There has probably been no other year in the 20th century that was so dark and hopeless as the year 1940.
In this year, France fell to the might of Germany’s tanks and troops,
while the British had mounted an inglorious retreat at Dunkirk.
The United States of America was remaining cautiously neutral,
refusing to be drawn into wars across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Only two nations stood in Adolf Hitler’s desire to conquer
- Russia and England.
Russia wasn’t a serious threat to Germany in 1940,
so Hitler turned his efforts into defeating Britain.
By sending wave upon wave of bombers to bomb airfields and factories and seaports,
and by patrolling the Atlantic ocean with the dreaded U-boats,
Germany aimed to strangle England slowly.
These were dark years for England.
But the government needed a population that was steeled to fighting the war and to defend their island against aggressors.
They did this through propaganda,
and there were two different ways to get the people behind them.
The first was to explain to the English people who the enemy was:
Hitler and his cronies were portrayed in posters and news broadcasts as being both evil and stupid.
The second was to teach the people how to adjust their lives to this new situation.
With bombs raining down and food scarce, there was a great deal of public education.
These were in areas like thrift - making the most of what you had,
investing in war bonds
and keeping information secret from spies.
So what we had during these dark years was a twofold emphasis
- know your enemy,
and know how to survive his attacks.
This letter from John speaks to us about the same sort of things.
He is writing to a church that is under satanic attack from false teaching.
What we examined last week was this idea of knowing your enemy.
In 2.18-23 John is telling us who these people are
- they are antichrists who exist to destroy the church.
John continues with this theme in the passage we read today.
In these verses today, he is teaching us how to survive the enemy’s attacks.
1. Remain in the Truth (2.24-25)
Let me read to you verses 24 and 25 again.
See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us - even eternal life.
So John is saying to us that we should remain in the truth.
And that is the first point on your outlines.
When Christianity first spread throughout the world,
there was no doubt that many who were converted were excited about all the great new teachings they were beginning to understand.
Yet unlike many cults, Christianity never continually added to its core of beliefs.
The core beliefs that we have today are enshrined by the Bible, and they haven’t changed.
And the reason is because God hasn’t changed.
There are some people who think that God has changed his mind constantly over the past few thousand years
But this reflects more of how the world has shaped Christian beliefs, rather than the Bible.
But this idea that truth constantly needs to be sought and revealed,
or that God works in many and different ways,
has been one that has been around for a while.
It was certainly around when John wrote this letter.
And what is John’s teaching?
See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you.
John is saying here that the best way to avoid being sidetracked by false teaching is to let the original gospel “remain” in you.
This means two things.
It means firstly that we hold onto the core beliefs that go along with Christianity.
It means that we hold onto the idea that God is Trinity.
That Jesus died on the cross for our sins.
That we are forgiven and justified by faith.
But secondly, it means that we reject any and every belief that does not fit in with God’s truth. It means we reject any teaching from inside or outside the church
that doesn’t fit with Biblical teaching.
The best way to survive the enemy’s attacks is to concentrate upon the gospel that has saved us.
We do this every time we come here to church.
We do it when we read the Bible at home.
We do it when we sit down and discuss God’s truth with our brothers and sisters in the faith.
But notice what else John says.
He says If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father.
John is saying to us that if we hold onto the gospel,
if we let the message of the gospel remain in us,
if we believe in it,
then we will also remain with Jesus and with our heavenly Father.
We might find it hard to understand,
but there is a link between our understanding of the gospel,
and our relationship with the Father and the Son.
It is one of those links which cannot be broken.
If we have a relationship with the Father and the Son,
then we know and understand the gospel.
If we hold on to the truth of the gospel,
if we truly believe and accept the truth of the gospel,
then we have a relationship with the Father and the Son.
The gospel is the glue that joins us to God.
Without the gospel, we do not have God.
John is saying to us here that by remembering and holding onto the gospel, we remain with the Father and the Son.
And of course the result of holding onto the truth and remaining with the Father and the Son. Is eternal life.
