November 20, 2011

Revolution: Sin and the Children of God 1 John 2:28-3:10

For this message we are going to include the passage from last week because it really does set the stage for what we are talking about.

If we were to teach today’s passage without referencing the passage we used from last week, we could get ourselves into trouble. When reading and studying the Bible it is always important to read a passage in its context...it would be like getting a letter from your boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse that says, “I could never say these words, “I don’t love you!” because I do.” And then ripping that middle section out and saying to them...Why did you say, “I don’t love you!” They would think you couldn’t read. If we are not careful though, that is often how we treat the Bible ripping this and that verse out of context because we like what it “says,” and so miss what it really says. So we have to be careful.

If we take today’s passage and focus on the idea of sin without seeing it in context of our being God’s lavishly loved children who are called to one day be fully like Christ...it becomes easy to slip into a religion of sin management and trying to be good without understanding God’s plan to help us remove sin from our lives.

Let’s read this passage...

1 John 2:29-3:10
29 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.

1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

 7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.”

This morning we need to put on our thinking caps a bit. There are two parts to this message...there is the teaching side where we have to cover a pretty weighty subject and there is, hopefully, the inspirational side where we bring it all together. See, we need to understand a few things about the biblical concept of sin in order to understand why we struggle with it, why Jesus is so important in regards to sin, and where do we go from here...

So let’s first ask the question...

What is sin?

For such a small word...Sin contains a lot of baggage. We lump everything into that word from telling a small white lie to genocide! When someone gets drunk...we recognize that as sin. When someone kills someone...we recognize that as sin. When someone tells a lie, steals a candy bar, “fudges” a tax return on purpose, extorts millions in a ponzi scheme, kills someone, beats a family member...we see those all as sin...and the list could go on and on.

We recognize that in the world of accountability and consequences all of these are not the same...they are different in degree and severity. No one in their right mind would say that murder and telling your wife that those jeans do not make her look fat are the same thing...and yet in the English language we have one simple word for all of it...Sin.

The problem comes when we start reading the Bible because there are so many different words used in the Old and New Testament to define this concept of sin. And in our Bibles they are all, for the most part, translated as the word sin.

There are a couple of primary definitions of sin in the Bible.

The first carries with it the idea of going out of bounds or straying from the path. To put this in sports terms this is like going out of bounds. The rules of basketball, baseball, soccer, football, lacrosse...all have a defined field of play. If a player steps across the boundary line...they are out of bounds. And sin, throughout the Bible, is often defined in terms of going outside the bounds of what God has laid out. He has established a boundary line for what it expected, and this word is used to describe those who out of ignorance or error step out of bounds.

The second main concept found in the Bible is the idea of missing the mark. This definition, to continue a sports metaphor, is when a person is aiming at a goal, but misses it. When a basketball player takes a shot and misses...he doesn’t get any points. When a soccer play shoots on the goal and misses...she doesn’t get any points. When we aim at God’s mark and miss...we don’t get any points...we have missed the mark...we have sinned. We are aiming at the mark...we are trying to hit it, but we missed.

The third concept is an action in breach of a relationship or rebellion against a person. This is the person who knows God and deliberately rebels against His will.

There is also the concept of perversion or twisting; this is deliberate wrongdoing. This is idea that sinfulness will often take something good and great and twist it into something for which it was never meant to be used.

There are several more words the Bible uses to define and put handles on this concept of sin...and yet all are translated with the simple word sin in the English Bible.

Yesterday Lori and I were talking to Victoria...she is originally from Columbia, and English is not her native language. I asked her how her classes were going and she talked about how in English we have different sounds for the same sets of letters. I have had several friends for who  English was not their native language, and all have expressed frustration at similar things. So imagine what it must be like when we use 1 word for a concept that has so many different connotations and nuances attached to it.

