Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The Letters Of The Apostle John. Day 6, Living Confidently In Christ

In yesterday's study we found John warning his readers about false teachers. He told them how to recognize lies, but he also stated his confidence in them that they know the truth and will continue to live in the truth. Today he urges everyone to live their lives in such a way that, if Christ comes for His church today, we won't be ashamed of whatever He finds us doing.

"As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you." (1 John 2:24a) As early in church history as John's day, there were already teachers who were perverting the gospel message. John tells his readers to hold fast to the gospel message that they originally heard and accepted. The gospel doesn't change, and neither does Christ. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

The true message of the gospel has saving power. It transforms hearts and lives. Christians must hold to the truth without wavering so that we will remain in close fellowship with our Lord. If we start leaning toward what the world calls a "new and improved" gospel, we are deviating from the truth. We will not be able to have a satisfying relationship with the Lord because we are going to be outside of the Lord's will. John says to allow the truth to remain in us, for, "If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what He promised us---eternal life." (1 John 2:24b-25)

Why have so many offshoots of the Christian religion emerged that teach an altered version of the gospel? Because the gospel contains things that some people don't want to hear. I would assume that pretty much everyone wants eternal life, and surely they want that eternal life to be one of peace and happiness. But not everyone wants to submit themselves to Christ---or to anyone or anything else for that matter. Not everyone wants to live in the way Christ commands us to live. So they've altered the gospel in a way that suits them. They've changed the message so that it says what they want it to say. The Apostle Paul warned Timothy that a day was coming when, instead of simply rejecting Christ outright, people would begin following perverted forms of the gospel which tells them what they want to hear. "For the time will come when people 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." (2 Timothy 4:3) That day had already begun in John's lifetime and we are seeing this happen more and more as time goes on.

The apostle is worried that some of these false teachers might have a bad influence on those to whom he is writing. He wants them to be on guard. These believers were saved by the true gospel message, and this means they have the Holy Spirit indwelling them. They are to be sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who will warn them in their spirit whenever they encounter deceptive teachers and false doctrine. "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." (1 John 2:26-27)

The "anointing" he speaks of is the Holy Spirit whom they received when they accepted Christ. The Holy Spirit is their teacher. The Lord Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would teach us when He said, "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come." (John 16:13) Whenever we pray or study the Bible, we need to do so in an attitude of submission to the Holy Spirit. We need to be actively listening for whatever He wants to say to us, for what He says to us is what Christ tells Him to say. In the same way, whenever we are listening to a preacher or teacher, or whenever we are reading religious materials outside of the Bible, we must test whatever we're hearing or reading against what the word of God says and against whether or not the Holy Spirit is in agreement with what we're reading or hearing.

"And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming." (1 John 2:28) If we hold fast to the truth, and if we live our lives by it, we won't be ashamed if Christ comes for His church this very day. I'm reminded of something funny that happened many years ago when my husband's maternal grandmother was still alive. We had taken her sightseeing and had stopped for lunch at a Sagebrush Steakhouse. She had never eaten there before and was interested to see what the food was like. After we were seated, she gazed around and saw that there was a bar in the back of the restaurant with a sign that said "saloon" over it. (We were not drinking alcohol.) She said, "I've never been in a saloon before." Then, after thinking about this for a minute, she leaned forward and whispered to us, "What if Jesus comes back today and finds me in a saloon?" She had never been in anything but fast food restaurants and it made her a little uncomfortable to be eating in a restaurant where alcohol was available even though we weren't drinking any of it. But her point, and the point John is making in our passage today, is that we should be living our lives every day in such a way that if Jesus does come, we won't be ashamed. A number of times during the years since she passed, I've found myself saying things or doing things that made me stop and ask myself, "What if Jesus came right now and found me doing or saying this?" If that question makes us uncomfortable, then the Holy Spirit is telling us that whatever we're doing or saying is inappropriate for a Christian.

There are those who never feel uncomfortable about anything. There are those who live their lives defiantly, declaring that no one (not even the Lord) has the right to tell them what to do or to judge them. They feel unashamed of everything they've ever done and they believe they will always feel unashamed of any choice they make in the future. But believe me, when someday they stand before a holy God and see Him as He is, they will see themselves as they are...and they will feel ashamed. In the light of His righteousness, their own unrighteousness will be painfully apparent. But it doesn't have to be that way. Christ became sin (took the penalty of our sins upon Himself) so that we could become righteous. (2 Corinthians 5:21) If we accept the gospel message just as it is, and if we submit our lives to Christ, and if we live our lives in a way that honors Him. we won't have to be ashamed when we stand before our God and Judge. We won't have to cower in fear when Christ calls His church out of the world. We won't, figuratively speaking, be caught in a "saloon" of rebellion and filth when He appears. Instead, knowing we've been faithful to Him, when He calls for us we will confidently say, "Here I am, Lord!"

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