Look at verse 25: This is what he has promised us - even eternal life.
We trust in the gospel, we hold to it.
As a result we have friendship with the Father and the Son.
And the result of that is eternal life.
Let’s not be fooled here
- we don’t hold onto the gospel or love God just because it is the right thing to do.
We do so because God promises us eternal life.
This is not some reward that God gives us for doing the right thing.
It is the natural result for all who accept the gospel and love God.
Some Christians think that this idea is selfish
- we become Christians so we can go to heaven.
It’s not selfish at all - after all, God provided the means by which this can be achieved
- his Son, Jesus Christ.
I was at a youth meeting once
where a speaker was telling these young people about Easter.
During his talk, he decided that he would tell them the gospel.
And he did.
Very, very quickly.
He said that Jesusdiedonthecrossforoursinsandweshouldrepentandbelieveinthegospel.
In fact it seemed like he was doing it only because he felt he had to.
But what he did then was to illustrate it for these young Christians.
He said “imagine you’re in a race, and you have to do your best for God”.
And he went on from there to discuss people like Michael Klim and Ian Thorpe,
and about their dedication to success -
using them as examples for us to follow.
That we should try to excel in serving God.
So what was the message he was giving to these young Christians?
He was saying that our relationship with God depends on our efforts and works.
That is not the gospel.
I have heard this definition of what the church is:
Where the gospel is preached, and the sacraments duly administered, there you have the church.
Now obviously this needs a few more things added to it,
but the primary emphasis is there.
On the other hand, you could argue that when the gospel is not present, you do not have the church.
A group of believers might meet together,
but unless the gospel is there, they are not meeting as God’s people.
There’s one more possibility.
You could also argue that when the gospel is obscured, the church is sick.
By not understanding the gospel fully, the church is unable to function properly.
The gospel is the message we have heard from the beginning.
We must see to it that we hold onto it.
And remember that those who hold onto the gospel have a relationship with the Father and the Son, and have been promised eternal life.
2. Be taught by the anointing (2.26-27)
Now some of you might be somewhat concerned that I haven’t mentioned something rather important.
I’ve spoken about the Father
and the Son,
and about the gospel.
What about the Holy Spirit?
Am I ignoring him?
Well, fortunately, John doesn’t ignore him.
Let me read to you verses 26 and 27 again.
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.
So we are taught by the anointing, which is my second point.
In verse 26 we have an explicit reference to these false teachers.
In fact, we see that the entire reason why John is writing this letter is to address the concerns these false teachers were raising in the church.
But verse 27 tells us something about them that we could quite easily miss.
John is saying that the anointing that they have is real
- it is not counterfeit.
Why would he say that?
He says it because he believes that the spirit behind these false teachers is a counterfeit
- it pretends to be the Holy Spirit, but is not.
He continues with this idea in chapter 4 verse 1, where it says
Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone into the world.
Last week we were examining the idea of the antichrist
- this is what is in view here.
These false teachers may have had some sort of amazing spiritual experience,
they may have even performed miracles
- but they were not from God.
These false teachers claimed to have the Holy Spirit,
but they had a satanic spirit instead.
So what should these readers do?
What should we do?
John speaks about the Holy Spirit in our lives.
He says that the anointing - the Holy Spirit - remains in us.
We don’t need people to teach us anything new, because the Spirit teaches us all things - which, remember, means complete knowledge
... all we need to know.
One question that is raised here which I didn’t deal with last week is why John doesn’t come right out and say “The Holy Spirit”.
Why does he say “the anointing” instead?
Remember that John writes in a poetic way.
He uses this descriptive phrase for a purpose.
In Chapter 1 verse 1 he says “He who was from the beginning”, rather than saying “Jesus” because he wanted to make a point about who Jesus was.
The same is in view here. John talks about “the anointing” rather than the Holy Spirit
because he wants to teach us about what and who the Spirit is.