But even in the midst of all the differences there is something that holds them all together...there is a common thread. It is all directed against God. God is the one who sets the boundaries we step outside of...God is the one who set the mark at which we aim and miss...God is the one against whom we rebel...Sin is directed at God because God is the one ultimately in control.

Having asked the question, “What is sin?” we now have to ask the question...

Why do we sin?

The simple answer is: we sin because we are born separated from God. From birth we are born with the desire to seek only after our own way. For those of you have spent any time around children...you quickly learn that the world revolves around them. They want what they want when they want it. They have to be taught to share because it is all about them.

I am convinced that the whole reason Brianna learned to say Momma and Dadda was to coerce us into getting her stuff. Shortly after learning to say Momma and Dadda...she learned to say “No!” and “Mine!” And it is that way with all children.

The church for centuries has called this concept: Original Sin. Because of Adam and Eve’s sin, we are born separated from God. If you are born into a family that does not have a relationship with another family...you are born separated from that family. It is not because you don’t want to know that family. Your family doesn’t have a relationship with that family so you don’t. In a similar way we are born into a family that is separated from God, and because of this separation, we do not automatically seek the things of God.

It is because of this separation that we sin...and it is at this moment that John steps in and says...

God Hates Sin!

1 John 3:8, says, “The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”

Jesus appeared not just  to be some nice guy who talked about God’s love and forgiveness and kindness...John says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”

Destroy is such a strong word. God wants to destroy the sinfulness at work in our world. Don’t get this confused with God wanting to destroy the sinner...no God wants to destroy sin at work in our world. If you need an example of sin at work just open your web browser to your preferred news outlet. Murder, rape, genocide, lies, greed...it is all there...the work of the Devil, and I don’t know about you, but I’m really glad God hates sin because it is destroying our world and it is destroying our lives.

So God in His lavish love starts by destroying the sin at work in our lives. Before he can do anything about society in general God has to start with you and me in particular. He has to remove the sin in our lives so that as we band together in community we can be an outpost where God can work to rid the world of sin.

Remember, John is working from the premise that we are now the Children of God. We are loved. We welcomed into a family...and For John those who are born of God exhibit the characteristics of the family. You know that God is righteous...and those who are part of God’s family exhibit righteousness because they are part of God’s family.

We, of all people, should understand the destructive nature of sin and how it works in people’s lives...and out of this knowledge, John says, “All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” John takes it a step further in today’s passage when he says, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.”

Jesus came to defeat sin, and if Jesus came to defeat sin...shouldn’t those who call on His name and call themselves His followers be opposed to sin as well? So our spiritual journey, if it is to be what God intends, must include the regular removal of sin from our lives because sin is so destructive. This means we are listening to God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, and regularly confessing and turning from sin in our lives...not because we are prudes or trying to earn our salvation, but because we know how destructive even a small root of sin can be in a person’s life.

1 John 3:4-6 stands as a challenge, “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.”

This is a tough passage. What does John mean when he says, “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning”?

John is laying out the goal. He is laying out the final destination...the ultimate goal. He is setting the bar back on the level it needs to be. Earlier in 1 John 3:2 he says, “...what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears we shall be like him...” He is aiming us toward the final goal.

When a coach is trying to inspire his team for a game he doesn’t say, “I want you to play well out there. I want you to do your best. It doesn’t matter if you lose. That’s okay.” No, he says, “Get out there and play to win!” He may have that other in his mind because knows the team will lose sometimes, but he tells them the ultimate goal is for them to win. We aim high, but with the understanding that we are still part of a realm that fights against this new birth we have as Children of God.

Conclusion
This week as I was preparing for this message I came across this saying, “Intimacy comes by being obedient to God’s demand for righteousness.” To be honest, my first reaction was What a great quote! But as I was reflecting on it and thinking about our time here in 1 John, I realized that neither John nor the Bible would agree with that statement. He would want to change it up a bit.

