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Defending Against Deception

19 Feb

A knock on the door. A young, well-dressed couple offers you some literature. They ask questions about your spiritual beliefs. They explain things about Jesus that you haven’t heard before.

How do you know if what they say is true? How do you defend yourself against deception? In 1 John 2:18-27, the apostle John explains that those who love God must reject false teachers and embrace the truth.

John expresses his pastoral concern with the affectionate term, “children.” 10 days ago, I stood before my youngest daughter and her husband-to-be on their wedding day. As I took part in the ceremony, I said, “I have some dad things to say and some pastor things to say.” I understand John’s pastoral, fatherly concern and the desire to prepare his flock for what is to come.

John’s statement, “it is the last hour,” raises the question, “Is he talking about chronological time or theological time?” From other passages of Scripture, we understand he is referring to a theological concept. Hebrews 1:1-2 states that the last days began with Jesus. In Acts 2:16-17, Peter said the last days started with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. John now adds a third characteristic to the last days—the rise of opposition. The fact that the church is under attack indicates it is later than we think.

While The Antichrist will come during the period of The Tribulation, John explains that there are many antichrists present today. These folks left the fellowship (18-19), deny the faith (22), and seek to deceive the faithful (26).

John explains that God has given us the Holy Spirit (20) and the Scriptures (21) to keep us on the right path. The Holy Spirit is assigned a teaching role and enables Christ followers to perceive the truth and distinguish truth from error.

John is primarily concerned about warning his readers about one lie in particular—the denial of the deity and/or the humanity of Jesus Christ (22). In John’s day, there were three individuals or groups whose errors he was combating. Gnosticism, Docetism, and a teacher named Cerinthus.

Gnosticism

Docetism

Cerinthus

Spiritual is good; material is evil

Go deeper through “special knowledge”

Jesus did not have a human body; only an illusion Jesus was a man; the divine Christ came at his baptism and left before the crucifixion

Today, we face similar errors taught by Islam, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and Christian Science. Of all the world’s religions, Christianity is the only one that affirms both the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ.

Cults & World Religions

 

Jesus

Salvation

Islam A true prophet

Jesus did not die, but ascended into heaven

Salvation is by Allah’s grace and man’s works
Jehovah’s Witnesses A created being

Michael the archangel who became man

Salvation is by keeping the commandments and being part of the church
Mormons A created being

The elder brother of men and spirit beings

Salvation is by doing good works
Christian Science A man in tune with the divine consciousness Salvation is by correct thinking
Christianity Fully God & fully man

Co-equal & co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit

Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone

As John explains, you cannot “have God” without believing in Jesus. If you deny one, you deny the other.

It is not enough, however, to merely reject false teaching. You must also embrace the truth. In verses 24-27, John gives one command, abide, which he repeats twice. We must abide in the truth (24) and we must abide in the Spirit (27). We must ensure that the Bible and the Holy Spirit are welcome in our lives.

We demonstrate the Scriptures are welcome in our lives when we read, study, memorize, meditate, and commit ourselves to obey what it says. We demonstrate the Holy Spirit is welcome in our lives when we are filled with the Spirit and manifest the fruit of the Spirit.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 19, 2017. It is part of series in The Letters of John. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

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