The Anointing is talking not just about the Holy Spirit,
but how the Holy Spirit lives and works in us.
It reminds us of when Jesus was baptised,
and how his ministry was empowered by the Spirit.
It also reminds us of Pentecost,
and how the Spirit came upon the Apostles and gave them the power
to spread the gospel and begin the church.
What John is teaching us here is that this anointing we have
- the Holy Spirit living and working in our lives
- is what teaches us.
The Spirit teaches us all things
- everything we need to know, we know because of the Spirit.
So the question is, how?
I mentioned last week how important the Bible is in the work of the Spirit.
Ephesians 6.17 says that the word of God is the sword of the Spirit.
But is that all there is?
Another question is how the Spirit is linked with what John has already just said.
I’ve already stated that the gospel is the glue that holds us to the Father and the Son,
which is what John is saying in verses 24 and 25.
So there is a link between
the work of the Spirit of God,
the work of the Gospel of God,
and the work of the Word of God.
Let me see if I can summarise just how they all fit together.
The word of God is both the person of Jesus Christ and the words of the Bible
- it is both personal and written.
But the Bible speaks ultimately about Jesus
- his mission on earth and his divine nature.
So in that sense the Word of God is also the Gospel of God
- after all, the Gospel is about what Jesus did on the cross,
and who he is as a person.
But the people who wrote the Bible, people like the Apostle John, were not writing just of their own minds,
they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit wrote the Bible.
So therefore, the Spirit acts behind the gospel.
But the Spirit also works in the lives of those who hear it,
and those who believe in it.
What we can be sure of is that this link between the Spirit, the Word and the Gospel
is something that cannot be broken.
If we have the Spirit of God teaching us all we need to know,
then we must therefore also have the Gospel
and be listening to the Word of God.
The Spirit is indispensable in the Christian life
- we can’t be Christians without it.
Without the Spirit we would not be able to understand God’s Word,
nor respond in faith to the Gospel.
If we want to live by the Spirit,
then we need to read God’s word and understand and believe the Gospel.
The Spirit works in us when we are exposed to God’s Word and God’s Gospel.
If we are not being exposed to God’s Word or God’s Gospel,
then we are quenching the Holy Spirit.
This is why it is so serious when we hear about Churches that are confused about the Gospel - they are not only confusing the Christians who listen to it,
but they are also opening the door to counterfeit spirits.
3. Be Rooted in Christ (2.28-29)
So we are to hold onto the gospel
and to be taught by the anointing we have from the Holy Spirit.
The third thing we should do to survive the enemy’s attacks is to be rooted in Christ,
and that is my third point.
Let read to you verses 28 and 29 again.
And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. If you know that he is righteous you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.
These two verses serve as both a conclusion and as an introduction.
They conclude everything that John has been saying already in chapters 1 & 2,
while it also serves as an introduction to the next section in chapter 3.
In your NIVs you will notice that they have assumed that it is the introduction to the next section which they have called “Children of God”,
but it is actually both.
The theme of continuing runs through all the verses we have looked at already today.
In verses 24 and 25 it is to continue in what they have heard.
In verses 26 and 27 it is to continue being led by the Holy Spirit.
In these verses, we are being told to continue with Christ.
What John is saying to us is that Christ is the centre of the gospel,
and is the centre of our worship.
After all, we are Christians
- literally followers of Jesus Christ.
We are not simply followers of God,
we are followers of Christ.
And who is this Christ we follow?
He is the Son of God,
God himself in human form and a member of the Holy Trinity.
He was born of the Virgin Mary.
He was crucified as a sin sacrifice
- his death paying the penalty of our sins.
And he rose again from death
- for he was a physical being, a human just like you and me.
And he is our master, training and teaching his followers
who wrote books like 1 John
so that we can also listen to Christ and be taught by him.
And why are we to follow Christ?
We follow Christ because we follow the Father
- we worship and serve Jesus because we worship and serve God.
The sin which has broken our relationship with our heavenly Father is atoned for in the death of his Son.
