes without limits, then that must mean His love is also limitless and, at times, unfathomable.  This ought to be a great comfort to all believers, as it was to Paul.  Our Lord makes available to believers who love and trust Him, a measure of His divine nature.

Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Peter 1:4  AV)

The world, with it’s conflict of ideals and out of control passions may seem to be in a state of chaos, but when we see it through the lens of God’s attributes—His wisdom, knowledge, love, etc.—our own understanding of it transcends our own understanding.  He gives us perfect perspective and peace and we are able to see the world, not as a chaotic mess, but as a place full of lost souls, looking for something we have.

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TRUTHS FOR CHRISTIAN LIVING, PART 2

Jesus calling some disciples to follow Him.

Living As Christ’s Disciple, 1 John 2:329

Being a faithful follower of Jesus Christ takes work—mental work. The lazy Christian is one who falls for every new teaching no matter how far from Biblical truth it is. Those of us who been involved in church ministry recognize this to be a big problem. How many of us have wondered, “Why is it easier to believe this or that false teaching but not the truth?” But as prevalent a problem as this may be, it’s not a new one. It’s as old as the church.

The apostle John gives us some guidelines for how to live faithfully as Christ’s disciple. More than guidelines, these are like tests to see if you possess eternal life. Mixed in with these tests, John alludes to the false teachings his readers were flirting with. The tests are moral, social, and doctrinal in nature, which involve the whole person and their behavior, beliefs, and attitudes.

1. Obey Christ’s commands, 1 John 2:311

a. Knowing God, vs. 36

We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says,I know him,but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, Gods love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

The first test is a simple one, given in verse 3. Two things are made clear: we can know Jesus and we can know that we know Him. The popular heresy of John’s day taught that only a select few special people could know God through special knowledge. But John indicates that we can know God and know that we know.

While the Gnostic false teaching that John was confronting taught about “knowing” God, for the Christian, “knowing” God involves more than an intellectual understanding of spiritual things. For us, knowledge of God is inseparable from the experience of righteous living. In other words, a person may run around all day claiming to know God, but if their lives don’t measure up to God’s teaching about righteousness, they’re either a liar or delusional.

So the first test is the test of conduct. This doesn’t mean that everybody who appears to be living a righteous life is a Christian. Many people live according to Biblical principles simply because those principles lead to a good quality of life. Jesus understood this well:

Not everyone who says to me,Lord, Lord,will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)

What John is getting at is that our greatest desire should be set upon the moral teachings of the Gospel and living them as best we can. Keeping the teachings of Scripture—God’s commands—is the same as walking in the light.

b. Loving others, vs. 711

Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him. (vs. 10, 11)

John had just taught that moral obedience is a test of a relationship with God. Here is another test; the social test—a loving attitude. The Gnostics were a cold, arrogant, exclusive, unloving, and legalistic people. Christians, on the other hand, should be none of those things. No wonder John gave this test to his readers!

The command for believers to “love one another” is both an old and a new command. This command is a very old one, having been given from “the beginning.” We wonder, though, what John meant by that: the beginning of what? The beginning of time? Or since the giving of the Mosaic Law? Or since the founding of the Church?

The first two theories have merit, but it seem likely John has in mind since the beginning of the Church. Jesus taught His followers to love each other, which was really a fresh teaching of the Law of Moses. This command, then, though old, is not obsolete or worn out, just ancient, but absolutely essential for living. The command to love each other should never be forgotten, but should always be fresh and new in the sense that we commit ourselves to it often. It’s too easy for our Christian love to become formal and duty-bound. Blind obedience should never replace spontaneous love. When that happens, the command to “love one another” becomes as worn out as a sock with a hole in the heel. Indeed, obedience must never become a substitute for love, just an evidence of it.

Verses 7 to 11 describe a person in the church who is, hopefully, in the minority! The word “hates” in verses 9 and 11 is written in the present tense, suggesting a continuous way of life. A person cannot, at the same time, live in hate and walk in the light. It’s an impossibility.

When we “love our brother,” two things happen. First, we are “living in the light.” That is, we are living in the sphere of God’s light, which shines on us. We are true believers.

Second, when we “love our brother,” there is “nothing in us to make him stumble.” The sense of that phrase is literally, “there is no stumbling block in us.” When we are walking in His light, we have nothing in our lives to stumble over or anything in us to cause others to stumble.

2. Don’t love the world, 1 John 2:12—17

a. Truth for all ages, vs. 12—15

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (vs. 15)

John has some words of encouragement for his readers. This is the overriding admonition for believers of all ages and maturity. John groups his readers into “children,” “fathers,” and “young men.” Since women are not mentioned we may assume women are perfect (I write that as a husband of one).

“Dear children” (verse 12) is John’s favorite term of endearment for all congregations as a whole. So to all believers, of all ages and standings, this assurance is given: “Your sins have been forgiven.” And what an assurance that is! Everything begins with forgiveness. Once confessed, our sins may be forgiven and we are then able to enter into fellowship with both God and the Body of Christ.

“Fathers” refers to the senior members of the congregation, those who had some authority within the church. These would be mature believers, both in years and faith.

“Young men” who are “strong” adds a new dimension of thought concerning believers. These have “overcome,” suggesting those who have experienced victory in Christ. This ought to be state of all believers, who are ever in conflict with evil, yet always victorious because Christ has overcome death, hell, and the grave. The Psalmist has a good piece of advice for this group:

How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. (Psalm 119:9)

In verse 13 there is kind of play on words not apparent in the English. Back in verse 12, the Greek for “children” is teknia. But here it is paidia, emphasizing not age but a relationship—a subordinate relationship of one who needs to sit under authority and instruction. Here is the position all believers should strive for:

I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father. (vs. 13b)

What John is saying is this: his readers have to know God personally because they sat under the teachings and instruction of godly men.

