January 1, 2023
If there was ever a time to know what you believe and why you believe it, this is the time. The proliferation of voices in the world makes it possible to hear every prophet, preacher, nut case and charlatan, 24 hours a day. Many of them are wonderful and insightful mouthpieces of God. Many, however, are not. In that context, I have been spending a lot of time with my old friend, the Apostle John. His latter years were spent helping the church of his day avoid being shaken by those who looked like Christians, but who were deceived themselves and were therefore deceiving others. I can hear the passion and agony of his heart at the end of 1 John:
We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.1 John 5:19-21 ESV
John’s contemporaries were challenged by teachers who denied the humanity and/or the deity of Jesus. Some taught that Christians couldn’t sin, others that their sin didn’t matter. The essentials of salvation were being challenged, and differences of opinion blew up into hateful rhetoric. Some fell away, some walked away, and many just got confused and doubted their own salvation. If this reminds you of our day, then let’s start 2023 by borrowing a few truths from John’s writings.
- Our faith is based on a real Savior. He came in the flesh, He died a real death, and He experienced a real resurrection. He did signs on earth to validate His claims, and He is still doing miracles to show Himself alive. Those who deny this are deluded. Don’t ever forget what you know and what you’ve seen. This thing is real! “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.(1 John 1:1-3 ESV)”
- Born again people still fall into sin. God is not pleased with them, but they are still His kids, and He has made a way back. When believers sin, forgiveness is necessary. Thank God we have an Advocate with the Father. Grace is not permission, it is provision. Don’t give up when you fail, get up, get right, and get on with it: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2 ESV)”
- There are false teachers in the earth, but you can tell who they are. Check out what they say about Jesus and learn to listen to the witness of the Spirit on the inside. You know the truth, don’t get sidetracked by wild claims or profound-sounding pundits with more education than sanctification: “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.” (1 John 2:27 ESV)
- You can love folks. As a believer you have the Spirit within you. The outward sign of His presence in us is our love for other believers. The requirement list is short: “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. (1 John 3:23 ESV)”
- When we see a brother sin, it’s a call to prayer, not gossip or judgment: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.(1 John 5:14-17 ESV)”
- Now, more than ever, we need to watch our hearts and our steps. The only safe place to live in this last hour is right up under His wing: “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.(1 John 5:18 ESV)”
Here’s the point: We live in a dangerous world. The new year will be full of challenges. It’s important that we have a firm grasp on what’s real and what’s deception. Sin is real and it’s awful. Christians should strive to live free of it, but God has made provision for our failures. As we grow in Christ, we must grow in our ability to hear and follow the Spirit of God. This enables us to avoid deception and to fulfill the command of love. God wants us to live in the confidence that He hears us when we pray and that He will receive us when He comes. Let me recount just three statements from John about his purposes in writing:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.John 20:30-31 ESV
And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.1 John 1:4 ESV)
Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.1 John 5:12-13 ESV
Believe, love, live. Happy New Year!
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