And we are turned away from our sin and serve Jesus because of the work of the Holy Spirit,
which brings us new life as we understand the Gospel and Word of God.
This is why I said some time ago that “the things that go without saying need to be said”.
If we don’t preach or teach or understand the gospel and God’s word,
then we don’t listen to the Spirit or allow him to work,
which means that we have no relationship with Christ or the Father.
You cannot become a Christian without hearing the gospel,
and you cannot remain a Christian without being continually reminded about it.
But our time on this world is short,
even though it may seem interminably long to us.
And Christ knows that our time here is beset by pain and anguish and suffering.
Which is why he will return.
Jesus will one day return to judge the world, to make all things new.
He will return and we will be with him forever.
And on that day there will be two sorts of people.
John mentions one sort in verse 28
- those who are confident and unashamed.
When Jesus returns, what will you do?
Will you be one of those who stands before him confident and unashamed,
or will you be one of the many who left it too late?
Jesus himself says that the righteous will go to eternal life,
while those who remain will be subject to judgement and punishment.
Which are you?
Do you trust in the gospel message?
Do you trust in Christ?
Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross for you?
If you do, then you are one of those who will stand before Jesus on that day confident and unashamed.
But what if you don’t place your trust in the gospel?
What if you haven’t trusted in Christ?
It means your sins are unforgiven,
and that at the judgement day you will be found wanting.
So how can you be saved?
You are saved by putting your trust in Jesus
- by saying to him that you will serve him forever,
and trusting that your sins have been forgiven by his death on the cross.
We don’t know when Jesus will return,
it could be tonight, it could be in a million years.
But we don’t know when we’ll die either,
and we all need to know Christ before we leave this world.
In verse 29, John says If you know that he (Christ) is righteous you know that everyone who does what is right is born of him.
Who is the person who does what is right?
It is the person who admits to God that they are sinful,
and who comes to Jesus, begging for forgiveness.
And when they do this,
when they turn from their life of sin and embrace Jesus as their King,
then they are born of Jesus
- they are born again.
The righteousness of Christ,
his perfectness if you like,
means that when we turn to him in faith then we too will be perfect
- our sins have been cleaned,
and we can stand before Jesus when he returns, confident and unashamed.
We may not think that our lives today are similar to those in 1940.
We do not have bombs raining down on our heads
and we are certainly not lacking anything materially.
But our situation is similar
- we are not engaged in a physical war, but a spiritual one.
And like all wars,
we need to understand who our enemy is,
and how to survive his attacks.
Our enemy is Satan,
who is desperate for us to be confused about our faith,
and will do anything to side-track us.
He may use force, he may use seduction
- but his plan is the same.
So what are we to do?
We are to hold onto the gospel of Christ.
We need to preach it, to teach it, to live it and discuss it.
By doing this we resist the devil,
we honour God,
we follow the Son,
we are taught by the Spirit,
we listen to the word
and we have assurance that we will live in eternity with Christ in paradise.
England in 1940 was a depressing place to be.
One reason was because they did not know whether their enemy will be defeated.
Hitler eventually was,
but they were not confident of that fact for many years.
We, on the other hand, know that our enemy is defeated.
While Satan continues to draw us away from the faith through false teachers and anything that will obscure the gospel,
we can know that the battle belongs to our Lord.
So what are we to do?
We are to continually remember the gospel,
we are to be open to the teaching of the Spirit,
we are to listen to God’s word,
we are to worship Christ as our saviour and Lord.
Let me pray.
Heavenly Father, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
We come before you now humbly knowing that we have sinned against you and rejected you as our king and ruler. Please forgive us. Give us hearts that love you, and minds that have been sharpened by the gospel of grace. Help us not to trust in ourselves, but in your Son. Keep us from the evils and temptations of anything that will distract or destroy your gospel message, and keep our lives firmly focused on the day when your Son will return in glory, and bring us into paradise.
From the Kerygmatic Department
© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.