I don’t think the Bible teaches that righteousness gains intimacy. I think we see here in 1 John that intimacy leads to righteousness. It is not our righteous actions and obedience that lead to our intimacy with God. It is our intimacy with God that leads to obedience and righteousness.

I want to reword that phrase... “Obedience to God’s demand for righteousness comes because of our intimacy with God.”

John says that way to avoid sin is to live out of this intimacy with God...we are children of God...intimacy is a given as His children, and it is out of this intimacy that we no longer want to sin and by which we purify ourselves.

Awhile back I decided to change how I focus my mind when tempted. Instead of seeing it as a temptation to sin, I want to see it as an opportunity to choose God’s way of living. I am a child of God. You are a child or God, and out of our intimacy with our Father we are able to live obedient and righteous lives.

We are talking about more than just a conservative or morally good life...this is having implanted in us desire to live as Jesus that comes from being born as Children of God.

Are we going to miss the mark and stray from the path? Yes...but out of our intimacy it will happen less and less...and we will discover that if we keep our eyes on the goal, the Holy Spirit comes alongside us and to help us make it to the goal laid out in front of us.

In 1988 Derek Redmond was set to take the Olympic stage and run the 400 metre race. He was favored to win, but just 90 seconds before his heat he ruptured his Achilles tendon and had to withdraw from the race for which he had spent his life preparing. Between the 1988 and 1992 Olympics Derek underwent 8 surgeries to repair his Achilles tendon. He was again the favorite in his race. He posted the fasted time in his first round and won his quarter-final race. He was set to achieve all his dreams.

Watch what happened...



Sin wants to cripple us. And it has a done a good job of making many of us limp...but the real question is...Are you willing to get back up and let the Father help you across the finish line?

John’s strong words against sin are not meant to discourage us...we should be encouraged that our Father hates sin and wants to get rid of it...and we as His children should do all we can to rid ourselves of it as well...not because it earns us favor or salvation or anything like that...but because we are living out the DNA of our new family.

November 15, 2011

Revolution: Children of God 1 John 2:28-3:3

1 John 2:28-3:3
And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.

If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.

What great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
John has great affinity for the members of this church. Several times in 1 John he calls them “my children” or “dear children,” not to belittle them, but as someone who loves them deeply. He is probably in his 90’s by this point, and served as their pastor for many years before being exiled to the lonely island of Patmos. So it troubles him to hear of false teachers who are not just trying to lead them astray, but really encouraging them to leave the Gospel...to leave the faith.

John knows that more is at stake than just a few misguided teachers. These disciples are struggling. The false teachers are proclaiming that they have the truth...they have it right...they know what they are talking about...and John is pointing out that they don’t. But it is so hard, and these disciples begin to doubt themselves and the message they have heard.

John writes to encourage them to hang in there. Hold on. He says, we are in the last hour, false teachers are coming, but if we hold on and continue in Jesus Christ then we will be able to stand confident and unashamed before Him when He returns.

I have to stop there in verse 29 when I am reading this passage, though. John writes, “...so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him...” So that we may be confident and unashamed before Him when He comes back? How do you get to do that? I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel confident and unashamed when I think of my relationship with God. I often feel like such a failure. I’m sure there is a connection between that feeling and my legalistic church upbringing...but there is something more there than just that...I know how often I fail and falter. I know how much sin lurks in the dark corners of my life shying away from the Light.

But I want to stand confident and unashamed. I want to know how someone does that. There are times when I wonder how could God really love me, and what kind of mistake has he made to put someone like me as pastor over a church?

Am I being too open for you?

Openness like this make us uncomfortable. It makes me a bit uncomfortable when I hear others being so open about their lives...because it forces me to admit that there are times when I feel the same way. I know that if I had to stand before Jesus I would not stand there, as John says, confident and unashamed.

Family Traits

A few years ago I heard that my father was dying of cancer. He left before I was born, but resurfaced a few years later. He and my mom married for about a week when I was 6...giving that Kardasian girl a run for her marital money. But then left again. So I had only seen him 4 or 5 times in my life. The last time I saw him was when I was 24 years old, about 10 years earlier prior to hearing about his cancer.

