Over past several years, social media has been filled with a steady stream of individuals who are renouncing their faith in Christ and their membership in His church – Some of these individuals were, at one time, viewed as famous and influential Christians: author Joshua Harris, musician Marty Sampson, megachurch pastor Dave Gass, Desiring God writer Paul Maxwell
Some of these people are not necessarily famous or influential, but they are deeply beloved – Our siblings, our children, our close friends, people we laughed with, cried with, and served with – Friends of mine from my college, people who I did ministry with, have walked away – A student that I mentored for over a year, who sat on stage in this sanctuary and shared a testimony about how Jesus had saved him, who has now walked away – My guess is that most you have similar stories you could share, about people you love, who claimed to walk with Jesus, and then walked away
Stories of “deconstruction” are plentiful and they are as complex as people who tell them – They are disorienting – And they leave us with difficult questions – What happened? – Is there anything I/we could have done differently? – How do I make sense of what I’m seeing? – And what do I do now?
These are very questions John addresses in our passage this morning – You see, this cultural phenomenon church now faces in America is not new; it is simply a fresh expression of a reality that is old as church – That there are people who, at one point in life, claim to believe in Christ as Savior and Lord and then, some time later, deny Him altogether
This morning we are going to finish our look at 1 John 2 – Over past few weeks we have noted two different “tests” for assessing Christian authenticity: moral test and social test – This morning we are going to look at third and final test in this chapter, doctrinal test, as we turn to verses 18-27
Before we dig into passage, let’s take step back and remember context of letter – Following Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost, John went around region of modern-day Turkey planting churches and he became one of leading figures in church in that area – With time, churches were confronted with a divisive problem
Some people of influence got off track theologically and their teachings began to threaten purity of Gospel and unity of churches – What, exactly, was this bad doctrine?
John’s opponents claimed that Jesus seemed to be human but was not, in fact, human – In short, they denied Jesus’ humanity – This belief was rooted in an ancient Greek belief that the gods, who were divine, never entered material world of humans, which was impure – John’s opponents believed that realm of gods and realm of humans did not and could not truly overlap
Therefore, they concluded that, if Jesus was a divine god, then He was not and could not have been human – In then end, they sought Jesus not because they believed He had taken on human flesh and died an atoning death for their sins but because they believed He could give them mystical access to divine knowledge and revelation – This group had gained influence in these churches John had planted, and then they had left, taking some members of churches with them – They had, like many who deconstruct today, deviated from apostolic teaching and departed from church
John, who had walked with, talked with, and embraced a clearly human Jesus for three years, wrote this letter to oppose group – And it is here in verses 18-27 where we see John most clearly exhort faithful but disoriented remnant of church
We are going to consider three key principles in this section – Principles that were given to help John’s original audience navigate it’s disorientation and principles that can help us navigate same phenomenon today: 1) Honor the Hour, 2) Trust the Testimony, 3) Abide in the Anointing – Let’s read this whole section and then we’ll discuss these three big principles
Read v. 18-27
Let’s talk about John’s first principle for church: Honor the Hour
John begins by saying – Read v. 18
John twice says, “it is the last hour” – What does he mean? – When John says, “it is the last hour,” he is making an eschatological statement, not a chronological statement – That is, he is referring to an era of redemptive history, not 60-minute segment of time – More specifically, he is referring to “already-not yet” era of redemptive history between Christ’s ascension and His second coming – It was era in which John’s church lived, and it is era in which we now live
And one of defining characteristics of “the last hour” is dangerous pressure on the church (Matt. 24:4, 24; Tim. 3:1-7; 2 Peter 3:1-10) – Pressure from the outside, like “desires of flesh, desires of eyes, and pride of life” – And pressure from inside, like these false teachers who had emerged within church, denied essential beliefs about Christ, and departed, taking some with them
Here, John calls these false teachers “antichrists” – John was only NT author to use this term – It only occurs in 1 and 2 John – Does not occur in Revelation, with which many people associate idea – John doesn’t have in mind a diabolic, apocalyptic creature – He has in mind former friends, former acquaintances and neighbors, former members of his flock, who had abandoned essential beliefs about Jesus
He says: Read v. 22-23
These people, as John sees them, had literally become anti (against) Christ – They had rejected incarnation of Jesus and, therefore, abandoned idea of his sacrificial, atoning death and bodily resurrection – They had, simply put, left Gospel behind
To John’s audience, these antichrists were friends, family members, people they had presumed to be brothers and sisters in Christ – They, undoubtedly, felt as many of us do when we experience this same thing today: confused, disoriented, and discouraged – And here’s John’s first challenge to them: Honor the Hour
Jesus warns us that, in this last hour, there will be great trial and tribulation – He warned us that many who claimed to be Christians will be led astray by false teachers – He warned that there would be wars and famines and earthquakes and intense persecution (Matthew 24)
He also told a parable to point that faith of some would sprout up and give appearance of health and growth, only to be withered by heat of trials or choked out by worries of this life (Matthew 13)
John, who’d heard Jesus warn of all these things, who was now seeing them come to fruition, reminds church of difficulties of this last hour – Why?
