15. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
John’s warning in this passage is strong and deals with a problem that Christians have faced from the beginning of the church. Jesus reminded us that we can’t serve God and mammon, or worldly wealth. (Matthew 6:24) It may be easy to avoid the desire to gain earthly wealth, but there are other things of this world that draw us away from God: popularity, acceptance, position, and influence are just a few of the things this world offers us. In later years, as Christians became the majority in many countries, they exercised power. While they initially sought to use their power for God and do good, they invariable ended up repressing people who thought differently. We aren’t called to build an earthly kingdom, we’re called to a heavenly kingdom. When we let these things of the world interfere with our relationship with God, we’ve lost our love of the Father. The allure of the things of this world doesn’t come from God. It’s an easy trap to fall into. We like it when people like us. We like it when they respect our opinions. When we’re willing to compromise our faith to gain anything, we’ve shown that we’re willing to exchange the eternal things of God that will last forever for the temporal things of this world that will disappear in days to come. How should we then live? We must get rid of those worldly lusts and desires and do God’s will. Only then can we experience the true joy of living with and for God in all we do.
18. Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
If you want to get Christians fighting, just tell people what you think John means by “the last time.” I won’t get into all the arguments, but I think it’s safe to say that from the earliest days of the Church, the apostles believed that we were in the last days. And yet, here we are today almost 2000 years later. I can’t tell you when the exact last day of this earth will be, but I believe that we’re in the time of the last day. To me, that means that there will be no new revelation of God until Jesus comes again. That doesn’t mean we don’t have prophets, as I understand it, since prophets tell forth the word of God. They speak for God. What that means to me is that since we’re in the last time, as John put it here, God will keep working in and through the Church as He has since the earliest days of the Church. John’s evidence for the time he was living in being the last time was that there were many antichrists running around. In what should be a shocking statement, he let us know that they used to be in the church, but they left because they were not part of the body of Christ. They showed that by leaving the Church and going off on their own tangent. We see that happening today whenever anyone builds a following that isn’t based on the life, death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Christ. If any part of the message someone proclaims overshadows this truth, then they have departed from the Church and they are, in John’s words, antichrists.
There are a couple of provisos here. First, in the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John, there is mention of an Antichrist relating to the last times. I see the antichrists John is talking about here as false shepherds leading people astray so that they’ll welcome the one who will be the Antichrist. Those who are pastors of Jesus Christ are really undershepherds drawing people to Jesus, the true Shepherd. The antichrists present in the world today are drawing people to a false piety that will welcome the Antichrist. I also don’t think this applies to the various denominations that have grown since the time of Martin Luther, and even before. Any denomination that proclaims the life, death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Christ as the only way to have relationship with Christ is part of the true Church. Anyone who proclaims something else should look long and hard at their relationship with God.
20. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. 21. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.
If you are a follower of Christ, you have guidance from God in making decisions. John calls it an unction. You can know the truth. Obviously, when John said that we can know all things, he was referring to understanding the truth about the things of God. I could make a list of things that would include at least one thing that no one knows about. The key is understanding that as John wrote at this point in time, he was dealing with the false teaching of those he referred to as antichrists. God will guide you into truth if you’ll pay attention to Him. John made the point that they really knew this, but I can’t help but wonder if he thought people might be wavering when they heard some of the heretical statements being made. The problem with heresy isn’t that it’s obviously false; the problem with heresy is that it sounds close to the truth. When we seek discernment from God, we can tell when we’re hearing truth or something close to the truth. If we understand that close to the truth, when speaking about spiritual teaching, is a lie, then we can live by the truth. No lie is of the truth, no matter how good it sounds.
22. Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. 23. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.
In the Church, among God’s people truth begins with one issue: who is Jesus? Is He the Messiah? Did He come bodily, born of a virgin? Did He live a perfect life? Did He die on the cross to pay the penalty for sin? Did He rise from the dead? Is He God the Son? Maybe I’m adding to what John said, but given what we believe today, I think this explanation covers the question. If you can’t answer “yes” to all of those questions, you are outside the faith. You are denying that Jesus is the Christ. And, if you deny Jesus as the Christ, as God the Son, you’re denying the Father as well. John was pretty blunt in noting that if you deny the Son, Jesus Christ, you are not in fellowship with the Father. If, on the other hand, you acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, then you have fellowship with the Father as well.