They were only giving him a month to live, and I knew I needed to make one last attempt to bring healing in our relationship. The visit didn’t go anything like I hoped, but there is one thing that stood out from that visit...despite the distance...despite the fact that I had never spent any appreciable time with him in my life...despite the fact that he really was a complete stranger...we had similarities.

One of my flaws is an extremely low tolerance for when people don’t get what should be obvious. I saw this in my dad. He needed to take his medicine, medicine he had been taking for months if not a year or more, and he asked his wife to help him...who had helped him take the medicine many times before. But she acted like she had no clue how to do it...and then I saw the family resemblance. He rolled his eyes, shook his head, and gave a frustrated exhale...that I myself have done many times.

I thought that was mine, but it wasn’t. It actually made me angry for awhile because this man who had nothing to do with my life has still had influence over me...and I hated it. But I realized that no matter what we all carry a resemblance to our family.

My wife Lori looks like her mom or like her dad depending on who she is standing by. Your spouse has probably said this to you, “That is just like your father!” or “That is just like your mother!” Your children look and act just like you.

Like it or not we carry our families traits with us...but for John, he wanted those in the church to know they can and should carry the family traits of another family...they were children of God. We are not natural born children, like and earthly father would have, but we are adopted into the family of God because of what Jesus did on the cross.

Confident and Unashamed

Recently Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple and Pixar, passed away. After his passing, more and more details of his life have come out...particularly about his adoption. You can read more about it online or in Walter Isaacson’s new biography, which I’m sure is going to be a great read. I like Walter Isaacson.

But this story came out about how Steve struggled with the fact that he was adopted...or not so much that he was adopted as much as that his parents had given him up. He was acting out in school and getting into trouble. He could not come to terms with it until one day his adopted parents sat him down and said, “You are special, we chose you out, you were chosen!" From that moment on Steve Jobs believed, maybe too much so, that he was special and that his life was a journey toward one big reward.

Just a few simple words of complete love and affirmation changed the direction of Steve Jobs life. If just those simple words could mean so much to Steve Jobs coming from an earthly parent...imagine what it must be like to hear those words affirming and validating us if they came from the God of the Universe!

Adoption in that culture was not just a legal formality. When you were adopted by a family you became as no different than a natural born heir. So to be adopted as God’s children was awesome. You were now entitled to all the things that being a part of God’s family entailed.

1 John 3:1 says, “What great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” We may not be God’s children by birth, but we can be so by adoption. God adopts us into His family, and says to us, “I love you! You are chosen! You are my child!” John is so excited about this prospect that he follows up that sentence with this interjection of a sentence, “And that is what we are!” He knows that this such great news!

When God says those words to us...it makes us confident and unashamed because now we are part of God’s family. We are His children.

Righteousness

But, you may say, John says right there in 1 John 2:29, “If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.” I don’t do righteousness all the time. I struggle.

John wasn’t blind to what and who he and other sinful humans were. Remember this is the Son of Thunder who wanted to call down fire and burn a village worth of people alive just because they wouldn’t allow them to spend the night and get something to eat! He knows what can lurk in the dark places of a person’s heart. He has also been a pastor for years now...he knows the sinfulness of humanity. And yet he knows the awesome love of God and what it can do.

For some of us, this is the part that we need to let sink in...no matter where we have been, what we have done, no matter how sinful our lives have been...God’s love wants to overcome that and make us His children. He makes us confident and unashamed, not because we are so awesome and good and righteous, but because He is so loving. Being confident and unashamed does not come from whether or not we get everything right...it comes from the fact that God has lavished His love on us.

He pulls us aside and says, “I have chosen you! I love you! You are special and blessed and you are now my child and a part of this family!”