All members of the church, then, from the oldest to the youngest, both in the faith and in chronology of years, must not love the world or live as worldly people. It’s a bit ironic that the apostle of love, who writes all about how we ought love, gives a stern piece of advice NOT to love something: the world. As much as we ought to love the Body of Christ, we ought to NOT love the world outside of that Body.

b. Flesh, eyes, and the pride of life, vs. 16, 17

For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

John’s mood seems to swing from that of an old man giving words of assurance to a stern old man giving a serious warning. The tense of these verses is not the perfect but the present imperative: he is giving a command! The command is back in verse 15: Do NOT love the world. What love for the world or worldliness involves is now spelled out for us: (1) the cravings of the sinful men; (2) the lust of his eyes; and (3) the boasting of what he has and does.

Believers should not love the world because the world is temporary and is passing away. What John is saying here quite startling, actually. “Pass away” is the same verb in the same tense (present) as was used back in verse 8 to describe the present downfall of darkness. Here, the “darkness” is “the world,” and again John describes it as even now passing away. The chilling assumption is that when the world passes, those who are a part of it will pass as well.

3. Abide in Christ, 1 John 2:18—29

This is the last of John’s “tests,” the doctrine test—the necessity to believe right. Here John has returned the purpose of his letter—to combat false teaching and false teachers by giving his readers solid teachings.

John indicates in verse 18 that he and his readers were living in, literally, “the last hour.” The early church was very conscious that Christ could return at any moment, and that’s why so many of the New Testament’s admonitions about holiness and purity of life are viewed in that context. The thought being, live right and believe right because Christ could return in the next moment. Getting caught with one’s hand in the proverbial cookie jar is powerful motivation to live God-pleasing lives!

a. Antichrists and the anointing, vs. 18—21

Like John and his friends, we too are living in the “last hour.” It’s a long hour, but the dangers of his day are the dangers of ours. False teachers—antichrists—are all over the place, spewing their bad teachings and leading many ignorant believers astray. In John’s day, the identity of the antichrists he was concerned about is clear: they seemed to be one-time members of the church!

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us (vs. 19)

They masqueraded as believers but revealed their true colors when they left—went out from—the company of true believers, to strike out on their own, preaching their own gospel.

We learn something about two important doctrines of the Church here. First, we get an inkling of what “the perseverance of the saints” involves. Only those who remain absolutely faithful to Christ until the end are truly saved. Endurance saves no one, but it is a characteristic of one who is saved. And second, we see the doctrine of “the true church,” or what the true church looks like. Only those who are true to Christ are members of the Church and only He knows what that is.

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. (vs. 20, 21)

What assurance for true believers! We who persevere in the faith have two powerful things going for us: (1) We “have an anointing from the Holy One.” The “Holy One” could refer to either Christ or God, but the anointing definitely refers to the Holy Spirit. The true believer is anointed just like Christ was: by the Holy Spirit. In this sense, we are like Him. The “but” suggests that the false teachers didn’t have this anointing at all. They were running around claiming to be like Christ, yet they were empty. Meanwhile, those who remained true to Him are like Him in the sense that the same anointing fills them as filled Christ. (2) John’s readers “know the truth.” This is an assurance every single believer has because it doesn’t depend on a seminary education:

As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him. (vs. 27)

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17) and He becomes our teacher. It’s easy to be intimidated by teachers, and especially false teachers, who use big words and wordy arguments, but it was important to John that his readers understand that they don’t need to feel this way because they have real knowledge of God, taught to them by the Holy Spirit Himself. This same Spirit also helps believers distinguish between true teaching and error.

b. The Christ, vs. 22, 23

Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

The rhetorical question provides another test. One who denies that Jesus is the Christ—the false teachers—is an antichrist. To deny Christ is to deny the Father. Without getting in to an in depth teaching on Gnosticism, the modern application is obvious. Many people claim to “believe in God,” yet have no relationship whatsoever with Jesus Christ or even fail to recognize His divinity. Such people are not part of the Body of Christ.

c. Safeguards against heresy, vs. 24—29

See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. (vs. 24)

Unlike the false teachers who gave up on the true Gospel, John urges his readers not to. If a believer clings to the true teachings of Scriptures, they may protect themselves from the trap of the false teachers. Paul wrote what about a time when people wouldn’t be following John’s advice:

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (1 Timothy 4:3, 4)

It takes work to remain faithful to the teachings of Scripture; false teachings always appeal to the flesh and the sinful nature, even while they pretend to be spiritual.

Verse 27 gives us the reason why John wrote the things he did:

I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray.

But even he recognized that no matter how much he wrote and taught them about the truth, there was One who could do more than he ever could:

As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.

It’s important to listen to the right teaching; to believe the right things. John’s readers had heard the right teachings from him plus they had the Holy Spirit’s ongoing ministry within them. So there are two forms of protection against heresy: the truth of the Word God, read and taught, and the Spirit of Truth. A believer who has both of these protections operating in his life in balance will not fall prey to false teachers. But balance is important. One should not focus on the Scripture at the expense of the the Spirit or vice versa. The best safeguard against false teaching is a knowledge of the truth gained through personal study of the Word, exposure to solid Bible teaching, and Spirit-led illumination.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

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