It is not so we would fear the hour and despair – It is not so we would avoid the hour and withdraw – It is not so we would try to predict the hour and be distracted – And it is not so we would sit in judgment over the hour and be cynical – This is John’s purpose in reminding us of the great difficulty of this last hour: so we would honor it and live faithfully in midst it
To honor something is to give it sober recognition it deserves – We honor the hour by remembering these things: God is sovereign – He is completely good – And that, before earth was even spoken into existence, He determined that you and I would worship Him in this last hour – He has called us to be His church and embrace His mission in this era and in this place – And He will never leave us nor forsake us
So, as we face the enemy who prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8) – We put on whole armor of God so that we may be able to stand against his schemes (Eph. 6:11) – We rise up with a sober, humble, but confident hope as we consider words Mordecai spoke to Esther in face of her sobering predicament, “who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14) – Honor the Hour
Trust the Testimony
Read v. 24-25
John’s reference to “what you heard from the beginning” is likely a reference to his Gospel account, which church had received from him either in oral or written form – Church had received inspired, authoritative apostolic testimony about Jesus, Word made flesh – But, as we have already noted, some within church had abandoned it and gone on to something “new” – Something “better” – Something “more sophisticated” – Something “more palatable and fitting for culture”
We don’t have to look to far to see a similar phenomenon today – Individuals, churches, and segments of Christianity whose view of Christ is and has shifted away from apostolic teaching – To some, miraculous virgin conception is not acceptable to our more advanced, modern, scientific society – Substitutionary atonement is unacceptable given our more sensitive view of Trinity and God’s kindness – Exclusivity of Christ as the way and the truth and the life is insensitive and harmful to people who hold other religious or irreligious positions – Call to repentance is a Pharisaical attack on unconditional grace of Jesus
And so some end up casting Jesus as this sort of amorphous, peace-keeping, wisdom teacher and social reformer who shows us how to live our best life and never challenges us to deny ourselves, turn from sin, submit to His will and ways
Listen, I am absolutely mesmerized by kindness and gentleness of Jesus, by way He so often finds people on fringes and meets them with deep compassion – I pray I become more and more like Jesus in this way – But these are not only qualities of Jesus – His full Divinity also includes righteous anger – He flipped tables in the Temple – His offer of salvation also includes a clear call to repentance – He clearly says that His mission will not only bring restoration, but also division between father and son, mother and daughter, sibling and sibling
I’m convinced that one factor that leaves people jaded and confused about Jesus is that they never truly grasped Him in His fullness – Maybe they grasped one quality of Him or one component of His ministry, probably one they were most comfortable with, but they did not wrestle with complex fullness of Jesus’ nature and ministry – Then, one day, when sin or suffering contradicted their conceptions of Christ’s nature and purpose, they falsely came to conclusion that either Gospel is flawed or God failed – And they walked away
John clearly came to a different conclusion about what had happened among those he knew – John does not believe these people walked away because Gospel is flawed or God failed – He says they walked away, because simply put, “…they were not of us…” – “for if they had been with us, they would have continued with us.” – In other words, they haven’t forsaken faith in Christ and fellowship with His church, they never truly had it to begin with – They may have thought they did – And they surely convinced others that they did – But, in reality, they did not – They were like seed of faith that initially sprang up and looked promising, only to be strangled and withered by cares of world
This is not fun to think about – It’s not easy to stomach – I imagine John spilled many tears over this letter – And I imagine that many of you have spilled tears, too – My wife and I prayed with grief over one of these very situations on Saturday – We pray that what never was will someday be – That our friends and family members will someday truly turn to Him – Not with a mere external show of religion, but by new birth into Kingdom of Heaven
And we allow what we see playing out before us to serve as a sobering warning – We cannot let cultural conceptions of Jesus cloud our understanding who He truly is – Nor can we accept parts of Jesus that fit our taste and discard parts that do not – If we do, we leave ourselves vulnerable to theological deviation, disillusionment, and destruction