We need to hear that, but I would also challenge you to take a look at that verse again. It doesn’t say, “Be righteous and that allows you to be born of Him.” Nor does it say, “Those who are righteous get it right all the time!” No...it says that this is a family trait of those who are part of God’s family. Because we are born of God, because we are His children, righteousness becomes part of our lives. We will still wrestle with some of the sinful traits of our association with this earthly humanity, but we also begin to exhibit the family traits of being part of the family of God.

I don’t get it right all the time...but I get it right more often now than I did when I first started. I am farther along the spiritual journey today than I was in 1992 when I accepted God’s call to follow Him. I am farther along today than I was a year ago.

The Hope

For John there is great hope in the simple truth that we are children of God because we know that this world isn’t all there is.

The reason so many people feel defeated at the end of their lives is they believe this life is all there is. They have to get it all in now because this is all there is. People live lives of greed and accumulation of so much stuff...because they believe that this life is all there is to enjoy it. We are restless and angry because we feel like this world is all there is and get frustrated that things aren’t going smoothly. We refuse to be generous or forgiving because we believe that this life is all there is and they need to pay for what they have done.

And if we don’t take it to heart that there is something more...we get defeated about our “slow growth” in the faith or our lack of spirituality or our struggle to overcome sin. We forget that this life is not all there is to it.

1 John 3:2 says, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

Something really amazing is in store for the Children of God when Jesus returns. We don’t know what things will look like on the other side...what is coming in the future is so amazing and wonderful we can’t even imagine. We get glimpses of what is to come in this life, but it is, as the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

The great hymn writer Charles Wesley said it this way,
And if our fellowship below
In Jesus be so sweet
What heights of rapture shall we know
When round His throne we meet.

Or maybe we can hear it through the word of C.S. Lewis, who wrote in his book “The Weight of Glory,”
“If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Our greatest hopes and dreams of what lays ahead are nothing when compared to its reality. That is what God has in store for those who are His Children.

And out of this hope...John offers us a challenge. John challenges us to live out of that reality here and now. We cannot live in the fullness of that future reality, but God has made it available in part to us right here and now. This is why John can say, “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” For John, those who are children of God don’t have to be told to act like their Father...they have this hope that one day they will be in His presence and they start living in the reality of that here and now. We are called to live Christlike lives in the here and now because we will be unhindered reflections of Christ in the life to come.

There is this tension in our Christian experience. One scholar says it this way,
“Christians who are in doubt about their standing need to be reassured that those who do what is right have been born of God and belong to him. They have all the privileges of God’s children. At the same time, however, they need to be warned against any self-satisfaction or feeling that they have achieved all that is possible in Christian experience.”

Conclusion

Being children of God should free us up to do unbelievable acts of love in God’s name because we know that there is more to life than just this life. Righteousness should characterize those who are children of God. Radical acts of love and sacrifice should be the signposts that God’s children are here.

The world will think we are crazy for giving, loving, serving, forgiving, and caring the way we do...but it is, in the words of John, because they don’t know the Father like we do. They may know about him. They may have some knowledge about Him. But we are His children. We carry the family traits into a world that needs to see Jesus reflected in us. We get to act out a Revolutionary love in the world around us.

For some of us...we need to first hear God say, “I have chosen you. You are special and I love you!” You need to take that to heart, and allow that to sink in this morning. Maybe you have been following Jesus, but you have never allowed yourself to hear God say how pleased He is in you...how much He love you. You have been working out of duty or guilt or fear.

Someone might be sitting here who is not living a life surrendered to Christ. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but this doesn’t apply to you. It can apply to you, but if you don’t surrender your life to Jesus you are not God’s child. I know that sounds harsh, but it is the reality. God loves you and wants to adopt you into His family as His child, but You have to be willing to say, “I’m all in with you, God. I am a sinner. I can’t save myself. I want to follow Jesus.”  You have to make the decision, through the grace of God, to stop pursuing life the way you want to live it and begin pursuing life the way God wants you to live it.

