How faithful do you have to be in order to be faithful? If your car starts two days out of three, do you think it is faithful? What if one of your employees skips works periodically without saying anything? If you miss a couple of house payments a year, does the bank say, “Ten out of twelve isn’t bad?” How faithful do we have to be in our Christian walk?
The apostle John wrote a letter to a church commending them for their faithful Christian walk and exhorting them to resist false teaching. He wanted his readers to be as dependable as the daily mail in both their actions and the beliefs. In 2 John, the apostle encouraged his readers to stay faithful by knowing (1-3), practicing (4-6), and protecting the truth (7-11).
Not only is truth an objective revelation from the Father, but also a subjective experience in our personal lives. The truth “abides in us and will be with us forever” (2). It helps point out that knowing the truth is more than an intellectual exercise. It means that our lives are controlled by a love for the truth.
While John was encouraged that his readers were obeying God’s commands, he wanted them to continue doing more of the same (4-5). He wanted them to think of truth as a lifestyle or a daily walk. To walk in the truth requires both belief and behavior. In addition, John wants the church to continue practicing love for one another (6).
John was equally concerned that his readers protect the truth (7-11). He wanted the church to be aware of false teachers that wanted to lead them astray and cause believers to lose their rewards (8). In a rather non-politically-correct statement, John instructs the church to practice intolerance (10-11). Like a protective mother bear, we should guard against false teachers.
To practice John’s advice today, we should ask two basic questions of any new teacher or teaching—What do they say about Jesus? and What gospel are they preaching?
Who is Jesus? Mormons believe Jesus is a created being; the elder brother of spirit beings and Satan. Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus is a created being; before his birth he was Michael the archangel. Islam teaches that Jesus was a prophet who did not die but bodily ascended to heaven. Only Christianity teaches that Jesus is both fully God and fully man.
What gospel is preached? There is a “forgiveness only” gospel which proclaims forgiveness of sin without any requirement of discipleship. A “therapeutic gospel” focuses on self-help or self-esteem. A “prosperity gospel” preaches health, wealth, and happiness. A “consumer gospel” teaches that God is present to satisfy all our desires. Only the gospel of the kingdom teaches that we are to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus.
Following John’s instructions, we must be very careful about what televangelists we listen to and what bestselling authors we read. When cultists come knocking at your door, graciously refuse their literature and politely send them on their way. Do your research on what relief agencies you contribute to or what short-term ministry projects you support. Stay on the path of truth.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on May 28, 2017. It is part of a series of sermons on The Letters of John. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.