John knows this – And that’s why he issues first of two imperatives in this section, in verse 24: “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you.” – Let it abide in you – Greek word translated “abide” is one of John’s favorites – It is also translated “remain, stay, continue, endure” – In face of these new teachings, John calls his flock to “stay put” in his old Gospel message
They are to Trust the Testimony – Over and above cultural depictions and expressions of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, trust inspired prophetic and apostolic testimony of God’s Word – Stay in it – Don’t wander off into speculation – Don’t wander off into some “new” idea – Abide in Word – And, if we do, we have this promise: we will abide in the Son, we will abide in the Father, and we will have eternal life
Honor the Hour, Trust the Testimony – Lastly, Abide in the Anointing
Read v. 20-21, 26-27
John’s opponents claimed to have some “new” teaching – Some type of special, spiritual knowledge and revelation that had come directly from God – John’s purpose here is to assure faithful believers that they already have fullness of God’s special, spiritual knowledge – They have testimony, which we discussed – And here John’s focus is that they have Holy Spirit
They have been “anointed by the Holy One” – They had, at time of repentance and faith in Christ, been born of the Spirit into Kingdom of God – When we turn from our sin and trust in Christ as Savior and Lord, God, Himself, comes to dwell inside us by His Spirit – Holy Spirit serves as our “helper” (John 14:5, 26, 15:26) – He is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17, 15:26) who teaches us in ways of Christ and reminds us of Jesus’ Word (John 14:26, 15:26) – Church, because it has received Word of God and Spirit of God, already has all special, spiritual knowledge it needs
Therefore, John’s second and final command in this section should not be a surprise – It is, once again, to abide – End of verse 27: “abide in him” – In face of these new claims to spiritual power and spiritual knowledge, John calls his flock to endure in abiding in Spirit of God
Among all apostles, John is one most concerned with person of Holy Spirit and living a Spirit-filled life – If you want to develop a theology of the Holy Spirit, majority of a your information is going to come from John’s writing
Some circles of Christianity focus on Spirit to detriment being faithful to Word – Other circles focus on being faithful to Word and neglect ministry of Spirit – Individual people usually have an inclination one way or other – But healthy churches and healthy people joyfully embrace and pursue both ministry of Spirit and ministry of Word – They worship as Jesus said they would, “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23) – Both are essential – Without Word, Spirit has no vocabulary – Without Spirit, Word has no power
While many of us have been taught to read Bible, fewer of us have been taught to abide in Spirit – What does that look like? – How do we obey this command to abide in Spirit? – Tell you how I try to do this
Abiding in Spirit is fundamentally about posture of your heart – About position of core of your being from which you think, believe, and choose – Abiding in Spirit can only happen when this thinking, believing, choosing core assumes a posture of surrender – When we bow our hearts / lives before living God day by day, moment by moment
What does a dog do when its owner approaches? – It runs to greet them, begins wagging its tail, and then, flop, rolls on its back and exposes its belly – It makes itself completely vulnerable – It assumes a position from which it cannot fight – Arms up, it leaves its vital organs completely exposed – It surrenders – It would never do that for an enemy – But for a loving master, it is that dog’s joy
In order to abide in Spirit we must do something like that before God – We must go “belly-up” as an expression of trust and surrender – It is only then that we will position ourselves to allow Spirit to work in and through us
This is ongoing, internal process – Day after day – It can be helpful to attach internal process to an external action or to vocalize it in some way – For me, it is usually just a simple turning up of palms with these words: “Holy Spirit, empty me of myself and fill me with your presence. Help me to abide in you.” – And then I turn my hands back over and get back to work, but I try not to let my heart turn with my hands – I try to keep my heart in that posture
It is this consistent act of Abiding in the Anointing and Trusting in Testimony that puts to death works of flesh, brings to life fruit of Spirit, and gives us ability to Honor the Hour with faithful endurance, even in face of its great trials
Questions for reflection:
1) What is posture of your heart and life in this last hour?
2) Are you trusting the testimony?
3) Are you abiding in the anointing?
 Ibid., (p. 29).