I remember as a child hearing sermons about the End Times and Hell and God’s Judgment in an attempt to tell us about the horrors of that side so we would turn to Christ and want to go to heaven. While hell is a reality...Jesus never makes it the point. The only people he mentions hell to are the religious people who are self-righteous and full of themselves.

God knows we often live in our own private hell made up of the hurts, pains, sinful decisions, and stupid mistakes we have made. Most of us don’t need to hear about an afterlife of hell...because we have lived through a hell right here on earth. What we need is to hear that there is a God of love who cares infinitely, deeply for us. And He does. Fear and guilt are tools Satan uses...not God. John will point out in the next chapter that God is love. He functions out of love. He loves us.

That is what I need. I can guilt myself into my own private hell with no help from anyone else. What I can’t do is give myself the love and acceptance I need; the love that frees me to live a life of righteousness and Christlikeness and hope.

What I want you to do is to take a moment and experience this Revolutionary love of God for yourself this morning.

If you have never committed to living your life in pursuit of Jesus, I want to challenge you to do that this morning. You are invited to become part of God’s family...to be adopted into His family and have His love lavished on you.

For some of you...you just need to hear it all over again that you are a child of God. You have been pursuing God, but it is so easy to slip into the old ways and patterns and think you have to do it all yourself. I want you to hear God say, “I have chosen you. You are special and I love you! You are my child.” And then live out of that wonderful lavish love and all the hope that it brings!

November 7, 2011

Revolution: The Anointing 1 John 2:18-27


What a fun topic we have to cover...the AntiChrist! Actually, we are only going to look briefly at this idea of the antichrist, and then move into the other parts of the passage. Why would we only spend a brief amount of time on this concept? Because John doesn’t flesh it out much...in fact, the antichrist is only an introductory element to the topic and part of a bigger discussion for John.

So let’s get started...

1 John 2:18-27
Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

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

As for you, 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. And this is what he promised us—eternal life.

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

The Antichrist

 John starts by bringing up a common belief among the people about an Antichrist figure who would come to lead people astray. This figure of the Antichrist has dominated modern discussions of the End Times in the church for many years. Too often we skip over sections like this because there are so many End Time controversies, and we don’t want to get embroiled in another one. We hear the word Antichrist and kind of shut down.

I remember as a kid sitting through several evangelists and preachers who had fool-proof explanations of how Ronald Reagan or Gorbachev or Bill Clinton or insert any name want...was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be the Antichrist. It seems to crop up among some fringe groups every time there is an election. So it really stinks for people when their predictions turned out wrong.

The idea of the Antichrist has a long and interesting past within the church...too long for us to even briefly mention. Let’s just say that explanations and finger pointing are nothing new.

Through the years many have taken this concept of an Antichrist and combined it with other concepts found in the Bible. In the book of Daniel, there is an apocalyptic prophecy about a “little horn” that some equate with the Antichrist. In 2 Thessalonians Paul mentions a “man of lawlessness” or “man of sin” that some equate with the Antichrist. And in the book of Revelation the writer mentions a “beast” that some believe to be the Antichrist.

As a biblical term, however, the word “antichrist” is only used in the Epistles of John. The term “Antichrist” appears no where else in the Bible. Five times the word is used and all five are in 1 & 2 John. And each time John redirects the from the idea of 1 Antichrist to a group of people who are functioning in the spirit of Antichrist.   the term “antichrist” is used only here in the Letters of John and no where else.

The problem is there is just isn’t enough information to make a definitive statement. The last part of Daniel and the book of Revelation are both part of a genre called Jewish Apocalyptic literature which uses highly metaphoric language to describe both present-day (to the writer) and future events. Paul doesn’t use the word Antichrist and John doesn’t give us any more information that to say that the Antichrist is someone who does not acknowledge Jesus Christ.