The heresies that John faced and the heresies that we deal with today deny that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. To them, Jesus may be a good man, a good teacher, or even a great role model, but He’s not enough in and of Himself to allow us to have fellowship with the Father and the Son. Something else has to be done. That’s bad old heresy. We have fellowship with the Father when we acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah and that means that Jesus is God the Son.
24. Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. 25. And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.
What did John ask of those who read this letter? Stay true to what you heard. The problem with any great truth is that people will try to twist or distort it for their own ends. John, who had lived with Jesus, taught these people the truth. He didn’t want them following some strange teaching that anyone who really followed Jesus would know was false. Steven King, noted horror author, talked to people who equated current events to the plot in one of his novels called The Stand. He told them that they were nothing alike. They shouldn’t equate current events with that book. Someone shot back, and I hope that it was a joke, “How do you know? Have you even read the book?” I can’t help but wonder if John could understand how Steven King must have felt as he dealt with heresies. People could try to justify their heresies by saying something like, “Well, how do you even know the truth, John. Did you actually listen to Jesus?” The end result of our faith, though is amazing: eternal life. This isn’t “some time in the future when we die things will be great” life. This is “walking with Jesus through all the trials and difficulties of life with hope for the future” life. There is no greater hope than the promise of eternal life with God.
26. These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. 27. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
Why is false teaching so seductive? I think part of the issue is that such teaching focuses on us, and not on God. It isn’t so important what GOD will do, it’s what God will do for YOU. False teaching focuses on the gift, not the giver (God); it focuses on the healing, not the healer (God). (And yes, I riffed on on the song “More Than Anything” by Natalie Grant.) It’s a subtle process, but that’s why John compares it to seduction. In an interesting comment, John noted that God’s people didn’t need any teachers because of the anointing of the Holy Spirit that they had. The Holy Spirit would teach them all truth and nothing but the truth. He doesn’t teach lies. The most important thing we learn from the Holy Spirit is that we need to abide in God. Now, taken to it’s logical conclusion, you shouldn’t even need to read this blog post, or even the Bible. I think that’s taking John’s words a bit out of context, though. Most of the false teaching dealt with the nature of God and John’s point was that the Holy Spirit teaches us about His nature and how to abide with Him. Teaching that is in synch with the Holy Spirit is fine, but teaching that goes contrary to what the Holy Spirit says is contrary to God’s will and should be rejected. I learn much from the teachings of others, but I always check it against what God teaches me as the Holy Spirit guides me.
28. And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. 29. If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say something like, “What do you think Jesus would say if He saw you doing something like that when He came again?” While it may seem judgmental at times, it’s a good reminder that our lives should be consistent with what we claim to believe. John put that in a positive way by noting that when we abide in Christ, we can be confident when Jesus returns. The most important part of what John said here is that our lives should be consistent with living in the Spirit. We should live righteous lives. Ultimately, true righteousness only comes from God. When we’re living out our relationship with Christ, we should show righteousness in our lives without ulterior motives. As I write this we’re dealing with concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. While we should be concerned about safety measures, we should also remember that our ultimate call is to serve. We need to develop a ministry mindset, not a survival mindset, and, when the concerns about this virus are over, we need to continue to seek ways to use all that God has given us to minister to others. If we’re abiding in Him, our righteousness should make us minister in His name.
Daily Bible Readings for this next week as you read through the Bible in a year:
March 15, 2020 – Matthew 16; Numbers 1-2; Ecclesiastes 3:1-15
March 16, 2020 – Matthew 17; Numbers 3-4; Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:16
March 17, 2020 – Matthew 18:1-20; Numbers 5-6; Ecclesiastes 5
March 18, 2020 – Matthew 18:21-35; Numbers 7-8; Ecclesiastes 6
March 19, 2020 – Matthew 19:1-15; Numbers 9-10; Ecclesiastes 7
March 20, 2020 – Matthew 19:16-30; Numbers 11-12; Ecclesiastes 8
March 21, 2020 – Matthew 20:1-16; Numbers 13-14; Ecclesiastes 9:1-12