So we are left to look at what John is doing with it here, and trying to separate it in our heads from all the baggage it has collected through the years...It is not Gorbachev...it is not Gorbachev.

The word we translate as Antichrist is a combination of two Greek words: Anti and Christos...The word anti has several different meanings. It can be understood as anti-or against-Christ. This leads to understanding that the AntiChrist is something that opposes Christ or comes against Him. The word anti would also carry the meaning “in the place of.” An Antichrist seeks to stand in the place of Christ.

In verse 18, John starts by reminding the people about the “Antichrist” but then, in the matter of a few verses, moves from the idea of one anticrhist to many antichrists. These are persons who deny Jesus Christ, and are working in the spirit of the Antichrist. 1 John 2:22 says, “Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son.” John does the same thing in 2 John 7, “I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.” He is talking about the same group of people here and in 1 John 2. They are leaders who are leading people astray, causing them to doubt their salvation, denying Jesus Christ, and attempting to place something in the place of Christ in these people’s lives.

False Teachers

For John, recognizing false teachers is so important because we are living in “the last hour.” In the Early Church, the time between Jesus’ first coming and His second coming is referred to as “the last days” or “the last hour.” Christ had come, John saw him, he watched Jesus ascend into heaven, and now, we are in the last hour waiting for Christ to return. So for John it is extremely important for those of us in the Church to not get sidetracked...to remain in Christ...because Jesus is returning!

The proof that we are in the last hour is that these antichrists, not just one Antichrist, but these false teachers have come. They don’t belong to Christ, and the proof they don’t belong is that they have separated themselves from the message of Christ, and are trying to lead others away from the truth.

For John the important thing is not describing the Antichrist. The Antichrist only serves as a backdrop for what John really wants to address. How do these followers know and hold on to the Truth and how do they learn to recognize false teaching?

What was true in John’s day continues to be true in our day. We live in a world of false teachers and prophets...a world of antichrists. The primary falsehood John deals with is a group of teachers who deny Jesus, but we too must learn to guard against the spirit of deception...as there are many teachings that seek to lead us astray.

There are people and ideas that want to stand in the place of Christ in our lives. There are millions of different ideologies and competing thoughts along with some talented teachers and leaders that want to say here is the next messiah! Here is Truth and freedom and salvation! Here is what the central focus of your life should be!

And just as John wrote to warn the church in Ephesus about their false teachers, he reminds us that we need to beware of those who attempt to put something other than Christ at the center of our lives.

The Anointing and Our Search for Truth

The answer, according to John, lays within every true believer. 1 John 2:20 says, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.” They know the Truth because of this anointing.

In the Old Testament, the word anointing was used to describe the pouring of oil over someone’s head to signify a special appointment. They anointed someone to be King or as a Priest. It also came to symbolize the reception of the Holy Spirit on someone’s life. That is the connection here. God is pouring the Holy Spirit over His people.

In his Gospel John refers to it this way, John 16:13, “...when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”

That is really what we are search for isn’t it? Truth. A way to know Truth. When Jesus stood with Pilate and said, “The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Pilate responded with a question, “What is truth?”

A few months back I did a series of messages called 5 Marks of a Revived Church. In that series we talked about what God is looking for in His Church, and how we at Crossroads Vineyard will seek to function in a way that glorifies God in each of those areas.

The 5 Marks of a Revived Church were

  1. Truth
  2. Worship
  3. Community
  4. Growth
  5. Mission

The first mark needed in any community that ascribes to follow God is a ruthless search for Truth. When we start searching for truth we often have to wade through a large amount of half-truths and full-lies in order to find it. But if we search intently...We find truth in some unexpected places. We find that truth is honest; sometimes brutally so. We find that truth is not easy, simply, or black and white...especially in this fallen world.

In that series, as we looked at the mark of Truth, we said our pursuit of Truth means several things for us...

  • We are committed to seeking after Jesus Christ who said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Our search starts with Him.
  • We are committed to the Scriptures. Because in Scripture we have the written Word of God.
  • We are committed to right doctrine. We live in the tension of knowing that we will never be 100% correct, but that doesn’t mean we don’t keep striving.

But under-girding all of this must be what John calls the anointing. In order for us to even hear the Truth when it is spoken the Holy Spirit must be at work in our lives. When Jesus is preparing for his crucifixion, he tells His disciples, “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:25-26)

The anointing is the inward reception of the Word of God, administered and confirmed by the work of the Spirit in our lives. Let me say it another way, it is the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God to lead us to Truth.

Have you ever been reading the Bible...you have read that passage maybe a million times and then, all of a sudden...it is like a light goes off and you are reading it in a different way? That is often the Holy Spirit enlivening that passage and applying it to your life. Or you have been listening to a pastor and God speaks through him or her and you are able to hear a passage in a different way that helps you take a step forward in your faith? That is the Holy Spirit at work in our lives!

There is this balance that takes place between the Holy Spirit and the Scripture. Scripture by itself are just words on a page. Listening to a voice, sometimes thought to be the Holy Spirit, is prone to so much error. But when we combine depth of study in God’s Word and waiting for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.

God does this in our private times of reading and study. He does this through the preaching and teaching of His Word. He works through our conversations with friends, as we listen to a podcast, as we sit quietly reflecting on Scripture...God is constantly working to enliven His Word in our hearts through the Holy Spirit so we can be led into all truth. Where we often get into trouble is when we skip either one of these steps, either the Holy Spirit or the study of God’s Word, or we go beyond what they are saying.

For John’s readers and for us today, the key to knowing the truth is allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to us through the Scripture so that as we hear preaching, teaching, a new idea, another speaker...we are able to discern whether the idea is Truth or not.

Over the past few weeks this idea has come up over and over and over. In order for us to discern what is of God and what is not...it starts with us spending time in God’s Word and that is empowered as we learn to listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Replacing Christ

I am not really a mystical person, but I have found that God still speaks. And he does this most clearly through what His Holy Spirit brings about in our lives as we read the Scriptures. As we spend time in God’s Word and allow His Holy Spirit to work in our lives we are transformed.

In 1 Corinthians 2, the Apostle Paul give a rather drawn out explanation that I think is worth hearing. Let me explain it quickly and then I will read it. Sometimes I’m able to hear things better if the entire premise is stated before it is read to me...so I hope this helps.

Paul begins by pointing out the wisdom of the message He preaches, a wisdom that really comes from God. That wisdom is only available because the Holy Spirit reveals it as Truth. He then tells how it really should be no surprise that the Spirit knows these things because He is, after all, the Spirit of God, and who knows what is going on in a person more than their spirit.

The thing is, though, this Spirit of God is willing to dwell inside of each one of us and teach us and lead us into Truth. The world around will not buy into our message many times because it doesn’t have the Holy Spirit...so they look at what we as Christians do as foolishness.

Let me read this passage to you...

1 Corinthians 2:6-16

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:
   “What no eye has seen,
   what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
   the things God has prepared for those who love him—

 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

   The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,

   “Who has known the mind of the Lord
   so as to instruct him?”

   But we have the mind of Christ.
Conclusion

As a church, we must move in the authority of God’s Word as guided by the power of the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we must move in the authority of God’s Word as guided by the power of the Holy Spirit. John calls it an anointing. Paul calls it having the mind of Christ...both are a result of the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us enabling and empowering us to do God’s work here in our world.

And what an amazing thing it is for both John and Paul to claim...that we can have this Spirit, this anointing, dwelling inside of us...leading us into Truth. Guiding our conscience and spurring us on to Christlikeness. He is, in theological language, the The Ever-Present Teacher. God’s Spirit working inside of us to teach us God’s Will.

For more information about Crossroads Vineyard Church in Huber Heights check us out online at www.daytoncrossroads.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/daytoncrossroads